Lucky We Made It

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Kayaking the whitewater on the West Fork of the Stillwater River seems like an easy adventure to enjoy for Pete and his pal, Bill. 

Bill, the daredevil of the twosome, pipes up, “What can be so tough about navigating this river?”  The duo has spent many hours on the water back in Billings at Lake Elmo, a serene and small lake at a city park.

Now traveling to the Beartooth Ranger District of Montana’s Custer National Forest, the two men figure they can comfortably kayak the Stillwater as well.

The adventurers arrive at the river, and they have never seen whitewater turbulence quite like this.  The river is running fast as the thundering rapids bubble with extra amounts of energy splashing off of the numerous, large boulders in the channel.   

Thinking to himself, Pete looks with a bit of apprehension upon the scene, “This might be more than we bargained for.”

Bill looks ready to take on anything, and soon the adrenalin rush consumes any nervousness left in the kayaking tandem.

Both men are equipped with helmets and wetsuits, and each will be piloting his own kayak for the next few miles. 

A harrowing journey awaits the two river crusaders.  Their eyes grow bigger with worry as they pilot around blocks of stone in the water.  The spray from the fast-moving water hides some of the other dangers . . .  concealed tree snags and submerged rocks.  Occasionally, tree branches reach out into the river from the bank.

Paddling and steering their small crafts, the men try to allow the river’s downstream current to propel them along.  Soon both men realize . . . much too late . . . the Stillwater reminds them of who really is the one in control. 

Just missing another oversized boulder, Bill flips his kayak over and then pops back up above the river’s boiling, frothing surface.  His “Evil Knievel” eyes are filled with fright.  He thinks to himself, “This ain’t Lake Elmo!”

Pete dodges a series of low branches near the far shoreline of the river.  He overreacts and dumps himself upside down into the river as the kayak takes him for a short submarine ride.  He loses sight of Bill as his kayak returns to the surface, minus his paddle.

Eventually, the tired and haggard pair of kayakers stagger to their destination, pull their battered kayaks out of the river, stumble into their pick-up trucks, and cautiously drive over to the Cowboy Bar and Supper Club at Fishtail.  As the humbled duo walks into the restaurant for a quiet, relaxing meal, Pete is heard to say, “Lucky we made it!”

 

While I have never used a kayak, I have floated a few rivers.  However, they seem quite tame compared to the energetic Stillwater River.  The story is pure fiction, but the locations are “real” Montana places.  Here’s a short video clip of kayaking on the Stillwater.  Enjoy!

Here It Comes!

Courtesy of Pinterest.

Barney, an American tourist, is visiting an Aboriginal cultural site in Australia.  For an enthusiastic audience, one of the guides plans to demonstrate how to throw a boomerang.

He flings the L-shaped projectile outward, with the intention of it returning back to him.  Or so . . . he hopes everything works out as intended.

As the summer heat is burning up the air, Barney pulls out his water bottle for a thirst-quenching gulp.  Unaware, he wanders right in front of the guide.

Sometimes, opposite forces must interact in a cataclysmic event.  Now is one of those moments when time stands still.

The guide yells out, “Here it comes mate!”

Monday Memories: Catchin’ a Flick

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Pete visits the local movie theater one night to catch one of his favorite animated films, “The Road Runner Meets Bugs Bunny.”

He hasn’t been to the old theater for several years because he is usually in bed early each night.  He’s pleasantly surprised to find the old, uncomfortable chairs have been replaced with loungers.

The film begins promptly, and Pete finds an extra comfortable lounger smack dab in the middle of the theater—a perfect seat!  He places his extra-large diet cola in a convenient cup holder while holding a jumbo tub of seasoned, buttered popcorn on his lap.

The film continues for the next 90 minutes or so, and the theater is filled with hilarious laughter except for one patron.  As the movie ends, the house lights are turned up, and the audience exits.

A young usher walks up to Pete, still snoring and catchin’ some winks.  His popcorn is scattered all over the floor as the tub has fallen from his lap. 

The boy taps him on the shoulder, “Sir, the movie is over.”

Wisdom’s Companion

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An elderly man steadily works in his backyard, raking up some of autumn’s harvest of red maple leaves.  The quiet, afternoon air is punctuated by angry and upset mumbling coming from the neighbor’s yard.

Walking over to the fence, the former teacher listens while a much younger man unsuccessfully tries to start up his lawn mower.  The neighbor, in his late twenties, has been facing extra pressure and longer hours at the small business he operates.

Pausing and then sending some words of encouragement over the fence, the quiet man offers some advice, “Does the mower need a new spark plug?”

A quick reply comes back, “I never thought of that.”

