The Prune: Smokey Bare?

EVEN WHEN donning bow tie and tails, the Prune wasn’t too formal to forego his signature blue-and-white striped overalls. submitted photo 

by Todd Sharp

I’ve been riding my bike by a cluster of magnificent trees just south of the Longbranch Saloon and the same question keeps flashing through my head. Isn’t that where I was caught in my underwear by the DNR?

Forty years ago, on a quiet sunny morning, my friend Jim Huth and I drove west in his salvaged maroon ’65 Buick Skylark to the trout streams of Marquette County: The Tigress, Chaffie Lawrence and Mecan.

We usually had the good luck of youth catching trout, but this increasingly windy summer day became memorable as we impatiently jumped from one stream to the next, hoping to scare out a “brookie” or two with little success.

The art of trout fishing with live bait is an exercise in practice and patience, luck and skill.

Hopping from one stream to another has none of those attributes; and the combination of the peaceful drive, cranking Led Zeppelin on the JVC cassette player with the crackly speakers in the back window and the windy, rustic, country roads is always a nice way to spend the day.

The burgers were always juicy and cold root beer delicious at the local bars.

As we headed out of Germania, we spotted a small ground fire in a stand of 8- to 10-foot pine trees.

Jim abruptly stopped the car, grabbed a blanket out of the backseat and we ran to see what we could do.

Jim was somewhat successful smothering the fire with the now smoldering blanket, but the fire continued growing.

I quickly scanned my options and realized I had little choice but to drop the strap on my hickory striped bibs and start smothering the fire with the legs of my pants.

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, and well past the reception at my wedding in ’92, I always seemed to be wearing a pair of blue-and-white striped overalls with one strap when I didn’t have on a tie.

Except at this moment, all I had on was white boxers, standing with muddy shoes, smelling smoky with black ash stuck to all my sweating parts.

The bibs worked remarkably well and we had success in slowing this potential forest fire as it was nearly out when a group of DNR employees crashed into the smoky clearing.

Their Jeep was equipped with a little hose hooked on a water tank that quickly squirted out the fire.

I would think when the firefighters discovered two guys flailing around trying to help extinguish the fire, their interest would be piqued.

Maybe ask us a few questions? Tip of the hat or a thank you?

They didn’t say anything and looked more puzzled than grateful.

Possibly they thought we were some crazed teenagers running around in our underwear starting fires?

I thought we would be fire fighting heroes.

Turns out we were. Those 10-foot trees are now a humongous stand of pines, oaks and hickories.

As I rode past yesterday, I resolved to order a new pair of bibs.

I might have the opportunity to do something heroic again and I’ll be prepared and confident in my rugged, versatile and always stylish blue- and-white bib overalls, or my boxers if it gets down to that.

Editor’s note: Unable to land a job as a Fruit of the Loom underwear model, Todd Sharp sells advertising for the Green Laker, Express and The Ripon Commonwealth Press.