The Hole in the Wall

Even though my brother Joe is nine years younger, we have been doing adventures since the beginning. In the 60’s at our house, there was no TV, and the radio’s dial was off-limits for a teenager. The inside of our house had no magnetic pull to us, and besides, with four sisters, the boys had to stick together.


Early on, we went hiking along Yellow Creek from the Concord Junior High, ranging a mile or so from home, trying to walk across on the fallen logs. We also played catch with a baseball or football in the yard, and shot hoops on the sloping driveway.



Sometimes we went plinking with our slingshots which I made from forked sticks and some rubber surgical tubing that my Uncle Ernest Smucker, a surgeon, gave me. We spent hours with friends on the rope swing over the creek, where the exhilaration often led to a wet ending.

In the winter, we ice skated on the creek, or better yet, played hockey at the junior high tennis courts, when the Dunlap Fire Department came to flood it. We iced sledding ramps on the hill beside our house, and Joe had his neighbor buddies over to play.


When I went off to Goshen College, Joe occasionally came to stay with me in my dorm. One summer, at Shavehead Lake, we decided to try barefoot skiing and eventually taught ourselves how to get going off of a knee board. Below is Joe and sister Mary going slalom.


After Joe finished college, we did stuff like biking Parke county with a bunch of the old wood covered bridges and a night ride through Denver. But on one special winter day in Colorado, we went skiing. Below is a photo of where we got started skiing as a family, with Mom and Joe at Swiss Valley.


In his 20’s, he was just coming into his prime and I was rapidly leaving mine behind, but there was enough overlap for us to head for the moguls. There was one beautiful stretch of steep snow that we went down single file a few times to get the feel of it. Then, someone had the idea to go side by side, so we took off together. We were skiing hard and staying fluid in the right/left, up/down rhythm of the mogul paths. We were in the “zone,” making a memory of a lifetime, when we heard some clapping from the chair lift beside the run. That was apparently enough to break my concentration, and I took the inevitable thing that “pride goeth before.” It is sometimes also referred to in the trade as a “yard sale.”

As Joe got older, we still did some casual adventure, but I began mostly watching his performances.



You have to know when to step aside.


As Joe got into more serious life-threatening adventures like biking and hiking in Mexico, he went with his own crazy peers like Lynford Beachy and Jeff Hershberger. Then there was the summer that Joe even built a house to sell in Miller’s River Manor behind Oxbow School. Of course, he dragged me into the project to help with the wood floor.


So it was only natural that when I needed a hole in my basement for the boat to escape, it was Joe to the rescue. Realistically, the boat won’t need the exit hole until next spring, but he was coming to Elkhart over the summer, and he volunteered his enthusiasm in the boat project. Did I mention we will have to take it out sideways like a grand piano?


The real genius was inviting Todd Smucker, a friend from their softball days at Belmont Mennonite Church. Todd had the most experience with vinyl siding, with all of the tools and tricks to get the wall cut quickly and a temporary door in place.



Fight with your brother, if you must when you are young, but stick by him when you are older, because you never know when you might need help getting out of a hole.

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