I think it is true. What goes around, comes around.
We were just one day into what was going to be a long trip. Melissa and I were looking for a place where we could get a good cup of coffee and use the internet. Pulling into a cafe in Richmond, Wisconsin, we had found the spot.
We chose a table in the corner where it would be quiet, ordered coffee, and the two of us began to type away on our devices.
About ten minutes after we sat down, a lady, probably about 70, walked up to our table. “Look at you two.” She said, “You’re both on your computers and you’re not even talking to each other. Put those things down and talk to each other.”
I laughed, then explained to her, that we do talk a lot, but we stopped specifically to use the internet. “No.” She said, “I’ve been watching you. You haven’t talked at all.” She pointed at my iPad and continued, “You have a beautiful lady here and you’re ignoring her while looking at that thing.”
Melissa tried to explain,”We both had to do some business, then get back on the road...where we would have 1000 miles and hours and hours to talk again.” “No, no.” Said the lady to Melissa, “Put that down and talk to him. He probably has things to say to you.” My wife rolled her eyes, “He always has something to say!” We shared a good laugh about that. The lady again insisted that we put down our devices.
“If I don’t pay this gas bill and this water bill, we’re going to have a whole new set of problems to deal with.” I told her. We had another laugh.
“May I ask your name?” I inquired. “Sabina.” She replied, I repeated “Sabina?” “Yes,” She said, “Like Sabrina, without the R.” “That’s a very pretty name.” I said.
We chatted for a bit, learning that Sabina was once quite the athlete. In school she competed in swimming, gymnastics, and cheerleading. I told her, “I tried cheerleading, but the skirt didn’t look good on me.”
“Where are you from?” Sabina asked. “Minnesota.” I answered, “If you walk to the top of Wisconsin, jump in the lake and swim about fifty or sixty miles, you’ll be at our house.” She gave me a slap on the arm, “Oh, you...” She said, laughing, “I can’t swim that far anymore.”
Sabina returned to her original point. “You need to talk to her.” She said to me, then to Melissa, “You need to look at him and enjoy each other. Spend some time together without those computers.”
I quickly pulled up Melissa’s profile picture on Facebook. It’s a photo I took from the back of the canoe, of Melissa in the front of the canoe, while we were paddling on one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. I explained, “This is a very quiet, peaceful lake. We enjoy spending time together in the solitude of this environment. There are no computers here...and she’s not looking at me here either!” We shared a good laugh.
Sabina said, “I’m sorry to come bother you. It’s none of my business anyway and I shouldn’t have come to your table. I just want to see you nice people talk to each other.”
I explained, “Sabina, I’m glad you came to our table. Honestly, I would have done the exact same thing. My wife and I don’t ignore each other, we just have to take a little time here to get online. I can’t do that while I’m driving down the road, but I will enjoy my wife’s company while traveling.”
Sabina said she understood, “I’m just on my way to the wine and cheese store for fresh baguettes, but they aren’t open yet, so I thought I would stop in here for some breakfast. Why not let them do the cooking?” She asked. “Good plan.” I said, adding, “We had the same idea.” Sabina said farewell to us, then headed out the door.
As Sabina walked out the door, Melissa told me that she had been watching Sabina. A few minutes earlier she paid for the people’s coffee at another table. Very cool.
Just a few moments later a man walked in carrying a box with about a dozen or so cartons of eggs. It appeared he was the local supplier of farm fresh eggs. He joined a few other men at a table across from us.
The men were enjoying good conversation, talking about some church events. One man addressed the man at the end of the table, “Hey John, the priest wanted to know where you’ve been.” John, obviously hard of hearing said, “What?” “The priest.” The man repeated, “He wants to know where you’ve been.” “Who?” John replied. There was laughter.
The egg man explained, “The congregation took up a collection for you.” “They did?” John laughed. “How much did they get?” The man replied, “Four cents.” There was hearty laughter among them.
The egg man went to another table where he delivered the rest of his eggs. I went to the cash register to get change, then approached the egg man. I set a stack of four pennies on the table in front of him. He looked at me strangely. “What’s this for?” He asked. “I’m Catholic too. I wanted to match the collection the congregation took up for John...” The man laughed. I set a second stack of four pennies in front of him saying, “...and, I want to double that amount.”
The man laughed more. He waved his hand pointing about the room, “He’s Catholic and so is she. That couple are Catholic too and there are six more of them around the corner at another table.” We shared a good laugh.
I then set down the last two pennies of the change I had acquired at the register. “And these are for you, so the next time you meet with your buddies, Catholic or otherwise, you’ll be able to get in your two-cents-worth.” We shared another good laugh, then I returned to my table.
Melissa asked, “What’d you just do?” I told her. I laughed, she just shook her head and smiled.
The egg man came back over to John. He set the stack of four coins in front of him, explaining, “That man over there is Catholic and he wanted to match the church collection for you.” John was laughing. The egg man set the second stack of pennies in front of John. “Then he wanted to match his own donation.” The two men laughed. John said, “Well, he must be quite a guy.”
