The Hazards of “Wish Counselling”

Although this puts me out of sync with Fiction on Friday, I wrote this story yesterday in response to the Daily Prompt, which was:
You’re a genie who’s just been emancipated from your restrictive lamp. You can give your three wishes to whomever you want. Who do you give your three wishes to, and why?

BE WISE IN YOUR WISHES

So this is the thanks I get. You tell some people the truth and they toss you in the lake.

Of all the people who could have found me today, it had to be a teenage girl. Vexations!

I’m a genie, you see; I live in this fancy corked vase — have for several centuries now. You can believe I’ve seen lot of different types over the years and granted a lot of wishes, sensible and stupid, but whenever I see a teenage girl peering in at me I know my job’s going to be tough. If you’ve ever tried to please a teenage girl, you know what I mean.

So this rather plump girl comes plodding down the path not far from where I’d been left by my last liberator. I feel the thump, thump of her size ten clodhoppers — then I hear she stop. I gather she saw this squirrel dash up a tree, so she wanders into the bushes with her eyes on the squirrel and steps on my vase. People do that from time to time, but often go on their way, not bothering to look inside.

Anyway, this girl picks up my bottle, lifts the cork and peers in at me. “Hey!” she shouts. “Are you a real genie? Wow, is this my lucky day or what? Outta there, you!”

So I waft out in my little cloud — my bit of fanfare, you know — and she asks if I have a name. Which of course I do. “I’m Mabella,” I inform her.

That was considerate of her, actually. Most people just start with “Gimme.”

“And you can grant me all my wishes, Mabella?”

“Ha! In your dreams. Listen, let’s go over the ground rules right off. I can only grant you three wishes. Once those are gone, so am I.”

“That’s all? I can think of about twenty things already.”

“One, two, three, ciao. So I’d advice you to take your time. I’ve found that when people know they can have free stuff, they start babbling out whatever pops into their heads and later they wish they’d given the matter more thought.”

I could see the wheels of her mind turning. She almost seems to have some sense.

“I can believe that,” she says. “So how can I make the best use of my three wishes?”

“You’re in luck. Seeing the downside of some demand, I’ve gotten into Wish Couselling in my older years. I suggest you make a list of all the things you’d like to have, then from your list pick the three most important things — three things you can’t do for yourself. Maybe I can even help you decide. I’ve fulfilled a lot of requests and seen the results, so I can tell you what works in the long run and what doesn’t. Just don’t say the words “I WISH” until you’ve decided.”

“Okay.” She nods and pulls a scrap of paper out of her cargo pants pocket. Then she fishes around and finds a stubby pencil. (Hmm … She might wish to be cured of the habit of chewing on wood.)

She sits down on the grass and writes List of Wants:
A size four body.

“Uh… Well,” I say, “I could give you that in five seconds. But remember: you’ll need to maintain it yourself. If you want to stay a size four, you’ll have to eat like a size-four person. Otherwise you’ll be size sixteen again before you know it.”

She sighs, scratches that out and writes:
Mild case of anorexia.

“How about a lifetime membership at a local gym?” I suggest. She groans and rolls her eyes.

Then she writes:
Fame; Singing talent like Jennifer Lopez.

Ah, yes. Teenagers! I knew this wasn’t going to be a picnic. If she knew how much work is involved in maintaining a singing career and dealing with obsessed fans, she might think twice. I won’t go there.

Then she writes:
Hunky teen boyfriend.

“I can bring one of those along in a jiffy,” I told her, “but I can’t make him stay. You have to do that.”

“I do? How?”

“You have to be the kind of person he will want to spend time with.”

She sighs forlornly.

Although my former clients’ affairs are confidential, I decide to share one. “One day a sixty-year-old man found me. Right off he wished for a million dollars, a yacht and a young blond bombshell. So I delivered his goods. It took her about half an hour to assess the situation, get her hands on million and be gone. The old man was so mad he threw me down a well — and it wasn’t my fault at all. I hope he’s at least enjoying his yacht. I put it up in Alaska where there harbor wasn’t so crowded.”

“That was pretty heartless of her.”

“Would you stay with a dirty old man whose only feeling for you was lust?”

“Gross! No, I sure wouldn’t.”

“And a teenage boy might feel the same, right? Or what do you want him for?”

“Ummm. Because everybody else has one. To hang out with. To impress my friends, I guess. You know.”

