The Great Minnesota Get Together.

Order of cheese Curds - $4.00
Foot Long Hotdog (smothered in fried onions) - $4.00
Large glass of soda - $2.00
Order of Gator Tader (Fried Alligator nuggets) - $5.50
Tiny Tim Mini-donuts - $3.50
Soda refill - $1.00
Mike’s Hamburger (also smothered in onions) - $1.25
Kettle Cooked Kettle Corn - $6.00
Blackberry Milkshake - $4.50
Watching your husband eat his way toward cashing in on his life insurance policy - Priceless!

Well, that would be my wife’s MasterCard commercial (at least after Friday’s visit to the Minnesota State Fair).

We (as in the whole family, as in my wife, myself, and ALL FIVE kids) made a family event out of attending the Minnesota State Fair! It also seems that I was not alone representin’ the dad-bloggers - Dad Stuff was also at the fair on Friday… Sorry I missed you (in the vast crowds) Dad Stuff!

The day was PERFECT!

Like Dad Stuff said in his posting, you could not ask for better weather. For having had rain for the past week, it was the first dry day in a long time. The temperature was ideal. I was in shorts, while the oldest of five was wearing long pants. Even with the variation in clothing styles, not once did anyone complain about being too hot or too cold! Weather like this is what makes Minnesota the BEST!!

The absence of bugs was also noted, and appreciated… Well, except the ever present bees, but after last week’s successful campaign against them, I sensed the evil bee hordes were licking their wounds, and simply too frightened by my “commanding presence” to make a significant attack upon us.

The night before we went to the fair, the stars and planets must have all magically aligned. This could be the only explanation for ALL FIVE of the kids having behaved so perfectly! There was not one meltdown, tantrum, or crying fit. There was no hitting, punching, pinching or slapping – No eye gouging, hair pulling, or butt kicking. There was not even a scratch, or even a bite… Not once incident of tattling, whining, or even any complaining. There was nothing! Nada! Even while in the car BOTH there AND back was perfectly without incident! The gods smiled upon me this day, and I was pleased!

(Regardless of what you may be thinking - I did >>NOT<< use ether, or any other chemical to make this happen. It was truly "kismet")

Usually (when only two or three of us go to the fair), we eat our own individual “choices” in food. This year (since all seven of us would be present) things needed to be approached a little differently.

Feeding a family of seven at the Fair would require a decent sized home equity loan.

We decided to “sample” our way thru the fair. After arriving, we started out the culinary depravity by sharing two trays of “Cheese Curds”. That does not add up to much once you divide them by seven – in fact, it only awoke the appetite within.

It was time to feed people, so we each picked out a “lunch” (and I use that term loosely). “Foot longs” (two “plain, one “mild onion” and one “super-heavy-duty-smothered-slathered-and buried under a mountain” of onions for half the family (guess who got the “onion special”?)), and the other half “Pronto-Pups” (corn dogs deep fried in oil that would be considered “too dirty” to put in the crankcase of my 1994 “on-its-last-legs” Escort, then cooked just a wee bit too long) for those that were not interested in the foot longs!

Again, I could weave a tale bore you to death with the details of the rest of the day (culinar-ly that is), but you have seen the list. The only other delicacy that was completely and entirely eaten by “your truly” was the Mike’s $1.25 hamburger (also smothered-slathered-and buried under a mountain” of onions) (Hmmm… my wife seemed unusually distant from me throughout the day… I wonder why….). The rest of the day found the family (happily) sharing gorging upon our bountiful feast!

Last item of food worthy notation: My wife REFUSES to eat alligator. I have tried every year we have gone to the fair, since "Bayou Bob's Gator Shack" opened in 1997. Every one of the kids liked it, I like it, but she will not even give it a try. She also refuses to try any of the other exotic meats I would like to try one day – like Snake, Bear, Ostrich, Loon, Trumpeter Swan, or Bald Eagle. (Ok… The Loon, Trumpeter Swan and Bald Eagle are all “hunter” jokes, but the rest of the list (among a couple of others) are on the “I’d like to try before I die” list).

The first of the other two “highlights” of the day for me was watching the girls take part in the “Little Farm Hands” exhibit. It is a mini-farm, where kids (under ten) are invited to partake in several farm activities like collecting feed, gathering eggs, planting seeds, and harvesting vegetables, collecting wool, and picking fruit. After collecting all the fruits of their labor – they take the items to a “farmers market” where they receive a “money” for their work. The kids then go into a grocery store and purchase food with their “money” (They got to choose from several canned vegetables or a single serving sized box of cereal.)

And (even though I have seen it numerous times) we had to stop at the Stihl & Cabela's Ironjack Lumberjack Show. Four lumberjacks compete in teams of two in the springboard chop, chokerman’s race, axe throw, speed birling, tree topping, hot saw, stock saw, speed climbing, and log rolling. This was right up Zachary’s alley, and because we were all so tired – we found great seats (front row center) and settled in for a rest until the show started. (I even fell asleep sitting up for OVER thirty minutes…) The kids really enjoyed the show, and Jonathan even got to hold a winning “token” after our team won an event.

