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JERRY NELSON

By Staff | Mar 23, 2009

The geese are winging back to their summer haunts, with squawking white V’s streaming northward across the cobalt sky.

Spring has finally arrived in this part of the world. Perhaps we won’t be needing that glacier insurance after all.

My wife and I decided to celebrate the warming weather by attending an outdoor show. I’ve often wondered: why are outdoor shows always held indoors? Doesn’t being inside defeat the putative purpose of all that “outdoorsy” stuff?

My wife, as is her wont, made a beeline for the travel homes, often referred to as “campers.” Most campers are so well equipped, they have about as much to do with “roughing it” as Paris Hilton has to do with Mensa.

Saying she “just wanted to look”, we snooped our way through several travel homes, most of which were nicer than our actual home. The largest and most deluxe campers came with price tags that caused my check book to shriek in terror.

Their monthly payments were roughly equivalent to that of the national debt.

I don’t understand why my wife is so enamored of these mobile mansions. She’s constantly fussing about how much I dirty-up our immobile home; how could she ever find time to lecture me about filthifying a domicile on wheels?

The outdoor show was well attended, with folks that ranged in age from the sippy cup set to septuagenarians.

After observing the crowd for a while it dawned on me that they all wanted the same thing – to have an Epic Outdoor Experience.

They all wanted to be stalwart frontiersmen or women, cast in the mold of Davy Crockett or Dan’l Boone. They long to live off the land, breakfasting on fresh-caught brook trout and shooting themselves a “b’ar” for lunch.

The trouble is, these folks wish to have this frontier experience without having to endure the actual frontier. They are disinclined to tromp across the trackless wilderness for weeks and weeks, hoping that a Starbuck’s has finally moved in next to that remote fishing hole.

They don’t want to learn from experience which leaves can be used for toilet paper and which will produce a red-hot rash.

Speaking of bears, some wildlife folks had set up an enclosure that held half a dozen real, live black bears. I had never seen a live bear in person, so we went to check them out.

My wife and I stood for a few moments contemplating the furry ursines. At length she murmured, “They’re a lot like you. Shaggy, smelly, bad breath. Growly. Disgusting bathroom habits.”

I was insulted and was about to lodge a protest when one of the bears sat on his hinder and scratched his hairy belly.

“Look!” exclaimed my wife, “Put a TV remote in his paw and he’d be your twin!”

Well, maybe I look slightly like a bear. But only a little bit around the muzzle.

After perusing the innumerable booths, I struck up a conversation with a guy named Tom who works for Thunderbird Lodge and Outposts, based in Winnipeg. Tom flies hunters and fishermen up to wild, remote areas where he leads them on Epic Outdoor Experiences.

Tom is just like the frontier guides of yore, except for he has a float plane. And a computerized depth finder. And a GPS gizmo. Other than that, he’s exactly like Davy Crockett.

Tom drug his finger across a map to show me where his lodges are located, places with such manly names as Whiskeyjack Lake. “Here,” he said, tracing a line across several lakes and rivers, “Is where they run an ice road in the wintertime.”

I told Tom I wouldn’t drive a truck on ice unless it was at least 3 feet thick. Tom said that this was the precise amount needed.

“They make ice from both the top and the bottom by driving a small bulldozer across it,” he said. “The dozer cleans off the snow and leaves shallow depressions where its tracks went. Then they bore small holes next to the tracks, which causes them to fill up with water. Once that freezes, they repeat the process with bigger and heavier dozers until there is 3 feet of ice.”

Whoa! What I’d like to know is how do they find someone crazy enough to drive that first dozer across that ice!

“I don’t know,” replied Tom. “But there seems to be no shortage of guys who crave that sort of outdoor adventure.”

Maybe we should buy one of those campers and embark on an odyssey into the wilds of Canada. I could plot a course that would put us on one of those ice roads, which would cause my wife to totally freak out.

That’ll show her to pick on us bears!

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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