Lessons Taught, Learned, And Lived Out

On this night, I’m sitting with a heavy heart and so many emotions that it’s hard to even think. I almost can’t grasp that what has happened is actually reality, though I know it is. It was only a few days ago when I answered Silas’s phone to talk to my mother-in-law, Jo. She was calling to wish the boy a happy birthday.

So, as all of my boys and I do (even sometimes Tori), I acted as if I was Si. After she wished me a happy birthday, I thanked her, after all, it was my birthday only 2 days earlier. After a few comments, she asked, “Is this you, Butch?” I laughed, and so did she. Then her normal response followed, “What am I going to do with you, Butchie?”

We talked for a bit as we normally did about all the normal stuff– the kids, the grands, and her health. She told me that she had been sick with the flu, but assured me that she was fine. She had thought that the Lord was going to take her, but she said it just must have not been her time. Then, she assured me that when that time came, she was ready and willing to go.  I thought nothing of this until tonight. Little did we know, but her time was short, and that fact took the entire family and her friends by surprise.

She went home with the Lord on Feb 24th 2018.

Over the last days, I have heard stories of her life some good, some very sad. They all conclude with how much she loved everyone and how much of an impact she had on so many lives. I have so many things to say about what life was like and memories I have. For now, I have settled for just telling these few.

Now my life story with my mother in law is a bit unique because she knew me from when I was a tot. Oh, she loved to tell stories about that too.

When I was just little, like under 2, she and my dad worked together at a store called The Big N. This is also ironically where my wife’s story starts too. Big N is where Jo met Chrissy’s father.

As Chrissy and I started to date it became known to us that a long time ago our parents knew each other.

I had just started to come over to Chrissy’s house, when her mom started asking the normal parental questions about this kid who was hanging out with her daughter. Now I have to admit, I had just turned 17, and Chrissy was 13, when we met. So, it was normal to have question of this older boy who took a liking to her daughter. Through the questions over dinner she asked if I was any relation to a Bill Hunter? I said, “Well yes, that’s my Dad!” Oh crap I thought, how did our parents know each other? She said, “And your mom– is her name Phyllis?” I said yes. At this moment as I was a bit nervous looking at Chrissy, I could tell that she could have crawled under the table. Then what Jo said next really made Chrissy and me totally embarrassed.

She said, “I know you! I knew you when you were a baby. I changed your dippers!” Oh, my goodness! My new girlfriend’s mom has seen me naked, and I never had a clue! Ugh!

Since then, this has been one of her favorite stories to tell, especially when I was introducing her to new people. Oh, she thought this was hilarious! After 30 years you would think the joke was getting old, but nope, never.

Then she also loved to tell the story of how I would come into the store to find my dad. She would say, “I could hear him coming a mile away, clipity, clop, clipity, clop, running down the aisle in his cowboy boots and hat.” She would say that when you heard those boots, everyone knew here comes Butchie, Butchie, Butchie!

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She loved me, and I loved her, though we had our moments for sure. Chrissy says we’re together today only because her mom always made her make up with me after we broke up. So, I have her to thank as I have so many times for the wonderful gift of the woman I love, the mother of my children.

I will miss her greatly, and she will always have a special place in my heart.

She helped us though some hard times on more than one occasion and encouraged us when we needed it too. Though there were tough times too, for example when we had to go on our own and follow the path the Lord was leading us too 9 hours away from our home. This definitely was not a great time for her.

Though we had heartaches and pain, and in spite of what we disagreed on or had a hard time accepting, there was always love that brought us back. I have learned from experience and by watching others that there will always be difficult times in life, no matter who you have a relationship with, family or not. At some point, you just need to realize that love conquers all.

Oh, there will be scars and broken hearts, but it’s what you choose to do with the brokenness that really matters. It will make you stronger for sure, but you have to choose if you will let it make you bitter or better, that is your choice. We can focus on the negative, or we can choose to look past the hurt and pain, leaving whatever it may be where it belongs in the past, and try to focus on a positive future. This is hard and can be timely process, but life is short and unpredictable, so do all you can to heal quickly and make things right. We are not promised tomorrow. So, with that in mind, I try to live by a few rules.