The egg man set the last two pennies in front of the man saying, “And these are for you so you can get in your two-cents-worth the next time we meet.” There was more laughter. Their laughter made me happy.
Melissa and I headed out the door, where I found a dirty old penny laying on the ground. Face-up or face-down, doesn’t matter to me - I always stop to pick up a penny.
We returned to our car, where just outside the driver’s door was a brand new, shiny penny. I picked it up, showed the coin to Melissa, then put it in my pocket with the other penny.
Sabina had approached us the same way I would approach other folks in a cafe. I gave another man what he needed to get in his two-cents-worth. He then passed it on to yet another man and I ended up with just enough to get my two-cents-worth at the next place we stop.
How about that?
What goes around, comes around.
Sabina Richmond wi
Bought coffee for a table of men.
Put the devices down.
Showed profile pic. No more perfect setting and Melissa isn’t looking at me there either.
The screen prompted me, “Review the details.” I did as instructed, then grinned as I hit “Submit Payment.” Feeling as if a bunch of weight was lifted from my shoulders, I sat to ponder what had just happened. It was bittersweet.
A moment later my phone beeped. It was an incoming text from my daughter, Annie. “Thank you, Dad. I love you!” Immediately, a second text came from Annie; “How did it feel to pay your last bit of tuition ever?!” I smiled, thinking, “Pretty good!”
It seems impossible that she’ll be graduating from college already, just two weeks from now. I began to daydream about her future and reflect on the past.
It was the summer of 2013. Melissa, Annie and I had toured different school campuses. She considered the University of Northern Iowa, in Waterloo, the University of Minnesota in Duluth, and Winona State University in southern Minnesota.
When we visited WSU, we stayed at Heaven’s Valley Lodge, a bed and breakfast just outside the city. It was a small hobby farm, organic in nature, nestled in the beautiful valley amongst the hills and bluffs surrounding Winona.
We stayed in an apartment above the garages, where the tractors and implements were stored. The owners lived here while they built their house on the property.
Although we had to make our own breakfast, the hosts were very accommodating. Breakfast items were left in the kitchen, along with a note inviting us to gather our own farm fresh eggs from the hen house. They also left an egg carton with a separate note, “Please feel free to take a dozen eggs home with you.”
Annie and I headed for the hen house with a medium size kitchen bowl that was provided. Melissa said she would be along shortly.
The farmer showed us how to get in securing the gate behind us so the hens couldn’t get out - and predators didn’t get in. Then he instructed us, “To get the eggs, you just slide the back of your open hand gently under the hen. She’ll lift a little, and you can bring the eggs out.”
It was a neat experience. I hadn’t done that since I was a little kid. The hens breast feathers were soft and warm, as was the area underneath where she sat upon her eggs. One black and grey speckled hen pecked at my hand when I tried to get her eggs. I jumped back.
The farmer laughed. “She won’t hurt you. Not all of the hens will let you take their eggs without a bit of a fuss.” He said, explaining, “Just ease your hand under her...” I did. She pecked me several more times. It didn’t hurt, but it sure got my attention. I felt like a thief taking her eggs.
The farmer told us, “Take all the eggs you need for breakfast and be sure to gather an extra dozen to take home with you. I left an egg carton in your room.” He left and Melissa came in.
By now, Annie and I had gathered most of the eggs from the small coop. “Are there any left?” Melissa asked. Annie answered, pointing to a reddish brown hen. “She has some.” Melissa took the egg from under the hen and placed it in the bowl.
I pointed to the black and grey speckled hen, “She has some.” When Melissa reached for her eggs, the hen pecked at her hand causing Melissa to jump and pull away. Melissa tried again with the same response from the hen. “Don’t be a chicken!” I said with full pun intended, “Just get under there and get the eggs.”
Melissa tried again, and the hen pecked at her again. We had a competition at hand. Melissa was just as determined to get the eggs, as the hen was to not let her have them. Melissa guided her hand under the hen. The hen pecked at her. Melissa continued. With her hand under the hen, feeling about, she said, “Hey! There are no eggs under her!”
Annie and I shared a good laugh about that. The rest of the hens joined us, clucking and cackling at Melissa.
Annie decided on WSU, in Winona. I don’t know if the “Hen House Incident” had anything to do with her choice, but I can’t help but to believe it had to have some effect.
Several weeks later, we were back at the WSU campus for orientation. We decided to make a weekend of it, but knew the motels would be full - as were the campgrounds in Winona.
We pulled our Scamp across the Interstate Bridge, over the Mississippi River, into Wisconsin. We would be setting up camp at Merrick State Park, just up Highway 35 from Fountain City.
Our daughter, Delaney, was with us, and June Bug, too. Melissa had made arrangements for her friend Käri, to join us as well. The two of them worked together when Melissa was the Photo Editor at the Winona Daily News, and Käri was a reporter. They hadn’t seen each other for quite a while.
