In front of us, at the foot of a shady green lawn, there's a spring-fed lake, clear blue, leading down to a stream.
To start at the beginning, our vacation isn't going quite the way we planned. As we left the studio after our last show, Fran told Burr Tillstrom and Kukla and me, "I'm not sure I want to fly with Buelah. You know what she did to me last year. We ended up in California."
B. T. nodded. "How will it be if we use the station wagon? I'll drive."
Buelah took it hard. "It isn't fair to hold that against me. I'm flying a new broom now - an enclosed cabin, jet propelled job fully equipped with radar, sonar and all the latest devices."
Kukla offered a compromise. "Buelah, you fly the baggage - since we're splitting up for separate vacations at the end of two weeks, we'll have so much it'll crowd us."
Mercedes let out a wild yelp. "Na!"
Kukla sent me a knowing wink. "She's just trying to get to Hollywood. Let her go along."
Right on time, Buelah and Mercedes took off. Back in our dressing rooms, Kukla spread out the road maps and traced a route. "We'll go out U.S. 112 to Detroit, see the folks at WWT, then go on to WSPD in Toledo. From there we'll cut over to Highway 6 and -"
B.T. interrupted. "That's going to take up a lot of time, kid."
"Perhaps I can offer a solution," Fletcher Rabbit put in. "By dividing up our party we can accomplish more. Cecil Bill and I, being the outdoor type, would like to travel by canoe. We can stop at all the Great Lakes stations while you whiz right up to WHAM in Rochester and take them from there."
Fran drew her finger in a straight line across the map from Chicago to Toledo. "If you want to portage, there's the place to do it. It's a long paddle up Lake Michigan, down Lake Huron."
Fletcher's ears twitched. "Why Frances, I think that's a dandy idea. We'll paddle right down the Chicago River to the Union Station and portage out from there."
"Send us postcards," Fran begged. "Keep in touch." And, after they'd left, "I worry about them."
We had another worry, too, we found out. Madame Ooglepuss insisted on taking the convertible, claiming that all stage, screen and radio stars traveled that way and it was time television people, too, made a good impression.
B.T. was doubtful. "On one condition - you'll have to follow us all the way."
And a glorious road it was, too, up to the point where the Colonel hornswaggled us into taking the wrong route. Near Buffalo, the convertible had swung out ahead, the Colonel and Madame lifting their voices in song. In the station wagon, things weren't so merry. At a sign that plainly said Chautauqua, B.T. pulled up even with the convertible and shouted, "What's the big idea? We're headed for Rochester!"
The Colonel's tone was smooth as butter. "An excusable subterfuge, I assure you. Ophelia and I heard a super-secret report that the Chautauqua program was unusually good this year, and the place is full of talent scouts."
Said Fran, "Who wants to see a talent scout? I want a vacation, really, don't you?"
I could have been mistaken, but I thought I saw a tear in Madame Ooglepuss' off-eye. Mournfully she said, "Oh, darling, I'm so sorry. We didn't realize. The temptation to see old friends, familiar scenes, was too great..."
Kukla came to her rescue. "It'll work out. You spend a few days at Chautauqua and we'll visit TV stations."
B. T. agreed and we backtracked. We had a wonderful time with the television crews, but we were a little tired as we headed north, taking our secret route to Dragon Retreat. Mercedes was the first to greet us. She wailed, "Na - you fooled me!"
Buelah on the other hand, was smug. Before she could exult too much, however, my folks hurried through the door and we fell on each other's necks. My mother was thinner and she'd had her hair cut stylishly short, but my father looked just the same. We were about to go inside when the Colonel and Madame Ooglepuss drove in, all excited about the wonderful booking they'd found in a nearby summer theater.
We've been just loafing until now, when I sat down to write you this letter, and Kukla went after the mail. He came back just a minute ago, carrying a postcard. "Ollie," he said, "it's the strangest thing. Here's the first message from Cecil Bill and Fletch. It says, 'Having wonderful time. Lake very narrow this point.' And it's post-marked Peoria - that's not on the Great Lakes!"
TuesdayFran is out picking wild strawberries, Buelah is sitting on the verandah swapping stories with my father. Mercedes is on the dock, throwing stones to scare the fish. Colonel Cracky and Madame Ooglepuss have gone to rehearsal.
