( Book 1 - Heir to the Throne )
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19. Snow chains; little mechanical engineer; and a snow fort.
A few days later, I woke up very early, while the world around our caravans was still dark.
However, I couldn't sleep any more, and jumped out of bed to use our small lavatory.
I peeked into my parents' bedroom, and saw they were still asleep, lying entangled into each other.
Because I didn't want to wake my softly snoring parents, I decided to take good care of myself...
I had often helped my Mom in our small kitchen, so I knew how to prepare a decent breakfast!
First, I took a chair, dragged it to our small sink, and stepped onto it.
Next, I peeled a tomato, chopped it into pieces, and added a bit of salt and some of my dried herbs to refine its taste.
Then, I put a pan onto our small stove, lit the gas, and melted a little bit of butter in it.
Carefully, I emptied two eggs into the pan and scrambled them, while adding my tomato mixture.
Finally, I prepared some buttered toast, put everything onto a platter, and added a glass of milk.
Now, I took my nicely smelling meal to our living room, and sat down.
Looking out the windows, I enjoyed my self-made breakfast, washing it down with a glass of milk.
I felt really proud of myself, for being this self-sufficient!
Our campfire shimmered faintly in the crack of dawn, but our circle of wooden benches was still empty.
However, two tracks of fresh footsteps were clearly visible in the snow, both leading to our small parking lot!
One track set off from Michail's caravan; while the other one obviously came from our technical man, Pietro.
What were they doing in our parking lot, this early in the morning?
Feeling curious, I decided to start an investigation...
I cleaned our small sink, and put everything I had used neatly away in our cupboards.
Next, I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and combed my hair using a real comb.
My Mom could be proud of her self-sufficient little boy!
Finally, I dressed into my beautiful badger fur coat and my nice warm fox boots.
Again, I peeked into my parents' bedroom; but they were still asleep, softly snoring in unison...
Okay, just let them have some more beauty sleep!
They would find out soon enough that I had been an early bird and already made myself a healthy breakfast.
I tiptoed to the door, went outside, and closed it without making any sounds.
Feeling bright and shining, I jumped into the still untouched white blanket of fresh snow.
Then, I stood still, and looked around...
Everything around me was dead silent, and all our caravans were still dark inside, their sleeping inhabitants waiting for daybreak to show up.
The blinding white snow blanket was still intact; except for two small tracks that showed up from Michail's and Pietro's caravans...
Being a little trapper from the heart, I decided to follow the two tracks.
I was very curious about what Michail and Pietro were doing in our parking lot, this early in the morning!
Only, their tracks were too easy to follow; so I decided to make my self-allotted task a bit more difficult.
I grinned inwardly, while I started to zigzag along the tracks, pretending I was a sneaking badger looking for its prey.
Of course, I already knew the footsteps went towards our parking lot; but pretending not to know where they went was even more fun.
I started to follow both parallel tracks without looking around, while keeping my nose towards the ground.
That way, it would be a surprise to see where they went and finally ended up...
Soon, the footsteps left our caravan circle, rounding towards our parking lot.
Sniffing the air, the little badger followed its prey, ready to jump onto its meal and devour it...
Unexpectedly, it suddenly zigzagged straight into a very busy Michail!
Michail sat on the snowy ground, next to his truck, and next to an equally busy Pietro.
They seemed to be struggling with something very unwilling...
The little badger stopped in surprise, and looked up at them.
Now, I detected why Michail and Pietro were here, this early in the morning.
Pietro was helping Michail put heavy snow chains around the huge tires of his enormous truck!
Obviously, they wanted to visit some far away gadjo town.
However, they were still dealing with the first snow chain, and unable to finish it...
Michail beamed when I suddenly showed up; and he asked me with a happy voice:
"Hi, Harold! I am glad you are such an early bird; because Pietro and I could use another helping hand, with these too tight chains!
"Please, could you get that hammer over there, and hit this small pin until it fits? But, look out not to hit your fingers, or our hands!"
Of course, I immediately did as my Big Friend asked me, feeling proud to be able to help him.
I squatted down next to him and Pietro, and took the hammer into my hands.
However, before hitting the pin, I first looked carefully at why I should hit it, and where it had to go...
Michail had draped the heavy snow chain across a huge tire, and was now tugging at it with both hands to keep it in place.
Pietro held its other end in both hands, while he desperately tried to push an iron pin into a small hole.
The pin should click into the last shackle, and thus keep the unwilling chain together...
Okay, now I understood what I had to do.
I brought my hammer towards the pin, and told Pietro:
"When I say 'push', you push the chain into its place with both hands, while I hammer the pin into its hole. Okay?"
Suddenly, Pietro looked up at me with a very surprised face!
Obviously, he had not expected such a small boy to take the lead and tell him what to do.
