Tag Archives: Neighbors

Courage at Twilight: Newspaper Elf

During a visit to Gilbert, Arizona to see my sister Jeanette, she took me to a state park near Sedona, high above the desert, with a little trout stream flowing through the pine forest.  On the park lawn grazed a squadron of pig-like creatures called collared peccaries, or javelinas.  I asked a uniformed park ranger about them—he told me javelinas are not pigs at all, but a cross between an old-world swine (which is a pig, I thought) and a new-world raccoon.  I stared at him stupefied, wondering if were joking.  Sadly, he was perfectly serious.  Of course, such a cross is genetically impossible, for the same reasons a dog cannot breed with a cat, or a chicken with a rabbit: impossible.  (Idaho does boast its jackalope, a cross between a jack rabbit and a pronghorn antelope—Google it.)  On another visit, Mom and Dad brought back a life-sized rusted metal javelina that sits quietly on alert, on their front porch.  When the Deseret News stopped its daily circulation, opting for online distribution, Mom and Dad subscribed to the New York Times, which is tossed every day out of a car window onto the driveway.  Leaving the house for work in the morning, I noticed the newspaper, bagged in blue plastic, sitting on the javelina’s snout.  I asked Mom about it, and she whispered simply “newspaper elf.”  Another morning, I saw from my home office window a man crossing the driveway.  Ah, so he must be the newspaper elf.  But on Saturday the newspaper was in the driveway.  “The newspaper elf doesn’t work on weekends,” Mom explained cheerfully.  “We have to go and get it.”

Chapter 35: Canoe Trip

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–Being accomplishes more than doing.–

Our fast-paced society places so much emphasis on getting things done.  We often base our self-esteem on the completion of routine tasks.  I say to myself, “I had a good day: I got so much done.”  But what did I really accomplish?  Did I make a meaningful contribution to the world? Continue reading

Chapter 11: Austin

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–The measure of one’s greatness is one’s goodness.–

Sitting on the porch lacing my boots for a walk on Rabbit Lane, I heard the distant bellowing of a distressed calf.  Something in the bray was not quite right, sounded a little off.  I had heard lost calves calling for their mothers before.  I had heard desperately hungry calves complaining before.  I had heard lonely wiener calves bellowing for their removed mothers before.  This calf call sounded strange; perhaps, I thought, not even a calf at all.  I turned my head to pinpoint the source of the noise.  It came from behind Austin’s house, where there should be no cows and, in fact, were no cows.  An ignorant urgency sent me running through the intervening field to Austin’s back door.  There lay Austin, helpless, in abject distress, fallen across the threshold of his back door and unable to arise, the screen door pressing upon his legs.  He shouted and bellowed with his deep and distressed bass voice.  I wrapped my arms around his prodigious barrel chest and heaved as gently yet as forcefully as I could to raise the big man from the ground. Continue reading

Chapter 10: Country Quiet

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–If I say I’ll never do something, I never will.–

The country was not quiet, not like we all thought it would be.  Cows mooed, horses neighed, chickens clucked, dogs barked and howled, cats fought, chasing each other around the house, pea cocks called mournfully, and roosters cock-a-doodle-dooed.  I had always thought that roosters crowed at sunrise, waking the farmers for their morning chores.  But I discovered that the roosters in Erda crow all night long. Continue reading