Memories · The Last Half Century

A Penny Seed Packet Yields Life Lessons

Mid-summer in the MidWest. Hot, humid days, warm summer rains and fresh produce from the garden. It reminds me of the summer when I was a kid when my mom first gave me my own row in her garden and a special pack of seeds.

My mom was a master gardener. Each year she planted a huge garden so that she could can enough vegetables to last us all winter. In those days we received a paper seed catalog in the mail around January when the ground was frozen and still covered with snow. It was fun to sit and browse the catalog on a snowy day and dream about spring. Planning for her garden started around March when she ordered seeds via U.S. mail from the catalog. My mom would fill out a paper order form and mail it with a check to the seed company. Weeks later the seeds would arrive.

One year my mom pointed out that the seed company had a special mystery packet of seeds just for kids for one cent. The contents of the seed packet varied — you didn’t know exactly what you would get — which made it fun. I gave her my penny and she ordered the seed packet for me. I don’t think my mom realized that penny seed packet would challenge her gardening expertise.

When the seeds arrived, my mom showed me my special penny seed pack. I couldn’t wait to plant them. When the weather warmed, we set out to plant the garden. I had my assigned row and my mom helped me open the packet of seeds. She stared at the seeds in my hand for a minute. “I’m not sure what some of these are,” the veteran gardener remarked. I was surprised my little one cent seed packet stumped the expert.

My mom helped me plant my seeds in my special row and we waited for them to reveal their identity when they sprouted. Eventually, as the plants matured, my mom was able to identify most everything except one bushy plant that appeared to be a pumpkin or squash plant. When white, gourd-like, saucer-shaped objects appeared on the plant, my mom was mystified. To my surprise she admitted, “I’ve never seen anything like that!”

In those days there was no Internet to help us identify the plant. Even the seed catalog didn’t help. So we took our unidentified object to the 4-H fair where we asked one of the people judging vegetables. “It’s a summer squash,” a judge promptly told us when she looked at it. “What do you do with it?” my mom asked. “You slice it and fry it with some butter in a fry pan,” the judge answered. Based on the face my mom made in response, this was something new to her. I was learning my mom didn’t know everything about gardening and cooking.

Fried squash was not on the menu in our meat and potatoes home. To her credit, my mom sliced the summer squash and fried it up for us, but it was not a hit. Me and my siblings picked at it with frowns on our faces that showed our displeasure with this new cuisine. It may have been the only time she didn’t make us eat everything on our plate.

That summer I think I harvested more than vegetables from my little garden row. I learned not to be afraid to admit I don’t know something even if I think I’m the expert; to not be afraid to seek another opinion; and that it’s okay to step out of a familiar meat and potatoes world to try new things. Sometimes lessons in life come from the places we least expect them.

Memories · The Last Half Century

We Now Conclude our Broadcast Day

It’s hard to believe in our connected and always on world that there was a time when television stations would end their broadcast day. It was kind of a cool thing when I was in grade school in the 1960s to be up late watching television and to see the station go off the air when the program ended. I did not get to stay up late that often, but when the station stopped broadcasting content I went to bed.

At that time there were no other options — no streaming service, no VCR tapes, no DVDs, no 24 hour news station, nothing. There was no Internet, no social media or You Tube. In fact, like many homes at the time, we only had one screen in the house — a black and white television in a cabinet that was heavy and not portable. The station would end their broadcast day then static would abruptly appear on the screen.

Some stations were more creative in how they signed off. They would tell you they were about to “end our broadcast day,” then play a video recording of the American flag flapping in the breeze or some other patriotic sequence of images. The one I recall is of a fighter jet flying with alternating images of American landmarks — as if it was flying across America protecting us. Other stations were more abrupt and would just tell you, “Hey! We’re done for the day. Go to bed.” Okay, so they said it a bit nicer than that. If you search the Internet for “end of television broadcast day,” you’ll find a sampling of videos with these sign offs.

Sometimes I get a bit nostalgic for that simpler time when broadcast media would sign off for the day; a time when the phone stayed home and didn’t go with you everywhere. It seemed people accepted the fact that it was okay to be away from media for awhile; okay to be away from your phone. Sometimes I think we should have an “end of broadcast day” on social media where we sign off for the night and give everyone a break. Then again, maybe nostalgia is a sign of old age.

