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What I did on my summer vacation

May 22, 2022

A long time ago, on a family trip to the Wisconsin Dells, we found ourselves in the middle of a historic (I don’t know where in the US, or in the world, you’re reading this from, so please feel free to substitute an historic if you’d prefer) event that’s still, in some circles, talked about today.

It was late June and the weather was beautiful. A Saturday, and the southern winds were gentle. People were eating Wisconsin Dells chocolate fudge and enjoying life. It was a perfect day to be vacationing at the Dells, however that serenity didn’t last. Sometime around 1:00 PM a bugle sounded from far off and a squadron of cavalry rode down main street. I never got a good look at the leader of the squadron because all the adults gathered around him to hear what he had to say, but I did notice a tall, feathered, chartreuse hat and a lot of multi-colored medals. I had no trouble hearing him because he spoke loudly which was a good thing. It seemed there was a group of invaders traveling by boat south down the Wisconsin river with their sights apparently set on the Dells.

Things got crazy real fast and everything that followed was a blur. Suddenly dad had a shorter chartreuse hat (with no feathers) on his head and he was brandishing a gold-handled saber and jumping onto the back of a black Shire. Later on I remember thinking it was odd because he was never much of an animal lover. I heard mom from behind me saying something about her having her travel sewing kit and with a quick kiss to the top of my head and a warning that I’d be taking a bath just as soon as we got back to the motel, she was off with the rest of the women. I thought I heard someone saying something about a flag, but I wasn’t sure.

The children all milled around, uncertain of where to go or what we should be doing now that the adults had all gone off hither and thither. Just then a man with a slight potbelly and a baseball cap that read, “Captain Craig” got our attention and asked which of us could swim. He said he was the fleet captain of the Original Wisconsin Ducks® and he was assembling teams to help crew the vessels which were going to be deployed on the Wisconsin River in defense of the park. I raised my hand, eager to get on the water where I hoped we’d have some extra time during our preparations, whatever they may be, for swimming, but just as we were being led off to the river, I was stopped by a tall, thin man who was dressed in a cheerless outfit of brown work pants and matching work shirt. He wore a brown bowler that reminded me of Stan Laurel from which lifeless strands of brown hair tried to escape. He said he was the Command Post Operator and then paused as if to give me a second to be impressed. When I didn’t say anything (I was always shy around strangers) he explained that they were deploying a unit of field artillery to defend the river, and ultimately the park, from positions along the sandstone cliffs and bluffs of the Wisconsin river. He said I was husky (something I hadn’t heard in a day or two) and that he could use kids like me as part of his field artillery unit. I said I’d rather be on a Duck on the river and he said something under his breath about it being life and hustled me over to stand next to a 12-pounder Howitzer cannon.

“Can you lift 12 pounds, kid?” he asked.

“Dunno,” I mumbled.

“What’s that, son? Speak up. You’re in the army now.”

“I dunno.”

“You what?”


“Speak words, son. You what?”

“Don’t know.”

“Don’t know what?”

“Don’t know if I can lift 12 pounds.”

“Don’t know if you can lift 12 pounds what”?

At this point I was really confused so I just stood there with my hands in my pockets thinking about the river and wondering if Ducks’ captain Craig was letting the other kids who weren’t husky go swimming

He leaned down, this field commander whose name I didn’t know, and in a quiet voice he told me that I needed to end my answers to his questions with the word ‘sir’.

“Do you understand?”


He leaned down again and in a slightly louder voice told me again to speak words.

“Do you understand?” he said.



“What sir?”

“Never mind. We haven’t got time,” he said. He muttered what sounded like the word, “dull” and then he took off his bowler hat and wiped the top of his mostly hairless head with a brown handkerchief. He smoothed all his hair over toward his right ear and replaced his hat.

He pointed to the cannon balls, and I picked one up with ease which made him happy. At that point he showed me how load the 12-pounder Howitzer cannon. I learned quickly which made him happy, and the only mistake I made is when I called the cannon’s muzzle a chamber.

As for the invasion, someone made a mistake and the invaders turned out to be the rowing team from Western Wisconsin Technical College. They had no interest in invading the Wisconsin Dells. The next morning the newspaper quoted team captain Buck Thorntonson-Billings as saying, “We were out for a bit of practice and were met with this surprise. It was all a lot of fun.”

We went home two days later. Dad, suddenly an animal lover, spent the next few weeks missing his horse, so we got a black lab which he named “Shire”, and when he talked about getting a saber, just for nostalgia, mom told him to quit moping and get over it. I think his buying a used 1963 Buick LeSabre was his way of saying that he’ll do what he wants. As for mom, she tucked her travel sewing kit away and went back to her Singer 401A sewing machine where she sewed patches on my Little League uniform and other stuff I had no interest in while continuing to threaten me with baths when I got home from wherever it was I was going.

Below is a picture of me operating the 12-pounder Howitzer cannon during what became known in the local history books as the “Siege of the Wisconsin Dells“.

I almost forgot. The word of the day over at the Ragtag Daily Prompt is CHAMBER.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 22, 2022 12:05 pm

    How much sugar did you have for breakfast this morning?


  2. May 22, 2022 12:50 pm

    🙄🙈🙉🙊 That’s enough gummies for you, young man! 😂


  3. May 23, 2022 1:12 pm

    My son and his family live in Wisconsin and I’ve been to the Dells- it’s awesome.It is, after all ,the home to Ripleys Believe it or Not Museum 🙂


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