The Fourth of July weekend of 1999 is one summer holiday I can clearly remember, although I’d rather not. My son, Jake, promised to house sit during this particular holiday weekend to watch his friend’s three Rottweilers. Only afterward did he remember that we had an annual tradition of driving up to Kenosha, Wisconsin to pick up a load of homemade bratwursts (and a bottle rocket, or two). Some of the brats would be destined for the grill later that evening, while the rest would reside in our freezer on top of last year’s stash. But he felt the dogs would be fine since the 160 mile round trip usually took only about four hours. So, our annual father-son quest for red meat wrapped in natural casing was on.
On Saturday morning, Jake put the dogs out in the yard to do their thing while he drove over to pick me up. He then swung back and herded them inside while I stuffed a Willy Nelson tape into the deck. Jake is a professional driver, and I couldn’t wait to see him cringe when I played “On the Road Again.”
By the time we got to Kenosha, the car was overheating a little. It didn’t seem too serious, so we bought our customary eight dozen brats and pointed the hissing Honda toward Chicago. To maximize our chances of making it, we turned the AC off, cranked up the heater to full blast and rolled down the windows. We lumbered along at about 35 MPH on the older two lane roads, making numerous stops to cool the motor down. Once the radiator was cool enough to touch, we added melted water from the ice chest. If we ran out, we could have wrung out our soaked shirts too.
And speaking of fluid levels, Jake became concerned about the Rotts.
After poking along for a seeming eternity we finally made it home three hours behind schedule. We headed straight to his friend’s house, hoping to arrive in time. We didn’t.
All three dogs had embarked on a joint effort to set a new world record for doggy poo on the kitchen floor. And, in an instinctive effort to bury the evidence, they executed a few lazy chip shots through the hallway into the living room. The splattered walls and carpeting looked and smelled almost as bad as my old dorm room.
And the mutts? They had a completely tranquil look about them when we walked in. They would have asked us for a smoke if they could.
We spent the next few hours scrubbing and deodorizing the kitchen, hallway, and living room. It was a natural appetite suppressant that quashed any aspirations of a lavish cookout that evening. Afterward, while washing up, Jake accidentally dropped his ring down the bathroom sink drain. It was late, we were tired, and we didn’t have any tools to take the drain apart. So we called it a day.
On Sunday morning, I came over with a pipe wrench, hammer, and crowbar to disassemble the drain. Although we expected some resistance, the wrench turned with remarkable ease as the ancient drainpipe disintegrated. We found the ring, but were about to learn from Tony, our local hardware guy, that replacement parts were unavailable. We would have to retrofit the whole drain system.
After leaving the hardware store with a bulging sack of rattling pipes and Tony’s assurances of an effortless assembly, we stopped at a bakery to pick up a dozen chocolate donuts. Back at the house, I set the donuts on the kitchen table, and then joined Jake under the sink. Before you could memorize War and Peace, we were done.
After admiring our plumbing prowess, we cleaned up and repaired to the kitchen. But in the meantime, the dogs had grabbed the donut bag and galumphed into the living room to have breakfast. There, the lumbering oafs gleefully gorged themselves while smooshing the uneaten chunks into the freshly cleaned carpet.
Day Two of a once eagerly anticipated Independence Day weekend rapidly vaporized into a cloud of complex carbohydrates. Fortunately, the previous rub ‘n scrub job left a protective shield of Scotch Guard, and the chocolate lovers delight only required some warm water and paper towels.
When his friend returned, Jake fessed up about the doggy-do and the new plumbing arrangement, but omitted the donut episode. In summary, he recounted the first and second incidents over the Fourth, but took the Fifth on the third.