I’d love to hear your memories of “end of broadcast day” station sign-offs. You can share them by leaving a comment. Thanks for reading. I now conclude my blogging day. See you next week.

Memories · The Last Half Century

Instant Ancestors and Fake History

Years ago I was browsing in an antique shop when a saw a large collection of old pictures of people hanging on a wall. A sign posted in the middle of the collection read, “Instant Relatives.”’ I studied the black and white pictures with families and couples posing for the camera. The sign presented an intriguing thought. Afterall, who would know if I adopted the people in the pictures as my ancestors?

Intriguing as it may have been, I did not buy any of those pictures. But it did bring to light a dilemma for me. My kids weren’t around for the first few years of our marriage or when I was dating my wife. I mean, who is going to fact check the details if I embellish our personal history? “Oh no,” I consider how I might reassure my daughter, “Grandma and your aunts and uncles just don’t remember how it really happened.”

Okay, so I didn’t give into temptation and told the truth about our personal history, but I must confess there were times I came close to embellishing certain facts. Like the time when our kids were very young and one asked, “How did you and mom meet?” I recall those precious little eyes staring up at me, wanting to know how we became a couple.

There was a brief moment, a flash of temptation, a slight urge to fabricate an amazing story. At the time I knew this little one had no way to fact check my story. Wikipedia wasn’t a thing then and a dial-up modem was how we accessed the Internet. (If you don’t know what dial-up is, all you need to know is that it was slow, very slow.)

“Well, I was on this expedition in the Amazon rain forest with a Harvard research team and your mom was with a group from Yale conducting an anthropological study on indigenous people,” I considered telling them, but my conscious makes me reconsider. “Too many big words — they’ll never understand,” I told myself.

“Your mom was part of a mountain helicopter rescue team. She swooped in and saved me after I was caught in an avalanche while I was helicopter skiing in the Alps doing advance work for a James Bond film crew,” I considered telling them in a calm and cool voice. “Nah,” I reconsidered, “It would have to be advance work on a kids movie to make it believable.”

“We met on a blind date,” I finally confessed to my daughter. “A friend of ours set us up.” Her face lit up with a pleased look. “Cool,” she smiled. Sometimes we don’t give ourselves enough credit that our life story is actually more interesting than the people we read about in the news.

Memories · The Next Half Century

Be Careful!

Last week I went on a simple solo hike through the woods to the lake. It was a beautiful, warm summer day with a clear blue sky — the perfect day to commune with nature and be alone with my thoughts. It ended with yet one more accident to add to the list of reasons why my wife worries about me when I take a hike or start a project around the house. It’s just one more injury on a long list of accidents I’ve logged in my more than half century of living.

My trouble began last week when I finished a short 1 1/2 mile hike through the woods. I started to descend a short hill to the beach and the lake. About half way down I felt my feet slip out from under me and a second later I toppled forward into the sand. It would’ve been a soft landing except on the way down a small tree stump caught my right leg and hit hard against my shin. I stood up on the beach, spit the sand out of my mouth and did the first thing any hiker would do — check to make sure no one saw my clumsy move. They didn’t.

Back at home, my wife gasped when I finally showed her my leg. I assured her the swelling was down considerably since I first incurred the injury. It still looked bad enough to appear broken. A quick trip to the emergency room verified it was not broken, but did confirm my leg was infected. I also learned a memory trick to care for my injured leg — R.I.C.E. rest, ice… elevate. I can’t remember what “C” stands for — even memory tricks can’t help my aging brain.

As I rested, iced… and elevated my leg, I remembered some of the more epic injuries in my life — even though I can’t remember the word for “C”. There was the time when I was five that I was hit by a car. I vividly remember being under the car and the huge bruise on my elbow. The fact I don’t remember seeing the car before it hit me tells you I didn’t look both ways before crossing the street to the playground. Fortunately for me it was in a neighborhood and the car was going slow.

When I was six years old, I jumped off a fence into some tall weeds and found a large spike sticking out of a board. It pierced the calf of my leg and required a trip to the emergency room where my wound was promptly stitched up. It also traumatized my sister who asked why I was being such a crybaby when I ran to the house. One look at my bleeding leg oozing skin tissue promptly answered her question.

Then there was the time, when I was around seven years old, I ran into the kitchen full speed and hit the open refrigerator door head on. The old steel door knocked me out cold. I woke up laying flat on my back on the lawn in our backyard. I recall the look of relief on the faces of my siblings and mom as I looked up at them from the ground.