The boys did visit the Haunted House – I have been there, done that… (i.e. – Not interested) But, since Ben was there, we let the three boys go on their own. Ben and Jonathan will revisit the haunted house next year, Zachary will not.

The day ended with a stop at the cotton candy booth on the way back to the car. If you take a close look at the “MasterCard” list at the beginning of this post, you do not see cotton candy on the list. I can not stand the stuff. Never liked it much, and as an adult – I despise it. That leaves all that much more for the kids to rot their teeth on share.

Remind me one day to tell you another memorable “State Fair” tale from back in the day... I’ll put it in my list of “Blog ideas” that I keep.

Our State Fair Family Day 2007 was a complete success. From the food, to the kids, and the events… This is one fair day that will stick with me for a long time.

New Clothes

If you were a youngster growing up in the 70's, undoubtedly you know what a "Garanimal" is.

I can honestly say that I do not know the origins of the word "Garanimal" (and that link does little to fill it in for me, but I am sure someone will be quick to point it out to me). Those of you that are "a bit younger" than the rest of us, Garanimals was (and still is) a clothing line. Each pair of pants, shorts, skirts, shirts, and blouses in the line have a tag of an animal on them. There is the Monkey, Lion, Panda and Giraffe.

I was always under the impression that the premise behind the Garanimals line was that you could buy ALL your clothing with the same animal tag on it, and end up with a matching (better yet, a completely “mix and match”) wardrobe. That seems like the right premise, doesn't it?

I have been informed (by my wife) that I am wrong.

Read that paragraph again. This time read it a little closer.

Did you find where I was "wrong"?

You see, while it is true that the line was meant to help you put together matching sets of clothing, apparently Garanimals were NOT designed so that ALL your clothing will match and therefore you would have a “mix and match” wardrobe. It would seem that you can have multiple “Garanimals” in your wardrobe. In other words, you do not have to be a "monkey" – You can be a "monkey" today and a "lion" tomorrow, and a "giraffe" the following day.

Silly me.

Now, I do have to admit, this “multi-garanimal-wardrobe” does make sense when I think about it. I have items of clothing in my wardrobe now (albeit a very few); that I would not wear with certain other items. But let’s be honest with each other here – although not quite as “interesting”, wouldn’t life be easier if everything matched everything else (as far as clothing goes)? You could just open a drawer, grab a shirt, then open another drawer and grab some pants, and feel confident that you will look good, and your clothing will match!

I bet you are all asking where this is coming from… Let me explain a couple things about myself here.

#1 - I am a hobo.

My wife called me a hobo many years ago (many years before we were married) and I cannot deny it. I have considered designing a line of clothing, and calling it "Hobo" - it works on the premise of the "Garanimals" line, but it would be intended for the “fashionably challenged” adult men of the world (like myself). (Oh, and by the way – “Hobo” WOULD be a mix and match line of clothing - everything would match everything else.)

(Alas, after a quick Google check, I have discovered that Hobo is already a line of clothing, although not quite as I had envisioned.)

Clothing always has been, and continues to be a necessary evil in my life. As far back as I can remember I despised shopping (and especially for clothing). Perhaps that's why my original idea of what "Garanimal shopping" should be like has left an indelible mark on my psyche. It seems like it would make shopping so much easier! Pick an animal. Done.

#2 – My Fashion Background

I went to private schools (read: Wore Uniforms) my whole life. Private school uniforms are a “mix and match wardrobe”. I just grabbed any one of the blue pairs of pants, and put it one with any one of the white shirts, and voila! Dressed for the day! I now see why my parents had such a hard time getting me to remember to change out of my uniform after school. I had no idea what to put on instead.

Throughout my school age years (I would say up until 11th grade) my “non uniform” wardrobe came to me as gifts. At Christmas and my birthday I usually received some new article of clothing, or outfit of some sort. I rarely if ever went out to shop for more (nor did I ever ask for more clothing). I worked in a hardware store – so my uniform was jeans and tee shirt under my Brown (then Grey) “Coast to Coast Hardware” vest. Uniform to school (Private High School too…), and (after school) jeans and a tee shirt to work

My first real experience shopping for clothing came my senior year. I still remember it to this day. With the help of a “woman's touch” – (My friend Lisa - Many Things do not Fly - whom you may have heard me talk about before) I purchased more clothes than I ever remember buying at the same time. We picked out clothes that I would have never picked out on my own. White pants, a pink shirt, pastel stripes, shorts, even shoes! (Ok... Gimme a break… It was the 80’s) I remember feeling quite odd purchasing, and (at first) wearing them – but I got many compliments, so I got over the odd feeling.

This first shopping spree happened in 1987. I was still wearing most of those clothes when I meet my wife in 1990. Although I did “fill in” my wardrobe here and there over the next few years, most of the original shopping spree items were still in my wardrobe (but in pretty ratty condition) after getting married in 1993.

