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Hare–Raising Adventures
th Publication, September 11th–October
19th, 2001

The great event about to happen in my last letter was our annual trip to the Outer Banks, North Carolina, with several other families (all but one of them from church). The participants were the Hansell family, the George family, the Diem family, and part of the Green family. Dan, Pete, and Dad refrained from coming because of college, high school, and college (or college students), respectively. The one notable addition this year was Joseph Plowman, whom we brought with us as a companion for Steve.

The trip down was not very eventful — we left our house around one or so, picked up Joe and departed from the Plowman’s in record time, and stopped at the farm. We quickly popped in and said, “hi! to Uncle Dale and Granddaddy, and then drove down to Uncle Allen’s house to say, “hello! to him and his wife, Amy. Needless to say, Mom hadn’t informed them of our arrival beforehand, so they were somewhat surprised to see us. After the farm we drove to the hotel, and we all went down to the pool, which was about as hot as the hot tub at the beach house. The hot tub at the hotel was quite hot, and they even had a notice saying, “No children under 12.

The next morning we ate breakfast at the hotel and left for Yorktown, where we spent the morning. I found it slightly less than worthwhile, especially since it is divided into two sections: The adult oriented section, which has the information and interesting parts, and the child oriented section, which has all the costumes and crayons and stuff. Mom made the horrendous mistake of taking us into the gift shop — Ben took each item in the store one by one to Mom, asking if he could buy it. Finally Mom caved in and bought him a wooden gun, purchased her own things, and hustled us out of there. And back onto the road, our destination being the beach house.

The Hansells, as usual, were already there. This year we had changed to a new house, and it had an electric lock on the door (the kind similar to the ones in hotels, where you have to slide a card in and out) which didn’t work until four, the official opening time. This was unacceptable to Mr. Hansell, who proceeded to break into the house through a window and open the door from the interior.

We have a couple traditions, one of them being our first night pizza order. The first night we order pizza from a local place, since no one is up to cooking. Last year, if I recall correctly, this tradition was overthrown because Mrs. Hansell had baked a casserole, but we resurrected it this year. Several other traditions include crabbing at least once (with a maximum catch of seven, if crabbing at night), playing double solitaire, completing a jigsaw puzzle, the nightly story time, and four man chess.

We went crabbing, but we concluded that they were suffering from over crabbing the last year (we caught over sixty one afternoon, after a pitiful catch the previous night), and only caught seven. The decks were brought, but found wanting of cards, so double solitaire was out this year, sadly. The jigsaw puzzle was broken open, and after several days was completed, though the night sky and the day sky was quite tedious (it was a drawing of a city and its flipped image — the one side was day, the other was night). Story time is the beginning of the fun. Mr. George takes all the kids down and reads them a dinosaur story while the rest of us get a precious fifteen to twenty minutes of peace before the cacophony of putting them all to bed.

We did bring the four man chess game, and substituted Chex mix pieces for black and gold’s missing pawn (whenever those pawns died, the victor gleefully ate his enemy). I don’t know how many games the kids played, but Mr. George, Mrs. Hansell, Steve and I played two games, both with the same setup: Mr. George and I against the other two. The first game we were slowly cutting up Mrs. Hansell (the man slicing off slabs of lamb for gyros from the spit at the Greek festival comes to mind), when Steve and she did a surprising double move (teammates aren’t allowed to converse, so everyone was surprised), and checkmated Mr. George. Once you checkmate someone you capture their remaining army, so I was faced with three armies. I fought valiantly, but in the end I succumbed to the great massed hordes. We loudly demanded a rematch, and so a second game was planned. This time, we didn’t waste any time slowing picking off the pieces one by one; Mrs. Hansell went down before she could kill a single pawn, and Steve followed shortly. The total losses for the troops under our command were tallied, and came out to one pawn. A third tie–breaker match was planned but never consummated, unfortunately, mainly due to the adults’ strange desire to watch President Bush’s speech.

