Read Part 2 here.
Having been born and raised in "The Big City," I thought that at 28 years old, I knew just about everything I needed to know. I figured that growing up in The Big City gave me more experience than someone who grew up in a small, remote town in Northern Wisconsin which I commonly think of as "The Woods." Of course, as you probably expected, I was wrong.
The Woods was not unfamiliar to me since my father took us on family vacations to Northern Wisconsin when I was growing up. He would rent a cabin on a lake and take us fishing and swimming―never camping or hiking because there were dangers lurking in The Woods. After all, we were city people and although we could appreciate the beautiful scenery, we were all scared of The Woods.
The only woods we knew of were preserves and thanks to the Channel 7 News, we knew that bad things happened in preserves (aka The Woods). Heaven forbid we wander off the beaten track into The Woods because there would be bad people waiting for us, not to mention the wild animals. I knew my parents were right too, because I vividly remember the night raccoons got into the garbage cans on one of our Northern Wisconsin trips.
I’ll never forget Dad sitting on a chair about 9 feet away from the cabin door with a loaded handgun waiting for a bear to burst in at any moment. My sister, mom, grandmother, and I were all hiding in a bedroom, peeking out into the living room and scared to death. I know now that if there really was a bear and he did burst through the cabin door, that handgun would only have―excuse the expression―pissed off the bear. Then the bear would have eaten us and I wouldn’t be writing this story today.
I met the man who would become my husband in a bowling alley. He had a professional career and lived in a nearby town. As time went on and we got to know each other, he described the small town in Wisconsin where he grew up. It sounded very down to earth and very Mayberry-like, a great place for a young boy to grow up who loved hunting, fishing and camping as much as he did.
His family had their own cabin in The Woods on a beautiful lake which he and his brothers made good use of. I wondered how he made the transition from The Woods type of life to Big City life. I myself had a hard time moving from Chicago to the suburbs in my late teens and thought that his move was more of a culture shock than mine. But he seemed somewhat “cityfied” and very happy with the life he had here.
The activities he enjoyed in The Woods were a lesser part of his life than the city life. Yeah, wrong again. It wasn’t long before I realized that the opposite was true. He took me up to their cabin in The Woods at the first opportunity to introduce me to it. I fell in love with the lake and the scenery and everything else. Everything except the state bird―the Mosquito! They almost ate me alive. When he suggested we try camping, I told him there was no way was I going camping with their state bird.
As time went on we fell in love and decided to get married. At some point before we were married, he said, “Honey, I’m going to expand your horizons!”
I thought, “Ha ha, uh yeah sure you will. I already told you I’m not camping. I’ll get eaten alive by mosquitoes, be too cold or too hot, and just be plain miserable.” Then I thought, “Yeah he knows that so what exactly does he mean by “expand my horizons?” It didn’t take long for me to find out.
The Out House in The Woods
It was a great day for fishing with a nice breeze and sunny, not too hot and not too cold. So after breakfast we decided to go fishing. I packed a couple of sandwiches, snacks and drinks for us. Everyone jumped in their boats and off we went. After a couple of hours, nature called. My fiancé said, “Okay I’ll pull over to the shore and you can run off into the woods."
I gave him that look that said, “Are you kidding?” and he offered to take me back to the cabin
Good idea. He started the motor and we headed back to the cabin. Down a river, through a lake and into another river, and then across the lake to the dock. Finally we docked the boat and I ran up to the cabin, only to find the door locked. I asked him to unlock the door, but he had forgotten his keys. I asked “So how do we get in?”
With a big, goofy smile on his face he said, “We can’t, but you can use the outhouse.”
I said “Hell no! I've never used an outhouse and besides, nobody’s used that one in a long time. There’s got to be all kinds of bugs and stuff in there!”
Unfortunately, it might have been hours before anyone came back to the cabin since they have no problem running off into the woods and finding a bush. So, my creative brain started grinding away and I spotted a ladder. I told him the bathroom window was open and I could climb in with the ladder. He said I was crazy and should just go behind the cabin and that he wouldn't look.
