Out of Iowa

By Wayne Danielson


For more than 30 years, Wayne Danielson, former dean and longtime professor of journalism at the University of Texas, has written a monthly essay for the Fellowship Class at Tarrytown United Methodist Church. These excerpts from the essays concerning people and events in Wildflower, Iowa, while attempting to be true to the Iowa spirit, are products of the literary imagination of the author. The citizens of Wildflower live only in the hearts and minds of those who read their stories. 


Copyright 2004 by Wayne Danielson


You can take the boy out of Iowa, but you can’t take Iowa out of the boy.

Old Iowa saying



 1. Kitchen Moving Time 
 2. Getting Rich on Apples 
 3. Three Golden Gifts 
 4. End of Childhood 
 5. The Dropinsky Syndrome 
 6. Holding Hands 
 7. After Corn Harvest 
 8. Work for the Night is Coming 
 9. Heart Surgeon at the Hardware Store 
10. Redeeming the Church Treasurer 
11. Cardboard in Her Shoes 

(The following stories are in the Sermons Collections)

Leaving Home 

Peach Peelings

Midnight Coffee

Walking Across Barnyards

Suddenly a New Season

Looking Carefully at Things

Jesus in the Rosebush

Communication Systems

Going to Extremes

Don’t Eat No Yellow Snow

Tall Tales

Family Reunion

That Old Man River

Eat a Peck of Dirt

Prune Faced State

Telling It Like It Is

Having Henry for Dinner

Cookin’ Lasts -- Lovin’ Don’t

It Just Seems Like a Long Time

I Would of Told You, If You’d of Asked

Making Out in Sub-Zero Weather

Little Stranger in the Graveyard


	It was 1944, and I was fourteen years old, hired by my sister Dee to babysit her boys, Tom and Dick, on a cold winter’s day in Iowa. Dee’s husband Bill was overseas with the Red Cross, and she rarely got out anymore. 
	The boys reluctantly went down for their naps, and Dee’s apartment in an old house at the corner of Leebrick and Spray was quiet. I looked out the front window at the snow falling and across the street at the West Hill Methodist Church, lovingly built years ago by Swedish immigrant carpenters. I looked at the tiny parsonage next door, and at the Magnuson’s house next to that where the two crippled children lived, and, directly across the street, at the little house where I had been born in an upstairs bedroom and where my Dad had written in his journal that day, “Paid Dr. Dixon 25 dollars for one boy in good condition.”
	A city bus came down Leebrick Street with its headlights on, spraying slush on everyone within ten feet of it. All at once, as the bus passed, I knew I would always remember this ordinary winter’s day in Iowa, this ordinary afternoon, this ordinary instant. It would be remain with me in all its detail – the window, the bus, 
the boys asleep at last, me standing there warm and toasty, watching the snow falling on the church, on the familiar houses and their inhabitants. Suddenly, I knew who I was and what would happen to me later in life, and the kind of man I would become. I would be a teller of stories of hometowns and churches and houses and people and the rich texture of their lives. It was a moment of personal epiphany, I suppose.

I have had others ….


