Monday Memories: Summer Hammock

pair of red and white low top sneakers

Photo by Mateusz Dach on

Under the shade of a massive oak tree, Fred relaxes in his backyard hammock while enjoying a perfect summer afternoon.

A slight, friendly breeze helps to keep the bugs away, and Fred always thinks better when he spends time in his comfortable hammock.  He looks up into the canopy of branches in the tree above, and his eyes begin following an intensely busy squirrel which is scurrying back and forth . . . back and forth.

Fred’s thoughts begin to wander as he imagines his own creation of the “perfect” treadmill.  While his model will have the usual cup holder, he will add a necessary tray for his pepperoni pizza.

Thinking . . . How can a person calculate how much wood a woodchuck could chuck, if he could really chuck wood?

Worried about an upcoming family reunion, he recalls telling his close friend, Wally, “How will I remember all of their names?”

Wally confidently replies, “Easy, just call everyone ‘cousin.’”

Remembering his granddaughter’s wedding reception last summer, he asks his wife, Doris, to dance.  He tells her, “They’re playing our favorite song.”

It takes the couple a little longer to arrive on the dance floor, and the song is nearly half over.  Fred calls out to the DJ, “Play it again Sam!”

Several minutes go by.  The “always in a hurry” squirrel pauses and thinks to himself, “What is that noise?”

Looking down, he spies Fred blissfully sleeping and dreaming, and his loud snoring serenades the entire backyard with . . . well, almost charming tunes.

Originally published March, 2020.

Monday Memories: 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.

Originally published May, 2020.

Lots of God, a Little Bit of Fishing

Photo by Lum3n on

On a sunny, early morning, the old man decided to go fishing.  He drove out to his favorite fishing hole along the river.  Two teenage boys were also fishing near the same area. 

After a spell, the boys migrated over to the old man’s spot.  The brothers shared their names, Jaylen and Caden.  They were fine looking boys, and pretty darn good fishermen.

In about an hour, each had caught 2-3 fish, while the old man was shut out.  Perhaps he needed to take a break and think of a different plan.

The brothers were about ready to leave, but they hung around for a bit.  Soon the conversation turned to their personal relationships with Jesus Christ.  Each was a Christian, and had accepted Jesus as their Savior.

The old man had never considered experiencing a relationship with God.  There was a Bible somewhere at home, or at least he thought so.  The last time he attended church was for a dear friend’s funeral a couple of years ago. 

As the boys continued to share their faith with the old man, time seemed to stand still.  Without knowing it, Caden and Jaylen were exchanging their efforts to fish for trout for an opportunity to fish for the Lord.  Their little bit of fishing was replaced with blessed evangelism, and now they were casting their net—filled with lots of God.

After about 30 minutes, the brothers checked the time and finished up their conversation with the old man.  They needed to get the day’s catch home for their mother to prepare for supper.

The old man thanked them for the conversation, and gave them a wave good-bye.  He looked at his own fishing scorecard, and he was still winless in the fishing department. 

But, he felt like a winner in the faith department.  He picked up his fishing gear and headed up from the river.  As he began to drive away in his battered pick-up truck, he made a vow to find that phantom Bible at home. 

Jaylen and Caden invited the old man to visit their church for Sunday’s worship service.  Because of their encouragement, he told them he would attend.  The brothers also promised to share some of their fishing tips with him.

Photo by Vidal Balielo Jr. on

From Matthew 4:18-19:  “As He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishers.  And He said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.'”

Monday Memories: Knock at the Door

black home area rug

Photo by Kelly Lacy on

Here’s a true story from my past memories.  I have never forgotten this one after all of these years.  Hmm . . .  who is knocking at the front door?

The boys had just returned home from a busy day at their elementary school.  Their walk home never took too long since they lived right across the street from Central Heights Elementary School.

Being a snowy, winter day, everyone wore their black, buckled snow boots (or overshoes).  The boys’ mother always carefully labeled the inside of their boots with each boy’s name on a piece of white tape.

Nearly everyone at school wore very similar boots. The boots slipped easily over their shoes in keeping them clean and dry.

A soft knock could be heard at the front door.  The boys’ mother looked out and could see a little girl waiting impatiently outside.  She knocked again.

The mother opened the door, and was immediately greeted with a firm and loud exclamation, “Richard, has my boots!

The woman looked down at the girl’s black boots, and they were very similar to what the boys wore . . . black in color with buckles.  Not many girls wore black overshoes, and she was wearing an older winter coat, probably a hand-me-down.

The mother introduced herself, and asked the girl’s name.  Robin lived a couple of blocks away

She politely asked Robin, “How do you know Richard has your boots?”

Robin replied with her firm, confident voice, “Because his name was written on the label inside of these boots.  I figured he must have put on the wrong boots after school.”  She had taken off the boots and was holding them in her hands.

The mother called for her son, and Richard came to the door.  The girl explained the situation to him, and he sheepishly went back inside to check the boots he had worn home.  Sure enough, the worn and faded label inside of each boot read, “Robin A.”

Richard brought Robin’s boots to the door, and he made the exchange with her.  Robin pulled the boots over her shoes so she could continue on her walk home.

This winter day was probably one neither Robin nor Richard would forget.  While their lives pretty much went their separate ways, they graduated from high school in the same year.

