I had meant to stay at Cousin Ollie's only one night, but a snowbelt blizzard buried the roads and nearly everything else, holding me captive for days. Eight-year-old boys can play only so many games of Monopoly without dying of sheer boredom, and we were nearly comatose when Ollie -- my third cousin twice removed, but still close enough to place me at the brink of disaster -- had the great idea:
''Let's build a tiger trap!''
''We don't have tigers in Ohio,'' I said.
''Siberian tigers love snow,'' Ollie said. ''I bet one's coming now. If we capture it, we'll be heroes.''
The snow and wind had eased, so we pulled on long johns, extra jeans, hats, gloves and boots. I wished mine were fuzzy boots like Aunt Tillie's, but with the bread bags tucked inside, the leaks stayed out.
It was the most snow I'd seen in all my eight years. Wind swirls built drifts up taller than us and packed the snow enough that we could walk on the banks without sinking much. Ollie and I grabbed shovels and began tunneling into one of the biggest snowbanks in the backyard.
After about 4 feet of burrowing and reinforcing, Ollie said, ''Now we need to hollow out this whole section like an igloo.''
''I thought Eskimo built igloos out of ice blocks,'' I said.
''Sometimes they burrow into snowdrifts,'' Ollie said. ''They learned it from tunneling walruses. That's why they have tusks.''
It seemed reasonable, so we started digging a walrus cave to trap tigers. Eventually we'd carved out a room big enough so that we could stand straight up at the center.
We built snow benches and a snow table. Ollie ran in the house to get some peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches, comic books and battery-operated camping lanterns. Our cave had taken most of the day to build.
Suddenly, Ollie leapt off his snow bench and yelped, ''We forgot to set the trap. C'mon!''
We crawled through the tunnel and saw that the wind had picked up again. We knocked a bunch of icicles off the barn eaves. The snow was kicking up such a ruckus that we almost missed the tunnel. We planted icicles around the floor of our snow cave, business ends up.
''There,'' Ollie said. ''If a tiger comes by and falls into our trap, he'll know it. I wish Ma would have bought me that periscope I wanted. We could poke it up the last few inches through the drift and see the tiger coming.''
Just then, the roof quivered. Something howled. The wind?
''A tiger!'' I gasped.
One furry paw crashed through the roof. Above the kicking leg we heard a horrible yowl.
We decided the tiger didn't need any help from us, so we shot through the tunnel and bolted for the house. It was bedtime, anyway. I was surprised that Aunt Tillie hadn't come looking for us.
As we reached the door, the tiger roared again from deep inside the trap. We'd done it!
The next morning, we checked our trap but the tiger had escaped.
''Didja notice Ma's fuzzy boots were smeared with peanut butter and jam?'' Ollie asked.
''And her coat had holes ripped into it,'' I said.
''I bet Ma built her own trap and caught our tiger.''
''Wow! Should we ask her?''
''Better not,'' Ollie said. ''She's kinda growly this morning. She snarled at me.''
''Well,'' I said, ''at least we saved everybody from the tiger.''
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