Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Camping with the girls - Finale

...I started toward the section of the camp ground that is typically reserved for the serious business.  If you are keeping up, it would be in right field just behind the bushes and pine trees.  I stopped by the tent to pick up the TP, you know, cause girls have to it for either business.

We make it to where we are adequately hidden from the other men and boys.  Squirt says "Is this it (the bathroom)?" As she starts the potty dance and unbuttoning her pants.
"Yep, let me think about this for a minute though."  The realization that things were different suddenly became clear.  I thought, this could be difficult without a potty.   
"Squirt, you only have one pair of shoes, right.  Take off your shoes."
"OK."  She kicks off her shoes and starts to pull down her pants.
"Wait!  Take off your socks.  I do not think mom packed you any more socks."
She pulls off her socks. "OK dad, can I go now?!"
"Sure.  NO Wait!  You do not have any more jeans in your backpack.  Take off your jeans."
"Dad I really have got to GOOOOooo!"  She takes off her jeans.  
She is now standing in her skivvies looking at me for further instruction.
OK pull those down and squat down and let me see how that is going to work.
She follows the instructions.  But I see that anything falling would certainly be stopped by the final clothing on her legs.  Then I ask this...
"Can you aim that thing?"
She looks at me like I was asking her what the square root of 144 was and says, "Huh?"
"OK Wait!  Take those off too because they will get wet too."
She finally squats down and lets go.
She is relieved to finally get to go.  I am relieved that we successfully went to the potty in the woods without getting any of her clothes wet.

I hand her the TP. 
"Thanks Dad."
"Don't step in it!  Walk over here."

"OK KJ your up.  You got to go?"
With a noticable look of panic..."No I think I will hold it."
"OK suit yourself."
"Wait! OK I got to go too.  Do I have to do it like Squirt did?"
"Do you have a change of clothes or do you see a potty around here anywhere?" 
She took care of her business in record time.  

KJ finishes and says "Dad will you please bring a potty next time?" 
"I promise to bring...Next time? Are you guys having fun?"
"YES, this is fun!"
"Well then next time we go camping I promise to bring a bucket or a potty for you two to use." 

The night came in perfectly.  The burgers were frying in the pan.   The bacon was sizzling and often being taste tested to see if was cooked just right.  The Conecuh sausage was simmering.  We started setting the table; you know we put out the ketchup, mustard, and cheese.   Then we got the paper plates out and tore a hole in the plastic wrapping.  "OK everybody we are ready to eat."

We ate until we were fully bloated.  We sat around the fire talking for about two hours.  The girls and Matt were running around to each tent with a lantern.  Not sure what kind of game it was, but they were laughing constantly.  Finally the kids came over and sat with us by the fire.  Squirt had been sitting in my lap for about 30 minutes when she said, "Dad I am ready to go to bed."  
"I thought you two would stay up all night.  OK 10 more minutes."

I had to wait for this one guy, who was so long winded; I did not think he was ever going to finish his story so I could leave the fire and put the girls to bed.  I finally finished it and told everyone goodnight.  

Did I mention the tent I brought was just a two man tent?  We piled in the tent and quickly provided instruction that KJ needed to put her feet at Squirts head and I would put my head with Squirts head.  This provided everybody with enough shoulder room to turn over if necessary.  We had packed enough blankets and jackets that nobody should get cold.  Plus with the close quarters the body heat should work like an oven.

The girls were so excited to be sleeping in a tent in the woods.  I am not sure what they were expecting but they acted like they were at home.  They wasted no time in laying down and getting quiet.  They asked a few times about what certain noises were.  
"Dad what's that?"
"That is Mr. Garrett telling about..."
"No Dad the owl noise."
I laughed, "That would be an owl."  
"Dad what's that?"
"That's a bird."
"Dad what's that?" 
"That's a tree frog."  
"Dad what's that?" 
"O my gosh! That is a werewolf...just kidding."

The girls calmed down and finally went to sleep what I would guess was about 10:30pm.  Other than some of the noises by the night animals, the guys were finally getting to tell their stories around the fire.  Sleeping on the ground is not the most comfortable rest.  After rolling over about a 1,000 times you wish would turn over to see daylight peeping in the tent.  Finally curiosity gets the best of you and you check the time.  11:03pm.  AHH you have got to be kidding!

I then wake up to Squirt crying.  I also noticed some of the guys in their tent still talking.  I check my cell phone to see it was 1:24am.  
"What is it Squirt?"
"I want momma."
The guys I had heard talking suddenly were quiet.

Several thoughts flooded my brain.  
  • It was really really dark out.  
  • The dew had already started to settle.  
  • If I had to pack up everything with this little bubble click light it would take an hour or two.  
  • Everything would get soaking wet from the dew.  
  • Squirt's crying would probably wake up everybody.  
  • She would get louder with each passing minute I took to get everything packed.  
  • She would probably fall asleep in the cab of the truck while I am packing up.  
  • The guys are still up I could just let them know I was leaving.  They could pack up my stuff for me and bring it to me later.  
  • Hey now there is a plan.

