WHEN I WAS COMING OF AGE, women’s voices were growing louder, stronger as part of the women’s liberation movement. Women of the 60s and 70s sought equal opportunities and rights in society, in the workplace, in life in general.
I myself became the first female to join the Future Farmers of America chapter at Wabasso High School in the early 1970s. You can bet the boys eyed me with suspicion, wondered what business a girl had in a club that, up until then, was exclusive to males. But I didn’t care what they thought.
Obviously, I never went on to become a farmer, to marry a farmer or work in an ag-related field. But I covered agriculture while freelancing and also working for several rural weekly and daily newspapers. My FFA involvement, but mostly my farm background, proved useful in writing news stories and features.
And then there was the fact that I was a female journalist. That did not sit well with everyone in the small Minnesota town where I worked right out of college. I was opening disdained by more than one school and city official who preferred I not report on controversial topics. While their demeaning behavior and negative attitudes frustrated me, that did not deter me from covering public meetings and reporting what was said. I had an editor and publisher who backed me up. He knew I was just doing my job and doing it well and that no angry man would stop me.
Thankfully, attitudes toward women have improved through the years, personally and professionally. Not to say change is not yet needed. But women are generally treated better than decades ago. I doubt a public employee or elected official today would treat a female journalist the way I was in the late 70s and early 80s without repercussions. And I doubt high school boys would get away with openly questioning why a girl could join FFA.
This all provides the backstory to a recent discovery. I was waiting at my local community bank to do business when I noticed a handful of coloring books racked in a holder. I pulled out a Justice League Jumbo Coloring & Activity Book and flipped through the pages. And when I happened upon the FINISH THE PICTURE Draw the other half of Superman™, I nearly shouted, “YES!” Instead of drawing Superman as instructed, someone (a woman or girl, I expect) drew Wonder Woman.
As a woman, I felt such validation in that moment. Yes, women can be superheroes, too. Yes, women can break away and out and above and beyond and decide, no, I’m not drawing the other half of Superman. I’m drawing me—a strong woman.
WHEN I READ A RECENT POST on the City of Vesta Facebook page, I knew I needed to share this story with you. It is a heartwarming story of kindness and gratitude that renews my faith in the goodness of humanity. And it is, too, a moment in which I feel overwhelming pride in my hometown.
Before I get to the referenced post, I expect many of you are wondering, “Where is Vesta?” I’ve found in my 41 years of living in southeastern Minnesota that most people have no clue. Vesta is west of Mankato, west of New Ulm, west of Redwood Falls. The small Redwood County farming community of around 320 sits along Minnesota State Highway 19 half way between Redwood and Marshall. It is the only town directly aside that highway for the 40 miles between the two larger cities.
Vesta is in the middle of the prairie, the windswept prairie. If a winter storm sweeps in with strong winds, then conditions quickly deteriorate to blizzard status. You don’t want to be caught on the road if that happens. It’s dangerous.
Recently, a motorist found herself in such dire conditions while driving Highway 19 toward Watertown, South Dakota, to visit grandchildren. Forty mph winds, blowing snow and zero visibility—to the point where she had to stop to see if she was still on the road some two miles from Vesta—resulted in a life-saving decision. She got off the highway at Vesta.
And that’s where this story begins to unfold into a story of generosity and kindness in my hometown. The first person she encountered was Dave and his buddy, out on four-wheelers. I knew exactly who she meant. Dave owns an auto body and repair shop in Vesta. He also plows snow for locals. When my mom was alive and still living in Vesta, it was Dave who cleared her snow. It was Dave who answered Mom’s calls for help with car issues. I always felt reassured that he was, in some ways, looking after her and so many other seniors.
I digress. Dave directed the recently-diverted motorist two blocks east to the community center, a designated shelter for stranded travelers. Upon arrival at the former Vesta Elementary School, the grateful traveler found the doors locked. So off she went to find someone, anyone, to let her inside. She noticed two trucks parked outside the grain elevator, which led her inside and directly to Vesta’s emergency coordinator. Jeremy drove home and got the key to open the shelter.