Even today, Richard has sometimes wondered if Robin would remember the story of the mixed-up snow boots.

vintage 1960's rubber galoches / black rubber boots / overshoes ...

Here’s a nearly identical pair of black, buckled overshoes similar to the ones worn during my elementary school days.  (Found on Pinterest)

Originally published March, 2020.

Monday Memories: 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

Photo by Gerd Altmann on

Originally published May, 2020.

Wow Grandpa!

Grandpa and his six-year old grandson were having a lively discussion about television technology, and Grandpa was quite amazed with the young lad’s knowledge.

His grandson continued to rattle off how modern television works with services such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and a few others.  Grandpa was still plugged into his cable contract, and he was content to stay there.  He knew next to nothing about these television streaming services.

As their time was wrapping up, Grandpa remembered something he had stored in the basement.  Together, the two of them went down into the drafty and dark subterranean warehouse, which was filled with so many of Grandpa’s treasures.  Grandpa enjoyed showing many of them to his grandson.

In the far corner was an old television set.  Its time was long gone, but it still owned some real estate in the basement. 

Grandpa asked his grandson a question, “Have you ever seen television rabbit ears?”

His grandson replied, “No, how did they work?”  Grandpa had ignited his curiosity again.

Reaching into a box behind the ancient TV, Grandpa pulled out the simple looking rabbit ears.

His smiling grandson was ready to see what would happen next.  He said, “Wow Grandpa!  How did you wear those rabbit ears?”

Monday Memories: On a Street Corner

multi colored high rise buildings

Photo by Harrison Haines on

It is mid-morning on a nearly empty street corner in a remote, medium-sized town when Milt runs into one of his best friends, Fred.  Little do these two men know, but their improbable rendezvous will bring both of them inner strength and hope.

Both men are in their eighties, but each is blessed with good health.  Being retired, they don’t always have a chance to catch up on news.

Milt is a widower, who lost his beloved Sharon several years back.  Fred’s lovely wife, Judy, struggles with many chronic health concerns.

The two friends continue to visit on the deserted street corner.  Milt tells Fred, “I am really concerned about this virus news.”  As he speaks, both men realize they need to stand a bit farther apart due to reminders in the news about social distancing.

Milt replies back, “Me, too.  I guess we have lots of company.”  Both men have been overly cautious about being safe with their exposure to the disease.

Fred shares news from home about his bride of 61 years.  He continues talking to Milt, “I am really worried about Sharon.  Her health is very fragile, and I hope she can weather the storm ahead with this virus out there.”

Milt looks across at his friend, and he sees the deep worries of concern and anxiety in Fred’s face.  Milt asks, “May I pray for you?”  Milt nods in agreement.

In closing the prayer, Milt shares a special prayer with his long-time friend:  “God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Before the men depart and continue with their day’s journey, Fred shares a verse from one of his favorite Psalms (27:1):  “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”

The Serenity Prayer was originally written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.  The most common version of the prayer was published in 1951, but Niebuhr used variations of the prayer in sermons as early as 1934.  In the story, Milt adapted the prayer to fit the situation.

Originally published March, 2020.

Not Ready Yet!

When he turned 60 years of age, Pete received his Golden Buckeye card in the mail.  Being officially granted “senior” status wasn’t all that he expected.

He really hadn’t put his card to use.  Quite frankly, he had forgotten about the card.  It was still hiding in his wallet, not much worse off than when it arrived in the mail.

One day, Pete wondered, “I don’t look and feel too bad.”  After all, he still walked outdoors and bicycled indoors.  He was in fairly good shape, so he thought.

Then his 80th birthday showed up, quite unannounced and definitely without any fanfare.

He guessed that everyone must be waiting to give him a rocking chair in a few years when his horsepower finally runs out.

The next morning, Pete looked into the mirror and told himself, “I’m not ready yet!”

Could this be Pete in a few years? (Courtesy of Pinterest)

Monday Memories: Right Field

Photo by Steshka Willems on

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. 

Originally published August, 2020.

Race to Nowhere

Photo by Edgar Santos T. on

The annual county fair wraps up most of its activities on Saturday, and the PRCA rodeo highlights the day’s events.

Professional cowboys travel to this small town every August in search of top prize money as they show off their skills.  However, the real adventure and fun arrives at the end of the rodeo competition. 

Every year the Wild Horse Ride wraps up the afternoon.  Gathering from the area’s farms and ranches come “wannabe” cowboys.

The goal for each rider is to mount a horse and ride around the race track.  It’s winner-takes-all at the finish line.

The riders are divided up into teams, and each team consists of two other individuals.  The mugger controls the untamed horse’s head so it cannot rear back.  The shanker holds the lead rope so the wild horse doesn’t run away.  The rider is left to saddle the anxious horse and race it.

As the announcer starts up the competition, a mad scramble commences as each team frantically works together.  One rider, LeRoy, is the first to saddle and mount his overly aggressive horse.  He turns his horse around and heads to the race track, well ahead of the other riders.

However, there remains one big problem.  LeRoy’s mount is galloping in the opposite direction around the track, and he will never be able to turn the horse around.  The crowd roars with laughter at LeRoy’s dilemma. 

To this day, many rodeo goers still remember “Wrong Way” LeRoy!