by Debra Dian
Caitlin’s kids had practiced setting up tents in the backyard and had left the third try for inspection in anticipation of a visit by Grands Jas and Jun. They had also practiced with Caitlin and Ryan how polite introductions should go when they arrived. What they hadn’t practiced was the introduction for the new dog, who had snuck out the front door first with wagging tail to greet the new grandparents. So all the kids ran out after Jazzy, calling him to come back inside. Caitlin too, went out to intervene in the commotion. Jas’ ears perked up when he heard the dog’s name called. “Looks like you all have a new doggy. His name is Jazzy?”
The youngest boy, Corby, giggled. “Named for you.”
Caitlin grinned thinking her Dad would be annoyed at having a dog named after him so she explained. “We were trying to think of a name other than Goldie.”
The oldest boy, Denver, who was called Deni, quickly added. “Corby named him Goldie since he’s a Golden Retriever but Goldie’s a girl’s name. But Jazzy’s male.” Deni looked down to the ground embarrassed by his brother’s mistake.
“So anyway, I told the kids it was your idea to get a puppy…they asked about your name and one of the kids…I think it was Benjie…came up with Jazzy.”
Benjie grinned. “Yep, it was my idea.”
Jas had stooped over to pet Jazzy and then stood up beaming smiles at each of the kids. “Jazzy is a great name.”
Junia smiled and patted the top of Corby’s head. “Goldie’s a good name too. Think I’ll save that name for my next puppy male or female.” Junia stood back and raised her hands in praise. “My goodness, you all look sharp today with new clothes…jeans…t-shirts and tennis shoes…Caitlin told me about how you all had great fun shopping at the mall…going to the movies.”
The kids remembered their manners and that Grand Jun had sent a gift card for clothes shopping, then beginning with Denver each said thank you. And Corby added. “Thanks for the movies too.”
They completed introductions as practiced and then Caitlin motioned for everyone to go inside. “Let’s get lunch ready for out on the picnic table…boys you can show Grand Jas the tent you’ve been working on.”
Jas had fun playing inspector of tents, giving kudos to all. Then chuckled with delight watching his new namesake fetch a plastic baseball bat, bring it to Benjie and then repeatedly retrieve the ball after it was hit, bringing it back to the pitcher. The ball had a string attached making this trick easier for Jazzy. Rusty, the older dog in the family, who slept most of the time, joined in the fun too by barking each time one of the boys hit the ball.
Soon everyone settled down around the picnic table for Hoagie sandwiches, chips and Brownies. After Jas prayed, while the boys built their own sandwiches, he wanted to encourage them on their tent practice. “Guys, I think you’re ready to go on a real camping trip…what do you think?”
Denver was first to agree along with the others. They expressed their excitement with all sorts of questions, when, where and can we…?
Jas chuckled, glad for their enthusiasm. “We’ll need to check with Ryan…see if he can get off work…maybe check the weather…but you know real outdoorsman go camping any weather…in fact…we’ll read about it in the Bible sometime, but tents used to be homes for people. Abraham, who was a friend of God, dwelt in tents. Actually, even the very first house of God here on earth was a glorified tent, called the Tabernacle. We can read about it later if you want to.”
Denver and Corby mumbled wow while munching on chips along with Benjie who said, “Wow, even God lived in a tent!”
Caitlin, Jas and Jun glanced at each other with smiles of joy when they observed the boys’ interest peak and Jas added, “Yes, God’s Spirit was there.”
Then they noticed a noise from the garage, it was the garage door opening and just as Caitlin got up to check, to her surprise, out came Ryan. “You’re home early…everything okay?”
Ryan frowned. “Well no…but we’ll talk about it later.” He waved and said hello to everyone. “Any food left…I’m hungry?”
Caitlin added a chair to the end of the table. “Plenty of food…come sit here…we’re having hoagies…make your own.” Ryan was now included in the discussion about camping and relieved to be planning something fun instead of talking about how he had just lost his job.
After the Grands had gone home, Caitlin cornered Ryan. “What happened at work?” But he put off discussing anything while the kids were around. Then after the family Bible reading and prayer time and after the kids were tucked into bed, Caitlin who had fought with imagined events all evening, patiently made a snack of cookies and milk at the kitchen table and Ryan joined her there for a private discussion. Discussions about his company, where he had worked as manager for the past five years, and cut backs and then layoffs because profits had continued to decline. They discussed prospects for the future, but of course this was an unknown. There at the table they clasped their hands together. Bowed their heads together, tops of their heads coming together as one. They cried together. Prayed together. God looked down and hugged them with his comforting love till they both had peace. Peace that God would somehow provide…even if for the moment, they couldn’t see how.
