Sleeping with the Fishes

Sleeping with the Fishes

A Story by T. L. O'Neal

Another camping story from my childhood.


Sleeping with the Fishes

Written by T. L. O’Neal


    Like many of our weekends in the mid-seventies, a bunch of us boys would go off camping. We’d like to go just to get out of the house for a little fun and to get into a little trouble. On one spring weekend we decided to rough it a bit instead of camping out in the usual empty buildings, we used this old tent I had, it wasn’t just any tent but a very large canvas one. It could sleep up to about ten people and we used to use it to go to those music festivals that were so popular back in the seventies. It still smelled of stale cigarettes, booze and vomit from those festival trips but we didn’t mind that much. With a little airing out it was as good as new and ready to use.


    On this particular expedition were my cousin Larry, our friend Robert, who was both regulars and my partners in crime, and two other guys that were friends of Larry’s; whose names escape me at the moment, and myself. We were all excited and raring to go and have some fun for the weekend.


   We decided to find a spot in some woods that we never had been in before; we were roughing it after all. These woods were some very thick ones too, with trees, briars and vines all over the place. It was starting to get late so we put the tent up in a little clearing below a rise. After everything was up, we started to bar-b-que some chickens and do some of those other teenage boyhood things that we usually did. But by the time the chicken was done, it was starting to get dark and beginning to rain by the bucketful. So we all ran into the tent and had our supper in there by lantern light with the rain beating out a tune on the canvas tent roof.


    As some of us started to go off to sleep, the night owls of the group were starting to get ready for a bit of aggravation to spread around to the others. We would always pick on one another on these trips and this night was no exception. Being hemmed in because of the rain, there wasn’t a lot else that we could do otherwise. Robert was there asleep and he was always a good one to get with a joke or two, he was always a good one to get because he usually didn’t get mad and was a good sport about it all.


    Being that Robert had a very large nose and ample nostrils to boot, and we had a little bit of leftover bar-b-que sauce (the sweet kind), someone came up with a plan. Now who it was I’m not saying but they decided to pour a little bit of it down one of those large nostrils of his, not much mind you, just a drop or two. I guess you can say it was an experiment in science or some might say one in devilishness. Anyways, we poured a drop in while he lay there snoring and he snorted it in just as pretty as you please. He started coughing and then started sputtering like an old car trying to start in cold weather. Everyone got a good laugh from this, so we did it a few more times for good measure with the same result. I want you to know that he didn’t wake up through that whole ordeal. After that we grew tired of that joke and moved on to something else. With some more practical jokes on some others and playing cards a bit, we all went to sleep with the rain still beating down on us. I fully believe that it rained all that night.


    When we awoke the next morning with what might have seemed like a dream but it turned out to be more like a nightmare. We were sleeping in six inches of water, half of our faces were below and the other half was above the waterline. We looked like a bunch of alligators lying in that tent with all of that water. And I’m here to tell you that the water didn’t taste that great either, especially after it had mixed with everything under the sun from all of the previous camping trips in that tent. Every one of us was soaked to the bone and freezing too, not just from the water but because it was also a very cold morning. All of us got up in a start, coughing, full of water and freezing to death. All except Robert, who was still sleeping with half of his head underwater and he still had one nostril above the waterline and one below. He must have abnormal sinuses or something, but boy he could sleep through about anything. What we didn’t realize at that time was that rise; remember that rise? Well, it turned out to be an old pond dam. And that night with all that rain, that pond decided to flood its banks and the tent at the same time. The water was pouring over that dam like a waterfall and flooded the tent, and the water was still rising in it.


    Well, we woke Robert up and we weren’t about to stick around to see what was going to happen next or bother to get the mess up either. We were freezing and we decided to make a run to Robert’s house, being that it was the closest. We made it through the woods and to the road, and then started to run as hard as we could down that country road without freezing to death. We came to an old abandoned house and decided to duck into it for a little while to warm-up and to get out of that nasty weather for a little bit. While we were in there, we snooped around some and someone found an old box of clothes. We decided to get out of our wet ones and put them on to dry off and to warm up a little. Unfortunately all those clothes were old dresses and at this point we really didn’t care… it was cold! So we all changed out our clothes and into the new ones while we laughed at each other in our new attire, but grateful to be dry. We were a sight to behold, all decked out in calicos and floral patterns. All we needed now was some floppy hats and handbags and we would be ready to go to a Sunday social.