Now if that was the end of the story, that would be a nice ending. But there’s more. The out-of-town guest got a tour of the community center and was also advised she could help herself to the spaghetti and chicken noodle soup in the fridge, watch TV in the work-out room and then sleep on a cot, pillows provided. She was also given the Wi-Fi password. Later the city clerk’s husband brought an extra blanket after the clerk stopped to ask if the shelter guest needed anything.
Now if that was the end of the story, that would be a nice ending. But there’s more. Soon town kids showed up, per a text sent by Jeremy that they could hang out in the community center during the blizzard. The way-laid motorist soon found herself in rousing games of dodge ball and kickball inside the gym where I played as a grade-schooler.
Now if that was the end of the story, that would be a nice ending. But there’s more. Jeremy kept in touch, texting that the local bar was open if she wanted pizza. She was happy with the soup. The next morning the emergency coordinator texted again, notifying the overnight guest that roads had been plowed. He’d also reached out to the Marshall Police Department to assure that roads were open to motorists. Drive on a “closed” road and you risk a $750 fine. Jeremy went that extra mile to assure the woman could resume her journey to Watertown.
Her lengthy post to the City of Vesta Facebook page shows deep gratitude for all those who made her feel welcomed and safe in my hometown. She wrote: It was quite a night in the Vesta Community Center. Everyone’s kindness in this town was so timely and heartfelt that, rather than feeling like a stranded traveler, I felt like a VIP walking down a red carpet.
I am not surprised by the goodness of the folks in Vesta. This is small town southwestern Minnesota at its best. Caring, kind, compassionate, loving, welcoming. I’ve always felt embraced by the place of my roots, even decades after leaving. I understand this place. These will always be my people. My prairie people.
THE THREE-FOURTHS INCH by three and three-quarters inch boxed display ad topping a For Sale column in the December 19, 2022, edition of The Galaxy grabbed my attention:
Awesome Alaskan Moose Head Mount
Call BJ or Troy at 507-248-xxxx* for details
My jaw dropped as my mind flashed back 40-plus years ago to a gathering I attended in The Galaxy readership area of south central Minnesota. I was young and single then and joined other young people at a house party hosted by roommates who were not named BJ or Troy. But the housemates did have a moose head mount, which I discovered upon a trip to the bathroom. It loomed large and menacing in a cramped room that barely fit a sink, toilet and old-fashioned bath tub. Towels hung from the moose’s antlers. I hurried to exit the bathroom and the watchful moose that was freaking me out.
Whether the house party moose hailed from the wilds of Alaska, I don’t know. Maybe. Probably. Where can you legally shoot a moose? And is a moose head mount really worth $4,500? Surely that must be a misprint. I wouldn’t pay $4.50 for it.
I’ve never liked seeing the heads of dead animals displayed anywhere. Not in a bathroom or a rec room. Not in a cabin or a restaurant, especially not in a restaurant. Not in a hardware store or grocery store or at a flea market. Not in a bank either. In the lobby of my banking institution, mounts ring the room. Once while waiting in line, I counted them (20-plus) and then told the teller how much I dislike dead deer heads.
I realize this is a personal grievance, that there are hunters among you and readers who view taxidermy as art perhaps or as trophy evidence of a successful hunt. I am simply not one of those people. And that’s OK. We all have different tastes, interests, preferences.
I won’t be calling BJ or Troy about that Alaskan moose head mount, which, in my opinion, will never fit the overused and meaningless word awesome. But perhaps someone will see the small display ad and think, “That’s exactly the statement towel rack I need for my bathroom. And it’s only $4,500.”
AH, SUMMER IN MINNESOTA. It is, unequivocally, a season packed with outdoor activities. Like baseball. I’m not a fan. But many are.
My community of Faribault, along with neighboring Dundas and Miesville, is currently hosting the Minnesota Baseball Association State Amateur Tournament in Classes B and C. That means lots of teams and fans are in town on the weekend to watch baseball at Faribault’s Bell Field.
My husband, Randy, was among the spectators Saturday evening when his hometown team, the Buckman Billygoats, faced the Cannon Falls Bears. In the end, the Billygoats defeated the Bears 7-1. They will be back at Bell Field at 4:30 p.m. Saturday to play the Luverne Redbirds.