The five of us enjoyed an evening around the campfire. While June kept the area free and safe from squirrels, we made S’mores, roasted hotdogs and enjoyed a few brews as well. The evening was perfect as we shared stories, and told jokes. We had good conversation and plenty of laughter.
I suppose it was getting toward quite time - it was well after dark. Some kids in a campsite across the way were having fun. I imagine an older brother, probably eight or nine, was trying to scare his younger sibling. With arms raised above him, walking like bear, “Rahr!” came the cry in the night. The younger siblings let out a scream... and then there was laughter. Then another, softer “Arh!” From the little one followed by a louder “Rarh!” From the big brother. More laughter came with each series of beastly roars.
It was too much for me to contain myself. I bellowed into the darkness, “RRRarh!” There was a brief pause. I’m sure they weren’t expecting outside participation. Then my roar was returned. I called back, louder, “RRRAAARRRHH.”
Like echos, roars bounced through the campground, each time trying to be a little louder and scarier than the roar before. This went on for several minutes. Roars and laughter breaking the silence of the nights darkness.
I think maybe a voice up the way yelled, “Knock it off!” I don’t remember for sure, but I do remember stern warnings from my spouse to discontinue this juvenile activity before we were asked to leave the park. I returned one final “Rrrahhr!” Then defending myself, I grinned and matter of factly reminded my bride, “They started it.”
The next morning, while shaving in the shower house, I struck up conversation with another camper. “It sure is a beautiful morning.” I said, “Yeah, but I didn’t sleep so well.” He replied adding, “Did you hear those people roaring like bears and carrying on last night?”
“Yeah, I heard that too. It sounded like they were just having fun.” I replied. “Well it was uncalled for.” He complained, then accused, “I think it was those people in that Scamp trailer. I think it was them making all the ruckus.” I could only smile, “You’re probably right. You just never know about those Scamp people.”
I gathered my things and went back to our Scamp, looking behind me several times to make sure he wasn’t tailing me!
A week or so later, we moved Annie into the dorms at Winona State University. She got to move in a couple days earlier than the rest of the incoming class because she was going on a school sponsored Nature Adventure.
The last of our three daughters was off to college. She looked so small as stood on the steps of the school amongst dozens of freshmen, all hoping their parents wouldn’t do anything to embarrass them in front of their new peers.
She had a backpack over her shoulder, a pillow under her left arm and a sleeping bag in that hand. With her right hand, she waved at us.
I gave a couple blasts on the horn, waving my hand high in the air. As we drove passed the steps, I stuck my head out the window and yelled, “I LOVE YOU, ANNIE JO PALEN, FROM OTTUMWA, IOWA,” I could see her blushing. After sending out two more toots on the horn, I rolled the window up and let the tears flow.
Our little girl has grown up. She’ll graduate in May, and by this fall she will be a teacher with her own classroom. She’s going to be amazing!
To answer her question: “How did it feel to pay your last bit of tuition ever?!” “RRRaaaahhrrr!”
Teach them well, Annie Jo, I love you.
Your mom taught you to lift the lid to check for cracked or broken eggs when buying them. The cashier at the check out always seems to open the top to double check for you.
Tonight I stopped for eggs at Kwik Trip in Two Harbors. I took a dozen eggs from the cooler, opened the lid and looked inside. The eggs were fine, but the act of checking them seemed so routine and mundane. I thought, there has to be a way to make egg inspections more fun.
I had an idea and got twelve of my buddies to go along with it - to help me pull a little prank.
There was a gal putting burritos in the warmer. She had a black marker clipped to the front of her apron. “Excuse me. Could I borrow your Sharpie?” I asked. “Sure.” She said handing me the writing device.
She stood there shaking her head in disbelief while watching me. “Don’t worry,” I assured her, “I’m buying these.” “You Are now!“ she said.
I took my place in line. When it was my turn, I stepped up to the counter handing the egg carton to the clerk, Sandy. “Did you check the eggs?” She asked. “What do you mean?” I replied acting quite naive. She checked them for me.
When she lifted the lid, her eyes nearly popped out of her head. She looked shocked, to say the least! Then made a snorting noise and started laughing. “What the...how the...did you do this?” She asked. “Did I do what?” I responded innocently.
Together we shared a good laugh. Two customers behind me stretched their necks to see what was going on, then joined in the laughter.
Sandy asked, “Did Joan see this? Don’t go away, Joan has to see this.” Then Sandy talked into the secret microphone, “Joan, can you come up front please.” Joan started laughing as well.
I took a picture of the eggs, to share with you. Of course there’s always that one guy in every group photo who blinked and had his eyes closed when the shutter snapped. Oh well.
You can see a few of the eggs are winking at the cashier. One of them was saying “Hubba hubba!” Another “Hey good lookin’.” One egg even whistled at her. Oh my. They were all carrying on, but how else would you expect them to behave? Even the sign in the store warns the customers: “Fresh eggs.”
It was all fun. I hope you see the humor - frankly the whole thing cracks me up.
This story is also available online. It’s easy to share with your friends at www.fairmontphotopress.com.
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