Friday, July 20, 2007

Predators, Poltergeists, and Elvis Presley

Predators, Poltergeists and Elvis Presley?

Yes, it was that time again…the annual Haugh/Hadley vacation.

And yes, to answer the question that is probably at the forefront of everyone’s mind, yes we did get lost. In fact, it might be a new record of wrong turns, mis-directs, and out-and-out discombobulation. At one point, as we were on what was supposed to be a short jaunt to Amish country, we spent approximately 40 minutes on a gravel road that I am convinced doesn’t really exist. It’s one of those roads that only pop up in Twilight Zone episodes, Stephen King novels and journeys made by foolish travelers who willfully disregard their father’s rather precise directions.

It took me about 10 minutes of driving on this road to determine that it was, in fact, the road to Hell…a suspicion that was confirmed by the presence of these vicious Hell-hounds that burst out of nowhere and attempted to leap into my tiny little car.

Picture this: Eric and I are creeping along at approximately 20-30 miles an hour because I don’t want gravel flying up on my new car. We round a corner and 4, count ‘em FOUR, vicious beasts—each roughly the SIZE of my new car—fly into the road, barking and snarling, and otherwise indicating that they have been trained to kill. Eric tries to maintain that they might be friendly but I know I saw blood lust in their beady little eyes…plus, they were barking and chasing the car in a decidedly unfriendly manner….although, to be fair that could be because:

I kept screaming things like “They’d kill you as soon as look at you!” and “Bloody fangs, I see bloody fangs!”

I hit the gas like a maniac, inadvertently spraying gravel all over the dogs. Which, in case you didn’t know, is somewhat irritating to Hell-hounds and regular dogs alike.

This encounter, interestingly enough, led to us getting even more lost because afterwards I refused to turn the car around and retrace our steps. I mean, what person in her right mind voluntarily offers her throat to the HELL HOUNDS? Anyway, eventually we found our way to civilization—where Eric, in spite of his Mennonite roots, was the one who offended the Amish because he forgot that he had stripped down to near-nakedness in order to get some sun on our incredibly long journey.

Personally, I was shocked.

In any case, moving on to the next question that some of you might have: Were all of the activities we participated in legal in all 50 states?

In a word, no.

See, as most of you have learned in previous emails, Eric and I have a fondness for what we call “exploring” and a lot of people—particularly those martinets in law enforcement—call “trespassing.”

And when we’re meandering about the God-forsaken wilderness, shortly after a brush with actual hellhounds and we see a lookout tower…well, we can’t help ourselves. We have to slam on the brakes, careen wildly off the road and dash over to “explore.”

Some might have been put off by the “do not climb” signs painted on the side of the tower. Others might have balked at the fact that the rather rickety stairs had no railings. Still others would have decided that the removal of the bottom two set of stairs was a prime indicator that the tower was off-limits.

None of these things kept us off the tower.

What kept us off the tower was the fact that while age has not brought us wisdom, it has brought us additional weight and limited agility. Therefore we couldn’t actually haul ourselves up far enough to reach the rather rickety stairs…although Eric did give it the old college try.

Which would have been disappointing in the extreme except for the fact that on our last night, while we were on an after-hours search of Thunder Mountain State Park—looking for the ghosts of the Osage Indian tribe that supposedly haunt the area—we came across another tower. And not only was the “keep off” sign on this one faded almost into invisibility, the stairs were also intact.

It was like God turned back time and gave us a second chance.

But I’ve gotten way ahead of myself here…let me back up to the first day and talk about the rest of our trip. We had decided on Predators, Poltergeists, and Elvis Presley as a theme because I’d found a bunch of different museums and tourist attractions that were so random and bizarre they wouldn’t be crowded.

First, we attempted to go to the “Elvis is Alive” museum but in spite of the 20 foot painted Elvis out front and the sign that said “Come see the funeral room!” The museum wasn’t open. According to the sign, it should have been open but it wasn’t.

Which is not usually a prime indicator of a well-respected tourist attraction.

Although, it might have been a little more respectable than our next stop: Snake World.

“Where is Snake World?” One might ask.

Berryville, Arkansas. Population 4,433.

