War broke out Thursday night


The last week of each year is usually set for things like resolutions and toasts to the past 51 weeks.
This has been my first full year of living on my own. I’m not joking about that. 2023 was the first year in my entire life that I lived totally on my own. That’s surreal to me.
I left St. Louis Lambert Airport’s Terminal 1 Friday afternoon through door 16 as my daughter boarded a flight to the east coast. I was very much “kicking rocks”, an analogy used by a friend of mine, with my hands in jeans pockets as I fumbled my way back to the Green Lot to get in the truck and head home.
We were celebrating my mother’s birthday with dinner later that night, so I didn’t have a lot of time to mope. I was tired and so over the holidays. But that post-holiday depression was enhanced by the fact that I won’t see my kid again until the spring.
Flush it.
Thursday night I made calzones at my brother’s house, and we played Face 10… wait Phase 10. My niece was obsessed with winning because I showed her the door on the train coming back from Chicago earlier in the week. The great meal and card game isn’t the story. Everyone has memorable family meals over the holidays, but it’s what happened after the meal and the two-hour Phase 10 game that ended with her regaining her title.
I stepped out at about 10 p.m. and there was a shallow, wet blanket of snow on the grass outside my brother's home. Go time. I scooped up a large amount of snow and made a four-inch diameter snowball that felt heavy, accurate…perfect.
My brother’s sister-in-law was across the yard walking on the sidewalk toward her Kia. It was a perfect comparison to the target steadily moving across the backdrop at a carnival game. I pulled back and threw easy. Don’t want to tear a rotator cuff. The snowball impacted and exploded on her right thigh.
She froze then slowly turned. That Haight family is athletic. Many of you will remember Mike and David Haight from the 1980s Iowa Hawkeyes' football team. Mike played offensive lineman and went on to a stint in the NFL. Dave was the Big Ten Defensive lineman of the Year in 1987. Mike was the Big Ten Offensive lineman of the year in 1985.
My sister-in-law Susan and her sister Joyce have Haight maiden names. Their parents are Don and Louise Haight, and the two girls are cousins of Mike and Dave’s. I didn’t care. I’m not scared.
I pulled up another weapon and fired it again in Joyce’s direction hitting her in the poofy, blue winter vest.
Now family started pouring out the front door, at 10 p.m. mind you.
My daughter Taylor in her east coast fashion white-and-black checkered winter button up, stocking cap, scarf, and gloves, gets in on the action.
I tucked myself neatly between about five cars in my brother's driveway and started pulling snow from the tops of the cars and trucks as I now found myself in a Napoleonic war fighting on three different fronts. My niece started talking crap as she tried to sneak out the front door and nestle in behind her dad who was calling out the action on the front step, better than John Madden.
As Joyce was standing without cover looking for my head, I quickly put together three balls on the back of my truck. I drilled Natalie in the one leg that was peeking out from behind her dad to a very loud, OWWWWW-A. Then hit her dad in the leg just for being there. As I turned to fire at Joyce again, who was now just laughing and not thinking to take cover, I took one right in the back of the neck. Above the collar but below the head so it quickly ran down the back of my sweatshirt. I turned to see my daughter trying to escape the small pathway between the cars. She sneaked in for a flank attack while I was having great success keeping everyone at bay.
I never thought that I would need to hit that pretty thing with a snowball because she’s kind of the Sally to my Charlie Brown. She’s not my sister, but she functions that way. And she only wants what’s coming to her. She only wants her fair share.
So much for the innocence of a child.
Well, she got ‘her fair share’ as I caught her in the arm when she tried to get back to cover behind Uncle John who was in a red t-shirt and workout pants. I went back to work pulling in my stratagem that involves lofting several smaller snowballs for an attack from above and while my opponents are looking up at the incoming, I send direct shots at their chest and legs. It’s indefensible if done correctly. And you have to carve out time for building up ammo. I was keeping everyone in front of me with Gatlin gun-like precision. I even fired a few up at the big dining room window where Aunt Susie was perched warmly inside laughing at all of us.
Then something happened that turned the tide, and this wasn’t cool.
All of us outside could hear this thundering run from the house and we all kinda stopped for what seemed like an eternity of wide-eyed anticipation, as this huge mass that had to resemble Mike and/or Dave Haight in their prime come barreling out the front door like a Panzer to save the meek.
NO SHIRT, NO SHOES… just shorts, a crew cut, and a beard, He jumped over the Christmas lights lining the front walk, slid through the snow ON HIS BARE FEET in one fluid motion, and somehow managed to scoop up two snowballs in the process.
I watched in awe, and I swear it was slow motion, as this beast stretched back up to a full stance while in full slide and stared right at me, still sliding, and fired one right at my face. ‘Duck! Duck you idiot’ I said in my own brain, still frozen at this unreal reality. At the last moment while he let out a war scream that would rival Mel Gibson in Braveheart, I snapped back to the moment. We rarely can understand what Hayden’s saying when he yells, but it must have woken me from my trance as I ducked just in time to have the frozen water bomb buzz my ear.
He shot across the street and had my full attention. I ducked down behind the cars and turned toward him. I did the best military creep I could - bent at the waist, eyes up, heel down first as I advanced while scooping and packing. Readying for battle. I saw him just past the bumper of my truck crouched down by the neighbor’s mailbox. I slid down the side of the truck with a snowball in each hand watching his movement…and then THUNK! I took another shot in the back of the neck. My shoulders perked up as the clumps of snow again raced down the warm skin under my jacket. I turned as the shock took over, and there in the gleaming full moon was, again, my daughter with a big smile on her face.
While I turned toward her, BLAM right in the back of the head. I had a baseball cap on so it took a lot of the brunt from this college kid with quite an arm.
I knew I had to regroup quickly as this was getting out of hand. So I crouched down and spun around taking advantage of the slick pavement. Fortunately for all of us, Hayden had retreated to the neighbor’s yard for replenishment. I slid up the truck like Tom Cruise against a rock in Jack Reacher and let the freezing water work its way down the back of my pants to where it didn’t need to go. I then took off on a full sprint across the street. They say a direct attack can take your opponent by surprise.
It didn’t.
That college baseball player stood and fired a fastball right at me. My half-hearted Neon move allowed the missile to slide past unexploded, and then he took off running to my left. I cocked my arm on a dead run and fired, striking him on the tricep of his left arm. That had to hurt.  At dinner Friday, he said it didn’t hurt. Bull. Uncle Chuck’s still got champion stuff.
I walked back from victory in battle. A warrior in denim and polyester. I thought about capitalizing on the domination and compassionately pillaging the area as Sun Tsu would advocate, but instead, I doubled over looking for my breath. I’m too old for this.
But I’m as good once as I ever was.
If there’s snow on the ground and it packs, be ever vigilant. I will attack- But that’s Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and can be reached at


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