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Something ‘wickered’ this way comes

Mike Drummond

One summer morning I thought, “What a perfect day for a picnic!” On days like this, my parents piled the whole family into the car and drove to a park. The kids climbed trees and splashed in the stream, terrorizing tadpoles until it was time to eat. Then we gathered at a splintery table under a big tree and stuffed ourselves with all the goodies mom had packed in the basket.

A sturdy wicker picnic basket with a hinged lid. We actually had one in the shed, here at Clear Creek Ranch. A wedding present – one of those “occasional” pieces held in reserve for an occasion that had never happened, at least not during the past 20 years.

I took it down and dusted it off. What a marvel of efficiency it was: compartments filled with silverware, plates, napkins, and glasses. There was a checkered table cloth, wine glasses and an old unopened bottle of champagne. “Toss in a little food, and we’re ready to go,” I said.

“Go where?” my wife asked.

“On a picnic,” I enthused.

“I’m not budging.”

In her own charmingly blunt way, she expressed a certain wisdom. There was, indeed, no need to “go” anywhere. Clear Creek Ranch has countless picturesque eating sites.

I ransacked the refrigerator for feasting ingredients – deviled eggs, patriotic potato salad (made from red, white and blue potatoes), lemonade, a jar of homemade dill pickles, and graham crackers, marshmallows and slabs of milk chocolate for building SomeMores. An antacid vendor’s dream menu.

For our commune with nature, I wore white, a color that symbolizes purity, rebirth, renewal. And perhaps naivete, given that we would be tramping through dusty summer chaparral.

As I lifted the loaded basket, it creaked and groaned, but not nearly as much as my back did. And there were the hammocks, kites, lawn chairs and Frisbees to consider, as well. I quickly hosed off the garden wheelbarrow and pressed it into service. Then we wended our way efficiently, if not elegantly, through groves of vibrant poison oak to the secret spot I’d found.

The champagne cork came out easily, no pop or foam, with a heavy scent of vinegar. Ah, well. I’m not as bubbly as I was a quarter century ago, either.

The guests arrived as we unfurled the postage-stamp-sized table cloth. Mosquitoes, big billowing clouds of them. Famished. And although I’d packed one of almost everything in our pantry, I’d forgotten insect repellent.

“What about all those mosquito-eating fish you stock in the pond?” my wife asked.

“I’ll ask them if they can walk up the hill,” I said as I hurried home for the repellent. A swarm of yellow jackets hurried past me on the trail.

We had no repellent at home. The best I could do was two khaki-colored hoods covered with netting. It would be tough straining the potato salad through that.

Buzzards circled overhead as I scrambled back up the hill. I quickened my pace. Food was scattered everywhere, but my wife was holding her own, flailing away with the Frisbee and empty champagne bottle, piles of tiny insect carcasses heaped at her feet. She’d used the bottle’s contents on her skin as an experimental repellent. I got a whiff, and it sure worked for me … but not against the bug battalions. We abandoned the basket to the superior powers and beat a hasty retreat.

The next time I hanker for a change of scenery during mealtime, I’ll suggest we switch places at the dinner table.

Inside the house, with the screen door shut.


Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at miked@theunion.com.


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