  1. The problem is never the problem
  2. Hurt people hurt people
  3. You can never own someone else’s problem
  4. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink

I have a few others, but these are some big ones that help me process and move forward in life.

Life is so short, and it is such a beautiful gift. We need to use it to its full potential, and help those around us however we can by sharing love and kindness to all.  Don’t throw away or waste a moment.

There will always be thing that should have been said or done, but don’t let that stop you from learning and loving again and moving ahead.

Like I said, I will miss Mom Crossley, a.k.a. eight-toed Jo! Knowing her has been a wonderful thing, and if I were to try to share one life lesson that I have learned from having a relationship with her it would be this for now. Make a difference where you can, however you can, but don’t sacrifice yourself or those you love along the way. YOLO swag for life!

Thank you, and I Love you Jo! You are missed!

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Trains, Flames, and Automobiles

 

The other day Chrissy and I wanted to grab something to eat. We had heard that a new restaurant was opening that was owned by the same person who owned another restaurant that had closed a while back, that we absolutely loved.  The place that closed had great food at a reasonable price. We loved the atmosphere there, as well as the décor. Sometimes there are just those places that immediately whisk you back in time to earlier years when life seemed a little easier. These places flood you with good memories. That is a big reason I liked this place… it had a cozy home feel to it. The place settings were mismatched, but really nice. It was like someone went to your grandparent’s house and bought a few of their place settings, then went to someone else’s grandparents, and did the same thing over and over until they had a huge collection of place settings.

 

The other cool thing was the mismatched cloth napkins at each place setting. Never the same, but always nice and clean. There’s just something about having a cloth napkin at meal time that makes things feel special.

The biggest thing that we loved was the floor. The floor was covered with old vintage magazine pages sealed with a clear coat protectant. It was the coolest thing. It may have been a bit feminine, but I was good with it, because to drew my mind back to my grandmother’s house. Living so far from family, it was a nice place to have a cup of coffee and a homemade sweet treat like my mom would make from one of my grandmother’s recipes. It was quiet most times, so I could think and plan things that I needed to. It was always a great meeting place too, especially for a date with my sweetheart.

So, when this placed closed, it was very sad. It left a big hole for a while in my repertoire of hangout places and in our small community.

When I heard that this new place was opening in the next town over, I was super excited! I had no idea what to expect, but I knew that the food would be great. Recently, we were able to go for a late breakfast.

When we entered the place, which we had been in before when it was another coffee shop, we both were pleasantly surprised.

The old establishment that occupied this building before was nice, but seemed a little dark. It was okay, but definitely not my favorite.

Now seeing what the new owners did, it was great! It took a few months for them to open, but I had heard it was partly because of redoing the floors. It was clean and friendly from the time we entered to the time we checked out.

We were welcomed by amazing magazine-page floors with a food theme, which then transitioned the dining area into railway magazine pages.

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Now, if I’m going to be honest I didn’t notice that they were railway magazines at first. What I did notice was a picture on the wall that was familiar to me. When Chrissy and I went on our first cruise, as a last-minute excursion, we chose to go on an amazing train ride known as the White Passage.

Side Note: This was when I got to see an American Black Bear and her cub in the wild. The Chinese man that spotted her, now that was a hoot for sure! He was pointing and yelling in English with the Chinese accent, “Beer! Beer over dare!” If we were on a boat, we would have tipped over with the sudden shift of weight. He was so very excited.

The Picture in this little restaurant reminded me of the Yukon Railway…the train company that carried us through the passage. After a little digging, I found it was not the same one as in the picture. Great Northern Railway and Yukon had similar logos.

But, as I looked around it all came together– the name of the new establishment “The Coffee Depot,” the train and railway décor, not to mention that the little gem is situated next to busy train tracks, where almost every hour you hear the horn of a locomotive and feel the rumble as it passes through Syracuse.

Looking around the dining area made think of my parents at Christmas time. Chrissy and I got to talking about how every year my dad set up a train track in our house. Some years it was huge, and other years it was small. Ever since I can remember, my parents had a platform set up.

My dad has a love for model trains. And every year, it would take him weeks before Christmas to plan and set up this display.

This was always a big deal, and no matter what, this display had to be done before Christmas.

My parents would decorate the display with a little town that they had created and the focus was the train station in the town.

