Wasn't really my fault - it's a "with friends like that who needs enemies" situation.
My parents have a large piece of property near Highlands, North Carolina - in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. Beautiful and tranquil... it has been a place of introspection and solitude to me for most of my life.
My senior year of high school I'd been promising several friends I'd take them "camping" on my parent's property during Spring Break; it was before my parents had built their house there. In the spring of 1988 there was a termite infested 100 year old log-cabin style horse barn (with no horses) and that was it. Deep in the woods on the side of a mountain - there was a nice spring-fed stream about 30ft from the barn and about 60 acres of land around us with nothing but trees and nature to fill it.
I took 3 good friends - one of which had never gone camping, never slept outdoors - he was as we like to say, "A complete city slicker". We stopped off at the local IGA Foodliner (a small grocery store) about 10 miles from the property and we picked up some things for the next three nights of camping.
There was a big display of "Dinty Moore Beef Stew" that was marked down to a silly dollar a can - these were 1lb cans. The City Slicker was all excited - 3 cans for $3 and he'd saved a bunch of money for food (for diner each night). The rest of us all said, "for it to be that cheap it must taste pretty bad!" But City Slicker wouldn't listen.
ABOVE - The spring fed stream on my parent's land in North Carolina.
Later that night I had a powerful fire roaring as we sat around the large fire pit my dad had constructed (forest fires are really not near as common there because there's so much moisture - but still to be careful my dad built a 7ft circular fire pit with a concrete and brick base and wall).
City Slicker opened his first can and put the contents into a kettle (that I had provided him) and he hung it over the fire for about 10 minutes until we could smell the beefy concoction brewing - which wasn't good because it didn't smell like anything I'd want to eat. He took the kettle down and let it cool. I wish I had a camera for the look on his face after he tasted that first heaping spoonful. He spit it out - we all laughed - it was obviously the most disgustingly foul stuff ever made.
Everyone laughed and before long we were tired so we took our sleeping blankets out and piled into the freshly cleaned horse barn and went to sleep. Just before sunrise - around 6am - I woke up (I've always been an early riser) and while the guys were snoring and snorting in their sleep I decided I wanted to make myself some coffee - so I put some wood on the fire - stoked up the embers and got a good blaze going.
I went down to the stream and got some fresh water into my French Press coffee maker and went back to the fire (and yes - my dad had the stream tested for pollutants, bacteria, etc... it was pure mountain spring water and fit to drink).
Above - The view from the top of my parent's property.
As I got back to the fire it had died down some so I got the big iron poker and started stoking the coals to get the fresh logs burning stronger and that's when it happened.
The explosion was - well... it was an explosion. Like a concussion grenade. I knew I was on fire - my face was burning. But I couldn't hear anything - or see anything... there was this dull roar in my ears which grew into a high-pitched whine like a jet engine. I was disoriented and not really sure how much time went by before I felt someone tackle me to ground and start hitting me.
It was like I had been dropped into a war zone. Slowly everything came back into focus and I could hear my friends saying they needed to get me to a hospital. There were burning chunks of wood and god know what else - everywhere around me. One of the guys was stomping out little fires all over the camp site.
There was a chunk of something burning - sitting on the hood of my car nearly 50ft away. I sat up - my face was blacked - covered in - I had no idea what... I just remember how horrible my friends looked - the looks on their faces when they looked at me. There were holes burnt into my sweater and my jeans.
That's when the second explosion rocked the camp site. This one was not near as horrific as the first. Mainly because the top of the 1 pound can of stew was pointed away from us - and it was laying on its side. In an instant I knew what had happened. City Slicker had decided to dispose of the two other cans of beef stew by throwing them into the fire... where the pressure from the burning stew and expanding gases inside the can turned them into ... well... they turned into flaming beef stew grenades.
ABOVE - A view of a beautiful fall morning at the top of my parent's property.
The trip was over. I had to be taken to the hospital where I had 1st and 2nd degree burns on my face, hands, and little spots on my legs where liquid burning death in the form of super-heated beef stew had burnt through my clothes.
There were chunks of stew burnt to the front grill of my car. It was like a beef stew super-volcano had erupted molten - liquefied cow parts - and the odd carrot and piece of potato - all over my parent's property. What was worse was I had burnt stew embedded in my skin - in my pores - that took two weeks to get out. And I had to put this stuff called "Silvadine Cream" all over my face and hands. It was pretty bad. Our parents came and got us and when I got back to school the next week - there were "I survived the great Beef Stew Bomb" posters on the wall above my locker. Everyone started calling me "Beef Stew". And that would be followed by, "Go Beef Stew" - LOL. I had to admit it was pretty funny. AND NOW YOU KNOW ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE - YES - THAT IS FROM MY HIGH SCHOOL ANNUAL - where Mr. City Slicker himself signed, "Go Beef Stew" in my annual for me. To this day I suffer uncontrollable panic attacks (from food bomb induced PTSD) and I get really sick to my stomach if I see beef stew. And a can of Dinty Moore anything will send me into a blind rage. Just sayin'.
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