Prairie View

Friday, November 30, 2007

Small Town, USA

Last week, delivered to our mailbox at ____ S. Partridge Road, was an envelope addressed to Pilgrim Christian School, Route 1, Partridge, KS 67566. The only part of the address that matched our address was the last line. The envelope was from someone seeking advertisements for the yellow pages in the phone book, probably addressed as it was because the school's telephone exchange is a Partridge number.

Someone at the Partridge post office obviously knows that I work at Pilgrim Christian School. Rather than reroute this envelope through the postal system to its correct address at ____ W. Mills Ave., Hutchinson, KS 67501, the post office employee unofficially charged me with delivering the envelope to its proper destination. This kind of thing surely happens only in places like Partridge, KS (population 259).

This works both ways. Not only do the postmaster and mail carrier know who lives and works where, everyone knows the postmaster or postmistress. One of my fellow students in high school knew more about the habits of the postmistress than I did. To discharge his social obligations properly (and to deliver a pointed dig, with accompanying bragging rights), he added "Hi Fern" to the bottom of every post card he mailed back to Partridge when he was out of town.

One of my brother's California college friends once, incredulous at the level of familiarity he witnessed when he visited here, mailed him a letter addressed to Myron, 67566. A short time later, it magically appeared in our box.

Notice to all who think rural Kansas would be a good place to disappear into the void: Not a chance. "All things are naked and open unto the eyes of [them] with whom we have to do."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Quote for the Day 11-28-07

Shane (preparing for work): Well, I guess I'll be working with the sandblaster today.

Hiromi (missing the irony): Is that your regular job or are you just doing that today?

Me: He's talking about the wind. They're digging in sandy soil.

Shane: The wind's supposed to be at 30 miles per hour with gusts to 40. I'm so excited.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Random Thanksgiving Reflections

On Thanksgiving Day, when the extended family was together, just before prayer over the evening meal, my brother-in-law, Marvin asked the family crowded in the closely packed kitchen if anyone wants to share what they are particularly thankful for. Here are some of the answers I remember:

Dad (Grandpa): I’m thankful for every one of our 31 grandchildren.

Mom (Grandma): I’m thankful for everyone that can be here and especially that Marcus can be with us. (This was very special after 15 years of him not being able to be at family gatherings.)

Linda: I’m thankful Shane is still with us. (Referring to the danger he encountered on the job several weeks ago.) I silently added Grant’s name to the list, after reading on his blog that he nearly left his imprint on the back of a minivan that turned out in front of him when he was riding his motorcycle home at highway speed. Why is it that boys will tell the whole world things like this, and not tell their mother?

Bryant (9): I’m thankful for my parents.

Kristi (11): Books.

Diana (5): My bed, my doll, the Bible. (These were conveyed by her mother, who had gotten the list that morning, after asking Diana to think about it the night before while being tucked in.)

Lois: I’m thankful that Dietrich [her seven-year-old son] is healthy. (He has recently recovered from what is thought to have been viral meningitis. He had been hospitalized.) I'm also thankful that Dorcas' surgery showed that there was no cancer in the lymph nodes. (This is the sister who has been under treatment for breast cancer since last May.)


We’re missing Joel, who writes from Bangladesh that he is sick, and is finding that in such circumstances, he really likes being with sympathetic family members. Bangladesh is great, but not that great under these circumstances. He’s also homesick–the first time he’s ever admitted that, I think. Growing pains for all of us. . . .


In the morning service we heard from David, our bishop, about a trip he took recently to visit members in Romania and Belgium. He emphasized that comparing our situation with some of the circumstances he encountered abroad are a real motivation for thanksgiving. He spoke of a young man he met who left the Romanian orphanage David was visiting to go to Bible school, after having lived a very turbulent life, all the while with the childhood knowledge that his father had traded him when he was small for a TV set.

David was called to the bedside of a Romanian gypsy criminal who is apparently dying like an old man at the age of 46. He wanted to be prayed for. Later, David went back to go over the story of redemption with him, from Genesis to Jesus, and the man received Christ. An old criminal friend of his, who is now a believer also, refused at first to believe that the hard man he knew could be a Christian, but now he visits him every day to encourage him in his new faith.