#3 – What do I wear?

Fast forward a few years, a couple of jobs, two or three children, about 80 lbs of “working-nights”, stress, and “sympathy baby weight” – and I am back to having hobo clothing again. Miss matched pieces here and there… Well, at least shirts…

My job provides me the luxury of being able to wear casual clothing to work (jeans and polo or button shirts, and tee shirts (without offensive slogans)) on the weekends. I don’t think I have worn anything but blue denim jeans to work in YEARS. At any given time, I usually have a stash of between 3 and 5 pairs of jeans that I just rotate around. Heck, they area even the exact same brand, style and size. If you had to guess, it would look like I wear the same pair of pants to work every single day of the year!

Oh, my wife has (over the years) helped me pick out items here and there. She all but begs me to update / replace my current lack of a wardrobe, but until just recently we have been a one income family. Clothing was even lower on my priority list than it ever has been.

Last week we went out for our anniversary. Alone, just the two of us, as in – "no children", as in - “that never happens”. Well we went out for dinner at the Roasted Pear in Burnsville. After a filling dinner, we walked the Burnsville Center to work off some of our dinner. Inside JC Penny’s they have a pretty nice “Big & Tall” (i.e. “me”. I am both big, and I am tall) department. Normally I do not even look in this department (as B & T clothing is “too expensive” for my "hobo" tastes). But the 50-75 percent off signs caught my eye, and I did actually pick through a rack or two.

What started out with one shirt that was marked down, from a markdown, from a markdown, from another mark down (A $1.97 shirt) then became a $1.97 shirt and a $6.97 shirt. My wife was all over these clearance racks finding all sorts of “outfits” for her “fashionably challenged hobo of a husband. (I think the thought of seeing me in ANYTHING except jeans was music to her ears (or in this case... eyes).

Well, about 90 minutes, an uncomfortable period of time in a un-air conditioned changing room (that involved several clothing changes) and the better part of $200.00 later, I walked out of JC Penny’s with a bag full of clothing. A bag that contained more clothing than I have purchased (at the same time) since I was in high school.

Now… (Checking to make sure my wife can not hear me) Don’t let my wife know this, but I kind of like my new clothes. I have only worn my blue denim jeans once since I got the new clothes. (Although due to a funeral for a close family friend, I have also had to wear my “Class-A’s” too… )

The only problem I am having with my new clothes is my inability to find out which Garanimal they are. Without my Garaniamls, how will I be able to differentiate which shirt goes with each pant, and which pant goes with each shirt?

It will live to see another day

In true "King of Clubs" fashion, I will attempt to dupicate one of my close friend (and fellow blogger) - Bill's favorite type of posts - The Auto Repair Post! (You will find many posts about home auto repairs there, and much talk about both his Suburban (the 'Burban), his wife's Jeep, and his former Truck on his blog!

Well, I was about ready to throw in the towel on the 'Scort. (Escort). It slowly began a "death breath" of an idle. I could not keep it running while at stop lights, or sometimes even on a quick deceleration. Since the clutch is bad, the front struts (and strut supports) are bad, one of the rear leaf springs is bad, and the front windshield is bad - I was getting close to thowing in the towel. But after a couple of days of dealing with the 'Scort's "Death Breath" - I started hearing a high pitch whistle under the hood. One night after work, I popped the hood and sure enough, I found at least one significant flaw.

I used high temp metal tape to repair the boot, and the next day the 'Scort was running as smooth as silk again (minus the windshield, strut, strut support, leaf spring, and clutch issues). The next day I ran to Wolf Motors (my local Ford Dealership) and ordered the parts (they did not have them in stock).

I ordered them, and got them installed. Now I need to have a meeting (with the voices in my head) if I should put a new clutch in the 'Scort. I am leaning that way, but we will see.

(Left is "Before" and right is "After" in both the top and bottom row of shots.)
(Should be clickable for larger versions)

I tried to get a picture like THIS one, but because of a couple of issues (like the size of the 'Scort vs the size of the 'Burban - and the size of me vs the size of Bill - It was not possible. I wanted to get a "comic" version of it, but try as I might, I could not fit under the hood.

Bill, this post is dedicated to you my friend!

A new feature

In an attempt to reduce the number of these "very short" posts that clutter up the blog, I have added a new feature to the blog. Glance over to your right (just a bit), and you will see the new addtion.

Quick Message(s) is a small little area where I can post some brief reminders, a "heads up", or update messages (without making a tiny post like THIS ONE. Think of Quick Message(s) as a "whiteboard" within my blog.



The Great Bee Battle of 2007

CAUTION: Graphic images of battle casualties included in this post!
View images at your own risk.

The date; Fourteen, August, 2007.
The scene of the battle had been chosen. For a strategic victory, it was decided that there would need to be an attack on two separate fronts.

