Pirates of the Shenandoah  

    My sister’s (whom I dearly love) saw my departure into the Army as the perfect opportunity to get married and pop out nephews like toast. By the time my service to this great Nation ended, I had half a dozen eager nephews waiting to torment my days and nights. Trying to become the “uber-cool” uncle, I found their parents oddly cooperative in letting me have them for fishing trips and other outdoor activities.


  My plans were extra hands to help drag deer and fetch beverages from the cooler. Their plans differed in that perspective. One by one the little chuckle-heads formed a terror cell aimed at Uncle Buck’s demise.


  Accidents happen and the occasional fish hook through the thumb is tolerated when the bait-thrower thought the master-baiter was finished with his appointed task. If this happens more than once per fishing excursion—the bait-thrower’s intentions become fishy.


  Picking blackberries became a game of monofilament line tied to rubber snakes that were pulled across the feet of the appointed berry picking guardian. I don’t share their enthusiasm in seeing a heart attack victim launch skyward in a cussing blur. I tried to toss these games off as youthful camaraderie—but it got worse.


  Icy Hot found its way to the camp toilet paper, and I will fully affirm that you haven’t lived until you’ve tried walking in the woods with a blistering sphincter. I’ve come to understand why dogs appreciate a good “drag”—butt first—across the carpet. Grass is a last resort if you’re outside, but avoid areas with hidden pine cones; those prickly ground grenades leave welts the size of silver dollars.


  Operation Redemption went into full effect the following day.


     The worst of the worst are Ricky, Randy, and Ronnie—or Run, Rut, and Romp as my wife calls them—and they forgot Uncle Buck grew up when kids were tough. I’m sorry, but most kids today don’t have the grit we had, and Uncle Buck waited patiently to apply a heavy dose of humility (something their parents referred to as time out).


  A Sunday matinee brought their level of wickedness to an all-time high, and the latest Johnny Depp pirate ass-kickery flick seemed to turbo-fuel their foul Caribbean hearts. A few whacks across the shins from their plastic swords forced a chuckle, soon you little deviants…soon you will pay. So I planned a weekend fixing up the hunting cabin to afford me the high ground for Operation Redemption.


  Relatives planned cookouts and ordered kegs since they would be away for the weekend, and thus packed with my own seeds of destruction; I kissed the wife farewell and went off to war.


  Three hours of fart and booger jokes later, we locked the cattle gate behind us and eased down a shadowy road towards a rendezvous with fate. Once unpacked and all items checked for contraband, Ricky became the first to fall victim. Firing my wrist-rocket at cans and missing each time, the anticipation became too much for him.


  “Can I try?”




  Handing over the slingshot I offered a bit of manly advice, “Make sure you hold your thumb dead center of the “V” and you’ll hit what you’re aiming at by using it as a sight pin.”


  I figured one purple thumbnail equals four fish hook impalements.


  Randy’s “Bull in a China Shop” mentality made his demise as simple as a friendly bet.


  “When I was your age I could grab that rope swing and sail across the creek and land flat-footed on the other side.”


  Brows wrinkled in thought as his medieval wheels spun into motion.


  “Never once even so much as got our feet wet back then.” I threw my challenge out as a trump card, “I bet you can’t do it.”

 50-yard running start with Tarzan yells of defiance—free. One rope swing attached to willow limb across 20-foot creek—free. Coating the rope with grease for evil nephew—Priceless.  

  I figured one fully clothed dunk in a creek equaled three snake induced heart attacks.


  I saved Ronnie last for a reason. He alone masterminded the infamous fiery death march, and I wanted him to suffer…bad.


  His romp and snoop attitude offered the perfect opportunity for a redemptive strike of revenge. By taking latex gloves and coating a Playboy magazine’s pages with a thin layer of liquid fire and cayenne pepper; I set my trap by hiding the smut in my duffle bag.


  For two days his nose ran and his eyes became red hoods of surrender. The wretch rubbed and scratched those places of misfortune in such a manner; its best described as a horny monkey locked in a cage without access to females

  I figured one sizzling walk equaled two days of mystery blisters covering anatomical nether regions.


  With the battle won, I now set about a final Coup de grace of sheer genius.  A pre-dug hole of 4-feet, two five-gallon buckets filled with runny cow manure (fresh), and a crude cross would issue a defeat befitting the swashbuckling trio. A night recon found the hole filled with manure and covered with a dirt crust to mask the smell. Add one white spray painted “X” across the stink pit, and with the crude cross planted in place—I shivered with diabolical deviancy.


  “Hey Uncle Buck you wanna go smash rocks at the creek with us?” A cooing voice sounded.


  Knowing their minds were in “all-out” war mode, I feigned a yawn, “Naw, you boys have a good time, I think I’ll take a nap this afternoon. I was up most of the night looking at this old treasure map I’ve had for years.”

  “ Treasure map?” Three voices sounded in unison as their heads popped through my door.


  “Yup, bought it off an old mountain man when I was your age, and it’s said a pirate called the “Happy Ranger” brought his treasure to these parts and buried it. Indians killed him and took the map, and one of the old man’s ancestors stole it from the Indians.”


  “You think it’s still here, I mean buried somewhere around this camp Uncle Buck?” Randy asked a little too eager.


  “Sure do. I’ve never found it so it’s still buried here somewhere. Why don’t you take the map and put it in the glove compartment of my truck so I’ll know where it is when I wake up from my nap.” I asked rubbing my eyes and stretching.


  “Yeah Uncle Buck, you do look tired. Take a nap and I’ll put it in your truck safe and sound.” Ronnie grinned.


  “It’ll stay right where you want it while we go to the creek.” Ricky smiled plucking the map from Ronnie’s slurpee-stained fingers.


  Running footsteps faded minus the sound of a truck door slamming in their wake, and with the glove compartment forgotten—only fame and fortune awaited our fair Pirates of the Shenandoah. 


  Bribery is illegal in all fifty states and blackmail over pictures applies to trashy American Idol hopefuls. Having in your possession a camcorder film of three putrid youths washing in a creek cannot be rendered as blackmail, and threatening to download said film on www.youtube.com does not reason bribery. I delivered these hard lessons with the smugness of a Politician, and while my beverage of choice is fetched from the cooler; the hook is baited and rod cast in the direction my disciplined finger points. Once the pole is surrendered to my callused hand…then…and only then…I ponder our truce while sipping the spoils of war.


Uncle Buck