I don't have leather seats in my Jeep. It was an upgrade package that was not considered "Sporty" enough to be included in my first car lease and eventual purchase. The material that currently covers my forlorn seats have not withstood the power of Titus' uncontrollable bowels, Dixie's early predilection towards informing me when she has to urinate or of a whole host of Tim Horton's Ice Capps that have attempted to infiltrate each crevice of my "adult go-cart"**. I have always wanted leather seats, as they are easily cleaned and tend to make a vehicle look mighty fine. However, just as any aspect of life contains within it a juxtaposition of good and bad, leather seats also have their pitfalls, each having to do with temperature.
My bare legs stick to the cool seats, making my extremities that much colder. The seat heaters should be working their magic but the increased temperature only acts akin to a stronger glue, keeping my naked legs held fast to the seat. I take a moment to reverse my opinion of the cow-covered seats and make an oath to appreciate my seats more frequently, praise their temperature control more periodically. I then look to DU, his white knuckles finally fading to pink, and realize we had just experienced a second day of firsts.
The First Day of Firsts, a day that will be hereafter known as "The Joyful Day of Firsts" (as opposed to The Second Day of Firsts which will be dubbed "The Not-So Joyful Second Day of Firsts") was a 24 hour period that captured a gaggle of things that I had experienced for the first time, from my first "snow day" from work, my first North Carolina snowfall, my first fruitful duck hunt, and the first time my face became intimately acquainted with the snow below during a waterfowl retrieval mission. That day was perfect from start to finish, save the whole physiognomy-meets-frozen-percipitation thing. This day, in stark contrast made me feel so blessed to have experienced The Joyful Day of Firsts (which, hereafter will be known as TJDF, simply because typing it is slowly becoming irksome), joyful to even be alive even, that I realized it was a Second Day of Firsts.
The weather is finally heating up here in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. With the increase in heat, it is only natural that DU begins rigging up the high-pressure sodium blubs, cleaning out the fish barrel, and sighting in our bowfishing bows. (For those of you who are not in the know, bowfishing is an outdoor sport that combines the thrill of fishing with the accuracy and skill of archery. The high-sodium blubs and the whole rig of a bowfisherman ((or woman)) allows one to shoot big fish in the dead of night. A thrilling sport, it is one that I have taken to in between duck and turkey season to not only pass the time but also to hone my skill and rid our lakes of the evil carp, the swarthy catfish.) We had had a quasi-successful adventure two nights prior on our buddy, Robin's pontoon boat, but I had yet to stick a fish of my own. So, when DU mentioned he was taking out our new boat for a spin that evening, I was eager to embark on a successful hunt.
The weather report had been vague at best, predicting rain, then sunshine, thunderstorms, then tranquility. We arrived at the boat lunch to the sight of lightning tearing at the sky, ripping it in two, some ten miles away. The storm seemed to be passing to the right of us, so with every confidence that we would be fine, we set a course for fish assassination.
Our first series of passes yielded a few fish in the barrel, thus preserving the Lake Norman ecosystem for another day***. Still yearning for my first catch, I slung arrows at anything that moved, save for those gigantic bass slivering against the lake floor. It didn't take long before my shot met its mark; I wounded the fish but needed DU's perfectly placed shot to get it in the boat. Hungry for my first big fish, I began to turn a deaf ear to the thunder rumbling in the distance.
We turned down a cove at about the same time the stars we had previously seen as our salvation began to be enveloped by angry storm clouds. Robin and DU turned their attention to a pair of catfish to their left while I noticed a large carp surfacing just to the right of where the air met the swirling liquid below. Without a thought, I drew back. Before I knew it, my arrow began dancing to a fatal tune played by the writhing and thrashing of my target. The boys only took notice when I screamed my most female exclamation of joy. The carp was a hoss, bending my arrow as he made his final descent into the catch bucket. I finally understood, in my first moment of bowfishing clarity, how to land the big fish as opposed to the small shad I had shot last season.
We ventured forth. It was only when I had bagged my second of the night, another fatty easily tipping the scales at twenty pounds of bottom-feeding fish that I noticed the storm clouds gathering. I mentioned to DU that we should probably think about returning to the boat ramp, as the vessels we had been seeing had all but disappeared. DU told me we would be fine. I mentioned to my beloved that the wind was picking up in our direction and we should really be thinking about making some sort of retreat. Again, DU informed me that it was going to pass to the right of us and we would, again, be "fine". Moments later, Robin shot his first-ever gar, a horrible looking fish with rows of angry teeth. It was at that time that the storm seemed to gather right above us. Before we knew it, we were in trouble.
