Getting a State Trooper’s Attention

The scene could have been on a postcard. The red barn crested the top of the green pasture with the fifty foot high white concrete block silo in the center. The view stunned drivers as they drove up the country road. Cars emerged from the cover of the trees into an open space where the sunlight and low stone wall provided an image many stopped to capture on film.

The four teenage farm boys decided to have some fun. They constructed a dummy from an old pair of jeans, flannel shirt, bleach bottle, and straw hat. Filled with hay and tied together with twine, it looked like a lazy man napping in the sun. Too boring. They needed more action.

One of the brothers suggested using the silo. They would hoist the dummy on a rope and drop it as cars made it to the viewing point. The others agreed and put the plan in action. One got the twine rope they had made. At over 200 feet long, it was more than enough.

Next, they argued over who would take the rope up through the pulley at the top of the silo. The ladder started ten feet off the ground and the safety cage stopped a few feet from the top. One brother grabbed the end of the twine rope, looped it through his belt loop, and started climbing the steel cables that encircled the silo. He quickly reached the bottom rung of the ladder and scampered to the top.

A few moments passed where the rope was run through the pulley and sent back to the ground before he climbed down. He dropped the final ten feet onto the soft grass. His brothers had already looped and tied the rope around the dummy and three of them began raising it up the tower.

One brother took a lookout position near the stone wall and listened for approaching cars. The others held the rope and partially hid around the curve of the silo wall. A car approached from the road below.

“Now!” the lookout shouted.

The brothers released the rope and the man-sized dummy fell. The timing was perfect and the image shocking. The approaching car screeched as the driver slammed on the brakes having witnessed what they clearly thought was a dangerous or even deadly fall for a man.

The boys burst out from their positions to check the damage to the dummy. They pointed and laughed at the stunned driver stopped at the lower pasture wall. The driver realized the prank and slowly drove up the road. He frowned and shook his head as he passed the boys. They laughed even harder.

The boys reset the dummy and waited for more cars. They made several successful drops and took turns being the lookout or the one releasing the rope. It was late afternoon and people drove home past the farm after their day at work.

The dummy was ready again and the lookout signaled the approach of another car. The brothers were ready.

“Now!” the lookout shouted.

“Screech!” went the car’s brakes and then, a siren and sudden acceleration rapidly followed.

“State Trooper!” the lookout shouted but his brothers didn’t hear him.

They came out as before, laughing and pointing at the driver ignoring his identity. The trooper did not glance over at the boys as he passed but accelerated directly to the gravel driveway where he braked hard and spun into the turn. He grabbed his door handle and prepared to jump out and assist the “injured man” when he saw the laughing boys preparing to raise the dummy again.

He stopped, sat back in his seat, and closed the car door. He shook his head and pointed at the boys to let them know he’d be watching them in the future. He turned around in the large driveway and slowly drove off up the road.

The boys did a few more drops that day, but none equaled the excitement of gaining Trooper Joe’s attention. From that day forward, each time he drove past the farm, he waved at us.

Take the first sentence from your favorite book and make it the first sentence of your post.

First Day Married

In my earlier post My Biggest Day PreparationsI went through the day leading up to my wedding. Today, I’ll share some memories from the rest of the day.

The ceremony went quickly. It seemed like almost no time at all passed before the minister pronounced us man and wife. Handshakes and smiles occurred in a blur of a receiving line with family, friends, and several strangers (to me) that were somehow related or connected to the bride’s side. Then pictures, pictures, and more pictures while most of the guests drove off to the reception hall.

We had a sit-down meal and fed lots of people. The two of us ate very little and circulated the hall thanking everyone for coming. Some speeches, toasts, and a hail of birdseed sent us on our way. We drove to her house to change clothes before driving off on the honeymoon.

On the drive to the first night’s hotel, we noticed a strange odor coming from the dashboard vents. It was sour, slightly pungent, and burnt. We didn’t recognize it at all. The odor intensified whenever we stopped. The noxious cloud enveloped the car in the sickening smell.

It was her mother’s car. We were borrowing the little diesel Volkswagen Rabbit for the week. The vehicle was unfamiliar to me and I had no idea what could be wrong. It was past sundown and we drove lonely rural roads with no streetlights for long stretches. We quickly discussed what to do and decided to press on to the hotel and look at the engine in the morning. Fortunately, we did not have much further to go by then.

