Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tragedy in the Canyon

There are times, as we make our way through life, when we cannot escape the truth of our mortality. Yesterday, was one of those times. Out for an afternoon barbeque with friends, we were having a delightful time admiring the beautiful mountain scenery, the colors of the leaves, the crisp fall air, and the afterglow of a football victory. It seemed to be the perfect afternoon.

Unbeknownst to us, at 6:40 pm--just as we were getting up to say our goodbyes and return home--a train came to a sudden stop on the tracks crossing the only entrance or exit into our host's somewhat remote canyon subdivision. My wife, Julee, and I arrived at the tracks about 6:50 pm. There we found the stopped train blocking our exit. The train was a long one, stretching off beyond what I could see in both directions. The air was amazingly quiet...all I could hear was the sound of the late summer flow in the Spanish Fork River.

As I brought the car to a stop a few feet from the train, we saw someone on the other side of the train bending down and looking at something underneath. Then something else caught my appeared to be a mannequin wearing a red blouse. I climbed out of the car and walked a few feet closer to the tracks. That was when I realized the full horror and tragedy of the scene before us. What I had thought was perhaps a mannequin, was instead a young woman, her left leg severed just above the knee, her eyes open and staring at me...but with no hope of ever seeing the beauty of the mountains around us again. A second body lay lifeless, face down, a few yards farther east under the train.

The next few hours passed slowly. Friends, neighbors,...and family flooded to the scene. These were local youth from a small, close community. The wailing of both sirens and voices filled the evening air. We did not know the victims. We were not part of the family or even close neighbors. But the pain we felt for them was real and left us wondering what if...what if we had left the party 15 minutes earlier? Could we have warned the three youths to get away from the tracks? Could we have convinced them that it is always better to stay far away from danger...not to stand as close to it as you can?

I don't know the answers to these questions, and the fact remains that we did not leave the party in time to warn them. But I hope and pray that our wonderful young people...the ones on whom we place our hopes for the future...will remember and learn. Remember that it is not only their life, but future generations that depend upon them. Learn that the rush and exhilaration of the moment is not worth the life of pain and sorrow it may bring to those who love them.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Goldie Gooseberry and the Three Blackberries

Goldie Gooseberry and the Three Blackberries
(Another picture book story -- but this time there are pictures)

Once upon a time in the backyard berry patch, there lived a ripe, beautiful gooseberry named Goldie. Gooseberries, like Goldie, look sweet and beautiful on the outside, but inside they can be very sour.

One day Goldie rolled off of her bush…bump!
She should have gone straight back to her own bush, but…Goldie never did what she was supposed to do.

Instead, she wandered off until she came to a beautiful, sunny meadow. In the meadow, Goldie met a strange looking bug. “Eeewe! You look squishy. That’s yucky,” said Goldie.
“And good morning to you, miss,” said the bug. “I am a little different, but for someone like me, squishy is just what I want to be.”

Next Goldie followed a path into a forest of tall prickly sticks. “Ouch! That hurt,” said Goldie as she bumped into one of the prickly sticks.

“Hello,” said a big deep voice.
“Hello,” said a medium-sized voice.
“Go away,” said a little quiet voice.
“Who’s there,” demanded Goldie.
“Just us, the Three Blackberries” replied the voices. “You’d better go home,” they all said.

Goldie didn’t like being told what to do, so…she stayed and stared at the Three Blackberries.
“Eeewe! You’re creepy,” said Goldie.
“Well, we are a different color,” said Papa Blackberry.
“And we live in a different neighborhood,” said Mama Blackberry.
“Get lost,” said Baby Blackberry.

Goldie ignored Baby Blackberry and decided instead to climb up for a closer look.
“Be careful,” said Papa Blackberry.
“The thorns might hurt you,” said Mama Blackberry.
“Stay out of our bush,” said Baby Blackberry.
But Goldie didn’t listen to the Three Blackberries. She climbed higher and higher until she sat right down on Papa Blackberry’s branch. “Ugh!” It was too prickly.

Next she tried sitting on Mama Blackberry’s branch, but it was too slippery and she almost fell off. “You really need a new decorator,” said Goldie.
When she sat on Baby Blackberry’s branch, he said “Don’t touch my branch!”
But…she did anyway. It was very bouncy, so...Goldie started bouncing up and down until...she bounced right off of the branch and up...up...up into the air.

“Watch out,” said Papa Blackberry.
“Oh, dear,” said Mama Blackberry.
“Oops!” said Baby Blackberry.

Fortunately for Goldie, birds don’t like sour gooseberries and he spit her out. So...sometimes being sour isn’t necessarily all that bad.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Here's what Really Happened with the Princess and the Pea

Princess Anna and the Pea (as well as the watermelon, the pig, and some other stuff)
(Another picture book story without the pictures - where's a good illustrator when you need one? Actually the illustration above is from Ashley Smith a wonderfully talented illustrator who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah)

Prince Stumpdillyumpton was sure Anna was a Princess. She was too pretty to be anything else.

“Father,” said the Prince, “I think we should invite Anna to stay. And there’s something else…I think she is really a Princess.”

“Very well,” said King Secundus. “We will invite her to stay, but you will have to give her the test.”

So, Anna stayed. She ate a huge dinner, chased the Prince’s cat around the castle, and even arm wrestled the Prince himself. The King and Queen watched her carefully. When it was time for bed, Anna was given the finest room in the castle with a bed made of one hundred of the softest mattresses in the kingdom. Under the bottom mattress the Prince placed one small pea.

“How did you sleep?” asked Prince Stumpdillyumpton the next morning.

“I slept better than a log,” said Anna, “but the bed seemed a little tall.”

“She’s no Princess,” said the King.

“She looks like a Princess,” said the Prince. “I think I should try the test again.”

So, Anna stayed. She ate a huge breakfast, showed the Prince how to catch worms, and then raced him around the castle for most of the afternoon. That night Anna slept on only fifty mattresses and they were not nearly the softest in the kingdom. Under the middle one the Prince placed a watermelon and a pig.

“So,” asked the Prince the next morning, “how did you sleep?”

“Oh, much better than even the night before,” said Anna as she started in on a huge plate of ham and eggs. "I even had an interesting dream about ham and melon sandwiches."

“Now do you believe me?” said the King.

“She still looks like a Princess. I think we should give her another chance,” said the Prince.

So, Anna stayed. After breakfast she showed the Prince how to skip rocks in the moat, where to find the best blackberries in the forest, and then accidentally gave him a black eye while trying to teach him how to box. That night, she was relieved to see that her bed was just one mattress stuffed with straw. Under it the Prince had placed an elephant, a small family of porcupines, and a troupe of circus jugglers.

“I guess you didn’t sleep too well,” said the Prince the next morning.

“But I did. In fact I think that was the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had,” said Anna.

“Are you convinced now?” said the King.

“Hmmm…” Prince Stumpdillyumpton thought for a moment. “She really does look like a Princess. I don’t think we’ve been using the right test.”

“Oh,” said the King. “What test would you recommend?”

“How about if we just call her father, King Primus, on the phone and ask him?”