Scoop of the Month:
HOW TO BUILD A CAMPFIRE...or maybe not! PLUS The 'Tootsinator', The Dragon Lady, the Dingle Berry Tree, and...of course, more!

The 'Tootsinator' and Jimmy Barnes


Instinctive primordial urges are in all of us. This is why men must go out in search of wild game, or maybe beer, and must engage in fierce competition to see who will lead the tribe, or, nowadays, just place bets on their favorite team. Yes, the ease of modern civilization has taken away many of our basic instincts, except in the case of Sharon Stone, who sure knows how to get a man.

          But one primitive urge that we can still indulge in is (Censored—Editor). The other is fire. We all love a campfire, especially that ‘gathering of wood’ part where you go to the campground store and buy some bundles. Or maybe you are like my friend Johnny Janus, who when I visited his new house with a real fireplace in a Chicago suburb, had exactly one large charred log. He used some kindling to get it going, and we all watched the fire for about twenty minutes. He then spent a great deal of effort extinguishing the log, saving it for the next time.

          Well, twenty minutes just doesn’t cut it for us savage hunters. We need a blazing fire at our campsite; after all, that’s part of getting away and relaxing. It also explains why there is nothing more frustrating than having a lousy, measly fire…or none at all. It also explains my next little tale. Let’s meet…


          Scoop Jr., now 32, lives in California but came in recently to close a business deal. He has done a lot of chores like mowing the lawn and painting the shed, and I am grateful. He also kept eyeing the firepit, which Mrs. Scoop has used as a weed-pile. Plus we had some rain just before he got in, so the pit was a mess.

          Now, California is not the place to have a fire. Sure, maybe you can get a permit to have one on the beach while you finish off a keg, but that’s not an everyday thing. Besides, palm trees and palmettos don’t burn very well. So the backyard firepit was like a magnet to Scoop Jr. It wasn’t long before he got me to get a truck and he loaded up the weeds and wet ashes and we hauled them away. Upon our return, he got out the garden hose and washed down the rocks around the pit. It looked great, except I had placed the pit around an old tree stump, which was now exposed. This was an eyesore to Scoop Jr.’s manicured pit, and he wanted to get that darn stump out right now. I mentioned the old Western movie ‘Shane’, mainly that part about Shane chopping away at that stubborn stump with his axe, but it was apparent that the ‘fire’ urge far outweighed the ‘whittle away at the stump with this Tonto hand-axe’ urge.

          But now Scoop Jr. was indeed stumped (feeble joke). The pit and stump were drenched from his washing. Acting instinctively, he plugged in the leaf-blower and tried to blow dry the stump. A scientific appraisal (“This stump is still wet!”) determined this could take days, so he generously applied a full quart of Charcoal Chef fluid. His original plan was to let it soak overnight. That plan lasted about ten minutes.               

          “I don’t know how I can wait until tomorrow,” said a frustrated Scoop Jr. “It’s ‘pulling’ me—that stump must burn tonight!” Mrs. Scoop sagely suggested he use my old collection of TV Guides, page by page, as a starter, and Scoop Jr. brought the fire to a blaze, only to see the paper burn away and leave the evil stump unscorched. And in an apparent mystical happening, the TV Guide cover of Elvis has been permanently etched onto a tall firepit rock, and when the fire is lighted, Elvis appears to sing and dance, but only from the waist up. Tickets are $5.

          But back to the story: Still determined, but temporarily thwarted, Scoop Jr. went to a local gas station for some snacks. There he spotted stacks of yesterday’s newspapers destined for the dumpster. He returned with bundles of new ‘kindling’ and used remaining lighter fluid from a found bottle to ignite his stump funeral pyre. Meanwhile, our two dogs watched in confusion (except for Ripley, who is blind, and who knows what she got out of this) as Scoop Jr. wheeled over countless loads of my stack of winter wood to keep the fire going.

          Yes, we had a fun time and a good fire, but the stump is still there, and it’s going to be a ‘cold’ winter if I have to rely on my demolished woodpile…that wood for my fireplace is used mainly for romance purposes. That darn kid!


          You may recall JB from previous tales, in which retired Chicago Firefighter Jimmy almost burned his own Station down, or nearly drowned, trapped underwater, while ferocious tiny bluegills nibbled at his toes, or was attacked by a rat who went straight for his nose. Yes, Jimmy has a little black cloud following him, and it rained on him again recently…twice.

          It happened at 1am on a Friday night. Feeling his oats—and his Old Styles—Jimmy, age 68, challenged Arlene C., aka ‘Toots’, to an arm wrestling match. Toots, age 76 and standing 5’ 3” and change, took on the challenge. Fists gripped, elbows planted, they waged a war of strength. As one bystander put it: “Jimmy’s face got all red…you could tell he was really trying hard. But Toots put him down!”

          Jimmy was seen the next day constantly massaging his sore arm. Later that night, Toots, now known as the ‘Tootsinator’, took on any challengers. Mrs. Scoop, tending bar, took a draw, but later admitted that she was able to use her height advantage by standing while The Tootsinator had to lean over. “She’s very strong,” said Mrs. Scoop. “And she armwrestled 10 more people in the bar later that night, guys and girls, and only lost to Tim Briggs, who I think deliberately waited until the end, when she was tired.”


          A yard sale and flea market was held on the campground recently, and Jimmy couldn’t resist buying a 3’ tall dragon. No problem there, except he kept parading it around on his golf cart. Readers may recall his last golf-cart companion ‘Doll’, a blow-up presented to him on his birthday. Now it seems as if the Dragon Lady has taken over this coveted arrangement.

          Jimmy was so proud he couldn’t even resist talking to me, whom he has avoided like the plague, since he knows I consider him a great source of true mishaps, and his grandchildren constantly ask him if that’s really him they see on the Internet. His new ‘friend’ has a greenish tint to her skin, an ugly face, sharp teeth that could hurt you, and two horns. “She sort of grows on you, though,” said Jimmy. 

          Jimmy was taken advantage of when two unidentified suspects took the Dragon Lady from his front deck and arranged it in his bed while Jimmy was at the dance Saturday night. An uninvolved person clued me in and led me to the scene of the crime. There was the Dragon Lady, sheet tucked up around her neck. I snapped a few photos and we left.