The weather was really strange during our stay. Mr. Hansell and I went down to hit the waves the very first day, but when we saw the beach — or didn’t see, because the strong wind was blowing sand at us — and felt the water, there was a unanimous vote to head back. But there was a steady slowing down of the intensity of the wind and waves over the whole week, and the waves on the last day were rather pitiful. There was one day (Tuesday, maybe — I lose all track of time when I’m away from home) when the waves were great, but all the other days it was always a tad too cold and windy or too cold and calm. One other tradition, the great hole, has languished these past years because everyone forgets to bring a metal shovel. The great hole is just a very deep and somewhat wide hole dug in the sand, where, if you are small enough, you can sit down and be shaded from the sun. I didn’t spend nearly as much time at the beach this year in comparison to previous years, when I would be with the first shift going down and the last shift coming back (usually that would be the Hansells). Possibly it was because the water was colder this year (I’m pretty sure it was), or because I’m not getting as much out of it…I think I spent a lot more time reading this year.

Speaking of reading, I’ve read some good books recently; some at the beach, and some since then. I read The Family Nobody Wanted, which is the true story of a couple who can’t have children who slowly adopt twelve foreign children; The African Queen, which is, I have inferred, a well known book about two people trying to thwart the Germans in central Africa in World War One; A Distant Grief, the autobiography of the pastor of the only church in Uganda during a dictator’s reign (the bulk of the book is in 1960-1970, roughly); and Marriage to a Difficult Man, a well written book about Jonathan Edwards, his wife, and his family. A number of them were the fruits of my recent scouring of the house for reading material, and seeing that I’ve found a number of good ones, I think I’ll continue my investigations.

On Sunday we went to the tiniest chapel I’ve ever seen, whose pastor came from Pennsylvania, and three years ago he confided in one of his sermons that he loved bologna, which he couldn’t get down in North Carolina, so every year since then we’ve brought him some.

On the gift giving note, Mom gave Steve, Ben and me presents. She claims she does it every year, but I didn’t remember any past occurrences. She gave Steve a Foxtrot book and the latest Redwall book, she gave Ben a racetrack and she gave me volume one of the complete collection of Isaac Asimov’s stories and the movie Willow. This movie has been one of my lifelong pursuits; I saw it once a long time ago, but could never find it, wherever I searched, and eventually pretty much gave it up. Mom had found it on an internet resale web site, and purchased it without my knowledge.

I could go on and on (yes, I know I have, but I could go on and on even more) about our duration, but it would take up too much space. All too quickly the last day arrived, and everyone was packing up and leaving. We were the last to go, but we still got into our hotel around four (incidentally, it was the same one we had stayed in a week earlier). I was all for cancelling our reservation and pushing on to Dan’s apartment and just spending the night on his numerous couches, but Mom thought he might be out partying, and decided against it.

The next morning we got up, ate and departed for Daniel’s church, where we were going to meet him. I, astonishingly enough, actually dozed off for a while (there’s been a disconcerting trend towards this type of activity on my part… I guess it’s just old age), because I had read all my books — except the Bible — but that isn’t exactly light car reading. I was woken by the car being parked in a gas station. As it turned out, the transmission had conked out twenty minutes away from Dan’s apartment, so Mom called AAA. Eventually a representative came and agreed, once he heard our tale, to an illegal plan (involving a twenty thousand dollar fine if found out), in which Steve, Joe, and I would stow away in the van which would be chained to the back/top of his truck, while Mom and Ben would sit up front in the truck (there were only three seats). He would tow us to the apartment, where the three in the van would get out and Mom would go on with the truck to Bethlehem. Disastrously, the driver said that the boss was around and obviously would not let him proceed, so an alternate plan was decided upon (after much soul agonizing on Mom’s part): Mom and Ben would go in the truck all the way to Bethlehem, while the rest of us hung out in a nearby Wendy’s and waited for our chauffeur, Patrick, to take us to his apartment. We so proceeded. As we were sitting in the restaurant, we were approached by a man who identified himself as the boss (we hadn’t seen the boss up until this point, so we speculated upon the possibility of the driver losing his nerve, and making up the boss’s vicinity to get himself out of the situation without losing face), and asked us if we wanted any food, and if we had a ride, to which we appropriately responded. Patrick arrived and took us back to the apartment (along the way, there must have been roughly two hundred bikers — not counting passengers — going the other way with American flags of various sizes attached in various ways to the bikes — Patrick thought it was some fund drive, literally)..

