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.

Sweet Caper Solved

When we last checked in with Sgt. Joe Friday, his sharp detective skills were at work in setting up an undercover operation to solve the disappearance of Gladys Jefferson’s tasty strawberry-rhubarb pie.  If you missed the first part of the story, here is a link back to “Sweet Caper.”

The opening episode of the story ended with:  

Early the next morning, the seasoned detective hides across the street from the Jefferson’s house.  The large lilac bushes provide a perfect lookout to view the kitchen window on the side of the house.

Right on cue, Mrs. Jefferson sets her freshly baked strawberry-rhubarb pie on the kitchen window sill to cool.  Friday waits patiently to see if his stake-out will lead him to discover some answers.

Photo courtesy of recipeland.com.

Waiting from his hidden observation post, Joe Friday can almost smell the cooling pie across the street.  Having skipped breakfast, he can’t help but feel a sweet craving for a piece of Mrs. Jefferson’s pie.  He quickly shrugs off his hunger, and his well-seasoned eyes look out and wait.

A young boy, about the age of seven, walks down the sidewalk.  He is pulling a small wagon with a tattered cardboard box sitting inside.  The faded letters “Billy’s Bake Shop” can still be plainly seen. 

The boy parks his wagon off to the side by the neighbor’s house, and he quickly and quietly slips up to the Jefferson’s kitchen window.  In a flash, he gathers the pie and carefully walks back to his wagon.  He hastily places the pie inside the cardboard box.

“Hmm, let’s see where this wagon travels to now,” ponders the sergeant.  As the boy begins walking his wagon back down the sidewalk away from the Jefferson’s house, Friday carefully begins to follow at a safe distance.

It appears the boy is heading toward the small downtown area.  He walks at a steady, unhurried pace as he pulls the wagon loaded with the stolen pie.  It looks like Billy’s Bake Shop is open for business.

The young pie thief stops at an alley, and he scans the area for anyone watching him.  Feeling alone and safe, he turns right and heads down the alley.  Along the alley are back entrances to a collection of small offices and retail shops.

Friday continues to keep the boy in his sight, being careful to disappear just as the young entrepreneur checks the scene for any spies.  He watches from the corner of the alley, hidden by a trash dumpster.

The boy continues walking and pulling his portable bake shop down the alley before stopping at an office door.  He knocks on the door and waits.  Before Friday can even think back to former capers he has solved over the years, the backdoor of the office opens.  The boy returns to his wagon and removes the pie from the dilapidated cardboard box.

“Wow!  I never saw this coming,” thinks the detective.  The boy is handing off the pie to Mr. Jefferson.

As soon as the transaction is finished, Billy’s Bake Shop heads on his way, and Mr. Jefferson slips back into his office.  The ever-curious detective wants to gather just a bit more information before he jumps Mr. Jefferson.  His mind is working quickly, and he wonders what the real motive is behind the mystery of the strawberry-rhubarb pie’s disappearance.

Friday walks quickly from the alley around to the front of Mr. Jefferson’s office.  He crosses the street to have a perfect vantage point of everything.

In a few minutes, a quartet of men, who seem quite friendly with each other, enter the office door.  The sergeant checks his watch . . . the time is mid-morning, exactly when many people enjoy a coffee break.

Realizing it’s time to crash the gathering, the ever-alert detective crosses the street and heads directly to the office door.  Upon entering, he finds the foursome of men sitting with Mr. Jefferson for coffee and fresh-baked strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Surprised by Friday’s appearance, the men stop eating and talking.  They know their scheme has unraveled, for sure!

The eager and hungry sergeant listens as the quintet of pie lovers explain their side of the story.  The bakery down the street has been closed for months, and the men have grown impatient with enjoying a sweet treat with their morning coffee break.  What can be better than tasting one of Gladys Jefferson’s blue-ribbon pies?

Mr. Jefferson pipes up, “How about sitting down with us for some coffee and pie?”

 

Sweet Caper

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Gladys Jefferson lives in a small Americana town, with its single traffic light and the usual safe and comfy feel.  While her husband serves as the town’s unofficial mayor, she has made a name for herself with her renowned and delicious strawberry-rhubarb pie.

On this particular morning, Gladys (rather Mrs. Jefferson) stands on the steps of the unofficial town hall at the Wooden Nickel Café.  She appears very distraught as she tells her husband and others about someone or something. 

Sgt. Joe Friday (yes, you have heard of him before), has been visiting his family over the past few days.  He just happens to be walking down the sidewalk when he runs into the big scene filled with people standing around Mrs. Jefferson.  With his curiosity and stellar detective skills always are alert, he decides to listen in.

