Letter the Sixth (1997 for

The story continues. . .
"Wow," said Bucky, "Two bands! Was that cool or what?"
   "I don't know what we could do to match that next year," said Loie.
   "Have to get the circus to come, or something," said Bucky.
   The Lovebunnies were cleaning up after their annual anniversary party, and agreed that although everyone had a very good time, Mark Peeling seemed to outdo them all. He had especially enjoyed accompanying Ellis on his drum set.
   "I'm sorry Yo couldn't come," said Bucky. "Oh, that reminds me," said Loie. "I didn't have a chance to tell you, but when she called, she told me we had done something bad."
   "What did we do bad?" asked Bucky.
   "Yo said she spoke with Uncle Jack on the phone the other day, and he said that we left the most important event of the year out of the Letter." As Bucky puzzled over what that would have been, Loie went on to explain that it was the visit they had received from Uncle Jack and Aunt Libby and Cousin Heft from Connecticut, when the guests had explained to them all the different pieces of their heirloom silver set.
   "Whew," said Bucky, "Uncle Jack was right. We have to keep a better diary this year."
   The Lovebunnies' year started quietly, in the midst of a snowy wintertime. The woodstove warmed their home, and Gunther napped on the floor in the evenings as they enjoyed their dinners down, by its soft murmur. The second week of January interrupted the routine, though, as forecasts of snow grew more forbidding. Loie's colleagues conferred by phone, making plans for the storm. Brother Pete and his wife Terrie and the kids had come for peasoup dinner on Saturday night, and everyone was excited about snow.
   "Hey, Buck," asked Pete, "Can you see anything on your computer about it?"
   "I don't know," said Bucky, "Let's try." Bucky found weather maps on the World Wide Web, and as the wind blew more fitfully in the night, everyone alternated between watching the dark sky and the computer, as pictures showed the storm advancing upon them. Terrie finally persuaded Pete to head home, Loie went to bed, and Bucky watched his computer off and on until midnight. Just as the computer showed storm clouds over Carroll County, Bucky saw the snow begin. All the next day the wind howled and snow blew. Loie and Bucky just shook their heads as snow drifted deeper over the woodpile and the lane. When the skies cleared on Monday, snow was piled deeper than Bucky was tall over the woodpile, and almost waist deep all the way down the lane.
   "Guess I better shovel some," said Bucky, and Loie talked to Mike up the hill about digging out their lane. Luckily, Mike had persuaded Jim Krumrine to bring his Bobcat digger machine to try to free them all.
   In the meantime, the Lovebunnies walked to the road, forcing a path through hip-deep snow all the way.
   "It is pretty," said Loie as they stood on the road, quiet and sunshine and cold air all about them. "I guess so," said Bucky, "But it's still a lot of snow."
   Neighbor Krumrine worked all day on Wednesday, and they drove out the next day. Another snowstorm fell on Friday, and by the end of the week, there was twenty-seven inches of snow in the front yard, undrifted, just plain old deep and abiding snow.
   But in due time the sun was shining and snow was melting. The weather began to hint of spring, and in early March, returning from a shopping expotition to Hanover, the Lovebunnies were passing the Long Arm Reservoir when Bucky said, "Wait, pull in, what in the world is all that noise?" Loie turned into one of the fishing boat ramp parking lots, and they saw a huge flock of birds spread out over the lake.
   "Are those geese?" Bucky said, as the cries of the big white birds filled the air. "Rats, we don't have our scope or binocs!"
   The Lovebunnies asked a lady who was watching the birds from the shelter of her car what the birds might be, and were thrilled to learn that they were whistling swans stopping over on their northern migration. As they all watched, dozens, then hundreds of swans and Canada geese flew in, calling, honking, until the din was almost too loud to speak over! Birds continued to fly in as the sun set, squabbling, meeting, settling down for the night. Loie and Bucky watched until the light faded entirely, then drove slowly home, glad to know that the birds liked the countryside as much as they did.
