Let the Olympic Games Begin! (The Haines Olympics, That Is.)
When Greg looked at the Olympic torch that the newspaper editor, Tom, had made for him to carry while he ran around the skating rink at the fairgrounds, he frowned. It was an alder branch spray painted gold, with a coffee can on the end (also painted gold) that was cut like a crown in a fancy way, but did not fit very snugly against the stick-- and the top was all wrapped in rag. There was a jar of kerosene that Greg was supposed to dip the rag end in and then light. Greg feared, as we all did, it may run down the stick and catch him on fire.
Greg was wearing mostly synthetic clothing, he even had an Olympic warm-up jacket on. I did not witness the discussion about turning Greg into a human torch, and probably shouldn't have mentioned Longfellow's wife, but Tom prevailed, since as soon as teen Samantha Clay had sung the national anthem in a passionate Shania Twain style, and assistant harbor master Pizza Joe Parnell raised the flag (it was a wet rag by the time it was half-way up) Greg came trotting by with the blazing stick held high and as far away from his head and torso as he could get it. The rain was coming straight down and hard. Everyone was in rain gear or snow gear (there was about three feet of that) under their rain gear. Tom, who is the chairman of the Haines Olympic Committee kept saying "imagine what it is doing down in Vancouver if it's raining in Alaska." Anyway, back to the lighting.
After the anthem, Greg came running up to the rink in the snow -only the distant parking lot, about two blocks away, had been plowed- so he was hopping lightly and trying not to post-hole, while carrying a flaming torch that might kill him if he slipped, and everyone ( about 50, maybe 75, not so waterproof souls) cheered. Then little Aaron Jones banged the big kettle drum with the familiar back beat of the Olympic anthem, and Dean ( a former elementary school teacher) played the tune on his trumpet while Tom hummed loudly, and Greg (who pole vaulted for Cornell, coaches the track team and used to be a fashion model) ran up on the pavillion stage and quickly handed the torch to borough assemblyman Scott Rossman (who is a logger and cuts most of the firewood in town.) While Hertz (an electrician who has seen a UFO) stood by with a fire extinguisher.
Then Scott gave the Olympic Address, which was penned by Tom:
(The crowd by now had come onto the rink, or at least under the roof along the edges to get out of the rain. There was about two inches of water on the ice.)
We meet to today on the field of athletic endeavor. We gather to test ourselves, to measure our grit against that of our fellow citizens, and join in the great fellowship of sport. These contests, born of the North, are our heritage and our pride. They will test our endurance, our strength, and our ability to stay upright. With the authority vested in me by the Haines Borough, I hereby open the Haines Winter Olympiad.
Then Greg handed Scott the torch and Scott lit the cauldron, saying "Let the games begin!" (It was actually Tom's metal barbecue pit that he had hauled on a sled two miles down the trail from his cabin, and filled with kindling and kerosene) and everyone cheered, and Hertz didn't need the fire extinguisher.