A night gabbing around the campfire can be interrupted by various things, like a skunk waltzing by or thunderclap threatening rain or…something really strange like a motorboat crashing through the willows just off the point where you’re camping.
The guys were talking freely and joyously, fully engaged in a round-robin story swap of wildest experiences with embarrassing eruptions of flatus and unplanned stomach rumblings of all sorts. In the middle of the Gasser’s technical explanation of flatus and intestinal functions, the loud roar of an approaching boat rolled across Tub Hollow, drowning out the unintentionally amusing lecture on where farts come from.
The closer that boat got, the more nervous we all got, now hearing shouts and children screaming out. Turned out, the boat was basically out of control, running without proper lights, throttle locked full. Whoever was steering the craft seemed not to know where land was or where water would no longer be. The guys ran from the circle toward the noise, very concerned about the well being of the three boats we had moored on the bank of Stough’s Point and, of course, the safety of those screaming kids. Muskie flashed on his Sears Special spotlight and there it was, bearing down on the Point – a 20 foot inboard loaded with what must have been a family, compete with five adults and three kids.
All our cries of “Slow Down” and “Kill your engine” availed nothing. No doubt, the “skipper” could not hear us or could not respond, paralyzed with fear and confusion. The boat careened past the point, maybe to avoid hitting the source of the light beam from Muskie. In any case, that boat missed the Point and crashed through the thicket of willows that stood, partially submerged, a few feet off where we stood yelling.
Somehow, the boat grounded about twenty yards up shore from us, magically passing between those willows with only scrapes on the hull as evidence of the passage. With the roaring motor now silenced by a foot of mud and a totally jammed prop, some of our group ran along the shoreline to see if anybody needed help. Muskie got there first and yelled back, “This dumb sumbitch is drunk.” When a few others got there, they noticed several emptied six packs scattered about the deck. The adults look stupefied but relieved; the kids continued to sob in that peculiarly child-like confused and frightened way. All sense of concern evaporated, replaced now with a growing anger aimed at the “skipper” who was muttering some sort of half-intelligible apology.
Assuming that the worst had passed, most of our group returned to the campfire, silent at first but then warming up to a heavy conversation about boats and beer. No doubt, some of the irony escaped the group as fresh cans of Schlitz popped open and the excoriation of the “Skipper” went on. I guess one major difference between us and him was that we sat on shore, firmly grounded, knowing where we were (for the most part).