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Friday, October 9, 2015

Miss Winklesnout's Worries...

Autumnal Ickies. It’s a vague nothing-is-really-wrong but something-is-not-quite-right kind of thing. It  hovers daily about 4 o’clock and, interestingly, only this time of year. Energy lags, enthusiasm plummets, there’s a kind of pit-in-the-stomach feeling and anxiety increases. We call it the Fall Ickies here at Hare Hollow, and when one of us claims it, we both understand.
So what causes it, you ask? Falling leaves, dying landscapes, grey-cloudy skies, chill winds, evenings that arrive earlier and earlier as each day passes, and, at the forefront, the ever-present awareness that winter with all its isolation and difficulties looms dead-ahead!
SAD Syndrome, some folks diagnose knowingly. Yup. Makes me sad alright. And the lights that are supposed to remedy the malady give me a migraine!
Light is definitely helpful though. Sunlight, yes—every glean-able ray on these shortened-angle days, but when it slides behind the near-naked tree-tops and the shadows settle in the Hollow, and it's only mid-afternoon, well, the Ickies begin. It’s time then for lighted candles, something yummy and aromatic bubbling in the oven, shades drawn, and every lamp in the house lit (oh yes, and the power company cheers!)
There’s a little light in Miss Winklesnout’s cottage this dark cloudy afternoon. I suspect she is still recovering from her escapades at Pine Acres, and is more than grateful to be home where it’s peaceful and quiet.
She brought the mouselings—all eight of them—to the Huckleberry Fair, there in Pine Acres Woods the day after we arrived. Chipmunks and FieldMice of every size and temperament were in attendance. Tarts and puddings, even huckleberry griddle-cakes—one of Bic’s favorites—were offered on tiny tables, some wrapped to take home, others on wee acorn-caps to enjoy while walking through the displays.
Chippery Sliver, a slick fellow if ever you saw one, put his pet cricket-clan through a daring routine. They flipped and dangled through high vine-trapezes, flew through hoops and stood on one another’s shoulders to create stellar formations. And if that wasn’t awe-inspiring enough, they ended the production with ‘Oh Beautiful’ in 4-part cricket harmony!
Little Betina was positively enraptured, as were her four little-girl-mouseling friends. Bic and Ben, however, along with their studious and somewhat nerdy friend, Rodney, were also mightily intrigued, but as you might guess, being little boy-mouselings, it wasn’t enough. They needed more excitement. Surely they could do those things too!
Miss Winklesnout was gathering up her students when she realized the boys were missing.  Assuming they must’ve stepped away to visit the necessary, she directed the girls to stay put.
“We’ll wait right here till they come back…” she spoke confidently as the crowd of fair-goers dwindled. The crew began shutting down the rides: the Lazy Susan Merry-go-round, the Hamster-spin Ferris Wheel, and the Sit & Spin Spool rides.
Food stuffs were packed into Pringle-Can Trailers, the hinged plastic door latched tightly when it was sufficiently full. Tables were wiped clean and benches turned over in case of rain.
“We’re closing for the evening, Ma’am…” a portly chipmunk gentleman swaggered over to where they waited. “Is there something I can help you with? Are you waiting for someone?”
“Oh sir… my three boy-mouselings are missing. I thought they just went to the necessary, but they haven’t returned. We are just visiting the area. I don’t know what to do! They must be lost!”
She wrung her fingers worriedly around the straps of her little red drawstring purse. The girls sidled up close to her, somewhat afraid of the chipmunk gentleman and his booming voice.
“I’ll keep an eye out for them, Ma’am. I’m the manager here. If we see them, we’ll keep them here until morning if you want to go back to wherever you’re staying. There are bunks here for the crew, and we can put them up here for the night. You can check back in the morning…”
Not knowing what else to do, Miss Winklesnout thanked him and then ushered the five little girl-mouselings back to Cabin 22. Darkness was already falling, and she ordered the girls to ready themselves for bed and get right into their bunks while she went on an errand.
It was shortly after that I heard the tiny tapping at my cabin window. Curious, I raised the blind slightly and there, on the sill, stood a bereft Miss Winklesnout, visibly shaken. I opened the window to let her in.
“Miss Winklesnout…” I questioned. “What is it? You look very upset…”
She explained the situation, her voice quavering, tears threatening.
“Oh Ma’am. You were right! I had no idea the responsibility I was taking on. The boys are missing—Bic, Ben and Rodney. They were right there beside me when the Chippery Sliver Show was going on, and suddenly they were gone. The fair closed down, everyone left, and the boys didn’t come back. I don’t know what to do!”
“Oh dear! You poor thing. I can only imagine how worried you must be.”  Feeling as much at a loss as she, I considered for a few moments.  “Do you think they will find their way back to our cabin? Maybe they just went off on a little adventure and they’re on their way back as we speak!”
“Ohhh dear, dear!”  She wrung her hands worriedly. “Whatever will I do if something awful happens to them. There are so many bad-sorts out after dark, you know… how will I ever face their folks?”
“Yes, dear. I know what you mean. But maybe we’ll just have to trust. They are smart boys and surely, even if they can’t find their way back on their own, they can ask someone for directions. Why don’t you try to get some rest and we’ll just trust that all will work out well in the morning…”
“Thank you, Ma’am. I’m sorry to bother you…”
“No bother, Miss Winklesnout. It always helps to have someone to share our troubles with. I think it’ll all turn out fine. We’ll entrust the boys to the care of our loving Creator…”
She nodded tearfully, turning back to the window and hopping down to the towel-covered shoe-box.I watched as she slipped dejectedly inside, pulling the towel flap down over the doorway to keep out the cold.
A chilly blast of wind whistled through the open window as I pushed it closed, my heart going out to the worried schoolmarm and those mischievous little mouselings. Oh Bic and Ben… will you ever learn?
To be continued…

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Field Trips and Adventures...

