I admit I was a victim of media hype regarding the arrival of hurricane Henri a few weeks ago. The weather people can only be The Boy Who Cried Wolf so many times before they correctly forecast a storm. The week leading up to Henri, weather projections showed a stream of wacky noodles indicating potential paths the hurricane might take. Boston was a direct hit in most of the forecasting models.
Since I have an impeccable record of scheduling conflicts, the weekend of the storm was no exception. A family weekend in New Hampshire was on my calendar. We would be well north of the storm. Our only worries were getting home Sunday morning before the most serious weather made its way to Stoneham. Against my better judgment (why is that a reoccurring theme in my life?), we packed the car and headed for the mountains.
Cancelling the trip was not an option. I didn’t want to disappoint my son. He was super excited about a weekend event planned at the place where we were staying. The two of us were entering a Cornhole Tournament, complete with cash prizes. Cornhole, for those who don’t know, is a bean bag tossing game where the target is a hole in a slanted wooden board on each end of the playing area, 27 feet apart. The bean bags are full of corn. They are tossed onto the boards for points. A bag landing on the board is worth one point. A bag directly in the hole earns you 3 points. The corn filler in the bags has been replaced by synthetic materials, as corn decomposes over time. The game has many origins but it became popular in this area at tailgate parties and college campuses (which is where my son discovered his love for the “sport”).
Our slot in the tournament was subsidized by our “coach” Jacki. She couldn’t participate because of a back ailment, but she paid our entry fee for a share in our prize winnings. Obviously her pain meds were clouding her judgment. I was feeling a bit rusty having not played for awhile. A few years ago my son and I made it to the top of the “loser” leader board, but we finished just short of any prize money. We were ready to redeem ourselves. If we didn’t finish in first place, we could still make Coach Jacki proud by not being the biggest losers.
Even though it was a family friendly event, there was plenty of beer was on hand. If the opposing teams drank enough, my son and I might have a chance. We gained a psychological advantage when my son asked if he could use his custom bags he brought with him. The opposing teams thought we were seasoned professionals. Little did they know.
After a quick warm up, the tournament was ready to begin. The first duo we faced was a father and son team as well, although the son was around eleven years old. The child was given a half-court handicap. I didn’t want to be the team that knocked out the little kid from the competition, but after his first couple of 3-pointers, it was game on. I wasn’t about to be eliminated by a child. Needless to say, my son and I won the round. It was all downhill from there.
Even though we were far north of the approaching hurricane, New Hampshire held it’s own version of weather related surprises. There was a small blue tarp canopy the tournament director was using for shade since the afternoon was a scorcher. When the skies darkened, the ten teams huddled under the shelter as a torrential rainstorm passed through, soaking the playing field and players alike.
It was uncomfortable being under a small portable canopy in close quarters with a group of strangers packed together like sardines. Everyone was a comedian, making quips about Covid, vaccinations and super-spreader events. The highlight of the rain delay was the group’s decision to unstake the make-shift shelter, pick it up by its four metal legs, and walk in baby steps across the grassy field to the beer shed. Some team members wanted to stay hydrated during the rain delay. The tournament officials didn’t appear too happy with the crowd taking matters into their own hands.
The games continued between the rain showers. I managed to get a hole-in-one after Coach Jacki corrected my form. The other teams called her “the Bag Whisperer”. Even with expert coaching, my son and I were bumped from the competition after a couple of rounds. We didn’t win any prize money, but we had fun trying.
On Sunday morning, we rushed to get home before the storm. We encountered heavy rains on Route 93 at the Massachusetts border. By then the hurricane had been downgraded to a tropical storm, and its westerly track kept any severe weather out of our area.
The storm added to my memories of hurricanes past. 30 years ago, Hurricane Bob blew into town with enough force to make things exciting for a day or two. 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, the aptly named “Frankenstorm”, was hot on our heels as my family made a harrowing escape from New York just in the nick of time. Hopefully, hurricane season will wind down before something major comes our way.
Au revoir, Henri. We hardly knew ye.
This was written before Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc up the East Coast. It seems our “once in a hundred year” storms are now annual events.