	When I was a young man away at the University in Iowa City, my mom and dad back home in Wildflower would move the kitchen around. I don’t know why. Maybe they just got bored with the view from the kitchen window. Or maybe they were a little lonely with their last child away at school. I’m not sure why they did it. But they moved the kitchen, often, and without professional help
	“I’ve been thinking about putting the kitchen in the living room,” my mother would decide one Friday night.
	And Dad would get out his plumbing tools then and there and start disconnecting the stove and the sink and anything else he could get his hands on. Mother would get busy decing where to put her cupboard and cabinets and what whe would move to the room where the kitchen used to be.
	When I came home from college it was often to find the kitchen somewhere else entirely. Mother and dad would be sitting at the kitchen table as usual, looking calm and cool, having a cup of coffee.
	“How do you like it?” they would ask, offering me a peanut butter cookie.
	“Oh, it’s great,” I would say. “I just never know where it’s going to be.”
	Having a movable kitchen had some disadvantages. Dad would use any scraps of pipe he could find to make the new connections. Sometimes the water pressure was too low. The water just dripped out. At other times it rushed out with great force, like a fire house, spraying water in a five-foot radius around the sink. Sometimes, Dad mixed the old gas pipes into the new system, and the water tasted terrible for months. We breathed out gas like dragons.
	Nevertheless, the movable kitchen had advantages as well. It enabled mother to rearrange things – find new places to put her plates and bowls and silverware. She enjoyed doing this. She liked making everything new again, neat and clean and orderly. Moving the kitchen kept my father from taking on even more Herculean tasks – like adding on new porches, installing new outside doors, or pouring cement driveways on steep hillsides. He was easily satisfied with his work – a trait I have inherited by the way. He was willing to compromise, and some of his major projects were not exactly “square with the world” as my mother tactfully put it. Kitchen-moving worked better for him, I think. It calmed his restless spirit and kept him happy and well adjusted, well into retirement.
	My own retirement is coming up soon.. The University is planning a festschrift for me. That’s good. That’s comforting. I’m looking forward to seeing many of my former students. But something else is stirring inside me. I keep going into the kitchen and staring thoughtfully at its contents. How would it look if we moved everything would where the dining room is now?

My father’s favorite hope for success involved selling trees for the Stark Nursery down in Missouri.
In early spring, big packages of bare root trees would arrive at our house from the Stark company. We would unwrap the trees and inspect them carefully to make sure that they were undamaged. Then Dad would go around the neighborhood trying to sell them. His plan was to double his money. If he bought a tree for 50 cents, he would sell it for a dollar.
It just didn’t work out.
He actually sold most of the trees. But the money he brought in didn’t amount to all that much. Times were tough during the Great Depression, and most of our neighbors had no more money than we did. He didn’t always charge them double.  Buying trees, particularly ornamental ones, was a luxury few could afford. Indeed, if you visit my home town today, you will find that many of the houses still have no foundation plantings and few if any trees in the yard. They stand bare and plain, well maintained but without a single bush or flower to cheer the heart.
The upshot of it all was that when summer finally arrived, my father still had trees wrapped in burlap bags in the garage.  Rather than throw the trees away, he planted them in our yard as a kind of advertisement of his wares.
I can still see all those trees – the apple tree in the corner of the garden, two mulberry trees on the north side of the house, pussy willows in the ditch behind the garage, a black walnut tree near the front window, a cherry tree near the porch, a buckeye tree (a nice looking tree but its buckeyes were poisonous), a birch, a weeping mulberry, two soft maple trees I used to tap in the early spring to make maple sugar out of, ten hard maple trees lining the streets at intervals on two sides of the house, a pear tree near the front hedge, and two apricot trees. And, oh yes, we had a red bud tree out in the front yard too.
Actually, when I think about it, we lived in a forest, most of it planted by my father. Harvesting the fruit those trees produced took most of the summer and the fall. By the time the hard frosts came and the leaves fell, the cupboards in the basement were stacked with Mason jars filled with canned fruit and fruit juice. We were sick of apples and cherries and walnuts and grapes and apricots.
          Years later I ran across a poem by the famous Vermont poet Robert Frost. It’s called After Apple Picking, and it spoke to me. I understood it the first time I heard it.

.My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing dear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

           My father’s fruit tree scheme went bust like all the others. In another time, it might have succeeded. But at that time, we simply suffered from an abundance of apples that resulted not in hard cash, but in more hard work for himself and everybody in the family.
 For many years, I couldn’t look at an apple. But now, forced to cut back on desserts, I’ve turned to apples again. I look forward to my 10 o’clock apple each morning and my 3 o’clock apple as well. I have a better opinion of apples these days, and I see more good in them than I used to. 
      It’s the same with my opinion of my father. I think of him now as a man who tried his best to provide a good life for his family against overwhelming odds. He was not downhearted.  He was never defeated. He kept the faith. He believed that eventually, he would achieve the victory. 
      In a way, I think he did. He put everything he could into the education of his children.  It was his one scheme that succeeded, although he lived to see only the beginnings of that success. I wonder what he would think now of his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren educated and doing well. Among his descendants are three millionaires that I know of, and more will come unless I miss my guess. How pleased he would have been. How important were the hopes and dreams he planted along with those trees of defeat that filled our yard.