My dad would construct the base and get the ground laid, some years it was green like grass, while other years it was snow. He would carefully pour this tiny black gravel for roads, and put miniature lights up from underneath the wood to light the shoebox building that my parents had made with great detail. Dad had some scale structures called Plasticville, but they were very expensive, so they only had a few of those to start.  They even had street lights that lit up the roads at night.

Then they would build a paper mache mountain, with a wax waterfall that had variant blue colors of water running down to a pond. The mountain also had a tunnel that the train could pass through.

One year, my parents wanted to get trailing pine and green moss for the platform, so we went for a hike up the mountain we lived on. We found some, brought it back and constructed a green mountain with live moss.

Side Note: It was never a good day if the train jumped the track in the tunnel. Most times this was due to unsupervised little hands as the conductor.

The Lionel train was my dad’s baby. He always took special care of the old engine and caboose. Every year, we would make a trip to one of the most fascinating stores… English’s Train Shoppe. This place had every train you could think of on display.There were so many that they even had them hanging from the ceiling. The best part was that they always had most of them running. I absolutely loved the trip to this place. This is where my dad would get supplies and have the engine serviced. This was also the place where we would get the corrugated red brick paper that would run around the sides of the platform to hide all the wires underneath the town.

He would finish the display off with little people figures and matchbox cars. The cars were special because this was something we both were enthusiastic about. He had ones from when he was a boy, then he would add new ones that were mine.

The older I got the more I enjoyed the platform and looked forward to helping with it. The older I got, the ornerier I got too. One year I un-repentantly started a tradition. I created an incident with some of the matchbox cars.

Side Note: We always had matchbox cars, never hot wheels. It was like a rival team or something I really don’t know why, but dad only liked the matchbox cars. I remember him saying “I don’t want any of that Hot Wheels Sh*t on my platform!” We really didn’t do sports, so I guess we did miniature car companies?

So, this one year, I took some of the cars and created a fender bender scene. I had two cars crashed, and a gas tanker truck flipped on its side. I pulled out the fire trucks from the fire station and the ambulance too, and I placed them at the scene of the accident. I did think about setting the truck on fire but luckily I realized that could be a very bad thing. Besides, I wanted to see how long it would take my dad to notice this little eye sore in his pleasant, peaceful town.

One thing, I haven’t mentioned was that the platform was sacred. No one could touch it after it was finished– it was a piece of fine art. So, when he finally noticed the destruction I created, he became almost unglued! It was so funny that I had to repeat it again and again over the years. Now it’s one of those things that my dad puts on there himself. Perhaps, it’s just a reminder to him of the fun, silly things I did while growing up.

A few years back, I received a very special gift that I treasure. My dad got me a Lionel train set, so I could continue the train tradition in our family. I don’t know that I have done the best job of doing that as a dad, but I want to see if I can do better as a Popz for my grands.

I love thinking about these special moments, they remind me of the love we shared as a family growing up. The platform was a yearly connecting point for the family, but seemed to be even more special to dad and me. I hope to have that same connection with things with my kids and the grands too!

Lastly, The Coffee Depot’s food was great, as well as the trip down memory lane!

Coffee Depot Facebook Page

How It All Started?

So, this week on the 10th of August, I mark 26 years of being married to my best friend. Every year around this time Chrissy and I get asked the question, “How did you two meet?” For this week I thought I would share how we got to where we are.

It actually started 30 years ago.

If Chrissy was telling the story, which she will add her two cents into this before it’s all said and done, this is how she would say it all started…

Chrissy attended a concert that a group of youth put on called “Rock to Reach.” I was a part of this group. Chrissy was also, but we really didn’t know each other. At this concert there were three acts– two local openers followed by a somewhat big-name band. The first act was a group that I started called “The Live Wires For Christ.” We were a vocal group that used backtracks to sing along to. I have to say that we had some of the smoothest group choreography of any conservative Christian kids in the 80’s. We thought we were the bomb-diggity. So, after we performed, we would stand at our table in the hall, available to talk to our fans. Thinking back to all that just cracks me up that we thought we had fans. We even had black and white 8×10’s of the group that we autographed and gave away.