As the predetermined date and time of attack approached, I (as field commander) armed myself with the arsenal of a warrior of my caliber. I have always prided myself on my humane tactics, but today, (in direct violation of the “rules on engagement” from the Geneva Convention, I prepared for a complete chemical genocide of every drone, queen and pupa (man, woman, and child). In order to prevent my enemies from escape, and to avoid the unsightly and dangerous situation of fallen soldiers littering the battlefield, I built a barrier to surround the first battle field. (An ice cream pail). I lined the barrier with thick absorbent material (toilet paper), and then began soaking the absorbent material with a toxic chemical agent. I still had no regrets for the action(s) I was about to undertake. With my son as a witness to my imminent victory, I slowly covered the battlefield in the chemically deluged battle field container.

It was now that I started to wonder if my eternal soul may pay for such a heinous method of genocide. As the barrier went up around the community, I could see (and hear) the enemy combatants as they angrily (and futile) tried to escape. I watched (in a sick sort of bemusement) as one by one, the solders fell victim to the effects of the toxic chemical attack. I was relieved when I finally saw no more movement, nor could I hear any sounds of life from the previously “buzzing with life” community.

I (along with my youngest son) viewed the eerie sight of what was left of my enemies fortress. It was oddly quiet, void of any life… Zachary noticed the incubators that contained the yet unborn enemy soldiers. He commented on how interesting it would be to have been able to witness the miracle of birth. We continued to check the fortress for any remaining soldiers, when Zachary pointed out movement from one of the incubation chambers. Knowing this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity, we sat, and watched as another (new) enemy merged from it’s birth place unaffected by the previous chemical attack.. OOnly seconds after witnessing its birth, I took a snipers stance, and ended it’s “moment’s old” life. We decided we could take no more chances, and put down a layer of “suppressive fire” that not a single living enemy could have survived. (Not even the unborn). Out of respect (and morbid curiosity) we collected the remains of the fallen, and left the battlefield.

It was only a short reprieve before we reached the second battle scene. Due to its inconvenient location, I was unable to utilize the “chemical containment system” to wipe out the entire base. Unsealed the (previously) sealed entrance, and waited for the enemy to swarm me. There was no movement from within the camp. I started beating the outside of their fortress, hoping to rouse the battle spirit within them, but this was not enough. Since my eternal soul was in trouble for my previous battlefield atrocities, I decided I had nothing to loose, and begin another chemical attack. Moments after the attack began, hordes of the enemy began fleeing their fortress. The layout and sheer numbers of enemies in this second battle convinced me that I would not achieve the 100% kill rate that I enjoyed in the prior battle. After dozens of enemy soldiers fled their encampment, I surveyed the damage. I had about a 33% kill rate.

My son (always the observant one - and trying to keep his dear ol’ dad safe) noticed a small (previously unnoticed) hole where two soldiers seemed to have fled from (without my having seen them). I immediately changed my coordinates, and sent a deluge of chemical toxin back down the hole. A huge wave of soldiers fled the main entrance. It was a mass exodus. There were far more soldiers than I could handle alone. It was time I rethought my tactics. I stepped back into a snipers position, and (as the sheer numbers started slowing down) I pegged off my enemies - one by one. I again enjoyed an (about) 33% kill rate (although this is estimated).

We (once again) collected the remains of the fallen, and left the battlefield. The remains were counted and anyalized, and all that is left is to record this victory in the history books.


As of 1700 hours, both battles can be considered a success. I am watching as a few of the surviving soldiers return to the second battlefield, only to find access to their fortress blocked. I will (as long as I am armed) continue to snipe enemy combatants in a continuation of these (very successful) missions.

Tomahawk 2007

August 4 - August 10
(I attended as a chaperone from Aug 4 - August 7)

Jonathan is our first Boy Scout. He “crossed over” to Boy Scouts from Weblos last winter, and has been pretty involved in the “Boy Scouts” since.T

he highlight of the year is the week long camping trip to “Tomahawk Scout Camp”. I have discussed the planning of this event a bit in prior posts, but the date finally arrived.

Here is a pic from one of the preliminary meetings. (Jonathan is the one with the teeth and the sunburn.)

Throughout the planning process I discovered, fretted, and realized a few things that made me a bit apprehensive about attending this “vacation”.

#1 - Discovery - I was under the impression that all first year parents were going to be spending time with seasoned scouts, and all first time scouts were going to be spending time with seasoned parents. This was the most disappointing of all. You see, we did not take a “vacation” this year so that I would be able to use my vacation days to attend “Tomahawk”. When I heard that I would not even be spending time with Jonathan - well, that truly disappointed me.

#2 - Fret - Bathrooms. My bathroom phobias are a post for another time, but needless to say any time I am away from home for more than two or three days (my “holding it“ limit), bathroom layouts, locations, and conditions are frequently in the forefront of my mind.

#3 -Realized - I doubted the reliability of my 1994 Teal colored Ford Escort 4-door with 1.9l engine and a 5-speed transmission, with over 193,000 miles on it, a cracked windshield, broken struts, strut supports, one broken leaf spring, and (at the time) a significant vacuum leak that killed the engine at idle (the vacuum leak has been discovered and temporarily repaired since returning). Nope, I was not about to take other peoples children in my car (and I use the term “car” loosely). Folks, the darn thing is paid for, and gets between 33-35 mph. I am planning on driving this car until there is NOTHING left of it. But, regardless of the positive aspects of this vehicle, it is not something to transport Boy Scouts on a 300 mile journey in... Period.


