On the way down the trail, we passed two grizzled hillbillies and a pit bull scaling down a hill with an old dirty rope. “Whiskey Tangos” is what Mustafah called them, using the phonetic alphabet to make a more polite reference to white trash. One of Whiskey Tangos growled at Alli as we walked by. The girls were unsettled and convinced the guys had shotguns. We had two BB guns and an arsenal of roman candles, bottle rockets, firecrackers, and smoke bombs (for diversion), but that wasn’t any match for an actual shotgun. Still, it didn’t bring us down. We were setting up camp in the footprint of an old stone building at the base of a waterfall with a trestle across it. It was like something out of Mark Twain or a deleted scene from “Stand By Me”. It was all my fantasy adventures rolled into one.

As it got dark, we went swimming, shot cans and fireworks, and danced around a psychedelic fire. Then across the creek we saw two flashlights stomping around in the distance. It looked like the Whiskey Tangos were fishing their rope down the cliffs looking for something. Maybe they came were picking up a hidden stash of meth. Or maybe they were just looking for some good ol’ fashioned murder. Either way, the girls were getting creeped out. The flashlights kept getting closer and they walked over the trestle about 50 feet above a waterfall in the dark of night. They ended up on our side of the creek and came down a ridge into our campsite on a path we didn’t even know existed. We ran up with BB guns stashed in our waistbands to see what they were doing. Whiskey Tango 1 said, “we come in peace,” holding onto to his dirty rope. When we asked what they were doing, he said his buddy from down the way wanted to tightrope walk over the falls, so they were there to string up the rope. He said his buddy wasn’t no tightrope walker but he figured he might be able to do it. To me it sounded like the most bullshit answer a hillbilly holding a rope could come up with. We still didn’t trust them, but they walked through our campsite and down to the water. Whiskey Tango 1 jumped in the water — jeans, boots, t-shirt and all — while Whiskey Tango 2 sat on the rocks holding back the dog. Cameron and Niko tried to make friends with WT 2 and learned he was an ex-con and his wife cheated on him. He was looking to slit the motherfucker’s throat. WT 1 was working hard for about 20 minutes when he walked out from underwater with a lit cigarette between his teeth. He said the tightrope was as good as he was going to get it tonight and he’d have to come back another day with his crazy buddy to walk it. The tightrope was saggy, downhill, and tied to a couple branches. Hillbilly logic.

Finally the Whiskey Tangos said they were gonna take off. WT 2 needed a steak. We bid them farewell and continued carrying on, causing a ruckus and swimming until late into the night. All summer we’ve been getting out of the city, looking for some kind of release. A place to go crazy. But even on our craziest weekend of the summer, we’ve got nothing on a couple of tightrope walkin’ Whiskey Tangos.

Labor Day Swimming Trip