In fourth grade I was walking to get my coat at the end of the school day and I hit my hand on a sharp corner on a table in the back of the classroom. The resulting cut just below my middle finger was deep enough so I could see my knuckle bone. My teacher almost fainted when I showed her the wound. “Go to the office!” She gasped as she held her mouth. I was taken to our family doctor who stitched up the wound. I am right-handed so for a couple weeks I struggled to complete school work with my left hand. I think because my teacher saw my wound, she pitied me and didn’t make me do all the assignments. My classmates were jealous and I slightly embarrassed by the special treatment — but not enough to enjoy less schoolwork.

Years later I found myself in the emergency room again after I opened the radiator cap on the engine in our car. I had let the car cool down, but was surprised by some pressure on the cap. Coolant sprayed on my face. I quickly ran to our bathroom and jumped in the shower fully clothed to rinse my eyes. When my wife heard the shower, she knew it wasn’t good. She took me to the hospital along with our two year-old daughter. The doctor placed a contact lens type thing in my eyes with a small tube attached and proceeded to irrigate my eyes. My daughter stared at me in amazement as water streamed out of my eyes. “Daddy cry,” she said.

There are many more incidents I could share with you, but you’ve already been generous with your time reading this far. Through it all I am thankful none of them was serious enough to be life-changing. I count my blessings. I’m not exactly proud of my long list of injuries, but it does come in handy as a great conversation starter. For some reason when you talk about your injuries it prompts others to chime in with the gory details about their epic injuries. Which reminds me, I just remembered what that “C”* stands for: “Careful” as in “Be Careful!” I think I wrote that on my forehead, but I can’t see it.

* R.I.C.E. stands for: rest, ice, compression, elevation.

Part of the scenic hike I took last week.
Memories · The Last Half Century

GTO, OPEC, MPG and First Love

It was love at first sight. I was a 13-year old boy minding my own business when I spotted her flaunting her beauty. I couldn’t stop myself from staring at her. I was mesmerized by the Pontiac GTO parked in my parent’s driveway with its copper-colored steel body resting on racing slicks with raised white lettering.

A minute later I watched my brother’s friend climb into the car. As the engine roared to life, he turned and waved at me from the open window in his door. He looked so cool in that car. A second later he left in a cloud of dust as he spun the rear tires on our gravel driveway. I watched in awe as he raced down our road and quickly disappeared from sight.

“What a time to be a teenager,” I thought. It was the early 1970s when big engines propelled fast cars with cheap gas. I was living during the heyday of the American muscle car. But I could only admire it from afar. I was too young to have a driver’s license. The next best thing for me was to leaf through the pages of Hot Rod magazine and dream about the day when I would look cool behind the wheel of a GTO. Little did I know my dreams were about to be shattered by something called OPEC.

The OPEC oil embargo of 1973 caused a dramatic rise in gas prices. Soon a 55 mph speed limit was put into effect and suddenly gas mileage became more important than 0-60 mph acceleration times. It caused the death of muscle cars with monster engines and raw horsepower. By the time I graduated from high school, I had traded my GTO dreams for MPG.

I remember driving out of the dealer lot with my Plymouth Horizon into adulthood. It wasn’t exactly the GTO moment I had dreamed about. When I punched the accelerator, I could barely get a chirp out of the tires. It had half the cylinders of that GTO and zero cool factor, but it did get a cool 34 MPG on the highway. I reassured myself I was saving money commuting to college in it as I mourned my dream of owning a GTO. Yet I never dreamed what would happen next.

I now look back on my first car with fondness as I recall taking my wife on dates in it. I vividly remember proposing to her in the front seat right before I dropped her off at her college dorm. It was the car we took on our honeymoon — a three-week, cross-country trip to the Pacific Coast in Washington state. Riding in that car with the love of my life was a dream come true. That’s a dream I’m still living.

Memories · The Last Half Century

Action Movie Star

When I was a teenager, I wanted to be one of those tough guys in the movies. You know, the guy who wears mirrored aviator sunglasses and casually escapes the burning car before it explodes. Well, when I was 16, that dream came true. Unfortunately, there was no film in the movie cameras to record my debut. In fact, there were no cameras. To be honest, there wasn’t even a crew on site to record my daring exploit. Shoot, I wasn’t even wearing mirrored sunglasses when I escaped a burning vehicle. Let me explain.

