Tragedy can draw people closer together

treedamagebybrucestambaugh
Whipping winds from a severe thunderstorm damaged a substantial limb in the middle of the sunburst locust tree in our front lawn.

By Bruce Stambaugh

When a friend gets hurt, you feel sad and sympathetic. When that friend is injured on your property, you feel horrible, helpless, even responsible. That’s just what happened to my friend, Dan.

A recent severe thunderstorm blasted through our area and in the process heavily damaged the majestic and delicate sunburst locust tree in our front yard. A large limb bent to the ground, but remained precariously attached to the main trunk.

Dan is a jack-of-all-trades, especially adept at trimming trees. He takes every safety precaution and uses sound judgment. When I showed him the tree, he said he was willing to trim the badly broken limb.

concessionstandbybrucestambaugh
Just one of Dan’s many trades is operating a highly successful concession stand at a local produce auction.
My preference was to work together some afternoon once he closed his concession stand at the local produce sale. Dan said he preferred to work on the tree on Saturday morning. However, my wife and I were going to our cottage in southeast Ohio for the weekend.

Dan assured me he would be fine alone, and encouraged us to continue with our cottage plans. And so we did until Neva received a text from our neighbor. Dan had been hurt while working on the limb. I felt sick.

Desperate for more information, I called the emergency room at the local hospital and asked to speak with one of Dan’s family members. After a few seconds of hearing some fumbling with the phone, a familiar but softened voice spoke. It was Dan, not quite sounding himself.

Near tears, I asked how he was, and Dan assured me that other than a broken jaw, a broken shoulder blade and a broken rib, he was fine. Typical Dan.

swirledcornbybrucestambaugh
Winds from the severe storm swirled eight-foot high corn nearly to the ground.

Dan immediately took all the blame for the accident and assured me that he was all right. He said we should continue our weekend at the cottage.

Dan’s son filled me in with the few details of the accident that he knew. Passersby saw the mishap unfold, stopped and lifted the large limb off of Dan.

Dan was transferred to a city trauma center for surgery to repair his broken jaw. I still felt horrible about the accident to my friend. Dan’s family kept us updated on his condition, which fortunately was not life threatening.

We enjoyed the weekend with friends as best we could. But Dan was always on my mind. On Monday, I visited Dan at the hospital and was glad to see he remained in his usual good humor even while still waiting on his jaw surgery that evening.

trimmedtreebybrucestambaugh
Dan’s son, family and friends returned to the home to finish cleaning up after the accident.
On Tuesday morning as I was finishing my regular walk, I got a call that finally made me smile. It was Dan. He wondered if I could come pick him up from the Akron hospital when he was released in the afternoon. Absolutely I would.

On the way home, Dan kept saying that he was just so happy that my wife and I weren’t there when the limb came down. He knew we both would have been out helping him, and who knows what would have resulted?

The injury certainly hadn’t damaged his congenial personality. I had failed to ask for a written estimate for the work, so Dan said he would double the bill from $10 to $20.

Dan is convinced there was a reason for the accident happening. I have a hint about that.

The trauma, the emotion, the frantic communication back and forth, and now the joyful reunion had galvanized our friendship. Better times are ahead. Trimming trees won’t be included.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

Walking with the grandsons generates more than exercise

davisandevanbybrucestambaugh
Grandsons Davis and Evan posed for a photo along the way.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Unlike their little sister, my grandsons, Evan, age nine, and Davis, now seven, wake early. No matter how late they stay up the previous night, they always rise with the cows.

On a recent visit from their city-situated home in Virginia to our Ohio rural one, I found the boys quietly playing in the living room as I prepared for my morning stroll.

I asked them if they wanted to walk with me. Davis said he would. Evan said not. So Davis changed his mind. As I headed for the front door, they both reevaluated the situation, likely based on previous walks with Poppy. They joined me after all.

Both are smart, observant boys, full of vim and vinegar. At their age, you never know what’s going to pop into their brains and tumble out of their mouths. They know that the saunter down the chip and sealed country road can resemble an amble in a zoo, with both domestic and wild animals appearing at various spots along the way.

checkingitoutbybrucestambaugh
The boys carefully checked out the dead Screech Owl along the roadway.
Practicing good safety habits, we walked single file. I took the lead on the initial stretch of the stroll along our busy county road. Most motorized vehicles seem to seldom adhere to the posted 45 m.p.h. speed limit.

