Hanging with the Wolf Pack

To the Moon and Back

This week I toured with a group from, let’s just say, Andrew Jackson territory.

Their school sent two buses and as they often are, they were divided by gender with me winding up with 36 eighth grade boys.

Was this divine retribution?

Coin Toss

At the very first stop, the US Capitol, Jackson’s scouts proceeded to role coins down the long sloping tunnel connecting it to the Library of Congress which caused me to think this could be a very long week.

It was.


But how could kids with so much apparent energy lag so far behind when walking? (A quarter mile or more.) I told them I had a ninety-five year old neighbor they could not keep up with. I received in return 36 blank stares.

They were often exasperating, sometimes very smart and always funny.

The Collection Box

One fellow walked up to one of the ubiquitous museum clear plexi donation boxes and dropped in a dollar, perhaps as an act of communal penitence to the god of museums for torturing me.

This apparent act of contrition was immediately negated by his uncontrollable adolescent urge to then remove his lanyard name tag from around his neck, insert the badge portion into the slot and watch it dangle inside the box.

money box

Most unfortunately for him, what goes in does not come out, at least not the way it went in.

I then watched six from the pack collectively and unsuccessfully attempt to line the badge up with the slot to remove it. No can do. It’s still there, a tangible reminder of the pack’s visit, as if the museum staff needs one.

Feeding Time

The one-hour period just after any meal was the most chaotic as the calories and the sugar both accelerated and heightened impulsive and wolverine behavior.


Professional Washington was treated to 36 howling boys on the walk down F Street to the National Portrait Gallery.

I tried in vain to appear as if I was with someone–anyone–else.

The chaperones tended to stay at the back, which all things considered, may have been the wiser course.

(Not So) Dumb Jock

After dinner we walked some memorials including FDR. As we sat under the trees nearby, I asked them to tell me what they knew about Franklin and Eleanor.

One of the wolves who was among the worst behaved was also in appearance if not in fact the quintessential dumb jock replete with loping gait and baseball cap, bill backward.

fdr mem

He was sitting in front of me on the grass when I asked them to tell me something about Eleanor. He volunteered and proceeded to offer up an account of how she sustained and protected FDR’s political career when he was ill with polio. And, he did it in the most matter-of-fact way.

So much for judging a book by it’s cover.

The Astronaut

His fraternal (and much smaller) twin brother was also on the trip and they could not have looked less like one another. Earlier in the day the smaller of the two had gone to the museum shop at Air and Space where he spied the children’s orange astronaut flight suits. He was so enthralled that he immediately wriggled into one over his clothes and had it scanned for purchase where it stayed the rest of the day.


As we faced the Jefferson Memorial with the half moon perfectly positioned right above the dome in a still blue sky, the brothers patiently reminded me of Apollo 11′s crew.

“And don’t forget Mike Collins”, they said, “He was the Columbia pilot.”

Return to Earth

We finished the evening at the Kennedy Center, the wolves seated in front of the monumental Robert Berks’ bust of Kennedy, me standing in front of them waxing poetic about JFK when they collectively spied what must be DC’s most cultured rodent go striding along the red carpet.


Ah, to be upstaged by a mouse.


  • Victoria Huckenpahler says:

    The scary thing, Eric, is that I’ve seen mice in the Kennedy Center dining room! Apparently our furry friends are still alive and well, and no doubt getting free lunch over there.

    Anyhow, kudos to you for surviving the wolf pack. I bet this meant a lot more to them than you might imagine, and the trip will be a lasting good memory, for them if not for you!

  • Smitty says:


    I think this is the second time in a week that you have shared the joys/travails of being a tour guide. Both posts were funny. This one is hilarious, but also poignant. Thanks for sharing. …almost makes me want to be a tour guide.

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