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So, as Chrissy would say, there was this one very cute guy and another guy that was just so full of himself. Chrissy thought the second guy had an way over-inflated ego, yeah well… that was me. The cute guy was my best friend at the time. Well. As the story goes, Chrissy didn’t want to have anything to do with me that night we first met.

Fast forward to four months when our youth group held a Christian skate night at Great Skate.

Side note: This youth group we were in had no adult sponsors. We were made up of a group of Christian teens who wanted to make an impact in our community for Jesus. It was called S.O.S. (Sword of Salvation). We held all kinds of outreach events and concerts.

At the skate night, I was there with my friend best friend, Sam. I loved to skate– if you needed to find me on a Saturday morning, you would find me at the rink. I was pretty good at skating, and Sam, well he could just about stay on his feet. That night there was a couples skate. This was when they slow the tunes down, and only couples would be on the skating floor. This was the time when you could ask a girl or a boy that you may be crushing on to skate with you. Most time you got to at least hold their hand as you skated around. I had just came off the floor when this little girl came up to me and asked Sam if he would skate with her friend. Then she turned to me and said, “Will you skate with me?” So Sam accepted first, and I looked at this little girl and thought, sure why not, what would it hurt? She looked like she was 10 years old. So I skated around with her. As we skated, I found out that she was actually 14 and was in middle school. She was very sweet and funny. When we were done, she gave me a paper with her phone number on it and said, “My name is Carla” as she cracked her bubble gum and smiled at me in a very flirtatious way. Then she said in a high-pitched squeaky voice, “Call me some time, sweetie!” Her friend (Chrissy) exchanged numbers with my friend, Sam.

I thought she was way too young for me to be serious. So, perhaps we could be friends. After all, I had just turned 17. That was a big age difference back then.

Side note: It’s funny how the older you get, the gap in age doesn’t seem that big of a deal. It actually seems more common than not.

Carla who lived like 20 miles from me and she went to a school a few towns over. So, we got to know each other through phone conversations. But Sam and Chrissy’s phone numbers were long distance from each other, so they couldn’t talk as much. See we didn’t have cell phones back then and for our home phone, we had to pay for long distance calls, and they were actually pretty expensive. So, I could call Carla and give a message to her for Chrissy from Sam. This worked fine for a while, but Carla seemed to always be getting in trouble with her parents, and they would take her phone privileges away. That caused me to call Chrissy directly, and then she became the messenger to Carla.

Over the next few months, Chrissy and I became really good friends. We talked almost everyday after school, even if we didn’t have a message to pass along.

Fast forward again. Our group youth group was bringing in a band called “Bash’n the Code.” Chrissy was there, and so was Sam. It was April 17th 1987. (This is the date we consider our anniversary for starting our relationship.) At this time I was beginning to realize that I really liked Chrissy. So, I wanted to make sure she knew I existed. While I was taking every opportunity to flirt with her, I thought that I would be funny and pull her chair out from under her as she sat down. I planned to catch her, but this was one of those times in my life that a prank went wrong. I didn’t get in position to make the catch. She fell to the ground and smacked the back of her head on brick floor. (Which she says she still has an indentation in her head to this day.) I felt horrible. I thought all chances of her liking me more than a friend were totally over. I was in the “Friend Zone,” and I just gave my friend a lump on her head!

But the night was not over. As Chrissy tells it she and Sam went for a walk out on a playground, and he tried to kiss her. Yeah. I think it had a worse impact than me pulling the chair out from under her. So I was back in the game! You have to understand there was really no bro code, so it was all good.

The four of us made plans to hang out together at Chrissy’s house one weekend. The telephone games were getting old for both Chrissy and I, but we still hung out this weekend. At one time when Chrissy and I were playing with the soccer ball, she kicked it into some lilac bushes in her yard. When she ran behind them to get the ball, I followed and as she turned to come out, she ran right into me. Face to face, and I went in for the kiss, and it was received pretty well because she kissed me back. It made things a bit awkward the rest of the day because we were now both very aware that we liked each other.

