My maternal Grandfather is a bit crazy, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Under some circumstances he is the nicest, sweetest man I have ever met, who insists on taking me to eat whenever I come over.
In other circumstances, he is a demon incarnate. Like the times he is wiring electrical fuses and wires.
In still other circumstances, he is just insane.
For over thirty years, he has gone camping with friends and male family members to a bleak, isolated mountain range in Nevada to wreak havoc on the fragile ecosystem. (By the way, this is on private land. My Grandpa knows rich people.) They ride four-wheelers and shoot lots of guns. I would not be surprised to discover he has accidentally killed off several species of jack rabbit from his, erm…enthusiasm.
I was allowed to start going when I was fourteen. It was glorious. I have never felt so manly in all my life as the times I am on these camping trips.
My grandma does not approve of these trips.
My Grandpa and Grandma once got an LDS mission call to Florida while he was out on this trip. She wouldn’t tell him where they were going. He had to cut it short and come home.
I can see why she dislikes them. One year we nearly got stuck out there because the mountain range received a year’s worth of rain in two days. When we tried to get the dune buggy unstuck, it ran over my uncle.
He was so covered in mud that Grandpa, his father, failed to recognize him.
Another time I decided to get rid of a really annoying bush next to the campfire. Rather than do the sane thing- like, say, hacking at it with a shovel- I lit it on fire.
I do not care what you have experienced in life, you do not know true terror until you are watching a fire you started race up the side of a mountain. Everyone in camp stopped what they were doing and went to war with water and shovels. After fifteen minutes of utter horror, the fire was put out. You can still see the scorch marks on surrounding rocks. I also had to change underwear.
I’m pretty sure there is a 2:1 ratio of guns to people on these trips. I have ridden on the back of a four wheeler shooting at rabbits while my cousin was going thirty miles an hour. I watched one particularly crazy friend of a friend of an uncle shoot a propane tank. Once Grandpa was cleaning his (he thought) empty gun…and it went off.
It shot out his trailer window, the back window of his truck cab, and the windshield. My cousin and I had glass pebbles raining down on us the whole way home.
I have witnessed four wheelers roll a hundred and fifty feet into gorges. I had a four wheeler roll on top of me when I hit a tree stump. I’ve seen the same thing happen to my cousin.
Once I failed to realize that there was a large bump in front of me, and took it at forty miles an hour. My Grandpa’s Sportsman, which weighs a thousand pounds, was four feet in the air for thirty feet. We think it was a world record. I also think I might have gotten compression fractures up and down my spine from when I landed.
All of this, however, pales in comparison to…
My great uncle (Grandpa’s brother) has had various parachutes that he’s brought with him out here. The ground is pretty flat around the mountains, so we hook up the parachute to the back of a four wheeler. What happens next is the most indescribably wonderful experience humanity can participate in outside of a church.
Hi, Mom and Dad!
I have soared three hundred feet above the ground, connected only by a single rope. All your cares and worries slip away as you float dreamily through the sky. Time ceases to exist. I have been moved almost to tears up there.
That is, when it works right. When it doesn’t…hee hee hee…
In order to be as safe as possible (which really isn’t that safe), the wind has to be just right. There have been times when the wind suddenly picked up, and we haven’t been able to get people down. Once my great uncle was driving BACKWARDS at thirty miles an hour on his ATV, but the wind was still so strong we couldn’t get my uncle down.
Another time my great uncle had parked his ATV on the flats while we all stood in a circle and yakked, but he forgot to disconnect the parachute. A sudden gust of wind shot the empty parachute into the sky-and his ATV took off like a rocket. I laughed myself sick watching a dozen four wheelers chasing an empty four wheeler along the flats, its back tires rising ominously off the ground.
A passenger on one of the ATVs was going to try and leap on it, but failed. They rammed it instead. It worked- there were only a few major repairs needed.
If you wanted to ride the parasail, you had to strap a bunch of harnesses on. If you did it wrong, it could be extremely uncomfortable, as my poor cousin learned to his detriment.
He had only done it twice before, and my uncle Eric let my cousin strap himself in. He gave the thumbs up to my great uncle Frank, but just as the ATV started to go, he panicked.
A piteous wail could be heard echoing on the wind. No one on the ATVs could hear it of course…but the rest of us could.
My uncle desperately rode after Frank, trying to let him know that something was terribly wrong. Frank never noticed. When my cousin came down a half hour later, his voice was two octaves higher. We think it delayed the onset of puberty by eight or nine months.
We had to stop parasailing after that. My grandma cornered Frank and explained the situation to him.
We still go to the mountain, oh yes. We thoroughly enjoy every moment of it. You are welcome to join us.