Monday, May 19, 2008

Happy Birthday Uncle Harold--An Algonquin Tale, by Jack Kinsella

We made an annual visit to Algonquin Park for a couple of decades. During those years, we had some good times, we had some bad times. Let me tell you about one of the bad times, at least from Uncle Harold’s point of view.

One constant of our trips was our “Paddle Pain Reliever” which accompanied us on every voyage. This was our code word for the booze each of us packed which was unpacked and drunk after every long canoe journey. Each of us had our favorite variety of Paddle Pain Reliever. Mine was Jamison’s Irish Whiskey, Dick Lochner’s was Southern Comfort, and Harold Taylor’s was Rum.

All of us knew this was Harold’s favorite so on our trip to the park in 1983, Jim Kinsella decided he would play a trick on his Uncle. He took Aunt Barb into his confidence and this is what they did. We could not take glass bottles into the park so we had to pour our booze into a plastic bottle instead. So as Uncle Harold was getting prepared for the big trip, Aunt Barb volunteered to help and she poured tea into the plastic bottle instead of Harold’s favorite rum. To make it a bit more realistic, Jim added a shot of rum to the mixture.

Off we went and I must admit the canoe trip from the jump off point to the St. Andrew’s campsite was a very difficult one—lots of low water which meant dragging the canoes, lots of beaver dams which meant lifting the canoes over the damn things, and in one case a moose ran in front of Harold’s canoe and almost stepped in the middle of it. Needless to say, when we finally arrived at our campsite, we were very tired and very thankful to be there. After setting up our tents, the number one thought on everyone’s mind was, “I need a good big shot of Paddle Pain Reliever.”

So we all retrieved our favorite plastic bottle, filled our cups with some ice cubes and poured ourselves a generous quantity of liquid. As Harold took a humongous sip of his “rum” all eyes were on him to see what his reaction would be. He got a happy look on his face and announced, “Man, that’s good!” We all looked at each other and had the same horrible thought, “Did Aunt Barb double cross us? Did she really put rum in the bottle instead of tea as she had told us?”

On his next drink, Harold said, “This is good but I’m not getting the buzz I usually do.” At this point, Jim felt sorry for his uncle, brought out the real bottle of rum and told him the whole story. Harold sat there and let it sink in and said, “Not to worry,” and then proceeded to have a few samples of the “real” stuff. We didn’t keep track of how many “samples” we each had but Harold had enough that he again recounted the story of Adin’s pigs that left the Solid Shaft in the haystack. Later on, he announced, “OK, you Yahoos got me that time, but beware, that’s not the end of it!”

Later, while Jim, Tim and Chris were out canoeing, Harold sneaked over to their tent and put large sticks under the floor of the tent where they would be sleeping. As it turned out, these were discovered shortly after they turned in and were quickly removed. All agreed their motto against Harold was, “We don’t get mad, we get even.”

At most Algonquin campsites, the John was a covered structure. At this one, it was just an open one—you just sat on a board with a hole in it, open to the world!. Not really a problem because it was in an area with lots of trees and brush so it wasn’t like going to the John in the middle of the four corners of Waterloo. The boys decided this was the place where they would get even.

In order to allow time to set up the trick, I suggested we walk over to a nearby waterfall where we could slide down on boat cushions. Everyone thought that was a great idea so off we went, except for Tim and Jim who were finishing up washing dishes. In reality they remained behind so they could set up a trick for Harold. which consisted of a bucket of water suspended from a long rope directly over the toilet.

After everyone returned from an entertaining time at the falls, all of us knowing about the bucket of water, couldn’t wait for the next day when we expected Harold to perform his morning constitution. The odd thing was, he didn’t do it early in the morning as was his custom. In fact the spirit didn’t move him that entire morning. We began to suspect that he had seen the rope holding the bucket (which was quite easy to spot). But no, as it turned out, Harold ( as we later found out) was suffering from a touch of constipation.