It began in Iowa on a cold day in December 1938.
I had just had my ninth birthday. I was in the Christmas play at the West Hill Methodist Episcopal Church in the little Mississippi River town of Wildflower.
It was the time of the Great Depression, and we had had to rehearse in a cold church – there simply wasn’t enough money to keep the church heated during the week. I had caught cold and had a sore throat and a fever.
But today was Sunday morning, the church was heated, and I was expected to go on with the show. I was one of the main characters. I played the role of a little shepherd boy who sees the wise men bringing their fabulous gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ child. The little boy wants to bring gifts too, but what did a poor little boy of 2,000 years ago have to bring?
He decides to give the Christ child his favorite possessions, a rock, a piece of string, and a harmonica. Actually, the harmonica was supposed to be a reed flute, but we didn’t have one of those, so we had to make do with what we had. 
As the boy prepares to give his gifts, a miracle occurs, and the humble offerings he brings turn to gold.
We didn’t know how to turn anything into gold at the West Hill Methodist Church, so we did the best we could. On the way to the manger, I was supposed to go behind a screen for a moment and wrap the rock and the string and the harmonica in gold wrapping paper.
Then I was to hold up the three golden gifts one by one and show the congregation and put the miraculous gifts in the manger with the Christ Child.
Well, it was a good idea – but it didn’t work out exactly as planned.
At dress rehearsal the night before, I had not worked with the gold wrapping paper. And during the real performance in church on Sunday, when I went behind the screen to wrap the rock and the string and the harmonica in the gold paper, it didn’t work. The paper didn’t want to conform to the objects in question, and the Scotch Tape, which had spent the night below freezing in the church wasn’t a bit of help either. 
. A significant pause occurred as I worked behind the screen, trying to make a miracle. A minute went by, and the members of the congregation began to shuffle their feet and whisper to one another.
“What’s the matter?” the organist Louise Swan said in a loud whisper.
“It won’t stick,” I said in a desperate voice that could be heard all over the sanctuary.
The organist said, “Just hold it together with your hands and put it in the manger. Do it now.”
“It‘s not going to work,” I said. “I can’t make it stick.”
“Do it now,” the organist commanded.
I finally did what she said, and came out from behind the screen and put the presents in the manger, where the gold paper promptly unwrapped, revealing the rock, the string and the harmonica in their original condition.
Amid general laughter, we hurried on to the end of the show and took our bows.
I thought that the play was a dreadful failure.
The miracle hadn’t happened.
All the Christ child got in our play was ordinary, everyday presents when he certainly deserved something much better.
At least that was the opinion of my friends at the time, and it was my opinion too.
All of this is a bit foggy because most of my memories of the event were wiped out by what happened after the play was over.
I went home that night and got really sick. My sore throat turned into rheumatic fever and I was confined to bed from Christmas until the middle of March.
We had no antibiotics in those days, and that winter a number of my friends who came down with the same disease didn’t make it and had to be buried in Aspen Grove Cemetery. 
Our family doctor recommended that my mother give me port wine to drink. 
He had heard that that red wine had healing power in such cases.
My mother had signed a temperance pledge when she was fifteen, and she was not about to give port wine to her son, no matter what the doctor said.
Instead she gave me grape juice that she had canned the previous fall.
“I know it’s not wine,” she said, “but it comes from the same source. It must have the same good stuff in it.”
During the three months I was ill, I choked down a lot of grape juice, and I managed to make it through the winter, though my heart was damaged, and my future career as a star baseball player was put on indefinite hold.
One day in spring, I woke up from a restless nap and heard my mother talking to someone on the front porch just outside my room.
I realized that she was talking to Miss Peel, the principal of my elementary school. What was Miss Peel doing there – right on our front porch? My mother was crying, and the dreaded Miss Peel, unbelievably, was uttering comforting, cooing sounds.
“Now Bess,” she said. “I’m sure that he will be all right.”
The whole thing was terrifying, especially when I heard Miss Peel call my mother Bess, and mom broke down in tears.
 “He’s not expected to live,” I head my mom say, “And even if he does, he could be an invalid for the rest of his life.”
This was news to me, and in that moment I became a changed boy.
I decided that I would be willing to let the baseball career go. I was probably not cut out to be a first baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals anyway. I would become a super student instead. I would read lots of books, all the books in the school library, if that would help. I would become something else, a writer maybe. I would even learn to play the violin if necessary. But one thing was certain – I would live.
When Miss Peel left and my mother came in from the porch blowing her nose and wiping her eyes, I sat up and asked for a big glass of grape juice. 
In a couple of weeks the fever broke, and I began to get better. By the end of summer I was out of my wheelchair. I was pale and weak and definitely not the boy I had been, but I was ready to go back to school and repeat the fourth grade and begin preparing for a new career.
More than sixty years have passed since that strange and troubling winter up in Iowa. The good people who helped me survive those times are gone now.
Only a handful remain who witnessed that dreadful disaster in the sanctuary of West Hill Methodist Church, and, fortunately, most of them have forgotten all about it.
But I still remember.

