Sunday, May 06, 2012

Between a rock and a high place

When the cops show up at your family outing, it becomes tougher to argue that you’ve planned it well. 

Last week, due to the corrosive effects of pollen on our brains, we decided that it would be a good idea to pack up our toddler, our baby and our dog and take them to climb a fire tower at sunset.

You might be thinking that a fire tower sounds like the perfect place to take a bunch of creatures who, if left to their own devices, lack the balance to keep from falling off the couch.  If you don’t think that way, I bet you rarely have law enforcement show up at your outings.

The seed for this adventure got planted a few weeks ago, when I took my son Evan for a walk in the woods that started next to a large communications tower. 

“Wanna climb the tower,” Evan said, pointing into the sky.  His ambition was especially impressive given that the tallest object he’d climbed to that point had been the stepstool beside the potty.

“Sorry bud, you can’t climb that one,” I replied.

“Why I can’t?” he asked, incensed.

“Nobody’s allowed to climb that tower.  It’s not for climbing.  It’s for cell phone signals, or maybe radio
transmissions,” I said.

“What?” he asked.

I tried to think of a better answer than, “That tower magically shoots sounds into things,” but I couldn’t, so I said, “I’ll find us another tower we can climb soon.”

When you make a promise to a toddler, you won’t be able to forget about it for long.  Contracts made with Lucifer are easier to break.

“What do you want for breakfast?” I asked Evan the next day.

“Wanna climb a tower,” he replied.

So I found a fire tower that was just a thirty-minute drive away, accessible via a short hike up a gravel road, and figured we could all head up there after work one day.  My wife Kara agreed that our entire herd would go, then one of us would climb the tower with Evan while the other remained earthbound with the dog and baby.

Of course, to pack our family for a two-hour excursion takes longer than the excursion itself.  By the time we were all in the car, the sun was already setting.

“We’re too late for the sunset,” Kara said.

“Nah, we’re good,” I said, rolling through another stop sign.

We parked and headed up the gravel road in the dwindling light, with Evan on my back, Zack on Kara’s front and the dog trotting ahead.  By the time we got to the tower, the sun was down. 

Evan climbed halfway up, felt the swaying structure and the chilly breeze, then immediately started his descent.  As soon as Kara and Evan reached the ground, Zack started screaming for food. 

“I guess I need to breastfeed him,” Kara said.

“Oh man, I’m so glad you brought those things,” I replied.

So Kara sat on the bottom step of the tower with Zack while darkness fell upon us.  When we finally rounded the corner to the parking lot, a cop was shining a flashlight into our car.

“I’m finally going to get a ticket for being an idiot,” I whispered.

“We’ve had some vandals out here recently.  You guys don’t look like vandals,” the cop said, and I felt a little insulted, like maybe I needed a tattoo on my neck.  You’d think he’d at least give us the benefit of assuming we had some screws loose.

The cop was quite friendly, chatting us up and even posing with Evan for a picture, which for Evan was the tween-girl equivalent of getting a picture with Justin Bieber.

So Evan didn’t get to see a sunset, but he did get to see a policeman.  The cop saved the trip for us, and maybe someday I'll plan a family outing that won’t require emergency personnel.    

You can plan a family fiasco with Mike Todd at


  1. Here are 5 stars for this column: *****
    (My own rating system since no stars show here anymore.) We want stars! We want stars!

    From Mr. and Mrs. Anonymous

    1. Thanks! The star ratings don't show up in Internet Explorer for some reason. They do show up in Chrome and Firefox. I'll just go ahead and assume that no ratings means that hundreds of Internet Explorer users thought the column was awesome.

  2. This picture speaks at least 2 words... "I'm gay". He officer has serious gay face. If I had been with you, I could have gotten you out of any pickle you may have faced.