Every spring on the farm where I grew up, it was my job to mow down the corn stubble left in the field from the fall harvest. I would drive our small Massey Ferguson 35 tractor, with a large rotary cutter attached to back end, across large fields, shredding the dry corn stalks into small pieces. This made sure that when the field was plowed, the equipment would not get clogged with large corn stalks.

It was a pretty straight forward job, but unfortunately I discovered it was also dangerous. In the process of shredding the corn stalks, small pieces of stalk would accumulate in a pile on top of the mower — dry pieces that made excellent kindling. Then there was the fact that this tractor had a muffler that went underneath the tractor — which is great if you’re driving it in a barn with a hay loft above, but not so great in a field with pieces of kindling flying all over.

So if this was a movie, this is where the dramatic music would start in anticipation of something horrible happening. The scene cuts to a closeup of a piece of corn stalk starting to burn on the muffler underneath the tractor. The piece falls to the ground and soon the field is on fire. Cut to the panicked look of the driver (without mirrored sunglasses) as he looks back and realizes the corn field full of dry corn kindling is now on fire. Of course I’ve already told you this was no movie, this was real life.

When I saw the burning field behind me, I immediately stopped the tractor, jumped off and ran to the burning stalks. I tried to stomp out the fire with my work boots, but the fire was spreading too fast. That’s when I thought of the tractor. I turned to see flames leaping up from the rotary cutter attached to the back of the tractor. This was my stuntman moment. I had only one thought, “Dad’s gonna kill me if that tractor burns!”

I sprinted back to the tractor and plopped myself on the driver’s seat. I slipped the transmission into high gear and drove away from the burning field. A second later I realized the breeze from the moving tractor was fanning the flames and the fire on the back of the tractor was growing larger. That’s when I noticed pieces of corn kindling below the clutch, brake pedals and under the seat. I realized the flames would soon be under me if I didn’t do something fast. I had to make a split-second decision as I thought about the fuel tank mounted just ahead of the steering wheel.

If this was a movie, this is the part where I would calmly leap from the tractor a second before it explodes in a ball of fire. I would then roll on the ground and stand up without ever losing my mirrored sunglasses. But, as I already mentioned, this wasn’t a movie. In that split second where I had to decide whether to abandon the tractor, I spotted a huge pool of water that had collected in a low spot in the field. I immediately shifted the tractor into high gear and headed straight for the water.

I still wish there had been a camera there that day to film the tractor as it plunged into the pool of water drenching me with flying mud, cinders and water. The tractor stalled, coming to an abrupt stop in the middle of the pool of water. All I could hear was the sizzling of hot metal cooled by mud and water. I sat in the driver’s seat for a moment and let out a sigh of relief. “That was quite the stunt,” I told myself as I started the tractor, drove it out of the puddle and headed back to the farm.

As I pulled up the driveway and parked the tractor near the house, my mom and dad came running over to me. Apparently someone driving past the burning field drove to the house and told them the field was on fire and I was trying to stomp out the flames. They were about to go rescue me when I pulled up.

“Someone told us the field was on fire and you were trying to put it out,” my dad said as I climbed off the tractor. He paused a moment and looked at me standing next to the tractor soaking wet, covered in mud, corn stubble and cinders. “What happened to you?” he exclaimed.

“The tractor caught fire so I drove it into the water in that low spot in the field,” I explained.

“You should’ve let the tractor burn,” my dad snapped back with a panicked expression. “And you should’ve just let the field burn.”

“I guess,” I nodded, realizing I wouldn’t have felt the heat from my dad for torching his tractor.

“But that was good thinking,” my dad smiled.

“Why don’t you go get cleaned up,” my mom said.

I nodded in agreement. As I walked to the house I thought, “Good thinking? Man I totally rocked that stunt scene!”

© 2020 CGThelen

The Massey Ferguson 35 tractor. Note there is no exhaust stack on top — the muffler runs underneath the tractor.

© 2020, CGThelen

Memories · The Last Half Century

Teaching Respect with the “Board of Education”

When I was in second grade my teacher had the Board of Education to reinforce her discipline. I’m not talking about a table full of people who regularly meet to operate the school; I am talking about a board of wood that my teacher used to educate us on matters of behavior. And yes, it actually had printed on it, “The Board of Education”.