          The next morning camper John Lysaght warned me to be on the lookout. “I saw Jimmy and merely asked him how he slept last night,” said John. “He said: ‘What, does everybody on the campground know about this? And I know Scoop is behind this somehow. I’ll find out who his co-conspirators are, too! Besides, that thing attacked me last night.”

          Needing some more photos, I dared to knock on Jimmy’s door. The Dragon Lady was in the room, upright. I vowed to Jimmy that I was innocent, and he then explained the ‘attack’. Next to the bed is a recliner. “I got back from the dance and got in my chair to watch TV,” he said. “After a while, I stretched out my arm along the back of the chair and let my hand drop over the edge. Something stabbed me, and I jumped out of that chair like lightning. I turned, and there was the Dragon staring at me, fangs wide open. It had gotten me with one of her horns. It still hurts, but I don’t think it will affect my armwrestling talents, such as they are.”

          Jimmy then waggled a finger and pointed to a small flattened clod of dirt on the floor. “That’s evidence,” he said. ”I can get prints off of that. I’ll find out who these conspirators are. Just think of the damage that could have been caused if I had gone right to bed…certain body parts could have been injured.”

          If the Dragon Lady is anything like Doll was, she will soon be appearing all around the campground, most likely a kidnapping victim. I’ll keep you posted.

  Jimmy Gets Bit In The Arse By The Dragon Lady


          Dan & Shelley Niemann (aka Cap’t Dan and ‘Flounder’ Shelley) and Bob & Karin Buntic went out to have a relaxing afternoon at Anchor Inn several Sundays ago. They feasted on some tasty sandwiches, and, according to Shelley, Karin kept telling Bob to wipe the BBQ sauce off his chin. After repeated

lectures, Bob deliberately left a smear there to aggravate his wife, and it may have been this taunt that led to Dan & Shelley’s trickery. “He probably deserves it,” said Shelley, “but it doesn’t matter. We did it anyway.”

          Back at Blackhawk Campground, the foursome had a few more beverages at the bar. Bartender Joe Augello was a tad startled when Bob suddenly asked for a Wild Berry wine cooler. “It’s not my job to question the customers,” said a perplexed Joe. “It’s just that he’s always been a beer guy.”

          And thus the harassment began. As Shelley put it: “I merely stated that I thought Bob was trying to get in touch with his ‘feminine’ side. There were a few more remarks, and I think he got ticked off. So we decided to push it further.”

          Dan & Shelley spent this past weekend working on some new shrubbery for Bob’s front yard at the campground. A carefully selected ‘tree’ was planted Sunday, branches festooned with Wild Cherry bottles. All weekend long Rich Drada, the Famous Dancing Bartender (note: semi-retired from dancing behind the bar) saved empty Wild Cherry bottles for the ornaments. A special plaque designates it as ‘Bob’s Cross-Dressing Dingle Berry Tree’, along with suitable remarks that I think I will get edited for, so come and see it for yourself. But hurry—I don’t think it will stay ‘planted’ for long.

And Rich Drada will be tending bar Friday night when Bob stops in for a cold one. Rich promises he will ask Bob: “The ‘usual’?” and then serve him a fruity Wild Berry cooler.

          That’s it for now. Keep sniffing out those All-True camping stories! And be on the lookout for The Dragon Lady. She might start looking good after a few beers, and then you’ll have to armwrestle Jimmy. Odds are you’ll win, and you’ll be sorry in the morning…if you get my point.


The Dingle Berry Tree In Full Bloom





Scoop Of The Month:  THE BUTLER DID his shorts! plus the sad tale of The Little Yellow Dog; The Ultimate Honey Wagon (with exclusive 'close-up' photos!), and of course...more!


Meet 'Stinky' in this column!

SPRING SHENANIGANS I didn’t think it would start this early. Yes, we’ve all been cooped up during the winter, but it usually takes a while for full-fledged shenanigans to abound. Thankfully, we have Tim Briggs to get us, or at least the ladies, to snap to attention.

The ladies were playing cards in Ken and Mary Atella’s Park Model while the guys sat in the room addition and did what guys normally do. Yes, Cheetos up the nose may have happened, and of course beverages, but things were relatively tame…until the ‘bet’ came up.

Each guy forked over $5, and Tim went into action. As co-conspirator Butch Perry put it: "We thought it would be a gentlemanly gesture to have Tim serve the ladies some drinks, sort of a distinguished thing. Let’s face it, our wives deserve it."

A noble thought there, Butch, but the actual plan was a bit different. As mentioned, each of the men pitched in $5. "That was $30," said Butch. "That and the beers and the shots turned the tide."

Tim casually took a tray and some beverages and then went into the bathroom in the RV. At one point Tim’s wife Diane became concerned. "He was taking a long time, and I was worried because I noticed he took a lot of drinks in there with him…for what, I couldn’t figure out."

When Diane knocked at the bathroom door, Tim opened it a bit and held a finger to his lips to quiet her. What Diane saw shocked her.

"He was in his underwear! What was he thinking? Had he gone mad?"

No, Tim was merely following through on his bet. After another short delay, Tim entered the room of women bearing a tray of beverages held aloft, clad only in his underwear. He elegantly served each of the shocked ladies as they sat stunned. Tim also earned $2 in tips when Toots and Shirley, known pranksters, each stuffed a dollar in his shorts as they were served. "I’ve seen better," said Toots, "but you take it when you can."

Alas, Tim was saddened to hear how the ladies talked about him afterwards. Although he is nimble and in fairly good shape, the women mainly complimented Diane on how clean she got Tim’s shorts in the laundry.

"They’re talking about detergents and fabric softeners right in front of me," said a begrudged Tim. "Talk about a ‘shrinkage factor’…"


The Sad Tale Of The Little Yellow Dog

All Paul Shallow tried to do was a good deed. Now it looks like some headaches are in store.

It was a short time ago that Paul was preparing to head home from his seasonal site on a Tuesday night. When he went outside, he spotted a stray dog. "It was a pretty yellow lab, just a little guy, and it looked lost," said Paul. "Some neighbors came up and said they had seen it wandering throughout the campground all day. So I changed my plans, figuring I’d stay over and take it to the Humane Society the next morning. I notified the campground office that I had found this little lost dog, and would keep it overnight, in case the owner called. I gave it food and water (Paul’s girlfriend has a dog, so he had some doggie vittles, and the campground store donated more), and then I decided to take my new pal for a golf cart ride."