"Honey why do you want your momma?"
"I am hungry."
"I have some chips.  (I realize chips at 1:24am for a small child are not the best nutritional option but hello there is no refrigerator full of milk in the woods) "How about some water?  Where is your bottle of water?"
We find the bottle of water and she takes about 8 or 9 gulps.  She puts the cap back on and lays back down.

"Are you cold?" I asked.
"No but will you hug me?"
She fell back to sleep with a cozy soft snore within about two minutes.  About 30 years later, I mean 30 minutes later, KJ is squirming around.  "What is it KJ?"
"I am cold."  
"Here use this blanket."  A few minutes later she is no longer squirming and back to breathing deeply.

Then the most annoying sound interrupts my deep sleep.  My cell phone alarm is going off announcing its 5:30.  Why is it that you toss and turn and beg for daylight but right when you reach your maximum snooze pattern your alarm blasts you back into the misery?

I crawled out of the tent and easily relieved myself without getting my pants, shoes or socks wet.  Least I think so, who knows, it was cold and dark at 5:30.  I got the fire started back up, set the mosquito tiki things back up and got them lit again then sat down to enjoy daybreak.  Seeing the stars give way to morning is something I rarely see but enjoy immensely.  I took it all in in awe of the God who made it.

Not long after the sun was creeping up KJ came walking to the fire.  "Good morning Dad."
"Morning Sweetheart, how did you like sleeping in the woods in a tent?"
"Squirt still asleep?"
"Yeah, she is snoring."

We sat and watched Mr. Garrett crawl out of his tent.  He had specific intentions as he held a roll of TP upon standing up from his tent.  "Good morning, I will be back."  I nodded to him.  I decided not to look at KJ.  I figured I would let her make her own conclusions as to which business Mr. Garrett was taking care of.  I also giggled at the thought of wondering if she was thinking he was going to have to take his shoes, socks, britches and drawers off...I couldn't look at her for fear of cracking up.

"Hey guys!" comes from our tent.
I tell KJ, "Squirt is up, lets go."

We get to the tent to see Squirt unzipping the tent (which although I had shown her how to do, I was still impressed she was able to do)
"Y'all left me in here."
"We were just right there at the fire."
"I got to pee."
KJ pipes up, "Me too dad, can we hurry before everybody gets up?"

Only after one time of peeing in the woods they have become experts. 

After most everyone was up we broke down our tent and packed up our stuff.  I was greeted with "I don't know what you told Squirt last night, but we just knew you were about to have to leave.  We were up, but we tried to get real quiet because we did not want to have pack up your stuff for you." Garrett knows me well.  I returned the zing, "I told her I was going to put her in your tent.  I figured she fainted."
My plan was to leave at 7:00 to give myself time to get home and cleaned up before going to the writer's workshop at 9:00.   Breakfast was smelling too good to leave without having any.  We left at 7:15 with a to-go breakfast sandwich.  

We got home to an awaiting wife and mother.  She asked, "Did you girls have fun?"
"Mom - we peed in the woods!" They said in unison.
She looks at me and says I thought about that after you left.  I guess you figured it out.  
"I am sure it was not how you would have done it, but it was successful none the less.  How did you make it without us?"
"Lets just say, I am glad the girls are home safe...and you too."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Stripes the Armadillo

This is an epic tale.  It will be told in its entirety.  This is the first posting, aka rough draft, so it will probably be edited and re-posted.  But I wanted to get it posted as quickly as possible.  

On the way to work Thursday morning I noticed the truck beside me had rolled its window down.  I turned and noticed it was my neighbor.

Me: Hey man how you doing?
Him: Fine, fine man.  I know we don't have much time before the light changes but I wanted to tell you I am trying to catch an armadillo.  They are tearing up my yard.  I am using a trap.  The guys at work are giving me a hard time about it.  I have not caught an armadillo yet but I have caught two opossums, a raccoon and one pit bull.
Me: A pit bull!  Well I would say you successful at trapping.
Him: Yeah but I ain't caught the first armadillo yet.

Me: I would say your chances are increasing.
-The light changes-
Me: Let me know if you catch one.  Later
Him: Will do. Later

Monday night right after dinner I go out on the patio to enjoy the cool evening.  I had started hand writing a story about a humorous lunch experience on Sunday.  I guess you could say I was concentrating quite well or else simply enjoying my outdoor office.  The back door opens and Kipp Jr (KJ) my oldest daughter walks out.  I feel her hand on my left shoulder.  Then she calmly whispers "Dad there is an armadillo."

I looked up and not 15 yards from me is a large armadillo snooping around.  Things I suddenly noticed:  About six or eight fresh holes in my yard from an armadillo.  KJ standing beside me just kinda smiling.  My crab/minnow net leaned up against the fence within reach to my right.  The armadillo has not noticed me.

