News From The Woods - December 28, 2002


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published December 28, 2002

"Letter To Robert"

Dear Robert,

Well Sport, another year has come and gone, and the verdict is in: The older you get the faster times flies. On our birthday this year you hit the magic FIVE mark, while I slid past the Point of No Return. Fifty Six. The Up side of Sixty! It's just hard to believe! I remember - it wasn't that long ago - that I thought 60 was OLD. I mean R E A L L Y O L D. And yet, here I am. Still working and still playing drums. It saddens me to know that by the time you reach ten I'll be 61, but I am determined to make the most of our time together. I believe that you'd be the happiest boy in the world if only we would keep you at home day and night. And of course you still like to sleep in the big bed with us. That is a battle we lose more than win. Even if one of us takes you to your bed until you drop off to sleep you will usually wind up in our bed by morning. But I know that all too soon you will reach the age when we would have to threaten you to get you to sleep with us so I don't worry about it. Our bed IS getting smaller though, and it's harder to get sound sleep some nights with you constantly kicking the covers off, which in turn pulls OUR covers off as well! And lately you have been saying as you lay your head down on the pillow: "Daddy, rub my back THIS many times" [holding up fingers on both hands]…. Or ""Daddy, rub my back sixty thirty times". How can I say "no"?

Your Uncle Robert Jolly came to visit for a week last Spring and brought "Cherokee", his yellow Labrador. She and Bear had great fun playing together, and a few short months later we received word that "little ones" were on the way! When the time came we drove down to Searcy to Robert's home and inspected all the puppies. It was a 50/50 mix of yellow and black labs and all the puppies were running all over the back yard while we visited. All the puppies ran to and fro and in general tried to stay away from everyone, but one black puppy in particular trotted right up to you and nuzzled against your leg. You looked down and he looked up at you and that was it. You picked him up, ran over to us and exclaimed, "THIS is the puppy I've been waiting for all my life". Well, you can't argue with a line like that, so he came home with us that very day. You named him "Ranger" (I suspect there was some friendly coercion from your older brothers who at one time had another "Ranger") and he looks just like his daddy. Even Bear seemed to know it was his son as he was so understanding from the very start. Bear and I both are showing signs of age and wear and tear from following our sons around. We're both sporting a lot of gray hair these days and we are both more tired at the end of the day than we used to be. Poor Mommy! She has to put up with Bob and Bear, and Ranger and Robert (and Bill the cat) - It's definitely a male-dominated household. I don't know how she puts up with us all sometimes. She must love us very much, right?

In May you were summoned to participate in another wedding as a ring bearer. It was Aunt Becky's daughters wedding in Yellville. As usual you were on your best behavior for the occasion and greatly impressed all in attendance with your fine manners. We were so proud of you. Then came the wedding reception, which was held at a nearby community center. I was sitting outside on the cement porch steps watching the band arrive with their gear when a child ran outside and said to me "Robert is hurt!" I ran inside and there you were, standing next to the stage holding your head. As I reached you and you turned around all I could see was blood. When I took your hand away I could see exposed bone on your forehead! At that same moment Mommy rushed in from the kitchen, took one look at you, and I thought she was going to pass out. Apparently what had happened was you and some other children were running the length of the wooden dance floor right up to the stage and then sailing through the air and rolling over on the stage. I guess you miscalculated and ran headlong right INTO the wooden stage. I immediately snatched you up and ran with you out to the van. I didn't know who to go to locally so we raced for Mountain Home, 15 miles away. That was the longest "short" trip I ever drove. I drove with emergency lights flashing and yet not one car in front of us would yield! Still five miles away from the Baxter Regional hospital you started getting sleepy and looked really pale. We were afraid you had a concussion. Mommy held you in her arms the whole trip while you cried "No doctor! No shots!" Once in ER the doctor came in examined you. I could not believe what a brave little boy you were that day! You laid there as they covered your face with a green surgical cloth. He gave you a local and then proceeded to stitch you up. You wound up with 20 stitches in your forehead. He talked to you through the entire procedure and you were SO BRAVE! I had to turn away a couple of times, but Mommy sat right there with you and held your trembling little hand through it all. The doctor said he was using extra small thread so it wouldn't leave a scar. Even though I knew you would be okay and you were being taken care of I thought to myself "How will I EVER be able to deal with the trials and trauma of raising this boy?" It really brought home to me how my parents must have suffered during my childhood with each and every accident and mishap. And when it was all over and done and as we left the hospital I still couldn't help but dwell on just how brave you were back there. I was so proud! We went right to WalMart and I insisted on allowing you to buy any toy you wanted for being so brave. And you know what? Of ALL the toys there you picked out a dollar item! Go figure!

As a side note - just one week later I took you and Ranger to Montessori for "show and tell" and was getting you and your puppy out of the car when I accidentally slammed the car door on your hand! OH GOD! HERE WE GO AGAIN! Back in the car - drive like crazy to ER (which was thankfully only two miles away this time) and drove right by a police cruiser. It happened to be a City policeman we knew and as he was chasing me down (I wasn't stopping for anything or anybody) he ran a make on my car and figured something must be up when he learned who's car it was. He turned off his siren but left his lights on and fell in behind me all the way to the hospital. As I grabbed you up to go inside he yelled to me that he'd park my car for me. I said "okay, thanks" and ran inside. As it turned out it wasn't a bad injury and there were no broken bones. Later, when we went back outside he was still there and told me such a funny story about how he had gotten in my car and was driving it over to an empty parking space when he felt something cold and wet against his right hand. He looked but didn't see anything at first, then after about jumping out of his skin a second time he noticed the little puppy lying beside him. We all forgot about Ranger!