Yes, of course, we know this is where the semi-tragedy begins. Paul stopped to visit some friends who were grilling out. Joe Augello, a noted Italian chef in some circles, such as the circular area where he camps, but also at tailgate parties, inquired as to Paul’s dinner plans. Since Paul had no food left, per his original intention to leave that night, Joe graciously invited him to dinner with everyone else, and only charged poor starving Paul $19.95 for all he could eat, plus another $5 for a ‘doggie bag’.

Wait—that’s not true. I can’t start out the summer like this. I hereby take a vow of un-embellishment. So anyway, Joe gave Paul a 10% discount.

OK, we really know Joe invited Paul to dine for free. Meanwhile, Paul made a temporary leash out of a 15’ piece of rope tied to the golf cart and let the little yellow doggie roam. It frolicked about and then settled down on the floorboard of the golf cart, resting.

It was at this point that Leroy Waliczek, aka ‘the Chief’, moseyed up in his brand new van. (Yes, very brand new!). Leroy parked about ten feet behind Paul’s golf cart and commenced to join the grill-party.

Paul admits he left the cart in ‘Reverse’. "I backed up and then forgot. I was on Joe’s deck, eating. All I can figure is my new pal rolled over during his nap and rested against the gas pedal and also disengaged the brake. The cart just took off like a rocket, headed for you-know-where."

It was not a direct hit, but damage was indeed inflicted on Leroy’s new van, mainly to the driver’s-side front plastic valance, that thing up front that you always scrape on those pesky cement things at the gas station and other stores, the slabs designed to stop you from actually crashing through the store window. No wonder car parts are so expensive—they are in cahoots with the cement industry!

Leroy and Paul are satisfied that things will be worked out. That’s not a problem. "I contacted my insurance agent," said Paul, "because I want to do the right thing, and I’ll pay for the damage no matter what. But when I call the claims department and tell them a runaway dog was driving, what will they say? Are they going to laugh at me? And why didn’t I have this videotaped and get some money from a TV show for all of this? I could have been a contender!"

On a final note, there was no apparent damage to Paul’s golf cart. "Made in the USA," said Paul. And ‘Crash’ the lost dog was ultimately delivered to the Humane Society, after Paul generously paid to have it kenneled for two nights at a Janesville vet clinic. However, as of this writing, no one yet has claimed Crash, and that’s a shame. "He’d make a great pet," says Paul.

But he won’t be driving anytime soon, that’s for sure. His license has been impounded. (Feeble dog joke—Scoop).

UPDATE: Paul mentioned today that there was another victim. "Don’t tell anyone," said Paul, "but Dean Vehrs (Paul’s neighbor) is a little concerned. See, he was somewhere between the cart and Leroy’s van, and Crash knocked him over during his drive. He (Dean) landed on his side, and seems OK, just a little stiff." (Note: Crash remained seated, his paws on the steering wheel, according to witnesses). What he (yes, Dean) is worried about is that he’s managed to avoid being mentioned in any Scoop article so far. He didn’t get caught doing anything wrong this time, but this mere mention of his name may break the proverbial ice."

Thank you, Paul. Expect to read more about Dean soon…especially since I hereby place a bounty of one can of beer on Dean’s head for a good, embarrassing story.



Marv Powell, the main master maintenance man at Blackhawk Campgrounds, can’t sit idle. So during a brief hiatus this past winter he grinned slyly and went to work in a heated shop, giving the thing we fear the most a special paint job.

Yes, this would be the dreaded Honey-Wagon. Go ahead, make fun when the stinky thing comes rolling along, but I’ve done it, we’ve all done it, and Marv’s done it a lot. Yes, it doesn’t help when you’re trying to eat your breakfast after a long night at the campfire when the Wagon stops next to you, but it’s a job that has to be done, especially if you keep cooking those campfire beans for dinner.

Marv is constantly being complimented on his artwork, which includes a skunk tail mounted directly over the rear poop chute, and a custom black paint job with white stripes. And many children love to run over and pet ‘Stinky’, the mascot perched on the Honey Wagon.

OK, I’m lying again. "They never come within 20 feet," says Marv, "and most of them run the other way."

Regardless, we compliment Marv Powell on a job well done!

The Ultimate Honey Wagon



Gator is a down-South good ol’ boy who has wandered up North here. He gets his name from the stories he tells about catching alligators in the swamps. "They’re mighty tasty," he says, and that’s probably the reason he doesn’t want his real name revealed.

You may have read Gator’s famous and unique camping recipes on the web site, but for you slackers, here’s his latest:


"First," says Gator, "you got to catch the snake. You can lasso it with your own homemade snake-catcher. You've seen this on them animal shows, but why spend good money? Get a 5' length of PVC pipe and thread both ends of a rope through it, leaving the loop out at the far end. Just tug the two loose pieces when the rattlesnake sticks his head through the noose. If you're chicken, use a longer piece of PVC." I asked Gator if that's what he does. He laughed. "Naw, we just use a rake or something like that. That's what a real man would do."

The Recipe:

Catch the snake.

Cut the head off, skin the snake down the belly side, gut it, and wash the meat.

Cut into 3" pieces, coat in batter of beer, egg, flour, and Cajun seasoning.

Add hot sauce to individual taste.

Cook 2 minutes on each side in a cast-iron skillet or a Fry-Daddy with the oil or grease at 375 degrees. "DO NOT OVERCOOK!" warns Gator. "It’ll keep cooking itself after you take it out of the oil, just like fish or liver or alligator. You ever eat a piece of liver that’s really tough, like rubber? That’s because they overcooked it. They think it’s still rare, and it winds up tasting like leather."

Thanks again for another fine recipe, Gator. Can’t wait to try it…after somebody else catches the rattlesnake. This brings up a good point: can you substitute a different kind of snake, like a harmless little greenie? And would it take less frying time, since the meat would be the size of pencil stubs? I will investigate.

