It was one of those primitive science experiments that a lot of boys try. OK, it's a sunny winter day. You lay out a board on the ground - this is what I did anyway. Now you can leave it there all day with the sun beating down on it. It won't even get warm. Oh, but now the exciting part of the experiment. Yep! You take a piece of glass and you focus the sun's rays on one spot on that board. Same sun, same board - very different result. Eventually, that board starts to get hot - and you've got smoke - maybe even a fire going there. Amazing, huh?
I was on a mission in England and Ireland, and I had a day to spend in the beautiful city of York. What a place! I mean, it's surrounded by a medieval wall actually and it's dominated by this cathedral that might be second only to Westminster Abbey in London. There was an unusual scene out in front. There was an artist actually on his knees, and he's working painstakingly on this chalk drawing on the sidewalk right in front of the cathedral. When I got closer, I looked at it. It was really easy to recognize it. He actually had drawn the Mona Lisa. He had to be working on it all day, and it was really beautifully done. Well, I went inside a restaurant, and while I was there, I saw that the artist had left. Within minutes, this little boy came up, and he intentionally ran over the artwork, stomped back and forth and made footprints all over it. Other kids followed what he had done. They had just trampled all over the work of an artist who had worked very hard on it. I'll tell you what, it hurts to see someone doing that.
Well, I've kind of succumbed and, you know, used the electric razor these days. But for a long time I shaved the old fashioned way - hot water, shaving cream, and a razor. I thought maybe that made me a "real man." Well, one day I was shaving in a hotel and I realized that I had run the hot water too hot. It's one thing to soften your beard; it's another thing to cook your face. So I ran just a little cold water into the sink, and that was amazing! Suddenly, the water was not hot enough! (A little science experiment here.) See, I underestimated how quickly the cold can cool off the hot.
Of course I'm too young to be having senior moments. Although I think I might have been having them since I was about 25. One of those is when you seal an envelope and you suddenly realize you left something out; maybe the check or the letter that was supposed to go in it. And you've already gone to the trouble of addressing it, putting your return address on it, maybe even stamping the envelope. This is why more and more people are just doing it on the Internet of course. But it's too bad if you did that with the envelope. You're going to have to open it up, you know, even though you sealed it. Good luck. You probably won't be able to use that envelope. Once it's sealed, it's meant to stay that way.
When our grandson was 18 months old, I called him a member of the Lewis and Clark Junior Cadets. In other words, he loved to explore! He moved faster than you can blink. He was into everything and, of course, he had one basic maneuver - grab! Now, that's a little guy's way of exploring something new. The problem is some things are fragile - a concept, of course, beyond the comprehension of a toddler. But Mom did a great job of protecting what was breakable while not discouraging that explorer spirit. She taught him one word - "gentle." So when she saw the junior explorer closing in on something fragile, she simply said that important word, "Gentle. Gentle." And suddenly he slowed down and he touched his target carefully and softly. Say it with me now, "gentle." That's right.
When I was in South Africa, our hosts were kind enough to take me to an incredible game park where I could see African animals in the wild. And I did! Rhinos, giraffes, ostriches, and baboons - not the kind of animals you usually see wandering around, say, New York. But the highlight was coming around this curve and meeting a great bull elephant in the road. He put on a real show for us for several minutes. I picked up a local newspaper a while later and saw a news article with that game park as the dateline. The article was about the young male elephants there-the ones the rangers call the teenagers. Apparently, in recent months, those teenage male elephants had been on a reign of terror in the park, doing things that elephants don't usually do. They had attacked other animals like rhinos. They had attacked tourists, inflicting death or serious injury. And finally the park officials got it figured out what had gone wrong with these young males. When they were newborn, they were taken from another game park and brought to this one. But their fathers - the bull elephants - were not brought with them. So these teenage elephants grew up without a model of how a grownup male should act - and they were out of control.
When you have three children, only one can be the first, of course. And that one becomes the one that all the others measure by when it comes to what privileges and treatment they should receive. In our case, our daughter is the oldest, followed by her two brothers. Now the kids could be getting along perfectly, and then suddenly the boys would learn about something their big sister got. Then I would hear the march of determined feet to my desk, followed by two boys asking in unison, "How come she...?" Followed by whatever goody she had gotten that they had not. Actually, knowing that kind of question was coming helped me make better decisions.
The military has roll call - reading out the names to see if everybody's there. Family get-together? Well, you know who you've got. You've got Mom, Dad, Grandma, Granddad, and grandchildren. You don't usually have roll call. Now, there was a point where we had one three-year-old grandson who took roll in his own little way. While we're all busy in the usual chatter and bustle of everyone catching up, our grandson was obviously evaluating who's there and who isn't. You could tell. Before very long, he would pipe up, "Where's Grandma?" or "Where's Daddy?" or whoever happens to be MIA at the moment. And he wanted answers about where they were and why they weren't there. He wanted every person in the family to be there!
One lousy moose - that's all our family wanted to see. The moose did not get the memo. Or he did get the memo and he took off. We were on our first trip to Alaska years ago, and all five Hutchcrafts were determined, "We're going to meet a moose." After all, like they're grazing in every backyard in Alaska, right? Well, the February we were there it looked like they'd decided to take the winter in the Bahamas. I was busy speaking at some meetings, so my wife and kids were out driving around, you know, looking for a moose. They even went to the animal sanctuary. We were told there was always a moose there. Not always. Several people told us about hitting a moose that suddenly appeared in the middle of the road. Not any on the road we were on. Someone suggested leaving a Hershey bar on our car - something about a chocolate mousse. Anyway, we weren't that desperate. Well, lots of looking, no finding. Next morning, we drove down the driveway of the house someone had loaned to us and guess what? Yep! Three moose, grazing at the end of the driveway. I guess you don't find moose; they find you.
Our son brought a playful little Shih Tzu puppy into our house. She loved to play with bubbles. Yeah, she would chase those bubbles that we would blow on the floor, and it was crazy to watch. And she also loved bottles. You know, the plastic bottles? She would enjoy a good battle with any two-liter plastic soda pop bottle, and we'd throw it on the floor. She'd attack that thing! You could hear it all through the house! Here's this plastic bottle being thrown into the air, she forces it up against the wall, it thuds along the floor, (Oh, it was great when you're trying to sleep, let me tell you.). Finally she would fight that thing until she was just totally exhausted. And then you'd hear nothing. You'd go in and she was totally flopped on the kitchen floor. There she was, flat out, almost out cold it looked like. She had literally worked herself totally out of energy in combat with a dumb, plastic bottle.