“Early this morning, someone or something stole my freshly baked strawberry-rhubarb pie right off of my kitchen window ledge,” Mrs. Jefferson cries out.

Growing more frustrated with each word, she continues on, “I always leave a pie near the window so that it will cool more quickly.”

In a town with a little or no crime, the disappearance of one of Mrs. Jefferson’s famous pies is big news! 

Sgt. Friday waits for the crowd to disperse, and he then approaches Mrs. Jefferson to ask her some questions. 

Unnoticed, Mr. Jefferson skedaddles away quietly and heads back to his office.  He seems a bit perturbed with his wife’s emotional outburst on the main street of their quiet town.

After introducing himself, Friday begins to ask questions as he records some notes on his always-ready notepad.  “Ma’am, please give me the facts about what happened.  Perhaps I can help,” the detective states in his usual calm, professional manner. 

As composed as possible, Mrs. Jefferson restates the facts of the theft to Sgt. Friday.  When she becomes a little emotional, he hands her his handkerchief and reminds her, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Eventually, the detective and Mrs. Jefferson are finished with the interview. 

She reminds Friday, “I only left the pie there for five minutes.  My goodness, what can happen in five minutes?”

With Mrs. Jefferson’s permission, the knowledgeable detective works out an undercover operation which just might catch the thief in the act again.

Sgt. Friday has a hunch about this caper, and he thinks there must be someone, with insider information, aiding and abetting in this crime.  He plans to relax and enjoy a good night’s sleep before laying his trap.

Early the next morning, the seasoned detective hides across the street from the Jefferson’s house.  The large lilac bushes provide a perfect lookout to view the kitchen window on the side of the house.

Right on cue, Mrs. Jefferson sets her freshly baked strawberry-rhubarb pie on the kitchen window sill to cool.  Friday waits patiently to see if his stake-out will lead him to discover some answers.

How are you doing in solving this case?  Do you have a list of suspects?  Stay tuned for the conclusion of this story as Sgt. Joe Friday attempts to solve this “Sweet Caper.”

Monday Memories: Final Shot

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The gymnasium thunders with cheers as the Bears steal a pass and score to lead by a single point.

The game clock counts down the final seconds.  Whistle blows!

One of the Bears’ starters falls with an injury.  A little-used sub enters the contest, appearing anxious to enter the big game.

To seal victory, the Bears only need to pass the ball inbounds.  Beneath the opponent’s basket, stands a wide-open player—the sub!

He cleanly catches the pass, faces the basket, and shoots. 

Score!

Oh my!

Game over!

The eager sub just scored the winning basket for the other team.

While this story is pure fiction, I have witnessed a couple players scoring at the wrong basket during my many years of coaching basketball and serving as an athletic director back in Montana.  Even one of my brothers did it during a junior high game.  Thankfully, none of these wrong basket scores decided a game.

Drivin’ the Fairway

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Pete lines up his tee shot on the first hole.  Will his golf game be up to par?

He takes his stance, and his graceful and controlled swing looks perfect.  Well it should; after all, it was just his warm-up swing.

Swinging for real, Pete’s tee shot flies away and looks to be splitting the fairway right down the middle.  Suddenly, the golf ball changes direction as its speed shatters the sound barrier . . .  hooking and hooking, left and more left!

Through the fairway.

Into the backyard of a home, sitting along the fairway’s left rough.

This tee shot looks hungry to score.

Through the kitchen window.

Right into Fred’s morning “Cup of Joe.”

Filled with a swagger and some pumped up jazz, Pete wanders up to the kitchen window and peers inside. 

He confidently asks Fred, “Do you mind if I play through?”

Puzzled, Fred looks down at the golf ball swimming in his cup of fresh brewed coffee.  Without saying a word, he seems to be singing the blues!

 

 

 

 

Faith Sees Us Through

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Throughout much of my teaching career in Montana, I personally witnessed the labors and hard work of farmers and ranchers on the eastern plains.  Their faithful perseverance will always be a testament of their faith in a God who will see us through.

The labors of a family wait for another harvest.  Fields of spring wheat are maturing rapidly under the blistering hot, August sun.  The heads of grain are filling out and turning harvest gold.

A year’s worth of income rests in these fields.  Three generations view God’s bounty with praise and thanksgiving.

An aging grandfather has witnessed the good times and bad.  While he has slowed down a bit, he still looks forward to operating the combine at harvest time.  He becomes as excited as a young boy while watching the header cut the ripened grain.

His son, now a mature and tested father, has followed in his footsteps.  He returned to the farm ten years ago when his father suffered a heart attack.  He manages the day-to-day operations as skillfully as his father ever did.

