a broadcaster, pilot, writer, and our Guest Columnist!
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It officially starts the camping season all across America. If you don’t reserve a campsite ahead of time, your chances of getting a site on Memorial Day weekend are slim to none. This is especially true along the North Shore of Lake Superior and other such popular destinations around the country. We didn’t have a site reserved, so we decided to go to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, in Canada.
We actually prefer Canada for camping over Memorial Day weekend. It’s such a busy time, stateside and all the campgrounds are crowded. Since it’s not a holiday in Canada and still early in their camping season, campsites are readily available.
We arrived in the evening, set up camp, then enjoyed the sunset. Melissa pointed out the rig in the space next to us, saying she thought it was the same camper that was there when were at Sleeping Giant last fall. I dismissed her thought as unlikely. “I highly doubt it’s the same people. After you’ve seen so many trailers and RV’s, they all start to look alike.”
A campfire was out of the question the first night because of high winds, so we retired to the Scamp for sandwiches, wine and a good book.
The next morning, we had plans that included hiking and exploring. I put June out around 8 a.m. to let her spend some time outdoors before breakfast. I thought I would throw the ball for her a few times which meant letting her off her leash. I chucked the ball high in the air. June got right under it and made an amazing catch. I threw the ball a several more times - some close and sometimes I threw it a good distance. Hearing voices approaching, I called June to come to me and put her back on the leash. Then I heard the voice say, “Well, I thought I recognized June.”
That was really strange, almost eerie. We were in Canada for goodness sakes. No one in Canada knows June! I took a look around, but didn’t see anyone. June and I went inside where I reported to Melissa what I had heard. “I told you, I think that camper next to us is the same one that was here last year.” She reasoned. I thought maybe she had too much wine the night before, or, her imagination was running a bit wild.
I distinctly remembered those people from last year. The lady played the harp and each day we were serenaded with soothing music, floating through the air as her fingers danced and glided with grace over the strings. It was wonderful. But there was no music this morning, so it couldn’t be the same people. I peeked through the curtains, looking their direction, but didn’t anything. I thought I was going to have to go out and investigate, then the man came out of his camper. His back was towards me, so I couldn’t see his face.
He was fairly tall and slender, wearing a camouflage hat, jacket and pants. The man last year wore a lot of camo as well.
“His name was Al.” I said out loud as I watched. Then he turned, his profile was toward me as he looked out over the lake. “I think that is Al.” When he turned toward me, his white beard and glasses were a giveaway. “That is him.” I told Melissa, “That’s Al, the same man from last year.” I was really surprised – she was not the least bit.
I went outside to greet him. Offering my hand, “Al?” I queried, still thinking it was very unlikely to be him. He shook my hand and replied, “Well, I thought I recognized June.” The two of us enjoyed a nice chat. We were able to visit with him and his wife, Sally, a few more times over the weekend. It was certainly good to see them again.
I went back to our Scamp, we loaded some things into the car, then left to go hiking. Our cat, Edgar Allen, would stay behind to guard the fort. The trail we chose would wind in and out of the woods and along the beaches of Middlebrun Bay, on Lake Superior. We checked out some tent camping sites on the trail as potential back packing adventures in the future.
Sometimes while hiking, I’ll let June off her leash. I know – it’s against the rules, but she sure likes to run from the front to the back of our group. She’s a herding dog and that’s her way of keeping her subjects together and safe. If we hear or see people coming, I will leash her right away. Occasionally, June will see the people before I do and she runs to greet them. I don’t like her doing that because not everyone is a dog person.
While we were hiking, another group approached us unnoticed. June ran ahead to them. I called her back right away and apologized. They responded, “That’s okay, we recognized June from the campground.” What? They knew her name? That was really strange; almost eerie. We were in Canada for goodness sakes. No one in Canada knows June! They must have heard us calling her by name at the campsite or on the trail.
Several trees had fallen over the winter months. It was early in the season and they hadn’t been cut or cleared yet; they were still obstructing the path. We had to crawl under, or climb over them in order to continue down the trail.
