Bad Jokes and Off-key Singing

Camp fireThe rest of the family arrived and set up a camp of motor homes and canvas tents. Hobie’s neighbors must have thought the Beverly Hillbillies had come to town.

The next morning my cousins and I helped Hobie move an old picnic table from the side of the cabin to the front patio. While enjoying sausage links and scrambled eggs the sun broke out and the rays warmed us. After breakfast, Hobie lead everybody down to the lake where a stack of lumber was piled. He pointed to an old grey dock that looked ready to sink “I need another one just like that.”

“Piece of cake.” My uncle insisted, and everybody fell into place. The younger kids followed Hobie to retrieve nails, a buzz saw, and extension chords. The rest of us waded into the water, unfastened the old relic and pulled it onto the grassy shore. After a few moments of study, the group started in:

“We can make it wider if we space the decking a little.”

“It should have a rail on this side”

“Nails? Hell, we should use screws, is there a hardware store open today?”

The distinct sound of a throat clearing broke the banter and all eyes went to Hobie. He just stood there in his floppy hat casually looking at the old dock. He asked a few simple questions regarding these new design ideas, and all the answers lead back to one thing – building the new dock exactly as the old.

I grabbed a hammer and followed directions. After a few moments I heard whistling and realized everybody was happy working together. I didn’t expect this on a holiday weekend. Hobie played field boss – I guess that’s what you’d call what he was doing – mostly commenting about the way a joist was cut or how the Styrofoam was being secured. He made us “sell” him on these procedures, all the while keeping things light with his unique and slightly mischievous sense of humor.

Eventually the new dock passed inspection and was floating on schedule. The tan wood looked nice among the shoreline brush and trees. Hobie, donning a captain’s hat, drove his boat up and tied it along side the new dock – officially christening it. He unloaded several pairs of water skis and life jackets. “Who’s first?”

We spent the afternoon waterskiing – well, almost everybody. I’d tried this torturous act once before. After flying over the water and crash landing on my belly a hundred times, I realized this wasn’t my thing. This time I decided to be the spotter and rode with Hobie in the boat working the ropes.

That night Hobie treated everybody to steak tenderloin. I volunteered to help him prep them and learned his “secret” recipe of spreading teriyaki sauce across the beef followed by a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. He laid them out over the shiny clean grill of a rickety old barbecue. Once seared, he showed me how to tell when they were cooked just by touching them. The steak was the best I’d ever tasted.

After dinner, he threw the hot coals over a pile of brush mounded in a brick fire ring. My cousin grabbed some firewood near the pit and before long he’d built a bon fire. Everybody grabbed a folding chair and encircled the blaze for a round of bad jokes and off-key singing. Even Hobie chimed in with a tune. It was off-color enough to earn a slap on the arm from Grandma. We all cracked up.

My cousin arranged more wood on the fire. “You must be a boy scout.” Hobie got that right. All my cousins were boy scouts. Not me. I’d tried cub scouts, but quit before I could learn anything useful.

Under blue Oregon skies and precious sunshine, I enjoyed the best family weekend ever. I was certain I’d found Shangri la. Problem was, it was about to end. I loaded my bag into the trunk of our car and was dreading the ride home when suddenly I heard Mom’s voice from the patio of the cabin.

“Not so fast Jeff” she yelled.

Bewildered, I watched her approach me.

“Hobie needs help with some chores around the cabin. He’d like you to stay another week.”

NEXT: Don’t Cut Your Head Off

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