Rees' Pieces: Uncle Ben's Story Time: Part 1

Ben Rees
Columnist 

C’mon kids, run on over here and sit pretzel style on the alphabet rug. Uncle Ben’s going to tell you all a story. This is the story of Jake’s first summer at sleep-away camp. I was there for the entire time; it was the summer after fifth grade. Now pull out your Capri Suns and Fruit Gushers, and plan to be swept away, off to that first summer years ago …. Wooshhhh.

Jake was a chubby and goofy youngster. It was his first summer away at camp, and he was in Wisconsin, the land of cheese, for four whole weeks before going home. After a great week of swimming, crying over splinters and general camp shenanigans, it was time for our cabin to go on the camping trip. We were going canoeing down what seemed like a torrential river, but what may or may not be currently classified as a creek. That aside, we packed up our knapsacks, bagged our pretzel sticks and set off on our excursion as a group of wholly unsuspecting children.

The first two days soared. We had a blast canoeing and camping; the s’mores were perfectly melted and the mosquitoes were nowhere to be found. All was well until the third day. We arrived at our campsite and set up the tents. The sky was clear and we were all going to go swimming in the river. I put on my hiking sandals and sweet graphic tee, pulled out my SPF 70 sunscreen and prepared to have the time of my life.

While I was readying myself, Jake was getting into some mischief. As I said earlier, he was rather chubby. He also had an unfortunate affinity for climbing trees. Another complication for Jake was that the area in which we were camping had been subjected to logging; the trees that had grown back were stock, meaning they were rather skinny and insubstantial. As you probably guessed, all of this leads to Jake climbing trees that he should not have. The first one he scaled sagged under his weight to just about 90 degrees.

The second time Jake shimmied up a tree, he was not nearly as lucky. There was a dead birch suspended over the river, and he attempted to walk out onto it. While it may have seemed cool at the time, in retrospect, he looked like a rotund Spider Man on a flagpole. As he got out onto the end and roared like a pre-pubescent silverback gorilla, the tree trunk started to creak.

The tree snapped, sending Jake plummeting towards the river; however, he was stopped short of the water by a rather large pile of sticks. His legs broke through the mound of timber, and all of a sudden, he began screaming. We all ran to the banks of the river in order to observe a shirtless chubby child halfway submerged in a mound of mud and twigs.  Jake continued to scream, as something furry was pawing his thigh.

To be continued … tune in next week for the riveting conclusion!

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