That is particularly true of cars, vans and trucks heading north toward us down what we affectionately call the Number Ten Hill ski slope. Fortunately, in the quiet countryside, you can generally hear the acceleration approaching well before you see it. We stepped to the side until the traffic passed.

As we did so, we discovered a dead Screech Owl in the neighbor’s grass. It most likely had been hit overnight as it hunted for food. On the way home, I picked up the bird, placed it in a plastic sack and put it in the freezer until delivery could be made to the Wilderness Center in Wilmot where it would be preserved as a hands on educational tool for children like my grandchildren.

purplemartinsbybrucestambaugh
A family of Purple Martins perched high on the snag of a dead decidious tree at the beginning of our walk
We turned east on the township road and soon spied a family of Purple Martins perched high in the limbs of an old snag. Upon our arrival to their station, the gregarious birds greeted us by circling and chattering overhead.

Boys being boys, all things gross always intrigue them. The flattened brownish-green plops of horse manure left on the roadway drew their attention. Davis, the more scientific one of the two, wanted specific details of how it got there. I encouraged him to be patient, that maybe he would learn first-hand how that particular organic operation functioned.

At one homestead, I praised a meticulously manicured vegetable garden. Apparently too tame, the exploring boys barely gave it a glance.

wagonloadofwoodbybrucestambaugh
Always the exacting young man, Evan had to point to the wagonload of firewood to be sure that was the wood that would be delivered to the house.

Further down the road at our neighbor’s farm, I showed them the wagonload of chopped firewood that awaited delivery to our house. Their eyebrows shot up at the bulging cargo.

The mention of home seemed to trigger the fact that we had walked far enough, though we still had a quarter of a mile to go to complete my usual route. Not wanting to disturb the morning’s peacefulness, I relented. Knowing that breakfast awaited, the boys kept a steadier pace on the return trip, virtually ignoring the chestnut mares and Holstein heifers.

Though a horse drawn buggy did pass us, Davis must have forgotten his question, negating having to describe the unappetizing depositing process to their admiring sister. She’s a dainty enough eater as it is.

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© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

Summer is for gathering

familypicnicbybrucestambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Summer is for gatherings. The season of lyrical calls of songbirds and insects helps set the stage for people coming together for social get-togethers of every kind.

The warmer weather is a big incentive, too. Rain, on the other hand, can be a party pooper for all things outdoors.

At family gatherings, the kid in all of us emerges at dusk when the flight of the fireflies begins. Curious children run with jars to capture the luring light, fascinated with the elusive insects’ blinking ability. Hopefully the kids practice the capture and release approach to the illuminating inspection.

Corralling fireflies is only one checkmark on a long list of summer social events. Family picnics, school reunions, parties, parades, benefit sales, vacations, camping jamborees, weddings, garage sales, backyard cookouts, mud runs, races, ballgames, benefit auctions and fireworks all belong on a summer event calendar.

smoresbybrucestambaugh
Roasting marshmallows over hot coals runs the risk of things being a little smokey.

With their varying purposes, they still all result in people interacting with other people. Some see each other regularly. For others, it can be decades since they have last met.

Long spontaneous conversations ensue, some with participants standing the full length of the chatting. Along comes another familiar face, and the course of the discussion takes another turn, ears attentive to the new flow. What you would expect from friends separated by too much time and space?

Fortunately, gatherings involve more than gabbing. Well, at least the good ones do. Horseshoe and corn hole games, baseball, softball, badminton and volleyball are just some of the friendly competition.

bigcatchbybrucestambaugh
Of course the curious kids had to check out their Dad’s big catch.

Some prefer to relax on a bass boat or pontoon boat and fish the while away. If keepers are caught, it’s a double blessing on the day’s investment. A day at the pool or beach with friends and family can be just as satisfying as a string full of crappies.

I remember my late father’s group from work had an outing at one of northeast Ohio’s many lakes. I was so young I only remember tidy pastel cottages ringed the shores, and behind them towering hardwoods provided plenty of shade.

boatingbybrucestambaugh
A little rowboat cruise around a large pond is always a treat with the kids.