Solution #1 - Solution to #1 came when (as I was unable to attend) I sent my #1 secretary wife to the final meeting, and had her ask why I would even want to (let alone “have to”) attend if I was not spending time with Jonathan. I am happy to report that I was mistaken, and it was made clear to me (via my wife), how I misunderstood the whole notion. I was indeed able to spend time with Jonathan! I could have even shared a tent with him, but he was interested in tenting with his friends (and I thought the peer socialization would do him some good!)

Solution #2 - Did not occur to me until day two of the trip. You will just have to read more to find out more. (or skip over that portion of this post and "use your imagination"!)

Solution #3 - My father was happy to lend a hand here, and volunteered the use of his 2003 Hyundai Sonata. This car made the trip so much less stressful. Thanks Mom & Dad (if you are reading this). It was greatly appreciated.Well, with most (except #2) of my discoveries, fretts, and realizations cleared up, it was time to go.

Most of my regular readers will be expecting a boring detailed minute by minute, blow by blow itinerary of what happened. I could do that, but it would take me a week to write the darn thing, and it would take most readers about 32 seconds before dismissing it as garbage. So, I’m not going down that road. Instead, I am going to share a few basic observations, and a couple of tid-bit highlights for you.

After an (about) two week drought, it is inevitable that the day we leave (and need to be standing in a parking lot – transferring backpacks, sleeping bags, pillows, and other miscelanious camping gear, is the first day (and the exact hour we are to be meeting) we get a significant rainfall. (But, at this point I could not have cared any less about the rain – it was needed!)

Three 11 year old boys sitting in a car with a parent who seemed to be engrossed in driving, and listing to Blue October’s Foiled CD, seemingly are oblivious that there may be adult ears that (although appear to not be listing) can hear EVERYTHING that is being said.

I was able to determine that it is around age 11 (somewere between fifth and six grades) that boys are beginning to notice girls, and are beginning to brag about who “liked” them and just how significant of a “liking” it really was. (No way, she told me that she REALLY, REALLY liked me – and that was after she said she liked you!)

Even when his friends are talking freely about girls (oblivious to my presence), I believe a son will always be more careful when his own father is within ear shot. Not one word of girls from my boy. I don’t know if this is good or bad – but with all the other talk, I find it odd.

Three eleven-year-old boys in the car (plus) nothing to do for nearly three hours (minus) anyone who cared enough to quiet them down (divided by) running out of girls to talk about (equals) an hour of hysterical pre-pubescent laughter brought on by a barrage of “fart noises” blown into their hands (which were cupped over their mouths).

Other than an uneventful stop for lunch at a Perkins, being served by a young waitress with “way too white teeth to be real” (that looked like they cost WAY too much to be bought on a Perkins waitress’ income), the remainder of the trip to Tomahawk was routine.

Upon arrival, (and about 3/4 of a mile hike from the parking lot) we located the Oak Campsite (our campsite), and started establishing a “base camp”. Some tents were already set up. Tent sites are on small wooden decks, with two or three tents to a grouping. There were about twenty tent sites in all in Oak Camp. Some Scouts brought their own tents to be put on an empty deck, some scouts brought their own tents to set up inside the canvas tents, but most of the scouts just used the canvas tents.

The tents were canvas, with no netting. They had a left and right side, a tie-able flap on the front and back, and a roof. Each site was provided two cots. Thankfully my neighbor provided me some mosquito netting to surround my cot with (which, by the way worked perfectly!).

All of our “Smell-ables” (soap, deodorant, toothpaste, snacks, munchies, bug spray, or anything that “smelled”) were put into Rubbermaid containers, and the containers were stacked in the “Bear Box”. The “Bear Box” is an old electrical transformer box that was hollowed out of all it’s electrical equipment, and had a couple of shelves installed.

The bathrooms were “latrines” style toilets. Each campsite had two (back to back) in an outhouse style structure. One of the two had a rudimentary urinal in it. Next to each latrine was a basin style sink. Across the top length of the basin (about 4 feet long) was a pipe with holes drilled in it. At the end of the pipe was a ball valve. Turn the ball valve, and pressurized water filled the pipe (drilled with holes) and voila – you have a four foot long faucet (not that a bunch of pre-teen and teenaged boys would even use a sink for anything….)

The campsite also had two fire-rings, a couple of picnic tables, and a bulletin board, and because Oak was so close to the lake, we had our own private little floating dock.

The beach held both the swimming and boating recreational facilities. There were three swimming sections. The “Non-Swimmer” where you could go about knee deep, the “Beginner” that went from knee to about 6’ depth, and the “Swimmer” area that went from 6’ to ??. The “Swimmer” area had a pontoon platform, and an inflatable trampoline. The Beginner area had water polo nets at each end. The “Non-Swimmer” area had… Lots of… Sand? The boat docks had several sailboards, several small sailboats, a catamaran, and a larger “cabin” style sailboat. (Not really all that big though).

