The Lake of the Ozarks is an interesting place in the sense that there are certain behaviors that would probably be considered socially unacceptable anywhere else but that, at the lake, are as prevalent as barbed-wire tattoos and pickup trucks.
By DUGAN ARNETT
The Kansas City Star
Specifically, the lack of general cleanliness you’re allowed to get away with there.
Some high school buddies and I take a dudes-only trip down to the lake every year and the one thing that never ceases to amaze us is just how disgusting things can get in only a few days’ time. We stay at a friend’s cabin near the water, so we’re not exactly roughing it. Yet we always manage to turn the place into a kind of three-bedroom cesspool, spending our days sitting in our own filth, scratching our butt cheeks and watching old Nicolas Cage movies.
Also, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
There’s a certain elegance to living so abominably, if only for a short time. So, in an effort to help others experience the freedom we’ve found, I’ve put together a little list of rules to follow.
1. Leave the sleeves at home, pal. When picking out clothing for a lake trip, remember that you’ll be wearing the clothes on your back for the duration of the week. Acceptable lake trip attire is exclusively limited to T-shirts with the sleeves cut off, sweatshirts with the sleeves cut off, jeans jackets with the sleeves cut off and American flag bandanas.
2. No showers, no exceptions. This is one of those obvious lake rules like “Pee in the lake if you’ve gotta pee” or “Keep a huge bottle of lighter fluid with you at all times in case you come across something you want to turn into an impromptu bonfire.” You just don’t take showers at the lake. It’s poor form, for one thing. For another, what do you need a shower for? You just got done swimming in that big ol’ man-made bathtub they call the Lake of the Ozarks.
3. Fruits and vegetables are to be avoided in all instances unless occupying the space between the meat and the bun. At the lake it’s important to replenish your energy reserves. Which is why you should feel free to help yourself to one of the two acknowledged food groups there: hamburgers and cheeseburgers.
4. Exercise good bathroom etiquette, sometimes. Look, you’ve got a lot on your mind at the lake (“How many firecrackers am I going to shoot off tonight?”), so you can’t be expected to remember to flush the toilet every single time. You’re not Mother Teresa, for crying out loud, you’re human. A good rule of thumb is: If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown — and there’s enough to justify doing so, and you happen to remember — flush it down.
5. Sunblock is for the birds. And babies. You’re not a baby, are you? Besides, by Day 2 of your trip, the veneer of sweat, dead skin, lake water detritus and dried ketchup (blood?) serves as a perfectly functional and “natural” sunscreen.
6. Call your girlfriend/fiancée/wife throughout the week to let her know you’re OK. Ha ha. Just kidding. This is a fake rule. The only time this rule applies is on Opposite Day. Or maybe April Fool’s Day. It’s no girls allowed during a real dudes lake trip, unless you want to be pestered with a bunch of buzzkill comments like, “You guys aren’t shooting bottle rockets into that huge hornets nest again, are you?” Or, “Please tell me you guys aren’t doing that thing where you dare each other to swallow a minnow, then immediately barf it back up into the lake and giggle as you watch it swim away.”
7. Be a man. Be resourceful. More than likely you’re going to suffer some sort of major physical injury during your trip, and you’ve got to be ready to make do with the supplies on hand. Once, during a trip to the lake in college, I stubbed my big toe so bad I thought I was going to need stitches. I probably should have gone to the emergency room. Instead, a buddy found a leftover hot dog bun in the kitchen, placed it around my bleeding toe and then wrapped it up in duct tape. Then we went into the living room and watched “Con Air” twice in a row. Great night.
8. Before heading home, make sure you spend some one-on-one time with nature. There’s all kinds of beautiful and exotic wildlife down at the lake, and you should make it a point to enjoy it while you can. A couple of good things to do are to reach your arm really far into a snake hole so you can see what’s down there and also to try to catch a catfish with your bare hands and then fry it up and eat it so it knows who’s boss.
And that about covers it.
You’ll know you’ve done it right if you return from your trip smelling like a combination of B.O., beef jerky and farts, with a mild-to-moderate case of poison sumac and the sense of calmness and rejuvenation that comes with having spent a week in nature, among men.