While crawling under one large tree that blocked our way, I found a pair of sunglasses on the ground. They looked new. I guessed they fell out of someone’s pocket while they were passing under the log. I set the shades on top of the fallen tree; perhaps the owner would come back looking for them and find them on the log.
When we were done hiking, we drove out to Silver Islet, a really cool little ghost town that was once a silver mining town on Lake Superior. We checked out a few other sights, then headed in to buy another bottle of LP gas for the camp stove. It was getting close to suppertime.
Back at the campsite, I got the stove from the Scamp and went to set it up on the picnic table outdoors. I saw something spooky that stopped me in my tracks – it was the kind of thing you would see in a horror movie. The sunglasses I found on the trail were now sitting on the picnic table in our campsite! Okay, that was kind of creepy. I asked our guard cat how they got there. Edgar swore, “I’ll guarantee you nobody came onto this site under my watch.”
We were trying to figure out the mystery. Perhaps it was a ghost that followed us from Silver Islet. Maybe the ghost put the glasses there. It seems everyone else knows June, why not the Canadian ghosts too, eh? More likely, it was the people we met on the trail who also knew June. They must have thought they were June’s sunglasses and brought them back for her.
After our camping trip, I was driving out to southern California with a Scamp. June went along with me, riding shotgun.
When we got to the lady’s house where we were delivering the trailer, I rang the bell. She came to the front door, “Hi.” Karen said, then, excited to see her new camper, she said “It’s so cute!” Something seemed to have distracted her as she looked toward her new Scamp in the street. Her eyes got wider. She gasped, politely covering her mouth with her hand, as a lady will do when she sees something that has her in awe.
I glanced toward the street. Not again, I thought to myself. Karen smiled from ear to ear – a smile as big as I’ve ever seen, then said, “And that must be June! I recognize her from her photos on Facebook.” As Karen marched out to greet June, I said awkwardly, “Um, hi. I am, um, Tom…” It seems everyone knows June.
On the way home we stopped for fuel in Mesquite, Nevada. The man on the other side of the pump island looked our way a couple times, then I overheard him telling his wife, “It’s June, honey.” You’ve got to kidding me. There is no way!
June sat smirking in the front passenger seat. It is not possible everyone knows that dog. I walked around to the other side of the pumps, “Excuse me, sir. Do you know my dog?” He was confused and asked what I was talking about. “You just told your wife, ‘It’s June, honey.’ My dog’s name is June. Do you know her?”
“No,” the man laughed, “my wife was writing down our fuel purchase in our mileage log. She wrote 5-2-19 and I told her, ‘It’s June, honey.’ Meaning we’re past May and it’s now the month of June.” We shared a mighty good laugh over that.
I finished fueling my car, put the nozzle back on the pump and twisted my gas cap until it clicked back in place. I got in the car. Now feeling pretty smug myself, I told my dog, “See, June. Not everyone knows you.” I snickered as we pulled back onto the interstate.
June just smiled and reminded me, “The score is 3-1, Dad. My favor.” She was trying to contain her snickering as she starred ahead through the windshield. Hmfph. I looked at the GPS. Only 1,783 miles until we’re home.
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Granted, doing business online is convenient but I like old fashioned service; I prefer to deal with people one-on-one, in-person when possible. It’s just more fun that way. For example, when I have an insurance premium due, instead of mailing the payment I’d rather take a check to the agent’s office working directly with their staff. One such company is in a town in which I no longer live – so each month I call the agency’s office to make my payment over the phone, always working with the same person.
The other day I called their office asking to speak to Denise. Whoever answers the phone will always inquire, “May I ask who’s calling please?” When Denise came to the phone, she already knew who was on the other end of the line. I was laughing. Mischievous thoughts ran through my head while I was on hold.
“Oh my gosh. What did you do?” She asked with concern, knowing my love of pranks.
Proclaiming my innocence I swore, “I didn’t do anything…this time…yet. “But whoever answers the phone always inquires, ‘May I ask who’s calling?’ Well next time I’m going to smugly answer, ‘I’d rather not say.’”
Denise chuckled nervously. With skepticism she asked, “Why would you do that?”
