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What an exciting time of year. Young men and women all across the country have completed a task that seemed to have taken an eternity – nearly three-quarters of their lifetime. Family and friends will gather as festivities are held across the land, acknowledging the accomplishment of these students graduating from high school. One such celebration led us across the state to celebrate with our niece, Libby.
We traveled to Hutchinson, with our Scamp in tow, accompanied by our dog June and our cat, Edgar Allan. Arriving around sunset, we set up camp in the city campground along the south fork of the Crow River. The picturesque park was stereotypical of the Midwest.
Hot temperatures of the day were subsiding, making way for cooler air moving in for the evening. A young man on the center bench seat of a small boat was rowing as a young lady sat in the bow. She seemed to be enjoying the effort he put into courting her. I wanted to holler out to her, "If you'd sit on the back seat, you'd see the googly eyes he's making at you." But it was probably best I left these two love birds alone.
Geese, ducks, and swans moved gracefully over the water. Cutting a gentle V-shaped ripple in the smooth water, they created a path for their young chicks trailing behind. Flowering blossoms on the trees and bushes released a sweet fragrance adding to the romantic ambiance and feeling of love in the late springtime air. Of course, it also adds to the suffering of those with pollen allergies.
Just before we went to bed, I let June out to potty. I dipped a scoop from her food container in the van and poured it into her bowl, taking it into the camper. I didn't want to have to get out of the Scamp around six a.m. when she woke up and wanted breakfast. I set the bowl up on the counter so that she wouldn't help herself to it in the middle of the night.
We settled into the Scamp with the vents and windows open; a cool breeze flowed through the camper. Eventually, it got cool enough that we pulled up the covers. Normally, I would consider these ideal sleeping conditions, but several factors contributed to me not sleeping well.
I was beyond chilly, feeling cold. My wife struggled to breathe due to the heavy pollen, and June and Edgar were constantly moving about the camper. I could hear Edgar eating his cat food while June kept coming to the side of the bed, putting her paws up on me and giving me kisses. Without success, I rubbed her head, trying to get her to lay down.
I finally sat up and looked at the time. "Four-thirty in the morning," I turned off the ceiling vent fan, closed a couple of the windows, and said, "Will you two knock it off and go to sleep - it's going to start getting light in a half hour. Enough already!"
I laid down and pulled the fleece blanket up snuggly under my chin. Every time I started to doze off again, I swear there was Edgar, lapping up another chunk of cat food, crunch, crunch, crunch. Then, I would hear the food rattle in the stainless-steel bowl as he pushed the nuggets around with his nose, deciding which piece to eat next.
I no more than got to sleep when my alarm went off at six-thirty; I hit the snooze. I planned to get up and go to church early because we had a graduation party to attend just afternoon. Ten minutes later, the alarm sounded again. I hit the snooze again, and ten minutes later, the alarm was going off. "Are you kidding me? What are you doing?" My wife sat up, not a happy camper. "Either get up or shut off your alarm! Enough already!" She punched her pillow a couple of times to adjust it and laid back down. Ten minutes later, my alarm went off again. "Grrr. Tom!"
June was finally lying quietly next to the bed. Edgar curled up between my arm and chest and was purring contently. I conceded I was not getting up for the early mass. I would go to the eleven-o-clock service. I shut the alarm off and tried to go back to sleep, but it was light outside. I laid awake until seven-thirty and decided to just get up. Edgar was not happy with me moving him. "Hey! What's going on? Can't a cat get a nap around here without people rudely moving around and bothering him? Enough already. Go to sleep!"
Edgar relocated himself, snuggling up next to my wife, who was once again sleeping soundly. "Creep," I muttered - to the cat, not to my wife. I got dressed, "Come on, June. Let's go potty."
Outside I took a deep breath of fresh air. It was a beautiful, cool morning; the daytime highs were forecast to reach the mid to upper nineties. "June, let's go for a walk before it gets hot."
Usually, June would be thrilled to go for a walk, but she was confused, "Um, isn't the routine, potty and then June food? You know, the morning meal? Am I missing breakfast?"
Initially, I planned to walk for about a half-mile, but it was so gorgeous, we kept going. June was enjoying sniffing about, finding the scent of new animals. I noticed all the homes in Hutchinson had perfectly manicured lawns; June used a couple of them. Being an advocate of responsible pet ownership, I had "dooty bags" with me and cleaned up after my dog.