STUFF MY LAWYER TOLD ME TO PUT HERE: I am not responsible for any sickness or venom-poisoning or anything due to anyone using or attempting to use the above recipe. Remember, you were told to use a longer piece of pipe! Also, no animals were harmed in the writing of this recipe. Thank you.

Now I must say Goodbye and go grill out. I’m cooking whatever shows up in the live-trap in the next hour, and I’m serving it in my underwear. No, not wrapped in my underwear like a fish-in-foil recipe…it’s just that I’ll be wearing


Just in case, I’ll also be wearing pants and a shirt, and have some steaks set aside. Because last time I did this everyone got sick and left. And that’s before I even served the food…

See more Scoop at Email me your own true tales: And watch out, Dean…a can of beer goes a long way these days!


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Scoop of the Month


The Power of Scoop!

Yes, all of us like to think we can make a difference in the world, or perhaps leave a lasting impression. Presidents build libraries, wealthy individuals add medical or college wings, ordinary people dedicate their lives to helping others or saving the environment.


This is where I come in. No, I did not save a life, or even a tree. But I did inadvertently cause someone to find a true joy that had been missing from her life for many years.


Yes, we are indeed talking about…cheese curds!


See, a while back Scoop Jr. moved to California. For Christmas that year, all he wanted were Wisconsin cheese curds. It was a frightful journey by car, as Mrs. Scoop would not fly, due in part to 9/11. You can read all about this tour-de-hell at “How I Spent My Winter Vacation.” But that was a few years ago, and Scoop Jr. had since moved to Chicago, and just recently back to CA. So it was an old article on my website.


Then came this email, just the other day…


From: "Inga King"

To: <>

Subject: cheese curds

Date: Monday, October 11, 2004 3:49 PM


Hi Scoop,

I really enjoyed reading your cheese curd adventure story.

I found it while I was surfing the web looking for cheese curds.

We lived in Blaine, Minnesota for 9 years and we love deep fried cheese curds.  We used to get them every year at the Minnesota state fair.  We could also purchase the raw curds at a local dairy and I have a recipe for making them at home.  We have been back in San Diego County since '97 and we have never been able to find them here, except once at the Del Mar fair.  Yummy!

Good luck with any new adventures!

Thanks for the story.


Inga King

El Cajon, California


Well, I was indeed amazed. So I mailed back and told Inga I might just be bringing curds to Scoop Jr. this coming Christmas, and maybe I could drop off a box, and lo and behold, I got this next email:


From: "Inga King”

Subject: RE: cheese curds

Date: Friday, October 15, 2004 3:25 PM


Dear Scoop,

I wasn't able to locate a curd producer in San Diego.  I called the California milk producers board and they gave me the name and number of a cheese maker in CA.  I spoke with him and he is going to ship 10 pounds of the cheddar cheese curds to me next day air!  If Scoop Jr. is interested, he can call too:  Bravo Cheese, Mr. Bill Boersma. Good eats!


So you see, joy has sprung. I’m somebody now! And as soon as Inga sends me a picture of her with those darn curds, and that secret recipe, I will be complete. I have done something useful!


But just a minute here…isn’t California destined soon to overtake Wisconsin in cows or milk or something? That was a big thing in WI newspapers recently—oh, the shame! Not that I care, since I’m still a Bears fan…but so what is the problem with getting curds in San Diego? Inferior cows? Lack of curd-makers? Technology kept in secret vaults in Wisconsin?


I don’t know, and personally, I’m hungry. So I’m going to order a pizza. With a side of curds.


Pt. 2 of The Power of Scoop...

A Brief Tirade: OK, I live in Wisconsin, but I grew up in Chicago. I'm used to a certain style of taste. They say the meat in the Windy City is from a better source than Wisconsin. Maybe so; I eat at some darn-fine joints out here. But they do go nuts on cheese out here. A while back, an Uno's Pizzaria opened up in Janesville WI. Janesville is a big city, not too far from the IL border, and Mrs. Scoop and I were excited. Uno's in Chicago is excellent...

     So we order our favorite pizza, and we are eager. We bite in, and it is exactly like every other Wisconsin pizza we had eaten. I ask the manager if this is supposed to be like the Uno's in Chicago. He leans over the bar and says with a wink: "We bought the rights as a chain, but I know what you Wisconsin people like...lots of cheese, right?"

     We never went back, and it closed six months later.

     Now, we still manage to eat well, yes indeed. My favorite steak joint is Luke's, and it is excellent. During the summer friendly campers bring us Portillo's beef and Ricobenni steak sandwiches. White Castles abound. We are happy, but then comes winter, and we make our our annual 'fast-food' jaunt: beef sandwiches, pizza, Sliders, and while it lasted, Maxwell Street. There was nothing better for a hangover than a Maxwell Street pork-chop sandwich hot off the open-air grill, nice and greasy and smothered with fried onions.

     Sorry if I offend you cheeseheads by stating the facts.

     And there has been some added controversy lately. TV stations here in Wisconsin are showing California ads for milk and cheese. Citizens are in an uproar. One local station fielded email on-air by letting viewers know that this was 'network' ad, not local.

     Personally, let the best cow win. Me, I need to eat something. Have some curds...     

Inga King's Deep Fried Cheddar Cheese Curds

A Minnesota State Fair Favorite!

For batter:

            1 cup + 1 tbsp all purpose flour

            ½ tsp salt

            1 slightly beaten egg

            1 cup milk

            2 tbsp salad oil

Beat together until dry ingredients are well moistened.


Additional ingredients:

            1 pound raw/new cheddar cheese curds

            Peanut oil for frying


Coat cheese curds with batter. Using a slotted spoon, lower a few at a time into a deep pan of peanut oil heated to 375 degrees until lightly golden. Do not over-fry them, or the cheese will ooze out. Remove with slotted spoon and place on paper towels to dry.


Thank you, Inga! As soon as I get the OK from Bill Boersma at Bravo Farms, I'll publish his address and we can all get curds!

UPDATE!!! Got the info...see right below.

Above: Inga King making deep-fried cheese curds


----- Original Message -----Hello Scoop,

        Absolutely, you have my permission to use our phone number. Not being sure which number you have, I would prefer you use 559-734-1282.