   It was only a few weeks later that Bucky woke Loie in the early morning hours, saying, "Come outside. I know it's cold, but put this on." Bundling her into coat and boots, he led her, all groggy from deep sleep, onto the deck, and motioned toward the sky. Loie gasped as her sleepy eyes adjusted to the absolute dark of the night. Comet Hyakutake was spread out above them, across a third of the sky, its long thin tail fading into little points high above the woods about the lane.
   "I'm glad you got me up," said Loie. "I've never seen anything like it in my life!"
   "This is the brightest it's been," said Bucky, and it was lucky for them they saw it that night, for never again was the sky so dark and clear, or the comet so bright.
   That weekend, Loie said to Bucky, "I saw Meatloaf in the yard today. I feel better now. I was starting to worry about him."
   "Worry about Meatloaf?" exclaimed Bucky. "Well, he's OK, I guess, but this year, no raffia for him." The Lovebunnies laughed, remembering how the fat old groundhog that lived under the biggest white pine at the edge of the yard had devoured their raffia doormat their first spring at Bucky's Folly.
   The Lovebunnies spent three weekends in April fighting the huge old multiflora roses and the honeysuckle that were overgrowing the upper length of their lane. "This has to be the nastiest, orneriest stuff I never want to meet again," panted Bucky after the umpteenth Truckerload of rambling, ripping thorny bramble and clinging, entangling vine was dumped in the weedfield.
   "Look at this. You think this pile is as big as the house?" Loie laughed, but she shook her head thinking of all that remained along the lane. "Well, it's a start," she said, and Bucky just leaned against Trucker and groaned.
   After two weeks of pew-ey weather, the Lovebunnies had an anxious morning on May eighteenth, the day of their Anniversary Party. Mists and fogs covered the yard and the weedfield and all the country round about Bucky's Folly. Loie and Bucky just looked at each other, not daring to speak about it, for fear of releasing a worse jinx. And perhaps it was their good sense that did the trick, for as the warm spring sun rose it burned off all the fogs and by eleven o'clock was shining brightly in a beautiful blue sky. Mom and Dad were on hand by noon, and guests began to gather about three in the afternoon. Ellis and Joe played music in the bright sunshine, and dancing and singing and visiting were enjoyed by all. Laurie sang a terrific blues improvisation with Ellis and Joe. She called her song "Cake in the Icebox Blues," after Bucky's toast to the Cake.
   "Why would you have the blues over that?" wondered Bucky. "Now, no giant bubbles, that would be something to have the blues about." And indeed there had almost been no giant bubbles, as Yo's bubble thing turned up broken earlier in the month. But Yo had found the instruction sheet, and, using the name of the toy's inventor, Bucky found the Science Store at the St. Louis Museum of Science on the World Wide Web. The Science Store rushed him two giant bubble makers, and so now both Yo and the Lovebunnies had giant bubbles.
   Goulash simmered over the campfire in the evening, and the Peelings made bread to complete the late night feast as Mark's own band Skylark played into the night. The Lovebunnies' guests began to depart for home under a warm starry spring sky, and everyone agreed that it had been a lovely Anniversary.
   The very next weekend was the Native Plants symposium at Bear Branch Nature Center just near Bucky's Folly. Loie and Bucky stopped down, and were a bit late for many of the events and lectures, but they did buy several pots of beautiful Black Eyed Susans to plant in the weed fingers in the front yard. "Black Eyed Susies are just what we need out there," said Bucky. "It's hard to grow them from seeds, so I'm glad we found some plants."
   "I'm sure they'll do well in all that sun," said Loie, and she was right. The flowers bloomed and bloomed all summer.
   The Lovebunnies' lives were now becoming a whirlwind of social activities. It was only the next weekend that they went downtown for Westminster's annual Art in the Park festival. Loie and Bucky met Laura Loe, an artist who had come all the way from Virginia to exhibit, and they bought a small painting of hers.
   "I guess we almost have to," said Bucky, "since it's of that little dog just like Poco."
   "I'm glad it's such a good painting," said Loie. And indeed it was, and is, an excellent painting for the Lovebunnies to have in their Dining Room Collection of Art by Friends. You may see it, and another by the same artist, when you come to the next Anniversary Party. But you will have to wait 'til next year to read about the other!
