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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Gathering the Goods

Standing at the children’s clothing table, I held up a pair of nearly-new jeans. I added the jeans to the growing collection in my grip while I moved to the stack of tee shirts. It’s challenging to hold onto a fistful of clothing while stretching out a little shirt to check on the size. Early in the garage-saling game, I’d learned that whatever I set down disappeared, so I clung to my stash. Even clothing labels with clearly legible print didn’t help me; I had no idea what size to buy.

“Need some help?” I turned to see a cheerful woman at my side.

 “Yes, I could use some information. I’m trying to find clothing for boys, ages four and six.” The lady nodded for me to continue. “I don’t know what size I should be looking for. When I was six, I got my first pair of blue-jeans, and I know they were a Size 6. Does that mean that the boys should wear a Size 4 and Size 6?”

Laughing, she said, “that depends. Are they big boys or small boys? My Timmy is four and wears a Size 6 right now. He’s growing like a weed; I’m not sure he’ll be in that size for long.”

“So, this is your table? I guess that’s why the kids’ stuff is in such pristine condition for used clothing.”

“Oh, Honey, you don’t know the half of it! Who would have thought marrying the linebacker of the football team meant my boys would never wear out a single pair of jeans? I told Frank, if that kid grows any faster, I’m going to have to buy four different sizes just to keep pants on him for the rest of the month.”

The chatter repeated in a similar vein at every garage sale I hit. While I found the mothers’ comments entertaining in the beginning, I soon felt overwhelmed. Without having the boys there, how could I know what would fit, or if they would even like what I picked out for them?

Finally, I did what I should have from the beginning. “Dear God, You know those little guys and how big they are. I haven’t even seen a photo of them. Since the social worker has no idea how much longer we’ll be waiting for the courts’ permission to cross the county line, the children may have already grown out of whatever size I buy now. On the other hand, Martha said that the second the permission is granted, the boys will be in a car and on the way. I do need to be prepared. Please, Father, help me purchase just what the kids will need. Amen.”

I put the key in the ignition and pulled out into the street. I’d not gone far when a big sign caught my eye: Bunkbeds Cheap In excellent Condition. Beds! Of course, the boys would want bunkbeds, wouldn’t they? Didn’t all kids love bunkbeds? I jerked the steering wheel to the left, narrowly missing an oncoming car. Oops, better pay more attention.

The sign had been accurate; the beds looked great. I moved over to talk with the salesman. “The mattresses are included, right?”

“Yes, of course, and they’re in terrific shape. Just look at the firmness.” He punched down on each as he spoke. “You’ll not find a better set in any second-hand store; even the newer models don’t have the stability of this set right here.” He said, shaking the corner posts to illustrate his point.

I agreed to purchase the bunkbeds, wondering if my father had plans for his pick-up for that afternoon. I had to find a way to get the set home, a mere 192 miles away. Maybe my parents could store the beds until I could arrange for transport.

I followed the man over to his desk, but along the way my eyes fell on another item. A crib? I don’t need a crib, I told myself. No way even a small four-year-old boy would sleep in a crib. Nevertheless, I moved over to check out the baby crib.

The salesman noticed my change of direction, gliding over in two giant strides. “Now, this is one fine crib. Look at the features of this model,” he said, pointing out all the things good about the used crib.

I never heard his pitch, because I had an argument going on inside my thoughts. I just couldn’t see why I needed to buy the crib. On the other hand, I couldn’t get away from the idea of buying the crib. Was God trying to tell me something? Maybe He knew of a baby that needed that crib?

“Okay, you offer me a good deal and I’ll buy the crib IF you have a good changing table I can buy along with it today.” The words shocked me so much that I didn’t hear the salesman move to another location. Why did I want to buy a changing table? For sure the boys didn’t wear diapers.

“Over here, Ma’am!” said the salesman. “I’ll give you a really good deal on this little baby right here. As you can see, it has the three basket-like compartments on the end right here for all the stuff you’re gonna need at just the right time. When you don’t need it, watch this.” The man did a few quick maneuvers, and the whole set-up had been reduced to a manageable standing rectangle the size of the little compartments. Ingenious.

I left with the changing table and crib carefully stored in the trunk of my bright-red sports car. My boys didn’t need the items, but I’d sensed God had asked me to purchase them. I’d take them home after my visit with my parents.

