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Four hot days on family houseboat bring mosquitoes, lightning, snakes

Sept. 24, 1996

Kelly

Maher

Lariat Copy Editor

* Four middle-aged parents trying to relive the good old times spent at the lake

* Three highly-cynical adolescents (myself included)

* Two mosquito-bitten pre-teens

* Four coolers

* One ship christened 'Disaster'

The aforementioned list sums up my family vacation. I survived four days on a houseboat with my family. My wise father conceived this brilliant idea of cramming nine people on a 56-foot boat with no shower.

I arrived at the marina with a fairly open mind as I thought this would be a good chance to work on my tan, catch up on my reading, and crank out a few columns. Well, it was, sort of....

Day one begins harmless enough. I hop aboard the ship with unfounded enthusiasm. My first mistake was appointing myself captain and trying to maneuver this great white elephant through the legs of a train trestle with Don McClean's 'American Pie' booming from the stereo. After the parentals had a few mild coronaries, my dad gratefully took over the helm. My maritime career was very short-lived.

Along with the hot and sticky humidity partial to Texas, night descends upon us. We soon realize we are stuck in a quandary. The generator guzzles two gallons per hour. If we leave it running continuously overnight we will have no gas to return to port with in the morning. The obvious answer is to not run the generator at night. Translated to Texas terms: no air-conditioning.

We are allowed the freedom to choose whether to remain inside a closed-in cabin suffocating or to risk being eaten alive by the hawk-sized mosquitoes playing tag with unwilling participants.

Day two -- oh, what a great day to water-ski. At least, it was, until some monster thunderstorm crawled across the sky, soaking our plans. I lie in my hard bunk attempting to sleep while great ribbons of lightning decorate the sky and thunder blares in stereo. A word of advice; check the weather report before you set out on such an excursion.

Day three rolls around, and with no showers, everyone is a little ripe. After two days I have to wash my hair (everyone with naturally curly hair will sympathize). So, what's a girl to do? I cleverly decide to wash my hair in the lake. Hey, it cannot be any dirtier than my hair already is. I bravely dive in with my two bottles of all-natural, biodegradable shampoo and conditioner to partake in a long-awaited luxury.

As it turns out though, citrus shampoo is not a wise choice for a lake. I was soon surrounded by a family of water moccasins. After I attracted the attention of every boater in a three-mile radius, I was soon rescued from the snake pit.

I told my story to the cute guy who worked at the dock, trying to gain some damsel-in-distress sympathy. He merely told me that they've only seen one water moccasin all summer, and he personally killed it, so probably what I saw were some harmless water snakes. That boy was wrong. I know what I saw: giant man-eating water moccasins.

Day four finally arrives, and our tour of duty is over. My father makes one final landing at the dock and smashes the bow and my fingers into the pier. How else do you park a Winnebago on water? I scramble off the deck and immediately drop to my knees and kiss the ground. 'Very funny, Kel,' my father replies. The ironic thing is, he thought I was kidding.

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