   And it was only the next weekend that Hilary and Mark and Mike Lee, but not Amy, for she was visiting relatives in Ohio, gathered at the Lovebunnies' house for a cookout of delicious shish kabob on Saturday night. Big plans were afoot, for Laura and Laurie had organised an expotition for Sunday, and the Lovebunnies were making a long weekend of it! Sunday morning was a brunch morning. While Mark and Bucky drove to Pikesville for real bagels and lox, Hilary baked a wonderful quiche and Loie and Mike set the table. After their brunch, everyone gathered chaise lounges and blankets and filled coolers, for they were off downtown for the Deer Creek Fiddler's Convention at the Farm Museum!
   The weather was fine, hot and sunny, for the Convention, and Laura and her son Kevin were there. Laurie had prepared a perfect spot under a tree hung with the Party Banner, so that everyone could find the gathering place. All the friends wandered the grounds of the Farm Museum, looking over mineral samples and art jewelry for sale. The sounds of bluegrass music were everywhere, for although the Convention was a contest, with music onstage, musicians gathered all about for impromptu sessions.
   As the afternoon wore on, and Bucky woke from resting his eyes under the Party Banner, the weather turned dark, and rain began to gust. No one wanted to leave the wonderful music, though, and so the party gathered on the long porch of one of the old farm buildings where Mike had been entranced by the music of a very fine traditional guitar and fiddle duo singing old-time gospel. Soon a whole group of musicians and an audience of a several dozen were sharing the porch, enjoying the mingling of music and storm.
   "Reminds me of hitchhiking out to West Virginia with Kim Worthley," said Bucky, as he settled down to enjoy the music.
   "Is that the time you wrote about in your story?" asked Loie. "Yep, and it rained that weekend, too," said Bucky, "and we all sat around on a porch just like this." He laughed to remember that good time, and was glad his friends could have one just as good. On the way home, Mike said that he was just sorry Amy hadn't been able to come along, and everyone agreed that next year they would see that she did.
   Loie spent the next weekend in New York state, at the Omega Institute attending a writer's conference. She wrote in her travel diary that

On an eighty acre campus, retreat, estate, a little community is created of each new group of participants. And all throughout my "Omega experience" I was experiencing synchronicity -- down to the final note -- the speakers' home address is 260 Lake Drive!

   When she came home, Bucky said, "We need to have a campfire."
   "OK, let's!" said Loie, and so they called all their friends, and on the tenth of August, everyone was gathered around a jolly fire as the light faded from the sky and brilliant stars appeared.
   Just by a lucky coincidence, that night was one of the peak nights for the Perseids meteor shower, and all the campfire worshippers were keeping an eye out for shooting stars, and many were seen. The summer had been cool and wet, and the grassy lawn was still thick and green. Bucky had mowed so that it would be nice for the campfire, and forgot that the abundant grass clippings were still deep. After most of the guests had taken their sleepy children and themselves off home, and Amy and Mike were drifting off to sleep in front of the dying fire, Loie and Bucky and Hilary and Mark went inside to clean up just a bit. Hilary and Mark were going to sleep over, too, in the special bed of Grandma Dee's.
   "What the heck!" said Bucky as he came in the front door. The floor in the playroom was covered with grass! Bucky laughed as he saw trails of grass leading up into the bathroom, and into the kitchen. The dewy night air had wetted all the grass clippings out on the lawn, and the guests had tracked in piles of grass as they went in and out to the bathroom or the kitchen.
   "Is this indoors or out?" cried Bucky as he surveyed the mess. "Oh man, this is funny," he said, bringing out the broom and dust pan. "I'll haftuh mow in here tomorrow!" Hilary and Mark pitched in to help sweep up, and everyone laughed as Bucky continued to joke about the big "disaster".
   Tuesday the twentieth brought exciting news. Yo called to say that Kinley and Paul's baby had been born the day before. Kell Bjorn Coney was well, and so were the tired new parents. Bucky asked Yo, "When are you going to visit? We know you want to see all the new babies as soon as you can." Yo laughed, and said that she was going to visit soon.