I have never, in my years of hunting and fishing, ever really feared for my safety. Sure, I would get a tad nervous when climbing the precarious, oddly-placed limbs to our less-than-safe lock-on-stand. I tended to become slightly concerned when the fog surrounding our boat on cold, duck-hunting mornings acted as an opaque wall, disallowing the option of seeing mere inches before one's face. And yes, walking in waders in murky water isn't my favorite pastime; I generally envision a gang of alligators waiting to pounce at every step while retrieving decoys, their saw-teeth chomping at my ankles, bleeding me through until the plastic ducks are enshrouded in a sea of red, much to their faux astonishment. However, I have never really been in a situation where I believe the next moment may be my last. This night, my first, I believed may possibly be my last.
A lightning blot exploded less than a mile from our metal boat, placed theatrically in the middle of a cove off of Lake Norman proper. DU, attempting to bring up the Doppler radar on his phone seemed startled when I, not in the nicest nor in the softest voice, advised that we take shelter, now, as in twenty minutes ago. The water began to gather against the boat, turning in moments from a peaceful lake to a rampaging bull. We sought shelter under a wooden gazebo, the dock of a little, uninhabited A-Frame whose owners unknowingly, magically transformed into our saviors.
The rain began to pour as the thunder pounded in our ears, the lightning blinding our eyes. We gathered what we could, tied up the boat and waited for the storm to pass. I watched as the storm attacked the land, shook it to its core and came back for more. The lightning was haphazard, striking at will. When the scene became too much, I covered myself with my jacket, imagined myself in a tent, and tried to recreate the storm akin to a child's perception of angels bowling, striking, then crying when missing a pin.
We attempted to leave once but were pulled back to the safety of land after seconds of calm weather gave us false hope. When we finally made a break for it, DU instructed me to huddle under the metal bowfishing platform. My body was thrown like a ragdoll, slammed this way, then that, as the tumultuous waters took arms and attacked the advancing forces. Mother nature's battle cry raged above, sending missile after missile of white-hot lightning. DU battled the sea, forcing his eyes to lock with the boat launch even as the swords and axes of the clouds fell.
Solitude was finally reached. As we loaded up the boat, we took inventory of our human and material parts. It was only when the stench of burning house infiltrated our olfactory glands that we realized a million dollar mansion only a half mile from where we hid fell to the battle-cry of mother nature. The blue lights reflected off the growing cloud, their sirens lost in the windy fray.
Waffle House was the best option, according to Robin, to toast to the conquering (or evading, in this case at least) of Mother Nature. I had never been to the house of all things smothered, covered, and buttered so it seemed perfect to round off my first death-defying fishing trip with my first visit to the breakfast institution. The waitress was startled at our appearance; the patrons, impressed that we had stayed out during the onslaught. Robin, DU, and I swapped stories of a scary nature, those tales of harrowing adventure, momentary panic, blessed relief.
Our food consumed, the trio became a duo and now I'm back in the truck, wondering what to do about these diluted pants of mine. I thought briefly of discarding them and voiced this option to an equally, if not more so, drenched DU. He replied that he was thinking in kind so we shed our wetsuits and rode home, joyously pointing out the fact that we were: a) not wearing pants b) in a car while not wearing pants c) imagining what we would tell a cop if we were to be pulled over while not wearing pants.
Once we got home, we ran inside as quickly as possible, as we could not imagine what our neighbors would think about their hunter neighbors running around, sans pants, at one in the morning. I warmed up in the shower and allowed myself a moment of brief reflection, a recap, if you will, of the night's events. It was my first night of enlightened bowfishing, my first harvest of two monster carp, the first time I had feared for my life in a very real way, my first meal at Awful house, and the first time I had been driven home pantless by an equally pantless man. It was also the first time that I had been truly thankful for solid ground, shelter, and, of course, a dry pair of slacks.
*DU advised that this be the title of this posting. I argued that it was too wordy, wouldn't fit on the sidebar of my blog, and wasn't really imaginative. He argued that many a person would be intrigued as to why I neglected to sport pants home from a bowfishing extravaganza, that this was my key to fame in the outdoor world and that I would be tempting fate if I neglected to use his title. So, given that I do not want to tempt fate and have to begin mastering this "compromise" thing married people do, I've included both titles.
** DU calls my Jeep Liberty an adult go-kart as his behemoth self does not fit properly whenever I elect to drive. I find this term mean and completely accurate.
*** Common Carp are an invasive species to Lake Norman. They, along with their mirror and grass compatriots can destroy an entire aquatic ecosystem with their ferocious need for green. Carp have been introduced to waterways around the world in order to control the spread of certain kinds of grasses and algaes. This works out perfectly for all involved, until, of course, the carp begin to reproduce. These fish reproduce faster than rabbits, The Duggars and mice combined. This makes it so that a lake that is normally stocked with, let's say, 40 carp a year will have to deal with 80+ carp the next year. If carp are allowed widespread access to a lake, they will eat and reproduce until no other fish are allowed space or sustenance to survive. Hence, bowfishing curtails these problems by keeping the number of carp in-check.