Friday, August 29, 2014

Security is tight at Fern Forest Treehouse

Two folks from Ohio joined us at Fern Forest last weekend. When Meghan was hired to work in the student abroad office at a university, Ryan relocated with her and looked for employment. He had majored in criminology in college, thinking he’d do something in law enforcement. Boy, does he ever.

            Ryan started his own commercial security company and has been hired by several department stores. One of them, a discount enterprise whose name I promised not to mention, kept him pretty active. Several times he watched a thief come in, pick up a forty-inch flat-screen TV in its box, and carry it out the front door without a glance toward the check-out lines. In broad daylight, mind you. Others filled one (or sometimes two) shopping carts with merchandise and wheeled out the goods, again without pulling out so much as a library card for payment.
            Ryan is muscular and fit, and those robbers were easy to chase down and wrestle to the ground. Some, however, were more of a challenge.
            He watched one man browse through bras in the women’s lingerie department. The man took three bras with him into the men’s room. Store policy required that customers have privacy in dressing rooms and restrooms, so Ryan sat outside the door and waited. Finally the man exited without the bras—or so it seemed. Ryan could see multiple straps under the fellow’s tee shirt, but it was against store policy to search a man’s undergarments, even if they were women’s undergarments. When Ryan checked the bathroom, he found no trace of the bras. Either the man had left the tags on the bras or he had removed and flushed them.
            At another department store, a large man came in with a petite woman and an empty shopping bag with the name of the department store on it. At that time Ryan was in his office watching the security camera monitors. He saw the man stuffing women’s clothing into the bag—some XS and some XL. Apparently they both enjoyed dressing up. When they left the store, Ryan managed to catch the woman and hand her to mall police, but the man took flight with the bag, Ryan in hot pursuit. When he passed a restaurant, a couple were having lunch on the patio. The diner saw Ryan chasing the robber and left his meal to help. They jumped fences and dashed across parking lots, clothes flying haphazardly out of the bag. Eventually the diner caught the robber and dragged him back to Ryan. The thief had cut himself on a chainlink fence and dribbled blood on some of the garments. The others were returned to the store, and the robber went off in a police cruiser.
            Probably Ryan’s most harrowing experience was following a young woman who walked out without paying for her items. He generally avoided wrestling with women, but when this one kept walking, he grabbed her arm. He had already alerted the police, who were on their way to the store.
            “Take your hand off me or you’re going to get it,” the woman told Ryan.
            He let her go but followed closely behind her. When the police caught up with them, they apprehended the woman and found a 35mm handgun in her purse—loaded. 
            Just as Ryan was wiping the sweat from his brow at that close call, the police emptied the gun of its bullets and handed it back to the woman. Then they told her she could come back the next day and collect the ammunition. State law restricts anyone under twenty-one from buying a gun, but it’s completely legal to be in possession of one—even to conceal it.
           "Do you carry?" I asked Ryan. He laughed.
           "Yeah, I carry a cell phone and a store identification card."
            Be afraid, robbers. Be very afraid.
            There’s no question that Ryan’s job is dangerous, and so we treated Meghan and him extra nice for their night in the Treehouse. The only robbers who came near us were a sorority of does eyeing my late summer gardens. Even without security cameras, I felt Fern Forest was in safe hands that night.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What the fox says

Our new friend Addison is a fireball of energy. The only time I saw her still when she visited Fern Forest Treehouse was when she was watching videos of mischievous cats on H’s iPad. Her jumpiness is fine with us. Addie is an eight-year-old athletic marvel. The only girl on her Little League team, she made the All-Star list this past season. Next year she wants to be the pitcher. She also plays basketball, soccer, does gymnastics, and swims.
            Boy, does she swim! Her grandparents Gail and Craig took her to a local swimming hole on the New Haven River on Saturday. From the overhead bridge, an old rope hangs that swimmers used to jump from, but someone attached a new rope that’s longer and sturdier, and that’s what folks use now to swing and drop into the deep pool under the bridge. Addie did that a few times before she got bored. Then she grabbed the rope, swung out, and leaped from the new rope to the old one, swung again and finally let go for a plunge into the pool.
            Remember, she’s eight years old and weighs probably all of sixty pounds.
            Below the pool is a cluster of boulders smoothed by cascading water. Some of the boulders form a chute where the water runs through furiously. I’ve never dared the chute, but H has shot it a few times, always feet first.
            Not Addie. Splayed out like Superman, she rode the rushing water through the chute headfirst and laughed as she was dumped into the lower swimming hole. The water slows down there, and she could leisurely swim to the side where she got a foothold and scrabbled up over the boulders to have another go at the ropes.
            Gail had a tough time keeping up with Addie, but don’t count this grandma out. She took a turn on the rope, too, and bravely let go over the deep water. Craig took several turns, but Addie was audacious. Needless to say, she was fairly worn out that evening and at dinner slipped into slumber in a booth at the Bobcat CafĂ©.
            One day she was wearing a tee shirt with “What does the fox say” on the front.
            “I like your tee shirt,” I said. “What does it mean?”
            “It’s a song.” She tried to describe the song to me, but I was having trouble grasping it. So H looked it up on his iPad.
            “Here’s the video,” he said and handed me the tablet. The song is by a group called “Ylvis,” and “The Fox” is a sort of upbeat, modern version of Old MacDonald: “Dog goes woof
/ Cat goes meow 
 /Bird goes tweet 
and mouse goes squeek. / Cow goes moo 
 /Frog goes croak 
and the elephant goes toot. / Ducks say quack
 and fish go blub 
and the seal goes ow ow ow ow ow.”
            The tune is seductively catchy (500 million video hits will attest to that). If you watch the video, you’ll see that the members of the band are handsome and quite young—maybe too young to have kids of their own. I remember reading to my own young son a book called Fox Eyes by Margaret Wise Brown. In the book, the fox only said “Whiskerchoo.” Bry loved it whenever I sneezed the word, which was on nearly every page.
            But Ylvis has pounded author Brown into the ground with their lyrics. Here’s a little bit of what the fox says, according to their song: "Wa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pow!
And the fox says: “Hatee-hatee-hatee-ho!
            And the fox says: “Joff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoff!
           The fox says a lot of other things in the song, too. A very vocal fox it is. And since Addie’s visit, I’m a fan of the fox, and I’m a fan of Ylvis. But I’m especially a fan of Addie and her grandparents. They promised to make their visit an annual tradition. I hope they do. I want to hear more about this fox and the feats of courage of our new friend Addison.