Bozemama Rides the Happy Hippo

September 06, 2013

Posted By: Bozemama

Did you know that, despite their cutie-pie faces and huggable bodies, hippos are extremely dangerous creatures that kill more people in Africa than any other animal? Yup. Uh-huh. Don’t let that toothy smile and those wide-set eyes fool you. The fact that hippos are freaking killers is one that we might have considered before my pal Bunnyfufu, our kids and I happily hoped aboard the Happy Hippo ride on a gorgeous, sunny Saturday in Polson, Montana last weekend.

The name alone should have clued us into the treacherous waters ahead, but no, we didn’t think twice about boarding this purple amphibious vehicle painted to look like an oversized bath toy. In truth, as we later learned from Captain Bob, the Happy Hippo is a LARC, not a LARD (as Charlie kept curiously insisting) or a NARC (which would have weird on so many levels) but a LARC, a Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo. These vehicles were originally used in the ‘60s to ferry supplies from ship to shore. Or something like that.

Anyway, I can’t exactly recall the middle part about how this particular LARC came to be owned by this particular person and painted this particular shade of purple because it was hard to hear Captain Bob’s explanation over the sound of the speakers blaring his bizarre and exhilarating mix of circus music, John Denver favorites and Broadway show tunes. I think there was something about Vietnam in the explanation, though, which led Charlie to reiterate his desire to become a Marine. In fact, just as Bob was thrusting the Hippo off the boat launch and hurling us into the water, my son looked at me and said, grinning widely, “This is the kind of stuff Marines get to do all the time.”

I wonder if Marines get to stop in the middle of an exercise, stand up in the LARC and perform the Chicken Dance? Because that , my friends, is what we got to do. In the middle of Flathead Lake. We did. And we got to hoot and holler and wave and sing and laugh at Captain Bob’s jokes. It was awesome. Until . . . Captain Bob decided to take things up a notch by breaking out the water guns.

Suddenly, it seemed – like in a bad dream – that all 12 of the Happy Hippo passengers were armed, dangerous and aiming their water gun right at me. Everybody else onboard got the memo about the guns except for Hermione and me, who sat stunned and confused. I mean Bunnyfufu had warned us that we might get wet during the ride, but we had – wrongly – assumed that this wetness would occur from natural causes, like splashing. No. This was war; a ravaging onslaught of cold lake water spraying from every direction with no reprieve. Men, women and children (No! Bunnyfufu!) maniacally spraying and laughing and spraying and laughing for what seemed like hours . . . until – Oh, God, here comes the worst part – Captain Bob himself stood at the helm of his LARC and, smiling, began spraying us all with a fire hose. A fire hose .  With fire hose water pressure. And there was no stopping him. He aimed for my head and it felt like the flesh was ripping off my face and I was powerless to stop it. We were soaked to the bone, each and every one of us. (I guess I oughta mention here that there's also scenic, spray-free tour that one could choose to take instead of this one.)

It was then that I learned something scary and disturbing about myself. I learned that when my children and I are under attack, I cower. I don’t grab a gun and valiantly fight back with biceps glistening like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 . I hide, moaning and whimpering, under the duct-tape-wrapped bench seat and try to stay dry under my hat. I’m ashamed to say that I am not the person I thought I was; I am not the gal you want beside you in the foxhole.

When the assault finally ended and peace was restored aboard the Hippo, I took a moment to assess the damage and check in with my children. Hermione was cold and cranky. Charlie, on the other hand, was beside himself with glee. Bunnyfufu remained unscathed except for the streaks of black mascara pouring down her face. (Quick Product Placement: Our friend Ena at Hot Shots Salon gave us this Lash Domination mascara before our weekend and it is superfabulasticexpialadocious.) Bob was cheerful and beaming. And I? I was wet, war torn, weathered and . . . Oh, OK, I admit it . . . I was a little bit refreshed. Just a wee begrudging bit.

And so, with jolly Captain Bob steady at the helm of the Happy Hippo, we emerged from the lake and bumped along the sunny streets of Polson triumphant and restored as Abba’s “Dancing Queen” blasted from the speakers. Wow. What a strangely exhilarating experience. Even Hermione couldn’t stop the small hint of smile from creeping across her face. And, although I now know the truth about the coward that lives inside me, at least I’ll be prepared next time. Next time, I’m bringing my own gun.



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