I thought that there was no way I was going to pull down my pants behind the cabin. There were bugs flying all over and they would attack my behind and I’d be scratching for three weeks. I told him I was sure I could do it and insisted he put the ladder against the cabin. So he did. I asked him to climb up the ladder behind me in case I needed help. So there we are, on the ladder.
Dear Reader, please do note that the bathroom window was barely big enough for a pretty city girl to fit though, and not her over-sized, backwoods fiancé. Otherwise, he'd have done the climbing himself. And I will never figure out why my brother decided to lock that cabin that day. We never locked it.
I pushed the screen up and opened the window a little wider. I looked down and saw the trash can right below the window. I thought I could use the trash can to help balance myself and stretch over to the bathroom sink. I could hold onto the sink until I got my legs in the window. So here I go...I climbed up the ladder until the bottom of the window was even with the top of my thighs, then into the window and reached for the sink.
Unfortunately, I underestimated and couldn't reach the sink. I grabbed the trash can and tried to used that to help myself wiggle my legs through the window but it tipped over. There I was, stuck in the window. Top half of me is hanging upside down in the bathroom and bottom half is outside the window and my feet were no longer on the ladder.
I said, "Mike! I’m stuck! Help Me!”
He replied, "Yeah, what the hell do you want me to do now? I told you not to do this.”
I said “Lift my legs up so I’m not stuck and I’ll just do a handstand when I hit the floor. I used to do handstands in high school.”
So he lifted my legs and instead of simply sliding down towards the floor, my thighs scraped the bottom of the window as the window frame was torn away and down I went. So much for handstands.
City Girl lessons learned: Before you leave the cabin, make sure you have the key. Always keep a can of Yardgard handy to clear the area of bugs just in case nature calls and you're locked out.
The beautiful Lake offered many activities for the outdoorzie type, which I was not. One hot summer day, we boated across the lake, through a river to a different lake, then down another river to another lake. We were with his brothers, his mom and dad, and the rest of his family. Everyone jumped in the lake to cool off and swim. Being the city girl that I am, I never learned how to swim.
So there I sat with my life jacket on in the boat, roasting in the sun. Then I had a fantastic idea. I asked Mike to bring the inner tube close to the boat so I could climb down the ladder and sit on it. I figured with the life jacket and the inner tube, I would be safe. It was a great idea and I floated around in the lake just like a float on a fishing line.
When it was time to get back in the boat, I soon realized that climbing up the boat ladder was a lot harder than climbing down. Not to mention the fact that I still had the inner tube on. I climbed back down into the lake and asked Mike to lift the inner tube off me, but he couldn't do it without me taking the life jacket off, and that was not going to happen. So there I was, stuck in the inner tube. I couldn’t get it off and I couldn’t climb the boat ladder with it on.
Next came the flurry of great ideas. My soon-to-be husband with a wise guy smile on his face suggested they tip me over so I could fall out of the inner tube into the lake. "Don't worry, we'll catch you," they all said.
I said, “Are you crazy?”
Then they laughed and said maybe we can tie her to the boat with a rope and tow her back to the dock. Oh, yeah they were so funny. I was laughing real hard, can you picture it? Can you? His Dad said, yeah that is a good idea, but we’ll just bring her over to the shore right there. And so they did, they towed me (actually swam me), over to the nearest shore so I could wiggle out of the inner tube. In the meantime, his Mom drove the boat over so I could get in. Then, while we were walking out of the lake onto the shore, Mike’s nephew stepped on a crawfish and started screaming.
City Girl learned two things; Never jump out of a perfectly good boat and an investment in a pair of swimming shoes is a good idea!
This City Girl has had many adventures since I met my husband and he has broadened my horizons in many ways. I have learned about nature and hunting and fishing and all kinds of things. The list is long and the adventures many. We’ve had a lot of fun and made a lot of happy memories that will last a lifetime. I will always be a City Girl with broadened Horizons!
Thanks to my dear and beautiful wife Marg for this guest post. We have indeed had a lot of fun and a lot of adventures together. I don't think I'll ever truly be "citified," but we've had some adventures in The Big City too. ~MJ
- Photo of Marg by MJ Logan
- Photo of Mike by Marg
- Outhouse by CEB Imagary at Flickr.com
- Photo of The Lake by Marg
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