We parked and I ran to the front desk to check in and my wife waited in the car. When I came back, my new bride had turned an awful shade of green. She looked close to vomiting. The nasty smell had almost overwhelmed her in the few short minutes I had been gone.

I quickly got her out of the car, gave her the room key and pointed her to the nearest hallway entrance. She wobbled off in the right direction and I rapidly grabbed our luggage in one huge overloaded trip. I had no plans to return to the stinking car that night.

I caught up to her at the exterior door. It was locked with a simple quarter-turn spring lock that was opened by our room key. She had not encountered a lock like it before and was forcing the key in full turns before releasing which instantly locked the door again. I stopped her, opened the door and tried to extract the key. It was severely damaged. She had turned it so far that the shaft was almost corkscrewed. Useless for our room now.

I jogged back to the front desk to exchange the key. The desk clerk looked at me in shock and surprise at the key’s condition. He’d never had a guest destroy a key so badly (or quickly). A hasty mumbled apology and I received a replacement. Another quick run back to my new bride waiting queasily in the hallway. The car fumes were still lingering with her. This was not how I planned my wedding night would turn out.

One week later we returned the car to her mother. The smell had been caused by my brothers. They had sabotaged the engine by placing a full brick of blue cheese directly on the engine block. As the engine heated up, the cheese melted and burned down the engine.

We had removed the majority of the cheese the first morning using a metal coat hanger and some engine cleaner we bought at a local supermarket. During the honeymoon week the odor diminished each day as remnants cooked off.

My mother-in-law was upset with my brothers for a long time. She eventually sold the car during a cold winter with many air fresheners.

Tell us about your first day at something — your first day of school, first day of work, first day living on your own, first day blogging, first day as a parent, whatever.

Little Green Apples (100th Post)

Apples are great. Whether eaten fresh and raw or baked in one of many delicious ways, they satisfy like no other fruit. With just a little garnish of butter, cinnamon, and sugar they burst with flavor in your pie, cobbler, or tart. Apple fritters, pancakes, applesauce, apple butter, apple jelly are all welcome at my breakfast table.

Early fruit that falls from the tree also makes excellent ammunition among brothers. Little green apples and bored farm boys make for an exciting combination. I seem to remember one fine summer day when…

The brothers took turns helping with the evening milking and related barn chores. With a barn population of almost 80 cows, calves, and steers there was plenty to do. One of the tasks was to scrape the walkway outside the barnyard entrance. This concrete extension of the barn foundation provided a transition from the dirt, mud, and muck of the barnyard into the barn. Each evening the returning herd tracked goop onto the concrete on their way inside. At almost 40 feet long and 10 feet wide, it took several passes with the bladed scraper to clear the muck off.

This day, our eldest brother had the chores. The warm summer day had encouraged him to remove his shirt. He labored in boots and jeans only. We others had gathered loads of little green apples and brought them to the fence at the far side of the barnyard. The distance was about 120 feet and the target was a moving one.

We started slowly, taking turns with our throws. At first we deliberately missed. The intent was to scare him into a reaction, not cause injury. After several near misses we refined our tactics and aimed to bracket him in front and back as he moved. He ducked and arched his back to dodge our missiles. They shattered against the red-painted boards of the barn near him.

He tried to sprint with the scraper, stubbornly determined to finish his assigned chore before retreating inside the barn. The friction against the concrete and the growing pile of muck hindered his progress. He turned and ran to the left end of the platform. Once there, he started another pass and we began another volley.

He moved in spurts attempting to confuse our timing. It backfired on him. One apple intended to pass behind him grazed his back as he suddenly stopped in place. He lunged forward and the next apple, already thrown, smacked him hard in the rib cage.

The impact could be heard across the barnyard. We froze as he dropped the scraper handle on the walk. He pressed his hand hard on the injury and looked at us in rage. He ran straight across the muddy barnyard at us. We scattered by instinct, but he was locked onto the one who threw the offending apple.

No matter how much I dodged and ran, he lurched at me with a single purpose, to share the pain.
Game over.

Boys, Rocks, and Hornets

“I’m bored.” brother said. “There’s nothing to do.”

“Get out of the house and go for a walk.” mom told the boys. “Go run around the back pasture or something. It’s a beautiful day outside. Go get some sun. Have some fun.”