That's our barn number and it helps me sleep better at night. We have had a web site in the past, and hope to put it back up in the near future. But, for now the best way to reach us is by phone or E:mail. ( ).

        Inga King got me to visit your site. It's great! 

We have a lot of fun with the folks from Wisconsin . But for some reason they feel as though we are out to replace them. Some of the largest cheese plants in California originated in the Midwest. Personally I'm a member of Land of  Lakes and love the butter.


    Well the big news for us is the fact that very soon our cheese curd will be sold in 20 to 30 stores in the Northern California area. Nineteen Whole Foods Markets and a couple of smaller chain stores. We think its exciting because not many Californians are familiar with curd. Its about time they learn about this Midwestern delicacy.

Thank you for your help Scoop, it is appreciated.


Thank you Bill! Anyone going to CA, detour for cheese from Bravo Farms. And if you're not traveling, ask Bill about shipping it to you!

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Scoop's e-Books

99 cents @--cheap! But if you're really broke, e-mail me and maybe I'll send you a freebie if you promise to write a review at


25 years of camping craziness--A Survival Guide! Strange-but-true escapades by campers just like you! Exploding Toilets, Animal Hazards, Mudwrestling with Angry Nuns, Food & Drink Disasters, and other common camping mishaps! All here in a handy guide so you don't goof up like they did! (And I thank you for doing so, my friends!)

Plus great (real!) food & drink recipes, including Deep-fried Cajun Turkey and BBQ Armadillo, and for you true nature-lovers--FYI: Spider-eating Tips!

Read this book or be in the next one!

ONLY 99 CENTS! : Adventures In Camping with Scoop Jackson


EVIL CAMP by Scoop Jackson

A horror tale for mid-grade/YA readers!

Perfect for scaring your kids at the campfire, or for Halloween! Approx. 17,400 words; download the entire e-book for only $.99. Parents, you can easily chop this book into three nights of terror--each section has its own creepy campfire story: 'The Hand', 'The Boy Who Had No Bones', and 'The Vampire At The Campfire'. And go to my 'Scary Stories' link on the home page to get a helpful 'tip' when reading 'The Hand' and a creepy 'Hand' drawing by cover artist Frikinzero. ONLY 99 CENTS! : EVIL CAMP


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Scoop says: READ THESE BOOKS! There are some books that are just perfect for reading while you're camping, whether it's at a late-night fire or snuggled-up inside on a rainy day. Besides my own 'EVIL CAMP' and 'Adventures In Camping' (see Home page), I definitely recommend the following:

DRACULAS by Blake Crouch, Jack Kilborn, Jeff Strand, and F. Paul Wilson, all scary-story guys on their own and now in evil unison! This most-excellent horror/thriller novel is available 10/19/10 for your Kindle at for only $2.99. Go here: ).

After reading just the first 50 pages in a preview, I was already creeped-out. No vampire 'sparkles' for love-struck teens--just terror! (Keep reading for my full review). Meanwhile, check more from these authors at (Kilborn),,, and (Wilson). PS: No Kindle? Download Kindle for your PC free at Enjoy, and be scared!

  UPDATE: (Disclaimer: I got a free advance copy of the entire book in return for reviewing it, so there you go FTC or whomever). OK, just got done reading everything, and I give this monster-baby five stars. There's a quick set-up and then BAM!--it never stops! The characters are alive (well, at least in depth, if not all of them in longevity), and you like the good guys/gals and want them to survive in this isolated hospital but these darn draculas keep on chewing up everything in their paths in search of blood. Add a new mother in need of a blood transfusion and you want to check out of this hospital but you have to stay to keep turning the pages.

     I said I read "everything" because there is a ton of bonus stuff, including short stories from each of the authors, deleted scenes and alternate scenarios, and their e-mail volleys as they fought a deadline to make the book work. Note: If you enjoy books (which you must since you are reading this) or are a budding author, you'll enjoy reading about what happens when four horror/thriller authors decide to collaborate.

     As for the "monster-baby" remark above, the authors have created one. This story will feed and grow. Also, I'd like to mention that I never did like clowns, and now I really don't.

COMING SOON: More scary suggestions, so check back soon!

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Scoop Rambles On...

Strictly Personal...

             I don’t like personal web sites that people create solely for the purpose of telling what they did at Uncle Nick’s birthday party, or why they love seashells. Or, especially: Hey, look at me! That’s why the ‘Scoop’ picture on my home page is purposely small and vague. But that is a tuxedo I’m wearing…

            Anyway, I had no new ‘Scoop’ tales to tell at the moment, but I was in the mood to type. I was reminiscing, sort of daydreaming, and wanted to write this stuff down, plus I had a story or two I wrote for myself. They were personal fond memories. So I decided to publish it here. You won’t find any laughs or giggles, so feel free to leave at any time. I just felt like talking…

So far:

Daniel P. Mannix III (right below!)   Leo Edwards    MEET THE BEATLES!


Daniel P. Mannix III

            I always liked to read. I had books, but never enough. By age 10 I was constantly riding my bike to Walgreen’s, a long jaunt. It had rows of paperbacks, and I always had enough money to buy one…just one. Later, at the ripe age of 12, I would take the Archer Avenue bus in Chicago down to the Loop, and walk the rest of the way to the hidden bookstores that had old MAD and pulp fiction magazines. But it was at a return trip to Walgreen’s that I found the most fascinating book I have ever read.   

            The title was: ‘Memoirs Of A Sword-Swallower’, by Dan Mannix. It had a cover like a circus poster, with a color drawing of a guy swallowing a sword, banners streaming behind him. I went home and read it in one night, and read it again 20 times. Dan Mannix told of joining a carnival passing through, and learning how to swallow swords and eat fire. There was also the Fat Lady, The Human Ostrich (who could eat and swallow anything, including live rats), a mentalist, and the ‘Hindu’ fakir who could pound nails into his eyeballs. Yes, this was good stuff.

            Alas, I lost the book in a move. But I would always talk about it to Mrs. Scoop, telling her how great it was. At one point, she told me there was no way these carnival tales were true, and no way could a man swallow a sword. So I was on a mission that would take years…

            I searched used-bookstores, visited yard sales and wrote letters to dealers. No luck. The book I remembered had vanished off the face of the earth.