   On Friday, the sixth of September, frantic phone calls were flying. Hurricane Fran was roaring over North Carolina just as Loie and Bucky were preparing to lead the Outer Banks Beach Expotition to the shore. Yo and Sister Amy, who had arrived from California just a few days before, were sitting at Yo's house in Glyndon, dithering about their packing. Laura, and Hilary and Mark were all awaiting calls about the trip. Loie, at work, was checking in to see if Bucky had managed to call the realtors at the Outer Banks, and Bucky was frantically trying to finish up his work before vacation. Then, at about two o'clock, in the midst of a fierce thunderstorm born of the hurricane, the power went out at the Lovebunnies' house, and of course Bucky's computer shut down with hours worth of work left to do.
   The realtors in North Carolina assured Bucky that the hurricane had not only passed without doing any damage at all, but the weather at the Outer banks was sunny and warm, so Loie and Bucky packed their car in the driving rain in preparation. Electricity was restored in the nighttime, Bucky got up very early and finished his work, Gunther was put in the car and it was off to the beach!
   Yes, Gunther went to the beach. He had a fine time lazing about the beach house and receiving adoration from all the vacationers. The Lovebunnies and their friends had a wonderful beach vacation, lazing in the sun, building sand sculptures, cooking for each other, and just relaxing. Amy's husband Frank, who was in West Virginia leading rafting trips, joined them for a few days, too.
   The first week of vacation was Hilary's birthday. Yo and Laura and Amy and Loie and Bucky sat up late the night before, making party hats and presents. They made jewelry from shells and fishing lures and Cheerios on string. Party hats were fashioned from newspapers, and decorated with appropriate headlines. The day of her birthday, Hilary said that she thought they should go out to dinner, and have presents at the restaurant. Everyone laughed, and persuaded her that it might be better to stay home for the birthday party. That evening, when everyone was wearing their newspaper hats, and she opened her presents, Hilary agreed that it was best to have birthdays at home!
   Bucky organised sand sculpture building during the days, and the vacationers built three elaborate sculptures.
   "I never knew how much work this was," said Hilary after they had been digging and stamping sand for hours. "We used to get all the little kids to do this for us," laughed Bucky. "We need more kids!"
   One day, after Bucky and Yo had been reminiscing about beach vacations of long ago, everyone decided that this year they should have a beachfire. "We've never had one," said Loie.
   "No," said Bucky, "We haven't had a beachfire since we were just kids." Laura and Hilary and Amy combed the dunes for driftwood, gathering piles of sandy wood, and preparations began. A pit was dug for the fire, and supplies were gathered from house and grocery stores. As the sun set over the dunes, food and drinks, chaise lounges and blankets, coolers and lanterns were arrayed about the fire pit. Mark and Bucky started the jolly fire, which was soon blazing in the gathering dusk. Loie was delighted to enjoy a beach fire, and Hilary said it reminded her of vacations at the beach in Maine.
   Later that night, after all the hot dogs were eaten, and just plain relaxing had been underway a while, Sister Amy produced the piéce de résistance, a huge package of fireworks. Mark and Amy lit fireworks. Even Laura tried lighting a few.
   Loie wrote in her diary that

We were beach slugs this year - didn't even visit Dick Darcy at the Waterfowl Shop, or try to climb the Hatteras Light. Water was too high in the ponds for bird watching. I didn't even read very much on the beach, just watched the ocean.

   Laura had the best expotition of all. She did climb to the top of the Hatteras Light, and even got to go out on the catwalk to see the Diamond Shoals!
   "Well," said Bucky, when she returned and told everyone of her triumph, "I'm jealous. Guess we'll have to be more ambitious next year."
   But beach vacations must end, and as this year's did, everyone agreed that it was the best of all.
   Before they knew it, the year had gone by, and winter come in. The mild and clement winter weather was a welcome relief from past winters at Bucky's Folly. On New Year's Day, friends and family gathered to enjoy brunch and help the Lovebunnies plant their Christmas tree under a bright sunny sky.
   And now daffodils are blooming in the Mossy Glade, the wind is out of the south; spring is really here! And the best thing about spring is that Bucky and Loie will see all of their friends and family at their SIXTH Annual Anniversary Party, Spring Festival and Gathering of the Tribes.

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