“I’m going to tell them, ‘I’d rather not say because I don’t want to compromise her true identity – you know, the sanctity of the witness protection program must be respected.’” Denise and I shared a good laugh about that. “Then I’m going to tell them, ‘I’ve probably said too much already, but I will tell you this: she is an undercover spy and Denise isn’t her real name - it’s Dennis… …and she’s a guy!’” We were both rolling with laughter.
I knew Denise was blushing over the absurdity of it all. When she exclaimed, “Oh my Lord!” I wondered what her co-workers must think when she’s in her office, on the phone, cracking up laughing – surely, she can’t really be working! Trying to contain her laughter, Denise attempted to stear us back on track. Focusing on the actual purpose of this call, she asked, “Did you want to give me your account number to make a payment?”
Denise has provided me top notch service for many, many years. She’s a big part of the reason I continue to do business with their company, even though I have since moved. Besides, I can’t imagine having this kind of fun buying insurance online from a green lizard. I like working with real people.
Interacting with our listeners and advertisers was always one of my favorite parts of being in the radio broadcasting business. I enjoyed visiting clients, taking them little gifts like coffee mugs, T-shirts, caps, note pads, calendars and other such promotional items bearing the station call letters. I wanted to take them something different – something unique that no other radio station would take them, but I didn’t know what. I got an idea.
In the early 90’s I decided to plant a garden. I chose an area behind a second garage that was in my backyard. I carefully removed the sod, saving it for use elsewhere. I tilled the soil until I had a bed of loose, rich, black dirt. I measured off and pounded in stakes on each side then pulled strings taught between them making straight lines spanning the plot.
I dug little channels, carefully dropped my seeds, then gently covered them with dirt. I put in a few rows of green beans, peas, carrots, radishes and green and yellow bell peppers. I tried growing lettuce - that didn’t work too well for me, although the rabbits loved it. I avoided the sprawling vine plants like pumpkins, squash and cucumbers – I like them, but they take up too much space.
When I was done planting, I looked with pride at my garden. It was beautiful. Each stake had an empty seed package stapled to it so that I would know what was in that row. I smiled dreaming of the bountiful harvest I would enjoy through the late summer and fall. I sighed realizing I forgot the sweet corn, then smiled, there’s always next year. Oh, and I also put in 125 tomato plants.
John Denver recorded a cover song written by Guy Clark: Home Grown Tomatoes. My favorite line was, “Only two things that money can't buy, that's true love and homegrown tomatoes.” With a garden full, I could give them to all my clients and no other radio station was going to take them such a gift. I thought it was a good idea and people would appreciate tomatoes more than a note pad they were going to lose anyway.
The weeks ahead were challenging. I didn’t know a garden would be so much work. My plants grew almost as fast as the weeds. My friend, John Ohlinger told me to bag my grass clippings and lay them in the rows and between the tomato plants. That helped, but still – the work!
I suppose it was early July when my gardening friends said they were harvesting nice tomatoes. My 125 plants were growing well but only produced small to medium size, rock hard green tomatoes. The weeds got away from me; some were as tall as the plants, others were bigger.
I stood looking over the mess that was supposed to be my garden. The colorful little packages had either sun-bleached to white, withered scraps of paper or deteriorated completely leaving small rusty staples in the wooden stakes. Defeated, I shook my head and said, “I should have just left the lawn alone.”
What went wrong? Maybe I planted too late. Maybe I didn’t water the garden enough. Maybe I didn’t till the soil deep enough. Maybe my soil didn’t have the right biological makeup for gardening. Maybe it was the weeds. Yes, it was the weeds fault, they ruined my garden.
I was getting ready to take my family out of town for a couple weeks. When I returned, I would mow down the lot of plants and weeds with the John Deere, till the soil and replace the sod. I walked away in despair.
When I got back in town, I started the lawn tractor and drove to the garden. The back garage shielded the hideous growth from the house. I stopped at the edge and looked at the mess. I would have to remove the wire tomato cages, pull the stakes and gather the strings from the garden before I could mow it down. It was so tall, I wondered if the mower was going to be able to knock it down. Something was weird.
My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Among the weeds were 125 tomato plants loaded with big, bright red, ripe tomatoes. It looked like there were millions of them! Possibly billions! They certainly outnumbered the stars in the night sky.