The next area we experienced was the Weeks Dining shelter and the “Moo Shack”. Weeks was a humongous cement slab – with a timber style roof support system and a roof over the slab. (No walls). There were dozens of picnic tables, and a row of head tables. The “Moo Shack” was a small (glorified) storage shed with power (to keep a refrigerator running), and storage for non-perishables (Peanut butter, jelly, ketchup and mustard, and mayo packs), bread, etc.
Down a large hill from Weeks, was the flag ceremony area. (Boy, the Boy Scouts really take their flag etiquette seriously!) The flag was raised and lowered each morning and evening in a very formal ceremony. It was very interesting to partake in!

Beyond Weeks and the Flag pole were the showers. Boys on one side, Adults & Camp Staff split the other side (for obvious reasons). Adults were not allowed into the boys side even to clean. No exceptions. The facilities were… adequate.

There was a staff dorm area (off limits), and building with a meeting room (upstairs) and a trading post (downstairs).

Moms and Dads, if you are reading this post in anticipation of sending your boy to Tomahawk, keep in mind that the Trading post is, how do I say this respectfully – E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E-! You can expect that your scout will be paying just under a dollar (90 cents) for a candy bar, a small sized slushy, and other miscellaneous sugary treats. The cost of the supplies for the merit badges also can be a factor. The required supplies (without any “optional” supplies) for the Woodworking and the Leather craft classes alone are going to cost you a ten-spot.

For my ten bucks I got…

(one) 12”x12”x1/2” slab of pine (to carve)
(one) Neckerchief slide (also pine – to carve)
(one) leather kit (I bought Jonathan a pocket knife pouch)
(one) leather “round” (3” circle of leather)
(two) lengths of plastic strapping (for a weaving project to go with the leather round)

It was about 4 bucks worth of stuff.

The only redeemable quality was that the (huge) profits this place was makes goes back into the camp – so I felt a little less disgusted.

In another area of the camp you can find the shotgun range, the rifle range, and the archery range. (Costs: Three shotgun shells for a dollar, ten .22 cal cartridges for twenty-five cents, and ten arrows for free.)

At the furthest end of the camp was the horse barn (with 6 horses and a permanent “human foosball court”).

For the naturalists there was Eco (The Ecology building). They held classes on weather, birds, wildlife, insects, plants, wilderness survival, and other Ecology based curriculum.

Last and certainly not least was “Scoutcraft”. I spent most of my time at “Scoutcraft”. Scoutcraft was like an “island” where the trail to Eco and the Equestrian area looped around. Scoutcraft had stations set up for Woodworking, Leather Craft, a huge climbing tower, an “Axe Yard”, and a play area that our troop affectionately re-named “Slip and bleed”. “Slip and Bleed” was a humongous playground of ropes, nets, tightropes, cable carriages, swings and all sorts of wood, and rope contraptions built in, around, and among the trees! It was a “tween” boy’s dream! It was nick named “Slip and Bleed” because of all the minor injuries (to include, abrasions, contusions, sprains, strains, and lacerations) that all but a few from our troop fell victim to. Any time the boys had more than five extra minutes to spare, they would run off to “Slip and Bleed” to play.

Each of the new scouts were signed up for the “Brownsea” class. No, Brownsea has nothting to do with the latrines. Brownsea was the name of the island the very first set of Boy Scouts were taken for a campout back in 1907. They were taught all the necessary things about growing up a boy. The tradition is carried on to this day, and when a Boy Scout gets his Brownsea patch, he has completed almost everything he needs to move up his first rank from “Scout” to “Tenderfoot”. Brownsea class was two hours each day.

Jonathan also took Woodcarving, and Leatherwork. Both were held in the Scoutcraft area. In Woodcarving, Jonathan chose to carve a 3d image of a Loon in the block of wood. He was also required to carve a canoe paddle neckerchief slide. I actually had a lot of fun watching in this class, and even got my hands on a u gouge and helped out a teensy bit (but I felt guilty about it).

Leather craft was the last of Jonathan’s 4 electives (Brownsea (2 hours), Woodworking (1 hour) and Leathercraft (1 hour). In Leathercraft the boys were taught about leather, Neatsfoot oil, decorating leather, sewing leather, some weaving (in this case plastic straps) and were asked to put together a leather kit of their choice. (I picked the knife sheath for Joanthan – he LOVED it!)

Tip for the sufferers of Paruresis or Parcopresis. During Merit badge classes, the camp is all but empty EVERWHERE execpt the class areas. That, folks, was my saving grace.

In addition to the 4 (actually 3) classes Jonathan took, Jonathan also took part in several “Troop Activities”. Jonathan climbed (and rappelled back down) the climbing tower, spent a lot of time at the rifle range, tried his hand at archery, OD’ed on sugar from the Trading Post, spent some time at the Aquatics Center (swimming), did a lot of whittling, carving, and weaving on his down time, and spent a lot of time with his friends just hanging out.