I put my notes down in my chair and tell KJ not to make any sudden moves.  I grabbed the net.  Squirt, my youngest daughter, comes outside and is quickly told to remain still.  Mrs. Kipp (MK) arrives outside as well and says "O my...not the net again."  (Yes there has been a previous attempt to capture an armadillo with the net once before, but he escaped under the fence before I could reach him).

Reminding everyone to remain still, I stretched the net out to my right shaking it just so as to draw the attention of the nearly blind armadillo; they function better with sound and smell.  As I approached him, he stood up on his hind legs and looked at the net.  I started closing in on his right and with him still on his hind legs I put the net over him.  That's when the fight started.

He started jumping around thrashing.  The net was quickly analyzed to be much too small for this large nocturnal yard pit producing creature.  Next observation was, "O MY WORD, look at the size of those claws!"   

"Kipp what do you plan to do with him now?" MK asked.  
"Well get me a bucket or a hammer!"
"A hammer!  You are not going to do that in front of the kids!
"I was not going too until after you provided me with the hammer and you escorted the girls in the..."

Armadillo made one more attempt to escape - yep he was successful.  The girls were suddenly screaming or cheering.   I could not tell for sure.  The armadillo took off for the deck.  Only being armed with a net and not a shotgun, rifle, or hammer; he arrived successfully at his desired destination.  

"Now what?" MK wanted to know.
I walked toward the garage.  
"Where you going?  MK wanted know.
"I need some things."

I returned with a bucket, an old 5 wood (golf club), a tennis racket, the loose bottom of a folding chair and a pair of gloves.  My first strategy was -  if he came out from under the deck I could net him again, put him in the bucket, then put the chair bottom over the top of the bucket and secure him.  Plan B was to use the 5 wood repeated.

When I returned to the deck MK said "Maybe I should go see if the neighbor is home.  Didn't you tell me he was trying to trap the armadillo?  Maybe he could bring his trap."  
"Yes that is a good idea.  Take the kids with you."
"Oh no, girls you stay here with daddy."

The armadillo had entered under the deck from the south side.  The house is to the north (no exit).  The west side was an exit option but was the furthest from the armadillo.  One more very important detail about the deck, it is technically on the ground.  The supporting 2x6's are sitting about two inches off the ground.  In case you were wondering why he did not just waddle on underneath the deck to the other side or why I did not immediately crawl in after him.

Standing on the deck looking down I was able to see the armadillo between the boards.  I realized he was about three feet from the edge.  His tail was near the edge of the deck.  MK returned to say the neighbor's wife had answered the door and said he would be home shortly.  She would send him over when he got home.  

MK sees me get on the ground with my gloves on and wants to know what I am doing.  I announced my plan to grab the armadillo by the tail and pull him out from under the deck.  I may not be able to hold him, but maybe I get him pointed in another direction and then catch him in the net again.  Although she was encouraging me to go for it, I felt certain her intentions were not honorable.  

So I get down on my stomach and make a few failed attempts at pulling the armadillo out by the tail.  Each time I grabbed his tail, he would claw-in, inching further under the deck.  MK would squeal each time I reached for the tail.  MK offered to go get the log grabber from the fireplace set.  "Maybe you can grab him better with those."  Good idea, I thought.  I heard the neighbor's truck pull up.

He arrives with new excitement.  
"Have you caught it yet?  Where is it?
Do you have a trap?"  As he scans the backyard he says, "What are you planning to put him in?"
I stick out my hand.  "Forgive me but it has been a while since we met; is "Brandon" your first name or last name?"
"First name. Kipp right?
We shook hands.
"Yes. Thanks Brandon for coming over."
"No problem."
"He is right under here."

I pointed to the deck and showed Brandon the gap in the deck.  There is about 1/8 of an inch between the boards.  Maybe just a bit more but enough to see the gray shell of the armadillo.  

Brandon: "Man you have good eyes.  How big is he?"
Me: "You see that net; he fills up that net.  Best I can tell his head is here and his tail is there (as I pointed at the deck showing him the armadillo's head and tail)
Brandon: "O man he is big. You know they can't see well, but they have real good hearing and big claws."
Me: "Yeah - I have noticed he has not had a pedicure lately."
Brandon: "What do you want to do?"

Brandon and I strategized about how to get the armadillo out from under the deck.  I got MK to get something thin enough to poke through the cracks in the deck to try to encourage the armadillo out.  She returned with an ultra thin steel ruler.  It was perfect.  I started jabbing the armadillo's back.  He appeared to lay down.  I poked at his tail, he just moved it back and forth.  I tried to find his head to whack on his noggin, but it was right under one of the deck boards.  

