- A Weighty Subject
- Mort and Agnes invited Mike to come along on their trip to the Indiana Dunes.
- “Appreciate the invite, but not this time. I can get up off a bed or a couch, but the ground? You’d have to hire a crane, or at least a forklift. Besides, the dunes are hotter than...well, you know. The place with the red guy with a pointy tail and pitchfork. I’m not wanting to be reminded of those things just yet, you know?”
- Mort knew, and so did Agnes.
- Mike was a bit overweight (well, maybe a bit more than just “a bit”) and warmer weather was beginning to cause him some discomfort. Mike met their gentle teasing about his need to lose some weight and get more exercise with excuses and stories about how the “good old days” of around-the-clock programming (fueled by copious quantities of pizza, chips and soda) laid the foundation for his present girth.
- “I know I’m not my father’s keeper,” Mort told Agnes later, “but I sure wish he’d take better care of himself, especially since Mom’s gone and he doesn’t have to go to work every day.”
- “He’s a big boy now...literally. We can point him in the direction, but after that, well, it’s his life. YOU could do with more exercise too, by the way.” Agnes feared her husband’s fairly sedentary lifestyle (compared with hers) would take him in Mike’s direction. She was quite sure this tendency wasn’t an issue of heredity, but rather one of upbringing – “nurture” rather than “nature.”
- Camping in the Sand
- There wasn’t a cloud to be seen when the Maloneys piled into Mort’s car on that Friday afternoon. They needed to take Mort’s crossover because Agnes’ hybrid couldn’t accommodate the camping gear and Rufus plus the four passengers. Mort was impressed with the experimental fuel cell car and was determined to trade in his car once production models became available.
- Setting up camp was a breeze. Mort and Agnes recalled childhood camping experiences, struggling with heavy canvas tents, poles that were never quite properly positioned and stakes that would unexpectedly pull up out of the ground in even mild breezes. Their new popup tent was self-assembling, had enough sleeping room for everyone, including Rufus, and was high enough for the adults to stand up in.
- With the year’s longest day approaching, birds were still softly chirping their good-nights when it was time for bed. Supper was quick, since the weekend’s weather was predicted to be sunny and warm and Agnes wanted to climb some sand mounds before the heat built up too much. Mort and Agnes promised the twins a “proper” cookout the next evening, complete with toasting marshmallows over a campfire, as Agnes was anticipating muscles too sore for a heavy workout on Sunday.
- Agnes was already out on a run when birds, noisily welcoming the Saturday morning, awakened Mort and the twins. Hungry, Mort had nearly finished preparing the bacon and eggs on their new 2-burner propane stove when Agnes returned to the campsite.
- “Thanks, Hon. I’m famished. Hope the coffee’s ready. I think I’ll have it iced. It’s fixing to be a hot one today and I’m already warm.”
Spongy Ground and Bug-Eating Plants
- After the breakfast things were cleared away, the Maloneys decided to explore the Dunes together before Agnes resumed her workouts. Mal wondered what the quaking bog would feel like. Mel wanted to go to Mount Baldy because she couldn’t figure out how a hill of sand could move by itself.
- The only way to visit the quaking bog is by signing up for a tour guided by park rangers, so the Maloneys decided to try for the bog first. Luckily, there was still enough space for all of them to join the small group that was registered for the morning tour.
- Mal wasn’t sure what he found more fascinating, the springy feeling as the boardwalk floated and sunk into the surface of the spongy bog or the Venus flytraps, pitcher plants and other insect-eating plants.
- “Hey, Mom. You can practice balancing for the ninja course right here!”
- “Shh. Don’t tell anybody yet,” Agnes warned, as the other members of the tour looked quizzically at her son and then stared at her. Fortunately, everyone was fascinated by their surroundings and quickly forgot Mal’s outburst.
- Mal forgot too, as he examined the meals inside the plants, thanks to droppers and magnifying cubes that the ranger brought along. “Be sure you give back each breakfast to its owner. You wouldn’t want someone to give you food that was in someone else’s stomach, would you?”
- It was nearly lunchtime when the tour finished. Rufus (who didn’t exactly relish his role as guard dog for the car, and kept his ears pointed at the half-opened windows for signs of their return) barked a noisy welcome when they were still a distance away. The Maloneys returned to the campsite for some sandwiches before heading out to Mount Baldy...where Rufus could join in the family’s fun.
Climbing a Living Dune...or Not
- Mount Baldy is called a “living dune” because it moves whenever the wind is more than a mild breeze; it’s moving at about 4 feet every year.
- The early afternoon was already quite warm when the Maloneys arrived at Mount Baldy. They decided that the whole family, including Rufus, would climb to the top together and then Agnes would decide how she wanted to continue using all this sand for her first “real” workout.
- It was far slower going than any of them thought. The soft sand tends to give way under foot (or paw), so it’s more like two steps forward, one step backward. That makes for a lot of hard work to make any progress at all. The steeper trail was closed to prevent more erosion from footsteps than the dune would experience naturally. At first, Agnes was disappointed. Then she realized that the rest of her family probably would not have been able to climb all the way to the top. So saving the dune and her family’s frustration was a doubly good thing.
- “Mom, I’m HOT!” They were about half way up the dune. Mal wasn’t at all enjoying the climb, even though trees and vegetation shaded parts of the trail.
- “Hot? It’s wonderful!” Mel couldn’t understand her brother’s complaint. She felt the warmth to be absolutely delicious.
- Rufus was also having a tough time keeping cool because of his black fur. No one thought to bring extra water for him, although they each carried small bottles of water for themselves.
- “Let’s go back down for now. We can try later, when it cools off,” Mort suggested. “For now Mal, what if we find some sand in the shade and you can dig yourself in where it’s a little cooler?”
“Sounds like a plan, Dad!”
- “Aw, gee.” Mel wasn’t particularly happy and neither was her mother.
- Ever the appeaser, Mort had an idea that would make everyone happy. “Tell you what. You ladies go on up Mount Baldy. Mal, Rufus and I will take our time heading back down. Rufus really needs some water and we’ll scout out a place where we can all go for ice cream sodas when you finish. Ag, why don’t you call my cell when you and Mel get to the top?”
- This time it was Mel who said, “Sounds like a plan, Dad.” And then, softly, “Wimps.”
- Obviously it was not soft enough, from the sharp look Agnes flashed at her daughter before responding, “That’s fine with us, isn’t it, Mel?
“Sure, Mom. Let’s do it!”
- So father, son and dog started down the slope as mother and daughter continued upward. Mal found a bit of sand in the shade of a small bush and started digging a little trench where the cooler sand would feel good against his warm skin.
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