August 2001

How do they do it? Where does that energy come from? Erin wore us all out yesterday at the water park and nobody knows how she was able to keep going as long as she did.

I don’t like that water park. It’s $20 a head to get in and it’s not all that great. More money to rent a locker, more money to eat, and a weak wave pool. No matter, Erin has been belly-aching to go all summer and on the last day before school begins again, we caved in.

We went and did everything several times. After a couple of hours, Mel and I ran out of the necessary steam to climb the stairs to the big water slides but sent the kids up by themselves. We kept hinting that we wanted to lay low and rest for awhile but Erin would start bouncing and begging to continue.

*boing* *boing* *boing* *boing* *boing* *boing* *boing* *boing*

“Let’s go to the wave pool!” “Let’s go to the wave pool!” “Let’s go to the wave pool!” “Let’s go to the wave pool!”

In the end, even Evan got tired. He has been swimming weekly for the past couple of years at one of the local swim schools and even he played out. Finally, after we began turning pink, we just said no and dragged her out. I can only surmise that she was getting her energy by sucking it out of the color in my hair. At one point, while waiting for them to come down the “Gully Washer”, I piled several tubes into a sort of sofa and stretched out and almost fell asleep. The lifeguard girl who tries to keep order hinted that I should do something else but, I just ignored her and continued to lay there in a stupor.

Then we went to Casa Bonita and filled up on food and went home to fight a losing battle against sleep. Erin finally cratered on the way home. Her energy reserves were not bottomless; as soon as the car started, she slumped over and never peeped until we got home. And then it was more of a whine.

Boy, am I sore today. And sunburned. And ready for school to start.

Well, the campouts just keep coming. The first was freezing cold; this last one was the opposite – hot.

Perhaps the gentle reader will recall Evan’s description of his first day at summer camp:

We got there it was very hot!!! I am sweating… I think it will be fun our tent is very hot. It is so hot I can’t describe it. lets just say its hot outside and its hotter in here. We went on a tour and we got ice cream we learned where everything was. there is a new bathroom that looks nice. We opened the flap on our tent and now its a lot cooler… our tent has a lot of patches and there are 3 old glow sticks hanging on the top. My pillow is hot.

That’s how I felt this Saturday.

Our goal was to get some hiking done for those who were interested in the hiking merit badge (and also for those who weren’t). We set out in the morning to hike five miles down the country roads near the Slippery Falls Scout Ranch. Our goal was a little country store that conveniently situated at the five-mile point. That turns out to have been an excellent goal due to the fact that the temperature quickly soared to the high 90’s. With the sun beating down, I (who have long since lost any interest in having a “healthy looking tan” or in looking cool) arrayed my handkerchief in best Lawrence of Arabia fashion to keep my head and neck cool. Some of the boys made tacky comments; later to regret it after having made genuine rednecks of themselves. Some of the other adults (those with intelligence) quickly followed suit.

The road went on and on. It was pretty entertaining except for the steadily increasing temperatures and the growing fatigue. By the time we reached the store, most of us were getting those bright pink cheeks that are the signal to get into the shade and starting chugging water. Well, we did even better; we dove into the air-conditioned comfort of the store and proceeded to buy up most of the Gatorade that the lady had to offer. She was delighted to see us; not only because of our profligate spending but for the company. Apparently, we tripled her typical Saturday business and provided her with some much-appreciated variety.

It’s not due to any inferior planning skills that we chose to try hiking in such weather. Our original goal was to do some geology work but the private property owner was nowhere to be found when we arrived and crashing the gate is not allowed under the BSA rules so we had to re-plan. Further, we had to re-plan the rest of the day as well since we couldn’t very well unpack our lunches right inside the lady’s store. (We had cleverly arranged for one of the dads to be there with his pickup full of ice water and lunches.) She helpfully called up a local guy who came to our rescue in the form of opening his old-west village to our picnicking plans.

We had passed his place on the way in and I had thought to myself that it looked abandoned. It was a collection of buildings that looked like an old-west style town. It had appeared to be a cross between a flea-market and a movie set. It turns out that that’s exactly what it was. The owner was delighted to see us and cheerfully opened his gates and we spent the next couple of hours eating, exploring his place, and listening to him talk. He is one of those people who can talk to anyone and will do so effortlessly and endlessly so he regaled us with all sorts of stories. He was quite entertaining and his office was a glorious museum of garage-sale caliber memorabilia; huge glass cases and piles of bits and pieces of local history, photos of minor musicians and movie extras that none of us had ever heard of (all autographed by the way), farming tools, toys, old books and newspapers, old radios, and a thousand other things that kept us all interested for much longer than you might have thought. All the while, cowboy music from the 1940’s era movies filled the air.

It wasn’t air conditioned though. Neither was the old west but one can take realism a bit too far. On the other hand, air conditioning is probably expensive and, in Reagan Oklahoma, you need to keep your expenses down since the number of paying customers who pass through there are pretty few and far between. At any rate, the “outhouse” was a bit stuffy. It was many things to many people; however, and included the benefits of running water which the scout camp did not. He even included some magazines: “Outdoor Oklahoma”. Just when the heat was about to prove too much for me, the scoutmaster flipped the light switch. Voila! The electric fan came on. That’s why he’s the scoutmaster.

After leaving Johnny and his old west town behind, we decided to hike a short distance down to the slippery falls and see the camp’s namesake. This turned out to be a beautiful low-water shoal in the river where the water ran over huge, smooth, pink granite boulders into a natural swimming hole. We all shed our shoes and socks as fast as we could and made for the water and the pool at the bottom of the falls. After the punishing heat of the morning, we headed for the falls like little kids heading for the Christmas tree. It’s been a long time since anything felt that good.

That night, we climbed back up onto the huge boulders to do some stargazing which is much better out in the middle of nowhere than in the city. Most of them had never actually seen the milky way before.

So, once again, I went with no enthusiasm (knowing that it would be hot) and wound up enjoying myself. Of course, it isn’t about me; I was just there to keep the adult/kid ratio in its proper place. Sociological ballast so to speak. The important thing is that the boys all had a good time.

Prepare to be impressed. This weekend, after talking about it for years and thinking about how cool it would be, I went and did it. I bought Evan a train set. (Yes, it’s for Evan – I even put it in his room. Although I did spend a lot of time playing with it…) And, hung it on the wall so that we never have to put it away. Want to see it? Photos on flickr.

I’ve seen this done in restaurants and train stores before and Mel saw somebody on HGTV do it. When I saw that, I decided to go for it.

The first question you may think of is probably “what if it jumps the track?” Ah, good question. Don’t be standing under it when that happens. Actually, it only does that at the corners and there is a shelf there so no harm done. I bought a Lionel which is designed to be a toy that doesn’t jump the track so all we have to worry about it making it go too fast.

It didn’t take long for that to happen. Erin had a friend over and she’s one of those kids that I can’t stand. The full-speed-ahead, meddle-with-everything kid. She wandered into the room when I was out asking nobody in particular “Can we play with the train?” She only knows one speed – Maximum. She cranked the controller all the way to the right and all I heard was a brief roar and a clunk. Then she comes out complaining “Your train isn’t working!” Well, at least she doesn’t live with us. Once again, as I’ve said many times, it’s a good thing I’m not in charge. She’d be in Siberia just on general principles. What a bull in a china closet! No harm done though since I planned for such things.

Erin is not to be forgotten; she has a grand and glorious dollhouse that’s waiting to be assembled. I’ll get right on that – too bad I have to work. I’ll mention to her to keep away the full-speed-ahead kid.