Fear and Paranoia in Prairie du Chien

I am a serial killer.  I like to hack people’s heads off and then kill them, uh, the heads.  If you have invited me into your house, you are probably dead because I’m like really dangerous and, like I said, kill people and am an all around bad person.  LOL.  Stop reading this; you’re dead!

For real.  I had an interesting experience last night (UPDATE: 2 nights ago!  I’m in Dubuque!  Family in Burlington, IL, I’m comin’ your way; text me or call again; I don’t have your number!) that I want to share with you.  I know I’m a little behind.  I’ve yet to tell you about my experience in the owner of We-no-nah Canoe (before that:  steak and honey beer with Jeff – thanks Jeff!  Those steaks hit the spot; I know I shouldn’t but I sure do love cow), my experience with the Seventh Day Adventist community in Bangor, WI (hey guys!  I’m still practicing my boomerang, Doug!), and my experience with freaking heat rash (dude, anyone who gives me the correct cure for heat rash gets 10 free movies, period!).  All I can say is, “I’m geven ‘er all she’s gott, Capten!” The stories will come.  For now… Fear and Loathing… uhhhhh, what was it?  Love in the Time of… no, oh yeah:

Fear and Paranoia in Prairie du Chien

Like I was saying, all the people I have been staying with are dead.  The police would have caught me by now, but my canoe is too fast, and they’re too big of weenies to go out on the water to get me.  “Oooo nooo, Sarge, that water’s cold.” Patty (Pattie?  Paty?), the girlfriend of the guy who invited me to his house last night, was convinced I was going to kill her.  I told you, Phillip, when I don’t shave I look like a killer.  I’ll get around to shaving tonight and then I’ll be recruited as a choir boy.

I pulled in to a beach just short of the Prairie du Chien city limits.  I know how to do this now, I know how to get people interested in my story, how to get them to offer me food, shelter, etc. etc.  I don’t know if it’s right, but I know how to do it.  “Does anyone have a cell phone?” I say.

“Surrrrreeeee,” they all say.  They’re drinking beer and telling lies, eating brats and cracking jokes.  One dude, Nate, is especially funny:  “Hooollllleeeeyyy crap,” he says.  “I’m like so sure this dude is going down the river.  Look how skinny he is.”  He hiccups and stumbles holding his beer up.  “I’d be that friggin’ skninny if I was paddling.  I’m gonna do it.”

“Do what?” someone chimes in.

“Paddle down the river.”  They all laugh.

“Fuck you guys.  I’m going to do it.  Here point that camera at me.  I’m going to give you my profile.  My name’s Nate.  I like long walks on the beach and anal sex.”  Everyone laughs.

This guy is very good at making people laugh.  I’m laughing, covering my eyes with my fists.  Then, the normal questions ensue:  What are you doing?  Why are you doing this?  How many miles do you paddle a day?  One boy in particular is interested in my navigation charts and sail.  I show them to him.  With the sail unfurled, Nate is shouting at me.  “Heyyyyyy, river dude, hey.  That’s like, uh, that’s like a fuggin’ sail, right?”  He stumbles.

“Yes.”

“Seeeee.  I friggin’ told you guys.  Fuggin’ hammock?  Dude, that dude would fall through a hammock like that.  Whoa, look at him hold that sail off the ground.  Good thing he’s tall.”  They all laugh.

Ron, the dude whose house I stay in and whose girlfriend I apparently give the heebie-jeebies, says, and here it comes – the question I always know is coming and the question I know gives me the best shot of being put up for the night – “Where you sleepin’ tonight?”

My stock response:  “Oh, I don’t know, some island I guess.”

“No, no, no, look…  hey guys!”  Everyone turns around.  “This guy should come out to the bar with us tonight!”

“Yeeeeeeeaaahhhhhhhhh!” they all scream.

There are about 20 people partying on the beach, and all but 6 of them get into a speedy power boat to go back home.  “Really, Ryan,” they shout, “you really comin’ out?”

“Yes.”

“Yeeeeeaaahhhhh!”

Nate chimes in:  “Yeah dude, like, be careful of Ron, he’ll try to b–t rape ya’.”

“Shuuuutttttt upppp, Naaaaatttteee!”

The rest of us pile into Ron’s boat, a smaller flatboat.  I’m careful to tie my boat up with the gear in front.  Jim, an extremely intelligent guy and friend of Ron’s, tells me to take my rudder off.  “It’s gonna track like crazy if you leave it on there,” he says.  We shove off and Jim is right on the money – the boat tracks beautifully behind the flatboat.  “How many pounds of gear you got in there?” Ron asks me.