“If you just want him for an ornament, if you’re not prepared to be the kind of person he could love forever, he may not want to hang around, either. Besides, you wouldn’t want your friends to admire him too much or they’d try to steal him.”

“True. But couldn’t you give me someone who’d never look at any of my friends?”

“Do you want a real human being or a cardboard cutout? I can’t manufacture flawless people; I only work with what’s here already.”

“This is getting so complicated,” she wailed. Then she wrote on her list:
One billion dollars.

I chuckle over that one. “These days it’s a billion. Inflation, I guess.”

I grin at her. “Back in 1934 I was liberated by a farmer hard-hit by the Depression and he requested the greatest amount he could think of right then: ten thousand dollars. So I handed it over in cold hard cash. He went out and bought his wife new furniture, his family all new clothes, and himself a new car. Made a few ‘loans’ to friends down on their luck. He’d intended to pay off his mortgage, too, but his money ran out before he got to that and he lost his farm.”

“Maybe he should have asked for rain?”

“That was his second wish: six inches on his wheat crop. So I obliged, but the land was so crusted most of it ran off. Still, he had about the greenest field in the area. The hoppers found it a refreshing change from tumbleweed and fence posts.

“Anyway, back to your billion. Yes, I could do that for you, but just remember that people have kidnapped and murdered for less. Better use some of it to hire a bodyguard. You’ll have a ton of friends while the money lasts, but don’t count on them. Really, you’d be better off with $1000 and a financial planner. That way you’d learn to handle money on a small scale before hitting the big bucks.”

“Hmm… How come this always comes back to me doing stuff and learning stuff? Do I dare ask for instant popularity? Can you make my friends all love me?”

“Don’t waste a wish on that,” I tell her, “when you can do it so easily yourself. Just love all your friends and they’ll love you in return.”

She muses for a minute. “But my friends are all zeros. I don’t want to love them.”

“So why do you want a bunch of zeroes loving you?”

Suddenly she jumps up. “You know, Mabella, you sound just like my mom! She probably put you up to this.”

She grabs my bottle. “IN,” she orders. Then when I’m in she jams the cork into the hole and throws me in a nearby lake.

Now here I am, floating on the waves and getting seasick. I sure hope the next person who finds me is an angler who’ll wish for a new boat and the biggest fish in the lake. That I can do. Teenage girls are just too temperamental.

Grandma’s Birthday Party — Part III

Concluding chapter:

Still holding Joyce’s arm, Steve turned to Brian. “We’re not having Mom’s 80th Birthday ruined by a squabble between you two. Dad’s coming in a few minutes. Can you just cool it long enough for us to get his feelings on the matter.”

“They’re here,” Darryl announced.

The doorbell rang and Rick & Emily walked in, followed by Grandpa.

Rick waved. “Hi, everybody. We’ve brought Grandpa, so you’d better be on your best behavior now.”

Grandpa slowly walked into the room and Rick closed the door behind him. Then he stepped over to Uncle Steve, his father, and whispered something in his ear. Steve frowned.

Hugs and kisses were exchanged all around, but it seemed to Todd that Grandpa wasn’t his usual self. Had he caught wind of the argument, too? As Jim & Jenny hugged Grandpa, Todd caught the glimmer of a tear in the old man’s eye.

Then Grandpa looked toward Brian and Sylvie and smiled. “So, everything set for Mom’s birthday party? The Seniors Centre is spoken for, the cake’s ordered, the guests invited.”

Brian flushed. “Uh…we were just discussing that last part. Joyce was to invite the guests and she thinks…uh…she decided not to… ”

“Come, Dad.” Cassie took his arm and led him to the recliner. “Let’s all sit down and then we can discuss all these details. Let me get you some iced tea first.” She gave a sharp look at her brother-in-law in passing and he followed them into the living room.

Soon everyone was seated in the living room. Grandpa inspected his three children in turn as if picking up some bad vibes. “Now, what were you saying, Brian? Joyce decided what?”

Joyce started. “My brothers left it to me to put the announcement in the paper, but I feel strongly that we shouldn’t throw open the doors for everyone and his pup. You know there are always so many who come just because it’s a party and there’s free food. People Mom wouldn’t even know.”

“I wanted to spare her that, so I thought it best if we’d just phone the ones we want to come,” she said, leaning back into the sofa cushions. “But Brian doesn’t see it that way and he’s being so stubborn about it.”