October 7, 2015
Back from our annual trek to Pine Acres, I am bone-weary and heart-warmed all at the same time. The washer is sloshing, the dryer humming as load-after-load shuffles and tumbles, buttons and zippers clinking against the dryer drum. And as they finish, I am shuffling too, pile-after-pile of folded bedding, warm fluffy towels and freshly cleaned jammies and shirts, down the hallway to various closets and drawers. My-oh-my, there’s a lot to bring for six days at the cabin, and it feels like even more to bring home!
The bins and tote-bags are emptied, stored away until next year, and all the little what-knots too, tucked away in their places. Did I mention bone-weary?
Well, I should talk! Miss Winklesnout has had quite the adventure these past days, you see, deciding quite at the last minute to take a number of her school children with her on a field trip. Where? Well, to Pine Acres of course!
“Do you think we could ride along with you, Ma’am?” she inquired just a day before we left. “I’ll only bring the best-behaved in my class and only those that have permission from their parents. We can stay in our own accommodations, Ma’am, if you can just spare a small shoe-box for us. And we won’t bother you a bit.”
At a loss for words, I considered the possibilities, pros and cons.
“How will you keep track of all of them, Miss Winklesnout?” I asked politely. “That’s a huge responsibility for both of us, don’t you think?”
“Yes, Ma’am. You’re right, but it is also a wonderful opportunity for them to learn about the bigger world beyond Hare Hollow Woods. As I said, I will only take the best behaved among them, those I know I can trust to listen and obey me.”
So with trepidation I agreed. Down in the cellar, I found an old shoe box, emptied it of its contents and cut a small flap for a doorway along with two small windows in the sides so they’d have air-flow. In the box-of-boxes I found several tiny gift boxes (brooch size) complete with the usual cotton batting liners. They’d make cozy beds for little mouselings camping away from home!
Sure enough on Thursday morning Miss Winklesnout had everyone at the ready, eight little mouselings including Bic and Ben. The thought crossed my mind—only the best behaved? But I didn’t go there.
Each carried a tiny satchel filled with their extra bloomers and fuzzies, and a blanket for nighttime folded neatly over their arm. They stood in line, quietly waiting to be told where to board Mama Hare’s Express-to-Pine-Acres-Mobile.
Miss Winklesnout also carried a small satchel, and behind her, she rolled a small re-purposed Altoids tin that had been outfitted with tiny wheels and a handle.
“Snacks for the children…” she explained when she saw me eyeing it.
I smiled knowingly. These little creatures think of everything!
“All aboard!” I spoke smartly, and eight little furry mouselings, along with their excited teacher, hopped into the car, then up into the back window where they snuggled close together between the bag of pillows and a tissue box.
“Hang on tight…!” I called as we set off down the lane to the highway. And they did.
An hour later, after only a little giggling and chattering from the rear, we arrived at our cabin. On the way I’d told Miss Winklesnout about the shoe-box camper with it's windows and flapping door. She was delighted to say the least.
“Thank you, Ma’am. How thoughtful of you!”
Turned out, that little shoe-box would be a much needed cozy shelter for the little travelers.
As the rest of my family arrived, we helped each other unload and unpack, setting up our kitchens and making up beds, finding storage places for our clothes and settling in. And Miss Winklesnout did the same. I placed the shoe-box on the screened porch so they could come and go as they needed to, but would have good protection from the elements and enemies as well.  It didn’t take her long to set up the little box-beds, side-by-side, with their colorful blankets spread out and tucked in, satchels beside each one. Then they were off to find food for their lunch and supper. They wouldn’t have to search for long. Acorns and other delicacies abound at Pine Acres.We knew because they pinged off the metal roof of the cabins day and night!
That evening the temps dipped down into the forties and I worried about the miniature campers out on the porch, so long about bed-time, I peeked out to check on them.
“Miss Winklesnout?” I inquired quietly in case some of the mouselings were already asleep.
“Yes, Ma’am…?” she poked her head out the doorway.
“Are you warm enough in there? It’s pretty chilly tonight. Would you like me to cover the box with a towel to hold in some heat?”
“Oh, don’t trouble yourself, Ma’am…” she replied with a little shiver in her voice. “I’m sure we’ll be fine, but if you have one handy I’m sure it would help.”  I did, and tucking it around the box, leaving an overhang by the doorway to stop the drafts, I went back inside, thankful for my own warm bed.
Next morning, I put out a bit of hot water in a metal measuring spoon so Miss Winklesnout could have her chicory. She looked a bit harried, I have to admit, but seemed most thankful for the courtesy. Little squeaks and titters were testament to a rowdy bunch of mouselings, ready for a day of adventure. She on the other hand looked like she needed a good hot cuppa. Perhaps you saw her picture on my FB page a few days ago, enjoying that cuppa along with a sugar donut?
To be continued…