I jumped off the tractor, waded into the jungle, picked a tomato, rubbed it against my shirt, then took a big bite. Juice squirted from the tomato, ricocheted off my finger and splashed back onto my face. I could have easily lost an eye, but I didn’t care. I took another bite. Tomato juice and seeds were running down my arm, dripping off the end of my elbow onto my pants. That was the best tomato I ever tasted in my life! I ate the whole thing, dropped the stem and picked another.
Over the next couple weeks, I harvested a steady stream of tomatoes. I was filling paper bags and taking them to all my clients. I gave more to listeners and friends. I stewed and canned tomatoes and juice until I could can no more. I took more tomatoes to clients – some begged me not to bring them anymore tomatoes, asking, “Do you have a note pad or something else I could have?” Just when I thought I had picked them all, more green tomatoes turned red. I couldn’t stop them from growing and I couldn’t give them away fast enough.
Carol Collins ran a restaurant downtown, called the Koffee Kup Café. One day when I stopped in for lunch, Carol asked me about the tomatoes. “I’ve heard they’re really good. Do you have anymore I could buy. I’d like to serve them to my customers.”
“Buy them?” I questioned sarcastically. “No, you cannot buy any. I will GIVE them to you. How many bushels would you like to take off my hands?” We shared a good laugh about that. I took her a heaping bushel basket of tomatoes. She would serve some at the café, and can the rest.
One of Carol’s regular customers was a man named Dennis. Dennis worked for my brother at his gas station, Danny’s Amoco, at the corner of Pennsylvania and Jefferson. It was the only gas station left in town where you could get full service at the pumps. They’d check your oil and wash your windshield plus, they had a two-car garage for repairing tires, doing oil changes and light automotive work. Dennis was the mechanic.
He was a good mechanic; he was also a one-upper, if you know what I mean – as was I. When two men have that same personality trait, things can get competitive. We became rivals when it came to one-upping.
Dennis always liked my dog, Harry, a beautiful collie. “It’s a good thing you have Harry.” He told me often, as he scratched my dog’s ears, “He’s so handsome he can even make someone as ugly as you look good when you stand next to him.” Or, “Harry is so smart, he distracts people so they don’t really know how dumb you are.” It was all in fun, and trust me, I got in more than my share of jabs back at my nemesis.
Frequently Dennis and I were both at a big round table of guys having lunch at the Koffee Kup Café. One day Dennis ordered the lunch special: a hot beef sandwich with mashed potatoes, smothered with beef gravy. “For my two sides why don’t you bring me some cottage cheese and a plate of those sliced homegrown tomatoes.” It was the exact same thing I was having. I looked at Dennis and smiled. Assuming I was about to say something, he made sure he beat me to the punch.
“Your mom stopped into the station today.” He took a bite of food then said, “Her car was a quart low on oil. She said you just checked it yesterday and told her it was fine.” He waved his fork with a piece of tomato on the end of it, “I told her you weren’t smart enough to know which end of the dip stick to look at. But she already knew that.” He put the fork in his mouth and relished the moment as he got a good laugh about that from all the guys around the table. Well, all except me.
Dennis was on a roll. “You know Palen, you’re pretty good at blowing a lot of hot air on the radio, but you should leave difficult jobs like checking the oil on a car, up to someone smarter; a professional like me.” He chewed his food and grinned with satisfaction, drawing yet another round of laughter from everyone, except me.
When Carol walked by Dennis asked her, “Say, would you have anymore of those tomatoes. I swear those were the best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted.” I just smiled at him. Carol went to the kitchen and returned with another serving of bright red tomato slices. She had a hard time keeping a straight face when she handed him the plate. Carol knew of our rivalry. Dennis ate them, rubbed his full belly and said, “Man those are good.” I smiled, then started laughing. He looked at me and asked “What are you laughing about, ya darn fool? Have you got a feather in your underpants or something?”
“I grew those tomatoes, Dennis. They’re from my garden.” I told him. He didn’t believe me.