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At some point my parents came to pick me up at her house. That was when the unspeakable happened for both Chrissy and I. My parents said, “What is Chrissy’s mom’s name? I said, “Jo.” They me if it could be Jo Cott? I said, “I don’t know, why?” They then got out of the car. This was not good for a teenagers reputation. My parents wanted to be introduced, so I did, and as it turns out, Chrissy’s mom knew my parents from years before. Chrissy’s mom loves this part of our story, because we found out that she uses to babysit me when I was a baby. So she likes to tell everyone, even to this day, that she changed my diapers! Talk about humiliation for Chrissy and I both!

Then our parents made plans to get together when they were camping at a place called Kettle Creek.

We met up with them, my family and Chrissy’s family all together. Chrissy and I decided to go for a walk and talk. We decided we needed to be sure we were definitely sure about what we felt when we kissed the first time, so we did again. Because our feelings were confirmed, we talked about what to do about Carla and Sam? As it goes, we each respectfully broke it off with them, and we decided to go steady.

There are many stories to tell from the 4 years that we dated. Like the time she through a plastic bottle of nail polish remover at me, which cut my forehead wide open. She got sent to her room for that one. Then you have the marriage proposal. Chrissy got so mad at me for being late to pick her up. I really wasn’t late; I was just down the street taking pictures of her because I was getting ready to ask her to marry me, and I wanted the area to clear out. But the one story that I love to tell is the first time I told her I was going to marry her. It was after we had been going out for a month. I felt so sure of myself that I looked at Chrissy one day and I said this: (Wait, you should know that at this time I was 17 and she was one month from being 14. Okay, so she was 13.)

I looked deep into her gorgeous brown eyes and said, “Someday I will marry you, and you will be my wife! She smiled at me, then started to laugh. She said, “Yeah, right.” And then she walked away.

30 years later, she is my best friend, my soulmate and my wife. We have been though a lot over the years. With each challenge that has come our way, I thank God that it was you that I was able to walk through it with. You are one of the most creative and fun people I have ever known, together we are a blast. Love you, Chrissy Hunter!

The Epic Hoagie Shadow Battle

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I have waited long enough to tell this story. Have you ever heard of a hoagie? Well, this is what most in the Midwest here call a sub, but growing up in PA, a sub was called a hoagie. Yeah, so we would go to the sub shop to get a hoagie, not a sub. I don’t know why. It was just the way it was.

Most Friday nights in the original Hunter house, we had hoagies from Newberry Sub Shop. They were arguably the best in the west end of town. I remember going into the shop, placing our order, then sitting at a table or on one of the counter stools. If it was a good week, I got fifty cents to play the jukebox that sat towards the front of the shop. I can still smell the aroma of oil, vinegar and spices mixed with fresh bread while Queen’s “Another Brick in the Wall’’ played.

Fridays were not complete without taking our hoagies home, sitting in the living room eating, and watching The Dukes of Hazzard. This was one of the two nights of the week that we would depart from our traditional eating together at the dining table. This was the best, a regular hoagie and watching the General Lee jump ravines, and then there was Daisy Duke. I don’t know which was better at the time, the car or the girl. Those were good days!

Well, my love for hoagies has not diminished one bit, and I have to tell you that I have not found one place where I live now that can replicate the memory I have of what those Hoagies tasted like. I do have to give props to Jersey Mikes, a national chain of sub shops based out of New Jersey; they definitely do come close. I really think it must be an East Coast thing: hoagies and Philly cheese steaks. We won’t even get started on those.

Side Note: if you should ever want a authentic Philly Cheese Steak and live, say in Syracuse, Indiana, there is a place the next town over, Goshen, that has the best Philly Cheese steaks in the area. It’s called the South Side Soda Shop. It was even featured on the Food Network’s “Triple D: Diners Drive-in’s and Dives.”

You may say I have a bit of a love affair with hoagies. Well, the older I got, the more I explored sub shops to see where the best ones were. You had Riverside Sub Shop, which had the best grinders. Yes, like a hoagie, but it’s grilled. Then, you had Cellini’s who had really good cosmos, again like a hoagie, this was a broiled cheese sandwich. In East End, you had Fred’s Market– they put a ton of meat on their hoagies. Then you had the OIP sub (not a hoagie). This was made with Fresh baked bread that was made from pizza dough. Then on the Creek Road, you had Heller’s Gas and Mini Market. They had great ones too.

