I once spent the month of January alone in a wilderness cabin. It was a fishing “lodge” owned by my buddy Bayonet Delhue, and it came equipped with goat-sized mice, teeth-chattering drafts, and an outhouse haunted by the angry ghost of a long-dead fur trapper. My goals were to test my survival abilities, to write the great American novel, and to find a little inner peace. By the third day, I had eaten three jars of peanut butter and was re-enacting “Top Gun” for myself using my left sock as Tom Cruise and my right sock as Kelly McGillis. The role of Tom’s jet was played by a boot.
In February, snowshoeing Jehovah’s Witnesses discovered me as they tried to slide a copy of “The Watchtower“ under the cabin door. They kindly took me back to civilization even after I assured them that I was quite happy with my own religion (I didn’t mention that it involved worshiping a sock named “Tom”.)
Since then, I’ve readjusted to life in civilization, but I sometimes pull out my diary and reflect on the simpler days of that winter. Allow me to share some of the highlights from my time spent as a modern-day mountain man:
DAY ONE: Peanut butter for breakfast. Started the fire using one hundred and nineteen matches. My goal is to start a fire using a quantity of matches that weighs less than the logs I’m trying to light. Put on my arctic parka and sat by the stream for some quiet meditation. Interrupted by a cougar attack. Checked the animal identification book and it says my cougar was actually a chipmunk. Used book to start this afternoon’s fire. Visited the outhouse and was chased out by the trapper’s ghost (it was either a ghost or another “cougmunk”). Peanut butter for supper. Found that the cabin’s bed is apparently the same model as that used for sleep deprivation at Abu Ghraib. Laid my sleeping bag out in front of the fireplace using empty match boxes as a mattress.
DAY TWO: Peanut butter for breakfast. Started a fire using ninety-seven matches and most of the cabin’s “furniture” (I hope Bayonet won’t miss two bean bags and a municipal park bench.) Need to stay in shape so did a push-up. Tried to read, but found that mice had chewed through the first half of my copy of Joan Rivers’ biography, and had then thrown up all over the second half. Sat by the stream for more meditation. Almost achieved total enlightenment, but fell asleep. Awoke to cougmunks building a nest inside my parka. Started to work on my novel, but the ink in my pens was frozen. Tried to warm pens inside my shirt, but got frost-bitten nipples. Peanut butter for supper (and as nipple salve). Invited the trapper’s ghost in from the outhouse for an evening of charades. He declined and told me to stop eating so much peanut butter. Played charades with myself. Found that I cheat. Got into a fight with myself. Lost. Too cold to sleep. Stayed warm by jogging in place inside my sleeping bag. Got tangled. Fell and hit my head. No more trouble falling asleep.
DAY THREE: Last of the peanut butter for breakfast. Started fire with one match and half a bottle of Bayonet’s homemade horseradish wine. Painted on new eyebrows using soot from burnt forearm hair. Did another push-up. Got a cramp. Decided to pace myself. Achieved peanut butter-induced enlightenment in the outhouse. Trapper’s ghost left for good. Chewed a bar of soap for dinner. Couldn’t fall asleep so started talking to my socks. Re-enacted “Top Gun”. Special effects weren’t as good as in the movie, but the acting was better. Started to re-enact “Gigli”. Instantly asleep.
Eventually, I found my rhythm and managed to survive that month without going completely insane. I learned which plants are edible and which induce projectile vomiting, how to catch and cook wild game (meaning cougmunks), and how to entertain myself through long winter evenings. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for a performance of “Gone With The Wind” in my sock drawer.