Even though 48 years have passed since Randy left the family farm southeast of Buckman, he remains forever rooted to this small town in Morrison County in central Minnesota. He is connected to the baseball field there, just south of St. Michael’s Catholic Church. Not because he played ball. No, not that. There’s a story, though…
In the summer of 1972, Randy joined a team of teenagers in painting a new outfield fence. When I write fence, I mean 4 x 8-foot plywood panels pieced together. The six teens went through lots of barn red paint, purchased in 5-gallon buckets.
Local businesses could pay to advertise. Randy and his co-workers, employed through a summer community action program for low income families, stenciled, then painted the business names onto the fence panels. Cindy and Marge traced the stencils, then they all (including Randy’s older sister Vivian) brushed the letters in with white paint.
But as Randy tells the story, the owner of the local grocery store deviated from the plan and decided to craft his own bold advertisement. He removed the two centerfield panels, painted them green and stenciled his business name thereon. And, remembers Randy, those fence sections stuck out like… Exactly as intended.
Randy holds other memories from that summer of working at the ballpark in Buckman. He remembers a homemade sign labeling the field as Bottle Cap Stadium. Somebody (he has his suspicions) picked up beer and bottle caps from the grounds, formed the identifying words from the caps and then nailed them onto plywood.
He also recalls a sign tagging the ball field as “The Home of the Buckman Saints.” Whether the ball team was ever called the Saints is uncertain. But it makes sense given St. Michael’s Catholic Church and School just to the north.
On rainy days when the team of teens couldn’t work at the ballpark, they painted classrooms. Randy recalls the day he and the rest prepared to paint Mrs. Weber’s classroom. Rose Weber, mother of Minnesota author and forensic psychologist Frank Weber, was Randy’s fifth grade teacher and is likely related to current Billygoats player Aaron Weber. She chose pink and blue for her classroom. “Who picked these colors?” Reuben at the hardware store asked. Mrs. Weber was later called in to assess a section of newly-painted wall in her chosen color combo.
“She looked at it, didn’t like it and picked green and yellow, John Deere green and yellow,” Randy said. I can only imagine how those farm kids viewed the tractor colors chosen for the fifth grade classroom.
Circling back to the beginning…, if not for Randy’s attendance at the Buckman Billygoats’ baseball game last Saturday evening in Faribault, I never would have heard these stories from the Summer of 1972. Nor would I have learned this about my husband of 40 years: “You wonder why I don’t like to paint,” he said. “I was sick of painting that summer.”
But, my sister-in-law Vivian noted, “We sure had a lot of fun!” Some Buckman ballpark-related stories shall remain unwritten…
ATTENDING THE July 15Downtown Faribault Car Cruise Night prompted the stories I am about to share. Experiences create stories, which help us to understand and connect with one another. What are your car memories?
Mine are of my bachelor Uncle Mike’s blue-green Nash Rambler, a small (for 1960) boxy car. He didn’t need a roomy car. I remember the Rambler for its size, its color and its name. And its novelty among all the Chevys and Fords.
And then there was Grandpa Bode’s salmon-hued car, make and model unknown to me then and now. The color imprints upon my mind as does the rapid blink-blink-blink of the blinker. If I heard the sound now, I would still recognize it. But to describe the distinct blink proves impossible. I remember also the clear plastic that covered the seats and how, on hot summer days, the bumpy plastic stuck to my legs.
Grandma Kletscher drove a boat of a car. Large, white. Occasionally she threaded a garden hose into the exhaust pipe, started the car and gassed the moles tunneling through her yard. She was stubborn, determined, innovative. I recall, too, riding with her in that car to nearby Belview to shop for fabric at the general store. She would choose yardage for shapeless dresses I stitched for her. Simple. Zipper tracing down the back. Darts at the bustline. Short-sleeves. Basic dresses to cover her stout frame.
I recall, too, my dad’s 1959 black-and-white Chevy Impala, our family car until he sold it to a neighbor boy and later wished he hadn’t.
Dad liked spacious Impalas. I remember his second Impala, blue in color, and how our family of eight, plus Grandpa, piled inside for our once-a-year trip to visit relatives in The Cities. We packed like sardines, shoulder-to-shoulder, hip-to-hip with no wiggle room between kids. If not for the excitement of actually leaving the farm for some distant travel, I doubt we would have managed the miles. But the adventure kept us focused as we watched for the Flying Red Horse and Caterpillar landmarks, our GPS of sorts along with a paper road map pulled from the glove box.