Brian turned to his dad. “You and Mom are friends with half the people in town and goodness knows how many more out of it. We’ve already phoned all your special friends, but we’d decided an announcement in the paper would take care of letting everyone else know. That was to go in last week.” He gave Joyce a sharp look.

“So what if a few extras come,” he continued. “However… It’s almost too late now. But the thing is, Joyce went ahead and decided this all on her own.”

“It’s not such a big thing really,” Cassie said, handing Grandpa a glass of iced tea. “We’ll just phone a few more folks…”

Brian thumped the arm of his chair. “Which we wouldn’t have to do if Joyce had just done what she was supposed to in the first place! It IS a big thing! She can be so…so positive that she’s right. Nobody can tell her anything.”

Grandpa digested this for a moment to digest, then he laughed. “Say, this is just like old times. You two used to have some real rows when you were tikes. One would say ‘Yes’ and one would say ‘No!’ and you’d go at it for half an hour.”

He looked out the window as if gazing back over the years. “But you’d sure stick up for one another, too. Why, I remember the times, Brian, when you’d beg your big sister to take you to the park because you weren’t able to go there by yourself. Even if she had something else she wanted to do she’d take your hand and off you’d go together… You had complete faith in her back then; you knew she’d stand up to them if the big kids bullied you.”

Brian cleared his throat and looked at his shoes.

“Remember the time a stranger offered you a ride. He had this cute little pup in his car and he wanted you to come along home with him because he had a boy just your age. You two could play with the pup, he said. When Joyce saw you heading for that car she came running and dragged you back, screeching so much everyone on the block turned to look. That stranger laid quite a bit of rubber on the road getting out of there. Her being right paid off that day; if it wasn’t for her you might not be with us today.”

“I can dimly recall that,” said Brian softly.

“I remember.” Joyce chuckled. “You were furious when I wouldn’t let you go play with that boy and his puppy.”

“I guess you understood the situation a lot better than I did. Thank God.”

Their father nodded. “Yes, Thank God. And, Joyce, remember the time when you and Brian went swimming at the pond, then you got that cramp and went under. I don’t know how Brian managed to drag you out, being so scrawny at the time, but he saved your life.”

Joyce nodded soberly. “That’s right.”

“We thanked God many times over for that one, too.” Then Grandpa chuckled. “And when you were in grade eight you almost tore your hair out trying to pass geometry. Your brothers both patiently explained it many times until you finally got a handle on it.”

Brian grinned at her. “Pie are square.”

“And remember when we got our first computer, the year you started high school, and Brian figured the thing out lickety-split. So that’s who you called every time you crashed the thing. Now you work with one every day.”

“I still call on him when I have problems,” Joyce admitted, smiling at Brian.

“And Brian, I think Joyce gave you your love of good books, ’cause she was always reading to you once she learned how herself…though you probably don’t recall those times.”

“Yeah, some.” Brian nodded at Joyce. “I think you kept it up until I was in third grade or so. Then you helped me get my grammar straight.” He laughed. “You never dreamed I’d be an editor someday.”

“Well, enough reminiscing,” said Grandpa, setting his drink down. “We have a party to plan. And we want to make it the best one yet.”

He was quiet a moment. A tear trickled down his cheek. “Because this is going to be the last one.”

Joyce gasped. “Dad! What’s wrong?”

“We didn’t want to spoil the party, so we were planning to gather the family together afterward to tell you all together, but I just can’t hold it in anymore. Mom saw the doctor a few days ago. He says she has acute leukemia. He gives her about six more weeks in this old world.”

There was a collective gasp. Tiffany threw her arms around Todd. Brian, Joyce, and Steve embraced each other, all of them in tears. Then the cousins were all hugging one another and Grandpa, each other, their aunts and uncles.

Aunt Cassie squeezed Todd’s mother and whispered, “They say the family that plays together stays together. In this case it’s the family that weeps together.”

Sylvie nodded as they watched Brian, Steve, and Joyce hugging each other. “Thank God,” she murmured.

Wise Words for Moms on Father’s Day

“Wait Till Your Pa Comes Home”

by Edgar A Guest

“Wait till your Pa comes home!” Oh, dear.
What a dreadful threat for a boy to hear.
Yet never a boy of three of four
but has heard it a thousand times or more.
“Wait till your Pa comes home, my lad,
and see what you’ll get for being bad.”