For a moment, he hesitated, while Michail started to chuckle.
Then, he nodded, and waited for my command...
Lifting my hammer, I told him:
Pietro pushed the unwilling chain neatly into its place; and I hit the iron pin with my hammer.
Seeing what the pin had to do, I hit it slightly from aside, so that my hammer steered it exactly into its hole.
Immediately after I hit the pin, it clicked into the shackle automatically; and, our first snow chain was ready!
Now, we had only three more chains to do...
Pietro shook his head in sudden surprise; staring at me with almost adoration in his eyes...
Then, he rose to his feet, while he lifted me into his strong arms in one big sweep.
With a broad smile on his face, he complimented me:
"I never knew you could be such an excellent mechanical engineer!"
Involuntarily, I started to blush at his exaggerated compliment.
At the same time, I also felt very proud of myself.
Ultimately, I was not even five years old, and I had never done such a technical thing before...
On the other hand, helping him hadn't been difficult at all, once I had seen what the problem was...
Michail chuckled again, while he told Pietro with pride in his voice:
"Never underestimate our little Prince! I am sure he will soon outdo all of us...
"Harold, will you please help us with the other chains as well?"
"Yes, of course! You put the next chain around the tire, and I will hammer the pin into its place."
Working together, we put the remaining snow chains around their tires, in no time!
Michail entered his seat, started the engine, and drove his truck a few feet into the driveway towards our woods.
Now, I saw that the trunk was already loaded with many goods we had gathered from the gadjo's...
Was my Big Friend planning to sell them in a far away gadjo 'market', to buy food from the money?
He left his truck, scooped me off the ground, and took me onto his broad shoulders.
From now on, I was their hero!
Michail took me to his caravan; where I washed my hands in his sink and dried them using a kitchen towel.
I sat down on his couch, where his enthusiastic small sons immediately crept all over me, competing for the best place on my lap!
Well... I still wasn't really used to them; but I decided to be their big brother and tolerate their antics.
I put my arms around their small frames, and held them close.
To my surprise, holding them like this felt really good!
Maybe, being a big brother was not so bad, after all...
After a moment, Michail showed up from his kitchen, carrying three steaming mugs of hot chocolate and two cups of coffee...
Of course, as a good big brother, I told Michi and Movi to sit down next to me; and sit absolutely still, or else...
Much to my surprise, my harsh order and stern face really worked on them!
Both boys left my lap, and sat down next to me with expectant faces.
They drank their hot chocolate with enthusiastic slurps, creating huge brown mustaches around their small mouths.
At the same time, I sipped my own hot chocolate, taking decent little sips.
I looked at my small brothers next to me, and started to laugh at the funny sight...
Until Michail chuckled at my funny sight, and told me I had a huge brown mustache around my mouth!
Michail waited until we had finished our drinks, before he wiped all three brown mustaches with a few tissues.
Then, he explained that Pietro and he had started early in the morning, because they planned to visit a far away gadjo town.
There, they would try to sell a couple of gathered goods; to buy some much-needed fresh food and other necessities...
What? Did I hear this right?
Michail and Pietro were really going to such an interesting gadjo town?
I jumped up; and begged them, showing them my best puppy dog eyes:
"Please, Michail and Pietro, may I go with you to that town? I will sit very still, and you will not even know I am there..."
Michail started to chuckle at my pleading face, but he had to be stern as well:
"My dear friend, I would love to take you with us! However, I have to reckon with all the other kids as well.
"If I allow you to join us, I can no longer say 'no' to the others! I am very sorry, but you will have to wait until you are at least seven years old."
Although I got tears in my eyes from disappointment, I knew that Michail was right.
The mere fact that I was a Prince, didn't allow me to do anything different from what all the other kids were allowed to do!
I had to wait patiently, until I would be old enough, just like all the others.
Only, 'patience' had never been my strongest quality...
I thanked Michail for his nice hot chocolate; and hugged his broad chest.
Of course, he immediately lifted me off the floor and tried to crush me in his strong arms, as usual.
I didn't mind at all, and waited patiently until I could catch my breath...
Then, Pietro did the same thing to me, by crushing me even more!
Even Michi and Movi started to chuckle at my anxious face and bulging eyes...
Again, I survived.
Jonno's mother had promised Michail to look after his small sons, while he was away.
Therefore, I helped him dress both giggling and fidgeting boys; and bring them to their temporary home.
It was a funny sight, to see both toddlers step proudly through the thick snow blanket, nearly tripping over their own small legs.
Now and then, they tried to kick some snow at me and at each other, with beaming faces.
They had even more fun when I kicked some snow back at them, and both boys fell onto their little bottoms...
The very moment they entered the caravan, they were all over Jonno, enthusiastically trying to tickle his ribs.