We poked around, looked at all the computers, furniture, DVDs, CDs, tapes, and video games. We played on Dan’s computer for a while, and then went to a nearby deli to eat a scrumptious lunch (we had only snacked at Wendy’s). Once we returned we went to Tammy and Steve’s (friends of Dan’s) apartment to see their hamster and its deluxe cage Soon after coming back from there, Dad arrived to take us home, which he did without a hitch. On the way back we passed Calvert School’s building, which I’m told has a small fountain, wooden lockers with a different carving on each one, and other enviable characteristics — I half–heartedly suggested stopping so I could explain in person particular defects in their curriculum that I have been forced to suffer and groan under for eight years, but my request was turned down.

We arrived back in Bethlehem and went straight to the Greek festival, where Joseph had a joyous reunion with much hugging and professions of the torment of a week’s separation. After greeting Dexter, his dog, he also recognized his other family members. The rest of the Greens were enjoying the feast as well. We finally parted ways and I had my own reunion with my guinea pigs, who didn’t seem all that affected by my prodigality, though they did appear slightly more appreciative of their nightly snacks and being held.

On October the fourth Nana and Poppa arrived at the airport, finally back for (let us who live here hope) good. Because the work on their house was not completed, they spent the first couple days sleeping in the living room, which is what they always do when they are visiting, so it didn’t really seem like they were doing anything more than they usually do. Slowly, though, they’ve been moving over and things are coming into place; the Colemans, good friends of theirs, gave them a king sized bed, the linoleum and counter top were chosen, and the wallpaper is down to three possibilities.

Aunt Gail’s father had died recently, so Uncle John and company used his furniture as an excuse to come and visit for two days, and they brought a number of his beds and a wrap–around (if that is that name — it is four segments, two edges, a corner piece, and a stuffer chair) couch set, along with some other miscellaneous items (I, of course, bowed out of carrying the cast iron bed frames and such by citing my heart condition, but I did deign to carry a couple lamps). Their company was enjoyed immensely, and we the cousins (along with Nana and Aunt Gail) spent many a round playing boggle, where the champions turned out to be Nana and Katelyn.

In another attempt to furnish the house, a trip was planned to a used furniture and antique store. I jumped at the thought of browsing through old furniture (I like shopping, much to Mom’s consternation), and attached myself to the hunting party. I had a lot of fun browsing through all the dressers, chests of drawers, mirrors, and other objects. There were three desired pieces: a headboard for a king–sized bed, a desk and a dining room table. The candidates for each were carefully scrutinized, compared and contrasted, but in the end we decided none fit the parameters wanted. We didn’t leave empty handed, though, for we purchased two matching night stands. Since I’ve been contemplating writing a paper on Mahogany, Mom was on the lookout for any cheap mahogany products that I could employ in my paper, but, alas, the cheapest was a thirty dollar mirror.

All during these excursions Mr. Edgar has been working on the kitchen and various other places that we wanted him to fix something or other (putting a light at the bottom of the stairs, putting in three way switches, et cetera), and indeed, he still is working and doesn’t plan to finish for two more weeks. It turns out that there was a lot more that needed fixing than met the eye.