Brandon then took the net and using the other end tried to poke him from the east side of the deck.  I think I can reach him.  I am going to try to move him back to where he came in from.  After a few unsuccessful attempts Brandon decides to go to his house and get a trap.  His wife had called him before he got home and told him what was going on so he had stopped by to see real quick the status.  He was gone for only a few minutes.  He returned with the trap and he had changed clothes.  

I told him the armadillo had moved closer to the house.  I also mentioned maybe we could set up the trap at the hole in the gate where he probably came in and check the trap in the morning.  But Brandon was more determined to try a few more things to get the armadillo out from under the deck.  He crawled on his stomach through the bushes on the east side of the deck until his head was right up against the deck.  He had picked up the log grabbers and thought for sure they would work.  As he is making a few attempts with the log grabbers, I hear a new voice in the yard.  

"This will get him out of there."  
Another neighbor from up the street was in my yard with a smoke machine of some sort smoking the edges of my fenced yard.  
"Yeah this is the stuff the city uses when they spray for mosquito's."  
I am thinking, this man has been misinformed on what we are trying to exterminate here.
"This works great.  It will keep the mosquito's away for a about an hour or more.  It will work on that armadillo too.  He's under the deck you say?"
I stick my hand to him to make sure I have his name right.  "Paul isn't it?"
"Yep. Where is he?  I will just smoke him with this.  This will get him out."

Brandon and I point at the deck where we see the armadillo.  Paul starts pumping the trigger of his smoke machine like a semi-automatic paintball gun.  Within a couple of minutes we have smoke rising up from between the boards of the deck.  Unfortunately no where near the armadillo.

"Hey Paul, that might work better if you squirt some of that smoke over here where the armadillo is.  The smoke you are pumping is just not getting to him."  I offered this information as politely as I could.

I noticed MK was escorting the girls through the smoke filled yard into the house.  I started feeling a bit light-headed myself.  Paul was determined the smoke would work.  

"He won't like this, he will get moving any second now." Paul said.
The armadillo did not budge.
"You know -cough- -cough- I do not want him to die under the deck.  Getting a dead armadillo out from under this deck, would be a nightmare." I politely offered.
"Well this does not seem to be working.  I got something that will work.  I will be right back." Paul took his smoke machine and left as quickly and quietly as he had arrived.

When the smoke cleared the girls came back out.  Brandon and I were still trying to prod the armadillo out from under the deck.  Paul showed back up.

"This will work.  This will get him out of there."
"What you got there Paul, a gig?" I asked politely.
"Yep this will will work.  It will get him of there.  He won't like getting poked with this."
"Paul remember how we just talked about not killing him...MK you want to take the girls back inside?"
"I am not going to kill him.  I am just going to make him mad.  Yes sweetheart you may want to take the children inside.  If I happen to hit him too hard there could be an accident."

MK takes the children back in the house.  Squirt pipes up and asked if we are going to kill the armadillo.  MK tells Squirt that we were not trying kill the armadillo.  We were just trying to get him out from under the deck.  
"Why is that man trying to stick him with that sharp thing if he is not trying to kill him?" KJ asked.  
"Get in the house!" MK hurried the girls along.

Paul tried a few thrusts at the armadillo.  He claims to have got him across the nose once and it did seem to encourage the armadillo to move.  However once again he got closer to the house.  By now he was about two feet from the brick wall of the house and about as far away from the edges as he could get.

"You know what will work.  Water.  Water will get him out.  I know it will." Paul offered another fail proof suggestion.
"Paul I thought about that, but with no way to get any water pressure after him from underneath and running the water between the cracks from above; wouldn't it be like he was just getting rained on."  I offered politely.
"It will fill up his burrow and flood him out." Paul was not to be deterred. 

We pulled the hose over and started the water.  The girls had come back by this time to announce they had been inside praying for Stripes.  
"Stripes?!" I asked.
"Yes Squirt named him.  She has been inside praying you would not kill him.  You can't kill him now he has a name AND he has been prayed for." MK explained with a grin.

Brandon: "Kipp man you can't kill Stripes, your girl prayed for him."  
"Funny Brandon real funny.  I hope you have kids soon."
Brandon: "We are; we are due in six weeks."
"Well congratulations!  Can't wait for another racoon or opposum or pit bull to get caught in your trap and watch you have to haul it because your..." 
Brandon: "Its a boy."
"...your son is inside praying his daddy does not kill the creature."
Brandon: "Man that is too funny; Stripes."

I told Brandon if this did not work I was going to set out the trap and try my luck with it.  Brandon told me he had another trap.  He went and got the second trap while I watered the armadillo.

When the water had filled the area under the deck significantly and the armadillo nose was visible between the cracks almost in a "Thanks for the bath boys, what you got next?"  Paul offered one more suggestion.  

"You know what will work?  Hot water.  Sweetheart why don't you go boil some water."
MK agreed.  I think she was either humored by the look on my face or she was starting to enjoy the events of the evening.  I made the announcement that if this did not work we were calling it a night.  
"This will work.  This will get him out." Paul said with confidence.