The conversation continues back and forth for a few minutes.  The young man confesses his frustration at work has brought a heavy burden on him as well as his family.  He is married with a young daughter.

The wise neighbor adds some gems of wisdom before they both go back to their separate chores, “Hang in there.  God’s using these difficult days to prepare you for a more successful tomorrow.  He’s equipping you with tools which will help you to bear fruit.”

The young man replies back, “Thanks.  I appreciate your advice as well as your testament from the Lord.”

With the rake in his hand, the elderly man prepares to step away from the fence, but he returns and offers a prayer for the young man, “God, grant Tim the serenity to accept the things he cannot change, the courage to change the things he can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Both men say their final words, and return to their respective yard work. 

As the retired teacher continues to rake more of the stubborn leaves into a series of small piles, he hears the lawn mower start up with a roar.  Obviously, the young man has changed the mower’s spark plug, and it is now running as it should.

At the same time, Tim feels the spark of God’s Word bringing him patience and encouragement for today as well as for tomorrow.

From 2 Peter 1:5-7:  “For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.”

Monday Memories: Dang Jack Rabbit

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Bill runs into his neighbor Fred at the local feed store.  In conversation, Bill tells Fred, “I noticed that there back tire on yer truck is a mite bit low on tread.”

Fred replies back, “Ah, dat there tire has quite a few miles left da go.”

The men depart and finish up their business in town before heading back home.  As Bill drives down the road, he comes upon Fred’s truck, rolled over on its side, off of the road.

Bills stops and surveys the situation.  Fred appears okay, much of his cattle feed is scattered on the ground, and the suspected tire has blown nearly clean off of the rim.

Bill calmly asks Fred what has happened.  With eyes growing bigger by the second, Fred excitedly tells him, “A vig jack rabbit nearly ran me self off this here road.  Look vat he did to ma perfectly good tire.”

Sneak Peek

Here is a sneak peek of a short story which has been sitting in my “to later be finished” folder.  This preview presents the beginning of the story in a very unfinished format.  There is more editing and work to be done.  Right now, the title is “On the Run.”

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Dateline:  St. Louis (30 years ago)

The First National Bank was robbed at gunpoint this morning.  The amount of cash taken appears to exceed one million dollars.  Police confirmed that the outlaw couple of Liz and Winston pulled off the heist.

Thirty years later . . .

On a bright, sunny May morning, Carl steps into the kitchen to kiss his bride of 30 years.  Emma is preparing his favorite breakfast with an extra helping of love.  The kitchen is filled with the delicious smells of crispy bacon, hot coffee, and perfectly browned waffles.

As Carl enjoys a perfect breakfast with Emma, their thoughts center on the plans for the day.  The couple, living near Noxon, appreciates the isolated beauty of northwestern Montana.  With a population just over 200, the small town atmosphere suits Carl and Emma just fine.  Noxon sits along Montana Highway 200 with the Clark Fork River flowing about a quarter mile from their cozy cabin.

Today is Wednesday, which means a trip to town for Carl and Emma. They complete their weekly shopping one day each week, and Wednesday offers them a chance to leave their pristine, yet isolated home.  Since Carl and Emma arrived in the area nearly 30 years ago, they live almost like hermits in the trees along the Clark Fork.  Very few of the local folks pay much attention to the quiet, retired couple.

As Carl and Emma prepare for their weekly shopping in Noxon, a newcomer arrives in town.  Pete Martin, formerly Chief Detective Martin of the St. Louis Police Department, has traveled to the northwestern corner of Montana for a long-awaited fishing trip.  Since losing his wife to a long-term illness a few years ago, his friends have been urging the retired detective to take such a journey.

Now that you have read the beginning of the story, I am sure your mind is filling with what may happen next.  There is much work to go on this story, and dialogue needs to be added between the three main characters.   I don’t have an exact completion date in mind, but sometime this fall should be a tentative deadline.

What’s for Breakfast?

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Growing up with a band of brothers, there was a common refrain at my childhood home, “What’s for breakfast?”

However, in order to answer this question, one must return to dinner the night before.

My Mom, in her desire to provide our growing, young bodies with nutrition, decided to try a new vegetable for dinner.  Do diced beets from a can catch your fancy?

Being used to green beans, peas, and corn, my brothers and I looked at the beets with their strange color and unappetizing smell, and we knew these little morsels would taste just awful. 

All of us went on strike at dinnertime . . . refusing to eat any of the beets.

Our Dad wasn’t a happy camper with our decision.  In fact, he became quite animated that we should all try a sample at dinner.  Yet, we refused to budge.

Finally, our enlightened Dad drew a line in the sand (or on the table), “If you don’t try these beets tonight, you can have them for breakfast in the morning.”