Everything was peaceful. Kuke just came with the mail. There's another card from Fletcher. It reads, "Have just sighted antenna. Native identifies it as KSD-TV. Will visit."
"I looked at Kuke. "Gosh, KSD is in St. Louis. That's on the Mississippi, not the Lakes. What are we going to do?"
Kukla was firm. "We'll keep it to ourselves. Let's not spoil everybody's vacation. I'll wire the folks at KSD to send them back."
WednesdayThis morning, at the breakfast table, my father looked up from his newspaper and said, "Here's a funny one. From Hannibal, Missouri. The headline reads: Is Mark Twain's Ghost Walking The River?"
Kuke swallowed hard and looked off into the middle distance. By great force of will I refrained from gulping the sugar bowl. Father read on: "Mississippi River boat captains, by tradition long on imagination and short on veracity, are spinning a new yarn today which might well come from the pages of Tom Sawyer. They tell of seeing a small canoe moving upstream, apparently under its own power. They insist they could not detect passengers."
I said to Kuke, "I think this is a good day to explore the Long Trail."
We took a long walk. While we were walking, we planned our annual pageant, entitled, "The History of Dragondom on the North American Continent." We also thought it wise to hide under a rock today's postcard. It's postmarked Burlington, Iowa, and reads, "Decided to skip TV station visit. Lots of islands. Must be Thousand Island group."
ThursdayThis morning B. T. said, "I wonder why we don't hear from Fletcher and Cecil Bill?"
After breakfast, Kukla and I called everyone into the living room to give out the parts for the pageant. Madame Ooglepuss and Colonel Cracky begged off, claiming they had to go to the barn theater. Their show is tonight.
I have twelve parts in the pageant.
FridayI am the only one up, so far. Everything happened last night...
We'd just returned from the barn theater and were telling the Colonel and Madame how terrific they were.
My mother was fixing cocoa with marshmallows in it when the phone rang. She answered, then turned to us. "It's long distance. Davenport, Iowa. I don't know any Ernie Sanders..."
B.T. leaped up. "I'll take it. He's manager of WOC-TV."
B. T. was struggling with the old wall phone. "Operator, it's so faint - please, you people on the party line, hang up so I can hear."
There was a long wait while he listened. Finally, he said, "Thanks, Ernie. Thanks a lot. We'll decide what to do and call you back."
B.T. told us: "I might have known we couldn't have a normal vacation. Sanders says this afternoon people began calling in reports of a small canoe circling Credit Island. One man had field glasses, but after a single look he got so scared he dropped them in the water. He phoned WOC to insist the canoe was paddled by midgets from Mars who must have fallen out of a flying saucer."
"I know what's coming," Fran put in. "I hope they're all right."
"Sure they are," B.T. told her. "They're sleeping like babies, Ernie just scooped them up, shouted to the crowd it was driftwood caught in the current, and told the boys to hide under a canvas. He waited until dark to sneak them into the station"
Buelah Witch jumped up. "I'll take charge. With my new jet-propelled broomstick I'll have them back in a jiffy." She zoomed out the door.
B.T. said, "I suppose that's best. But what happened to the postcards they claim they wrote, I wonder?"
So I'm kind of in the doghouse. But I expect the pageant will restore my jovial spirits. I now have nineteen parts.
SaturdayWell they're back. Buelah had no more than landed on the lawn when we all flocked out. "What on earth happened to you?" Fran asked.
Cecil Bill let loose with a long tattoo of tooies.
Fletcher looked a little sheepish. "Maybe we'd have had better luck if I'd asked the man what direction to take, instead of letting Cecil Bill do it."
Madame started, "Of all things -" but my mother sort of got between her and our wandering boys. In her silkiest voice, Olivia said, "You've had quite a time, but we mustn't let it spoil your vacation. There's lots to do. Oliver, do you have their parts ready?"
Gosh, I guess I'll have to give them two of mine. I've got twenty-three, now. And I'm going to be so busy with rehearsals, I'll have to leave it to Kukla to tell you how it all came out. So watch for his letter next month in RADIO AND TELEVISION MIRROR.
Love and kisses,