One thing about this foul shooting project: It sure does play havoc on the family getaways.
Not that we’d change anything in that regard. One of the reasons for starting this project in the first place was the daily reminder — kind of my own version of a yellow ribbon tied around the finger, I guess — so it’s absolutely the point that the Cummings crew would need to consider finding a hoop under which to place those symbolic boots and sneakers each and every day, wherever we are.
In this case, “wherever we are” was in northern New Hampshire, just next to Littleton (they of the world’s longest candy counter, 112 feet) in a little town called Lyman. Many of The Beautiful Heth’s childhood days were spent there at the family cottage on Moose Run Road, along the eastern edge of little Dodge Pond.
Her quality world.
So with our week off in August, we returned to that quality world with Things 1, 2 and 3 … excited to unplug for the week with board games, fishing poles and kayaks. And a basketball or two.
And then … there was Seth Presby.
There are only about a dozen homes along Moose Run Road, so when a strange SUV pulls up to one of them and just helps itself to the back door, the neighbors tend to come a-wonderin’. Rather than our first stop being at our rental next door to the Presbys, which wouldn’t have concerned them at all, we immediately went to the little cottage of long-time friend Rich Fetters, across the dirt road from the Presbys and next door to TBH’s cottage of long ago.
We weren’t there more than three minutes when along came Seth, an 80-year-old former Airborne paratrooper of the Korean War, with a kind but puzzled face that pretty much said, “I’ve seen too much in this life to get real worked up about this, but who the hell are you?”
“Mr. Presby?” TBH said, in her lovely and unfairly disarming way. It was all good from there. Mr. Presby was their neighbor back then, and some 25 years later, he — along with his son Brett and Brett’s wife Celine — was our neighbor now.
And on Moose Run Road in Lyman, neighbor means family member.
Their kayaks were our kayaks. Their dogs were our dogs. When it came time to doing a little yardwork at Rich’s place, their rakes, shovels and weed-whackers were our rakes, shovels and weed-whackers. And when Seth stopped by at our rental most mornings, whether there was an agenda or not, our coffee was his coffee.
OK, so there was a little more television than we would have hoped, but hey, you can’t go from 90 mph to zero without somebody getting hurt. We’ll accept baby steps. On the rainy days and at night, there was plenty of Jenga, Operation and crosswords to get us by. And once the sun came out, we were in, on and around Dodge Pond … paddling to the north end, swimming to the island, and some kinda-sorta fishing that netted one apparent rock bass and a whole lot of close calls.
And then, as mentioned above, there were the hoops. Jack and Earlene (TBH’s parents and former owners of the Dodge Pond pad) came up for the first overnight, so the following day, Monday, found Jack, Noah and me down at the outdoor court at New England Wire Technologies in Lisbon, Brett’s place of employment. Nice hoop, and 1,000 went down smoothly in the sun.
Tuesday, it poured, but thanks to Lisbon town administrator Regan Pride, the old court inside Town Hall was available, and Mason and Rosie had just enough patience to allow TBH, Noah and me to knock out 1,000 more.
Wednesday, our travels took us to St. Johnsbury, Vt., where we were lucky enough to find a private school with a hoop out back. We stopped, got permission, fired up the camera in the back of the Pilot, and TBH, Noah and I got through 500 more … which was about enough time spent for Mason and Rosie.
Thursday, Seth had arranged for a meeting with a local writer, Andrea Fitzgerald of The Bridge Weekly Sho-Case, so we met with Andrea at the Wire Technologies court for a 20-minutes interview, followed by 1,000 more as Seth stood by and Andrea did her photo thing, like so …
Thursday night, the Presby family gave us a treat, a three-Jeep excursion up to an old Lyman copper mine, high above sea level after four-wheeling up a mile of rocky, rugged trails that would have eaten alive your Lexus. The Jeeps just smiled, though, and upon our arrival Mason, Noah and I were each instructed to step into a pair of waders and walk into a hole in the mountain.
The first 75 steps or so were through two feet of water, after which it got progressively dryer. And darker. And then darker. And a little darker. A few hundred feet in, we turned off the flashlights, and it was blacker than black, and I wanted to go home.
Those guys in Chile survived for how long? Sixty-nine days? I’d have lasted exactly four minutes before I started plucking out my eyebrows. I really didn’t want to be the first to ask, “You guys ready to head back yet?” But I was.
Friday was our final full day, and after a trip to Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill and The Brick Store in Bath, we stopped in at a Lyman farm I had noticed the evening before on the way back from the mine — Parker Hill Farm.
“I’ve got kind of an odd question for you,” I said to the man, who was eying me with a brow raised from behind the screen door. “Can my family come back a little later and I use your hoop?”
I filled in the blanks, of course, and the man who identified himself only as “Jon” had a few questions, and then graciously said yes … we could return and use the hoop out in the paved-over part of his barnyard. So at around 6 p.m. or so, that’s exactly what we did. With Mason and Rosie playing with the iPad under a tree next to the court, and with a dozen or so puzzled cows stopping to watch until boredom set in, TBH, Noah and I went through another 1,000 … and our North Country shooting had come to an end.
A day later, a generous electronic donation showed up from Parker Hill Road in Lyman. Thank you, John Linowes.
It was a great week. We got our daily reminders. We unplugged, pretty much. We swept pine needles off a roof. We bought penny candy. We swam, fished and kayaked. We played Whiffle Ball. We spent high quality time with the new-old neighbors.
We had a dirt road kind of a week, and everybody needs a dirt road kind of week every now and then.
And best of all …
“Mr. Presby ate a worm!”
For more on Hoops For Heroes, with a goal of 1 million made foul shots and $1 million raised for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, visit www.hoopsforheroes.com or contact Dave Cummings at 603-554-7855.