And then there was my first car, a 1976 yellow Mercury Comet purchased right after my graduation from college. It soon garnered the nickname, Vomit. Two flat tires on the day I bought the former rental car from Florida should have sent me back to the Minnesota dealer. The car seemed to have endless mechanical and other problems. A door that wouldn’t close all the way in the depths of winter. A black interior that heated like a sauna in the summer. And too many other issues that fit the Vomit moniker.
Yet, my Vomit with the “press” sticker adhered to the windshield got me to where I needed to be during my early days as a newspaper reporter: chasing fire trucks, interviewing sources, attending endless local government and school board meetings, trying to source information about a murder in New Ulm, covering a homecoming celebration in Odin in 1981 for Bruce Laingen, an American diplomat held hostage in Iran for 444 days…
Those are my car stories. We all have them. What are yours?
WE EACH HOLD STORIES, some shared, some not. Our experiences, our connections, our individuality all combine to create our life stories.
Recently I wondered at the story of a biker pedaling away from a mini strip mall in Faribault, then turning onto Minnesota State Highway 21/Lyndale Avenue around 7:30 pm on July 2. We had just exited Interstate 35 onto this busy 4-lane when I noticed the bicyclist.
I grabbed my camera to document the scene through the windshield on the passenger side of our van. It wasn’t like we could stop so I could ask questions.
Thus I am left only with clues, including the BORN 2 RIDE mini novelty Minnesota “license plate.” I surmise this biker hails from Minnesota and is a serious cyclist.
The mounded pack and tote on the bike trailer appear to corral a tent and belongings. This seems more a distance journey, perhaps with a cause, rather than a recreational ride.
The weathered signage, if only I could see all of the letters, would help me determine what message the biker wants passersby to see.
A tattered American flag points to patriotism and someone who could be a veteran. Maybe. Maybe not.
There are clues, but not a full story. In general, unless we directly hear individual stories, we are left to guess, to speculate and to possibly even get it wrong. How quick we can be in life to assess, to judge, to think we understand people without intently listening to their stories. Sharing of stories comes only with trust, at least for me. Not everyone can be trusted to keep our stories, to hold our truths, to respond with love, compassion and care.
I am a big advocate of listening, of not interjecting one’s own experiences into conversations in a way that focuses back on us. Just be there. Listen. And react with kindness.
Yes, my thoughts have wandered from that biker I photographed along a busy Faribault highway on July 2. But, like a writing prompt, that scene allowed me to craft a message. A message that we all need to pause, to consider the untold stories, to hear those stories if shared and to listen, really listen.
I AM A THROW the windows open, let fresh air flow into my house kind of person. I dislike stuffiness, feeling closed in by lack of air movement. Randy sometimes calls me “Ida.” He’s referencing my paternal grandmother, who slept with her bedroom window cracked, even in the winter. While I don’t do that, I’ve opened windows on cool-ish days. Hey, I gotta get some fresh air in the house.
Monday was one of those days when I should have kept the windows clamped shut. Why? Because of the wind. Fierce, strong, relentless winds blew all day, even blowing in destructive storms and tornadoes into parts of central Minnesota. And while we avoided that here in Faribault, our lawn is littered with maple leaves, small branches and twigs.
At one point Monday afternoon, Randy and I launched from our lawnchairs upon hearing a loud crack. We convened with our next door neighbor, attempting to determine what cracked and fell in the woods behind our homes. But we couldn’t determine the source in the denseness of greenery and felt thankful a tree or limb did not land on our houses and garages. The woods are littered with dead trees and broken branches from a 2018 tornado. That storm cut a destructive path through our neighborhood with trees falling on vehicles, roadways, houses, garages and, for us, the electrical wire and meter ripped off our house.
I digress. On Memorial Day, winds whipped all day. And our windows were open. Wide open. I should have known better. But, at the time, I was thinking only of keeping the house cool without switching on the air. I’m all about conserving energy and saving money because, you know, everything costs so darned much these days.
By evening meal prep, I realized just how dirty the house had gotten. Grit layered the kitchen counters, the table, the floors, the… I had no desire or energy to clean beyond swiping a rag across surfaces to reveal a line of dirt.