Yet another change to property has been the cutting down of the trees. Both our tree and Nana and Poppa’s tree were in bad shape, so we finally hired a company to come in and chop them down. We lost at least two mornings of school watching them cut them down, but I justified it by saying that it is a once in a lifetime (or at least once in a childhood) experience. They slowly lopped off the limbs in two or three feet segments and fed the rotten and leafy parts to a large machine that converted it into mulch. After cutting off a piece near to the trunk two squirrels raced out of the tree and ran into the neighbor’s yard. There was some deliberation, looking into the limb and bumping it with the chainsaw, but eventually they started sawing again — this time a little lower than usual. the piece fell and partly disintegrated, and a little baby squirrel ran out and under a nearby car, soon to scurry away out of sight. (We saw the squirrels wandering around the neighborhood for a while after that, but I think they eventually found a new home.) They finally cut the trees down and ground up the stump, and so now it is a lot brighter than before.

It turns out that I have been hoodwinked. I had written out a long tirade against the “Pungent Pear trees that Dad had told me were going to be put in place of our maples, and how I wished for oaks. I only found out a couple hours before I was going to publish that this was quite untrue, and that we’re getting maples after all. It shames me that even in my own household, yea, even from my own father, falsehoods abound. This is why I started my beacon of light to shine forth with blazing and unbridled truth and reveal with stark clarity the facts (that almost sounds Biblical, interestingly enough). I told Dad that he’s going to come home from the RUM conference on Monday to find some rotting pungent pears in his drawers, if he isn’t careful.

Two other members of the family that have had a property change are Sage and Nutmeg, my two guinea pigs. I have long heard on The Guinea Pig Daily Digest (an E–mail newsletter of which the content is completely and solely from the recipients) of Neat Idea Cubes, and even seen pictures of them, and almost ever since I had heard of other caging possibilities a small thought has been in the back of my head — to create a custom–made cage, using some sort of plastic tub and Neat Idea Cubes combination. I finally set to working searching for the cubes, and you heard of some of my troubles in the last letter, and eventually, after imploring the digesters for help, ordered it at Staples. In my search for the cubes, I tripped upon a website that has proven highly valuable in my creation of a habitat for the pigs. On it there is a description of a cage set–up that looked quite easy to build, and only required two materials. The other material was called Coroplast, short for Corrugated plastic, which, in effect, is plastic cardboard. I followed the instructions and purchased an eight foot by four foot sheet of it, convinced Mr. Edgar, who was working on Nana and Poppa’s kitchen, to cut it to the appropriate dimensions, from there I scored it, folded it, glued it, taped it and inserted in into the wall of Neat Idea Cubes. It’s approximate total square footage is 10.5. I inserted a divider halfway, and put the bedding, pigs and their accessories in, one on either side (since they had never been in the same cage before), and on Wednesday I put them together. They were quite noisy and disruptive for most of the day, but by late afternoon, they seemed to have settled their differences, though they both were high strung (since guinea pigs are herd animals, there is always the dominance factor that must be dealt with, usually ending with one of the pigs submitting to the other — I don’t know who “won out, though).

For several years I’ve wanted to participate in three different extra–curricular clubs: a 4H Veterinary Science club, Lucent’s Engineering club, and Bethlehem Steel’s engineering club. The Veterinary club I’ve been eligible for a year or two, but haven’t been able to join for one reason or another; the other two only allow high school students, and even so, Lucent has been taken over by someone else and Bethlehem Steel has become bankrupt, so I doubt if those leads will produce anything — which would be annoying because I’ve wanted to participate, but they instituted an age limit to keep the idiots out. Let me be quick to say that I have no aspiration towards becoming an engineer, but there is no point in not dabbling in a little of most things, especially if it is free. The phone calls were made, and it appears that I shall be able to join the Veterinary club, but no information has been forthcoming regarding the other two. (All these activities, and those dealing with the guinea pigs cage involved a lot of phone calling to strange companies, which I hate to do. I don’t like talking to strangers, and talking to employees on the phone is one of the most harrowing ways of conversing.)