Now Heller’s was right on our way home from church. So, Chrissy and I would stop after church, grab some hoagies and head home for lunch with Ben and Tori. This would have been around the time when Ben was 4, and Tori almost 2.

Side Note: When Chrissy was pregnant with Tori she craved turkey breast hoagies and french fries. In fact, that is what she wanted me to leave the hospital hours after Tori was born and get for her. Now, Chrissy also has a bit if a love affair with the hoagie, but not just any hoagie, it has to be a turkey breast. She just can’t eat dark meat or most processed meats.

Now that I have all the background laid out, we can get to the infamous story of the hoagie fight. See we had been going and getting hoagies after church for a while, it was becoming kind of like a bad ritual. I would get whatever kind of hoagie I fancied that day, but Chrissy always got the same one, Turkey Breast.

Well, one day we went and got our hoagies and when we got home and to our surprise Heller’s changed their turkey hoagies. This one was made with turkey roll meat. Very different from turkey breast.

My wife was not happy, but because we lived 40 minutes away from Heller’s, she sucked it up and ate it with the caveat of never getting a hoagie there again with turkey roll, because it was just gross.

A few weeks passed and something happened at church that made Chrissy upset, and if I remember I was not too happy either. It may have been that we were just not seeing eye to eye at the time too. Either way, we both were not in good moods.

So, I fell right into my rut and stopped at the sub shop. Before I got out of our Dodge Shadow, which we only had for a short time, Chrissy said, “Don’t forget, turkey breast. Not turkey roll!” I distinctly remember mocking her in a weird voice, as I closed the car door “don’t forget turkey breast,” then mumbling to myself I walked to the store.

Well, I went into the store and saw someone from church, and of course I had to change my demeanor right away. That’s what good church-going Christians do.

Side Note: this story all took place before we went into the ministry. So we were still heathens. I’m just kidding, we have matured since then, but we still have our days.

Anyway, I had a conversation with whoever and ordered our hoagies. By this time, coming out to the car, I could hear that they kids were not happy either. I thought, great… grouchy kids and wife, what a great day. I got in the car and handed over the hoagies to Chrissy, then pulled out of the parking lot and onto the county two-lane road that would get us home.

As I drove, Chrissy asked, “Did you ask for turkey breast?” Honestly, at that moment I hesitated, and I couldn’t remember… did I ask for a turkey hoagie or a turkey breast hoagie. Oh gosh. I couldn’t remember, so I diverted. “You know who I saw from church in there?” It didn’t work. She said, “Butch, did you get me a turkey breast hoagie?” I looked over at her, and I could tell she was hangry. I said sheepishly, “Yeah, that’s what you wanted!”

That is when everything started to unravel. She pulled out the hoagie from the brown paper bag and started to unroll the white paper that hers was rolled in. I think this is where I may have started to pray. Oh Jesus, please let it be a turkey breast hoagie! This is the point most husbands know that they are going to skate though just by the skin of their teeth or need to start to talk her down.

She looked at the meat, and it was like the kids in the back seat gasped, sucking all the oxygen from the car. I said, “Look, it’s turkey breast.” She looked at me, and I knew I was in such trouble. She said, “I told you to order TURKEY BREAST.

I couldn’t help noticing that her hand was clenched around the 12-inch hoagie, progressively squeezing it tighter and tighter with every word she spoke. I argued that it looked like turkey breast. She was not convinced. Then I said, “If it’s not, they clearly made a mistake, and I will turn around to get you another one.”

By this time, we were becoming pretty loud with our discussion, and it was quickly heading to an inevitable eruption. Chrissy picked up the sandwich. (Remember, I’m driving.) She whacked me in the chest with it, half of it fell on my lap. It was raining tomatoes and onions in the car.

I quickly grabbed the half that landed on my lap, as she is repeatedly smacking me with what is left of the hoagie in her hand. I retaliate in defense hurling my half of the hoagie back at her, all while trying to safely drive. It was like an epic sword battle in the car. It was like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, instead of sparks there were shreds of lettuce. Hoagie was flying everywhere, there was bread everywhere, meat stuck to the dash and windshield.