	For me, the end of childhood came in the summer of the third grade.
It was a boring summer day, and I had climbed up in the cherry tree in our front yard just to kill some time. I was hidden by the dense foliage.
	My teen-age brother and some of his friends came by and sat under the tree.
	It was an ideal occasion to gather information to blackmail my brother with, and I remained quiet up in the tree, listening to what was being said below.
	I got more than I bargained for. Their talk was a revelation to me. They used a vocabulary I had never heard before in our home. The concepts these words evoked in my 8-year-old mind were revolutionary.
	After they moved on, I remained in the tree for 15 minutes more. When I finally came down, I was stiff and sore and scratched by cherry bark and dazed by what I had heard.
	I was determined not to rat on my brother as I had originally intended.  This was serious stuff. I decided to keep it to myself. In fact, I devoted the rest of the summer to learning all the words that I could pick up around the neighborhood. My neighborhood was a rich resource, and I must say that I learned a great many choice terms.
	I could not rehearse my new vocabulary at home, of course, but in the long Iowa evenings – the sun didn’t go down until 10 o’clock – I would sit by myself on the curb of Oakdale Street and admonish the butterflies that flocked there to enjoy the last bit of heat radiating from the pavement.
	“You blankety blank blank butterfly,” I would say. “You’re noting but a blankety blank blank blank.”
	My vocabulary didn’t seem to impress the butterflies much, and some of them even came and sat on my arm or my head as I berated them.
	When I entered Miss Elsie Holstein’s fourth grade class the following September, I could swear for a minute and a half without repeating myself.
	If Miss Holstein asked me to do something I didn’t want to do, I would say, “Yes, Miss Holstein,” and smile sweetly at her, and, in my mind give her the full ninety seconds worth.
	I was no longer the unified child I had been. I was divided. I had changed. I had split up. If I wanted to, I could be one thing on the outside and another on the inside. For all practical purposes, in other words, I had become an adult.