“Wait till your Pa comes home, you scamp!
You’ve soiled the walls with your fingers damp,
you’ve tracked the floor with your muddy feet
and fought with the boy across the street;
you’ve torn your clothes and you look a sight!
But wait till your Pa comes home tonight.”

Now since I’m the Pa of that daily threat
which paints me as black as a thing of jet
I rise in protest right here to say
I won’t be used in so fierce a way;
no child of mine in the evening gloam
shall be afraid of my coming home.

I want him waiting for me at night
with eyes that glisten with real delight;
when it’s right that punished my boy should be
I don’t want the job postponed for me.
I want to come home to a round of joy
and not to frighten a little boy.

“Wait till your Pa comes home!” Oh, dear.
What a dreadful threat for a boy to hear.
Yet that is ever his Mother’s way
of saving herself from a bitter day;
and well she knows in the evening gloam
he won’t be hurt when his Pa comes home.

From Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co


One day in a store I overheard a frustrated mother say to her misbehaving boy, “Your father’s going to kill you when we get home.”

Really?

What a HORRIBLE thing to say to a child. As Mr. Guest points out in this poem, that father wouldn’t have appreciated the role of murderer one bit.

If she’d say, “Your dad’s going to punish you,” it might have been fitting. But kill him? Thank God she was lying! You may say it’s just an expression, but it is a lie.

Someday, about ten years down the line, I can hear her telling her son, “Don’t do drugs. Drugs will ruin your life. They will kill you.”

Will he believe her?

(P.S.: This isn’t fiction; got my Chrisses crossed today.)

 

Who Do You Work For?

Who Is Your Boss?

By Edgar A Guest

“I work for someone else,” he said,
“I have no chance to get ahead.
At night I leave the job behind;
at morn I face the same old grind
and everything I do by day
just brings to me the same old pay.
While I am here I cannot see
the semblance of a chance for me.”

I asked another how he viewed
the occupation he pursued.
“It’s dull and dreary toil,” said he,
“and brings but small reward to me.
My boss gets all the profits fine
that I believe are rightly mine.
My life’s monotonously grim
because I’m forced to work for him.”

I stopped a third young man to ask
his attitude towards his task.
A cheerful smile lit up his face;
“I shan’t be always in this place,”
he said, “because some distant day
a better job will come my way.”
“Your boss?” I asked, and answered he:
“I’m going to make him notice me.

“He pays me wages and in turn
that money I am here to earn,
but I don’t work for him alone;
allegiance to myself I own.
I do not do my best because
it gets me favors or applause—
I work for him but I can see
that actually I work for me.

“It looks like business good to me
the best clerk on the staff to be.
If customers approve my style
and like my manner and my smile
I help the firm to get the pelf
but what is more, I help myself.
From one big thought I’m never free:
That every day I work for me.”

Oh, youth, thought I, you’re bound to climb
the ladder of success in time.
Too many self-impose the cross
of daily working for a boss,
forgetting that in failing him
it is their own stars that they dim.
And when real service they refuse
they are the ones who really lose.

From his book Just Folks
©1917 by the Reilly & Britton Co.

Called By My Name

He calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.” John 10:3

To be called by a wrong name always brings a disturbing aura with it.

A Mr. & Mrs. Schmidt, due to become first-time parents in several months, moved from one large city to another some distance away. They were strangers there, and commented on it that their phone would seldom ring; their friends would all need to call them long distance.

No sooner were they moving into their house when the phone rang. “Hello, Mrs. Glover?” asked a strange voice.

“I am not Mrs. Glover,” said Mrs. Schmidt, and went back to her unpacking. Time and again the phone rang with the same ‘Mrs. Glover’ being targeted, a lady who had evidently been elderly and very genial.

Looking in the directory, the Schmidts became aware that there were numerous Glovers in the area. It became a family joke as the Schmidts daily tallied the calls. Their phone rang more often than it ever had before. However, the incidents did lessen toward the time when their baby was due.

One early morning the baby came, a big boy with a healthy squall. Mrs. Schmidt was exhausted. She and her husband exulted over him for a little while, and then she dropped off into a well-earned sleep. Hours later she awakened, longing to hold her little boy. She rang for someone to please bring her the baby.

The nurse appeared in the door, the baby in her arms. “Here’s your girl, Mrs. Glover,” she said brightly.