Now before you think I grew up in some kind of primitive civilization with ancient, barbaric customs, paddling children to discipline them was not uncommon in schools in the 1960s. As a second grader, I feared the board that sat on the chalk rail in front of class. No student wanted to be humiliated by “The Board of Education” applying its discipline in front of the rest of the class. It was incentive for us to behave. Once, and only once, did I face that humiliation.

During recess I was innocently playing marbles when my classmate John started picking on me. I told him to stop it, but he persisted. After this went on for a few minutes, he took the marble I was playing with and ran. I pursued him and when I caught up with him he abruptly stopped, turned around and hit me in the gut. It wasn’t a hard punch, but enough to motivate me to hit him back. We scuffled on the far end of the playground for a few more minutes until the bell rang to signal the end of recess and our fight.

When we returned to the classroom I told the teacher sitting at her desk in the front of the class, “John hit me at recess.” Immediately the teacher called John to join me at the front of the room. I waited for the moment that justice would be served to John for picking on me. What came next caught me by surprise. The teacher had John tell his side of the story, which he promptly told how I hit him. I was cross examined and then admitted I did hit him, however it was in self defense. My teacher had a different opinion.

“I won’t accept this kind of behavior from either of you,” she exclaimed. “You both need to respect each other and treat each other the way you want to be treated.” At that moment I knew we were in trouble. John and I received “The Board of Education” on our backside in front of the entire class. We went back to our seats humiliated as the whole class laughed at us. John and I never fought again.

Sometimes I think of my second grade teacher and what she would have to say about society today. I wonder if she would use more than words on some people to instill a little respect for one another.

© 2020 CGThelen

Memories · The Last Half Century

The Wonder of Fashion Trends

Maybe it was just a style that eventually went out of fashion or just pure practicality, but for some reason when I was in grade school all the kids wore bread wrappers on their feet. Not as footwear, but over our socks before we put our feet into our winter boots. I remember the floor in the back of the classroom in second grade filled with boots and bread wrappers sticking out of them.

For me it was purely practical to wear bread wrappers over my socks. My buckle boots had a hole near the tongue and when I stepped in deep snow my socks would always get wet. The bread sacks solved that problem by keeping my feet warm and dry. I never felt silly having bread wrappers sticking out of the top of my boots because all the kids were doing it.

But like any fashion trend, there were the kids who displayed their superiority with high-end bread sacks. I recall seeing one classmate with large, multi-color dots on the bread sack protruding out the top of her boots. We all knew that label — it was a Wonder Bread sack, the more expensive white bread in those days. Next to that, I was a nobody with my cheap store brand bread sacks.

Eventually winter would end and my humiliation would melt with the snow. We traded our snow boots and bread sacks for high top tennis shoes. Somewhere between second grade and junior high the bread sack fashion trend ran its course. We stopped putting bread sacks over our socks when we wore our winter boots. I never did understand how it started or why it stopped. Fashion trends are one of the great mysterious of the world.

I’d love to hear if your childhood included bread sacks in your boots.

© 2020, CGThelen

Image from wonderbread.com

Memories · The Last Half Century

When Wishes Come True

Photo courtesy NASA

What makes childhood dreams? As a kid in the 1960s, for me it was the Sears Wishbook. When this Christmas catalog arrived at our house, my sisters and I would fight over who would get to browse through the pages chock full of toys and other wonders. I dont’ remember exactly what year it was, but I think it was 1971 when I saw something I instantly wanted for Christmas: a space age watch which featured the Apollo space capsule as the hour hand and the Lunar Module as the minute hand.

Like many people at that time, I was obsessed with the recurring Apollo moon landings. I couldn’t watch and read enough about the astronauts landing on the moon. I recall watching many of the launches on our grainy black and white television set.  I can still see the image of the shadowy figure of Neil Armstrong climbing down the ladder of the lunar module and taking the first step on the moon. That lunar watch was the coolest thing I had ever seen in the Wishbook and it was at the top of my Christmas list underlined and circled.

But like so many things in the Wishbook that we put on our Christmas list, I was sure that it was only a wish. We often picked things that were just too expensive. So when Christmas came that year, I was certain it would not be in my stocking. I unwrapped my gifts and just as I expected, there was no lunar module watch — that is until I was given one last gift. When I unwrapped it, I was shocked to see the lunar watch.