Heavy duty cleaning awaited me Tuesday morning. I spent hours washing surfaces and floors, spraying a layer of visible dirt from the bathtub, vacuuming. I could have prevented this, if only I’d kept the windows closed.
I should have, could have, learned from my Grandma Ida. Over the weekend, I was reading the Kletscher family history compiled by my Uncle Merlin. He included this story:
My family lived through the very dry years of the 30s commonly referred to as The Dust Bowl years. I recall my mother telling how she could wipe off the table in the morning after breakfast and by noon it would be covered with dirt and dust blown into the house by the dry winds. I always wondered why she had the habit of covering everything that was setting out on the table or counter with a dish towel. I also recall my father telling about gathering wind blown tumbleweed from the fence lines so they could have feed for the livestock. He felt sorry for the animals but that was all they could find for feed.
From my own childhood, I recall a Good Friday dust storm which layered our rural southwestern Minnesota farmhouse with dirt. Mom left the windows open a crack before we accompanied her on a shopping trip to nearby Marshall. A dust storm swept through while we were gone. We spent hours thereafter wiping, sweeping and vacuuming dirt from the house, just like I did on Tuesday.
I have not yet finished cleaning following the wild winds of Memorial Day 2022. I have the second level to vacuum and wipe down. But compared to those Minnesotans who lost homes, vehicles and more to tornadoes, a little (OK, a lot) of dirt seems like nothing.
ONCE UPON A TIME in The Land of Plenty, people far and wide welcomed the new year. Some with optimism. Others with cautiousness. And yet others with ambivalence.
But at least one family celebrated as they began their third calendar year in power. No one had elected them to office, attempted a take-over or used nepotism to open doors. Rather, the family patriarch, The Great Invader, simply slipped into the country and began his campaign of destruction. Illness. Death. Discord. Division. He spared nothing to remain in power.
His plan was working. Despite warnings from The Ministry of Health. Despite a life-saving potion. Despite Centers for Healing filling to capacity. He gloated in his success and that of his cousins, enlisted to help with the cause. His Office of Misinformation labored into the wee hours disseminating falsehoods, which quickly passed via word-of-mouth from village to village and then into the countryside.
The Office of Truthfulness likewise worked tirelessly, posting daily information and statistics on scrolls in the village square. Tallies of the sick. The dead. But often The Village Know-It-All ripped down the scrolls before anyone could read them. He despised the officials who released facts and supporting data. He considered them a threat.
And so life went. The Great Invader and his family roamed mostly unfettered, infecting more people than ever. They’d had enough time to adjust, to tweak their strategies. Even those protected by a life-saving potion were now falling ill, although their illnesses proved mostly minor. Those without the protection of a magic potion, however, proved especially vulnerable. Too often they fell gravely ill, filling cots at Centers for Healing to overflowing. Others, particularly the elderly and those who suffered from other maladies, died. The Great Invader watched streams of mourners gather in the village graveyard. He clearly saw just how effective his efforts on the unprotected, even if many villagers didn’t.
Health officials pleaded with villagers to accept the life-saving potion. They warned of a shortage of cots and healers, of overworked and stressed caregivers. They warned of death and severe illness. But none of it seemingly mattered. Even the deaths of loved ones did not convince the villagers to protect themselves, their families, friends and community.
NAME-CALLING AT THE PUB
In the village of Drofdem, locals crammed elbow to elbow over pints of ale at the pub. Rumors and untruths circulated, fueled by alcohol. When the proprietor, who had taken the life-saving potion and who wore a protective face mask, circulated among the revelers, they scoffed at him. Called him names. Laughed in his face. He remained stoic, showing no emotion while inwardly reeling from the insults. He wanted nothing more than to throw them out of his pub, bar the door and flee. But his family depended on him.
MORE ISSUES & CONCERNS, OR NOT
Several cobblestone streets away, students gathered inside the village school, in cramped windowless rooms with clay walls and dirt floors. Few of those children had received the magic potion to fend off The Great Invader. Their parents distrusted The Ministry of Health, believing instead the misinformation spewed by The Village Know-It-All and his core team. They refused to mask their children, although that was proven to help stop The Great Invader. No one, they claimed, should tell them what was best for their children.