“I am NOT Mrs. Glover!” Mrs. Schmidt fairly shouted, “and I DON’T have a girl!”

When Jesus calls us there is never a case of ‘mistaken identity.’ He knows who we are and everything peculiar to us personally. To Him we are all unique and He calls us in ways suited to our particular needs. He is a Friend who knows us, and our characteristics through and through.

Have you ever found yourself in a crowd holding a hand, thinking it was your husband’s…only to discover, much to your chagrin, that it belonged to some other man? When we walk with Jesus, with our hand in His, we are promised again and again that we shall “not be ashamed.”

When the Lord speaks MY NAME, it is tailored for me, and for my need of the moment…even if there are million Margarets in the world!

He does the same for you. Listen for Him today.

Written by my friend, Margaret Penner Toews;
first published in Canaquest Friendship Newsletter for Women

Into the Ears, Out the Mouth

Years back a young Minister enjoyed making the rounds of his parish whenever it suited him.  Being a bachelor, he never gave much thought–or perhaps his subconscious was thinking– as to the time of day or household routines of his parishioners. Consequently he was very apt to arrive for a visit not long before mealtime.

One day he knocked on the door of this one home and was invited to sit in the parlor until the man of the house finished up a few chores.  While he sat there waiting, one of the couple’s small sons came in.

The Minister smiled and held out his hand for the boy to shake. “Hello, my lad. And how are you today?”

After a shy “Hello” the boy asked him, “Sir, can you tell me what’s a miracle?”

The Minister tried to his best to explain in terms the child could understand.  Then he asked, “Why are you wondering about miracles?”

“Because when you got here Mom said to Dad, “Here comes the Minister and it will be a miracle if he doesn’t stay for supper.”

As wise old Grandmas used to say: “Little pitchers have big ears.”

Ben Franklin Gets Some Smarts

Pompous Doesn’t Pay

Once upon a time I was in a poetry circle and we were given a new word every day to write a poem about. For some words it’s pretty tough to come up with anything really sensible. Here’s my offering in response to the word fletcherize, which means to reduce (food) to tiny particles especially by prolonged chewing.

What is this new word fletcherize?
It brings no vision to my eyes;
its purpose I can’t crystalize;
all sense of rhythm it defies.

A word that is so obdurate,
with sounds that cannot resonate
a poet true will obviate
for fear that it would obfuscate.
—        ☺      —

According to Ben Franklin, at one point in his youth he became enchanted with impressive-sounding words. One day he told his mother, “I’ve imbibed an acephalous mollusc.”

She gasped. Thinking he’d eaten some poison she promptly dosed him with a foul-tasting concoction that made him vomit. The poor boy retched for hours. Once his stomach was settled again, he told his mother all he’d done was eaten an oyster.

“You naughty boy, scaring the wits out of me like that!” And she gave him a good thrashing.

He says this experience cured him of his liking for pomposity; that day he decided he’d never again use fancy-sounding words when simple ones would do.

“I’m Surprised to See You, Ed!”

BROTHER ED’S ACCIDENT
Part Two

When Ed got home that afternoon he told his wife about the morning’s happening. “My leg’s still a bit tender, but it’ll heal. All’s well that ends well, thank God.”

That evening Ed’s brother Phil phoned about something and Ed mentioned the incident to him. “So I’m really thankful it ended well. This Tyler told me about a rancher’s prize stallion getting killed when the latch on his horse trailer popped open en route. That could so easily have happened to my steers, too.”

“Yeah. Good thing you were able to get them loaded up before they headed across the road and got hit,” said Phil, “or someone would likely be suing you.”

“I thought of that.”

“Actually, I suppose if you were of a mind to, you could even make a case against the Highways Department for the shoddy way they bolted that container down.”

“Maybe, but the container suffered a lot more than my truck did. The Lord was looking out for me and it all turned out pretty well, thanks to that Tyler and his bag of oats. Anyway, I’ve got more important things to do in life than sit in courtrooms.”

The next day Ed’s wife was talking with her cousin on the phone and mentioned the incident to her, too.

Sunday morning Ed and his wife walked into the Prattleboro Informed Church where they always worshiped. As Ed was taking off his jacket Tom Franks, a man in his sixties, walked over to chat.

“Hey, Brother. How’s it going?” Tom put his hand on Ed’s shoulder. “You’ve been in my prayers. Hope it all goes well for you in court.”

