Boat Launch

October 13, 2009

"She has two speeds: slow, and stopped."

That's the quote that an ex-husband of a mutual friend said about Crystal. We've taken hold of that quote, and we repeat it regularly every time we have to wait for her to get ready to go somewhere. Which is to say, we use the phrase every time theskinnyonbenny family is in the same city as Crystal's.

When we were in Maine, Mrs. theskinnyonbenny tried to combat slowness by setting firm times by which we were supposed to be out of the house an on to some adventure. She wasn't unreasonable about it – we were up until 2:00 or 3:00 every night, and then we had six adults, four kids, and one bathroom. But be it 10:00 or 10:30, the clock inevitably ticked closer and closer as Crystal relaxed in pajamas, watching the world pass by.

One morning, she garnered some sympathy from me by sleeping late and then claiming, "I just want 15 minutes to savor my coffee." I thought that sounded reasonable, until Brent gave her away. "She doesn't even drink fucking coffee at home."

The Saturday of Mrs. theskinnyonbenny's class reunion was no different. We had planned to leave their class barbecue and take my mother-in-law's boat out on one of the local lakes. About the time that we started rounding up kids and saying goodbyes, Crystal decided to eat a hamburger patty. That was fine, we sat and talked and






In 20 minutes, she had eaten about half. Mrs. theskinnyonbenny asked if we were ready to go, and I jerked my head to the half-eaten patty to my left. Crystal was surprised. "Oh, were you waiting for me?"

Either that or another ice age. Either way.

She eventually got up to say goodbyes, and then it became apparent that the goodbyes were going to take a really long time. So Brent and I left on our own. We had a long drive anyway, to drop off my kid and pick up the boat at my in-laws' place outside of town.

We got up to the house, I put Vanya into dry clothes, and I threw him into his mother's childhood bed for a nap. As I came out, we received a rather complicated set of instructions for picking up the boat, which was down by a farm building with tractors and equipment. If the gate looked locked, we were to check and see if it just had the chain wrapped around a post, but not really locked. If it did turn out to be truly locked, there was a hiding place for a key that we were to look. If the key wasn't there, we were told, "We'll have to see about finding the Mexican."

Sure enough, the gate was actually locked. We found the hidden key, but that opened one of the three padlocks on the chain, but not the one that was actually holding it closed. So, I hopped over the fence to see about finding the Mexican.

At first, it appeared to be an easy task. Just beyond the gate was a large shed/shop type of building. A large garage door was open. We walked through, and a Mexican lady was rolling dough and mixing a green liquid in the blender. She and I found ourselves unable to communicate, but Brent broke out some Spanish and managed to ask if she had the key. More impressive yet, he was able to ascertain that her husband had the key out in a pasture somewhere.

We left the shop and boarded a gasoline-powered four-wheel-drive golf cart type of thing. I drove, bouncing down a dirt road, around a curve and over a hill so that civilization was completely obscured. We bounced through the countryside, passing cows, and the ubiquitous white birds who hang around cows. After a bit, we saw a plume of dust in the sky. Going through a gate, and pulling closer, we saw that the plume was created by a tractor cutting hay.

I made a turn, zipping through a flock of birds, scattering them through the sky. I circled wide around the back of the tractor and pulled alongside what would have been the driver's side, had it been a car. The man driving wouldn't have been more surprised to see two gringos pull up in a Mardi Gras float. Brent managed to blubber out enough Spanish to get the keys from him, and we took back off toward the shop.

We opened the gate and returned the keys to the woman, who was now clearly in the middle of making tamales in the middle of the big room. Going back to the trailer, we found that there was a flat tire.

The trailer had a spare mounted to its front, but naturally, the lug nut wrench in my Jeep didn't fit the nuts on the trailer. Back in the shop, we searched and dug until we found a single, tiny socket wrench and some sockets. One of them fit the lug nut, and Brent started to change the tire.

But the wrench wouldn't budge. I couldn't move it either, so I put the handle horizontally and stood on it. That didn't help, so I started to bounce up and down. I felt is starting to turn and announced, "Here it goes. I got it."

By the time I got to the word "it," I was on the ground, and the socket wrench was in two pieces. It hadn't been turning; it's metal had been twisting.

About that time, Mrs. theskinnyonbenny called. She and Crystal had left the reunion and were sitting in a nice cool air-conditioned bar wondering where we were. They decided to order another round.

Meanwhile, I called my father-in-law to see if there might be another socket wrench somewhere nearby. He said he was close by, and that he had what we need in his truck.

Several minutes later, he was there, and MacGyver would be envious of his preparation for all things gone wrong. An air compressor on the back of the truck refilled the tire. We could hear a hiss, so he added a connection to the air hose, and with a NASCAR "whirr," the nuts were unscrewed in seconds. Hot and thirsty? He had a jug of cold water in his back seat. Within 10 minutes, we reconnected the trailer to the Jeep, and we were on our way.

We stopped for gas and some giant cans of beer served in paper bags. Amazingly, this was our first beer of the day. (Believe it or not, there had been a barbecue in Louisiana that included only water and soda.) We got to the boat ramp just a few minutes before the women.

Mrs. theskinnyonbenny sat at the helm, and I backed the trailer into the water. She went to lower the prop, and got nothing. No power, no radio, nothing. Back out of the water we came, and we pulled slowly out into the street. Had we been smart, we would have pulled out the battery and run that through town to Wal-Mart, but we weren't smart, so we crawled through the town's narrow streets with a ton of boat, finally arriving at Wal-Mart much later than we would have otherwise.

The battery exchange went off without problem, but it did require a manager to stick her little key into the register keyboard, so we had to wait around a while for that. Then, we put the new battery in the boat – everything worked. Back to the slow route through town to the launch.

I don't know how many hours it had been. This day felt like a month. But we finally got on the boat, out on the lake, and had a very nice time. The day want' over – we crashed a party that someone was having along the river, met classmates downtown for dinner, and then had another story worthy adventure while trying to pull the boat out of the water. But that can wait until another post on another day.