MK returned with the first pot of hot water.  We poured it between the cracks.  Bump, thud, thud-thud, bump.  "Told you it would work."  
The armadillo moved about three feet with the first hot water bath.  The next five or six pots we used either missed or he was enjoying the spa treatment.  

"That's it we are done.  He is not coming out."  I announced.  MK came out of the house with a large pot of still boiling water this time.  "This is the last one."
Brandon told me he was sure the armadillo was right there, as he pointed.  I poured the whole pot in one motion in that spot.  Mostly to get this episode behind me.  We heard a few more bumps then it got quiet again.

"Well I best be getting back home.  I got to get my feet propped up, my back is starting to hurt." 
"Thanks for the help Paul." I said politely.

Brandon and I are just kinda standing there looking at each other wondering what next.  I then started picking up the hammer, ruler, log grabbers, tennis racket...when Brandon calmly says, "There he goes, there he goes!"

About an hour and half ago a large gray fuzzy haired armadillo had ran under the deck.  Now there was a clean black wet bald armadillo walking across the backyard.  Brandon was like a flash, he grabbed the net and with about two steps had bounded across the yard and netted the armadillo.  
"Wooohooo!  Get the trap, get the trap!"  Brandon could not contain his excitement.
"I got it. I got it.  Nice job with the net."

I set the trap right in front of the net with the armadillo facing the entrance to the trap.  Brandon eased up on the net and we both encouraged the armadillo into the trap with our feet.   He walked right into the trap.

High fives were issued.  Pats on the back were issued.  Hand shakes were given for a job well done.  "Brandon, I am so you glad you saw him walking out.  I was sure he was still under the deck."
Brandon: "Hey I think Paul finally got it right, the hot water worked." =)
Me: "Before you take him anywhere lets get a few pictures of this little rascal."
Brandon: "OK the guys at work are not going to believe this, they have been making fun of me for weeks."
Me: "Well then, lets get all the tools we used to capture him to put in the picture."

We moved the trap to the middle of the backyard.  I gathered everything we had used: the net, the log grabbers, the gloves, the hammer, ruler, seat bottom, the tennis racket, the bucket, the gig Paul left, the pots, the 5 wood, the hole sponsor sign metal frame (for poking thru the deck cracks), and I am probably forgetting something.  But we put it all around the cage.  

I am snapping pictures with our Fuji Fine shot, Brandon is taking pictures with his phone.  The girls are consoling Stripes that he is not going to die.  It was like the end of a Disney movie.  I passed off the Fuji to KJ not knowing what she would do next.  Matter of fact I was not sure she knew how to ...

Although I would love to explain the next series of events, you may better enjoy seeing it.  That's right! A video boys and girls.  This is a first for rockbottom, I hope this works.  I hope you enjoy.  Don't forget to come back here for the rest of the story.

You may not want to keep reading until after you watch the video.  Just sayin' this is a spoiler alert.  I thought I would give you a chance to take the next 15 minutes to download and watch the 3 minute video (why is America's internet so slow?)
OK I have stalled long enough to keep you from reading the next paragraph.  But if you did, I bet you will wish you had watched the video, just sayin'.  Yes I thought about a jump break (all you other bloggers), but once you put one in you cannot delete it.   If you can delete a jump break, teach me how and I will do it on the re-post in a few months.  OK I have really stalled all I am going to stall. 

You are asking - "How did he get out?"  Well I don't know if you can see it, but on the first trap in the video, there is a spring on the door latch.  Basically it did not catch.  You may notice me examining the latch before moving it over to where Brandon had caught Stripes in the net again.  With the success from the first time we used our feet to get him in the trap I thought for sure it would work again.  Stripes is a smart armadillo, a survivor, he knew what the foot meant!

Next you may be asking why the subtitles on the video from Stripes point of view.  Well honestly it was just a neat feature I found and decided to use it.  If you watch it more than once you can ignore the subtitles or vice a versa.

Another question you may have is why did we use two cages near the end of the video.  Not trusting the latch on the first trap, we thought we would use the other one.  But this time when we tried to encourage Stripes into the trap, the trapdoor fell down during all the commotion and Stripes ended up wedged between the trap door and the top of the trap.  Picture this - looking at the trap from the side, then say you are looking at the right side, make a triangle |__<|  my drawing is missing a top but you get the idea.  Put Stripes in the triangle.  He is supposed to be in the trap on the left side or the rectangle.  Make sense?