“Court?” Ed stared at Tom, his mind skimming over possible offenses he’d committed in the past year.

“I heard you were in an accident and were being sued.”

“Well, I didn’t. Who’s suing me? And who told you?”

Tom frowned. “I think it came from the Hardware store fellow. He said the Department of Highways was suing you for reckless driving and damaging one of their machines. I assumed you must have hit a grader or something.”

“Not that I know of. And I’m not aware of any action against me, but if there is I sure hope they tell me about it so I can get myself a lawyer.”

Darrel, another man his age, came by right then. “Ed! I didn’t expect to see you here. Thought you’d be home convalescing.”

“Convalescing? What ails me?”

Darrel took a hanger from the coat rack. “Broken leg is what I heard. Someone said you jumped off your stock trailer and broke a leg…but it looks like you’re standing on both of them just fine now. Must have been a false rumor.” He hung up his jacket.

“Yeah, I guess, because I haven’t broken a bone since I went skiing once twenty-some years ago. And I don’t recall ever being on top of my stock trailer.”

“Yeah, I thought that was pretty funny when I heard it. Gave us all a laugh.”

Ed didn’t see the humor. He was puzzled about all these rumors. Someone must have been telling tales, but wherever did they come up with all this? And when I find out, he fumed.

Then an idea struck him. “Say, Frank, did they say I ran into some Department of Highways equipment?”

“No, I never heard that part. Did you?”

“Well, after a fashion. But I’m thinking somebody has got their wires crossed and put some other fellow’s leg on me. I was pulling a stock trailer one day this week.”

Right then Rick, their youngest pastor, happened by. “Heard you had a little accident on Monday, Ed.”

Ed looked at the others, then back at Rick. “Oh. You, too. Well, the day’s right. Now what did I do?”

“Heard you ran into a bucket or something and damaged your pickup.”

“Well, part of that is true. I didn’t run into a bucket, just a litter container. So I guess you could call it an accident of sorts…”

Rick looked surprised. “A litter container? Brother Pete told me you’d totalled your pickup.”

This was so absurd Ed had to laugh. “Naw, it was just a little bump. That container, being plastic, came out a lot worse than my pickup.”

“Sure glad to hear it. A good man like you deserves to be blessed.” Rick slapped Ed on the back. “Now I gotta run. See you all after the service.”

Ed was standing there shaking his head when Stu, a retired farmer and close neighbor, came to stand beside him.

“Brother Ed! Good to see you. I wondered if you’d be doing much walking after your accident on Monday. Heard you crushed your leg and were in the hospital waiting for surgery.” He paused to look Ed over. “But I guess it couldn’t have been as bad as that or you wouldn’t be standing here.”

“Well, no, it was a minor mishap,” Ed replied with a sigh. “The steers got out and one kicked me.”

“Ouch! How many did you lose?”

“I guess you could say I lost four, but I found ‘em right nearby. Just took a bit of time to get them loaded again.”

Stu’s eyebrows arched. “Really! I heard you were in an accident and totaled your stock trailer. My son-in-law said he heard you’d had to destroy six animals. We concluded they must have been hit on the highway.”

Ed’s jaw dropped. “Six! Well, I’m afraid the rumor mill has inflated this big time. And they never were on the highway. Thanks be.”

Stu chuckled. “Sure glad to hear that. I was about to take up a collection for you. I’ll have to set my son-in-law straight on this story.”

“Morning, Ed,” the elderly deacon, Elmer Zimmer, said in passing. “How’s your leg?”

Ed took a deep breath and forced himself to reply calmly. “Just fine.”

Elmer stopped and shifted his cane to his other hand. “My grandson was at the sale barn Monday. Said he saw you and you were limping some. I was hoping it wasn’t too serious.”

“Very minor. A steer gave me the hoof while I was loading it.”

“Yeah, that happens. Glad to hear it’s not arthritis. Arthur’s no fun, believe me! See you in Sunday school.”  He nodded and hobbled away.

“Hey, Brother.” Stan, one of their newest members, recently married, tapped Ed on the arm with his Bible. “Good to see you’re up and around. I was told you got your leg crushed in an accident.”

Ed held out the leg the steer had kicked. “Not true. Praise the Lord.”

