August 8, 2014

8/8//14  A story from my 1999 hike of the Appalachian Trail for my dear sweet friend, Jeanne Waters Brockway:

I must take credit for the naming of a substance occasionally carried by some thru-hikers on the trail. It came about one evening at a shelter somewhere in North Carolina. I was sitting in the shelter eating my freshly prepared Ramen noodles with pieces of beef jerky added. In front of me was my tent pitched at quite an angle, but it was the most level spot available. I prefer the privacy of a tent over the restricting and often over-crowded shelters. And I can belch, fart, and scratch my butt without offending or bothering anyone. Also at the shelter, were three young ladies I had met earlier, from up north somewhere, New England area I believe. One of the young ladies, looking out at my tent said, “’No Clue,’ (my trail name) it looks as you are going to be quite uncomfortable tonight with your tent being so unlevelled.” “Oh, that,” I said. “That’s not a problem; I have a ‘tent leveler.’ To which she responded, “Yeah right, there is no such thing as a ‘tent leveler.’ ”Sure there is,” I said. “Yeah, that’s right, they’re just three dumb broads and they will be gullible enough to believe there is actually such a thing as a ‘tent leveler!’” Another part of the trio chimed in. “Yeah, let’s joke around with the girls!” And, “Yeah, they’ll never know the difference!” said the third one. “No, I’m really serious!” I assured them. And the first non-believer, who was now sitting next to me, said, “Well, let’s see it work then. “Hey, just hold on, let me finish eating and I’ll gladly demonstrate it for you.” I told them. “Yeah right!” the three of them answered nearly in unison and equally sarcastically.

A few minutes later I finished eating and retrieved from my backpack my bottle of Kentucky Bourbon, Wild Turkey 101, affectionately referred to as “the dirty bird,” tilted up the bottle and took a healthy swig. The young lady next to me said, “What’re you doing “No Clue,” thought you were going to level your tent?” “I am leveling my tent.” I explained. “Well,” She responded, “it certainly doesn’t look level to me!” “Hey, these things take time.” I countered. I then proceeded to take another good swig, looked toward my tent, stretched my arm out with my thumb sticking up, squinted my left eye, looked down my arm and moved my head from side to side as though I were focusing in and said, “Now it’s getting there, yup, it’s starting to level right up!” “Well, it certainly doesn’t look level to me!” She said. And while the other two were nodding their heads in agreement, I turned to her with the bottle outstretched and said, “That’s certainly understandable. Here, try this.” A big smile came over her face as she accepted the bottle. She took a good size drink and to my amazement never even flinched. She sat there a few moments, took yet another good sized drink and announced, “By God he’s right the damn thing is getting level!” Thus the term “tent leveler” was born.