Bushwhackers, bare feet and a needed cure all

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(my son and his wife toast a first anniversary with a “bushwhacker” / FloraBama / Julie Cook / 2015

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(the infamous FloraBama sign / the state line / Julie Cook /2015

This is a tale of a little bit of bad leading to a whole lot of good.
And no, I’m not talking about anything scandalous, risqué, illegal, unlawful or even sinful—just barely on the negative side of the whole moral radar.

I visited the Rivera this past weekend.
And no, it wasn’t that Rivera.

It’s a long story which started out several months ago when my husband, the one who doesn’t seem to check calendars, schedules or much of anything else when he blindly accepts an invitation for an outdoorsman’s dream adventure. In this instance, it was a deep sea fishing adventure that was actually an invitation extended to both my husband and son.

Now such an invitation would naturally be quickly chomped at and swallowed by both these two outdoor loving enthusiasts. . .
Trouble was that the weekend scheduled for the trip out to sea was the same weekend that marked a huge milestone in our family—-it was to be my son and daughter-n-law’s first year wedding anniversary.

Being the sentimental one that I am, I just didn’t see any good coming from a One Year Anniversary being spent apart—especially when it was by choice for a pleasure fishing trip verses say, deployment overseas, work, or catastrophic illness.
The long and short of all of that is that my husband relented in the fact that the two woman of the clan “would have” to now tag along.
Not to fish mind you, but to tag along to say, the beach.

My life as of late, as you all well know, has not exactly been my own.
Stress and worry simply do not do justice when describing life with Dad these days.
Getting away did not seem prudent, practical nor wise.
Guilt and anxiety actually dug deep.
Yet something buried way down in my psyche screamed GO! For Heaven’s sake, by all means GO, and don’t look back!!!!

Now this fishing trip was to set sail from an area known as the “RR” or in the immortal words of Kenny Chesney, “the Redneck Rivera”
Not being a fan of country music nor of things denoted “redneck,” this would not exactly be a place I’d jump to visit as I am one who prefers the subdued, the quiet, the classic and the serene.
When I think of Rivera, I think of sophistication, charm, elegance and “haute” this or that . . .
Throw the word “redneck” out front and suddenly the sound of dueling banjos streams through my brain.

Upon arrival, to our home away from home for the weekend–which by the way was a very nice and stylish condo perched on the beach with little to nothing having to do with “redneck”- the sound of some rather loud music, emanating obviously from a live band jamming out somewhere nearby, filled the air.

I had heard strange tales of a local establishment and of its most infamous concoction, a Bushwhacker, in the general vicinity of our stay.
A den of iniquity of sorts linked to all things college and debauchery is what I had imagined and as it turned out, my imagination wasn’t far off course. . .

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(a wooden clad honky tonk situated on the Alabama / Florida line–perched in-between high-rise condos and parking decks)

The FloraBama, circa 1975, is a mecca for that whole “party on the beach” mindset of the young and often dumb—With the clientele of this particular establishment being not all so young, yet all equally lacking in better judgement.

Never one to miss a famous local attraction, I was game for a little look see. . .as well as a sampling of the oh so famous beverage!
There is a reassuring picture of President Obama sipping a Bushwhacker when he once visited this “business” no doubt on some sort of campaign adventure—so my rationale being, what’s good for the President, must be good for me as well, right???”
What’s the harm in a little chocolate, coconut, frozen medley with a few other added ingredients, served up like soft serve in a disposable cup topped with a cherry? Harmless enough right??

Well I won’t bore you with the details.

I won’t belabor the exploits of the young men and middle to upper aged woman, I watched from afar, stumbling along the beach as I simply shook my head.
Nor shall I understand the site of the older woman dressed as purple and gold Mardi Gras bags of beads, hung over their shoulders by suspenders with feathery boas cascading from their heads, as they paraded along the beach–participating in some sort of odd contest. . .
I won’t bask in reliving the happy thoughts of spending countless hours simply bobbing up and down on my blue noodle just like a lost little cork adrift in the placid Gulf
(note—noodles are for kids and I’m not proud)
I mustn’t speak of my now extra crispy red skin despite having sprayed—yes it hurts.
I shan’t rattle on about all the lovely fish that were caught–very tasty.
I won’t relive the image of my jaw dropping and mouth hanging agape as I entered into this haven of indulgence as my two younger protégées were left wondering if I hadn’t just fallen off the proverbial turnip truck. My college days having long since passed.
I shan’t confess to going barefoot for two solid days, traipsing in and out of the ocean, the beach, the “entertainment establishment” for a few Royal Reds (aka the best shrimp on the Gulf) over and over.
I shan’t expound on how good a trip, albeit it quick, sans shoes, worries, cares, agendas. . .can be for the spirit and soul of the weary. . .

But I will gladly extol the tastiness of a bushwhacker. . .

And may we all remember that obviously what happens on the Redneck Rivera, stays on the Redneck Rivera. . .or so say the Mardi Gras ladies. . .

Anniversaries and anaphylactic shock

Nobody has ever measured, even poets, how much a heart can hold.

~Zelda Fitzgerald

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(woodland wildflower / Troup Co. Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)

I don’t know what you were doing August 13, 1983 but I was getting married.

And yes that does indeed mean that yesterday was my anniversary.

31 years.

So imagine my surprise and excitement when my husband called Tuesday evening to tell me he was going to be running about an hour late coming home for the day as he needed to finish up a few things at the store before heading home. Asking if someone had come in late, his reply was no, he was actually wanting to finish up a job which was to be picked up the following day- – – because, wait for it, he was hoping to take the day off.

Oooo, taking off tomorrow. . .Ooooo. . . as in tomorrow, our anniversary!

YAY!!!

But wait. . .

That’s odd.