Finally, that afternoon he announced the time had arrived and he had to pay a visit to the John. We all watched as he walked past the rope holding the bucket and never glanced at it. Tim waited until he felt the moment was right, crept to the rope and gave it a great yank as he loudly shouted “We don’t get mad, we get even!!”

The plan was to have just water pour down on Harold’s head but the knot wasn’t tied too securely so not only did the water fall down but the bucket did also. It couldn’t have been better planned. The entire amount of water fell directly on Harold’s head and the bucket landed next to him with a loud bang.

If he had had a problem going, the water and bang did the job for him. After he realized what had happened, he gave out a loud laugh and said, “Well, I got soaked, but the good part of it was the roll of toilet paper next to me didn’t get a drop of water on it.” He then announced, “Remember boys, I will get even— if I live long enough!”

Picture One: Uncle Jack Kinsella, Uncle Dick Lochner,
Uncle Harold Taylor, Tim Kinsella, Uncle Ken Smith (Back Row)
Chris Kinsella, Sue Kinsella, Jim Kinsella ( Front Row)
Picture Two: Uncle Harold
Picture Three: Tim Kinsella—We Don’t Get Mad!
Picture Four: Paddle Pain Reliever
Picture Five: Harold Shoots the Chute


Jack said...

After every Algonquin trip, the attendees all wrote about it and we put them in a folder. On the cover of the folder was the name we chose for that particular trip. The name of this 1983 one was "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs!"
As you see in one of the pictures, we used boat cushions to slide down the waterfall. What I didn't mention is that we ruined several of the cushions doing this and had to buy new ones.

sue kinsella said...

Yeah, but it was a blast to slide down the waterfall, and so much better to ruin the boat cushions than our backsides!

Great pictures with this story. Thanks so much, Dad!

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that more of you Algonquin crew have not chosen this venue to "spill the beans!" Each trip when they arrive back at the cottage, dirty, grubby, bewhiskered, their Faces are also wreathed in smiles of pure contentment!!! Now we want to hear about the other tricks that were pulled!!! CB

Tim k said...

By the way, there was another version of the famous saying "I don't get mad, I get even" that was heard during this trip. After Harold tried various tricks to get back at us boys, all to no avail, we told him his version of the saying must be: "I don't get even, I get mad" - that of course made him laugh harder and try harder but he never matched our coup with the water bucket.

Anonymous said...

Oh my I am still laughing at that story. I can just see that satisfied gotcha smile on Uncle Harolds face - that he had even when he was the recepient of the joke.

What wonderful memories to share.


Julie said...

My father went on many of these trips to Algonquin, and looked forward to it with great anticipation each year. My mother had died by then, and Dad had remarried, but his connection to the Taylor family was still very, very strong, and Agnes was good about encouraging him to go. He had many good times.
After the bunch returned, each attendee wrote gave a review of their experiences that year. These stories were published in a newsy-book called "The Raven." I still have all the copies of it. I looked forward with great anticipation to receiving them, because by then I had moved to Colorado. As much as I wanted to join the fun sometime (Sue, I was envious of you that you actually went one year!), I really never could.

Kathryn said...

I must confess that I get so busy laughing about the Algonquin trip that I forget the first part of the title.

(a little late)
I love you a lot!

HAROLD said...

OK, after reading the tales about that famous canoe trip I have to agree they were mostly true. But it gave short shrift to the story of the moose that almost stepped into our canoe. Ken Smith and I were in the lead canoe, Ken in the front, me in the rear. We were going up a very windy river that wound its way across a large marshy area. Suddenly I spied a large moose who I could see had every intention of crossing the river in front of us. Ken apparently didn't see it. I thought it would be great to be near the moose when he crossed in front of us so I started paddling as fast as I could. Finally, Ken saw the moose and he calculated the path he was on woulld take him across the center of our canoe so he started paddling backwards as fast as he could. The net result was we were both paddling as fast as we could and the canoe was standing still. Anyways, the moose crossed just in front of us and continued on to the other side of the marsh.