The Canadian Mating Ritual

by Mary Helen Darah

My daughter just made the same “Can I bring my boyfriend to Canada” inquiry that I made decades ago. I must say, bringing someone of the opposite sex to our cabin is the perfect litmus test for a potential mate. You quickly discover if they play well with others, can survive without a cell phone or WiFi or expect you to shave and/or put on eyeliner in the middle of the woods. Many a relationship has headed south after having to contend with no outside distractions, temperamental plumbing, an assortment of critters and oh, the occasional prank—which I “pinky promised” my daughter I would not do.
Back in the day, there was nothing like a good prank to welcome someone, especially a boyfriend, to camp. Welcoming my college, 6’5″, flannel-wearing, “I’ll have a slab of bacon and loaf of toast,” nature boy wanna-be to our Canadian home was no exception. I decided my overly confident woodsman needed to be humbled. My mom and I rigged up a can filled with stones, attached it to a fishing line and placed the can under his bed. We then ran the line out the window along the side of the cabin, threaded it through a window into my room and waited for the black of night. Later that evening, I waited until Frank was asleep. I pulled the string and in the penetrating silence, the stones sounded like a beast ready to devour someone. Frank emerged in his jockey shorts (another wonderful way to see if a man is for you) holding the rifle we kept above the door but never used. In fear of a misfire, we quickly told him of our prank. After a few Molsons he found the humor in our little joke.
My Gram always used to say, “Payback is a bear.” I guess we had it coming. Said boyfriend, parents and I had a great night on a nearby island complete with a campfire and dinner under the stars. When we returned and docked the boat, my mom and I began our nightly pilgrimage to the outhouse. Thankfully, although a bit awkward, it was a two-seater. We opened the door to find a large form that looked like a silhouette of a man. “The thing” had a familiar flannel shirt and a pillowcase over his head with one opening for an eye. I screamed and in my peripheral vision, could see my mother’s mouth open as if it was to snap off the hinges, as a scream somewhere deep within her struggled to release itself. We were victims of the old “put a dummy in the outhouse” ploy. The dummy, who we fondly named “Jason” stayed in the outhouse for a few days. My mom finally insisted we move it and she had Frank lean it against the cabin to air out.
Evening once again arrived, and my mother had second thoughts about our “Jason” placement near the front door of the cabin, for “that thing” was giving her the creeps. Unbeknownst to us, Frank had removed the one-eyed pillowcase from Jason and placed it on his own head. Frank was wearing his usual flannel attire, so when he tossed Jason to the side and stood in the same spot, it slipped by without notice. The woman who gave birth to me walked by unsuspectingly as my soon-to-be former flame reached out and grabbed her.
Once my Mom regained composure, she spent the rest of the night at the kitchen table holding a bottle of Yukon Jack in one hand and clinging to a large ice-filled glass with the other. I can still see her planted at that table, the sound of the ice clanking in her glass due to her still nervously twitching hand, as she continued to pour what she soon referred to as Yummy Jackson. She kept asking and answering the same question, as if in some possessed state. “Are you ever going to ask a boyfriend here again?” NO! “Will you ever think about asking?” NO! “If you think you’re thinking about thinking about a boyfriend coming here, will you ever think that?” NO!
I’m sorry to say, things between nature boy/Jason impersonator and me didn’t work out.
I have assured my daughter there is no reason to worry about our upcoming trip and that I’d behave. However, I may stop at the duty-free store for a little Yukon Jack just in case history repeats itself.

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