The meals were good. “Comfort food” is what I would call them. Chicken, Stew, Corn dogs, omelets, etc. Not great, but not bad either. PB and J was an alternative at EVERY meal.

I know there is more to talk about, but I am afraid I could go on for hours.

Overall (and to summarize), I had a very good time. I am glad I went, and any concerns I had from the get go were quickly quashed. I know Jonathan made some lifetime memories (as did I). He is already looking forward to next year’s trip. I too am looking forward to attending again next year - with Zachary as a first year Boy Scout!

Beginning with the Ending

I'm going to start off by telling you about the END of my trip.

You see, on the last day of my Boy Scout Camp adventure, I did something, I experienced something, I lived through something that I have NEVER done before. I have dodged this bullet for the past twenty-two years, but this day - like it or not, that bullet struck me right between the eyes... Bullseye!

The embarrassing story follows ...

You see, on my last day of Boy Scout camp, I set my departure time around 6:00pm. This would allow me enough time to dine one last time with Jonathan, and since I packed up the car before breakfast (minus what I needed that day) I could maximize my time with the Scouts, and leave right from the dining shelter - still making it home between 9pm and 10pm.

All went as planned for the day - I packed the car, I spent the day with Jonathan, I dined with Jonathan and the rest of the "Eagle Patrol", helped clean up, and then walked back to camp with Jonathan to pick up my final belongings. We headed back to the parking lot (about 1/2 - 3/4 of a mile) and upon arrival, realized a couple of things. #1 - I had left items belonging to my son's friends (whom I drove up with) in the car. #2 - Rules at the park dicate that my son is not allowed to head back to camp alone (they utilize the "buddy system").

So, after getting to my car - and retrieving the other boys' items, Jonathan and I made the long hike back to the camp. (By now, my previously unmentioned case of "chafing" was really starting to hurt!) We returned to camp, and taking the time (which I had previously not done properly) to say some thank-you's, and good-byes to the other adult leaders, and chaperones whom had all returned to the Oak Campsite. I also tried to (verbally) give my permission to Jonathan's Scoutmaster to "kick his butt" if he got too far out of line... (Apparently there is no standard waiver I can sign, nor will a verbal aggrement suffice to allow my son to get his "butt kicked" if it is so needed.)

After a third hike to (or from) the car (again with the (by now) horrible case of chafing) I was on my way home.

The trip home went well. Without any children in the car, I was able to spend some quality time with "The Bloodhound Gang". One stop for gas and a Mountain Dew, and in no time I was back on my Home Turf.

Upon entry into Minnesota, I called back to my parents (who's car I used - as mine is "less than dependable"). I told my parents that I wanted drop the car off, get mine, and head home. But my dad insisted I stay for "five minutes" to visit.

Upon arrival at mom and dad's - Dad was out on a walk, and I would have to wait for him. I visited with my mother for fifteen minutes before my dad arrived home, visited with him for the next thirty minutes, before I headed home. (He wanted to show me what he had done to my car). He had spent an afternoon, completely cleaning my car, vacuuming the floor, and even cleaning the upholstery. It was very nice to have a clean car again - but I did want to get home.

I left my parents house and headed back home again. I quickly called home and told my wife where I was at, and how long it would be before I got home. We visited as I drove home and (because my Anniversary happened while I was at scout camp ) I planned on telling a little white lie, and told my wife that I needed gas (as I pulled into Cub Foods to buy her a bouquet of flowers - hey, gimme a break - where else can you buy flowers at 11:45 pm??). Well, after picking out some flowers, paying for them and (as I headed back to my car) I reached into my pocket to grab my car keys....

I don't think I need to tell you what happened next. The obvious was true. I had (for the first time in my life) locked my keys in my car. Oh, I have locked them in before, but always had a back up key available to me (in my work bag, in my pocket, in my wallet, etc). Not this time. No back up key AND my cell phone locked in the car.

I had to head back into the store, make a collect call from the payphone, explain the whole story to my wife, and tell her where the spare key was (in my work bag). She then had to wake Zachary so he could sit up and watch the girls long enough for her to drive up to Cub, and drop off my spare key at MIDNIGHT.

(On the bright side, it made it a little easier because I already had flowers in hand for my wife. She seemed a little less "perturbed" about having to bring me my key at midnight...)

Well, wanting to be home by 10, I was finally home and in bed by 1am, none worse for the wear, but with a slightly bruised ego, and a moderately embarrassing story to tell.

The tragedy of the last hour of my trip home did not in any way dampen the fantastic time I had at camp with Jonathan.

Stay tuned for my camp experiences!

I'm Back!

Yes, I am back. But I left Jonathan up at camp. He still has another four days of "Dadless 11 year old boy" bliss!