It was what happened under that cool canopy that sticks in my mind the most. The men were pitching horseshoes and kids were allowed to retrieve them. My math skills either weren’t the best or I got too anxious and stuck my hand in for a horseshoe when one came down hard on my small hand. A little cold water and a bandage did the trick, and I’ve steered clear of horseshoe pits ever since.

goodyearblimpbybrucestambaugh
The Goodyear Blimp often made touch and go landings at its hangar near Wingfoot Park east of Akron, Ohio.
Dad orchestrated annual summer gatherings for our extended family for years. Named the Frith reunion, in honor of the maiden name of our mother and her two sisters, we would usually assemble at a shelter in the company park at Goodyear’s lovely Wingfoot Lake east of Akron.

It was a popular place, with families and extended families joining in the summer fun. Carry-ins were the rule, with lots of favorite homemade dishes laid out on the tables. As the children grew into adults, they brought boy friends and girl friends, and then spouses and later still, their own children as the years flew by.

Sadly, that annual ritual has passed along with the three Frith sisters. With generations of descendants scattered all across the country and beyond, the Frith family reunion may be rejuvenated with a multiple of offshoots that will continue the relational connections.

Being with friends and family in both formal and informal settings in the summer helps define the season. Without them, summer just wouldn’t be the same.

facepaintingbybrucestambaugh
Activities like face painting always add fun to summer gatherings.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

Robbers can’t steal the most valuable treasures

amishcountrybybrucestambaugh
I drove by this Amish produce farm on the way to and from the pharmacy.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I happened into the local pharmacy mid-morning to purchase a few items I needed. It turned out to be much more than a routine shopping trip into town.

The clerk at the checkout counter was a former student in one of the buildings where I had been principal. Normally, upbeat and cheery, I mentioned that she seemed a bit down about something. The young woman replied that the store had been robbed of drugs the previous evening, and that she was still a little jittery from the experience.

I expressed my regrets and sadness to her. I told her that my own parents and my wife’s parents had each had been robbed. In the aftermath, they felt violated, insecure and wary. The young woman said she felt the same.

Just then another employee arrived and joined the conversation. She, too, had a school connection. She was an employee, and I had her son as a student.

feelingsafebybrucestambaugh
The scene reflects the lifestyle in Amish country. Though crimes do occur from time to time, the perpetrators are usually caught and convicted.

The women told me that law enforcement officials had arrived quickly, and through the help of witnesses and their police dog, the alleged perpetrator had been caught.

Still, I could see the fear in their eyes and hear the quiver in their voices. At that point, another customer arrived at the checkout counter. Yes, she, too, was another former student.

Grandma and grandson.
Grandma and grandson.
I recognized her and her freckles, but had to ask her name. I told Heidi she hadn’t changed, and she said I hadn’t either. I told her to get her glasses checked, and we all laughed.

Given the circumstances and the setting, it was fun just to share a bit of laughter. The kibitzing we did back and forth helped them forget the robbery.

We are fortunate to live in a community where criminal acts are the exception and not the rule. Like my friends at the drug store, we are all connected one way or another.

I think this familiarity with one another develops a certain resiliency with folks. My neighbor’s business was broken into. Another neighbor had a valuable deer stolen. Local banks have been robbed, and on and on it goes. Fortunately, these various incidences happened over a long period of time.

There are times when the thoughtless desperation of others interrupts our normal life. And yet, a new day dawns and we go on with our everyday business, trusting, hoping, and praying that all will go well.

newfriendsbybrucestambaugh
Smiles are generally the rule in any Holmes Co. business.

When you live in a community where many people know one another through friendship, work, church, school, neighbors or are related, you tend to feel safe. You also feel connected.

A friend of mine, long since gone, once hosted her grandchildren who lived in a metropolitan area in another state. When it got dark, one of the grandchildren asked if she was going to close the drapes since people passing along the busy highway could see in.

grandsonbybrucestambaugh
Grandson
Her reply to the simple question was a life lesson for her grandchild.

“We leave the curtains open,” the grandmother said, “so that people can see us. That way they will know we are all right.”

There are times when others will take advantage of us for such thinking. But if that happens, friends, neighbors, coworkers, relatives and former students will help us in our time of need.

Sometimes that help simply comes in the form of a little spontaneous laughter that helps keep us connected to one another. In the case of my friends at the pharmacy, the smiles and the laughs in the face of fear were treasures no robber could steal.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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