In 31 years, he’s never taken off on our anniversary.

Hummm, what’s up I wonder.

We had actually already gone out Saturday evening to celebrate the mark of our special day. He had business in Atlanta and as our son and daughter-n-law were with us, we decided to take them along with us out to eat—what could he possibly have up his sleeve on a Wednesday, as in the middle of the week?

You may recall that my husband runs his own business. He works 6 days a week 12 to 14 hour days and never, never, ever takes off.

Hummmmm?

And then it dawns on me.

I had accompanied him this past Sunday down to his deer land–helping him clear the roads as he bush hogged the property. We hadn’t finished the work and the tractor was still there. I bet money he’s wanting to go finish up in order to bring the tractor home.

So much for thoughtful romance. . .

And sure enough, I was right. . .

I meet him at the kitchen door.

“So, you’re wanting to take off tomorrow?”

“Yes”

“Do you know what tomorrow is?”

“Of course I do”

“What is it?”

“Well. . .it’s our anniversary”

“And you’re wanting to take off in order to do something for that?”

“Uh, er, uh. . .”

“As in bushog?!”

“Well I was thinking about it. . .you and I”

Bush hog.

The perfect romantic way to spend a loud, hot, dusty grueling day.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning.

After not sleeping most of the night—remember, 54 year old women have no hormones and never sleep, and oddly after having the alarm clock going off randomly twice at midnight (who hit the freaking button by accident?!) and then having battled for just a shred of the covers throughout the entire night, as I sleep with a cover hog, I was finally, happily and thankfully buried deep within the covers as my husband had gotten up just before daylight, heading to the shower, leaving me finally some semblance of sheets and peace.

Suddenly the sheets are jerked off of my head as a shaving cream clad face peers into my “nest”—“HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!”

ughhhhh—as I pull the covers back over my head.

“Time to get up and get going while it’s still cool in order to work” he cheerfully chirps.

ughhhhh.

A cup of coffee and no shower later, we’re heading out in the early morning light for the hour’s drive south.

Once we reach our destination and unload a truck full of chain saws, limb cutters and saws, as well as unloading the Four wheeler from the trailer, my farmer alter ego husband hops on the tractor as I am instructed to follow behind at a safe distance–just so no rocks come flying out from under the bush hog aiming for my eyes or head. We slowly begin to make our way up the bumpy dirt road to the overgrowth he wishes to clear away.

Anniversary romance at its best—yep.

As the tractor rumbles up the dirt road, creating an ever growing red dirt dust cloud, I happily follow at a safe distance. As the always prepared girl scout, I’ve got my camera slung across my shoulder as I serenely rattle along taking in the cattails swaying in the gentle morning breeze. . .

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(said husband on said tractor with said trailing dust cloud)

. . . out of the corner of my left eye, I catch something small darting right for me when simultaneously I suddenly feel a searing pain penetrating my left shoulder.

“Damn biting fly” I grouse reaching back to shoo the blasted thing away when BAM, the same searing pain on my index finger with immediately multiple paralyzing stabbing ice pick pains to my left ear.

“AAAGGGHHHHHHH” I scream as I begin waving and batting frantically at my head.

Remember I’m driving a Four wheeler up a rough dirt road. . hands off the handles means I start rolling backwards.

Somehow I get the four wheeler stopped in the middle of the road as both arms are now flailing wildly in the air around my head.

All the while as my clueless tractor loving husband rambles further away up the dirt road.

Immediately I know my peril.

He ran over a yellow jacket’s nest!!!

And I’m being attacked!!!!!!

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(yellow jacket image taken from the web)

I am now fully engulfed in searing pain as a frantic panic sets in, as the hyper speed dive bombers are unleashing their full fury on little ol me.

Run or ride, fight or flight?!

How I don’t recall, but I manage to drive the Four wheeler far enough up the road escaping the maddening assault of angry yellow jackets.

Sunglasses, where are my sunglasses??!! Ugh. . .

Yellow jackets this time of year, are terribly aggressive. They, like wasps, are able to sting over and over again unlike bees who lose their stingers after one attack.

I stop at the top of the hill wailing and thrashing in pain.

OOAAAOOOAAAOOOOOO

Like a wounded dog, howling in woeful agony, I feel as if an ice pick is repeatedly jamming in my ear penetrating into my brain. My finger is now twice its size and my ear, well–if i’m lucky, maybe it’ll fall off.

6, 7, 8 stings.

AAAGGGHHHHHH!!!!

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(it may not look it, but it is in mid swell, soon to give new meaning to blown up like a balloon)

Farmer Cook is now finally heading back down the opposite side of the road when he spies me draped over the Four wheeler crying and weakly holding my head. He panics thinking he’s slung a rock and I’ve been beamed in the head.

Oh that I should be so lucky.

“OOOOAAAAOOOOAAAOOOO” I wail

“Yellow jackets. . .”

OOOOOAAAAAOOOOO

“What” he irritatingly quips as he can’t hear over the roar of the tractor’s engine.

“YELLOW JACKETS”

Mr. Concerned:”do you think you’re allergic?”

Really?

Tears streaming down my cheeks, I agonizingly shoot back “I’d be dead by now if that was the case!!”

“Maybe we need to go buy some cigarettes.”

“What??!!

“They say wet tobacco smeared on the stings helps”

You should know that we are miles back in the middle of the woods, far far away from any store, hospital or thankfully, cigarettes.

I suppose it would only be fair that I should tell you that he is taking me to the beach in September for a long weekend as a real anniversary gift, but on this particular afternoon, with a double sized throbbing finger, missing prescription sunglasses, and an ear now the size of a grapefruit with an ice pick constantly boring into my brain, I’m seriously rethinking what I did 31 years ago on August 13, 1983.