I wore that watch everywhere and showed it off to my friends at school. Every hour I had to watch the lunar module minute hand dock with the command module. I felt so cool wearing it. The funny thing is that when you finally get something you want, after while its novelty wears off. To this day I cannot recall what happened to the watch. I can only guess that because I wore it everywhere it finally stopped working and was thrown away.

Just for fun I tried to find a picture of that watch to no avail. I thought you could find everything on the Internet, but not this little gem. I imagine there are a few thousand of them buried in landfills across America. What I did find was a website with decades of scanned copies of Sears Wishbooks dating back to 1937. I searched the Wishbooks from 1969-1972 but did not see the watch. None-the-less, it was a lot of fun to browse the catalog and reminisce about fashions, furniture and other things that were in style at the time — but those thoughts are for another time.

© 2020, CGThelen

Memories · The Last Half Century

The Cows Shared Our Swimming Pool

I’m not quite sure when I realized that my childhood wasn’t normal. Of course we can debate what a normal childhood should look like, but somehow it occurred to me that cows sharing our swimming pool was not something most kids had to tolerate during their childhood.

Okay, so true confessions, we didn’t exactly have a real swimming pool. In fact what we really had was an old steel storage tank cut in half that held a couple hundred gallons of water. My dad was a welder who took a torch to the tank and cut it in half. He didn’t do this to give us a swimming pool, but rather to give our cattle a watering tank. Of course me and my siblings had other ideas.

The most memorable was the time my older brother decided to test his new snorkeling equipment. As a teenager, he was the more mature one compared to my single-digit age that shouted, “Help me button my shirt.” After all, he could drive a car while I was still saddled with training wheels on my bike.

It was the perfect summer evening as my brother donned his snorkel while we gathered on the fence outside the barnyard. The night was warm, the sun low, casting a golden glow on my brother’s work clothes. More importantly, my parents had just left us alone with the capable care of my mature brother. We watched in awe as my brother scaled the fence and then slowly slipped into the cattle water tank next to the fence.

Like a frogman he slipped below the surface of the watering tank. The cattle in the pen kept their distance, a couple dozen of them lined up watching with an annoyed look that said, “Why don’t you kids get your own tank?” We waited with wide eyes as we watched the breathing tube move around the surface of the water. The water in the tank was only about four feet deep, but it might as well have been the ocean to us.

When he finally emerged from the deep, our minds were racing as to what he might’ve seen in depths of that tank. Fish? Sharks? A sea monster? My brother stood a moment with his upper torso above the surface as he removed the snorkel mask. “What did you see?” We blurted out, anxiously awaiting his answer. “Not much of anything,” he replied with a smirk. “Nothing?” We asked. “Just a lot of moss and slime on the tank,” he replied.

We were disappointed at this news as we watched our deep sea explorer pull himself out of the tank. He climbed the fence and joined us on the other side, his pants and shirt dripping wet. At that moment he was a Navy Seal to us, his wet suit still dripping from his latest adventure. But that image was soon shattered by the sound of a car coming down the road. My brother quickly climbed the fence to see who was coming.

From the top of the fence he shouted an expletive related to cow manure and quickly jumped off the fence. “Dad and mom are coming back!” he announced to us. The admiral of our ship was returning and she was soon to discover her sailors had disobeyed orders by running a mission into forbidden waters. We had risked an international incident and the repercussions would be severe.

We watched as our brother quickly spun himself in circles, water spraying off his soaked clothes. I heard gravel crunch as a car pulled up our driveway by the house. “Go see what mom and dad are doing back so soon,” Carl instructed. “I’ll stay in the barn.

We greeted mom and dad at the house. “We forgot something,” mom said to us as she ran into the house. We nodded as dad sat in the car waiting for mom to return. “Where’s your brother?” Dad asked. “Oh, he’s in the barn finishing up chores,” my sister answered. “Good,” dad replied. A sigh of relief came from our lips as mom returned from the house with a bag. “You behave,” the admiral said as she climbed back into the car. “Yes mam!” We replied as we saluted. (We actually did not salute, but it seemed the appropriate thing to do as she boarded her boat to go to shore.) “Be back in a couple hours,” She shouted to us through the open window as they backed out.

Back in the barn we gave my brother the all clear. We had avoided the repercussions of our actions and an international incident. My brother was now able to exchange his wet suit for dry clothes. My parents would never know about our secret mission — except now my mom, the admiral, knows about it.

© 2020, CGThelen