The home-girl who lives in Romania has been asked to teach counseling classes in a Romanian University.

In Belgium, David visited a World War I museum, built to honor the memory of the 500,000 people who died in the immediate area of Poperinge, Belgium. Seeing the devastation and loss of life that occurs in wartime underscores the blessing of living where war has seldom intruded on our soil. David reported that the museum experience was quite depressing.


Nuggets from the afternoon conversations and events (and memories of past gatherings)--

In our family, the sayings below are affectionately called W. . . isms, in honor of the friend that unwittingly created them:

About an uncle who was struggling with heart problems: “I don’t know what I’d do if . . . dropped the bucket.”

“We’ll cross that bridge till we get there.”

“It just didn’t get the dawn on me what you were talking about till later.”

Upon hearing reports of a winter cold front coming through: “I heard it’s going to go down into the digitals.”

Reporting on fluctuations in the dairy herd: “We were milking 70, and then 65, but now it’s dropped back up to 70.”

And from nearer the edge:

With resignation, after multiple unsuccessful attempts to arrange a meal with friends: “Well, if at first you don’t conceive, try, try again.”

Another acquaintance, reporting on his wife’s surgery: “They took out the whole hysterectomy.”

Yet another jewel, from someone else, reporting on a particularly well-received performance: “They gave them a standing ovulation.”


From my sister Carol, who is married to a pastor, came this little gem she heard that one pastor has tried on occasion when he needs to work through difficult congregational issues that involve accusations. He goes to someone who has reportedly said something particularly inflammatory and says something like this:

“I heard that you said . . . and I could hardly believe it. Is it true?”

Then he carefully observes the reaction to this straightforward approach and uses it to guide his further handling of the problem.


Overheard among the local eight and nine-year-old snake-skinning, scat-collecting nephews, about the more mellow cousin who has just moved here: We’re going to have to toughen him up.

(They’re all fond of each other. This is one of the ways the “old-timers” are setting out to support the new kid on the block.)


Marvin to Myron, while standing in their just-toured, nearly-completed new house: How much did that black braid around the top of the cupboards cost you?

Myron: I don’t know. (Laughter from all the women listening. Someone had observed earlier, in Myron's absence, that Myron and Lowell–my brothers–never like to talk about what they paid for anything. This was Marvin’s test. We had also laughed together about non-ethnic Mennonite Lynn Miller, financial writer, speaker, and adviser, who says that he is missing the gene that makes discussion of personal finances off-limits. After Myron heard what we’d talked about, he responded.)

Myron: Lowell doesn’t tell because he doesn’t want to. I don’t tell because I can’t remember.


Melissa , to the small stranger she encountered in the evergreen-tunnel play space behind Marvin’s house: Who are you?

The child looked at her in surprise, and then hopped on his bike and fled without saying anything. The children had noticed signs of someone else playing in their hideout–paint applied to some of the “furniture,” strings strung about, etc.–obviously the work of a child who may have believed it was his own private sanctuary, a sentiment more easily preserved earlier when an elderly, mobility-impaired couple occupied the house on that lot.


Two comp class research papers appeared inside the house during the night before Thanksgiving when the last students apparently crept in to deliver them, hot off the press, after we had gone to bed. I gave them permission to do so.


From my brother Ronald I learned that his goal in milking two cows (when both are lactating, at least) is to make enough money from selling the extra milk to pay for feed for all his animals--cows, pig(s), and chickens. That way they have their own milk and egg supply, and some of their meat. Brenda bakes their bread, they grow a garden in season, so they need only infrequent trips to the grocery store to feed their family of six children.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Quote for the Day 11/21/07

Seth (to the comp student working furiously on the research paper due today at the computer next to him) : Does Mrs. I work you pretty hard?

Comp Student (with a quick sideways glance at me): Well, I can't really discuss that right now.

I had missed Seth's question, and was alerted only when the roomful of students erupted in laughter. They kindly recounted the conversation when I inquired. I shouldn't have asked.

So far three students have trekked to our house to deliver their under-the-wire papers. I now have four of the nine papers in my possession. Only five more visitors to go.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Quote for the Day 11/16/07

Jared (about a clever quote he saw posted at Kansas Bible Camp): I saw it on the wall and fell in love with it at first sight and we haven't separated since.