	Iowans are nice people, but some of them do have quirks.
	For example, some never tell you when they are coming to visit. They just show up.
	I suppose that they think that you would go to too much trouble if they told you they were coming. So, usually, they just wheel into your driveway about five in the afternoon, and there they are – Cousin John and his wife Sue Ann whom you haven’t seen for fifteen or sixteen years.
	“You didn’t let us know you were coming,” we say, remembering that all we have in the refrigerator is leftover pizza.
	“Oh, we just happened to be in Texas, just driving by on the way to the Valley, you know, and we thought we’d drop in and have a cuppa coffee with you.”
	Well you can see that their suitcases have already been moved to the back seat of the Explorer, so you ask them to stay overnight.
	“Oh, no,” they say, “That would be way too much trouble.”
	They have to be asked two or three times, and then, reluctantly, they say, “Well, if you insist.”
	Having grown up in Iowa I’m more or less used to this, but LaVonne, who grew up in Fort Worth, finds it a little more difficult to accept.
	“The house is just a mess,” she’ll whisper to me. “Didn’t their momas teach them anything?”
	“They learned it from their mamas,” I tell her. It’s just a mystery of Iowa behavior. Let’s relax and enjoy the visit.”
	It is true that when I was a boy growing up in Iowa, we would often take a drop-in drive on Sunday afternoon in our 1935 Dodge.
	We might drive through the park, or travel twelve miles down to Fort Madison to look at the Mississippi River. We could look at the river in our hometown of Wildflower, of course, but it was widely acknowledged that the view was better in Fort Madison. Eventually, however, we would find ourselves at Grandma’s farm five miles west of town. We didn’t want to put her to any trouble, so we just dropped in.
	Grandma had been born in Sweden, and she always had coffee on the woodstove in the kitchen and a cake sitting on the dining room table on a glass plate with a beautiful glass cover over it. She would offer use cake and coffee – or cake and milk for the kids. My mother and dad would always refuse.
	“Oh, no,” they would say, “We just had dinner an hour ago.”
	“Go Grandma, go,” I always thought.
	Grandma insisted, “You must take something.”
	“No thanks,” my father would say, “Not right now.”
	“Don’t give up Grandma,” I thought to myself, already tasting that delicious cake.
	“It will just go to waste,” Grandmother would say, getting out a cake knife to cut a piece.
	“Well, just a little slice,” my mother would say.
	And my father would say, “Taks.”
	Taks is Swedish for “thanks,” and I would say, “Hooray!” and grandma would begin cutting great big pieces of her wonderful chocolate cake or perhaps her unsurpassed orange cake with burnt sugar frosting.
	Why did we go through this “dropinsky” ritual? Why did we pretend that we had just dropped in, when, as a matter of fact, we had planned to visit Grandma all along? If there was a reason I never understood it. It was just the custom. It was the way we were. It was the polite way to do things in Iowa.

	I was born to and raised by a Scandinavian family in Iowa, and, frankly, it was not a touchy-feely experience. We Iowans were not Southern Europeans. We were mainly Swedes and Norwegians and Germans and Netherlanders and Irish. We lived in practical agricultural communities, and we could go for months without touching another human being.
	Holding hands was a big occasion in Iowa, something you did once or twice a year, if that often. Maybe you did it when you said the prayer at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but that was about it.
	Sometimes the minister at the West Hill Methodist Church  would ask us to hold hands as we prayed in church, but lots of people wouldn’t do it, especially if they were sitting next to people they didn’t like, which was a good deal of the time.
	It’s not that Scandinavians and Northern Europeans are cold and aloof, although they have that reputation. They can be as warm and together as anybody, as long as there aren’t that many people around. But good heavens, they’re used to living on farms with the nearest neighbor about a mile away, and they just don’t like being looked at, especially when they’re holding hands.
	So they hold hands selectively and sparingly, you might say. They hold hands only with certain people on special occasions, or when someone is dying. They know how to hold hands, but they just don’t practice it enough to want to show off in front of other folks. In the old days up there, if you were ever caught holding hands with a girl, you pretty well knew people expected you to get married.
	Holding hands can mean many things. 
	It can mean I’m glad to be your friend.
	It can mean I’m glad to be here with you.
	It can mean I share your grief.
	It can mean I want you to be well again.
	It can mean let’s don’t fight any more.
	It can mean I agree with you.
	It can mean I don’t agree with you, but I love you anyway.
	We may not have miraculous power in our hands, but minor miracles we can often work, just by touching one another.