The kids were in the back seat in their car seats giggling. We both were wearing this undesirable sandwich. I remember Chrissy having mayo on her face. When we looked at each other, we heard giggles and saw the throwing of pieces of hoagie from the back seat, we both busted up laughing.

We both apologized to each other as we wiped off our faces from the remains from our battle. Then we joked about what happened the rest of the way home and for years to come. We still joke that if you don’t watch out, I will hoagie-slap you!

It took weeks to get all the hoagie out of our car, but what I never forgot was to always ask for turkey breast. Looking back we’ve had some big disagreements, but somehow we always managed to come back to common ground, support each other and always put each other ahead of the other. We love unconditionally and try to be authentic all the time. I believe this has gotten us through some of the hardest times, and even some of the best ones too.

One of our favorite artists penned these words that capture a glimpse of our love for each other:

“This love is strong, it will last. It will hold you up when you need it. It will not break, and I won’t give up. It costs too much, and I need you.” (Russ Taff)

The Bear In The Little White Trailer

The Bear In The Little White Trailer
Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my! Well, not so much the lions and tigers, but definitely bears. Bears are this week’s blog topic.
As I have mentioned in previous stories, I’m from PA. That stands for Pennsylvania, for all those who are not from the Keystone State. Nobody calls it Pennsylvania; it’s always  “P. A.” I grew up just within the city limits of Williamsport.
Side Note: When we moved in to this house when I was a kid, we had no running water or plumbing. In fact, we had the last standing outhouse within the city limits. The local newspaper the Sun Gazette did a feature story on it before it was taken down. Of course, we had indoor plumbing by then.
Our house was built by my Grandpap Hunter. It sat half-way up a mountainside. Directly behind our house, was an overgrown vineyard that had long since been cared for. It had been overtaken with thick brush and trees, just as the mountain started to incline. We has gorgeous evergreen pine trees that ran all the way up to the top of the mountain.
Side note: I’m saying that we lived on a mountain, which to anyone actually from PA would say “Aw, that’s just a big hill. The mountains are on the south side of the Valley.” And that would be true. But those who live in the Midwest, where I now reside… they would say we did live on a small mountain.  
I had the run of all the area growing up. It was great. I spent summer days exploring and playing, just my dog and me. We encountered many things throughout the years, and I heard a ton of stories about what lived in those woods. Some scary things, and some were just ridiculous.
One such story was about the night my mom was walked home by what she claims to have been a bear. She worked 2nd shift, and got a ride home late one night. The driver dropped her off at the bottom of our long driveway. Halfway up our drive, she was greeted by something big and furry. She thought it was our pet St. Bernard, Brandy.
All the way home she talked and walked with it, giving it encouraging pats on the head as they walked. When she reached our house, whatever it was ran off. She went in the house only to find Brandy asleep on the floor. She swears it was a bear. I don’t know.
That was not the only encounter we had with bears. My mother-in-law hit one with her car once. The car was totaled. She was ok, but the bear didn’t survive.
Another time, which I think is the best story, is when Chrissy and I were living in the real mountains. Our small mobile home sat at the bottom of a mountain close to her grandparent’s home. A small brook ran right behind the property.  In this little community called Proctor, there may have been a population of 150, perhaps a bit more. Our little neighborhood had 4 houses within a stone’s throwing distance from ours. We had two of our kids then, Ben and Tori, and stupid dog named Pepper.
Where we lived, trash pick-up only happened every 2 weeks, perhaps 4, depending on the time of year. So, we had 3 cans sitting out by where we parked our cars. We had been told that sometimes bears would wonder down the mountain and get into things. We had never seen this happen since we had lived in the trailer. The only things we had seen were the occasional deer, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, and a flock of turkeys.
One summer night, Chrissy woke me from a dead sleep. This was normal.
She said, “Did you hear that?”
I said, “No, don’t worry, it’s probably a raccoon getting into the garbage.”
She said, “No, it’s not, listen! It’s grunting and snorting whatever it is!
We lay very still in our bed, and I listened. All I could hear was my heart beating and my breathing.
I said, “Nope, nothing.”
Then she said, “There!” as she sat up in bed.
I said,  “Okay, I’ll get up and see.”