Where is the last place in the world that Kimberly Haugh and Eric Hadley blend in?

Berryville, Arkansas. Population 4,433.

See, when you’re in places like Berryville, Arkansas or, even better, Blue Eye, Arkansas (population 126) it’s a good idea NOT to do any of the following:

1. Notice a sign that says “Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit” and ask for butter.

2. Decide that two pigtails is a good look for a man…even if it does keep the hair out of your eyes better than a single ponytail (It is interesting to note that shortly after Eric arranged his hair in this fashion, I began calling him Ponyboy Hadley…although not until I tried out a slue of other nicknames that were apparently offensive, insensitive, and downright rude.)

3. Attempt to establish redneck camaraderie by pretending to be from a small town in Missouri named Butler…who would have guessed that someone in Berryville, Arkansas would have known the social calendar of Butler, Missouri????

4. Stop at an establishment simply labeled “The Big Sale” and peruse the scariest collection of junk ever thrown together beneath a proudly waving Rebel Flag. If you do stop, however, it’s probably a good idea NOT to sneak around and “explore” the backyard so you can take a picture of the assorted junk there too.

What you should do is make sure to keep your car “perched for flight” at all
times—backing into parking spots and leaving the top down—so you can run over and jump in Dukes of Hazzard style, should you need to make a quick getaway.

Trust me, we were perched for flight our entire time we were in Arkansas, especially at Snake World.

Which is, for the uninitiated, the home to one of the largest private collections of venomous snakes in North America…kept tightly confined in A TRAILER in Berryville, Arkansas.

Yes, you read that correctly. A trailer.

A trailer with one hand-painted sign advertising baby pythons and another explaining that hours were “by chance.”

And chance wasn’t immediately with us because the Snake Man wasn’t there when we first arrived…but he’d painted a phone number on the sign so we gave him a ring and he zipped over from his real job (apparently Snake World isn’t a full time career, who knew?) and offered us the complete tour.

“It’s very educational,” he promised.

And it was…though I wasn’t really thrilled with some of the things I learned. Like, I thought it was cool when he sort of snuck up on the spitting viper, smacked the glass of the aquarium and the little monster spat venom at us. But I could have cheerfully lived my whole life without knowing that if you get that same venom in your eyes in the wilds of Africa and you’re low on water, your friend should PEE IN YOUR EYES.

I told Eric I’d rather go blind.

I also would have been content not seeing the shocking number of shed snake skins on the floor, now knowing that a “piller case” is a great “snake sack” and that in some countries Madagascar hissing cockroaches (which he had in another aquarium) are becoming a popular protein choice.

I told Eric I’d rather starve.

But I did learn a lot about the care and coloring of the snakes of the world…none of which I will ever, unfortunately, use since I react to any and all snakes with the same panic and hysteria that I displayed in my encounter with the Hell hounds.

You would think that once we left Snake World we would also leave behind disturbing conversations about urine but nooooo, the subject came up again at our next stop, the exotic cat rescue. It was, in fact, the largest big cat refuge in the world! It’s 450 acres of land where rescued tigers and lions and other wildlife are allowed to live out their days in peace.

Can you believe that the majority of these tigers are rescued PETS? People had these things in their backyards, houses, etc. You know why? Because most people are crazy, that’s why.

Anyway, there we were, touring the habitat, hearing how wonderfully content these tigers are in their new home when we learned 2 really important things about tigers:

A. They pee to mark their territory…including peeing ON people who enter what they perceive as their territory.

B. They can spray that pee about 8-10 FEET.

Luckily, neither Eric nor I were hit with tiger urine but this one guy in our group was…which sent the tour guide into paroxysms of laughter as she explained that they would give him a new shirt when we got back to the office, one that said “I got sprayed at Turpentine Creek Tiger rescue.”

And though I am cheap as hell and always on the lookout for free things, I did NOT want that shirt.

Anyway, this is getting really long and you guys are probably all sick of hearing about predators, poltergeists, and pee so I will close by saying we’re glad to be back, we know you’re glad you weren’t with us, and we have already picked a theme for next year…

Colorado cannibals here we come!