By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
I try to pardon the young for being young, but this offender was going a little too far.
“Darn it, Clem!” I said. “Put your clothes on!”
My young friend, “Clem” Clemmens, looks better undressed than I ever have or will, but I could not admire the display. “What are you running around in your underwear for anyway?!”
Clem responded with a reproachful stare. “It’s amazing how much you don’t know,” he said. “First, it’s muggy, and 200 degrees in the shade. Second, the sasquatches are very suspicious of clothing. If the Honobia bigfoot hunters would hunt naked, they’d meet a bus-load in 20 minutes.”
“What if Lindsey came out here while you’re running around 98-percent naked?”
Clem wasn’t daunted. “I’d invite her to join me. Cousin Lindsey is a beautiful woman. If the bigfoots didn’t appreciate it, I would. However, I suspect they’d come out in droves. The males, anyway.”
I was shocked Clem would even think this. First, there is family honor; next, Lindsey’s father is pretty protective, and one of the best marksmen I know. It doesn’t matter if he’s using a slingshot, a BB gun, a pistol, a rifle, a bazooka—Lindsey’s dad generally hits what he aims for. However, he would be the first to admit (and often has), “Well—Clem’s crazy, you know. I give the boy some slack.”
I responded to Clem’s comment with a harsh scolding. Then I tried reasoning. “We’ve visited the sassies a few times, haven’t we? We’ve always been dressed. Where did you get the idea to run around in your underwear?”
“Haven’t you ever seen the show Naked and Afraid?”
“Oh. Well, what about your cheap ‘Tarzan’ DVDs? Do you think that monkey would have hung around if Tarzan wore a business suit? Do you think Jane would have hung around? If you want to meet the sassies, you’ve got to get their trust. They’re distrustful of anything wearing clothes. One of them told me.”
“What about Jane Goodall and all her apes? She always had her clothes on.”
Clem smiled smirkishly. “Oh? Are you so sure of that? That may have been only for PBS television. Anyway, sassies are smarter than gorillas. Listen, are we visiting the sassies or not? Get undressed and let’s go.”
There was no way in heck this would happen. I let the boy go visiting without me. He put me in a bad mood, I wasn’t going to undress, and I would have been embarrassed to have been seen with him, anyway, now, even by sasquatches.
Is there something about the wilderness that makes people who live in it a little eccentric? Living off the “grid,” fending for yourself—can it affect a person, somehow? Can it make you crazy? There’s Clem, for example, with his sasquatch obsessions. He’s done amazingly well, but it’s not research. It’s more like the goofy relative showing up at the family reunion. Then there are other locals who—well—never mind.
Besides, I do not think of us as eccentrics. Unorthodox, maybe, but that’s all.
And after recently visiting my boyhood small hometown, I started thinking about the number of its resident “eccentrics” for comparison. There’s the fellow who drives a jeep with an attached machine gun, presumably unloaded. There’s the downtown big lady who shouts profanities and vulgarities at passersby. An ailing high-school classmate mumbles, “Vengeance is the Lord’s, but can I be the tool of God’s vengeance upon [persons who offended him one way or another?”
Meanwhile, the area lawyers advertise heavily and live sumptuously. And then, there are a few nonthreatening resident “eccentrics,” novelties who are loved, supported and even coddled by their communities.
It’s like Briar Circle on asphalt. Still, these are a small fraction of the population, the “3-4 percent.”
Anyway, back to Clem: A misplaced step while feeding fish dunked me into Doris’ Pond. I wallowed out, went to the cabin and began removing my wet clothing on the porch.
There was a sudden rustling in the bushes, and Clem and a half-dozen sassies appeared! They stared, wide-eyed, a few embarrassing moments—then the beasts fell to the ground, rolling, howling, hooting and laughing!
Can you imagine the humiliation I felt? But graciously, the ugliest of the bunch stepped onto the porch and shook my hand. Telepathically, he said, “An’ you thought we ugly! Never mind. You okay, just wear somethin’, next time!”
I promise I will.
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