Reluctantly, the boys got their shoes on and trudged up the lane to the back fields. The hot summer sun and dusty path provided plenty of dirt clods to pick up and throw. One brother threw a clod against the stone wall and smiled as it exploded in a satisfying puff. The others joined in and took turns selecting dirt clods and various targets.

As they continued walking the lane changed to less dirt to more gravel and grass. Dirt clods were soon replaced with small stones as ammunition. These flew farther and straighter, but lacked the dramatic finish of the clods. They needed a better target.

One brother spotted a large hornet nest hanging from a branch directly over the lane ahead. It was almost the size of half a basketball. Great big white-faced hornets circled the hive and moved in and out of the bottom entrance hole. Brother held his arm out to stop the group.

We all watched as he carefully aimed, threw his rock, and missed. Another brother lined up his shot and whipped his arm in a sideways arc like he was trying to skip a stone on water. His flat rock flew and rose as it spun into the leafy branches above the nest. Another miss.

Each of the brothers selected stones and took turns trying to score a hit. A few moments passed before anyone succeeded. That first stone glanced off the side of the nest making a shallow dent in the gray papery material. The hornets increased their activity around the hive. Several more rapidly emerged from the nest and joined others in a protective orbit.

The brothers laughed at the results and each eagerly took his turn attempting more hits and greater hornet response. One, two, three more hits in quick succession and the hive now had small holes where stones pierced the side wall. At least two of the stones did not pass through the other side and were presumably stuck inside. The hornets multiplied in the air. The boys kept their distance downwind and laughed at the activity.

A brother picked up a larger stone, close to full hand size and said, “Let’s see if we can knock the nest out of the tree.”

His shot missed and the rock landed on the ground under the nest. Other brothers threw large stones and also missed. The heavier stones were harder to throw and when they hit the ground under the nest, small clouds of dust kicked up. The boys grew more excited at each near miss. The original few sentry hornets were now numbering in the couple dozen and made swooping turns in a large circle under the tree.

Rock after rock was thrown until someone heard a tractor approaching. Their uncle was driving from the back pasture back to the barn. He would pass directly under the nest. The boys looked at each other and knew it was time to leave. They each threw their last stones and ran further away and took cover behind some big rocks.

The tractor steadily approached. Their uncle drove casually in the summer sun. He emerged from behind the tree line and took the turn into the lane. The boys saw him look sharply down at the many stones that had appeared since he drove up earlier in the day. He stopped the tractor and stared as he puzzled about how they got there.

The hornets moved in. The diesel exhaust, engine noise, and warm body was just the target they needed to defend against. Hornet after hornet smacked against his head and neck. The first few did not sting him, these were bully attacks. They flew fast and crashed into their enemy to drive them away. If that did not happen quickly, the stingers came out.

Their uncle had stopped the tractor by pushing in the clutch and stepping on the brake. As the hornets attacked, he jumped in the seat releasing both in a sudden lurch. The tractor bounced and moved forward placing the exhaust directly beneath the nest. Now hot diesel smoke rose up into the nest for a few seconds and disturbed the entire hive. The tractor continued moving forward as their uncle swatted at hornets in a losing attempt to ward them off.

He reached for the throttle and jammed it forward. The tractor accelerated up the lane and cleared him from the hive’s vicinity. Several hornets gave chase for a persistent distance up the next rise before turning back to home base.

The boys watched their uncle continue to swing his hat around at hornets that may or may not be there as he jerked the steering wheel in jagged course corrections. He did not slow down until he approached the barn.

They stayed out of sight until they could not hear the tractor. They looked at the nest and the angry swarm that still surrounded it. Mom had been right. They did need to get out of the house and have some fun in the sun.

Kicked Down Stairs

David wailed and held his injured head at the bottom of the stairs. He’d tumbled down the 14 steps and landed head first in the shoe rack. The hard wooden steps in the old farmhouse each provided bumps and bruises all over his body.

Mom came running to the awful sound of her hurting child. She quickly assessed his injuries and began to soothe him. She looked around to determine the cause of the fall. She saw Tim standing quietly at the top of the stairs.

“Timmy! Did you push your brother down the stairs?” she demanded.

“No mommy, I didn’t.” he replied.

“Don’t lie to me! Your brother is hurt. Did you push him down the stairs?” she asked again.

“No mommy, I didn’t.” he answered.