After the Harvest
	When I was growing up in Iowa, there was never anything to do after harvest, and there still isn’t. As a result, you see some pretty fancy Halloween decorations around town. None of this restrained and artistic decorating you see in West Austin, with maybe a single well dressed scarecrow in the front yard. Up in Iowa they put everything they have saved up for thirty years or more right there in the front yard – and if they have too much, they fill in the porch and the side yard too, and no doubt the back yard as well. Then on Nov. 1 they take it all down carefully and pack it away and get the Thanksgiving decorations out.
	Decorating for holidays is a way of life in Iowa. It reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s poem:

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown; 
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown,
Lest I should be old fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.

	Bored at Halloween, we used to gather pears – not a popular fruit in Iowa – and shove them up exhaust pipes.
	When the morning of All Saints Day arrived, people started their cars, and the pears blew out with a satisfying WHUMP. You could hear them all over town – WHUMP WHUMP WHUMP.
	Dogs howled, and veterans awoke in a sweat, remembering battles they had fought.
	“Darn kids,” they said. “Won’t they ever learn? It must be time to pack the car and head for Texas.”

Work, Work, Work
	I last visited my mother when she was living in a rest home in Danville, Iowa, not far from the farm where she had been born 89 years earlier. We sat on the deck and talked. She knew she ought to know me, but she wasn’t sure that she did. I think in her mind I was much younger, still the little “surprise child” that had come along when she was 42 years old and not expecting any more babies. She couldn’t quite make the connection between that child and this 47-year-old man with the steely blue eyes sitting on the deck talking to her. After a while she stopped talking and seemed to forget that I was there.
	She was busy.
	She had work to do.
	Sitting there in her wheelchair, she was still working, folding napkins for the evening meal. I could tell she was happy to have something to do.
	After a while, I quietly got up and left.
	 I’m not sure she saw me go.

Heart Surgeon at the Hardware Store

Not long ago I was surprised to find Wildflower’s retired heart surgeon Jim Calvin working in the hardware section of The Ace Hardware Store on Jefferson Street. I don’t think he needs the money, but I do think he needs the work.
	I said to him, “Jim, if I were to fall down here right now with a heart attack, would you be able to operate on me?”
	“You bet,” he said, gesturing at the shelves of hammers and saws and nails, “I have everything I need right here.”
	I left feeling strangely reassured to see him working there in the hardware store, a man who didn’t have to, but who wanted to.
	Retirement is coming up, and my children have been worrying about my not having work to do. But Dr. Calvin reminds me that that’s not so. I have books to write. I have extension courses to teach from my home office via the Web. I have grandchildren to tell tall tales to. I have excellent dinners to cook for my wife LaVonne. I have a few things I need to do for Wildflower Church.
	Following Dr. Calvin’s lead, I might even help out at the hardware store – in the garden section maybe. Or I might become a crossing guard at the elementary school, shaking my stop sign at those drivers who go faster than 20 miles an hour.  Or I might become a carry-out person at the supermarket. Or I might shelve books at the public library. I think I would like that. I could sneak in a little reading back there in the stacks.
	I don’t think it’s possible for me just to sit on the deck and feed peanuts to the squirrels. Before you know it, I would be trying to teach those bushy-tailed rascals to do something useful -- to roll over, or sit up, or climb to the top of the apple tree and fetch me an apple.  I know I would do that. I have to work.
	So, the kids don’t need to worry.  I’ll tell them I’m not really retiring. I’m just switching jobs.