Perhaps, the specifics of the person who needed these items would surface soon. A growing excitement filled my heart as I waited to pass the new-found treasures over to the baby’s mother. In fact, I added baby sizes to the used clothing I bought at the garage sales from that moment on.

I knew God would make it clear to me just who he had in mind when he prompted me to purchase the baby items. In His time, the plan would be revealed, but for now, I found marvelous joy in collecting a load of kids and babies things.

Indeed, God had a plan for each and every item I’d gathered. How wonderful is our Heavenly Father.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

I Have a Home; I Have a Job

Cindy and I had enjoyed one of those long, catch-up chats over tall, drizzling glasses of iced tea, but her question replayed in my mind as I drove away. “Are you ever going to adopt a kid or two?”

Years earlier, the moment we’d learned of children no one wanted, Cindy and I stepped up to offer a home. Our first interview exposed a major problem.

“Girls, do you actually have a home to offer a child?” The lady said with a smile and gentle voice.

“Uh, not right today. We’re both living in the dorms on campus, but we’d be willing to find a place we could rent together. Would we need a separate room for each child, or could they bunk together like we do in the dorms?” I said with all the innocence of a university student.

We've been looking at the classified ads already,” Cindy said.

My friend added that to help the lady understand we’d been anticipating her question. Cindy and I had been rehearsing the interview for a few days.

“Girls, your genuine compassion for the children is commendable, it really is. You can fill out the application form if you’d like,” she said, holding up the packet, “but I have to tell you, honestly, you are not in a position to offer the children a stable home. Even if you found a house today, you are students. You don’t have a steady income you can use to care for the children, do you?”

As one might expect, the interview didn’t last much longer. The kindness of the social worker saved us the humiliation we could have experienced with another, more aggressive person. Cindy and I felt only sadness for the children as we walked away from the building that day. How could it be that some kids out there had no home or someone to love and care for them?

Leaving my reminiscing, I focused on the present. “Well,” I said to the radio personality trying to deliver the weather report to listeners, “I have a steady job now. I have a home with a spare room I can turn into a kids’ room. Why not try again?”

During the hours of driving back to my rural residence, the idea of adopting children that needed a home re-played over and over in my mind. I came at the question from every angle, answering my own questions as if I had been the social worker interviewing me.

Hefting my suitcase out of the trunk of my car, I announced my decision to the chilly, evening air. “I’m going to do it. I have all a kid could need in a home; I’ll love her with my whole heart.”

The following day, Martha* walked into my office at the hospital. “What a surprise,” I said leaving my chair to meet the dear lady at the door. “I planned to call you later this morning. Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“No, thanks. I just had a few cups over at the courthouse,” Martha said, walking over to my desk.

I indicated she should have a seat with the wave of my hand, and closed the door behind me. Returning to my chair, I said, “Are you here in an official capacity as the county’s social worker? Would you like me to call for Maxine?”

Martha’s business didn’t require the presence of our Director of Nursing, so I settled myself into the chair. Struggling to keep my questions from derailing Martha’s purpose for this unscheduled audience, I focused on her every word. At last she’d finished.

“That’s what my opinion of the situation is now, and my suggested action. I need your recommendation to complete my report. Martha said, sitting back and waiting for my response.

After Martha and I had hammered out something to add to her report, I addressed my issue. “I’m delighted to see you today, Martha. I have something that’s been plaguing my mind for a couple of days now and wanted your input. I’d planned to call the courthouse to ask when you’d be in town or how to get ahold of you.“

Martha laughed and said, “They’d have told you I’d not be in this week. Today’s unscheduled meeting came as a surprise to all of us. So, what can I do for you?”

“Do we have children in this area who have nowhere to call ‘home’? You know, kids that nobody wants?”

Martha’s smile faded; her brow furrowed, as she let out a deep sigh. “Yes, many more than we have homes to receive them. It’s one of the saddest parts of my job. Why do you ask?”

I recounted for Martha my university days’ first attempt, reiterating my desire to help any child that needed a home. I smiled in response to Martha’s widening grin, wondering if she was holding back a guffaw at the naivety of my experience.

“That’s great; I’m glad to learn of your interest. I know of two little boys in the next county who desperately need a home. We’re struggling with the whole court-thing now and have been for a few months.”