I guess the highlight of your summer this year has been the WaveRunner. We decided that now is the best time for you to enjoy being a boy on the lake. You only live once, right? Our neighbor has a Polaris 750 WaveRunner that he doesn't use much and offord us the use of it periodically during the summer. I'll never forget the first time I took you for a ride on it. I'll bet you never forget either! I got it up to about 35 MPH and was a bit worried that you might be scared sitting right up in front of me and hanging onto the handlebars. At just about the time I was going to power it down a bit for you I remember you screaming "Faster Daddy, FASTER!" I didn't worry much after that. The WaveRunner seats you, Mommy & I and will do about 46MPH with just the two of on it. That's pretty darn fast on the water but you'd don't even seem fazed by it. I remember the look on your face when I did a 360 on it. For the next hour it was "Do a 360 Daddy…do a 360!" Before the summer was over you and I had great fun on the lake, chasing BIG BOATS with BIG WAKES and then jumping across the stern wake and flying completely out of the water. Talk about "getting some major air!". Mommy likes riding it too, but she prefers to calmly motor around in the calm water of coves. With you and I it's NO HOLDS BARRED and FULL SPEED AHEAD! I can't wait until next summer!



Remember the trip we took to the St. Louis Zoo in July? It was probably the hottest day of the entire year and there we were……. I got so hot in the first fifteen minutes after we arrived I thought I was going to pass out. You didn't even break into a sweat! I found a waterfall and boldly strode over and stood under it for about 30 seconds. Other visitors saw my antics and joined right in. Pretty soon there were a dozen people standing under that waterfall and cooling off! We were also equipped with small plastic squirt bottles which we kept filled with water and sprayed each other down periodically. You're favorite attraction was the reptile house. And at the Ape house one of the chimps must have had some kind of skin rash or something because the handlers shaved all his body hair off. It was VERY strange watching a completely naked chimpanzee. He looked almost……. Well, Human.

In September, you best friend Jessica Koenemann had to leave and follow her Mommy and Daddy to Nashville, where Steve got a very lucrative job as a webmaster for a chain of newspapers. It was a hard decision for them to make, but it was just too good of a deal to pass up. There were a lot of tears from everyone when the day finally came to drive away. We will miss our great friends Steve and Mary, and we know you and Jessica will miss each other, but we must adjust ourselves to accept the fact that sometimes people just have to do what is the best thing for their family. I'm sure they miss Mountain Home and us as much as we all miss them but we'll have to make the best of it and be satisfied with an occasional phone call.

And this year you and I are going to have a talk about keeping secrets! I took you Christmas shopping with me in November. I bought Mommy a new toaster and a new set of much needed pots and pans. You helped me pick them out. Then I told you "Now don't tell Mommy because this will be our secret Christmas present for Mommy the year". Then I took great pains when I got home to keep it all from you. I left the trunk open while I ran inside to unlock the studio door so I could sneak the stuff in the back door without Mommy knowing. Well, when I emerged back at the garage door Mommy was walking back inside holding a bag and asked "What should I do with this toaster?" I was destroyed! There she had gone out and spoiled one of our surprises! Well, I thought to myself… at least she wouldn't know about the pots and pans we got her. Later, at the dinner table I was lamenting that she had to run out and bring in all the packages…… lightly accusing her of being too snoopy at this time of year. She "innocently" asked Robert "What else did you and Daddy get for me?" and YOU just blurted out "POTS & PANS!" I choked on a spoonful of mashed potatoes! From then on until Christmas Day I called you "pots and pans" Ketchum!

And remember when we drove through Andy's for a children's meal and the girl at the window handed you a baby rattle? You looked at it with a puzzled expression then looked back at her and then to me with that "What the ???" expression……… then held it in you hand and yelled "Waaaa! Waa!Waaaa!" like a little baby! HAHAHAHAHA. We laughed so hard about that for the rest of the day. You even ran into the house when we got home and shook that rattle at Mommy and yelled "Waaaaa! Waaaaa!" and laughed and ran into the living room. Mommy looked at me and I didn't know how to explain it……. It was just TOO funny!

One night shortly before Christmas, when we were worn down and frazzled out with all the holiday preparations and Mommy and I took a break and plopped down in the living room trying to explain to you that it was too near Christmas to buy anything for you with the next trip to town and WalMart and that you just had to wait until Christmas for anything else. As usual for this time of year - you were running in fourth gear all over the house and singing Christmas carols and in general spinning out of control. Mommy and I just looked wearily at each other and then…. In about ten seconds…… you settled down in my lap and remained still for a moment as if your were reflecting on something. Then you turned to me and said: "- 'member when I was a little baby and when I was born I came out of mommy's tummy and looked you right in the eyes and said "I'm gonna' push all your buttons!" We laughed until we cried!

I'll say right here and now that this year you have done a lot of growing up. You may push all our buttons now and again, but whenever we have company or are visiting at someone else's house, you have the manners of a true gentleman and are very good and unusually quiet (for you). We are SO proud of you. You are growing up into a fine young man and we could not be more proud of you. God, I hope it all lasts! Will you be as much of a thorn in our sides as I probably was to my mom and dad in my teen years? Can I sway you from the same diversions of youth that I experienced and fell prey to? Will you listen to me then as you do know or will I be seen as totally brain dead through your "know it all" teenage eyes? As parents, it becomes our sworn duty to save you from the very things we experienced ourselves at your age. Will we have any better luck than our parents did? Can we save you from making the same mistakes we did? I guess only time will tell.

Stay tuned…………… And know that we love you!

Mom & Dad

P.S. And if you call me "Daddy Butt-head" ONE more time ………………

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