So, I got up and got the spotlight. Everyone who lives in PA has a spotlight.
Side note: Spotlighting. It’s a verb. That’s what you did for fun on a warm Saturday night. You drive around shining this huge 100,000,000 candlelight powered spotlight out your car window to see how many deer or other species of wildlife you could see. That, my friends, was a wild night!
I grabbed my spotlight, and I opened the drapes to look out the window. I could see nothing. I shined my light out the window, but all I could see was our cars.  I moved back through the trailer to our bedroom windows. I pulled back the curtains to shine the light out. And there it was as plain as day. The biggest, hairiest, monster I had ever seen with it’s teeth bared looking right back at me through my window. It was a Sasquatch!
No, I’m just kidding. All I could see was the hoods of our cars. Of course, by this time Chrissy is pushing me over grabbing for the light, so naturally I wouldn’t see any thing. Then, all of a sudden, I thought I saw something moving on the far side of the car by our garbage. Then it moved out in to plain sight. It was a big black bear! He was enjoying himself some dinner on us.
I think this is when Chrissy looked at me and said in Scooby Doo fashion “It’s a bear!” I think she may have peed a little too! She jumped from the bed, ran into the kids’ room, and scooped them up. The next thing I knew everyone was in our bed. Chrissy had the covers pulled over her head, asking is it still there?
I said, “Yep, it’s still there.”
This bear was not little– he had to have gone a few hundred pounds. I thought it would be cool if he stood up, but he didn’t. He just kind of meandered around by the garbage cans.
I finally coaxed Chrissy out from under her bear proof covers to watch the bear with me.  We watched him for what seemed like hours, but I’m sure it was nowhere close to that. Then Chrissy said to me, “What if he tries to get in the house?”
Now that thought hadn’t crossed my mind, but she said, “Won’t he smell the food in our house?”
 That’s when I started to be a little concerned, but being the brave man of our small family, I said, “Aw, don’t worry he can’t get in, and besides I have the 12-gauge.
She said, “You should get it.”
So, I grabbed the gun and carefully laid it on the bed.
Side Note: Now, at this time in my life I had only shot this gun maybe once or twice when I went turkey hunting as a teen. Boy, is that a story, but for another time. Honestly, the thing I remembered the most about that gun was that it kicked like a mule. I probably could have better defended our family by beating the bear with the gun.
Then Chrissy said, “You know the front door doesn’t latch very well.”
I knew that front door needed fixed, but I hadn’t had the money or the time to fix it. The more I thought about it, I started to worry. All you really needed to do was push hard on the door, and it would fly open.
As any brave husband would do, I thought fast and said, “We should move all the furniture in front of the door to barricade it. He’s not going to come over here, but, you know, just in case. So we frantically pushed our couch and chair over in front of the door, as well as anything else heavy we could get in front of the door.
When we were done, we scampered back to the bed to see where our furry friend was, and what he was up to.  I shined the spotlight over by the car and nothing. I stared to look around, where did he go? That’s when I heard a snort right in front of the window we were looking out. I quickly pointed the light down to where I heard the snort, and sure enough there he was. He was making his way over to the trailer. We watched as he waddled past us and then over by our front porch. We tiptoed out to the living room, and peeked out the window just in time to see Mr. Cuddles waddling right up our porch steps. Our porch was more of a stoop. It had three steps and then a 4×4 square deck. Not very big at all.
I ran back to the bedroom and grabbed my gun. With trembling fingers I put a slug in and closed the chamber, I was ready. If that bear welcomed himself into our home it was on. As I stood with my heart racing looking out the window. He came up the steps got on the porch. I though this is it, get ready. Then he just turned around and sat down on our porch like he owned the place. I had Chrissy go back to the bedroom with the kids and cover up with her bear protectant sheets as I stood guard.
Again, I watched for what seemed like an eternity. Then all of a sudden he sniffed the breeze and grunted. He flopped forward and jumped off the porch. He waddled across the yard and out of sight to the neighbor’s house.
I thought, I’m leaving the barricade up, just in case he comes back. I walked back to the bedroom with my gun clenched in my hands and pronounced that the bear has left the premises.

The funniest thing was that the kids slept through the entire ordeal. That night we all slept together in our full-size bed with the shotgun within reach. This was a crazy night that will not be forgotten. And that is the story of the bear in the little white trailer.