“Ooooohh, about 250 I’d say.”

“Sheesh.  I got river guy who weighs two hundred somethin’, I weigh 250…”

“You weigh more than that,” Patty says.

“Heh, heh, heh,” he mocks her.  Are these guys brother and sister?  Father and daughter? With the age difference it never dawns on me they’re together.  Pattie is the only reasonably attractive one in sight, so I kinda flirt with her.  I turn the camera on.  Ding!  “Soooo, Pattteeeyyy, what would you like to tell America?”

“I dunno,” she says.  She seems bothered by something.

“Ummm,” I continue.

“I dunno.  I don’t have anything to say.”  She’s sitting on the bow of the boat showing her legs.  I’m not knocked out but reasonably attracted.  I turn the camera off.  She’s not into it, I think.  I turn around and chat with Ron and Jim.  Jim is a plethora of information about which sloughs to take, duck hunting, and paddling and boating in general.  The whole night we talk for 3 hours total, and it never gets boring.  “You got this thing going full blast?” Patty asks.

Ron responds semi-forcefully:  “I got Ryan in here, I got myself, I’m towin’ a boat, and I got 3 more people in here.  You know what the weight capacity is supposed to be in here?  560 pounds!  Add it up.”  She sticks her tongue out at him.  Oh shitballs, I think, are these guys together?

When we get to shore, the motor dies.  “Ahhhhh, crap, Paddie, you gotta go get the trailer.  We’ll wait here.”  Ron was going to motor home, but now we’ll have to wait.  It’s nice just talkin’ to the guys.  Jim grabs my oar and starts moving us toward shore.  “We can just push it, you know?” Ron says.  He hops over the side.  “Don’t doo it…” Jim warns.  Too late.  Ron is shoulder deep in water.  “Haaaa haaa haaa,” Jim laughs.  “Jeeeeezzuuusss Christ,” Ron says.

“It is a boat launch, you know?”

“Yeeeaahhhhh.”  Ron’s beer is safely above water.

Paddie comes back with the trailer.  I get my boat in the back of their truck bed.  “How much does this frikkin’ thing weigh!” Ron asks.  “Well I got most of the heavy stuff out, but that battery weighs 35 pounds.”

“Frikkin’ battery… jeeez.  You won’t have no problem with that boat blowin’ out.  That battery’ll weigh the friggin’ thing down.”  Everyone laughs… except Patty.

I get in the truck bed.  I feel better holding on to my boat.  I probably would be able to do little to keep it from flying out, but I like staying by it.  It makes me feel safe.  Maybe it makes the boat feel safe too.  “You wanna jacket?” Ron asks.  What a nice guy.  Concerned for my safety, well-being; on a whole, that has been my experience with people on the river.  “Sure,” I say.  It’s a freaking Brewers jacket.  Oh well, I think, the fuggin’ (now I’m talking like them) Cubs have disappointed me so many times, might as well switch sides for one night.  🙂 (Don’t worry guys – I’ll die a Cubs fan; I just might die before they win a World Series 🙁  :))

We get to Ron’s place.  It is a nice blue-collar home in a blue-collar neighborhood.  John Mellancamp’s Little Pink Houses plays in my mind and I sing it the rest of the night.  I’ve hopped out of the truck bed.  Jim has hopped out.  “Where are your shoes?” I ask Jim.

“Wife’s got ’em.  I’m goin’ to the bar with no shoes.”  He laughs.

Jim and I chat easily – duck hunting, sloughs.  It’s nice.  Pattie and Ron have still not gotten out of the car.  They’re chatting.  I have no idea about what.  Finally they get out.  “Great,” Ron says.  He’s reserved now, looking at the ground as he talks.  “You, uh, wanna get cleaned up?”

We walk inside.  First thing noticeable is a glass cabinet displayed proudly in the living room.  “So you try an’ rape me,” Ron says, “I’m blown’ buck shot in your face.”  The case is full of guns, and that comment was a little out of sync with the happy vibe he had been putting off.

“They’re nice guns,” I say.  All in all, I’m more amused with his instant paranoia than the thought of being sprayed with shotgun pellets. Headline!:  RIVER MAN DIES IN HOME.  “He tried to rape me,” Paddie would say.  “How did he try to rape you sleeping in his sleeping bag on the couch?” the police would say.  “Well, um, he did, he has a really long…”  (Okay, okay, I know I promised my mom.  :))

Here lies rub:  We know, intuitively, whether or not someone is bad or not, good or not, dangerous or not, trust/untrustworthy or not.  Whether or not we trust our intuition is another story.  Ron trusted it.  He was right.  I’m not a killer.  Or am I??????  Buuuuuahhahahahahhahhahhahahha!  Ahem, sorry.  I trusted Ron – he wasn’t a killer.  But Patty was full blast on high alert mode:  “Ohhhhh my gggaaaaddd, what if this guy is like a killer or something!”

