Nicole_Crews_01by Nicole Crews

Mother: So what did you do in Charlotte — go to some gala or society event?

Me: No. I went to the Viking lair. We played with skateboards, weapons, sailboats, vintage car and bikes and hiked down to an enormous beaver dam and ecosystem at the base of the property.

Mother: Nothing you tell me would ever surprise me — nor would I question its validity. And this is in Charlotte proper?

Me: Yep. Country livin’ in the city.

It’s true. Normally when I cross the great divide into the Queen City limits I’m either torqued up on caffeine and gunning it to a meeting or sweating the state of a ball gown in my trunk and hoping it passes muster with the Real Housewives of Mecklenburg County. Usually both.

This go-round was different.

Me, greeting the Viking atop a 36-foot racing boat on scaffolding: Hello! Or should I say, “Ahoy!”

Viking: Come aboard!

Me: I will, but I wanna look around first. Hey is that a chair lift swing from Sugar?

Viking: You nailed it. I had to modify it.

Me: Wow. You have a lot of cool toys. This place is like Adventure Boy heaven and Kelly Slater, Alex Thomson, Shaun White and Tony Hawk are your gods.

Viking: I like it.

Hour one in the land of Man Games and we’ve built a bonfire that could heat a small African village, cranked up the Harley, fired world-class weaponry at a strategic trajectory of steel-plate targets, popped a few bottles and the sun is still shining. Freshly procured from a local cattleman, there’s beef stew simmering on the Viking — the stove not the Norseman — and venison thawing for tomorrow’s meatfest when the doorbell rings.

Neighbor: Hey there. I thought I’d bring y’all some of my homemade muscadine wine.

Me, serving up the stew: I like the way y’all roll up here in north Charlotte.

Viking: You should see his muscle cars.

Neighbor: Bring your glass and come on down after dinner.

The Viking is slaloming downhill on a little skate deck and I’m afoot. There are cold beers in the pockets of our outerwear and pinecones the size of grapefruits atop the blacktopped country road to the neighbor’s house and I’m not taking any chances. The roar of a ’62 Mustang echoes through the wooded lots and the ’72 Impala is just cranking up as we make our approach.

Me: And you are restoring these for your kids?

Neighbor: Yep. Since my youngest son decided to go old school the rest have followed. The Mustang is for my daughter.

Me: When I was in high school a date arrived for me in a cherry-apple red Mustang and my dad wouldn’t let me go out with him.

Neighbor: Your dad was a smart man.

The Viking tells me that next on the after-dinner agenda is a meet-and-greet with another set of neighbors and their dog Carl to be followed by a hike to the beaver dam.

Me, still stunned by the visage of Carl: That was not a dog. That was a mythological creature.

Viking: Yeah, he’s half dachshund, half black Labrador retriever.

Me: That’s a consummation I’m glad I didn’t witness.

Viking: Truer words…

Me: So how far is this beaver pond?

Viking: Well, do you want to follow the creek? It gets gnarly. Or we can take the road and cut through the woods to make it easier.

Me: It’s midnight. Let’s not get gnarly.

Viking, arriving huffing and puffing: Look how enormous this is? And how high the water tables are? Isn’t this amazing? Crouch down here on these rotting logs. They will smell us and come flap their tails at us to scare us off in a few minutes.

Me: Dude. I am wearing $300 jeans. I am not going to plonk down into a pile of rotting logs and mud. The size 11 neoprene knee waders you loaned me will have to do.

Viking: Suit yourself.

Me, an hour later and we’ve been tail-whipped twice by beaver scouts, a shotgun has bayoneted a foot of mud and the fancy pants have been sunk up to the ass: I think I’ve had enough beaver for one night.

Me, the next day watching a Summer’s Eve shower gel commercial with mother and relating my adventure: Speaking of beavers…

Mother: Do young girls still douche?

Me: Not really. You came of age when a douchebag was something you used — not someone who used you.

Mother: But you girls are big into grooming.

Me: Since the ’90s really. But au natural and variations like the full-bush Brazilian or Portlander are in vogue.

Mother: The magazine or in general?

Me: Good question. I wonder if Sports Illustrated will ever cross that hair line or if it’s too arty.

Mother: I thought you were going to say Bush League.

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