Pete has had an eventful time because the soccer season is going full swing, and despite both injury to his ankle and collarbone, he’s been playing with them. He also, for the second time in his life, had his braces removed. The reason for having to endure braces another time was because his rebellious tooth was returning to its undesired place (the reason for this has been lost in the annals of time, but there is a strong suspicion that it had to do with his reluctance to wear his retainer). Peter ran for Senior class president, and at first he told us that he lost by the disappointing margin of one vote, due to the absence of one of his friends of election day, but the girl who won resigned for an obscure reason, and thus Pete won the presidency after all. Another point of interest was the school retreat, where certain members of the soccer team shaved Pete bald (he managed to obtain permission by asking Mom if he could get a haircut). I, personally, don’t mind, even if I wouldn’t be caught dead bald. I think that Nana is the person who was most shocked by it. A couple nights ago Mom got it into her head that she would pick out the person Pete would ask to his school’s Christmas social event (a banquet, I believe), so she pulled out last year’s yearbook and was browsing through the girls, discarding or advancing on such subjective and shallow terms as whether they had a nice smile, whether Mom met their parents (who seemed nice people), and whether they had money, to name a few. Needless to say, this was more entertaining than anything else happening, so I greatly amused myself by watching Mom examine practically every girl in the book, and the dialog between her and Pete.

Dan called on Monday morning around eight, and I asked him what in the world had managed to get him out of bed and telephoning his family at such an hour. It turned out that he and Patrick had stayed up all night and set out for Philadelphia at three in the morning for an advertising drawing of Athlon, a computer chip manufacturer. They had set up a tent in the zoo parking lot (the same zoo that Paul MacDonald and I visited on Amish day), and were giving out 500 free motherboards and 1.53 GigaHertz chips (their newest and fastest achievement). Both Dan and Patrick won one so now they have an innumerable amount of spare parts — possibly enough to build Multivac (a gigantic super– computer in a number of Isaac Asimov’s stories).

The latest major activity was Gabriel Alan West’s sixteenth birthday party after morning church to evening church last Sunday. He invited a number of people, with the MacDonald , Stone, Plowman, Barshinger, West, Aiello and Green families represented. I stumbled into Sharon Barshinger, who has the strange quality of preceding me whenever I grace some play or party with my presence. She had received a copy, at her request, of my newsletter, and she said that she is in the midst of compiling a response to my most heinous slander. We shall see what will come of it. We had a great time, and we even were organized enough to play a game similar to charades. The teams were divided and given names according to the majority of sitting options; namely, the Couches and the Chairs. I was a proud member of the chairs, and we pulled through and beat the couches (my theory is that all those soft cushions lulled them into decadence).

I was inspired into reading the Bible daily (or every two days — it’s hard to keep to one schedule) by my French Creek trips, as I was last year, where I went through all the small prophets with the rationale that they are very much under–represented, and I soon found out why. They are almost without a break tales of Death, doom, destruction and devastation. I managed to get through them, but then hit Matthew and my resolve dissolved. Anyway, this time I decided to start at the beginning and work my way on from there, and it’s amazing how many details you aren’t told about in Sunday School — for example, that the sons of Jacob were not just from Leah and Rachel (there were two from Leah’s maid and two from Rachel’s maid), as had I had previously inferred.

School has, as you can imagine, suffered drastic postponements, and only now are we lurching into the rhythm of it. One significant factor in this very late beginning is my departure from the structure and package deal of Calvert, which only goes up to eighth grade (yes, I’m in high school now, but since I’m home schooled the only one who can despise this immature freshman is Pete, and he despises me anyway), so it’s taken quite a long time rounding up the books and deciding how everything should be sorted out.

Nana mentioned a couple days ago that the home letter writing business might soon be undergoing some competitive spirit, now that there are three letter writers in the house, and all I can say is that I’m free, I have my own web site, and you get more for your money with me. Seriously, I had thought about it before, and I’m not sure why we can’t all still keep writing, since we each have our own angles, and now you can choose between the “Everything about the past month in five minutes option, the “story from a harried mother’s perspective or, as Nana put it, the “Russian Novel. Not everyone receives all the newsletters as well, so only some will be burdened with having to read three accounts of the same thing.

–~Snowshoe Hare~–
–~Christopher Green~–

*Here Endeth the Newsletter*