“A killer with a blog?”  (I blog about my killings.  It’s great.  I make 300 grand a year.  Heard of failblog?  This is killblog.  ;))

“I dunno,” she continues, “how can we be surreeeee!”

Thaaaat was what the conversation in the car was about, I think.  Look, I understand this philosophy, I really do.  This is the theory behind Dick Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine:  If there’s the slightest chance something bad could happen, you act as if it’s absolutely going to happen.  I don’t agree with it.  You may.  I just don’t think the world would function very well if we all lived according to this precept.  I mean you wouldn’t be able to do anything!  I go to the dentist to get a root canal and “No!  How can I absolutely be sure he won’t drill into my brain!” Yes, yes, I know the counter arguments – “Well, you know the dentist, he has a reputation,” etc., etc.  But there are no guarantees, guys.  In anything.  We as human beings need to accept that… we don’t know what’s exactly going to happen.  Control, in many ways, is an illusion.

Ron offered me the shower anyway.  Patty stayed clear and avoided eye contact with me the whole night.  She avoided conversation too.  I mean if you really want to know if a guy is a serial killer, go up and talk to him.  Thirty minutes later, we were in the middle of a bar.  She had her whole posse with her; she coulda quized me like the Dickens:  “Okay, give it to me straight!  You a killer!  You hack people’s heads off!  Tell me!” Or just ask yourself, Do I get a bad vibe from him?  Is he weird?  Is there some telltale sign?  “Yeaaah, but you can’t be sure sure!” You can’t be sure of anything!  I had a guy offer move my boat closer to his land.  I was chatting with some other people and I said sure.  “But what if he takes it!!!” He’s not; I don’t know; you just know!  God gave us vibes and intuition, and I think they’re right.  Read the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker – he goes on and on about how we know when we think we don’t know.

At the bar Jim was a wealth of information on juvenille delinquents.  Jim, Ron and friends all work in the same place – a reform institution for troubled teenagers.  “Some of them are massive,” Ron says later in the night, visibly hammered.  “I mean the kids comin’ through the pipe, an’ I been doin’ this 13 years…”  “I’ve been doin’ it 21,” Jim adds.  “They,” Ron says, “are bigger than me now.”  Ron is swaying.  He’s drunk but nice as ever.  He continues, “An’ now we can’t touch ’em!”  Jim nods in agreement.  Jim is stoic, observant.  I swear he looks exactly like Terry O’Quinn (Locke from Lostflamethrower).  He has the same forceful quietness O’Quinn has too.  (Hey, Jim, thanks for the chat!)  Ron goes on, “Used to be you’d grab these kids and make ’em do what you wanted ’em to do.  I mean I get told to F off 57 times a day.  Back in the day a kid ‘a tell ya ta F off, he’d get to ‘fu…’ and you’d grab him and put him on the floor.  I got 3 thank you letters from kids happy I put them on the floor so often.  Now, you can’t do that.  You gotta sit there and talk to them and take it and on they go:  ‘You blankedy blank mother fuggin’ blank!’ and you gotta take it.”

Jim tells me three days ago a large violent teen was in his face saying he was going to kill his family.  “I stared him down,” Jim says.  “I wasn’t backin’ down.  I don’t know what he wanted with me.  I’m just the maintenance guy, but no way.  Ron was comin’ over, and I said, ‘Now you got Ron and me to deal with.’  He backed down.  Most these kids never seen that before.”

“And they’re getting younger!” Ron screams a little too loud for a bar.  “These Hmongs.  Holy shit, I mean they’re getting younger.  I tell you why!  If I kill someone at 17, I get tried for murder.  I kill someone at 14, I go to Juvie.  End of story.  The kids ain’t stupid.  They know this.  The Hmongs keep recruiting younger and younger so they can order a guy to be killed and they that kid just gets Juvie.”

“It’s a shame,” I say.

“Yeah!” they both say.  “A shit storm’s a’ comin’,” they both say, but I don’t inquire to see what they mean.  Men like Ron and Jim do the dirty work for society.  Where exactly do you put people who aren’t adults but are as violent as deranged adults?  I mean, where?  Most of us don’t want to think about it.  I know I don’t.  That’s where Ron and Jim come in.  They’re the ones who have to think about it so we don’t have to.

