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    Don’t Say That!

    I’ve never felt camping is a rational activity for 21st century man. For millions of years, my ancestors grubbed and shivered and swatted and tried to improve their lot in life so that someday I could have a microwave and a warm house with a screen door. For me to intentionally revert to a primitive shelter and an open fire seems terribly thankless, not to mention silly. To do so in the winter, when wet socks can freeze and break into little pieces before they even have a chance to offend, goes beyond silly and becomes chummy with other A words like asinine, addled and abominable.

    Well, OK — it wasn’t exactly the dead of winter, but November 15 is close enough in Montana, and it had snowed in Billings the night before. True, we weren’t all that close to Billings, but the skim ice on the mud puddles looked plenty winterish to me. So, too, did the high country to the north where a mantle of white had wrapped the peaks for winter.

    When they talked me into a cold weather camping/sharptail hunting trip, my friends Bob and Jack had mentioned only things I wanted to hear about — huge coveys and the big blue sky — things about the perfume of dew-laden sage under a Montana dawn and an increasing acuteness of the senses. And it was true — every bit of it — but there were a few incidentals they forgot to mention, and when I finally returned home, I immediately put winter camping/bird hunting right above prostate biopsy on the list of things I never, ever want to experience again. While it was still fresh in my memory, I also compiled this list of things one never, ever wants to hear or say on a camping trip — no matter the month and no matter how large the coveys:

    “Did anyone bring the tent poles?”

    “Well, it worked last year.”

    “Whose idea was this, anyhow?”

    “A little rain and slush never hurt anyone.”

    “Did anyone bring the matches?”

    “Did anyone bring snowshoes?”

    “Look what your coffee pot did!”

    “Are your lips always that blue?”

    “Has anyone seen the tote with the bourbon?”

    “Just lie on your stomach for awhile. I doubt it’s ptomaine.”

    “A few snowflakes never hurt anyone.”

    “He says he owns this land, and we’ve got to move.”

    “It’s hard to change a tire without a jack, but it’s not impossible.”

    “Has anyone seen the yellow duffel with the ammo?”

    “Actually, I heard you can start a fire without matches.”

    “Who was in charge of bringing toilet paper?”

    “I’ve got some butterfly bandages. I don’t think we need to sew it up.”

    “Does your dog always relieve himself right in front of the tent door?”

    “You can thaw the ketchup in boiling water if you can get the stove going.”

    “This was your idea, wasn’t it?”

    “My first wife left me because of my snoring.”

    “Don’t worry. A truck doesn’t just disappear.”

    “Boy, that ketchup really makes a mess when it explodes, doesn’t it?”

    “Two? They told me it would sleep four adults.”

    “Whaddaya mean, I snore?”

    “Gosh, your sleeping bag is wet!”

    “A little wind never hurt anyone.”

    “Does anyone know what a brown recluse spider bite looks like?”

    “My snoring caused the second wife to leave, too.”

    “We better get you to a doctor.”

    “It’s hypothermia. Take off your clothes, and get in the bag with Brutus.”

    “Did someone just blow in my ear?”

    “Your Lab just ate the steaks off the grill.”

    “How can I clean these birds if they’re frozen solid?ˮ

    “There’s no way you’re going to get that fixed way out here.”

    “Just break off one of those icicles and hold it against the skin.”

    “That always happens when you put your boots too close to the fire.”

    “This nice man says he’s a member of the Montana Militia.”
“I’ve never known hot chocolate to freeze.”

    “I don’t suppose you brought a compass?”

    “Well, there were birds here in September!”

    “This reminds me of the time my Uncle Lester locked his keys in the car. We weren’t a hundred miles from nowhere, though.”

    “Your wife just sent a text. She says to tell you not to hurry home.”

    “Since when do they have tornados in Montana?”

    “I suppose one of us could walk for help.”

    Wolfe Publishing Group