Stan tucked his Bible under his arm. “Sure glad it isn’t. The story I heard sounded pretty drastic. One of the Youth boys said your leg got pinched between your pickup and stock trailer. They thought it might need to be amputated.”

Stan lowered his voice. “I’m sure sorry to hear about those horses you lost, though.”

“Horses? I don’t even own any horses!” Ed felt his patience sliding and his blood pressure climbing.

Stan looked puzzled. “That’s what I thought, but…”

Ed put his hand on Stan’s arm. “Sorry, Stan. I didn’t mean to bite your head off. It’s just that I’ve been hearing quite the tales about myself. What else did you hear?”

“Jack Fries told me you’d lost some horses on the highway when your stock trailer door popped open, so I decided you must have bought a few and been hauling them home from the stockyard when it happened. I guess I jumped to the wrong conclusion.”

The usher beckoned to them. “Brethren, do you want to take your seats? Only five minutes until the service starts.”

“Good idea,” Ed answered. “One little bump on the stock trailer latch, four steers get out and a fellow helps me load them up again. Now I hear my pickup’s totaled, I’ve lost six cattle, been sued, been crippled, am in hospital for surgery — and lost horses I don’t even own. I’m about wore out. I’d better sit down before I hear that I’ve been stomped on by eight elephants.”

Stan laughed. “You have had a rough week.”

He put a hand on Ed’s shoulder. “I guess it’s like they say, ‘Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.’ After you, Brother.”

Ed nodded. “Thanks. After all this I need a few minutes to focus my thoughts on the Sunday School lesson.”

Just before they went into the auditorium Stan whispered, “You know, I was afraid to call for fear you’d be feeling so blue about it and wouldn’t want to rehash all the details. But I’ve learned my lesson: next time I hear something like that, I’m going to phone and get the story straight from the horse’s mouth.”

Then he grinned. “Oops! I forgot. You don’t own any horses.”

Prairie Fire!

Mary Boos was working in the garden that afternoon and paused to rest as a warm wind blew across the yard. Right about that time one of the little girls said, “Mama, look at that big cloud.”

Mary’s eyes followed. She noted the grey cloud that seemed to be billowing up from the fields a few miles from their small farm. Plumes rose in the air and were swallowed in the vast prairie sky.

“Oh no. That’s a fire–a big one!” she exclaimed as she scanned the horizon.

For an instant her thoughts tumbled between fear and confusion. She and the girls were home alone; her husband Mike had taken the oxen that morning and gone to Ernfold, their nearest town, for supplies. What could she do to save the children? And would the fire catch Mike en route, too?

Like all grassland homesteaders Mike had plowed a fireguard around their farm, but that was a mighty blaze and the wind was blowing it straight towards them. She surveyed the plot of land on which their buildings sat. The grass on both sides of the fireguard was knee-high and dried from the summer sun. Excellent fuel to receive blowing sparks and flare up. Could a narrow strip of black earth deflect that fire?

She screamed for her oldest daughter. “Annie. Come!” Then she thought, how foolish. What could either of them do. A wave of hopelessness washed over her. She thought her children, and of Mike. How would he feel to come home and find them all burned to cinders? There had to be something she could do!

In a moment Annie’s head appeared in the door. She looked where her mother was pointing. “It’s still a few miles away, but we have to work fast,” Mary shouted as she grabbed her daughter’s hand and hurried to the house.

“God, help us,” she cried as she ran into the one-room cabin. She shouted an order to her second oldest daughter. “Mary, you stay with these little ones. Annie, we have to do something. Molly and Christina, you stay right here with Mary and you all pray that God will help us save ourselves.”

“Won’t the fireguard protect us?” Mary asked.

“A fire that size could easily set the grass on this side burning, too, with all this dry grass around.”

“But what can we do, Mama? Shall we get buckets of water?”

Mary had no answer. They could hardly battle an inferno like this. Frantically she looked around, all the while praying for some answer.

Her eyes fell on the little tin matchbox holder tacked on the wall beside the stove. A plan popped into her head. “Come, Annie,” she ordered, grabbing the match holder.

Mary led the way and the two of them ran straight toward the plumes of smoke. They crossed the fireguard and waded into the thick grass that rustled against their skirts with each step. They ran about half a mile from home, then Margaret stopped and turned to Annie.

“Take handfuls of matches and go that way; I’ll go this way. Light them and throw them into the grass.”