“I’d be glad to take the boys. What do I have to do?”

“First, you need to fill out the application. We have group meetings with folks who want to be foster parents, as well as those who would like to adopt. The groups meet on separate nights, but the next one is--” Martha pulled out her day-Planner, flipping a few pages, before continuing. “Yes, here it is. The next meeting is for prospective foster parents. It’s in just two days. If you come a little early, I could get your application started the evening of that meeting. The group for the adoptive parents has already been held this month, but you could benefit from sitting in on this group, too. They’re in the beginning phase, so the two groups are pretty much getting the same information and are discussing the same questions.”

My thoughts and heart raced, anticipating the day when I’d welcome two little boys into my home. Of course, I’d come to that meeting and any other meeting I could. I wanted to learn everything possible to be the best adoptive mother for those dear kids. I began making lists of what I needed to do or purchase before Martha’s car left the parking lot.

Truly, I had no idea what I had signed up for, but God had it all in His capable hands.

*I cannot recall the name of this kind lady; maybe it is Martha.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

An Incredible Adventure with Mom

Leaning across the hood of my metallic-brown Chrysler Newport, I pointed up at the triangular dent in the windshield’s chrome frame. “Right up there, Mom. Can you see that little dent about in the middle of the upper part?”

My just-past five-foot mother stretched on her tip-toes to get a good look. “That? Why, Honey, no one’s gonna notice that little dent. I think the garage did a great job of replacing that windshield. I’m just so thankful that the big block of wood only broke the glass and didn’t crash through and kill you.”

“I agree with you completely, but the mechanic told me that the way the corner of the block dented the frame, they couldn’t guarantee a seal. In this climate—with winter being what it is in Eastern Montana—he said the moisture would ruin the inside of the car in no time.”

My mother walked around to the passenger door. After sliding across the bench seat, she reached up to feel the spot just under the dent. “Oh, I see what he means. It’s quite damp right here; did you notice that, Honey?”

“I’d have to say I didn’t reach up there, Mom.”

“Hmm? Let’s show Daddy when he gets home from work. I think he’ll agree with the mechanic that you need to trade in this car.”

My father agreed, but I didn’t want to look for another car just yet. We still had a lot of winter left and I thought I could pay more attention to that particular spot until I absolutely had to trade the car in. Even as a young adult, change didn’t come easy for me.

The following day, while driving home from the hospital and my routine spinal tap to check on the brain swelling thing, Mom and I never even mentioned the good report of Dr. Roberts*. The neurologist said things were stable enough now that I need not return for another spinal tap until I began to experience the awful symptoms again.

Her daughter’s health stable, Mom’s thoughts and chatter turned to her current topic of interest. “How about we just look at some cars? What does it hurt to look? Then you’ll know what’s out there and about how much you’ll be looking at for a used car to replace this one.”

“It’s too late to go today, Mom. We’ll go one of these weekends. Daddy’s working, so maybe we can go another time when I’m home, okay?”

“Okay, dear. We can look in Sunday’s paper and see what they might have on sale. It’s always fun to look, isn’t it? Your father might have some tips to pass along to us, too.”

Clearly, my mother saw the whole ordeal as a great adventure. I didn’t share her enthusiasm for car shopping, but I found it impossible to remain neutral in the face of her contagious excitement.

That evening, Daddy pointed out some things to check when shopping for a used car. He admitted that he used great caution when considering the purchase of a used vehicle, not wanting to “buy someone else’s problems.” He advised me to have a mechanic I trusted check any car I found interesting, reminding me of the names of two men in town.

The next morning, Daddy went to work; Mom and I left for church a short time later. Thoughts of cars had not made it to the forefront of my mind, but I don’t think they ever left Mom’s.

Coming out of my room, church clothes replaced by more casual attire, I found Mom stretched across the dining room table. I didn’t have to read the ads spread out before her; I knew exactly what they displayed. “Look at this one, Sweetie. This looks like a great price on this pretty car, doesn’t it?” Mom tipped to one side for me to get a better look.

“I guess so, Mom. You haven’t even changed your clothes yet. Don’t you want to get more comfortable before we start looking at ads?”