“Timmy, tell me what happened.” mom ordered.

“I didn’t push him down the stairs. I KICKED him down the stairs.” he clarified honestly.

Cats are Disposable (10 minute free-write)

I apologize in advance to all those cat lovers out there.

Today’s old standby prompt is to write for 10 minutes. Anything goes. “Give us your most unfiltered self.” Okay.

Cats are disposable. I realize the internet is teeming with almost as many photos and videos of cats as there are strays in this world. Who knew those prolific creatures would replicate in cyberspace as well? My delete button cannot keep up.

I grew up on a dairy farm. Cats were plentiful. If we didn’t have enough, some nice people from town would drop off their excess kittens near us (when nobody was looking). With so many around, and there being four pre-teen/teenage boys in the mix, sensitivity towards cats was lacking.

Sure, we had our favorites. They were granted house access where they could trip us, claw furniture, pee on the Christmas tree, chew power cords and speaker wires, and generally make a mess of things. Still, we loved some and tolerated more.

Part of having so many cats became the creativity in naming them all. We were a verbal bunch and had a tendency to make obvious naming choices. We would select a physical attribute and tie a name to the animal. Such as:

  • Bigfoot – A large male with extra toes on his front paws
  • Fish – A female stray (dropped off by some nice city folks we think) with stripes that looked a bit like fish scales
  • Goldfish – A son of Fish. Yellow tabby.
  • Stubby – An all black kitten who had the misfortune to get his tail stepped on by the horse. It broke about one inch from the base. The tail hung on for a few days looking like a broken antenna until it finally dropped away.
  • Pancake – Noticed when one of the dairy cows got up. Kitty hadn’t been quick enough when the cow went down. Nothing left to do but get a shovel… 🙁
  • Caterpillar – A long haired calico that did not remotely look like any caterpillar ever seen.
  • Speedy – Not truly a fast mover. A female very popular with the tomcats. She would stop for any of them. We lost count of how many litters she had.

I could go on but the timer is about to run out. Overall, I believe I restrained myself well in the time allotted.


Our ten-minute free-write is back! Have no mercy on your keyboard as you give us your most unfiltered self (feel free to edit later, or just publish as-is).

My Biggest Day Preparations

It’s the night before an important event: a big exam, a major presentation, your wedding. How do you calm your nerves in preparation for the big day

18 hours to go. I’m sleeping just fine.

It’s August 1 and the New England summer is at its peak heat today. I’ve left final wedding preparations until this morning. What’s the rush? The wedding isn’t until this evening. Plenty of time to drive into the big city and pick up my tuxedo.

Considering that I was across the continent just a few days ago without a plane ticket or any money to buy one, picking up a fancy rented suit today is minor. I have no other preparation wedding duties. I’m sure the bride and bridesmaids have much to do. Hair, makeup, final clothing adjustments, and pre-wedding pictures are on their agenda.

I get up and have an unremarkable breakfast. It’s so average, I don’t remember it 27 years later. I’m staying with my parents until tonight. This isn’t the house I grew up in. That was sold and demolished in the past two years to make way for a new subdivision while I was away.

I have no emotional attachment to this place. The house is unfamiliar and strange to me. I don’t know it’s creaks and quirks. In the old house, we could prank whoever was in the shower by turning on a hot water faucet elsewhere and it would diminish the flow leaving them suddenly cold. The startled shouts of a shocked brother was always good for a laugh. I don’t know how it works in this place.

My eldest brother is also my best man today. He is driving me to the city for the tux later this morning. The store opens at 10 am. 45 minutes to drive there, 30 minutes in the store, 45 minutes back. That will kill a couple of hours. Only 8 more to go.

“Let’s go bowling ,” I say after we get back from the tuxedo store.

Not because I’m thrilled about bowling. It’s just an idea to kill a few more hours. We drive to the local alley, go in, but can’t bowl. They’re waxing the lanes in the mid-afternoon lull.

“What now?” my brother asks.

“I don’t know. There’s not enough time to see a movie. We’d be late then. How about we go to the arcade and waste some coins?” I reply.

“Whatever you want. It’s your wedding day.” he answers.

We go and spend almost 90 minutes playing most of the games. He looks at his watch and says we should drive home and get dressed for the wedding. Plenty of time.

Why did we agree on an evening wedding?


