BALLARD'S RV CAMPGROUND, HAMBURG, N.Y. — I had the toast all ready.
Two slices of white still warm standing up in the toaster. A knife lie ready across the top of a paper plate. Fresh brewed coffee steaming.
It was 8:56 a.m., and I was waiting for Earl Ballard, the owner of Ballard's Campground and RV selling joint.
We were going to have breakfast together. 9 a.m. sharp.
His son, Daryl, told me so, "Dad will come by tomorrow at 9 with the honey wagon."
I told my wife Barb, "Hey how cool is this, we booked into a Bed & Breakfast Campground ... on Friday we get honey, jelly and maybe even marmalade. They bring it to us on some sort of cart thing."
Barb is across the table from me and looking at me over her reading glasses. After 34 years of wedded bliss she can just look at me and know whether she should be happy, or hide.
Then she starts sniffing.
Barb has a Hall-of-Fame nose, it is impossible to get any kind of stink by her nose. Barb could be in Connecticut, I could be on a story in Cleveland and pass just a little tiny poof of gas ... seconds later my cell phone will ring and she'll ask, "Was that you?"
Don't even think of sneaking a pizza or dozen or so donuts in downstairs while she is upstairs. From up three flights of stairs you'll hear this, "Hon, bring me a glazed."
The sniffing is getting deeper, now she's looking around ... I have no idea what she is smelling but I say, "It wasn't me."
But I hunch over the laptop pretending to look closer at the screen while sneaking in a sniff of myself just in case one got by me. Barb now puts her glasses down and looks directly at me, I go on the defense saying, "Dogs smell their own," when suddenly a cloud envelops me.
It's Primordial Swamp stink. It's the back end of a dead donkey. It's the last sneaker in the closet smell. It's your 90-year-old great aunt from Florida's breath. It's stinky Pete, the kid from down the street, all grown up and ripened.
And it's coming from behind me.
As I turn around and look out the 4th-wheel-slid, this is what I see, a large yellow tank thing with this painted on the side, "Honey Wagon." Standing next to it is the man who is supposed to be bringing me condiments, Earl, and this is what he says to me, "The Poo Patrol is here."
The Prince of Poo
In the land of bad stinks, the noseless man will be king.
Or in the case of Earl Ballard, the prince of poo.
Here's the scene: The owner of the campground has spent the morning driving around to all the other RV's and sucking out their poop into this thing called the Honey Wagon and then he has decided to bring all that stranger poop straight to me.
Life is too short to be smelling the poop of neighbors.
Earl is standing there with a red bandana wrapped around his head, a yellow wife-beater sleeveless T-shirt advertising his RV joint, and a cigar hanging out of his mouth.
Let me repeat this, THIS IS THE MAN WHO OWNS THE PLACE.
Barb comes over to me, reaches across my shoulder and slides the window shut while saying very softly next to my ear, "Go on, go out there and get your marmalade."
Just as I get there Earl, THE OWNER OF THE JOINT, grabs the hose that has been sucking out the food history of our neighbors, drags it across our grass, gets down on his knees and connects it to some kind of hose under our RV.
A flip of a switch starts the whole hose to undulating, and gurgling, and plopping into the tank where my blueberry jelly should be.
Earl is down there pumping and smoking the cigar, I'm thinking of what happens when you place a flame in the direct path of some personal wind, what in the world would happen with the collective gas of a neighborhood.
As I tell my maker, "Please God if you make this stink go away I promise I will never, NEVER eat any food again, ever," Earl stands up and goes over to the poop sucking engine and turns it off by sticking a screwdriver on the spark plug, and he OWNS THIS JOINT.
Here's something you should know about Earl, he's a hand-talker. I have no problem with that, except of course when the hand-talker has just got done sucking poop out of my poop placement device and is telling me how he did it, with both hands swinging wildly to illustrate it and one of those hands, the closest one to my nose, has in it THE POOP SUCKING DEVICE.
"I been doing this 50 years," the exclamation point was dotted about two inches under my nose.
"AROUND here I'm the only one who'll do this," the around illustrated by two round sweeps of the poop pipe.
I'm dizzy, faint, and I swear to myself if I get out of this encounter with any nose hair left I will take enough Imodium to get me through a decade of stinkless RV-ing.
Earl explains to me how he knows if the Honey Wagon is full, "Just put your hand on it right here, if it's warm, that's where the poop is, up here it's cold so I got lots of room for more of the poop patrol."
I touch nothing. May never touch anything again. Won't be making toast anytime soon either.
Back inside the RV with every window closed, every fan on, three cans of air freshener in the garbage this is the sight I see: Riley, my wife's Shih Tzu sitting in the middle of the living room, ears down, tail down, face turned looking at me with a sideways glance, the universal dog sign for, "don't know who did it, but it wasn't me."
And I reached down and scratched behind his ears and told him, "That's OK Riley, Earl did it, AND HE OWNS THE JOINT."
For more information, or to take a quick look see at the people who ACTUALY rented me this RV, go to www.ballardscampingcenter.com.
Don Barone is a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association. Other stories of his can be found on Amazon.com. For comments or story ideas you can reach db at www.donbaroneoutdoors.com