“I’ve got a great idea; let’s go to town and look at some of the lots instead of just checking out the papers? You really need to see a car to know if it’s one you might want, don’t you think?”

“Well, yes, I think so, but the guys here don’t really work on Sunday, Mom. We could—“

“I know that, but what about in Billings. I bet they wouldn’t mind if we just walked around their lot for a little look-see. We could go to lunch and then just pay a visit to a few used car lots. What do you think?”

I laughed. “I think that I couldn’t disappoint my little mother who’s chomping at the bit to look at used cars. Okay, let’s go. Who knows, maybe we’ll see that gorgeous, Latin hunk--Ricardo Monteban—sitting in the backseat of one of the cars.”

My crack referenced the frequently-broadcast television commercial for Chrysler’s new sporty Cordova. It boasted “rich, Corinthian leather,” and included the handsome actor sitting in the backseat of one such vehicle. Mom and I often joked about Ricardo being included in the purchase of a new Cordova.

After a tasty lunch, Mom and I drove over to the same lot I’d purchased the Chrysler Newport years earlier. We walked around the lot but nothing really jumped out at us. “Oh, let’s just peek in the showroom window.”

“They only have new cars in there, Mom. We can check out another used car lot. There are tons of them in the city,” I countered, knowing that I didn’t want to be tempted by what I couldn’t afford.

“Oh c’mon. Let’s just have a look.” Mom had already begun her fast-walk to the showroom windows. I ran to catch up with her.

“O-o-oh, Honey. Lo-o-ok at that, will you? It’s beautiful.”

The fire-engine red Chrysler Cordova sat in the center of the showroom. The sporty car had a white leather top, matching—you guessed it—the rich white, Corinthian leather interior. The white-walls of the four tires had shiny chrome spokes on the rims. Mom’s comment said it all. Truly, the car just screamed, I’m beautiful; take me for a ride.

“Yes, Mom, that’s quite a car, but its’ Sunday so none of the salesmen are working. Like Daddy said, you don’t buy any car without a test-drive and asking his questions. I’m sure it’s way more than I could afford, Mom.”

“Oh, Honey, Daddy’s questions are about used cars; this one is brand-new. There’s nothing wrong with it. Just look at that car!”

“Well, there’s two things wrong with it that I can see right off the bat. One: the color. I teased Doug and Cathy unmercifully about their new car looking like a fire engine coming down the street. Their car isn’t as bright-red as this one. Doug’ll never let me live it down if I come home with this car.”

“Oh, you’ll get over it. What’s the second thing? It must be better than that excuse.”

“Well, it’s plain to see. False advertising. I mean, Mom, do you see Ricardo sitting in the backseat of the car? If they’d deceive us about that, what else could be wrong under the hood, huh?” Mom laughed and slapped my arm in that I’m-not-joking kind of way. “Okay, all kidding aside, Mom. There’s no one to let us test-drive this car or talk deal. We’ve had a good time. Now let’s just go home and come look at cars another day.”

Ha, who was I kidding? My mother intended to get a ride in that bright-red car, even without Ricardo. Sure enough, Mom found the sign that listed the phone numbers of the salesmen. She picked out a name that “sounded like a nice man.”

The car both rode and drove like the dream advertised. The salesman made an offer my mother assured me I couldn’t pass up, and I signed on the dotted line.

Driving that beautiful car made me feel like a million bucks. Even now, I’m grateful Mom loved it enough to make it too hard for me to refuse it in favor of an older, used car. I enjoyed driving the car across America and back a couple of times in the eight years I owned it.

Not only did I never regret the abrupt signing for the car, but it remains one of my favorite memories of life with my mother. Mom lived life to the fullest. One year ago last month, Mom left these earthly shores to discover if all the talk of the joys of Heaven would live up to the advertisements. I suspect that she found it does. 

* Name changed

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Confronted by a Block

Rolling along, speed maintained by the handy little cruise control feature, I belted out the now-familiar choruses of worship and praise, full-volume. I had a stack of cassettes for the journey. The nearly two hundred miles allowed a lot of time for reflections and planning the next day’s tasks, but I loved to give myself over to singing for most of the journey.

Alone in my metallic-brown Chrysler Newport, I enjoyed the lonely stretches of highway. My singing, file that under “making a joyful noise unto the Lord,” didn’t bother anyone, regardless of the pitch. Since I knew all of the words to every song by heart, the cassettes never distracted me from the road. Good thing, too, or what happened on this one lonely stretch of highway could have been so much worse.