            Then, about 15 years ago, Mrs. Scoop, always thinking of me, came home with a paperback entitled ‘The Wolves Of Paris’, by Daniel P. Mannix III. “It’s all I could find,” she said. And that’s just one of a million reasons why I love her.

            It wasn’t the book I was searching for, but now I had a publisher. I wrote a letter to Daniel P. Mannix III, c/o the publisher, telling him how much I enjoyed his ‘Sword-Swallower’ book, and that I could not find it. I also told him that my wife did not believe that such things he told about were possible.

             A year went by. At this time, we were all doing whatever had to be done to keep people happy at the campground I worked at. This particular day had been especially nasty…hot and muggy, dumping trailers with mosquitoes having a feast as you lay prone more worried about getting a face-full of somebody-else’s shit. I came home for lunch feeling about as crapped-out as a man can feel.

            I checked the mailbox by instinct. There was a package in there, along with the usual bills. I thought nothing of it—I had been sending manuscripts out all along and getting rejected just as often. I sat down to a sandwich and opened the mail.

            It was a first edition hardcover book with the jacket (cover) in great shape. The title was ‘Step Right Up!’ and it showed a cartoonish carnival barker with various performers just behind him. It was written by Dan Mannix. I started to get excited. It got better…

            The book was nicely wrapped, and the mailing envelope had the return address of Daniel P. Mannix. I was happy enough with the book, but when I opened the front cover I found a treasure.

            Dan has had a revival on the Internet lately. I’m going to purchase the paperback copy of the book, which in the new edition has photos, one of which I’m sure is him eating fire. But I have the original sword photo, because he pasted it to the inside front cover, along with a photo of the ‘bally’, with all the performers on stage anxious to get that last crowd.

            He also wrote a personal note, which makes this book even more precious: (below a photo of Mr. Mannix swallowing a sword) "Dan Mannix swallowing a sword. This is the first edition of the book. It was later republished as 'Memoirs of a Sword Swallower'. It has recently been broadcasted over BBC in England and a musical is being made of it in London.’

            The other photo, the bally platform, shows just about every performer I had read about. No Fat Lady, no Human Ostrich, but the main gang was all there. Dan listed each one, and then wrote a note to my wife and I:  “…who liked my books, so I like them!”

            And he signed directly below.

            Daniel Mannix III died in 1997. I found that out on the ‘Net the other day. I had also ordered another book directly from him, ‘FREAKS: Those Who Are Not As Us.’ I sent a check, and I got the book and another personal message: “From one freak to another.”

            I consider it an honor.

            Thank you, Mr. Mannix. I’ll bet right about now you’re ready to give a show. The crowd is anxious, popcorn is being served, Cap’t Billy and Paul are waiting. Jolly Daisy is in her tent, and it’s no more ‘grits and fatbacks’ for you.

            This show is going to be heavenly. And eating fire is going to go over really well up there.



LEO EDWARDS (Edward Edson Lee)

            Even before I had a bicycle, I had books. My uncle gave me some, and when he asked about them years later, I told him I lost them. So I lied.

            The books for kids by Leo Edwards got me going. The first one I read was ‘Jerry Todd and the Whispering Mummy.’ I checked on the official site, and it was published in 1924. I probably read it in 1960.

            For me, this was the key. Leo Edwards opened the door to reading. Yes, there was Tom Swift and The Hardy Boys, but these books were different. Jerry Todd and his buddies got into trouble, schemed to make pocket money, and had scary adventures. They even got chased by a ‘bad’ gang of kids, from Zulutown. But Jerry and his bunch always got even with the Strickers

            (I just thought of something. It never entered my mind back then that ‘Zulutown’ might have a bad connotation. The Strickers were white kids).

            Jerry Todd’s friends were Scoop Ellery, Peg Shaw, and Red Meyers. Yes, I am ‘Scoop’ Jackson because I liked the character; the ‘Jackson’ part just happened.

            What made the books so interesting to me was that there would be an Introduction, in which Jerry told about the book I was about to read, and also the next book, coming soon, which I already had, since it was 35 years later. Regardless, Jerry Todd seemed to be talking directly to me. In later books, Leo Edwards would do the talking at the end of the book. He described how he read the next manuscript to the kids that would always come to his cabin at Lake Ripley, and what they had to say about it. This was good publicity on his part, but I thought it was great that an author would read his stories to any kid who happened by. I wanted to be there, but Cambridge WI was a foreign place to me.

            Years went by and I was 27 and moving to Wisconsin to be part of a campground. I still had the stolen Jerry Todd books. Just for kicks, I started checking out used-book stores, and found more Jerry Todds, which I promptly bought and read. Soon I had the entire collection. It was while Mrs. Scoop and I were motoring down the local highway that I saw the sign for Cambridge, and Lake Ripley.

            OK, call me stupid. I didn’t know Lake Ripley was so close, and I forgot all texture of time. Returning home, I immediately mailed off a letter to Leo Edwards, c/o the Cambridge Post Office.

            The letter came back two weeks later, marked ‘undeliverable’. I called the Post Office. The lady that answered was very sweet, but a bit amused.

            “We’ve been talking about that letter,” she said. “You see, Mr. Lee died in 1944.”

            Well, duh. I found out later Leo Edwards was born in 1897, but I didn’t know then, and part of me hoped I’d find a little old man setting on the front steps, eager to tell a story.

            But I did go to Cambridge and met one of the kids who used to listen to Leo tell his tales. He came out, book in hand, a little old man with a big grin. And we had a good talk.

            It was almost like setting on the cottage porch at Lake Ripley.

     More to come as I muse...      




 Just a nostalgic tale. Thanks, Uncle Jim. 




‘Originally, the Beatles’ Electra II had been scheduled to land at O’Hare International Airport, but at the last minute, officials had switched the landing to Midway Airport, and then decided the location should be kept secret. Local PR man Alan Edelson, however, called the newspapers and radio stations…

            The Beatles’ plane touched down and taxied to a halt at the Butler Aviation terminal amidst screams of joy…’

                        --from “BEATLES ’64…A Hard Day’s Night In America”, c 1989 by Curt Gunther and A.J.S. Rayl.  Permission granted.