The next day, Caitlin took a private moment while the kids were outside playing with the dogs to call her parents with the news of financial setback, explaining that she couldn’t bring herself to worry the kids, so for now they would keep it a secret. But they wanted to go ahead and expedite plans for the camping trip since Ryan was available to go. She let her parents off the hook since they may not be up to going on another camp out so soon. But, Jas longed to visit Oldfather Lake again so he called Farmer Johnson to ask if they could camp out on the property and go fishing and swimming in the lake. He had left a voicemail message and received a call back right away from Farmer Johnson who extended a welcome to all.
Oldfather Lake was easier for Jas and Jun to find this time around, which was a relief since Caitlin, Ryan and the kids were following close behind in their Jeep. They found the gate on the bridge unlocked so they drove on up to the lake and parked near the dock. Then Jas and Ryan searched for the perfect place to put up the tents. The kids begged to go swimming but were told putting up tents was priority. They grumbled a little until joining Denver who had gotten out the Frisbee to play catch with Jazzy. Jaz found an area with a stone campfire pit and an old picnic table, then Ryan called the kids who went to work immediately erecting the tents while Ryan and Jas supervised. Caitlin and Jun brought out folding chairs, cushioned them with folded homemade quilts and then cleaned the table. After they had all settled in their tents making them as comfortable and cozy as possible, they prepared a late lunch. After lunch the Grands were sleepy and wanted to take a nap, but couldn’t put the kids off any longer on swimming, so they all changed to swimming clothes and life vests and headed down to the dock. Jas, of course, took his fishing rod too. And of course the dogs had to come along. Jazzy didn’t hesitate to jump right in after the boys, swimming along with them, while Rusty was content to lay in the sun on the dock and watch. Jun and Caitlin sat on the edge with their feet dangling and splashing in the water.
Soon it was evening and clouds began to gather. The wind came up with darkening clouds. Then distant thunder. The Grands called for everyone to get out of the water and head to the tents. Storms coming in. Thunder began to get louder…clouds darker…and then lightening, but everyone was safe in their tents. While checking the weather on her mobile phone, Junia noticed a voicemail message indicator. Jas took the phone and reviewed the weather too and then checked the voicemail since the missed call was from Farmer Johnson. His message was of concern about the weather and an invitation to their family to stay inside the house if the storm got worse. Said he had left a key hidden in the flower pot on the porch. Jas discussed it with Jun and then checked the weather again. The radar from the local news station indicated heavy rain and warnings of strong wind and hail. They estimated that in about thirty minutes it would be right over them.
Quickly, Caitlin, Junia and the kids packed up everything inside their tents to stow away inside the vehicles while Jas and Ryan worked on dismantling the tents and piling everything back into the Jeep. The kids were reminded, emergencies are the only time the tents are not neatly folded.
During the commotion Jazzy had gotten spooked by lightning and ran into the trees. Benjie followed after Jazzy, but couldn’t find him and then Benjie got lost in the maze of trees, not able to find his way back again in the dark. He began crying and calling after Jazzy, but the thunder was louder and the rain heavier. He stumbled over a fallen tree trunk hitting his head on a branch.
He laid there for a few minutes in a daze and then he cried out to God. If you’re here God…please help me…then he crawled under a clump of tree branches from the fallen tree, a covering from the rain.
After what seemed like a long time, he could see flashes of light in the distance that got brighter and brighter and then there was Jazzy, licking his face, followed by Jas and Ryan who had flashlights. Ryan picked him up, hugged him and asked if he was alright. “Bumped my head, but I’m okay now.”
Ryan carried Benjie while Jas and Jazzy led the way back to the house. Then Ryan and Denver helped Benjie change into dry clothes and placed him in a comfortable bed. Caitlin applied some ointment to the small scratch on his head. Hugged him. “We prayed so hard to find you…glad you’re okay.”
Benjie’s eyes lit up. “I prayed too…for God to help me.”
“See…he answered our prayers.” Caitlin raised her eyes up toward heaven. “Thank you God!” Then she patted Benjie on the head and asked Denver, Corby and Jazzy to watch over Benjie while she helped Junia make dinner.
Denver looked up and smiled. He had been drying Jazzy with a towel. “Sure, will do…can we play Chess? I saw a chess game on the table downstairs.”
“If Benjie is up to it.” Benjie smiled and said an enthusiastic yes. Caitlin again thanked God quietly from her heart…Benjie was well.
