Who's Your Daddy? Odds Are, Not Me

Fathers' and Sons' Campout. Mackay, Idaho (no reason to have ever heard of the place unless you're extremely cool and intrepid and adventurous, like me, and unless you, like me, mooch rides off people who know where it is). Halen rides the merry-go-round too long and wants to ralph. I won't permit it, so he just whimpers and snuggles with me as we sit with our backs against an elm tree. We're camping with a bunch of farmers, ranchers, and cowboys, so I pretend I'm not enjoying snuggling with my son, even though I'm sort of hoping he feels like he needs to ralph all evening so we can perma-snuggle. But I would never say that word out loud around these guys. They'd throw hatchets at me.
"I will ride this John Deere to the very gates of Mordor."
Pretty soon Halen stops wanting to ralph and runs off to play with kids who are cooler than me. I mope about it for a few minutes, but then I get over it and wander around taking pictures. I'm kind of the misfit guy, because I'm not wearing cowboy boots and I'm sort of doing artsy-fartsy things, like taking pictures of hoses. But no one beats me up, so basically I consider it a decent day.

Even though it's a "campout," I stay in a motel room because, man, it's really cold when you sleep in a tent. Like, tent walls are pretty crappy at keeping the cold out. And I've also heard they suck at keeping bears and orcs out. So I sleep in a motel room -- the "suite" of the Wagon Wheel Motel -- with my brother-in-law and three little boys. Halen sleeps on the floor of the motel room with his cousins, I take one bed and my brother-in-law takes the other. I fall asleep at 11:30, and at 2:00 a.m. Halen wets the floor.

It's a near disaster, but I possess the superhuman ability to awaken completely and instantly from deep sleep in emergency situations, like when it starts raining outside and my Jeep's parked out back without a roof. Or when tiny fairies knock on my window and I need to throw on some jeans and a hat before they pixie-dust me and I go to Neverland and counsel Peter Pan about just picking a gender, for crying out loud (this only happens twice a month, max).

This time, I'm beside Halen and whispering to him milliseconds after his first whimper. "It's not that bad, buddy," I calmly assure him. "Yeah, so you peed all over the floor. No big deal. We have no stake in this place. It'll dry by morning and the next people won't have any idea where that faint, slightly unsettling scent of urine is coming from. Look, if you start crying, everyone will wake up and they'll see you standing here soaked in your own whiz. Is that the image you want to present to your older cousins? Do you think Uncle Blaine is going to buy you a motorcycle if he finds out you pee on motel floors and on yourself? He's not. I know Uncle Blaine, and he doesn't buy things for people who pee on themselves. I'm just saying. The choice is yours. You can cry if you want, but things will be a lot better if we just keep this between you and me. We'll get you in some dry jammies and no one will even know this ever happened until I tell everyone at breakfast tomorrow."

So I quickly and masterfully dress Halen in dry pajamas without waking anyone, then I let him climb in bed with me. He immediately falls asleep, turns sideways, and jabs my face with his feet all night, like a prize fighter who fights with this feet instead of with his hands, which keeps the number of prizes he actually wins to a minimum. Halen wakes up at 7:00 a.m., but everyone else in the room is still asleep, so I let him play Angry Birds on my phone. He's not very good, but it keeps him quiet and distracted as I chase off the tiny fairies knocking at the motel room window ("How'd you guys find me here? Leave me alone. I'm on vacation. And if the farmers find me talking to fairies they'll burn me alive! Or at least not talk to me for awhile.") Then I have a quick shower and deflect questions from my roommates as they awaken (Them: "Kind of smells like pee, right? Anyone else smell pee?" Me: "Last one to stop trying to unearth the truth about how Halen peed all over the floor last night is a girl!") Quality bonding time, my friends. Quality bonding time.
"Here we are now, entertain us."
This poor kid has, not one, not two, but THREE imaginary friends, and they're all ugly.
It's a dog's life. And a shovel's life. It's a dog's and a shovel's life.