It’s one thirty in the morning and I’m so tired I can’t take it anymore.  “Hey Ron…” I say.  “Have another beer!” he says.  “None of dis I-wanna-go-home crap!”  “No, for real,” I say, “I’m really tired.  You don’t have to take me home; I’ll sleep in the car.”  Patty looks up.  “No, let’s go,” she says.  It’s her car.  She doesn’t want me in there.  They don’t know but I was going to hotwire it and sell it into Obama’s Cash for Clunkers program.  Ron looks at Pattie (Paty?) and looks down and looks disappointed.  “Awwwright,” he says.  New people have arrived at the bar.  As people get off work at the juvenile education center they meet up here.  It is called Jim’s Bar in downtown Prairie du Chien.  “Who are you!” one woman asks.  Shit, I think, I hope she didn’t see my mugshot on the evening news! “I’m paddling down the river.”  Another guy turns around.  “Yeeeaahhh,” he says, “Ron was telling me about you.”  Pattie looks at me.  I think she thinks I have an axe in my shirt.  Duuuuhhh!  I keep it in my pants!

Ron rushes me out.  I say bye to Jim.  Jim is still stoic.  “Remembr State Line Slough – you’ll cut off 3 or 4 miles.”

“Thanks, Jim,” I say.

Back at Ron’s I grab the majority of my stuff I need to clean up with and walk it through the door.  Ron stumbles over to his gun case.  Oh, shit.  “I can kill ya, you know.”  He’s smiling.  “Yes,” I say, “you’ve told me 3 times.”  Paddy is tugging at Ron’s shoulder.  Now she seems like the reasonable one.  (BTW I know some of you are going, “Go easy on them, Ryan.  They didn’t know you.”  Fuck that.  They had the guns!  Yes, there is a degree of healthy skepticism you should have letting a stranger into your house; but, please consider simultaneously what it must be like for the stranger!)  Patty looks at me and her eyes of distrust have changed.  She kind of feels embarrassed.  She has been lobbying Ron all night to boot me out and now feels bad that she may have succeeded.  She looks up and is slightly insecure and vulnerable; it’s more human; it’s nice. “Look,” she says, “it’s not personal.”  Okay, good, I think, she’s going to offer a bit of honesty and a bit of reason and see if I reciprocateIf I act all weird she can throw me out.  But I won’t and then we can stop this nonsense. Nope!  She abandons the I’ll-give-you-the-benefit-of-the-doubt-until-you-give-me-a-reason-not-to tack for Dick Cheney’s old bag of tricks:  “But just know,” she asserts, “I am a cop, so…”  Dude!  Come on here!  Just set a fuggin’ (:)) gun turret in front of your door; end of story!  I even offered to camp outside; nothing.  Ron has pulled his sawed-off shotgun out of the case.  “Look at this bad boy.  If you…”

“Ron,” I say unrolling my sleeping bag, “I really really am tired and I really really want to go to bed.”  He’s stumbling a bit, but I know there’s reason behind those glassy eyes.  “Yeah,” he stops himself, “yeah.”  Paddy looks at me and is making her first forays into using comminication to find out information instead of threats of force.  “C’mon, Ron,” she says and sneaks an embarrassed stare toward the floor.  Ron leaves.

Now, I don’t know what happened behind the closed door but I imagine he stayed up all night with the gun barrell pointed toward the door.  Patty set up her rocket launcher and flamethrower as fail-safes.  “One false move and that mother f—er gets it in the face!” Like I said – Dick Cheney.  But I just wanted to sleep.  And sleep I did.  I woke up with a headache.  (I don’t normally drink beer.)  I walked toward the bathroom.  As I was entering, Patty (Okay, okay, I’ll stick with Patty.  :)) exits her room in pajamas.  “Ohh, sorry!” she says.  (I didn’t get shot!  Yay!)  “I just need to use the bathroom,” I say and enter.

When I come back out Ron is waiting for me.  “You, uh, wanna go down by the river or…?”  What? Just yesterday he was talking about letting me use his computer and how he was going to take me downriver a ways possibly to Guttenberg.  Not this morning.  This morning he says he has “things to do” and “needs to go.”

“Yeah,” I say.  I sense that he wants me to leave.  I don’t know but I postulate that he’s tired of dealing with the missus:  “Get this guy out of here, oh my god, how irresponsible, what if he rapes me, what if he’s bullet proof and when we pump 75 rounds into his face he just reforms like the bad guy in Terminator II?”