A teenage boy, both grandson and son, has observed his father’s long hours and hard work.  He values his grandfather’s wisdom and experience.  He plans to attend the state’s land grant university during the upcoming fall semester, but first he needs to help out with harvest.

One evening, with harvest set to begin soon, these three generations of men view a field closest to their homes.  The grain is heavy, filled with high protein content, and will fetch an honest price at market.

Dark clouds loom to the northwest as a storm appears heading away from their farm.  The three men turn in for the night, feeling confident and safe.

The next morning, the sun comes up right on schedule, but this season’s harvest has been cruelly cancelled.

Overnight the storm changed its route.  Heavy rain, strong winds, and large hail shredded every bit of grain far and wide.  Not even a cow would be able to find any nourishment.

The grandson has never seen such devastation, and he is emotionally numb and filled with shock.

His father knows the coming year will be filled with hardship and uncertainty.  With God’s guidance, somehow he will carefully balance the books. 

The grandfather prays to God, asking the Lord to provide for the family as He always has—in the best of times, and now the darkest.  He opens his Bible and reads the following verse from Isaiah 40:10: 

“Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

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Changing Times

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Good morning neighbor!  I’ve been struggling with this rapidly changing world of ours.  So, I hope you are doing better than me.

I have been deeply pondering the way words keep changing in meaning.  If it is hard for me to understand, just imagine how Merriam and Webster are doing.

ZOOM used to refer to a camera lens moving in for a close-up.  Now . . . it refers to some type of online meeting.  Since I don’t have one of them fancy phones, I guess no will invite me to attend.

HOARDERS used to refer to people who collected everything under the sun as they filled up their basements, garages, and sheds with memories and junk.  Now . . . it refers to anyone who creates a home warehouse for toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and disinfectants.  Now I know why Bobby always has his garage door closed.

CASH used to refer to a time when we paid for things with currency, you know, the green stuff.  Now . . . who can even remember the image on a $10 bill or a $20 bill?

FACE MASK used to refer to a part of an American football player’s helmet.  Now . . . it refers to a way to protect yourself and show love to your neighbor at the same time.  Hmm, are you on the same page with me?  How do I look?

WHOPPER used to refer to one of the biggest and grandest of the burger world (and you could have it your way).  Now . . . it refers to a “meatless” burger.  Can you hear Clara Peller (from a competitor’s old TV commercial) shouting, “Where’s the beef?”

SOCIAL DISTANCING used to refer to the proper distance between a boy and a girl at a middle school dance.  Now . . . it refers to a way to stay healthy and safe.  I guess I’m all in with this new logic.  How about you?

CURBSIDE PICKUP used to refer to a trash truck picking up some oversized items in the neighborhood.  Now . . . it refers to a new way to buy groceries, without ever entering the store.  Hmm, I hope the store’s gopher didn’t squeeze the Charmin (God Bless Mr. Whipple).

Now before I go, will you help me understand one more new word, VIRTUAL?  We never witnessed this word much in the 20th Century, but now it is mentioned with everything . . . online classrooms, work from home, political campaigns, and even vacations. 

These changing times are almost too much for a man of my age to fully understand.  Well, I guess I can always rely on my grandchildren for some help.  They don’t think I’m “over the hill” quite yet.

In all seriousness, I encourage all of us to be safe and stay as healthy as possible.  Remember to wash your hands, wear a mask, and practice social distancing. 

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Monday Memories: Honey Tree

Today’s memory changes up a bit.  Instead of a previously published poem, here is a short story from May, 2019.  It is an example of micro fiction (with 115 words).  Enjoy!

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A famished black bear rummages through the thick, overgrown forest.  His endless appetite resembles a midnight thief raiding the fridge for a sweet tasting snack.

His ravenous mood brings him to an ancient tree trunk, containing a large opening.  The tree might as well display a flashing sign:  HONEY!

The bear’s sweet tooth needs to be satisfied, but before he can explore further . . . a warning signal vibrates through the inside of the tree.

The colony of honeybees has been notified that an intruder has arrived at their honey factory:  HONEY ALERT! 

A swarm of bees flies into attack position.  The lead striker says, “We have the target in sight.” 

GO!    GO!    GO!

 

Backyard Classic

arena athletes audience ball

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Sportscaster Joe Buck has been sidelined with the postponement of the Major League Baseball season.  The legendary play-by-play announcer has been looking for opportunities to stay in the game.  Let’s join Joe Buck, live on the air.

Good afternoon baseball fans!  Coming from the home of Billy and Tony Bennett is today’s Backyard Home Run Derby.

This amazing duo will be challenging each other as pitcher and batter with a whiffle ball and bat.  While most of the sporting world has been silent with their contests, these two brothers have definitely discovered their niche.

