There is an old saying among campers and the military, “Check your boots before you put them on.” I learned that saying is true the hard way.
Back when I was into deer hunting—long time ago—and was in a deer club in Alabama, our “lodge” was an old motel converted into a deer camp. And it wasn’t terribly vermin-tight.
Awakened before dawn to go hunting on a particularly cold early January morning, I slipped into my long johns, heavy pants and wool shirt and heavy woolen socks. Still sleepy-eyed, I tried to put on my lace-up hunting boots.
I have a high instep, so boots are usually an issue for me, at least until I get my foot fully inside the boot. That was compounded by the fact the laces needed to be let out some and I had on heavy socks. I struggled to get my boot on but eventually managed to get it done.
But there was a problem.
It felt like my socks were balled up at my toe, so off the boot came to adjust my socks. And we started the process all over again.
The second time I had even more difficulty getting my high-instepped foot past the laces. So I stood up and pulled at the boot tops at the same time. Finally it gave way and my foot went all the way in with a thud when it hit bottom.
But this time there is a lump under my heel.
“Blasted socks again!” (Only I didn’t say “blasted.”)
Off comes the boot, and getting it off was even more difficult than getting it on, requiring me to get my foot up high enough to get good leverage with booth hands and wiggle the boot off. Finally, it gave way and the boot came off.
And a dead mouse dropped out into my lap. And he was rather flat. A mouse pancake.
I picked it up by the tail and tossed it out the door, then went on with my morning hunt.
As it happened, that night was the night of our annual “trial,” where violators of all manner of real and imagined offenses were brought up before a kangaroo court presided over by a “judge” and a “jury” of my “peers.”
To my surprise, I was brought up on charges of “animal cruelty” and “murder” of a mouse—and they produced the pancake mouse corpse as evidence, and it was getting a bit “ripe” by then.
I was found guilty, of course. That meant I was subject to having my shirttail cut off and hung up as a trophy at next year’s trial like the dozens of others already displayed from previous trials. Now, I was rather fond of my shirt. It was a nice heavy flannel and very warm.
The judge gave men an out. If I could tell a joke that would make everyone laugh, he would let me off.
So I told a joke and they all laughed, and that wasn’t all that difficult, considering most had been consuming adult beverages for the last few hours.
I kept my nice flannel shirt.