I pack up my stuff and we’re off.  I turn on the camera in the car.  “Look, Ron,” I say, ” I can only tell you that when we did The Hitchhiking Movie I would ask people how they felt letting a stranger in the car.  They would say that they had a good vibe off us and I would say we had the same vibe.  I also added that later the mind starts with the what-ifs (What if I’m wrong?  What if my intuition is wrong?  What if my vibe is 99% right and there’s this one possibility he has a knife?)  The thinking mind is the one that comes up with the nightmares.  So just know that, um, I was thinking the same thing about you guys.  I mean you guys could have raped me!”

“Yeahhhh, I know,” Ron says pulling into the marina.  “I was cool with it.  Patty, I don’t know, she’s young  so she’s just not used to it.”  I knew then that he was not annoyed with me; he was annoyed with Patty being annoyed with me.  “You couldn’t have done anything different,” he offers.  “It’s just… yeah.”  He’s tired.  I am, now, a problem even if not the cause.  He had talked about taking me downriver.  I know he’ll need my cell phone to meet up with me but I don’t offer it.  I think I’ve had enough too.  It’s time to go.  This chapter is over.

So were they right to be paranoid?  I don’t know.  I could have been a serial killer.  Maybe I am, in another dimension.  Maybe they are too, in another dimension.  Maybe all of you reading this blog are all out killing people in multiple random universes.  For the most part, however, we are not killers.  99% of the human race is just fine.  It’s that 1% that keeps f—ing it up for everybody.  Check this fact out, but I heard that the vast majority of murders are committed by assailants the victim knows and usually knows well.  Is it true?  I don’t know.  I don’t care.  What people think of me is none of my business.  I must be a pretty cool guy.  I mean, in spite of one woman’s hell-bentedness on removing me from her presence, I still got a nice sleep on a couch, some bratwursts to go, a bottle of Gatorade, and half a loaf of white bread – not bad for an axe murderer!

Trust your intution, my friends.  During this trip (and life) for me it has always turned out to be right.  And if I meet you down the road, I hope my intuition tells me, “This is a cool cat.”  And I hope we spend some quality time together.  We just need to be wary of the 1%.  But I sure as heck am not going to let that 1 ruin the 99.

Love and bratwursts,

Ryan

4 thoughts on “Fear and Paranoia in Prairie du Chien”

  1. Well By car it looks like you’re 70 miles to Dubuque, here’s the issue son down after St. Louis that river is the windiest thing ever, that piece is gonna take FOREVER and has brutal mosquitoes…get lots of OFF and plan on alot, lot more rain. Super straight where you are now because of the elevation drop, but that’ll end soon.

    That chick was probably freaked out because you had shaved hahahahaa! Start uploading pics to Flickr. Even a 30 sec. video upload to youtube you inbed in blog would help alot…I could have seen Ron myself!

    Chadillac…OUT!!!

  2. Maybe something “bad” had happened to Patty and to overcome her fear she became a cop. Seems to me that her choice promoted her fear to a higher degree. Unfortunately for her, this fear will remain with her as long as she makes it the main focus of her life.

    That said… it sounds like the people you met do work with many “fearful teenagers” and she probably has trained her mind to suspect everyone and never underestimate anyone – especially because she is seeing evidence of irrational violence in these kids (teenagers) on a daily basis. And these are kids! What about you, a stranger, a man! See how she can build the idea in her mind?

    My guess is her motto would be “better safe than sorry”. “Looks like a nice guy, but looks can be deceiving…” What if… down?

    Increasing your awareness will help keep you safe as a stranger staying with strangers.

    All of your experiences on the “River” are teaching you. These people have taught you to see yourself through their eyes. Sometimes even though you believe you are projecting the “Love of God” some still show a “Blind Eye”. Most people see what they want to see.

    Congratulations on being open enough to recognize each of their intentions, and the man named Ron’s willingness “to try”.

    Recognize the “Try”.

    Love you,
    Mom

  3. Hey

    We met just outside of Prairie. I was with the 14 high school kids in the two 26ft canoes… Sounds like you had a bit more exciting night than you would have if you had stuck around for supper with us. That probably made for better TV than night with the bible campers. Hope the trip is going well. If you have any advice for a group who plans on takin the trip let me know. We are making plans to paddle the whole river the summer after next.

    Bryce Griffin

  4. @Bryce – Bryce, Awesome! I’m elated you’ve decided to do the river. I can only suggest you pick a fast canoe (as fast as you can afford) that has reasonable stability. You’re canoeing skill can increase as you go along, the top speed of your vessel can’t. Let me know what you decide to do, and yes, though the Prairie du Chien experience did make better TV, I did in the middle of it all wish I had stayed with some people a little more sane and wholesome such as your Bible crowd, take care and let me know what you decide to do, if you’ve got a blog we’ll put a link on our site next year, keep it real, ryan

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