Duane Sherrill

“There’s a pervert in the woods!” a woman screamed, her shrill voice splitting the quiet placidity on the banks Dale Hollow Lake. “Look. Over there. It’s a pervert! No! There’s two perverts!”

Search lights scanned the shore, their beams blinding me for an instant as the screams and yells continued, turning the once calm evening into a sensory overload. I threw myself on the ground, the mucky shore splatting underneath me as slithered on my belly like a snake, propelling myself by grabbing handfuls of sand. The blinding search lights relented. I laid still, regaining my sight. The screaming subsided. Able to see after about a minute of adjustment, I jumped to my feet again, trying to get my bearings in the night, guided by only the light of a waning gibbous. I had no more than took two steps than the search lights hit me again.

“There they are!” the woman bellowed from below. “There’s the perverts!”

As you may have guessed, the person they were referring to was me, although I take exception at being called the P-word when actually I was just trying to be helpful, kinda. Maybe I should explain.

“Yes. Please Duane. Explain,” I can hear you murmur, giving my picture at the top of this page a disapproving look. “You may have gone too far this time, Sherrill. I may just get offended.”

First, let me just say that no one can humiliate you like a friend. They know your tendencies and weaknesses and, let’s just admit it, friends like pulling stuff on friends because at the end of the day the friend will laugh with you rather than punch you in the nose. Although, let me just say, this one left me tempted to open up a can.

Anyway, it all began as most camping trips do with a breakdown of whatever boat we happen to be on. This is especially true with my friend Mike, or as he may be called in this column Pervert #2. Anytime we get on any floating vessel together, it will break. And, not only will it break, it will break down in the geographically least advantageous place to cease. On this night, his “houseboat” decided to die as far from shore as we could possibly get. I put quotation marks around “houseboat” because it was like a floating device that had what appeared to be a travel camper mounted atop it. Of course it was going to break down. Not to self: Never go on an ocean cruise with Mike. It will end like the Titanic.

After paddling the floating-abomination-to-all-things-maritime to shore, I and the guys were finally able to make camp on a hill overlooking Dale Hollow Dam. It was our normal spot where we’d camp out twice a year, accessible only by swinging bridge or boat.

Anyway, we had just made camp when there was a loud crash down at the shore. We looked to see a boat had hit a sand shoal that jutted out in the otherwise deep lake. We scampered down the bank to see if everyone was okay. When we got down there we found two guys and two girls trying to get their boat going.

“Everyone okay?” I asked while simultaneously noticing that the two girls were easy on the eye. Stop! Don’t jump to conclusions, well, at least until you hear the rest of the story.

The folks, who I suspect had been partaking in some adult beverages, assured us they were fine and could get their boat going. So, we bid them good evening and walked back up the hill where we proceeded to grill out and do guy stuff until deeper in the evening. That’s when we noticed the boat was still where we’d left it. We could hear commotion coming from there time to time, their continued presence their piquing my curiosity. Finally, after a while I decided to investigate.

“I’m going down to see what they’re up to,” I announced. “Something’s odd. They’ve been down there where they crashed a long time. Maybe they’re trapped.”

“Maybe you just want to get another look at the girls,” Mike grinned. “When did you become such a noble citizen?”

I shrugged. “Fair enough,” I said. “You wanna come with?”

“Oh yeah,” Mike quickly agreed, the rest of the guys electing to sit tight at our campsite.

So, with nothing but the purest of intentions, we began making our way down the dark bank in the direction of the glowing green light that surrounded the boat.

“What are we going to say to them?” Mike asked.

“We’ll just ask if they need help,” I replied as we came within close sight of the boat but were still obscured by some foliage by the bank.

That’s when it happened. From our campsite, a bright light spotlighted us where we stood, maybe 20 yards from the boat. The thing must have been a million candle power, bathing us in a bright glow. For a moment, I locked eyes with one of the girls in the boat and then there came a blood curdling scream.

“It’s a pervert!” she yelled. “There’s a pervert in the woods!”

I opened my mouth to protest but realized what it looked like. And, what it looked like were two weird guys standing in the bushes, spying on them – which were weren’t. We were literally walking toward the boat but the way the situation presented itself, it appeared like we were lurking in the weeds, you know, like perverts – which we weren’t.

So, I did what any mature adult would do in such a situation. I ran. I turned to find Mike already several yards ahead of me.

With the yells chasing me up the hill, the spotlight went dark from the top of the hill. I fell on my belly and started crawling on up the hill for a bit before jumping back to my feet and continuing my desperate run. That’s when the spotlight hit me again, accompanied by the cackles of my buddies back at the campsite who were loving my embarrassment. This continued three or four times until I finally made it back to our campsite, mad as a wet hen. I’d forgotten my friends also had night vision binoculars so they could see me in the dark, knowing exactly when to hit me with the light. Pranksters with technology.

They rolled in side-splitting laughter at our campsite once we arrived back, the yells of “pervert” still wafting up from the shore for several more minutes until the boat finally left.

It all comes back to something I’ve said many times before, “with friends like those, who needs enemies?” Granted, it’s only a small measure of payback for the practical jokes I’ve played on them but at the same time there are four strangers who were on that boat that night walking around somewhere believing that I’m a pervert – which I’m not.

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