“There’s no way you grew these, you can’t even grow a moustache. Is that dirt over your lip?” He asked, laughing while reaching for me with his napkin, “Here, let me wipe that smudge off your face.” Everyone laughed about that, except me.
Carol returned to our table handing each person a ticket. She smiled, “I’ve got your lunch today, Tom.” Dennis told Carol, if she had any extra, he’d like to buy a few of those tomatoes to go. Carol said, “Why don’t you ask Tom, they came from his garden.” The whole table shared a good laugh about that…well, except Dennis – he scowled and I smirked with satisfaction. Remember, Dennis is a one-upper and he wasn’t about to upstaged.
“When I used to put in my garden, I grew tomatoes that were a lot bigger than yours.” He said, then shared his secret. “I’d take some cow manure from my pasture and till it into my garden. My tomatoes were so big Palen, they made yours look like cherry tomatoes.” The men all laughed except me. Dennis declared, “and my tomatoes tasted a lot better.”
I interrupted him. “It’s too late Dennis. We all heard you say it.” I began mimicking him, “These are the best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted. Man, these are good. The best I’ve ever had. Oh Carol, could I please get some of these tomatoes to go?” We all laughed, except Dennis. This time I had him and he knew it!
Dennis tried to change the subject. Knowing my dad always had milk cows, he asked if I got manure for my garden from my parents. After Dad had passed away, Mom sold off the cows. “Dennis, I don’t have to go looking for manure, I get all the manure I can handle every time you open your mouth and start talking.” We all shared a good laugh over that, except Dennis.
I was on a roll. “You know Dennis, you might know which end of a dip stick to look at, but when it comes to difficult jobs, like growing tomatoes, or, one-upping someone who is obviously smarter than you, you should leave that to a professional like me. Someone who knows how to blow hot air on the radio.” We all shared a good laugh over that – well everyone except Dennis.
Dennis mumbled something about me not knowing the simple basics of agriculture. “Even Harry knows you gotta fertilize a garden with manure, but your dog has always been smarter than you – better looking too.” He said, drawing another round of laughter from the all the guys, except me.
“Dennis…” I squinted my eyes and leaned in as I addressed him. He and the guys were waiting to hear what was coming next, but I honestly forgot what I was going to say so I said softly, “My dog pee’d in that garden every day – right by the tomato plants.” All the guys laughed, even Dennis – he always did like Harry.
I miss Dennis; the rivalry and the fun we had trying to one-up each other. I’ve never met a man named Dennis, that I didn’t like – even one who is an undercover spy, who isn’t really a spy and whose real name isn’t Dennis, it’s Denise – and he’s a girl.
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The three of us were enjoying wine and conversation. Gail, using better judgement, retired to bed at a respectable hour, while Kenny and I stayed up later. Sitting out on the covered deck, we took advantage of the comfortable west Texas air on that Monday evening in mid-May. In just a couple weeks, Texas would begin her season of relentless summer heat; steamy hot days and sultry humid nights. But this night, the weather was beautiful and we intended to make good use of it.
With a bottle of wine, we talked about all sorts of topics; good and happy things and some universal issues of concern as well. There was no doubt in my mind, given a couple more hours and another bottle of wine, we would have had solutions for every problem in the world - and they were good, workable, common sense solutions. But the powers that be aren’t likely to take advice from a group such as myself, Kenny and Robert Mondavi.
Beyond the shelter of the roofline, I could see the Texas sky was full of stars, twinkling and dancing about. It was past midnight; the wine was taking its toll and we decided to call it a night.
The next morning, Gail had prepared a feast of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. We ate well, enjoyed good coffee and more conversation. Then came that awkward moment; there was a sole strip of bacon left on the plate and three people sitting around the table. “Someone needs to eat that last piece of bacon.” Gail suggested.
“Go ahead.” I said to Gail, offering the plate her way.
She politely declined, “No thank you, I’ve had plenty. One of you two can have it.”
It can become a mind game when determining the fate of the last slice of that salted, fatty, smoke-flavored goodness. One contender was out already, it was down to me and Kenny. Using reverse psychology, I said, “Here Kenny, you have it.” While moving the plate from Gail to him.