We walked all the way to Saint Anastasia Church, where their sign said the mass was at ten-thirty, not eleven like as I'd read on the internet. We continued our quick pace back to the campground, walking about three miles total.
After the forty-five-minute walk, June enjoyed a healthy drink of water. My wife was just getting up; I told her of the time change, then picked up the dog food bowl from the counter and looked inside. I was puzzled, "Did you already feed June?" Melissa said she did not. "There are only five or six pieces for food left."
"Are you sure you filled the bowl last night?" She asked.
"I'm positive!" I replied. My wife said she assumed I fed June and that June didn't eat all of her food. That's not very likely. There was clearly a thief among us.
As the investigation began, Edgar slithered under the bed. "I heard Edgar eating all through the night. Do you suppose he would have been eating June's food?" My wife didn't think that would have happened.
"June kept putting her front paws up on the bed through the night – do you think she was reaching up and taking bites from her bowl." My wife reasoned the bowl was all the way to the back of the counter, and our dog couldn't reach it there.
I looked under the bed, "Edgar," I accused, "did you eat June's food?"
"No." He replied adamantly, "I'm a cat, and cats do not eat dog food. Gross! Besides, you can tell by my trim figure, there's no way I could eat that much food. That dog is a glutton!"
I interrogated June, "Did you sneak into your food in the night?"
"No, I did not. There's no way I could reach it up there, but Edgar was on the counter last night. I'm sure it was the cat who ate my food." June replied with hungry, pitiful eyes.
"Well, a full bowl of dog food doesn't just vanish into thin air!" I ranted before going to the van to get another scoop of dog food, "June's breakfast is missing, and I am going to get to the bottom of this if it takes all day."
When I returned, June approached the bowl sheepishly the way she does if Melissa feeds her a second breakfast, not knowing I'd already fed the dog. "Do you swear you didn't eat the missing dog food?" June assured me she did not. Edgar was now sitting on the bed, "Do you swear you didn't eat the dog's food." Edgar rolled his eyes and reconfirmed, he's far too refined to eat dog food.
Running out of potential suspects, I looked at my wife with suspicion. I was going to demand to smell her breath. She'd already had a cup of coffee and was now eating a bowl of Cheerios. The combination of the two would have masked the scent of Iam's Mini Chunks. Besides, to even ask would be taking reckless chances with my safety and wellbeing.
The investigation was turning cold. Perhaps years from now, we would see the case featured on television's Unsolved Mysteries. In the meantime, I needed to shower and get ready for the graduation party.
The party was a huge success! Libby was on cloud nine as she bounced around the room, from guest to guest, visiting with family and friends who came to join in the celebration.
Her older brother Andy and I settled in at a table near the pasta bar. Elbows Allowed, Distinct Catering provided the meal, and the food was fantastic. Andy and I each had the fettuccini with chicken alfredo sauce. We both agreed it was delicious but wanted to confirm we'd made the right choice – the only way to know for sure was to go back and get a plate of the penne with meat sauce, which we both did. It was a definite tie.
I met Mary, the owner of the catering service. Her breadsticks were much better than mine. I immediately began fishing without seeming too obvious; I tried to get her to talk about her recipe and technique. She was on me and not giving up any info other than to say they make them from scratch.
Andy and I made our way to the desserts. He picked the white cake, where I opted for a dark chocolate cupcake. We discussed which was better and mutually agreed; there was no way we could know without each of us trying the other flavor – so we did. We may have returned for a third and fourth opinion before concluding – it was another tie. Dangerously close to a food coma, we retired our forks. We visited with other guests as they came by our table since we basically could not move.
The party was a smashing success. When it was over, plenty of people stayed around to help clear out and clean up the venue. Afterward, we went to Melissa's brother's house and continued our visit.
When we finally made our way back to the campsite, I let June out and fed her dinner. Before bedtime, I went back to the van to dip a scoop from her food container so that I wouldn't have to get out of the Scamp around six a.m. when she woke up and wanted breakfast. I looked at June and Edgar, both sitting by, watching so innocently – and my wife doing the same. I began trying to figure out what or who happened to that bowl of dog food.
I returned to the van and poured the food back into the big container, "I'm not falling for that trick again." But you can bet your bottom dollar; the next time we go out in the Scamp, I'll be better prepared. I'll put another bowl of dog food on the counter to lure the perpetrator. The trail cam with night vision, will provide hard evidence in the morning as to what happened to the missing breakfast.