Originally published February 12, 2012
For several weeks during the summer of ’64, I was helping my dad build our family’s new cottage on Duck Lake, near Orville, Ontario.
My family had been going to Duck Lake for summer vacations for several years – and we always stayed at my Uncle Fred’s cottage.
He wasn’t a real uncle, but we called a lot of people “Uncle” or “Aunt” in those days. I guess my parents thought that it was less formal than using “Mr.” or “Mrs.” (Ms. and bra-burning not invented yet).
Uncle Fred was also my godfather, but he wasn’t anything close to resembling Marlon Brando’s character in the classic Godfather movie.
Uncle Fred was my dad’s best friend – they had known each other since childhood.
He had an artificial leg – he lost it at an early age – a train ran over it while he was playing on the tracks on Ritson Road. I’m not sure if that is why Uncle Fred was a lifelong-bachelor, but he was a very cool mentor.
My uncle had Playboy magazines all over the cottage (my parents would hide them during our holidays), so I knew that he was an expert on women – and probably also a “chick magnet.” I never had a problem finding the magazines.
I loved and admired my Uncle Fred. He treated me as a grownup – and when my dad wasn’t around, he would tell me all about the local girls and their attributes. He would use terms such as “built like a brick shit-house” and “stacked with huge cupcakes” to describe them. I never understood the first comparison, but I had no trouble picturing the one dealing with “cupcakes.”
In short, my uncle loved women and probably felt obligated to provide me with the benefit of his wisdom.
During the week, my dad and I worked on our new cottage, which was across the lake from Uncle Fred’s cottage. We ate and slept at my uncle’s place.
Each morning, we crossed the lake by boat. And we built most of the cabin without the use of power tools!
But we never worked on the weekend – that’s when Uncle Fred would come up from Oshawa. That’s also when several of the locals would show up to have a beer or two and play cards and do other grown-up stuff.
I spent weekends with my friends, Gregg Holmes and Dave Scott, a couple of kids from Parry Sound, whose parents shared a cottage on the lake. We did a lot of swimming, fishing and water skiing – and had lots of fun. We also spent a lot of time talking about girls.
One weekend I was invited to stay at Gregg’s house in Parry Sound.
The plan included going to a dance at the Orange Hall (a live band would be playing), and Dave and Gregg assured me that there would be “tons” of girls there! I had already met his mom and dad – they were very friendly – so I pleaded with my dad to let me “hitchhike” the twelve miles into town. At the urging of my Uncle Fred, my dad finally agreed.
I remember being very excited as I awoke on that Saturday morning – today was going to be filled with all kinds of adventure. I couldn’t stop grinning at the thought of finally being freed from the ‘chains’ of childhood.
After getting dressed, Uncle Fred called me into the sun-room/breezeway and told me that he was going to give me something exceptional to wear for the dance.
No, it wasn’t one of his shirts or shorts – he was twice my size. It was a bottle of Old Spice Aftershave and a tin of Old Spice Talcum Powder.
He told me that girls loved the smell of both – and I would have to “fight them off with a stick.” The thought of smelling that good, and being attacked by a bunch of girls (stacked like brick shit-houses and cupcakes) filled my head with excitement that I can’t describe in polite terms.
I ran into the bedroom and took my shirt off and started covering my arms, shoulders, chest, and stomach with the sweet-smelling scent of Old Spice Talcum Powder. Wow, did it smell great! And then I poured a couple of ounces of the Old Spice Aftershave in my hands and splashed my hands all over my face and neck.
My hands were dripping wet with aftershave, so I wiped them on my shirt and pants.
I walked out of the cottage, to the cheers of my dad, uncle, and their buddies. Maybe, I reminded them of their own “coming-of-age.” I think I heard someone mumbling something about “he smells like a five-dollar hooker,” but I took no notice because I was on a mission!
As I started walking the several miles toward Highway 69, I wondered if there would be much of a wait before I was able to “hitch” a ride. It was a sweltering summer day, and I didn’t even know if it was possible to walk into the town in just one day.
It was around that time when the first bee started buzzing around my face – and then another. I have always been terrified of bees. And I still run for cover, at the sight of them!
Previously, I had been stung by bees several times, and I wasn’t about to get hurt anymore – so I began running down the road.
The bees followed.
Cars would approach, but I wouldn’t slow down – I couldn’t – I had to keep running. So as I ran, I stuck my arm out – with my thumb pointing up and prayed that someone would be kind enough to save me from the nasty bees.
But not one car stopped. The drivers probably thought I was some stupid kid trying to race their cars.
I can’t remember how long it took to run to the junction of Hwy 69 – but I made it without taking many rest breaks. And when I did stop, the bees returned – so I just kept running. When I got to Highway 69, I finally “hitched” a ride – directly into town. Gregg and his family were happy to see me.
Later that day, I started vomiting – not sure why. Maybe from all of the running – or perhaps I breathed in too much talcum powder.
So, I spent the night on the couch in Gregg’s house – with his mom giving me lots of maternal care.
Meanwhile, Gregg and Dave were at the Orange Hall dance, with girls built like brick-shit houses.
So much for Old Spice Aftershave and Talcum Powder – I haven’t used either product since.
And I’m still terrified of bees.