Family and/or Autobiography

Red Squirrel’s Indian Summer (Part 2)

Indian GuidesThis is the second part of my Indian Guides story. If you haven’t done so already, you should first read Part One. Go on. You’ll like it. I’ll wait for you. 

***

I wasn’t sure how I had gotten myself into this situation – or rather I did. It was Tall Oak’s fault.

Tall Oak was Dad’s Indian Guides name. Mine was Red Squirrel. These names conjured up terrible memories: Mind-numbing lectures on Lenae Lenape wedding rituals. Sweaty, aimless hikes in remote woodlands. And the near constant, condescending, passive aggressive drone of our tribe’s chief, Grey Hawk.

Despite accumulating a lifetime’s worth of boredom, anxiety, and irritation during our first year in Indian Guides, Dad had signed us up for a second. The only consolation I could take from this was that Indian Guides was a father/son organization; so, yes, I have to suffer, but Tall Oak would be suffering right along with me.

Adding insult to injury, Dad volunteered to host the very first tribe meeting of the new season. I translated this to mean that a bunch of kids would be tromping through my house touching my stuff. The very idea made me cringe. Even though I had an older sister, we were born seven years apart and our paths rarely crossed. Therefore I was an unofficial only child, and, like many only children, sharing did not come naturally.

Dad, on the other hand…

“Hmmm…” Wearing a thoughtful frown, Dad peered into the fridge. The other members of the tribe would be ringing our bell any minute and he wanted to make sure he was prepared for their arrival. “I probably should’ve gotten more beer. Oh, well,” he shrugged. “It’ll do.”

Indian Guides meetings didn’t normally have beer, but Dad decided to blaze a new trail. Another trail he was blazing was his plan to have nothing – absolutely nothing – prepared for the evening. The Indian Guides host was supposed to have an appropriate Native American-ish activity on hand. As far as I could see, the only activity Dad had in mind involved a fridge full of Budweiser.

Chief Grey Hawk was not going to like this. Not one bit. And when the chief didn’t like something, he lectured and tut-tutted and generally made himself insufferable until everyone present fell into an eye rolling stupor.

The guests soon began to arrive. As each father shrugged out of his coat, Dad threw a can of beer at him at him.

Most were surprised by the projectile, but all of them caught it. All of them also followed up their catches with a paraphrase of “Now this is my kind of meeting!”

Dad laughed every time the line was uttered as if it was the first time he had ever heard it ever. He gave the father and son a hearty handshake and led them to the basement with promises of bottomless bowls of Doritos.

The only brave who didn’t get beered upon his arrival was the chief, who showed up last.

The chief heard the merry commotion wafting up from the basement — booming laughter and an elephant herd of scampering kids. “Everyone is here already?”

“Yeah, they’re here.”

Grey Hawk squinted at his watch. “Am I late?”

“Nope. I suppose the other guys were just eager to get started.”

Everyone is early! The chief beamed. This was clearly evidence that he was a beloved leader. “So, Tall Oak, what do you have planned for this evening?”

“Come on down, I’ll show you.”

What Grey Hawk found was a party. A roomful of dads on their second or third beer and wired kids with their distended cheeks crammed full with chips.

He did not like it. Not one bit.

“You’re serving beer?” Grey Hawk sputtered. “There are children here!”

“Oh, the kids aren’t drinking,” Dad replied. “I have soda for them.”

Before Grey Hawk could work himself into full blown level of insufferability, Dad whispered into my ear.

“Why don’t you take the boys up to the family room and show them that new video game of yours. You know the one: Revenge of the Cars.”

“Yars Revenge?”

“Right. That.”

As one, the young braves and I clumped up the basement stairs. I revved up the Atari 2600 and was soon dazzling my audience with my gamesmanship. The incessant beeps and boops of the TV were interrupted by an occasional raucous shout from the floor below, but we paid it little mind. This was the best Indian Guides meeting we had ever had and we didn’t want to squander it be eavesdropping on adults.

After everyone got his turn at Yars Revenge we switched to Phoenix, then Breakout.

The hollow thunks of the basement stairs alerted us to the fact that someone was coming up to ruin our fun. We turned to find a Grey Hawk seething in the doorway, his face beet red and his eyes little more than two malevolent slits peering through his glasses.

“Eric. Get your coat.”

So that was Grey Hawk’ kid’s name! I only knew him as Red Robin. Red Robin was wielding a joystick pulverizing me in Combat, the one where tanks battle each other with ricochet bullets.

Red Robin — someone I had always thought of as obedient and easygoing — ignored his father’s command. Instead, he viciously send my tank to kingdom come for about the dozenth time.

“Eric. Get your coat. Now.”

Red Robin turned from the game and shot his father a stare far more lethal than anything my tank had endured. I didn’t know he had such anger in him. No wonder Red Robin was so good at Combat, I thought; it was a much-needed outlet for his hostility. If I had Grey Hawk for a dad I’d be hostile, too.