However, in far away cities, teachers expressed concerns about the ever-spreading virus. Some refused to teach, noting the risk to their health and that of their students. Debates and division arose.
Other concerns existed in The Land of Plenty, too. Shortages of wagons and oxen meant delays in getting shoes from cobblers to far-away cities. Peasant farmers fell ill, creating a shortage of food in the marketplace. Travelers found themselves stranded, unable to secure transportation as cart drivers fell ill and dirt roads turned to muck in torrential rains. Threats of war remained as universal as time.
HOPE & LOVE
Yet, in a small stone house in the village, a waif of a girl and her mother remained hopeful. Of little means, especially since the death of their father and husband at the hands of The Great Invader (pre life-saving potion), they had enough. They had each other. They had taken the protective potion. Each evening they sat by the fireside, the mother singing softly to her beloved daughter. “You are my sunshine.” Even in the darkness, love prevailed. No one, not even The Great Invader and his cousins or The Village Know-It-All, could destroy their love or diminish their hope.
ONCE UPON A TIME in The Land of Plenty, the people busied themselves preparing for Christmas. Merchants stocked their shops with goods. Peasant farmers butchered plump geese. Artisans and craftsmen gathered in the marketplace, peddling rugs woven from rags, vessels shaped from clay, candles made of tallow.
A spirit of festiveness prevailed, from sprawling cities to remote villages to farms upon the plains. Crowds gathered. The mood was jovial.
LURKING, WATCHING, PLOTTING
But in the dark alleyways of cities, in dark corners of village marketplaces, in the darkness of distant farms, a dark figure watched. He smirked, not wanting to reveal his sickly yellow teeth and thus his identity as The Great Invader. He felt such power in his ability to be anywhere and everywhere simultaneously. He’d also recruited his cousins to join his cause of inflicting illness and death upon The Land of Plenty and beyond.
The lurking figure hunkered down, delighting in the scenes unfolding before him. Nothing pleased him more than crowds of people mingling, seemingly oblivious to his presence. He felt particularly emboldened by the prevalence of denial and by the misinformation spewed by The Village Know-It-All. This made his work much easier.
Unbeknownst to both The Village Know-It-All and The Great Invader, a group of truth-seeking villagers snuck into the village square to review the scrolled documents upon posting. What they read startled them. Frightened them. Gave great cause for alarm. Reaffirmed their understanding of The Great Invader’s presence and power.
In the neighboring province of Cebanak, the positivity rate for infection stood at 24%. It was even higher in Acesaw province at 28%. And yet higher in Yelbis province at 30%. Those overwhelmingly high numbers struck fear into the hearts of those who read them. They were not so much frightened for themselves, for they’d taken several doses of the potion protecting them from serious illness and death. Rather, they felt concern for their friends, neighbors and family members who refused the potion. Too many lay in The Village Center for Healing (or on overflow cots outside). Others were already gone, buried in the cold black earth of the graveyard.
CARE & CONFLICT
They pleaded, especially with those in their close family circles, to take the protective potion. But nothing convinced the doubters. Nothing. Not even the healers who’d arrived from far away places to help care for the sick and dying at the Center for Healing, now filled to capacity.
As Christmas approached, conflict bubbled in The Land of Plenty. There were those who wanted to celebrate as usual. Gather with family. Shoulder into the local pub with holiday revelers for a hot toddy or pint of ale. Cram into the town square to hear performers sing of Christmas joy. Anger boiled, especially in the outlying villages. Most villagers distrusted The Ministry of Health and leaders from far away cities who warned of more illness and death.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. Health officials suggested ways to gather safely. Accept the protective potion. Cover your face with a mask. Test for illness. Stay home if you feel unwell. But that only angered many and caused rifts within families and among friends and neighbors.
And so, weeks out from Christmas, The Great Invader found himself in the enviable position of still retaining his power and control. He never expected this, not with the creation of the potion nearly a year prior. But, oh, how he celebrated, albeit inwardly, as he watched from the dark corners in The Land of Plenty and beyond and plotted his next invasion.