Up ahead I noticed a pick-up truck, with an empty horse trailer hitched to his rig. He pulled out onto the highway. The bouncing trailer gave clear indication nothing rode inside. I tapped the brake to release the cruise control and eased off the accelerator a bit. I’d resume the handy feature once the pick-up had reached cruising speed.

I noted the three-quarter door at the back of the trailer and wanted to be sure I kept my car far enough behind to miss anything that might come flying out that open space. Not every rancher took care to secure items tossed into an empty trailer.

The cassette had finished playing and I’d turned my thoughts to reviewing the latest report from Dr. Roberts*, so I really hadn’t noticed the truck slowing a bit. His brake lights never came on, which would have taken me away from my own reflecting. Still far enough behind to avoid any accident if he stopped quickly, I chose to leave the cruise control engaged and just see if he’d speed up.

Would have been a good plan had the truck not lurched and the trailer hit a sizeable bump in the pavement. Out through that open space came a large flying object. Smack! Bounce and thud. I flipped the cruise control off again.

I decreased speed enough to see that a large wooden block sat atop my car’s hood. The windshield cracked but the pieces stayed in place. I didn’t take a single second to think it through; I shoved my right foot down on that accelerator and zoomed after that rancher.

He’d let that large block of wood bounce around in there, and I wasn’t about to have my insurance company pay for replacing that expensive windshield. Nosirree, he wasn’t going to get away from me, if I could help it.

The heavy block of wood rode the hood of my car without budging an inch as I sped along the highway. How could he not know I was trying to catch up with him? I honked, flashed my lights, and of course, shouted as loud as I could for him to pull over.

The driver might have noticed his block of wood sitting atop my hood, if he looked in his mirrors at all, but he gave no indication that he intended to stop. In fact, just the opposite occurred. Though he had a trailer hitched to his pick-up, his rig out-powered mine and he left me in his highway dust.

Finally, I came to my senses. Dr. Roberts had told me the brain-thing remained stable, but this little burst of anger threatened to put me back in the hospital. I’d surely flip the car on the next sharp curve, if I didn’t knock it off.  I slowed to a legal speed for the county highway. There’d be no city or hamlet for a hundred miles, so no one to whom I could report the incident. Sadly, I knew that the repair would be on my own insurance.

Instead of allowing my anger to burn any hotter, I chose to douse those flames in the best possible way. “Thank you, God, for Your protection. That block of wood could so easily have crashed right through that glass and I’d have been a goner for sure. Thank you, too, for stopping my out-of-control speed. I’m sorry for my anger against that guy. Maybe he really didn’t see what his block of wood had done. Thank you for keeping the broken pieces of glass in place so I can drive home to get it fixed. Yes, I’m sorry that it happened at all, but thank you so much, Lord, for protecting me from what certainly could have been much worse.”

I put the music back on and returned to singing my way back home. It really served to calm me down.

“So, this big block is what did the damage to your windshield, huh?” said the man at the garage in town. “I can lift that out of your trunk and get rid of it, if you’d like. Can’t see you’d have much use for the old thing.”

“Yes, I’d appreciate that, Frank*. I thought I’d show the sheriff or someone from the insurance company, but I didn’t run into another town until I got home, so you’re right; I have no use for it.”

Frank hoisted the splintery block up and out of the trunk, adding his consolation. “I can have a new windshield here by tomorrow afternoon. I’ll get it put in right away. Come on in day after tomorrow and she’ll be right as rain.”

“Do I pay you and then get the insurance company to reimburse me, or do they pay you directly like the doctor’s office? This is my first experience with such things.”

“I’ll check with them. Let’s just get the windshield replaced and then worry about that, okay?”

Two days later, I returned to the garage for my car. Frank had replaced the broken windshield.

“Look here,” the mechanic said, pointing to the top of the windshield. “Right here in the middle where she sits in the metal frame.”

“Do you mean that dented kind of triangle?” I said, leaning over the car and pointing.

“That’s it. The corner of that big block hit right there. That’s why you see the triangular-shaped dent in the metal. Let me just tell you, it’s impossible to get a perfect seal on the windshield at that point.”