Redeeming the Church Treasurer

This story happened a long time ago in Wildflower.
When the treasurer of Wildflower Church, Carl Soderstrom, ran off with the church secretary and most of the money in the church's bank account, I never expected to see either one of them again. 
 After all, running off wasn't looked on kindly in those days, and when people ran off in Wildflower they usually ran off for good.  
But a couple of years later, when I came home from college on a visit and went to church with my folks, I was surprised to see Mr. Soderstrom and the secretary sitting in their regular pews, reunited with their families and with the church, and singing the three-fold amen along with everyone else in the congregation. “Amen. Amen A-a-a-a-men.”
	After the service, I asked my mother, "How come they were allowed to come back?" 
	"Well, we decided it was drink that did it," she said, nodding at me as if to warn me of what was certain to happen to me if I ever touched a glass of wine.
	 "They were both of them drinkers. And when they ran off, they were so confused neither one of them knew what they were doing. After a few months, they sobered up and talked it over with Pastor Norquist. They asked to come back, and he said it would be all right and here they are!" 
	It wasn’t too surprising, I decided later on.
	Redemption was a way of life in those days.  Nothing was wasted.  Churches needed every member they could get. Everything that could be reclaimed was reclaimed. It was best not to worry about what people might have done in the past. The cleansing and renewing power of the Lord would make them right again. The wounded would be made whole. There was a balm in Gilead and in Wildflower Church that could cure just about anything.
“Good for you, Wildflower Church,” I thought.   “Amen. Amen A-a-a-a-men.”
	With a twinkle in her eye, my mother concluded the story, "It turned out all right in the end.  Both of them quit drinking and went back to their families.  But we never did let him be the treasurer again."

Cardboard in Her Shoes

	Melon, a little town next door to Wildflower, is now a much desired residential community serving the high tech community.  But back in the 1960s it was a sorry-looking place — desperately poor — barely making it from season to season, year to year.
	A woman who lived there, Agnes Morgan, earned part of her living by sending in social notes from Melon to the Wildflower Gazette.  She got a penny a word for performing this literary task. The income from her weekly column was limited because, frankly, there wasn’t much social life in Melon.	
	After she had told who had gone to church on Sunday and who hadn’t, and who had visited the nursing home and the cemetery, she didn’t have much else to report, and she had to spin her column out some to get the 500 words she needed to earn five dollars for groceries. She usually did this by recording all the miracles — all the unexpected blessings — that had come her way since last week’s report.
	Everyone in Wildflower read her column — fine ladies living in old mansions, science teachers, doctors, lawyers, undertakers, and  shopkeepers.  Everyone was interested in Agnes’s weekly miracles:
	* She had found that cardboard from a Saltine cracker box made an excellent substitute for new leather soles for her shoes. You had to cut the cardboard soles carefully to fit, but the cutouts were soft and flexible and perfectly acceptable so long as you didn’t wear them outside on a rainy day. They felt almost like new shoes.
	* She had given a stray orange kitten a saucer of milk, and  — can you believe this? — the cat had moved right in with her, had adopted her, had become her friend, and they were getting along famously.
	* She had walked in her cardboard-soled shoes in her side yard one windy morning and come upon a patch of johnny-jump-ups.  Most people considered johnny-jump-ups to be weeds, she said, but they were so beautiful and blue she wondered if they might have been the “lilies of the field” that Jesus had praised in Galilee so long ago and that Pastor Norquist talked about so often at Wildflower Church.
	Even the grumpiest people in town — and we had a lot of them — caught their breath as they read the weekly miracles of Agnes Morgan. The miserly publisher tried to fire her for padding her reports, but the outcry from the community quickly changed his mind.  The lady with cardboard in her shoes had tenure.

With the best of intentions, it is easy to fall into a gathering pattern of dissatisfaction. Day by day we are dissatisfied. Nothing seems to be as good as it used to be, as good as it should be.  Our jobs are difficult. The people around us are not doing their part. Our roof leaks. The carrier throws our newspaper in the bushes. The hair drier doesn’t work any more. We grumble all of the time. Dissatisfaction becomes our way of life.

	And yet we all know people like Agnes Morgan in Melon years ago who are satisfied with their lives because they see in them the everyday miracles that really are there, the unexpected blessings of God.	
	I know what kind of person I want to be. I guess I’ll have to quit being such a grumpasaurus. I’ll have to quit grumbling and get after it.

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