I did not roll in until (close to midnight) last night - that is another story in itself, and I really had a blast at Scout Camp! I am so pleased to see that (although he is still an 11 year old boy - and well, 11 year old boy's get into 11 year old boy troubles) overall, Jonathan is growing up to be a truly good person. I could ask for a scientist, or a surgeon, or extreme wealth for my child (and I still do) but, ultimately, if they leave my care being a good and happy person, I'll be pleased!

If this week has been any sort of "sneak preview" of when it comes time for Jonathan to leave my house for the "big-bad-world" - I will be able to hold my chin up and say I did my job successfully!

Now, I'll be honest here - I have been gone for four days, and I still have three of the five upstairs - and I have not seen much of them in the past week. You will have to excuse me here on the blog because, well, frankly, I cant wait to get up there and spend some time with them!

I'm off to the land of Barbie Dolls, "Lucky Duck" games, sand art, coloring and painting!!

Headin' out

I am spending today packing and preparing for my trip with Jonathan to Camp Tomahawk.

Honestly (at first) I was actually NOT looking forward to this trip. I was slightly frustrated because as a first year Boy Scout, the troop recommended that a parent attend (at least) a portion of the week long camp with their new Boy Scout. I did actually get excited hearing this. An opportunity to spend some "one-on-one" with one of the five is a rare occasion, and to do it while camping is even better.

That evening I left the meeting feeling down, and it has been rubbing me the wrong way since. You see, I thought I heard that I would be spending their day with experienced Scouts who have been there before. (There were so many new Boy Scouts THIS YEAR, that keeping track of the new kids would be a little bit harder, and so it was decided that New Scouts (Jonathan) would be spending their day with chaperons who have been there before, and chaperons who have never been there before (me), would be spending their day with experienced scouts.) It made no sense to me. Why would I take my only vacation this year to go to Boy Scout camp, only to spend it with someone else's kid. It got to the point that I was considering opting out. I was not looking forward to this trip at all...

Well, during the last meeting (which I was unable to attend due to my work schedule) I had my wife present as my information gatherer, and my spokesman. I needed some definite answers to why I was on vacation with another kid. My wife later informed me that (as usual) I had my facts mixed up, and we would indeed be able to spend the day with our own sons.

Having received that bit of news, and being given the task to go out and do some shopping for the camping trip (ouch! Stop twisting my arm - Ok, Ok... I'll go!) I was really starting to feel that excitement!

Due to out-of-town family (my sister, her husband and their twin boys) (no need to follow the link - I set up the blog for my sister, but she has yet to utilize it - even though the stories about her boys had me (literally) laughing to tears last night) - all packing and preparing has pretty much been on hold - but it can be put off no longer. Today is the day. I have an open schedule (expect perhaps a quick visit by fellow blogger / friend / and coworker Bill - who is going to be in my neighborhood on unrelated business). Packing for this trip has jump started my desire, and am really looking forward to spending time with Jonathan, and getting away (even just for a few days).

I understand that empty spot I leave in bed already has plans to be filled. Rebecca asked mom if she could "sleep in my place" a couple of times while I am gone... (Wow, that was fast! - Will I even be missed?) But, at least it will still be "warm" upon my return!

Well everyone - This will (most likely) be it for the next week. I hope to return with some good parenting stories, a couple of good pics, and a post or two!

Until then, feel free to peruse my new sidebar column "More Fathers". I have really started getting into reading other "Dad Blogs". I have tried to slap a few up there that have given me a smile or two, and I am only just starting to scratch the surface!

See you on the other side of Boy Scout Camp!

It couldn't be...

I have made it a rule to speak little if any about my work. I am afraid there is too much liability with talking about what goes on there. There are plenty who do, but - suffice it to say it's not for me.

Today though, I will push the limit of my "unwritten rule", and (while being intentionally vague), share something with you that is just too surreal to not share.

It has made it's way around the Internet, and has landed in my email box more than once. Perhaps you to have heard it. If you are one of the few that have not, follow the link to a Google search for either the audio or video versions of "BlondeStar".

I wont go into great detail here, but this is a mock OnStar commercial where a dim witted (presumably blonde) female contacts "BlondeStar" (an OnStar like in vehicle emergency service) because she has locked herself INSIDE her car.

Funny huh? Yup, think about it for a moment... Lock yourself INSIDE your car??

Well folks, every time I think I have "heard it all", I undoubtedly get another call that refreshes my belief (and fear) that the human species is doomed. Yesterday I found another opportunity to add to that fear, when I actually took a 911 call that was disturbingly similar to that BlondStar commercial. I would not have believed that the call was real, but the caller was what I would describe (by voice) as "elderly", and in a state of panic.

Now, understand dear readers, that while this was a terrifying experience for the caller, and realizing that could have been my grandparent, I could not have helped but chuckle once the call was complete - having heard the BlondeStar commercial several times in the past.

I do realize that using humor to deal with the stress of my job, has guaranteed me special chair (it even has my name carved in it) at the devil's head table in hell, and that someday I will pay for my methods, I just hope when it is my turn, someone will be able to laugh at me!

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