Sunday, January 23, 2011

This Ain't Wild Rose Country 3 / 30

I was all set to rant about the idolatry I see all around us – the false gods being raised up, the golden cattle of Paris Hilton, Octomom, the frickin’ Kardashians and all these other talentless people that have become famous, for as near as I can tell, no damned reason at all.

But I sat down, the smell of woodsmoke lingering in the air from the fire we had, with a stomach full of fresh apple crisp (I didn’t use enough butter, but it was still damned tasty) and toasted marshmallows (you should see the mess Griffin can make with a ¾ melted marshmallow) and I just couldn’t bring myself to rant.  Life is too damned good, at this particular moment, for me to hold on to any cynicism.  I know it’ll come back tomorrow though, so I am content, for now, to reminisce.

Rose hip tea.  Anyone ever tried this stuff?  And no, I don’t mean some Lipton or Tetley tea bag – I’m talking about picking rose hips off a rosebush, throwing them in a pot of water and boiling that pot over an open fire for ten minutes.  You ain’t had rose hip tea until you’ve had it like that.

I had my first encounter with rose hip tea when I was a tender and insecure lad of fifteen.  My class, like all the other grade nine classes of Alexander Junior High in the mighty city of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, embarked on our one week survival camping trip.  In between listening to our Walkman tape players and playing Frisbee and football, we learned how to survive, should we ever be stranded in the wild.  We learned to identify directions based on sun angles, star position and the moss on trees.  We learned how to gather pure drinking water without having to boil it, should we be lucky enough to be lost and have a pot and a four foot sheet of clear plastic with us.  We learned how to back a cake (Duncan Hynes of course) at a campfire – on the off chance that we were lost and had cake mixes and pans in our backpack.  But we did actually learn how to identify what foods could be eaten.

We ate ants, grasshoppers and a few spiders.  We learned to determine which mushrooms were edible based upon characteristics that are long forgotten by me at this stage in my life.   And we learned how to make a few teas from various flowers and herbs that are everywhere in the Saskatchewan wild.  One of those, as you may have guessed, is the wild rose plant.  Hell, it is the provincial weed after all.  Those idiots in Alberta actually made it their provincial flower.  Sheesh.  No wonder we Saskatchewanians make fun of them.

Unlike the cake (which we burned horribly) and the grasshoppers (mine was still kicking) I loved the tea.  I was parched from a long day of walking through the woods, using my newly learned wilderness navigation skills to locate my missing Duran Duran cassette.  The tea was cool by the time I had a chance to taste it, and it was delicious.  So I had a big glass of it.  Then another.  Then I filled my canteen with it, drank all of that and filled it again.  This veritable orgy of cool rose hip tea drinking happened while the instructor was rattling off the benefits of some of the things we had been eating and drinking that day.  Grasshoppers are an excellent source of protein.  Ants and grubs (ants crunchy, grubs disgustingly chewy) even more so.  The lavender tea (which I had tasted and decided I didn’t enjoy at all) was a mild sedative and could help you fall asleep in your lean-to (we learned how to make these as well).  And finally, as I drained the last drops from my second canteen, rose hip tea was an excellent, and mild on the stomach, laxative, and had she mentioned not to drink too much of it?

My friends chuckled quietly for a moment, then a few broke into that laugh that can only be described as a guffaw.  I tried to laugh along, but I was far too worried to do so… remember, 15 years old.  Did I mention it was a co-ed camp?  Yeah, this was not my most shining moment.

For years afterward, some of my classmates would casually remark about campers leaving their soiled underpants in the trees (hey, the out-house was just too far to make it), and I never did get to go on the fishing trip (I was pretty much confined to tent for two days) or the deer watching excursion.  To this day I have no idea how that didn’t follow me through the rest of my scholastic experience – that’s the sort of thing you shouldn’t ever be able to live down.  Somehow, and I have no idea how, I did, and it was forgotten.

But when I spotted my wife’s cat looking at my jeans on the floor last night, I reminded her that the only one who gets to shit in my pants is me.  And I have the taste for rose hip tea to prove it.  And that, is another story.

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