Notes From The Cactus Patch

Tall tales from Texas about characters I know and have known. Who knows, you might be one of them.

Nap Camp

I read an article in my local paper a few days back about a youngster from Louisiana that fed his pet earthworms small amounts of nuclear waste, which in turn, made them glow in the dark, grow to the size of a ball park frank, and he is now raking in the cash, hawking them on his own late night infomercial. Every fisherman in the south wants a wiggling glowing worm. Every bass needs one.

I wondered, what kind of person would come up with such an idea?

My family tree back in the “old country” was chock full of these sorts. Dreamers, schemers and medicine show hucksters. Take my Great-Great-Great Uncle Nehi, a puny Scott with a sweet tooth. Uncle spent his spare time in search of sugary delights. One night, while experimenting with various potions of colored water, fruit, and healthy doses of sugar, he invented “Nehi Soda”. Now It wouldn’t be summer without a grape Nehi and a Moon Pie, would it ? His tinkering resulted in the “all American soda”. Soda pop made him wealthy, and he died young from a roaring case of Diabetes, but he died rich and happy.  I always preferred Dr. Pepper myself, but my parents made us drink Nehi every year on the anniversary of his passing.

If it wasn’t for “dreamers and hucksters”, a beloved section of our economy would not exist. There would be no infomercials on television, the drug stores would have fewer isles full of useful little “as seen on TV” things, people would be wondering how to make their fresh juice, spray paint that bald spot, make that hair puff out to look like a jelly roll while roaming around town in a snuggly blanket with arm holes, hanging upside down tomatoes, and how would the astronauts write upside down without that nice ballpoint pen. I get a little scared thinking what life would be like without these gadgets.

This past Saturday, my wife and I enjoyed lunch at a quaint restaurant alongside the Guadalupe River in Gruene Texas . It was a hot one. A real sizzler. 100 degrees in the shade and we were sitting outside on their deck. Not to bright an idea.

Full of good food and a few cold beers, my wife Maureen drowsily  commented, “a nap would be nice right now.” I agreed, but there was no where to have a nappy except the hot car, so that idea was out.

I summoned our bill and sat staring at the beautiful river, watching the tubers drift by, listening to the lull of bubbling water, I was entranced, hypnotized by the respite that nature offered. My bill arrived, and on the servers plate was a ice-cold Nehi Grape Soda, bound for another‘s enjoyment.

I was slapped hard by this one boys and girls, the Nehi, the river, the need for a nap, nature, it all hit me at once. I couldn’t speak, could only croak out “ nap camp…Nehi…nappy”. Thinking I was having a stroke, my wife whipped out her cell phone and  started to dial 911, but stopped when I finally choked out the words, “ Uncle Nehi’s Nap Camp”. I had that stupid look that she knows all too well, something akin to “ hey watch this”. She waited for the spiel, of which I was overly anxious to deliver.

Grabbing her reluctant hand, I dragged her down to the river bank. She was scared: I was excited, invigorated, drunk on the elixir of the vision.

“Why didn’t I think of this years ago“ I yelled, like the boy and his nuclear fishing worms. It’s not too late, seize the minute, make your mark, mark your territory, piss into the wind for a change. People need to sleep, they need a good nap, it’s our right!

I was so excited I was waving my arms and spinning around like a “tent revival preacher.”  I was on a roll: “ Over there in the trees by the river, we can build cedar post and metal roof pole barns, add ceiling fans and misters and put up some comfy hammocks. We’ll have an outside bar selling cold Lone Star beer and baloney and rat cheese sandwiches. We could have a small barn with little hammocks for the kids and dogs, and a separate napping barn for in-laws and people you don‘t care for.  Imagine, napping in a hammock next to the cool river, life doesn’t get any better than that“. Right?

An old dinosaur fisherman was sitting by a tree with his cane pole, bobber in the river, listening to this opera of fools. He piped in: “not a bad idea sonny boy, but ol’e Mable tried that back in the 40s and lost her butt. Seems you can’t put a business in a flood plane, and the river floods pretty good every year ya know, so Mable had a mess of hammocks and people sleeping in them thangs, and the river floods and washes everyone down to New Braunfuls, whether they wanted to go there or not. If you got some money to piss away, go ahead, I’ll have a nap here until it rains, then I’m heading to high ground.” My wife looked at me and said “ let’s go home and have a nap Einstein.”

I was crushed, a broken man, my vision was a pile of raccoon crap, shot down by a crusty old river rat, and my wife agreed with him. No Nehi sodas, no Lone Star in a hammock, no nap camp. What the hell.

As we walked back to the car, a large dog came strutting down the street pulling a kid on a skateboard. I watched them cruise by and thought, “a big skateboard for two, add seats, get some big dogs and rent them to pull people around town“, now that’s a money maker.

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