“Is that a bad thing? I mean, Frank, it looks great to me. Is it a cosmetic thing or something I need to worry about?”

“Oh, it isn’t likely to be something anyone’ll notice, but it’s gonna give you a lot of trouble in this climate. The moisture’ll get inside there and you’ll have mold that won’t quit inside your vehicle. We tried but we just can’t get the thing smoothed out any better than that.”

“Well, what can I do about it? The winter’s just beginning. I still need to drive over for the doctor to check my brain every so often, and I don’t have a garage in which to store the car during those wicked snow storms of Eastern Montana.”

“Well, if it was me, I’d sell the thing before the mold sets in. You could swop it out at a car dealers and he can move the car to another climate where it won’t matter to have that lack of a perfect seal. Get you a new car, or at least, a different used car. That’s my recommendation.”

Not a good report from Frank, but hey, the weather was still okay so no need to hurry on replacing it. I’d just let it go until my next trip back to the doctor. Dad had to work that weekend, but maybe Mom’d go with me to look at cars.

I’d figured Mom and I would just go to lunch in the city, look at a couple of used car lots for possible replacements at a later date, and just plain make a fun day together out of my car woes. No need to hurry into anything, right?

I’d soon learn Mom’s action plan didn’t consider checking out the possibilities for a later date, as well as her taste in cars. I’d always seen my mother as conservative, contemplative where big decisions were involved, but window-shopping for cars with Mom turned out to be far from what I’d expected.

*Names changed.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Welcome Home!

Pulling back the shower curtain, I lifted my right leg to step into the tub.  My eyes caught sight of the bottle of Tame hair conditioner still standing in the right back-corner of the tub. “You can just stay there until you turn green, if you think I’m ever going to use you again,” I said to the inanimate plastic container. “You’re the one who started all of this trouble in the first place!”

Turning around to face the showerhead, I stood before the knobs and laughed. It felt so good to be back in my own home after all of those weeks away. Certainly, I knew that the Tame hadn’t caused the chain that began a health crisis for me, but the entire lengthy episode had begun with that one memorable Saturday-morning reach for the bottle.* I interrupted my reminiscing with a reminder that I’d better get with the program; I didn’t want to be late my first day back at work.

“Welcome back!” and “How ya feeling’,” greeted me as I crossed the threshold into the hospital. Though not even a dozen steps, the climb had left me a bit winded.

“I’m fine, thanks. I’m puffing like an old steam engine after the climb up those steps, though. Guess I should’ve used the staircase instead of the elevator in the big city hospital, huh?”

“Being younger doesn’t mean more fit; that’s for sure,” laughed an elderly patient from the visitor’s area near the front door.

We all laughed with her, but I secretly vowed to make a point of hitting the stairs up to my office and down to the dining room frequently in these first days to get back in shape. I’d laughed because she had hit the nail squarely on the head. How would it look if the youngest member of the staff had trouble scaling the stairs when even the elderly patients didn’t?

It felt great to be seated at my desk again. Even the stack of “Call” slips Lillian had set right in the middle of the recently-polished wooden desk didn’t diminish my joy.

One-by-one I worked my way through the bookkeeper’s notices that now required a telephone call reminder to pay the over-due hospital bill. The last one for the day dialed, I waited for the Deputy Sheriff to pick up.

“Walker**, over at the County Sheriff’s office,” said the gruff voice at the end of the line.

“Yes, hello Deputy. This is Hawley over at the County Hospital Administrator’s office.” I thought perhaps a bit of levity might serve to lighten my message to him.

His growl suggested that he may have been expecting the call. “Yeah. What can I do ya for Hawley?”

“Well, deputy, they’ve got me phoning folks whose hospital bill may have slipped their minds.  I’ve heard your baby is really keeping you up with that teething, so you might be considering bringing her back instead of paying your bill, but the OB Department here has a no-return policy, so you’ll need to make those over-due payments,” I said, still shooting for a bit of lighthearted humor to soften the tension.

“Oh yeah? I heard you been callin’ around and I figured you get to me sooner or later. Yeah, I know I’m behind in the payments. Kid doesn’t just fuss about teeth, you know. She’s costing’ me what I’d pay to feed a heifer in winter, she is.”

