Several of my childhood summers were spent at my grandparents' fishing cabin, deep in the black-fly infested wilds of northern Quebec.
The experience was great not only for myself and the boatload of cousins who accompanied me, but also our parents who were able to ditch us for two months without the overhead of a traditional summer camp.
There were moose. There were bear. There was manbearpig. Well, not the real manbearpig, but we did have a neighbor named Lionel who resembled something between a heavyweight boxer and a fur coat.
He'd drink Canadian whiskey, laugh and slap our backs so hard you'd swear your eyes had popped clear out of your skull. Then, he'd mumble something in French Canadian, point and laugh some more.
At least we thought it was French Canadian. It could have been some booze-created dialect that required soaking the listener with tobacco-tainted spittle.
Either way we couldn't make out a darn thing the manbearpig said. Which is probably how Gram wanted it. God forbid we returned to grade school the next year spewing French Canadian obscenities at our classmates through tobacco-tainted spittle.
As entertaining as we found old Lionel, however, nothing could top the never-ending string of pranks my cousins and I would play on one another to wallow away the hot summer days.
It seemed little was sacred and Gram - as long as no one got bruised or bloodied - would more-often-than-not applaud the creativity of the prankster and chide the gullibility of the prankee.
Perhaps my all-time favorite, however, was played out on my cousin, Mike, by my brother, Brian. The year was 1980 and the pair agreed to hike to a small pond directly behind camp.
Bored with the pace of the fishing, Brian decided to bet Mike $10 he couldn't walk the length of a 30-foot log that hung precariously over the water.
Without hesitation, Mike said, "I could if I take off my shoes."
Out he went, inch-by-inch, balancing himself with outstretched arms while delicately placing one bare foot before the other until he finally reached the spindly tip of the fallen tree.
"See," Mike said triumphantly, spinning slowly to face where Brian stood watching. But, Brian was no longer there. Instead, he had taken up a perch at the other end of the log and began leaping up and down, causing Mike's end to wabble like a teeter-totter.
"Aaaauuuggghhh," Mike wailed and began running down the log toward safety. Two steps into the sprint, the realization hit he wasn't going to make it and he launched himself toward shore - only to land in three feet of water and six feet of black pond muck.
When he emerged, he looked like a cross between a Siamese cat and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
I'm not sure where the Siamese cat analogy came from, but trust me, he looked really ugly - and smelled even worse.
Ironically, Lionel's camp contained one of the only indoor showers for miles, so, we stuffed Mike in and scrubbed him raw with common household cleaners.
I say ironically because one would not consider a device that aids in the pursuit of personal hygiene to top Lionel's list of favored camp amenities. Or, even the common household cleaner part - but anyway, I digress.
Unfortunately, for Mike, black pond muck is like great soul music - it gets in your pores, man.
In fact, I saw him just last year at a family gathering and he still stunk a bit like wet socks in the rear of the family van.
I am kidding, of course. Great soul music doesn't really get in your pores, man. Black pond muck, on the other hand, is like the International Paper waste treatment plant in mid-August. You can smell it from Quebec.
If it makes you feel any better, Mike - I spoke to Brian, and he's got your $10.
John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. When he isn't enjoying a good prank on his cousin, Mike, he can be reached at email@example.com.