What did not get filmed is the actual capture.  We moved near the AC unit and put the trap against the house.  We then put the other trap at the opening of the trap Stripes was in.  Then we used the particle board to seal off the side opposite the house.  Now all his exits were sealed.  We did not want to take any more chances of him getting loose again.  ("Loose" being his secret agent code name in case you did not catch that in the video)

Then Paul shows back up.  
"Hey looks like you got him.  How the he#% did you get him stuck in there like that?"  
I look up to answer Paul and notice he is toting a machete.  Brandon beat me to the punch.
"Paul man the kids have been in the house praying for Stripes.  They want us to release Stripes and not harm him in any way."
"Well OK sweethearts."  Then he whispers to me and adds a wink, "If you will just stop by my house on the way out." 

We could not figure out how to move Stripes from his wedged predicament to the other trap when suddenly Paul unsheathed the machete and uses it like a spatula to move Stripes into the other trap all in one move.  Stripes was trapped for the second, third, I lost count, time...but trapped for good - FINALLY! 

Keeping our promise we loaded him up in the truck and drove him to a new construction site a few miles away and released him.  Stripes is out there somewhere blogging to his friends about the silly humans.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Camping with the girls - Part II

We were finally on our way toward camp.  

["Camp" by the way, is a plot of land roughly about 10 acres on the Alabama Mississippi state line.  To get there we traveled from a paved road, to a dirt road, to a sand road, and finally to a grass road.  It is bordered on the east side by a creek and the south side by a pond.  This may or may not help, but think of a baseball field.  The entrance would be at home plate.  The first base line is bordered by pine trees and bushes.  These trees and bushes bleed into right field.  Second base is somewhat open along with most of the infield except the pitcher's mound.  The pitcher's mound was a clump of pine trees.  The pond would be in center field.  Third base is where we set up the fire and the kitchen.  The creek runs the foul line down the third base line.  There are pine trees, oak trees, bushes, sand palmettos, and several other unknown to me trees and bushes.]  

The lot is in a back section of a incomplete neighborhood, possibly incomplete on purpose.  The section we are allowed to use as a camp site is secured by a gate.  I guess you could say it is a gated camping community. :)  The gatekeeper is a very nice lady living on the south side of the gate.  She does not mind us using the lot about 400 yards from her house (even when she showed up last year to scold us after we ran through a dozen or so rounds of shotgun shells into the creek). 

I was still yielding calls from some of the guys.  The last call was to ask if I could pick up some ice.  The guys had just left the grocery store and had forgotten.    While purchasing the ice I thought I would appease the girls by buying them a bottle of water (plus they had asked for it). 

We arrived at the gate to find the gatekeeper holding the gate open.  (she must have a sixth sense).  We took the sandy road from the gate until we reached the grass road back to the camp site.  Most everyone else had arrived.  The first order of business upon arrival is to unload your supplies.  The others had gotten a head start.  We saw a few tables set up with camp stoves, a tent pulled out of its stuff sack, some tiki lamps on the ground with the lamp oil sitting beside them, the food box, and we could see the creek and the pond.  We had about an hour and a half of daylight left to get unpacked and set up.  The evening weather was perfect: no humidity, a cool breeze, sweet smells of jasmine and honeysuckle.  The sun was beaming through the gaps in the trees, providing perfect evening shadows.  I can't explain it, but my favorite part of the day is the last two hours before dark.  It was about 65 degrees with the low headed for 58.

The girls bailed out of the truck and were just sort of running around in circles.  I don't think they knew what to look at first.  The guys greeted us and asked if we needed any help.  I asked if they would help with the firewood.  Once the firewood was unloaded, the rest was passed out among my crew as they ran by the truck.  KJ took her sleeping bag and back pack, Squirt took her backpack and bottle of water.  I grabbed the tent and searched for the best spot to set up our nylon hotel.

Squirt asked, "What are you looking for Uncle Kipp?"  
I know the girls are having fun when they call me "Uncle Kipp".   When we hang out with my brothers' kids (Lord Knobhead) his kids of course call me Uncle Kipp.  Typically when we are hanging with the cousins we are on some sort of vacation; so we are always having fun.  I take it as a compliment when my own kids call me Unlce Kipp instead of Dad during these times of bliss. 

I told her I was looking for some good soft ground without any ants, sticks, rocks, or lumps to put up our tent.  This is free information for any of you that do not camp regularly.  There are several factors to consider when setting up your tent.  
1)The ground.  
Is it bumpy, is it wet or dry, are there ants near, are there rocks or roots, does it appear to be a flash flood drainage area?  Do there appear to be any holes where living creatures my live?  
2) Limbs
Are there limbs nearby that may scratch the side of the tent making for what one may think is a lost crazy ax murderer wondering through the woods when the occupant is awakened by such noise.  What is above the proposed area?  Are there dead limbs in the tree that may fall if the wind picks up that could impale the occupant? 
3) Fire
What is the proximity to the campfire?  Sure the tent is fire retardant but why press the occupants luck.
4) The facilities
How close will the tent to the popular tree or bush?  Being upwind from the privy is most desirable.
5) Daylight
Getting your tent set up before daylight runs out is probably the most important factor in successful camping.  You just do not want to try to set up a tent in the dark...dang near impossible.  
6) Rain
Another important consideration get the tent up and ready to occupy in case of rain.  Putting up a tent in the rain is impossible.  