            It was a mission cloaked in darkness, though it was four in the afternoon on a sunny day in September. It was dark for me because I was hiding under a thick tarp in the back of a Butler Aviation van.

            Butler Aviation handled the fueling for many of the major airlines at Midway. Uncle Jim worked the evening desk, but he was usually there early, reading the paper and drinking free Pepsi.  He rented a room in our family’s duplex one block away, and it wasn’t unusual for him to call me at any hour and take me in the Butler van to greet the baseball teams. Back then both the Sox and Cubs used Midway, as did visiting teams. I used to get a lot of good autographs.

            But this was the first time Uncle Jim had made me hide under a tarp in the back of the van. “Don’t take any deep breaths,” he warned me. “They use that tarp to cover caskets when they fly the stiffs to out-of-state funerals. It’s the only thing I could find right now.”

            Dead people and me didn’t mix too well at age 11, and I tried to keep the tarp from touching any unprotected skin, which was impossible while wrapped like a mummy. Actually, I would have told Uncle Jim to call the whole thing off…I had plenty of autographs, and other things to do today…

Except I sort of owed him. I didn’t figure it out until later, but those were hang-over Pepsi bottles he drank on his day off, and after a rough night I usually had at least 12 empties to return the next day, which at the corner drugstore was the exact price of two comic books. Besides, he always called me ‘Rodney’, after the buffoon in the ‘Wizard of Id’ comic strip, and threatened to use it in public if I ever got him grouchy. I didn’t want to lose the Pepsi money, and things were embarrassing enough without your friends calling you Rodney--if that wasn’t your real name, I mean.

A security guard stopped us at the gate on 55th Street. The cyclone fence surrounded all of Midway Airport, which was a mile on each side. I heard the guard tell Uncle Jim “things were beefing up”, and then we were inside.

The van stopped again after a short drive, the tarp was lifted, and a smug Uncle Jim pointed me in the direction of a portable stairway being wheeled near the runway. A plane was taxiing towards us. Off in the distance, shimmering through the heat and the exhaust, the chain-link fence became a solid mass of bodies. That was Cicero Avenue, the main street to Midway, and that’s where everybody was right now. I couldn’t make out an individual face, only arms and open mouths, and I couldn’t hear a thing except screeching tires and engines revving in reverse.

A limousine glided up behind me. More limos and other cars arrived. Police officers and security guards took positions. I got some strange glances but the Butler van was right there, Uncle Jim smiling. The plane stopped as close to a stairway as you can without running it over, adjustments were quickly made, and the door swung open.

It was a stewardess, but that was enough. The engines were down to a whine, and the screaming from Cicero Avenue drowned out any remaining doubts. These were frenzied fans. And that’s when they came out…

I gawked, little spiral notebook and pen in hand, as the Beatles descended. In my heart I was a Rolling Stones fan, but these autographs would propel me out of the nerd-circle and into the hearts of every girl in my class.

The notepad and pen were timidly offered and went unnoticed. The Beatles were waving to the far-away crowd, moving quickly down the steps and to the limos. It was Ringo, the last in line, who saw me at the bottom and stopped. “Here,” I think he said, and took the pad and pen and started to write. Then the tidal wave of screaming, crying girls came clambering over the fence.

             A guard grasped Ringo by the upper arm. Ringo tossed the pad and pen back to me as best he could while being half-carried to the limo. There was an amused yet apologetic expression on his face. Doors slammed shut and the long dark cars shot away, well in front of the onrushing mob. I looked down at the notepad. There was one single capital letter there, an illegible scrawl.

The teenagers reached the plane and kept screaming. No one paid attention to me—everyone was staring at an image of limos passing through the gates long minutes ago. Surprisingly, the plane was unguarded. I went up the stairs and roamed the interior. I checked every seat, and there wasn’t a single shred of Beatle evidence anywhere—the plane was immaculate. Needing something, I took four random barf-bags.

It was a poor move on my part. The next day, I proudly showed my scrawl and barf-bags to the first cluster of girls from school I saw, and my claim to fame and popularity was instantly shot to pieces. I was ridiculed, I was an attention-grabbing liar. I kept the notepad for a year or so, but gave up after that first day trying to make a believer of anyone. I never mentioned it again, not even years later to my wife.


Uncle Jim moved out of the duplex, got married, widowed, and retired. He moved to Wisconsin and fought his diabetes with daily beers at his favorite bar. Twenty years later I too moved to Wisconsin, and the wife and I joined him for a couple one afternoon. For some reason, my wife and I began talking about concerts we had seen in our younger years, before we had met. It turned into a fierce contest, each of us flinging names about.

“Yeah, well, I saw Tony Bennett,” said the wife, topping me. By now, we were ‘mature’ enough to appreciate legends. I couldn’t beat it.

Uncle Jim took a sip of his Schlitz. “You know,” he said, smiling, “Rodney here met the Beatles once. Shook their hands, got their autographs. Let me tell you about it…”

Uncle Jim didn’t live much longer, and sure, I told my wife the true story. But facts are facts, and the story is still good. Best of all, I got to impress the most important girl in my life.

So thanks, Uncle Jim, from your pal Rodney. 



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Scoop's Spring Safety Tips 2007



            It’s inevitable. You get the urge. A little spike in the weather, and you can’t wait to camp again! But you need to prepare, just as an athlete stretches out before running, or Brittney sheds her underwear before embarking from limos. For now, it’s too late, especially for the people you’ll read about below, but think ahead and clip this article and save it for next Spring. It could save your life, your eyeball, or even whiten your teeth.

 New Teeth-Whitening Secret Revealed!

            The notorious Karin ‘B.’, an infamous member of the Female Fart Detective Team (see the Scoop website), was on a mission to clean her entire RV and site in one day on opening weekend. For some reason, husband Bob was snoozing. Knowing Bob, I will assume this was because he had a rough day on the golf course. This meant the dirty work was left for Karin alone.

            Doing all that cleaning is thirsty work indeed. Realizing she needed fortification before tackling the outside chores, Karin made a Rum & Coke. Karin is especially afraid of spiders, as she thinks they will spin down into her nose when she falls asleep, so the outside chores took longer than usual. Those nasty spiders had practically taken over the underside of her deck roof, and this dusty task required even more courage.