Corby, who was only five years old, wasn’t interested in Chess, but sprawled out on the floor with coloring book and crayons next to Jazzy, who was content to rest and take a nap. When Denver began winning the game, he decided to let Benjie win by dropping big hints about maneuvers he should make. Then later after dinner, Benjie used the same maneuver to win a game with Jas. Again, everyone was reassured that Benjie’s bump on the head wasn’t serious and no need for a doctor.
Everyone slept well that night except for Corby. He had awakened from a scary dream and then thunder frightened him even more. He had carefully climbed up the ladder from his lower bunk bed up to Deni’s top bunk and then curled up at the foot of the bed with his pillow and went back to sleep. Benjie had been assigned the other larger bed in the room since he had the bump on the head and Jazzy was already sleeping at the foot of his bed.
By early morning the storm had passed over, but since they had already settled in the house everyone voted to stay as guests in the house for the next two days, but to go ahead and clean up, dry out and fold tents and equipment to neatly store away before enjoying the fun stuff…fishing and swimming in the lake. The next day or the last day at Oldfather Lake would be a surprise field trip. The surprise was only for the kids. Ryan, Caitlin and the Grands knew about the trip to a neighbor’s farm for a special treat. Caitlin and Junia had decided to stay behind and do housecleaning to prepare for leaving later that day. Ryan had offered to stay and help Caitlin so that Jun could go along with Jas and the kids, but Junia insisted on staying behind and leaving the house as clean as they had found it.
Mid-morning after breakfast, each of the kids said goodbye and be good to Rusty and Jazzy and left in the Jeep with Ryan and Jas. Farmer Johnson had given detailed instructions for getting to his neighbor’s property and specifically the area they would visit, which amazingly Ryan and Jaz found easily. And there was Farmer Johnson along with his neighbor waiting outside, sitting on the porch of a very small yellow house.
After introductions, neighbor Wooten began explaining with all the expertise of a tour guide. “Everyone, thank you for coming. Welcome to Bee Haven! This is where we harvest honey! Follow me! Right inside the door here, is an enclosed foyer. There we’ll suit up with aprons, gloves and a special helmet. This protects us, the honey and the bees.”
The kids giggled as they dressed up in what Corby said looked like astronaut clothes. The helmet had a clear plastic shield over the face as well as an extended white vinyl covering over the head, neck and shoulders.
First, they were given a tour of the house where the honey is harvested. With continuous smile and enthusiasm Mr. Wooten explained the process of harvesting honey, which to him was the most exciting venture ever, certainly the sweetest. Then everyone followed Mr. Wooten out into the woods as he carried a bee smoker, a can with a handle and smoke coming out from the nozzle on the top. He also gave one to Ryan and Jaz to swing along beside them as they walked to the bee hives. The kids walked between them in a triangular fashion.
Denver teased his brothers saying the bee’s stingers are as big as carpet needles. But they rolled their eyes in disbelief. They had seen little bees on the clover in the yard and had never been stung. Mr. Wooten reassured them by explaining that he came to the hives every day and that during the daylight hours most of the bees were out working in the fields gathering nectar and doing their most important work…pollination. He stopped to show them a patch of wildflowers and bending down he pointed to the tiny pollen that bees collect as they feed on the nectar. He explained further how the bee transports pollen to another flower causing the flower to bear fruit and make more flowers. “Without the bees at work, we would soon not have any fruit or vegetables…or bees. Our Creator made a wonderful design with bees. No evolution process could have made something as complex as bees. Our all-wise Creator God designed bees to live in colonies…work together…hunt…collect and produce food, wonderful delicious honey.”
Their group walked a little further into the woods. Tall thin Oak and Cottonwood trees with sunlight filtering through, sheltered the bee hives, man-made wooden boxes with slotted combs inside, made just right for gathering honey. Mr. Wooten carefully pulled out a comb to show everyone. Busy bees, working to make honey sealed with bees wax. He took a little spoon, carefully scraped and scooped a little honey in it for someone to taste and asked for a volunteer. Denver volunteered Benjie to taste it, but Benjie insisted Denver or Corby taste it. So Mr. Wooten gave the spoon to Corby, who lifted his mask and slowly with hesitation tasted the spoon full of honey. His eyes sparkled with excitement. “Ohm…wow…this is good!” Then with satisfaction, Mr. Wooten smiled and promised to give a free jar of honey to Ryan and Jas when they got back to the house.
(To continue reading: Return to Menu + Select Chapter Three)
This story is a fictionalization. Any mention of historical events, people and places are used fictitiously and any likeness to actual events, places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.