Fortunately, I didn’t have Grey Hawk for a dad. I soon found out I didn’t have Grey Hawk for a chief either. As we boys destroyed our enemies in an imaginary 8-bit universe, our fathers were downstairs destroying a real enemy. An enemy of fun.

Tall Oak, of course, was the leader of this beer-fueled bloodless coup. In gratitude, he was unanimously elected chief. As the tribe cheered his victory, Tall Oak gave me a smile. I couldn’t help but smile back.

Things were about to change.

***

Tune in next week for the thrilling — or at least potentially amusing — conclusion to Red Squirrel’s Indian Summer!

On Blogging

My Versatility Responsibility

A few weeks ago the bloggerific Writerlious (aka Erin) honored me with a Versatile Blogger Award – and I am delighted. (According to her blog post, my chilling exposé on the origins of Marshmallow Fluff put me over the top.) Thanks, Erin!

As the recipient of this award, I now have to perform a few simple tasks.

1. Thank the person who nominated me and link back to said blogger’s site. (Which is easy because I did that in the first paragraph. You should check out Erin’s blog, by the way; it’s a good one.)

2.  I must share seven things about myself.

3. I must nominate seven more versatile bloggers.

4. Then I must contact said bloggers and post the award by linking back to the Versatile Blogger Award site.

So! Let’s get started!

Seven Things About Me

1. My father and I were once proud members of Indian Guides. For those of you not in the know, Indian Guides (now “Adventure Guides,” I’m told) was an organization designed to introduce fathers and sons to the wonders of nature. That pretty much meant camping. It soon became very clear, however, that neither Dad nor I was cut out for surviving in the wild. (On our very first nature walk, Dad lost my compass by dropping it in a river. Seriously, who does that?) So when Dad eventually became chief of the tribe, he decided to make a few changes. Instead of camping and nature walks, we did things like tour the Drakes Cakes factory. It turned out all the other tribe members preferred this kind of forward-thinking leadership. At least that’s what I think they told me; it was hard to understand them with their mouths stuffed full with Devil Dogs.

To me, this patch will forever be associated with the creamy goodness of Ring Dings.

2. My Indian Guides name is “Red Squirrel.” You may still call me this if you wish.

3. Last Christmas, my wife bought me a banjo, which is probably the best present I have ever received in my adult life. I haven’t been able to practice nearly as much as I would like, but I do take lessons and can play an almost-competent rendition of “Boil Them Cabbage Down.”  As lousy a player as I am, I find it great fun. My banjo is always within reach of my desktop computer; so whenever my writer brain ceases to function, I grab my finger picks and start a-pluckin’. Everything looks brighter when you have a banjo!

4. I’ve discovered that when I tell someone – anyone – that I play the banjo, the very next sentence that comes out of his or her mouth will include the word “Deliverance.” I try not to let this bother me.

5. My earliest childhood memory is when I was a toddler strapped to the back of Mom’s bicycle. From this perch I watched as she ran out into the center of a busy road to rescue a box turtle from oncoming traffic. I don’t know if we lived in a particularly turtle-rich part of the state or if we just kept encountering one turtle with a disturbing death wish, but I remember Mom doing a lot of turtle rescuing over the course of my childhood. I should also point out that a turtle rescue, from my little kid perspective, was rather unnerving, as it meant that Mom had to leave me alone on the back of a bike with only a wobbly kickstand keeping me from kissing the pavement.

Waiting for the crossing signal…

6. In my early 20s I, too, rescued a turtle from the middle of a busy road. During this heroic and selfless act, it peed on me. Twice.

7. Despite the turtle pee incident (and a few other things), I’m pretty happy with the way my life has turned out so far.

Seven Versatile Blogs

All right. Enough about me. Below (in no particular order) are seven bloggers who are all that and a bag of chips. Check ’em out!

roxieh.wordpress.com: Simply a fabulous resource for writers. The charming and personable Roxie keeps followers in the loop about any and all writing opportunities.

www.juliehedlund.com/julies-blog: Much to my chagrin, I discovered Julie’s blog too late to sign up for her 12x12in12 challenge (one new picture book draft every month in 2012) but I’m already signed up for her 2013 challenge (whatever that might be) and, while I wait, I’m enjoying her frequent posts.

practicalfreespirit.com: A science fiction and YA writer whose posts are sincere, thoughtful, and heartfelt.

humblenations.com:  This guy has got a keen design eye. As a former (and failed) graphic designer, I can really appreciate his talents. You will, too.

stacysjensen.blogspot.com: I eagerly look forward to her Perfect Picture Book Fridays.

thefamilythatreadstogether.com: I fell in love with Wendy’s writing style; I also fell in love with the books she recommends.

livelikeagrownup.wordpress.com: Sometimes witty, sometimes inspiring, always a darn good read.