I phoned Hyp from Joplin bus station (a rather odd place - where the buses pulled in for boarding was so enclosed that it felt like a garage) and hung around outside in the blazing sunshine. Soon enough a car pulled up and Hyp got out and introduced me to Xantief, the driver, who was camping in Hyp's back garden (you may have seen his tent in photos).
This was the third of July, the day before the meet, so we made sure we had enough provisions. Xantief and I made sure there was enough beer, whilst Hyp bought food and soft drinks. Hyp had the smaller job. Xantief's a bit of a beer buff, so picked out his favourites (he was keen on finding Samuel Adam's Boston Ale, I think that's why we ended up visiting a liquor store as well as the supermarket). I'm also a bit of a beer buff, but unfamiliar with American beers, so I picked out the two British ales on offer (Dirty Dick's and something with a on it, neither of which I'd tried before) and then some with nice artwork on them (I remember one being called Dead Guy Ale and then some from the Flying Dog brewery).
The other vital purchase was fireworks, from huge great barns, which Hyp tells me can only trade for a few days a year. Some of the offerings were huge and probably illegal in the UK, though what appears to be a massive firework is often a few dozen smaller ones that go off one after the other. Somebody has since told me we do get these over here, but I've never seen them.
With the explosives shipped off to Hyp's cousins', which was a safe distance from us, we returned to greet further guests and admire Hyp's garden, which has flowers and trees, a vegetable plot, a mass of brambles1, and an unopenable back gate.
I forget who showed up when (some people were there to look at the fireworks), but we weren't complete until quite late at night when Afgncaap showed his face2. Since our Affy has an air of mystery about him, some have speculated since that he may have sent a decoy in his place. If that is the case, then I can tell you that the decoy was around as knowledgeable about adventure games and webcomics as the real thing.
And so to bed. Despite the baking temperature outside, I was very glad of my quilt. See, my bed was directly in a stream of cold air from the aircon. I slept well, probably because the last two nights had been spent travelling and the mattress was much more comfortable than a bus seat.
In England we call it 'Ungrateful Day'
And so the Fourth of July dawned. The day started with some coffee, which is highly unusual for me. I'm a man normally. However, Hyp offered filter coffee, not the instant that is ubiquitous in the UK (unless you want to go to Starbucks and remortgage your house for a small cup), which was pretty good. Instead of milk there was some powdered creamer with vanilla, which I would not allow anywhere near a cuppa, but which worked in the coffee.
For breakfast we had biscuits and gravy. As I reported at the time it's pretty nice - the 'biscuits' are a sort of savoury scone thing and the gravy is white, due to being made with milk. Add in some sausage meat and it's a decent meal.
You may have assumed that if we were to play a game on the American national day it'd be something you associate with the USA, like baseball, American football or competitive eating, but apparently the Ozark tradition (or is it just Hyp's tradition?) is for croquet. But not just any croquet, oh no. This was Diabolical Croquet, meaning the wickets3 were placed deliberately under trees or behind flowerbeds. Another house rule covered people playing out of turn4, and several bottles of alcohol were drunk5.
To the cousins'
The main celebrations were held chez Hyp's bearded cousins, so we all headed over. There was food, more drink and the occasional water fight, which I managed to stay largely clear of. Just as well, as it got a little out of hand and one family member ended up being dunked in the swimming pool.
Then the fireworks, which were pretty impressive, though not as scary as the cousins' potato launcher, which basically used a random load of explosive propellants to launch spuds into the air. Where they came down nobody knows, so the neighbours probably got an unexpected addition to their punch.