“No, go ahead.” Kenny replied. I wondered, was he using the same tactic?
I quickly weighed my options and consequences. I wanted that last piece of bacon, but I also wanted to be invited back again. I thought quickly, “Okay,” I snapped the crisp bacon strip in two, taking half and told Kenny, “here, we’ll share it.”
But Kenny insisted, “No, you can have it.” I told Kenny I wasn’t going to eat it. If he didn’t eat it, that half-piece would be thrown away - wasted. “Well, we can’t let bacon go to waste.” He said, reaching toward the plate.
As soon as Kenny put the bacon in his mouth and started chewing, I threw a little guilt his way, “Thanks a lot Kenny. I really wanted that last piece.”
“Too bad.” Kenny said, with a look of contentment that anyone has while eating bacon, “You had your chance.” We shared a good laugh about that.
With the end of breakfast came the end of a very good visit with Uncle Kenny and Aunt Gail. They were generous hosts, as they always are. Both being good cooks, they shared the task, providing excellent meals and they allowed me to use their kitchen to bake a peach pie and some ginger crack cookies.
When I was about ready to go, Gail asked if I would like to take some things in my cooler for the long drive back to northern Minnesota. I told her I would be going to the grocery store, so packing a cooler wouldn’t be necessary. Then I remembered the lunch she had served the day before. “Would you happen to have any of that ham salad left over?” I asked.
“There’s probably just enough to make one more sandwich.” Gail replied, asking, “Would you like lettuce?” She took a couple containers from the refrigerator, grabbed the loaf of bread, laid out a sheet of waxed paper on the countertop and began making the sandwich.
Curious, I inquired, “Are you using the waxed paper as a prep surface, or are you going to wrap the sandwich in that?”
Gail stopped, “I was going to wrap the sandwich if that’s okay. Would you rather have plastic?”
“No, that’s perfect.” I said, smiling, “I haven’t seen anyone wrap a sandwich in waxed paper for years. I love it!”
When she was done making the sandwich, she brought the two longer sides of the rectangular wrap together at the top center of the bread. Folding the edges over, making about a one-inch overlap on the top, she pressed them together by running the paper between her thumb and index finger from one end to the other. She creased a seam, much like a tailor would do with fabric and a hot iron. Gail folded the seam flat on top of the sandwich, then carefully wrapped the left side underneath, followed by the right.
Watching her work, I reminisced about wrapping sandwiches exactly that way when I was a kid. This, of course, was before Glad Cling Wrap came along, followed by the Glad Sandwich Bag with the flap and fold top, and finally, today’s Ziploc bag. They’re always looking for a better way to keep a sandwich fresh, but I’m not sure you can beat good old-fashioned waxed paper.
Gail handed me the sandwich. I placed it in a small brown paper bag, along with a few homemade cookies and an apple. We said our farewells, then June and I headed up the road toward home.
Kenny had suggested a state route that would take us north, staying off I-35, until we got past Dallas-Fort Worth. Avoiding the metro traffic and congestion would save us a lot of time and anguish.
While driving the backroads, we enjoyed the countryside; large fields where Texas Longhorn steer grazed on luscious, tall green prairie grass beneath windmills that pumped well water into livestock troughs. Oil rigs throughout the fields were running, with their big iron heads rhythmically teetering up and down. The sky was blue with scattered cottony-white clouds that provided character. The scenery was perfect - this is west Texas.
A few hours into the trip, June and I pulled over to the side of the road. I grabbed my sack lunch and sat in the grass to eat. June wandered about through the wildflowers nearing the barbed wire fence. Being a border collie / blue healer, she took notice of the field of cattle that needed someone to herd them together.
She looked over her shoulder at me to see if I was paying attention, then crept toward the field. “Hey June, why don’t you just stay on this side of the fence before you find out what those steer can do with their long horns!”
I opened my brown bag, pulling out the sandwich that was gift-wrapped in waxed paper. I opened it and took a bite. “Wow.” I said to June. “This is every bit as good as it was yesterday - maybe even better.” I took another bite.