            At some point, Karin also noticed that her metal deck table had a rust stain where the umbrella pole goes. Savvy cleaner that she is, she decided some bleach would get rid of that ugly stain. This is where Karin got a bit confused.

            The handiest container for holding just the right amount of bleach happened to be a glass identical to the one holding her Rum & Coke, and somewhere along the cleaning process, things got switched around…

            “Yes, I did take a big gulp of the bleach, thinking it was my Rum,” admits Karin, “but I didn’t swallow, thank goodness!”       

             No real harm befell Karin, but there were some lingering after-effects. “I didn’t get much sleep for the next couple of nights,” said a tired Bob. “It was Karin’s fear of spiders combined with the bleach-drinking that caused it. Thinking she hadn’t gotten all of the attacking arachnids, she decided to sleep with a clothespin clamped on her nose. That meant she kept breathing through her mouth, and every time she opened it while I was sleeping, it was like an intense searchlight going off. The whole room lit up, and I guess the surrounding area also. Neighbors were complaining it was ruining their ‘frisky’ time. And anyone stopping by started wearing sunglasses, day or night.

            “Thank Goodness this ordeal is over,” Bob added. “And I want all of you to know that Karin now has a specially-marked ‘bleach glass’ she can use when cleaning. I personally am going to do my part by golfing two days in a row so she can spread the workload out safely.” 

 Poor Training Leads To Multiple Skin Rashes!

            Here we have another instance of opening-weekend lack of training. You just can’t get back up to your usual standards all at once…you need to prepare. Just ask ‘Trooper’.

            “I should have been slowly increasing my beer intake weeks before we opened up the camper,” said a chagrined Trooper. “So I admit I was out of shape.”

            Trooper was spotted Friday night standing in front of the Mens’ Room door in the campground bar for almost an hour, according to usually-reliable sources. “He wasn’t in the way,” said one, “but I think he wasn’t sure if he was coming or going.”

            When interviewed again, Trooper had this to say: “This is sheer, slanderous, poppycock. I only stood there for ten minutes, and for a good reason: I was contemplating whether I had room for one more beer or not. My only regret is that I didn’t do my pondering at the bar. Thank you, Scoop, for having the decency to hear my side.”

            You’re welcome, Trooper. However, one of my sources was your own wife, so by my own Code of Ethics, I am bound to carry on with the original version…

            Trooper was eventually snapped out of his trance by a friend. “I opened the bathroom door and got him headed in the right direction,” said the Good Samaritan.

            But that was only the beginning. Trooper partied on until bar time, and the next morning his hands were shaking so badly he couldn’t shave. “He actually didn’t shave until Monday,” said his wife. “And Saturday night we were back at the bar. If you know Trooper, you know he’s a very friendly guy. He was innocently trying to kiss all of our female friends, but his beard stubble gave all of them a skin rash. We finally had to put protective Duct Tape along the sides of his face to save everyone from further damage.”

            OK, I lied about the Duct Tape. But female facial scrapes were indeed abundant Sunday morning. Regardless of the true tale, Trooper has vowed to keep in training so that he is up to par when visiting the bar.

 LP Gas Danger Warning!!!

            Most LP accidents occur because campers are so eager to have that first cookout that they don’t take the time to check their grill out properly. Remember the instruction manual and always look for spider webs blocking the gas line, or damage to the LP hose or tank. The following painful event didn’t actually happen at a campground, but it easily might have.

            After my own rough day of golf, I was quenching my thirst at a local saloon, and overheard a guy talking with the bartender about a delicate operation he had performed the night before at the bar. His brother had pressed the igniter button on his gas grill/smoker on a Wednesday evening, and a cut or leak in the LP hose had caused flames to erupt and singe his eyebrows. “The burnt hairs then curled inward under his eyelid,” explained the guy (name withheld by mutual agreement). “So on Friday it was still bothering him. We were here in the saloon, and after a few beers to steady my nerves, I took out my Swiss Army Knife and carefully used my fingers to roll his eyelid up over itself. Using the tweezers on the utility knife, I plucked the burned hairs out. Luckily, most were still dark so they showed against the white of his eye. There were a few that had turned white, like ash, but I got those too.”

            After my initial squeamishness, I inquired as to his background for such delicate surgery. He shrugged. “I used to make a lot of truck deliveries to LensCrafters, and while I was waiting around, I’d keep my eyes open, so to speak. It was just like taking out a contact lens.” I then told him his brother was fortunate to have him do the surgery.

            “Yeah,” he said. “It could have been Trooper holding the tweezers.”

 Get A Map, Gary!

            It’s not unusual to get turned around when staying at a campground for the first time. Maybe you might even get lost the second time. But after four years, Gary Salavitch is still confused. His nickname is Mr. Vodca (just as I spelled it, which may be an important clue here), and friends are seriously considering a fund-raiser to get a GPS for Gary’s golf cart. “That way we can track him down after he’s missing in action,” said a good anonymous friend (Mark Okerstrom). “I mean, when he sets off to take a bag of leaves to the brush pile and is still going in circles an hour later, and we’re trying to flag him down every twenty minutes, it’s time to step in and help the poor guy. Thank God his intelligent wife was with him the last time, and he finally listened to her, or else he would have wound up back in Illinois, cart and all.”

            In an eerie coincidence, I recently received a link-exchange request from a GPS website. It is, and they offer GPS systems for almost every mode of transportation, including RVs and ATVs. Although golf carts aren’t mentioned, there’s no doubt something can be found to help ‘Get Lost’ Gary.

 In Review

            So let’s remember to plan ahead next year: always keep cleaning supplies in a clearly-marked container, start weeks earlier to get up to your normal alcohol-intake level, buy a GPS for your directionally-disadvantaged friends, and check your LP equipment thoroughly. And for safety’s sake, when checking your gas grill, remember the new safety slogan: “Careful Like Karin”. That means wear protective gear.

            Karin suggests a clothespin.

             Send your neighbor’s tales of woe to me at Be a News Hound and rat out your friends! Names can be changed or not revealed; it’s the screw-up that counts! Hey, let’s hear from all the Campgrounds! And see more ‘Scoop’ at

            And thank you all at the printing plant for making my ‘side job’ enjoyable! Steve, thanks for the jokes!