They both turned to face their farm buildings and tossed lighted matches, ran a few yards and tossed more. Little flames burst out here and there; soon the grass was ablaze with tongues of fire racing on the breeze toward their fireguard.

The mother and daughter made a wide arc of flames until their match supply was used up, then they ran back toward the house. When they got to the fireguard, Margaret turned and saw the prairie blacken where their fires had already burned the grass. Song birds, abandoning their nests to the flames, rose up here and there.

She watched as the small fires reached the fireguard and burned themselves out. Silently they headed back to the house. They’d done what they could; now they’d gather the children and pray for divine protection.

Mike was hauling a load of fence posts back from town when he realized the danger he was in. Thankfully he was not far from a slough. It took no effort to get the oxen headed into the water once they got wind of the smoke. They pulled the wagon into the middle of the slough and there they waited, feeling the heat from those crackling flames as the fire flowed around them, hearing it sizzle at the water’s edges.

Mike thought of his helpless family at home and feared the worst. Would they have had any chance to escape? Had the fireguard protected them or would everything he held dear him be ashes when he finally got there? He almost wept as he sat there waiting.

Once the charred earth was cool enough to travel on he headed toward his farm again, his heart heavy with dread. Then he saw in the distance a miracle: in the midst of the blackened prairie there were his farm buildings still standing! The earth was black right up to the plowed strip of fireguard, but the buildings on the other side were as he’d left them this morning.

Incredible! Thank God!

When he got to the house his family rushed out to meet him and the girls told him how their mother’s quick thinking had saved their lives and the farm. Her little fires had burned away all the fuel so the main fire had nothing to feed on. It had to go around them.

The facts of this incident were written by Emma, one of the younger Boos daughters, in the book From Prairie Sod to Golden Grain 1904-1974, a history of people of Ernfold and Community.
This book was published by the Ernfold Senior Citizens Association.

A Long Walk One Dark Night

I’d like to give a warm welcome to all my new Followers on this chilly day. (Thankfully it’s warmer than yesterday when the temp dropped to -29C or -16 F.)

I’m glad you are finding my blog interesting and hope to keep it so. For the past three weeks I’ve been working away at my Nano novel and hope to be done very soon. Hurray! I’m ready to come back to civilization again. (I see some brave folks doing novels this month have whacked out 100,000 words already. I don’t know how they do it!)

This is a mystery story I’m writing for my grandson and it’s been a really good exercise for me. Because I needed a 50,000 word count I’ve had to think up more and more explorations, clues, and disasters than I ever had in mind when I started. And I didn’t just want to write filler I’d have to delete later, so I’ve tried to make them all a logical part of my story. This took stirring up and stretching this old gray matter, but it’s all coming together!

Going through my files this morning I came across the following story (rewritten from an old Friendship Book account.) I may have posted it once already on one of my blogs, but I hope you new readers will enjoy it.

A Long Walk and A Lesson Learned

Back in 1928 a family had taken a holiday on the Hebrides island of Lewis, in the north of Scotland.  Doctor Macleod’s roots were in this little isle and he  had brought his family back to the village where he’d been born. They’d had a jolly good time visiting around amongst various of his friends and met all the relatives.

All good things come to an end and so did this trip, so they piled into the car one day and headed for home. The day went by and evening came on.

As they were motoring along the children in the back seat got into a discussion that became rather heated.  Son Iain, who felt himself in danger of losing the argument, started to get pretty huffy about his siblings’ pig-headed resistance.  After all, he was right!  “If no one is going to agree with me, “ he declared, “I’ll get out right now and walk home.”

His threat was designed to make the others give in; of course he had no intention of carrying them out.  But his father had been listening all along and decided the boy needed a lesson, so he stopped the car, got out and silently opened the boy’s door.

Though not a word was said, the message was loud and clear. Iain had no choice but to get out — thirteen miles from home.

It was a long, long walk and well after midnight when he finally arrived at his home, exhausted and thoroughly chilled.  He found the door unlocked for him, but everyone was in bed and all the lights were out.  Quietly he crept into his own bed, scolding himself for his foolish words and attitude.

His parents never mentioned the incident again, but Iain had plenty of time to repent on his long walk and decided that from now on he’d be stubborn only in issues of serious right and wrong, he’d give more consideration to the other fellow’s point of view and recognize that he could be wrong.  This lesson stood him in good stead when in later years he became a politician.