Is it just my imagination, or does Jared make more cheerfully romantic references than the average otherwise-normal high school male? Coupled with a healthy dose of creativity and self-skepticism, it's a rather endearing quality.

My Schoolmate: A Presidential Candidate

I feel so important. I just learned that a schoolmate of mine is running for president of the United States. Among his credentials is this one: Student Council President, Partridge High School, 1969. I well remember. . . .

Bennie came to our school when he joined his mother in rural Kansas. He had apparently been living before then with his father, who had an Air Force career and also worked as an aerospace engineer.

More than any one person, Bennie gets the credit for introducing the hippie/protest 1960's culture to Partridge (Population approx. 300). He raged at the high school administration for not allowing amplifiers to be used to blast rock and roll music at the annual prom. He smoked on the school grounds (gasp!) when he stalked off, his shoes thumping loudly on the hardwood hallway floors after exiting the office where he had had a shouting match with the principal. Somewhere along the line he got involved in a flag desecration incident. The hippie/protest introduction generally was not well received in Partridge.

I haven't seen Bennie since high school, although he lives in the same county I do. If I did meet him, I wonder what we would talk about. His online profile lists cross-dressing as one of his hobbies. His religion is agnostic. Yet he lists Jesus as the person (dead or alive) that he would most like to meet--if indeed He ever lived. He explains that because He had so much influence on Western civilization, he would like to know what Jesus really intended.

Thinking about Bennie leaves me feeling sadly wistful. He was an intelligent young man when I knew him, but he never looked happy. Now he'd like to meet Jesus, but he's not sure he ever existed. His online resume lists having run in various previous elections--never successfully, to my knowledge, not even for the local school board. At age 54 he is once again a college student. He is divorced, with a son named David. I wonder if any of the idealism he's tried to hang onto has ever translated into effective change around him. I wonder if his personal life has ever been tranquil.

Tonight I am praying for Bennie. And having resolved to do that has given me an idea of what I will say to him if I ever meet him again. I don't expect him to become president, but he still has a chance at an audience with the King of Kings. And I have a long-shot chance of running into a real live presidential candidate, right here in my home county.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Quote for the Day: Nov. 15, 2007

Shane: Only 45 more years till I can retire.

The house that nearly fell in on Shane earlier in the week seems to be located on a site fraught with complications.

Before the supporting jacks snapped, and before they started digging, they had a chimney to take down. I didn't get all the details about how that was accomplished except that Shane climbed a ladder set into the skid-steer bucket and pounded away at its attachments till it looked like it was loose. Then he got out of the way just before it fell--something they were apparently not sure was possible till they tried it.

The day after the teetering house incident, Shane and Marc went to work alone while the boss stayed home and tended to his beef herd--took the year's calves to market, I believe. When they arrived on the job site, they discovered that the septic tank next to the basement hole had "blown out" during the night, the septic tank's wall next to the basement collapsing into the excavation, and spilling the septic tank's contents into the basement hole. Bummer. They spent a long time scooping up the unsavory contents before they could get on with the planned work for the day. Shane summed up this experience with a pithy comment that was not acceptable for supper table conversation.

Today Shane found the snake hanging out behind the seat in the truck cab, where it had avoided detection ever since Marc put it there on the day of the house's near collapse. Shane had hoped that by now it had found an escape route. "If I didn't hate snakes so much I would have strangled him [Marc] with it," Shane announced over supper.

And that's why Shane is already looking forward to retirement.

Meanwhile, today in Bangladesh, Joel is getting his first taste of a cyclone (hurricane). A category 4 or 5 storm made landfall on the southern coast of the country at the shore of the Bay of Bengal. He lives about 85 miles north, and is in no danger from the storm surges that have already devastated many of the homes by the ocean. But the wind and rain will likely or have create(d) category 1 conditions in the capital city where he lives, according to a warning he received from the US embassy.

Life bumps along, and tonight we're still all safe, and I'm glad.

Quote for the Day 11/14/07

Typing Class Students (during break midway through the class): Let’s see who can give the biggest slam.

Me: What kind of warped minds does it take to come up with a contest like that?

