The movie was scientifically questionable, at best --- but unsettling nonetheless.
I thought about that film the other day as the family began a five hour kakaying trip down a dark and winding river in southern New Jersey. The waters ran black as coal and who knows what was lurking under the sunken logs or waiting to pounce from the canopy of trees along the riverbank.
But Cousin Billy assured me we would have a great time and Kristina was talking smack about my athletic prowess (which, truthfully was right). To cap the deal, my Aunt Sue announced she was preparing lunch for the trip. Suddenly, a violent and bloody death at the hands of a mutated fish didn't seem all that bad --- as long as I had a some of her world-famous chocolate chip cookies.
The trip started like most horror movies do --- singing campfire songs in the back of a yellow school bus. Soon, we turned off the main highway and onto a dirt road that took us miles away from civilization and cell phone service. As I surveyed our situation, I was reminded of another great outdoor film --- one starring Burt Reynolds and a squealing pig. No need to upset the children, I thought.
A few hours into the journey, the cousins warned me about some of the exotic wildlife we would soon encounter --- Thomas the 12 year old announced, "We've got rednecks in New Jersey."
And it wasn't your garden-variety kind of rednecks, mind you. These were an auspicious breed of hardcore, "the family tree probably doesn't branch" rednecks.
Take, for example, the wildebeest of a man sunning himself in a lawn chair. He was sitting in the river, drinking a Pabst Blue Ribbon --- at nine o'clock in the morning. In his defense, it was a hot day and he was sort of friendly. "Y'all want a cold one?" We declined.
And then there was the guy in the innertube who had a cartoon drawing of Calvin and Hobbes etched onto his back. "Hey kids," I whispered, "Check out that guy's tattoo."
"Todd, why does Calvin have a meat cleaver?"
I told the kids it might be best if we paddle faster. The situation had gone from bad to worse and visions of Deliverance were dancing in my head. I pulled up alongside Billy and told him, "If you hear a banjo, it's every man for himself."
Aside from a raging forest fire that dumped heaps of ash on our kayaks, we emerged from our journey unscathed.
Afterwards, we packed up the kayaks and boarded the small yellow school bus, the driver told us to hang on for the bumpy ride back to the lodge. He closed the door, rolled down the windows and cranked up the radio. It was tuned to the only country radio station in the area. Our driver banged the steering wheel, uttered an explective and flicked off the radio. He turned around and told us, "That danged station. All they play is the Dixie Chicks and I can't stand them Dixie Chicks."
I suppose even New Jersey Rednecks have taste.