Billy has been assigned as the pitcher in today’s contest.  His assignment will be to prevent any and all home runs.  His brother, Tony . . . yes, he’s named after the famous crooner . . . will be stepping into the batter’s box to crush one of Billy’s fastballs out of the park.

Let’s set the scene.  The Bennett’s backyard is a formidable challenge for both pitcher and batter.  Home plate is located in the corner of the yard up next to the house.  The pitcher’s mound is tucked behind Mom’s favorite rose bushes.  The outfield fence is lined with a forest of Lombardy poplar trees . . . the wall looks quite reminiscent of Fenway Park’s “Green Monster.”

Billy stands ready on the mound to face Tony.  Freddie, their neighbor friend, has volunteered to be both the catcher and the umpire.

Tony steps into the batter’s box.  He looks all set.

From behind the roses, Billy winds up with his first pitch.  “Strike One!”

Tony watches the fleeting fastball cross the plate without even taking a swing.  I guess he’s sorting out the speed of Tony’s stuff.

Billy receives his sign from Freddie.  The pitch is on its way.

Swing and a miss.  “Strike Two!”

Tony steps out of the batter’s box.  What’s this?

Defiantly, he points his bat toward the massive outfield wall.  Yes folks, Tony is calling his shot just like the Babe did at Wrigley Field in the 1932 World Series between the powerful Yankees and the upset-minded Cubs.

Tony steps back into the batter’s box, digging both feet into the plush, green grass.

Billy takes the sign from Freddie.  It looks like another fastball will be on its way.

Here’s comes the pitch.

[Crack of the bat crushing the ball]

Deep to center field.  Is it enough?  Gone!!

Easily clearing the majestic center field wall . . . a tape measure shot into the next yard . . . splashing into the Snyder’s backyard swimming pool.  Mickey Mantle would be proud!

There you have it baseball fans.  Tony is one up in today’s Backyard Home Run Derby.

We will pause for a commercial break while the game ball is retrieved from its watery splashdown.  We’ll be right back with more of this backyard classic.

 

Discovering Success

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This is a true story about one of my former students.  I was teaching at a high school in the Bitterroot Valley in western Montana.

A disgruntled John entered my classroom on the first day of school.  The senior was enrolled in an Accounting class with a room full of other seniors as well as a sprinkling of juniors.

As I was checking in later with each student, John bluntly told me, “I didn’t sign up for this class.”

I told John, “I am sorry to hear about this, but this class is a great one to take.  I am looking forward to having you as a student.”

John quickly replied back, “The counselor dumped me in here because I need the credit to graduate.”

John’s stubbornness left him with a poor attitude.  His first quarter grade was well below passing as he completed very little of the work.  He continued to balk as each new chapter showed up on the class syllabus.

I visited with John’s mother, and she was quite concerned.  She had her hands full with John’s noncompliant attitude as well.

An Accounting course works quite a bit like a math class.  As each week progresses, students continue to add more building blocks of skill and knowledge related to the previous chapter.  John was falling further and further behind.

During the second grading period, John began to show a tiny bit more interest in his performance.  After all, he needed to earn a passing grade by the end of the first semester in order to receive credit.

I was beginning to see John’s potential which had been buried under the “chip on his shoulder” about school in general.  Through it all, I could see that John was a sharp young man.  Therefore, we just needed to find more ways to unlock his potential.

As the semester ended, John squeaked by with a passing grade . . . just barely!

Quote from British writer, C. S. Lewis:  “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down the jungles, but to irrigate the deserts.”

I remained patient with John as the second semester began.  He seemed more eager to discover himself when he returned to school after Christmas break.  I continued to encourage him each day, and made an effort to touch base with him frequently.  As the next few weeks continued, we both began to build an improved relationship based upon trust and respect.

As the third grading period progressed, John began to see the light.  He was excited about class in ways I had never seen before.  There was a genuine enthusiasm in his work as well as his much improved attitude.  His failing marks were being replaced with A’s and B’s.

By the end of the third quarter, John was a solid “B” student in Accounting.  He pulled me aside and told me one day, “I am really enjoying your class.  In fact, I am thinking of taking business courses at college next year.”

He continued to excel and progress through the rest of the school year.  I visited with John’s mother before graduation, and she was very proud of her son’s progress.  He had matured beyond even her expectations.

In my short teaching career (I was in my fifth year), I had never witnessed such a turnaround as experienced by John.  It was amazing and very gratifying to see a student literally catch fire and take off.  At the end of the school year, John received my “Most Improved” award.  John encouraged me with his own discovery of success.

This story captures the essence of why I found countless rewards from teaching over my 40-year career.  I lost track of John long ago, but I feel assured his life turned out quite well.

marketing school business idea

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