Wuzzy Fuzzy?

Jerry Schuster

Guess what’s about to happen in the beautiful Gallatin Valley?

 Yes, it’s time for the grandkids to visit “Nana Tree and Papa S” in Bozeman! Of course, I would not want to reveal their identities, ages or places of residence, so those particulars are, well, sort of made up. Any resemblance to the actual grandkids is purely coincidental.

Just know they are real persons, five in number, and ranging in age from under ten, to tweens, to teens.

This is one of those rare years when all five will be in Bozeman at the same time. Usually we see them separately; more quality time as they say, but due to a special occasion this year we are delighted to see them all together. Happy days are here again.

Big question: What to do for grandkids’ fun and entertainment? Short list of possibilities: We’ll want to try a day hike, go to the Museum of the Rockies (MOR), play outdoor games at Bozeman Ponds Pavilion and hit the candy and t-shirt shops. We might try some fishing, but Papa and Nana Tree only do the kind of fishing we did in northeastern Montana. In the Gallatin Valley, only catch and release is allowed. The grandkids would not want to be exposed to someone cleaning and then eating their catch. Fish comes in a box and is breaded to disguise the real thing, like little nuggets you see. 

My mind has been very active in preparation for this happy upcoming visit. So busy, that I have these recurring dreams, probably based on some realities. The events and occurrences as described in this article have not happened yet. So don’t get all worked up about some dream dust. Just a little preview for you; one dream has the kids casting plastic bait with no hook into a clear pool, then recasting for a long time. Once, on a tremendous powerful cast by the youngest of them, the entire pole is let go and flung into the reservoir. Then Mom has to fish for the fishing pole. This is quite entertaining to watch, and I wake up laughing. We’ll go fishing for sure.

Since one of the main goals is to get the grandkids off their electronic devices, naturally my dreams have them exploring the wonders of nature, far enough away from civilization so the devices don’t function. 

The day hike dream begins with a flurry of preparation starting at 6 a.m. when all are awakened. After a hearty breakfast, Nana Tree sets out the items for our backpacks. We have decided on a trek up Middle Cottonwood. It will be double duty as Tree and I will scout the area for “secret” huckleberry patches to visit later in the summer when things quiet down. Don’t tell anyone that the best huckleberries are found in northern Idaho, up near Sandpoint. I got into a bit of trouble for revealing more details at one time. You’ll have to find them yourself. Do not ask.

We pack the usual items, only a lot more of them. These include water, rain gear, dry socks, dry clothes and first aid kit. Lots of food and snacks, everyone’s favorite sandwich and trail mix. Next, several canisters of bear spray. As we proceed on this preparation, I feel a tug on my old Wolf Point t-shirt; you know, the favorite one that everyone thinks I wear all summer. Actually, I have two, and yes, they do get washed, just not too often as they are getting pretty thin. Anyway, the tug and then the conversation: 

Papa S: Well, guess we have everything; going through the checklist here…water, check; snacks, check…bear spray…

Grandchild: Bear spray, Papa? What is that for?

Papa S: Well, occasionally out in the wild in this area one might come upon a bear, might even be a grizzly. So, although it is unlikely, we always want to be prepared in the event of an encounter. When you get a bit older, we can show you how it works.

Grandchild: Real bears, Papa? Not like Paddington who walks around London and talks? Not like Fuzzy Wuzzy? Hey Papa, you have no hair either! 

They all latch onto this observance and sing out the “Fuzzy Wuzzy” song, except the words are now changed to “wuzzy fuzzy” in reference to Papa’s younger years.

Papa S, trying to get them back on topic, in a serious voice: Yes, real bears, out in the wild.

Grandkids, IN UNISON: Yikes, yikes, yikes, yikes, yikes……….!  The kids are jumping around, wiggling, dancing and falling on the floor in wild frenzies. ALTOGETHER IN LOUD VOICES: Let’s do Peets Hill!

Oldest grandchild: Or the MOR!

Oh, just a dream! I’m sure the hike up Peets Hill will be fun. During the next visits, we will take them up Middle Cottonwood.
Another must-do is a night or two of camping. In my wild dreams, we are again in a frenzy of preparing. We start with several sizes of tents, water containers, sleeping pads and bags and extra warm clothing. We add lots of food, especially two-foot long hot dogs for roasting, then add several more packs of hot dogs since some will end up in the fire. Then, healthy food such as veggies and fruit which come out first at the campsite but are seldom eaten since everyone knows about and waits for the hot dogs. Our family traditional camping dessert and our specialty “pieces de resistance” are gluten-free s’mores, so we pack boxes of the necessary ingredients.

The youngsters are all excited as they gather around the bins as we add the final items of pillows, flashlights, sunscreen and a gallon canister of bear spray. Their eyes widen and anxious looks are exchanged. Words are whispered in Nana Tree’s ear, something about the bear spray, and before we know it, there is a major change in plans for the evening. 

After a trip to the MOR, we set up a tent in the family room and watch “Paddington Bear II” for the sixth time. We boil the hot dogs, but by then, everyone wants take-out pizza, so Papa calls in a large order. For dessert, we have “gummy bears.” I’m not sure if it is in my nightmares or day mares, but I see gooey s’mores with melted marshmallows and chocolate squeezing out across our couches and floors. Gasp!

A fun day trip is to take the kids to Virginia City and Nevada City. In my dream version, (or is it real life?) we are bombarded with questions, such as “What is all this old stuff for? Why is it so dusty in here? and my favorite: Where’s the Mall?”

Lucky for us there is a candy store in Virginia City, and each child is allowed to fill one bag. We agree that this should take an hour or so, and Papa will have some time to rest his feet in the rocking chair by the front door.

In approximately three minutes, the bags are heaping full. After the bags are weighed, Papa puts in a call to the debit card company, so they won’t think this large of a purchase at a candy store in Montana is suspicious.

On the way back to Bozeman, Nana Tree announces that each of them will be allowed to choose one piece of candy to eat for the trip. This is very hard to monitor. By that time, the great candy exchange is taking place, and no one knows which were their selections. We soon have multiple sticky prints on all surfaces and windows of the rear seats. Someone’s large “sticky rope pinwheel sucker” is stuck to the door panel.

As we unload the kids, now hyper with all that sugar, I pick up the candy from the back seats and put it in one large bag. Nana and I now have a supply of candy for the next two years.

My dreams are over, but I know our adventure is waiting. We love to have these visits from the grandkids. It’s a time for lots of hugs, listening to their stories, enjoying great outdoor hikes and trips, reading good books, playing games and just hanging out. We spoil them, sure, but their parents have another year to get them back to real life.

It’s all about those precious young lives, times to cherish, and memories for a lifetime.   

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