June, licking her lips while watching me eat, warned, “That ham salad is made with mayo. It’s been out of the refrigerator for three hours. Maybe you should feed it to the dog. I wouldn’t want you to take any chances of getting sick when we still have a thousand miles to go before getting home.”
“Nice try, June,” I chuckled, “but I don’t think so.” When I was a kid, I would take my sandwiches to school, leaving them in my locker until lunch time. Sometimes it was bologna, peanut butter, cheese or various other toppings - but it very often had mayo on it and they always sat unrefrigerated for a few hours. It didn’t kill me or make me sick back then and I doubt it’s going to today. It must be the waxed paper that keeps it so well.
After I finished eating, I gathered my brown bag, napkin and waxed paper. I left the apple core on the roadside, telling June, “Something will come along and eat it.”
We got back in the car to continue north. June sat in the front passenger seat. “I haven’t had a brown bag lunch like that in years.” I told her. Still quite salty over me not sharing my sandwich, June sat upright, staring straight out the front window, totally ignoring me.
I wadded the sandwich wrapper into a tight little ball and tossed it at June, beaning her right in the noggin. I laughed, “That’s another reason waxed paper is better than plastic. You can’t wad up a Ziploc bag and throw it like that!”
June glared at me, “Very funny, Dad. Just drive the car.” Then she gazed out the side window at all the cattle in the pastures. “I could’ve had them all rounded up, if you would have been paying more attention to the dog’s needs, instead of touting the benefits of waxed paper.”
I ruffled the fur on her head, “Maybe next time, June Bug.” She leaned over to my side of the car and gave me a kiss - well, I thought it was a kiss. Apparently, I had a few cookie crumbs on my cheek.
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I wrote a note, folded it neatly, then wrote a name on the front of the paper. I handed it to the girl at the desk in front of me, who handed it to the boy in front of her, who handed it to the girl sitting at the desk in the row across from him, who handed it to the boy across from her, who handed it to Megan.
Megan opened and read the note. "Will you be my girlfriend? Circle one - Yes or No - and send this back to me." I signed the note, Barry.
Megan opened the note, read it, smiled, then circled an answer with her #2 yellow pencil. She wrote something else on the paper, then folded it and handed it back to the boy who had handed her the note. It was on its way back to me. Each person passing it on to the one who gave it to them.
Not knowing the true source of the note, Megan kept smiling at Barry. Poor Barry looked confused as he had no idea why she kept staring at him. Although my tactics were deceitful, I would now find out if she had a crush on him as I had suspected since first grade.
The girl in front of me handed the note over her shoulder. I was giggling in anticipation of reading Megan’s answer? Completely focused on getting the note back, I wasn't paying attention to the teacher at all.
Just as I was unfolding the note, Mrs. Bear, my second-grade teacher at Horace Mann Elementary School, walked the aisles between our desks. Briskly snatching the note from my hand she opened and glanced at it, then glared at me. I was worried she would read the note aloud to the class. Barry was my friend. He was not going to appreciate me sending that note with his name on it.
Mrs. Bear, walked back to her big oak desk at the front of the room, placing the note in her top center drawer, then continued on with her lesson. I sighed with relief – I was off the hook.
The bell rang, echoing down the cold, empty hallways with their grey terrazzo floors. All the kids in the class room, jumped up from their desks, forming a single file line to make way outside for recess, myself included. As the children moved single file, in an orderly fashion toward the door Mrs. Bear took me by the arm, pulling me from the line.
The other kids marched on with restraint in their step. Once they cleared the entrance doors they would run out to the playground. As I watched them disappear to a happy place, Mrs. Bear began her lecture. "Tommy, you know it against the rules to pass notes in class, and it is not nice nor honest to sign someone else's name to the note. I'm going to have to tell your parents about this at the parent, teacher conferences." I was scared nearly to death.
By the time conferences came along, Mrs. Bear forgot about the note. Instead she discussed my day-dreaming during class, with my Mom. While they spoke, I drifted off thinking about the note. In a way, I was hoping she would show it to Mom; maybe I would finally get to read Megan’s answer. I never did find out if Megan had a crush on my friend, Barry. I would never know what the additional message was that she wrote on that note.
That my friends, is an example of identity theft in its original form.