Students: Mrs. I gets the prize!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Quote for the Day 11/12/07b

Shane (casually, while helping get supper on the table): Well, I nearly got killed today. (After the house under which they were digging a basement shifted and snapped three of the six jacks they were using to support the portion beneath which they had already excavated--threatening to drop the two-story house into the hole they had dug.)

Me: Oh Shane! Don't do that! Were you the only one under the house?

Shane: No. Joe [the boss] was with me.

Me: What did you do?

Shane: Put in more jacks as fast as we could.

Me: Where was Marc?

Shane: Driving the truck. That's usually my job, but I made him do it because I saw him put a live snake in the truck, so when the load was full I told him he could either drive the truck himself or find the snake and take it out. He couldn't find the snake.

Me: Why did he put it in there?

Shane: To scare the c_____ out of whoever drove the truck next. He couldn't find it before the next load either, so he drove again. We were finding snakes all day [in the basement hole]. One of them was about five feet long. Fortunately it was cold enough that they held still so we could kill them easily. We never did find the one in the truck though.

Hiromi: If you could have seen everything happening today you might have seen angels holding up the house when the jacks broke.

I can almost feel my hair getting grayer by the minute, but tonight I give thanks, multiplying gray hair notwithstanding.

Quotes for the Day 11/12/07a

Warning: This post has absolutely no redeeming value. There's surely something wrong with me for submitting it.

Grant, when I reproved him for a sustained, high-volume burp: You're just jealous because you can't do that.

Matt: Grant, can you teach me to burp like that? (Overheard outside the tent Matt and Grant were sharing in the Missouri Ozarks when they were both about ten.)

Grant can speak whole sentences during one burp. Sadly, it's a talent I can't think of a single admirable use for, except perhaps to slay his mother's pride.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Quotes for the Day--11/6/07

Overheard yesterday at school: What if there's no such thing as a hypothetical question?

One-year-old Dale Oatney, in the hush right after the benediction at the end of the church service on Sunday: ay-MEEEHHHNN!

"The Boxer Rebellion of New York City"--Story title by Jared, based on a picture cut from a magazine advertisement--a well-dressed business man, sans trousers, briefcase in hand, standing on the curb of a city street. As Jared told the story, he was a professor who slept through his alarm, had to skip shaving to make it to his first class (Guess I'll have to go with the rugged look today.) and interpreted all the strange looks he encountered en route to his job as unseemly responses to the stubble on his face--till one student among the cheerful group in his class interrupted his lecture on Italian Renaissance music to ask if he was dressed in period costume. He looked down to check if something about his pants suggested having been made in Italy, and, in a flash, understood everything that had happened since he left home.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Super-Powered Minivan

I have always liked my '98 Mercury Villager minivan. Today I discovered that it has an amazing ability that I never knew about. It can, all by itself, scoop up a diaper-bag-sized rock, carry it some distance, and then refuse obstinately to part with it--that is, not until Grant has grunted and muttered, and shoved and kicked and wiggled it every way he could think of. And I have turned the steering wheel to get the tire angled right, and, most helpful of all, I have gotten out of the vehicle to survey the damage, thereby raising the body of the minivan enough to give the rock more wiggle room.

On my way to school this morning, I backed hurriedly out of the parking space adjoining the driveway in front of the house. I felt the front tire go up and over one of the limestone rocks that form an edging around the front flower bed. Turned too short, I knew. Should have backed out straight before turning, but, HELLO, I was in the driveway prepared to go forward when I realized that the sound of the bumper scraping over the top of the rock had followed me all the way out of the parking spot. When I checked, one rock plucked out of its tidy curving row was snuggled very tightly between the tire and the inside of the wheel well, also sort of cradled into the inside curve of the front bumper.

Grant fortunately had not yet fired up his motorcycle to drive to work, and was within earshot of the alarming noises from the parking area. "WHY--did--you--turn--so--short?" he asked, hurrying over. If there's a face-saving way of answering questions like that, I haven't found it.

Nevertheless, I proceeded on my way eventually with more feelings of gratitude than self-flagellation. Even the bumper is not scarred. Why should I be?

"Amish Woman Demonstrates Minivan's Super-powers." Maybe there's a thought in that imaginary headline that I can work into a smart answer the next time I have to answer a dumb question about my reasons for turning or not turning the steering wheel of my minivan in certain ways at certain times.