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The editor of this paper wants me to write columns that encourage people to get out and enjoy the world around us, but sometimes it would be advisable to just stay in bed all day, where it’s much safer.

I should have known I was headed for trouble when I had to wait for a highway flagman for 10 minutes and then another for 20 on my way to our get-away at Lake Wilderness, near Fort Madison.

Six weeks without rain was disturbed by 5.5 inches in one night. A good Samaritan neighbor snapped the attached photo before he dragged my boat on shore far enough to get the transom out. When I arrived, I bailed most of the water out with a bucket, then pulled the SS Minnow back in the water. Sitting in the back seat, I was scooping leaves out with my hand when suddenly my hand stopped short followed by a huge sting. Some careless fisherman (a.k.a. me) had left a hook in the boat. It was on a leader that had a sinker on it, which got caught in a bracket. With no knife handy, I had to chew the leader off the hook to free myself.

Recalling the prescribed Boy Scout method, I wrapped a thin line around the bend in the hook (which was impaled into my palm up to its second bend) and tried to pull it out, but the barb adamantly dishonored the request. The dull kitchen knife was unsuccessful in cutting into my skin deep enough to get to the barb, so off I drove to the emergency room. Lidocaine numbed the hand so well that I didn’t even feel the chain saw the doctor used to extricate the hook, and I drove back to the lake with a prescription for an antibiotic and strict instructions for daily changing the gauze that wrapped my entire hand.

Now, before you jump my bones about it, I’m fully aware that smoking is bad for my health. That said, note to self, on a windy day, don’t cup your gauze-wrapped hand around the lighter. Do you know how fast gauze goes up in flames? Let’s just say fast.

Not willing to call the day a total loss, I grabbed a rod and walked out onto my dock. As I was about to cast to my right, I heard a big splash to my left. I quickly turned and whipped the spinner bait that way, completely forgetting about the galvanized pipe that stood six feet high at the end of the dock. The lure went nowhere near the splash, which was completely understandable as it was drawn off course by the two sections of the rod following it through the air, which had snapped off when they hit the pipe. And that was my favorite rod!

Starting to wonder if I should have stayed in bed, I was walking back to the security of the deck when I saw a swarm of yellow jackets hovering around a hole in the ground. I would normally put a rock on the hole, but the way the day was going, I decided to leave them be.

So I simply sat down on the deck with a can of beer and a good book, minding my own beeswax. What could possibly go wrong with that, right? Well, the third swig included a bee who apparently became rather upset with me for interrupting his happy hour. The bite on the back of my tongue caused immediate swelling but, hey, I’m a guy, right? And there was just no way I was going back to that emergency room twice in the same day.

At this point, I was starting to get a mite frustrated about how my day was going and felt the need for revenge — on something. Anything. So I shook a can of long-range wasp spray that felt at least half full. Three seconds of spray into the hole and the can ran dry. Now, from experience I knew they would have an emergency exit hole, but my memory isn’t as well-honed as it once was. One bite on the elbow and another up my shorts. Not as bad as it could have been, but the other yellow jackets probably died laughing as they watched a fat, old man trying to run away.

I made myself a big, stiff Manhattan in a wide-mouthed glass so I could see any intrepid winged enemies. After two such adult beverages, I calmed down and watched a beautiful sunset.

I woke up in the morning with a throbbing hand, two welts, a slightly swollen tongue, and a vivid memory of my night’s dream: I was out on the lake in my boat with a huge hook embedded in the bottom of my big toe. That was all I needed to convince me not to go fishing. So I drove home. Very, very cautiously.

Getting out can be a richly rewarding experience. This just wasn’t one of them.

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Tom Charlton is a resident of Davenport and has hunted and fished in 20 states and across Canada. Please email your comments and column topic suggestions to him at or to the editors at


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