Love Creates Beauty

Absolute Beauty

We’ve all heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Do you agree? is all beauty contingent on a subjective point of view?

They met on New Year’s Day 1986. Tim was a young US Navy sailor on holiday leave and visiting his hometown. His older brother, Jim, invited Tim, and younger brother Dave to go over to his college girlfriend’s home for board games. They agreed.

Jim led Tim around the house and made quick introductions to the parents and Claire’s younger sisters. Tim just smiled and nodded to each one in turn before moving in to the living room for the games. He figured he was meeting his future in-laws since it looked like Jim and Claire were headed for marriage after they finished college. The right thing to do was make a positive impression.

Three pairs played Trivial Pursuit that evening.

  • Jim and Claire were too distracted with each other to concentrate on the game for more than fifteen seconds at a time.
  • Claire’s parents were not trivia buffs but politely played along.
  • Tim and Dave were two bachelors with voracious reading habits and minds that retained enormous quantities of useless data. They dominated the board.

At some point in the game, there was an interruption from Claire’s younger sister as she roughhoused with another visitor. The commotion spilled into the room almost upsetting the board pieces before ranging back into the kitchen. The living room group finished the game as Dave named the only native North American marsupial (Opossum) for the win.

Shortly thereafter, Tim and Dave made their exit and headed home for the night. It had been a pleasant enough evening with laughter and giggling (mostly from Jim and Claire), light snacks, and getting to know the future in-laws a little. Good people, nice family, becoming related would be okay.

Fast forward five months and Tim asked her after the movie, “Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“What?” he said, “Are you serious?”

“Are you?” she asked.

“Yes,” he answered more confidently.

“Me too,” she declared.

It was the younger sister. What began so casually had grown through letters and phone calls. They shared hopes, dreams, and plans. Distance was irrelevant. Their hearts knitted together.

He was fascinated with her. She was so different from everyone else; so joyful, creative, and beautiful. The way she looked at him emboldened him. He could tackle the future with her strength and support.

She made him more confident. He had always been cocky, this was better. She believed in him and his purpose became to live up to that faith, to be worthy of it and never fail.

27 years of marriage so far. People ask how we’ve made it.

“It’s easy when you’re married to your best friend.”

Hand-Me-Downs: One Way to Ruin Christmas


Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.

“It doesn’t fit.” I said.

“You’ll grow into it.” Mom said.

“I hate it.” I whined.

“You’ll learn to like it. It looks good on you.” Mom encouraged.

“I look stupid.” I muttered.

“You looked that way without putting it on.” Brother #2 said from the doorway.

I stuck out my tongue at him and scratched my elbow.

“Stop fidgeting,” Mom said, “Put on the mittens.”

“Awwww, Mom. It’s July. Why are we trying on winter jackets now?” I moaned.

It was called “Christmas in July” at the local church. People donated clothing to be distributed to families in need. For parents with multiple children it was an opportunity to give and receive school and winter clothes at no cost. For the kids it was another opportunity to be disappointed by the term “Christmas.”

Instead of opening beautiful presents with the latest shiny toy or game, here I was sweltering in July heat in a puffy coat that would see me through an Arctic expedition. At least the color matched my corduroy pants, but I absolutely refused to try on the rubber cowboy boots.

Middle Position – I Wouldn’t Change It

Next in Line

A second #RoyalBaby will soon be joining the Windsors in England. Given the choice, would you rather be heir to the throne, or the (probably) off-the-hook sibling?

As a middle child, I would not trade places to become first in line for the throne. Humorist author Erma Bombeck once wrote, “Firstborn children are like waffles. They are used to season the grill and then be tossed out.”

I am glad to have chosen to leave home when I did and not get tossed out against my wishes. Being the third of five placed me in the perfect position to see my elder brothers make decisions and then choose a different path of my own. Being the third boy in a row, few pictures of me are in family albums. Apparently my parents took a “We’ve seen that before” approach to recording images of me and I appear only partially in dozens of photographs.

By partially I mean my body parts appear in the edges of the picture. You can see my arm in this one, the back of my head in another, my leg sticking into the frame of another where I TRIED to get into the photo but didn’t make it in time.

Imagine royal family photos where the younger siblings of the firstborn are routinely obscured by more important people. That would be me, obscured.

“Is that Prince Tim’s arm? Can’t the royal photographer edit that out? It detracts from the image of the heir.”