Note: In every story exists truth, this one no exception. As The Great Invader (COVID-19/variants) marches on, please take care. Get vaccinated. Mask up. Avoid indoor crowded spaces. Get tested if symptoms arise. Stay home if you’re sick. And, if you celebrate Christmas together, take precautions. I care about you and want you to be safe and well.
ONCE UPON A TIME in The Land of Plenty, a waif of a girl and her mother huddled, seeking warmth inside their small stone house. They’d just returned from a tiring journey by foot to a neighboring village. There the daughter received a magical potion to protect her from The Great Invader, who had claimed her father’s life. They felt such gratitude for the protective potion now available to all but the youngest.
The pair felt no bitterness about the loss of their beloved husband and father, but rather a mournful acceptance of his fate. When he fell ill, Ministry of Health researchers had only begun to understand The Great Invader and ways to effectively deal with him. They were certain he could be stopped. But, alas, Ministry officials underestimated the resistance to their advice, to the life-saving potion, to measures that would keep most villagers, city-dwellers and peasants from serious illness or death.
A KNOCK ON THE DOOR
As mother and daughter edged near the hearth, fire heating a small kettle of thin porridge, a persistent pounding broke the silence. The weary woman hesitated, unsure whether to answer the urgent knock. But the kindness instilled in her by sage elders replaced her momentary hesitation. She rose, grabbed a swatch of cloth from a peg on the wall, covered her face and cracked the door.
There stood a stranger—teeth a sickly yellow, spiked hair framing his filthy face, gnarled hand raised in a threatening pose. Without even a second thought, the mother slammed the door, dislodged a worn plank, dropped and locked it in place. Her shoulders heaved. Her legs gave way. And she fell in a heap onto the dirt floor, overcome with emotion. She recognized the stranger as a cousin of The Great Invader from a sketch posted in the village square (before The Village Know-It-All removed the identifying scroll). She breathed gratitude for the potion that protected her and her cherished child.
STRUGGLES & EMPOWERMENT
The young mother and her daughter were, by nature, kind and loving. They often befriended the lowliest among them. The beggars. The downtrodden. Those who had fallen on hard times. They had little themselves, but shared what they had. Yet, even with the mindset of kindness, they struggled to understand how so many in their village seemed now to care only about themselves. Gone was the cohesiveness of community care. The Great Invader and his extended family gloated, empowered to press on with selfishness, untruths, misinformation and distrust fueling their cause. They never could have imagined the ease with which they could infiltrate The Land of Plenty and beyond.
Frustration mounted whenever mother and child ventured into the crowded village marketplace. Few covered their faces. Few believed The Ministry of Health or the Office of Truthfulness. The pair observed how villagers dismissed warnings about The Great Invader and scoffed at ways to protect themselves and others. So the two hastened to gather a handful of potatoes, a sheaf of grain and a clutch of carrots clumped with dirt. They parceled pennies into the palms of peasants, then fled the market.
HOPE IN AN UNSETTLING SCENE
On their way home, mother and daughter passed by The Village Center for Healing, now overrun with the sick and dying infected by The Great Invader. Most had refused the magic potion. The pair’s hearts hurt for the exhausted village healers who continued to care for the failing, even in the face of disrespect and denial. They skirted past the ill and sidestepped rotten tomatoes lobbed by villagers refuting reality with anger.
The woman paused for a moment when she noticed strangers tending to the ill in overflow cots along the cobblestone streets. Fear prickled her spine. Could this be The Great Invader in yet another disguise? But she soon realized these strangers had come to ease the burden on village healers. She recalled a posting in the village square announcing the arrival of the group from a far away city. Gratitude rose within her, a smile curving her lips.
Hope swelled within her that maybe, just maybe, the influx of healers would convince the doubters to recognize the severity of the situation. To realize they could stop The Great Invader, first by believing those who had investigated him and then trusting the magic potion to keep them safe. It was within their grasp…
NOTE: In every story exists truth, this one no exception. As The Great Invader (COVID-19) continues his march, now in mutant strains, we need to remain vigilant. Get vaccinated and boostered. (If you already are, thank you.) Mask up. (If you do, thank you.) Stay home when you’re sick. Follow other safety mitigation. Think beyond yourself. To the child next door. To the elderly. To the immune-compromised. To the family you love. This is about more than each of us individually. This is about all of us, our community of humanity.