Obviously, I wasn't the only one who always seemed to attract their immediate attention...
Jonno looked a bit helpless; but he clearly didn't know what to do, not wanting to disappoint Michail...
Michail only smiled at him, kissed his boys goodbye, and told them to be good boys and not to pester Jonno too much.
That made me chuckle aloud, causing Jonno to give me a desperate ambushed look...
Michail thanked Jonno's mother for her much appreciated help, and promised her to be back in the afternoon.
Then, we left her caravan, and Michail lifted me again onto his huge shoulders.
Pietro joined us; and, walking together, we returned to Michail's still waiting truck.
They thanked me again for my valuable help; and climbed into the truck, to go visit a far away gadjo town.
With a smug face, I told them:
"Drive careful, take good care of yourself, and don't demolish the truck too much!"
They both grinned back at me, while Michail started the engine and drove off.
I waved them bye, until they disappeared into the surrounding woods.
I sauntered back to our own caravan, to have a quick look at my Dad and Mom.
This time, they were awake, but they were still cuddling in their double bed.
Maybe, they were trying to make me a little brother or sister?
I chuckled, told them to take their time, and turned around to go outside.
At the last moment, I ducked away, to dodge the pillow my grunting Dad threw at me.
Obviously, I was right.
I only hoped they wouldn't create some little duffer, as I once told them to do...
Being home all day was a strange feeling, as I was used to setting traps and strolling around in our surrounding woods...
We had to stay home because our woods were covered in thick layers of snow, making all the dangerous cracks and potholes almost invisible.
From now on, only the oldest boys were allowed to enter our woods; but only if really necessary, and only when using their homemade snowshoes.
However, the dense forest and our mountains were strictly forbidden to all of us, until spring arrived and the snow had melted away.
Our grown-ups could leave our camp only in their cars with attached snow chains, because the snow blanket was too deep and muddy.
Only Michail's huge truck had always been able to reach a gadjo town during an emergency, both in summer and winter.
One by one, my friends started to show up, yawning, and clad in their thick winter clothes.
We waited patiently until everybody had shown up, and then sauntered towards our parking lot.
First, we had a look at our beautiful snowman; and we tried to remove the freshly fallen snow from its covered torso.
Fortunately, nothing essential was damaged, and our huge artistic creation was still intact.
We hoped it would last at least until the snow started to melt...
Then, little Dimi had a very good idea, telling us he had seen it on a film...
We would split up into two opponent groups, build two separate snow forts, and have a huge snowball war!
Immediately, everybody reacted enthusiastically; and we started to throw snowballs at each other in advance, to have some training...
After a moment, the older boys intervened and told us to calm down, because we had a lot of work to do.
First, we had to split up into two groups...
After some deliberation, Jock came up with:
"Our two smallest kids are going to choose our groups. Dimi and Harold, go ahead and choose your groups in turn. Dimi goes first..."
I felt enthusiastic, and started to decide in advance who I wanted to have in my group.
Of course, I would choose Misha, and Jock, and Biny... but preferably not Jonno.
However, little Dimi looked very frustrated, hesitated, and blurted out:
"I want to be with Harold! Can't you take somebody else, instead of me, so that I can join his group?"
This was something the older boys clearly hadn't reckoned with!
Again, they deliberated; and now they decided to let Misha and Jock choose our groups.
That is, if everybody else agreed...
This time, nobody objected; and Misha started first, by choosing me as his 'personal assistant' in our group.
Jock chose Biny to be his assistant; and now Misha chose little Dimi, who nearly tripped over his own feet from enthusiasm to be with us.
I already knew he was very good at throwing snowballs, because he had hit me a couple of times, always dodging away in time when I tried to hit him back...
He was only three years old, but already very daring and a real little devil!
I was sure we would be good friends, once he would be old enough to join our group into the woods...
Soon, we had two relatively equal groups; and each group started to build its own snow fort, setting it up at opposite sides of our parking lot.
During the remainder of the day, we were busy making huge bricks of snow and building our fort out of them.
Misha had cleverly hammered together a very usable 'brick mold', from four wooden boards, while Dimi and I helped him.
Now, the smaller kids filled the mold with snow and stamped it into a brick; while the bigger kids took the readied bricks and built them into a fort.
Near the end of the day, our own fort started to look really good; while the other fort still needed a little more work...
Feeling dead tired, we decided to call it a day, and go home to enjoy our much needed rest.
Tomorrow, we would try to finish our forts, and finally start our snowball war...
Inside our own caravan, I looked curiously at my Mom's belly...
Could she already have a little baby in her stomach?
However, I didn't see anything special, while I helped her prepare our dinner.
Maybe, my Dad had to try some more first.
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Harry AnderS, Dutch psychotherapist and writer of 'books with a message'
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