I got the tent set up and zipped up to keep any bug, critter or otherwise uninvited guest out of the tent.  With a thumbs up sign I got "Good job Uncle Kipp." from Squirt.

I walked over to Mr. Fillers and let him know the girls were a last minute addition.  I also let him know not to cook them a hamburger, we had feed them before coming out here.  
"Dude, we have plenty.  They can one if they want one."  
"OK thanks, but they ate some spaghetti before we left so maybe they can split one later if there is any left over."

The girls were playing Frisbee and kickball with the only other kid brought on the camping trip, Matt.  They were all laughing, screaming and running around in sweet abandon.  Mostly acting the ways kids ought to act outside.  They were happy.  This is when Squirt announces she has to pee.    

Reality has a way of smacking me in the face.  This time it was emphasizing how I had not prepared everything.  In all my years of camping I had not been responsible for taking care of a female that needed to pee.  All the co-ed youth canoe trips I had been on, I had not paid any attention to the girls using the bathroom.  I figured they just held it or peed in the creek while we were swimming.  I am sure they ever even mentioned it.  Unlike the guys, where there is usually grand announcements made about having to go talk to a man about a horse, or having to shake the dew off the lily pad or having to pee like a Russian race horse, or, well I might better hold off on the others...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Camping with the girls - Part I

I just found out my wife has been talking behind my back.  About what you ask?
For about a week she has been telling her friends about the overnight camping trip I took my two daughters on the night before my writers workshop.  She came clean tonight explaining how her and her friends have been talking and laughing about the camping trip.

For the rest of the story I am going to refer to my daughters as Kipp Jr or KJ for my oldest and Squirt for my youngest.

What was so funny?  Well there was one portion of the trip I was not completely prepared for.  For you ladies reading this, you know exactly what I am about to say.  For you guys, you are waiting to see what all the fuss is about.  My girls and I had been at camp about an hour when I heard the words, "Dad I need to pee."

Can I back up a minute?  Let me back up a minute.   I can already see this is going to have to be a multiple part post.

Some guys from my church wanted to go camping.  They went way beyond what I consider is necessary on planning for a camping trip (which last years camping trip will need to be a prequel to this post - blog material suddenly floweth).  

I am a spur of the moment planner.  Matter of fact, I called my wife at 3:00 the day I was going camping and asked her if she thought KJ would want to tag along on the camping trip.  KJ has been wanting to go camping since she saw a movie or something where kids were camping.  I was planning on borrowing my dads tent and sleeping out in the backyard on a test run to see if KJ would enjoy sleeping on the ground near the house before taking her out in the real woods.

Phone call 1 made about 3:00

Kipp I am not sure it is a good idea to take KJ with you.  
Honey it is relatively close by, it is only 45 minutes from the house.  If she does not like it I can bring her back home.
Sounds like you are taking her so you do not have to stay all night.
Not true, not true at all.  However since I have the writers workshop in the morning it would not necessarily hurt my feelings.  Just ask her if she wants to go because it is a good opportunity to see if she is going to like it.  It's close, it's better than the backyard, but it is not so far away as to cost a lot of time and money.
OK I will ask her.
~We hang up.~

Phone call 2 at 3:02 

Squirt is packed and ready to go.  She has her stuff in her backpack and wants to know when you will be home to pick them up.
Squirt!? She wants to go?  What about KJ?
Yes they both want to go.  Are you sure about this?
Cool.  How about you, you want to go?
Just thought I would ask.  Tell them I will home about 4:30.

Sure enough I get home and both girls are standing in the kitchen with their backpacks on, sleeping bag (yes just one) by the door, jackets and blue jeans on and asking:
When are we leaving?
As soon as I pack I told them
How long will that be?
We can leave in one hour.
(See the Beach Trip to see how patient the girls can be)

I yielded some phone calls from the other guys while I packed.  I find out the host, the one with the key to the gate to the campsite is running late.  He tells me he is just got to the grocery store and he will not be at the gate until almost 6:00.  My girls had been ready to go camping since 3:02 waiting till 6:00 to leave was not going to be an option.  I gathered up my stuff as quickly and thoughtfully as I could.  While in the backyard I had a moment of brilliance.   The girls have a Fisher Price picnic table, I grabbed it and threw in the back of the truck.  This will give them a place to eat and hang out.  

I grabbed up the other essentials taking a sleeping bag, 2-man tent, firewood, my camp chair (see Is that you for a picture of my camp chair), my toboggan, my cool safari hat, roll of TP in a zip lock bag, a small flashlight, and a few extra folding chairs.  While I was doing this my wife was giving both the girls and me instructions.  Didn't you say there was a creek?  Girls do not go near the water.  Are there going to be guns?  Do not go near the fire.  Where is this place?  Do not walk near the pond.  Is there cell phone reception?  The girls each have a light in their backpack.  If you two get scared tell daddy and he can bring you home.  Will there be other campers out there?  Drink this water you need to be hydrated.  