Morning arrived, and instead of our usual Cream of Wheat or Quaker Oatmeal, our breakfast menu consisted of those horrible red beet squares.  My brothers and I held fast—NO BEETS!

My Mom was paying close attention to her sons.  Never again did she include beets with a meal.

 

To this day, I still won’t eat beets, no matter how they are prepared.  I think my brothers probably feel the same way.  Do you have a least favorite vegetable?

Monday Memories: Grandpa’s Doughnuts

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Grandpa snuck away from Grandma one morning.  She was busy with her quilting, and he felt an urge to satisfy his sweet tooth.

Just down the street, a little doughnut shop waited with the hottest coffee and the most treasured, sweet creations ever made.  Without Grandma nearby to fuss at him, he could enjoy coffee, doughnuts, and some conversation with whomever dropped by the shop.

He orders the usual:  coffee with his two favorite doughnuts.  Boston-cream and maple-covered long john, each looks mouth-watering and delicious.

Behind him, the shop’s door opens, and two little children bust in with giggles and way too much energy.

“Grandpa, Grandpa!”  His grandchildren, Ben and Lydia, just happen to discover where Grandpa is hiding out.

A moment later, Grandpa is enjoying coffee, spending time with two very special children, and sharing his doughnuts.

There will be another time for enjoying doughnuts, but loving Lydia and Ben . . . Precious!

This short story was originally published in May, 2019.  Two of my youngest grandchildren are really Ben and Lydia (now 3 and 2 years old, respectively).  I look forward to spoiling them with a sweet treat.

Right Field

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The right fielder just happens to be the newest boy in the neighborhood.  His family makes their new home down on Lexington Drive, not far from a park with a baseball diamond.

A group of boys organize pick-up baseball games every morning during the summer at the park’s diamond.  The right fielder shows up, eager to play, but he is the final player picked for one of the teams. 

Few of the other boys put much faith in the smallish right fielder’s short stature.  His glove is well-worn as the seasoned leather molds around his small hand, and his tattered jeans feature a gash at the knee which provides for some extra ventilation.  He wears a faded cap with the Brooklyn Dodgers “B” logo still showing.

On most pick-up baseball teams, whoever plays right field is usually one of its weaker players with not much of a glove, little speed, and a dreadfully weak throwing arm.  Willing to play right field serves as a consolation prize for being picked last.

The right fielder humbly accepts his position.  He is hungry to play ball, and he just wants to fit in with the other boys.

He enjoys a decent game at the plate with a couple of solid hits.  His teammates begin to take notice of his skills.  The right fielder has yet to see a ball hit his way.

The score remains tied with two outs now in the bottom of the final inning.  A runner stands in position to score from second base as he waits for a much needed hit to bring home the winning run.

With the crack of the bat, the runner is on a dead sprint to third base on his way to home plate.  The ball has been hit like a shot into right field.  The right fielder makes a quick jump on the sharp hit, fields the ball cleanly, and sets up his feet for a throw to the catcher.

The runner is rounding third base, and the field is buzzing with excitement.  The catcher positions himself just in front of home plate as he prepares to receive the right fielder’s throw.

With a hop and a step, the right fielder uncorks a frozen rope of a throw.  It carries low toward the waiting catcher.  The runner looks to be a dead duck.  The throw arrives at home plate well ahead of the runner.

The catcher flinches as the ball skips off of the turf in front of the plate.  With a perfect bounce up, the ball arrives well ahead of the runner.  Sadly, the catcher misjudges the throw, and it bounds over his glove into his body. 

Runner safe!  Game over!

With the game over, the rest of the boys discover they have a pretty darn good right fielder.  They’ve never seen a throw quite like his. 

Flying Coach

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Elizabeth is flying in coach seating on her way to Minnesota.  She occupies the window seat, and a quiet gentleman has been sleeping in the aisle seat.

The flight attendant offers her refreshment and a snack.  She selects a diet Coke and a bag of peanuts.  The attendant graciously leaves her the entire can.

As the plane nears its destination, Elizabeth begins to clean up her tray table.  There is a little bit of Coke left in the can, and she pushes her empty peanut bag inside of it.

WARNING!

KIDS DON’T TRY THIS WITHOUT ADULT SUPERVISION!

Inside of the can, a surprise chemical reaction is taking place as the salt in the peanut bag mixes with the Coke.

Without warning, Elizabeth experiences Mount Vesuvius at 30,000 feet.  Her little napkin is all she has to snuff out the volcano before disaster covers her lap. 

What will she do?

Glancing to her right, she spies a blanket covering the sleeping gentleman.