   As we took off back down the road, all of us running and laughing but now in old lady dresses to Robert’s house. They were actually easier to run in than wet jeans but I know we looked and felt a little bit foolish. I know they give awards for running but if they gave them for running in old lady dresses I’m sure we would have won some of them that morning. We must have been a spectacle to watch, all five of us running down that country road in dresses. I just hope that no one saw us doing this because it would have been hard to explain, but it was funny.


    When we finally did make it back to Robert’s house, everyone was starving. So Robert decided to cook something for all of us. He’s no Galloping Gourmet by any means, but we were hungry and weren’t going to be choosy. He decided to make some scrambled eggs and everyone was in agreement with that. So he went to the kitchen and started his culinary masterpiece while the rest of us tried to get warm. Before long he said it was ready and so were we. We all set down to eat in our newly found but dry clothes and dove in. We must have looked like a church lady’s luncheon but without all the ugly hats, but it didn’t take us long before everyone stopped eating; those were the worst eggs we ever had. It’s a shame to think that those poor unborn chicks gave the ultimate sacrifice for that sorry breakfast.


   First thing that was wrong was that he scrambled those eggs in Crisco and a lot of it too. If you could ever get them pass your mouth, they should have been able to slide on down without a bit of trouble with all that grease. Plus they were overcooked and were as hard as grounded-up shoe rubber and tasted as bad too. Not that I ever ate ground-up shoe rubber mind you, but you could have bounced those things off of the floor. As hungry as everyone was, we still all passed up on breakfast. He said he would eat them then, but he didn’t look like he enjoyed it very much as he tried to choke it all down. He never did finish them either.


   So after everyone warmed up, we changed back into our now semi-dried clothes and we decided to part company and to go home. At least at home we had dry clothes and some decent food to eat too, but we also decided that we would have to get the camping stuff later after everything dried out.


   We were all still hungry but a little wiser in finding camping locations, cooking eggs in butter instead of Crisco, and to remember to bring an extra set of clothes the next time we went camping.



© 2010 T. L. O'Neal

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We must have looked like a church lady�s luncheon but without all the ugly hats. It didn�t take us long before everyone stopped eating; those were the worst eggs I ever had. It�s a shame to think that those poor unborn chicks gave the ultimate sacrifice for that breakfast.

Another laughter-filled treat, Terry.

Posted 15 Years Ago

18 of 18 people found this review constructive.


Very funny T. - You got me beat when it comes to mischeif. You also got me beat when telling about it. Great story. I can just see you in my mind running through the streets in a dress (minus the moustache - of course). Very funny story. Great job!

Posted 15 Years Ago

19 of 20 people found this review constructive.

Hi T, this is really a fun story. I loved the imagery and of course your story. You definately have a fun way at looking at life!

Posted 15 Years Ago

17 of 18 people found this review constructive.

All except Robert, who was still sleeping with half of his head underwater. That boy could sleep through anything.
I know they give awards for running but if they gave them for running in old lady dresses I�m sure we would have won some of them that morning. We must have been a sight, five of us running down that country road in dresses.

You always make me laugh, but you know that.........created perfect pictures, reminding me of my camping expedition, and I have never been camping since!!Hated it!And, yes it rained all the time!
I'm also off eggs now after reading that!!
Keep writing and I will def keep reading!

Posted 15 Years Ago

20 of 21 people found this review constructive.

Very funny, T. I needed a laugh and a smile. Thanks. Somehow I can not picture you in a dress. Very good as always. Jen

Posted 15 Years Ago

20 of 21 people found this review constructive.

very nice neal. simple and profound.
love the part about the barbeque sause in his nostrils.
very well written insight and memoir to your life.
great job.

Posted 15 Years Ago

21 of 22 people found this review constructive.

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35 Reviews
Added on February 17, 2008
Last Updated on October 24, 2010


T. L. O'Neal
T. L. O'Neal

In the sticks, NC

I started writing as a way to work out my feelings and found that I enjoyed it very much. I enjoy humor and feel that you can find it in most things, even though it may be hard to find at the moment. .. more..


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