I laughed and said, “Girls are like that Deputy and I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse the older she gets.” His gruff guffaw gave me courage. “So, would you please come on over and give Lillian the back payments—at least, one , two, or as many as you can—so she doesn’t ask me to call you again on this?”

“Yeah, okay, I’ll be over sometime tomorrow. Anything else on your mind, or do ya have someone else to harass before quittin’time?”

“Nope, I saved the best ‘til last, Deputy. I’m done for the day. Have a good evening.”

“Same to ya then. Bye.” He said and I heard the loud drop of the receiver hitting the cradle on the old desk phone.

“Well, that went better than I’d been warned,” I said, easing into the padded chair back. “Now, if he’ll just pay the darn thing.”

By afternoon the following day, I’d finished all of my calls. Folks had already been stopping by to make payments, so the bookkeeper was one happy camper. I hadn’t yet experienced any kind of negative backlash, but one was in the works.

I’d been invited to lunch at a friend’s house. The gravel road approached the area of the schools, but I knew that her street turned before actually reaching the 15-mph area. Even-so, realizing the Deputy might just be extra-careful about speeders along that road, I slowed from the last posted 25-mph to a slightly slower 22-mph—just to be sure there’d be no problem.

Close to ninety seconds later, I heard the siren and saw the flashing lights in my rearview mirror. Naturally, I pulled over to let the Deputy have a clear access to the road which would take him to whatever emergency he had up ahead.

Instead of passing my stationary vehicle, however, the Deputy stopped his cruiser right behind my Chrysler. In my rearview mirror, I caught sight of him leaving his car, heading for mine and froze.

Alongside my window, the Deputy signaled for me to roll down my window. I complied, smiling. “What’s the trouble, Deputy?”

“License and registration, please.”

“Why? What did I do? I wasn’t going even the 25-mph posted; I had 22-mph right here on my panel. Did you have me going faster than that?”

“Noe. That’s ex-a-a-actly right. I clocked you doing twenty-two in a 20-mph area. So, you admit it then. Good.”

“Twenty? There’s no sign that says the speed drops to 20-mph before this road intersects with that street,” I said pointing to the gravel street about fifteen feet ahead of where we’d pulled off the road.

“Yes, there is a sign back there. You didn’t heed that change-of-speed sign. I’ll have to give you a speeding ticket.” His smile turned up the heat I’d be feeling.

I opened the car door and said, “Show me. Just show me the sign, Deputy. I’ve never ever seen a 20-mph sign on this road and I drive it all the time.” He held the door, smiling as he let me leave the driver’s seat.

“Come with me; I’ll show you. Never seen it, huh? So, you probably broke the law more than once then; but I’ll let you off with just this one ticket since I never caught you before today.”

My cowboy boots kicked up gravel as I kept up with the long strides of the Deputy. We stopped in front of a hedge I’d noticed next to the road. The man reached up and pulled back a few long branches of the tall hedge. His hand thumped the dirty sign. “Right here—the sign. Read the number, please.”

“You’ve got to be kidding? No one can see that sign!”

“No one needs to see the sign. Everyone knows it’s there, so why bother to disturb the hedge. Folks around here all know it’s a 20-mph zone. Least-wise everyone but you.” His grin and the underlying “outsider” message were so obvious that it made me laugh.

I turned and walked back to my car at a healthy clip. The Deputy followed, resting his ticket book on top of the car as he closed the driver’s door behind me.

Taking the pad up, he began to copy the details of my license onto the ticket. He tore it off and handed the ticket to me through the still-open window.

“You just go on over to the courthouse tomorrow and pay that speeding ticket, so they don’t ask me to call you on this, okay?” He slapped the ticket booklet in the palm of his hand, grinning all the while.

I shook my head, recognizing the echo of my words to him earlier in the week. I laughed right out loud and said I would be more careful next time. In fact, I never exceeded the hedge-covered limit again. (The Deputy had already begun to make his hospital payments, so “All’s well that ends well,” right?)

Rural America—you just gotta love it! The people are among the friendliest you’ll find anywhere on this earth. Sometimes I think that the challenges outsiders experience are just the locals’ way of adding a bit of color to the routine of rural living. I loved my time there, and never got another speeding ticket.

 *Read start of the crisis thread here: Saturday Crisis

**Name changed.