All valid questions and instructions.  All were provided in rapid succession, all at about the same time.  Can you tell she was nervous about us going?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Four Fill-In (co host)

I visited a site a few weeks back that was fun and thought provoking.  Feeling Beachie.  The concept is a weekly "Friday Four Fill In" the blank.  Enjoy reading the answers to the fill ins, grab the questions if you like, pass it along with a link back to the original blog and the blog you pick it from, your blog gets added to the list for people to visit and the fun just rolls along.   

Here is the link back to Feeling Beachie.

I submitted a few fill ins to Hilary and she liked them so much she wanted me to co-host her Friday Four Fill In =).  So feel free to read my answers, go over toFeeling Beachie and read Hilary's, then grab the fill ins and play along if you wish.  

Here are the fill ins and my answers below.

1.      My favorite kitchen secret is___________
2.      _____is my favorite flavor of ice cream
3.      My favorite pair of ______ finally wore out. 
4.      If I could just have one more ______. 

Answer 1: using a rear view mirror while I cook.
(see what I mean here)

Answer 2: Rocky Road, Cookies-n-Cream, Butter Pecan, Moose Tracks, Chocolate, Pralines-n-Cream,... long is this blank?

Answer 3: Umbros
The "nether-region" seam finally gave out and it was just not decent to wear them, even around the house. 

Answer 4: Caramel delight  
The girl scout cookie with the caramel, coconut and I think a butter cookie.  Once a year is not near enough.  And why do they keep the changing the name.  Caramel coconut, Samoa, Caramel delight....GIRLS stop being so tricky!

Monday, April 4, 2011

...I am back

Have they created a pill to prevent the foot in mouth disease?

The writers workshop was just as it was billed.  The morning session proved to be chock full of information on how to be published.  The process was geared to help writers know what editors and publishers look for but most importantly what will cause an automatic rejection.  Very very informative.  

The second session, about getting a professional editor to read your manuscript out loud in front of the whole class while providing only what was wrong with your work, provided a room chocked full of nerves.  Very very unsettling.

From the two sessions I was able to compile several pages of valuable notes.   These notes, if I will use them, will make me a better writer.  The workshop was well attended.  It was well organized.  The Mobile Writers Guild and our local library helped make it very comfortable.  

I met some very nice people.  There were some very talented writers in the room.  This was evident as the manuscripts were read aloud.  Plus Mr. Garrett said it was one of the more talented group of writers he had visited.  Even with our nerves on edge with our manuscripts about to be reviewed by a professional editor, the seasoned writers in the room made me feel welcome.  I felt anyone of them would be willing to assist me in my journey to be a better writer.

Remember how in Here I go... I created a few scenarios about how the workshop may play out for me?   (If you have not, the rest of this may not make sense)  What happened next was actually in a portion of that post...

If you are thinking I accurately predicted being asked to step out in the hall scenario, well that would have been less embarrassing.  Remember the part about Ms. Marple and her vampire novel.  Yeah she was there.  Matter of fact she sat right beside me.  Really?  Reeeelly?!  Yes.  Follow me on this.

During the first session and up to the beginning of the second session when the manuscripts were collected, we were guarding our manuscripts as if they were top secret.  So nobody knew the content of anybody's work.  My table neighbor and I had not spoken during the first session.  We introduced ourselves right before the second session started.  She asked me the genre of my manuscript.  "Non-fiction, oh OK" she replied.  I asked her about her genre.  "Horror, interesting" I said.  Some more small talk led her providing me with a writers forum she frequently visits online.  I provided her with my blog address.  With the second session about to begin our question and answer session ended.
Everyone's nerves became heightened as the anticipation to respond with just a few words when Mr. Garret asked us to identify the genre of our work before he read it aloud.

My table neighbors' manuscript was one of the first to be read.  As her work was being read, it made Silence of the Lambs sound like Mary Had a Little Lamb.  It was scary, grotesque, bizarre, how do people think of this stuff, mess with your mind, freaky "stuff".  Some of you may think those descriptive words as being negative comments, but au contraire; to a writer of horror Ms. Marple accepted them as compliments.  

With that being said.  Ms. Marple if you are reading this post, because you requested and I obliged providing you with my blog address before I knew you were submitting a vampire novel manuscript.  And if you have already read the "Here I go..." post because it has been sitting out there for a few days now.  Or if this post is the first one you happen upon and have gone back to read previous said post.  I just want to say I am sure the vampire horse does still have life and always will.  I hope you understand I was just picking on the ever so popular Twilight series because of its huge success. 

So just sayin', if anybody hears of a needed test group for the foot in mouth pill, I am available.