Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dr. Katie

Katie has become fascinated by doctors, illnesses, and virtually anything else that is medical in nature. For instance, some time back, she found an old stethoscope (leftover from a blood pressure monitoring kit) in a drawer and instantly started trying to hear her heartbeat – or “beep” as she calls it. Well I’m not sure that she ever actually heard her heart beep, but she was delighted to find that she could hear “guzzling” sounds coming from her stomach. I explained that the noise was possibly her stomach growling and could indicate that she was hungry. She listened with rapt interest as if I might have been explaining the origin of the universe or why eight year old boys act so silly sometimes, and she took it all to heart. Ever since then, from time to time, she’ll say something like “I think I’m hungry”, and she’ll run grab the stethoscope. She’ll then proceed to listen to various spots on her tummy, after which she’ll look up with a very satisfied expression and say, “Yes, I’m really hungry. Think I’ll go pop some popcorn.”

However, serious self-examination of her gastro-intestinal system are not the extent of Katie’s medical interest. She also like to play doctor. She began her medical career simply as Dr. Katie, but now she routinely introduces herself as Dr. Quack from Rutherfordton – a small town in western NC that is notorious for the pitiful, if not criminal, quality of heath care available there – and then after a quick examination, she proceeds to find you guilty of one or more of her favorite maladies. Perhaps your heart has stopped beeping, you have loose eyelashes, or you’ve been eating too many snot buggers, although it’s hard to guess just what the right number might be of the latter. But regardless of the ailment, the treatment is always the same – a shot – administered with whatever medical device she can get her little hands on – an ink pen, door key, hair brush, or some other such instrument. And as part of her bedside manner and ostensibly to reassure her patient that it really is only a game, just before the injection, she always smiles and whispers “Don’t forget to pretend to cry.” Then the following moment, you discover once again that both the warning and the pretence are unnecessary, and you listen, as though far away, while she reminds you that your next stop should be at the scooter store (and it won’t cost you a penny out of pocket).

As much fun as Dr. Quack’s house calls are, I expect that sooner or later it will come to an end. She’ll learn of ulcers, yeast infections, and hemorrhoids, and then the magic of her examinations and treatments will be gone. But I don’t think the same can be said of her general interest in medical matters. There’s just too much to whet her appetite – grandparents with health issues ranging from prosthetic limbs to osteoporosis, my own high blood pressure and hypo-thyroidism, and an endless list of friends and teachers absent from school due to one disease or another. Of course, we get all the gory details everyday in Katie’s after-school report, but lately it seems that she’s getting harder to impress. Just yesterday afternoon she confided to me in disgust, “Luke was out yesterday, but he just had a stomach ache, but you remember Daniel? He was out today - with a temperature of 285 degrees. Now he was sick.” Given the facts of the case, I had no choice but to concur.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Watching the Blue Ridge

A couple of weeks ago I took a Friday off of work to go to the mountains with Katie. We left as soon as I finished up on Thursday, and headed to Hendersonville, NC. Katie was thrilled. All she knew was that we were going to the mountains, that we were going to stay in a hotel (anyplace that isn’t home is a hotel to Katie), and that it was just going to be Katie and Daddy, which meant – among other things - that she could have all the Cheetos she wanted, and probably other contraband substances too wonderful to imagine – things like buttered popcorn and Starbursts – maybe even Gummie Worms. She was as excited as if it had been Christmas – almost as excited as I was.

We stayed at this beautiful bed and breakfast called The Echo Mountain Inn. It’s well over 100 years old, built mostly of rocks, and sits way back on a ridge overlooking the town of Hendersonville and the surrounding area. I had been there several times before – mostly to rest up and to write. For that purpose, it’s the best place I‘ve ever been, but this was not a writing trip – not a time for remembering. This was a time for making memories.

We arrived at the inn well after dark, but fortunately we had already eaten our dinner in the car as we rode. The innkeeper had left our key in an envelope at the desk, so we found our room, unloaded the van, and settled down to check the TV listings. “Apollo 13” turned out to be a great father-daughter movie. Katie was fascinated, and I remembered. I remembered the black & white TV sets on carts in the classrooms at school, and I remembered how we waited and hoped and prayed that those guys would make it back. It was almost as if the world held its breath. “When will we go to the moon again?” Katie asked at one point. “I don’t know, Sweetheart,” I said; “Right now most people don’t see it as being particularly important. Space travel is very expensive, and they’d rather spend the money doing other things, I think.” “Oh”, she said in a voice laced with disappointment. I understood that very well. Our retreat from space has been a disappointment to me for the last 30 years.

We had a great night’s sleep and woke up early. After baths and clean clothes, we headed down to the dining room. We had a homestyle breakfast of bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns at a table situated in a bay window. From our seats we had a panoramic view of the mountain ranges to the northeast of Hendersonville – the ones some people call the Black Mountains - and as we sat there, mildly high on the smell of frying bacon and fresh-brewed coffee, I recalled some lines from a poem that I had read back during my days at Wofford College, written by a fellow named Ed Minus.

“Five windows wide, less than half a pane high,
The Blue Ridge tapes the piedmont to the sky.”

and later,

“Carl Sandburg rested and tended goats;
F. Scott Fitzgerald came down to dry out.
Thomas Wolfe grew up alone;
Sidney Lanier died breathing blue stone.”

It would have been easy to sit there all morning with “Good Old Boys Like Me” playing over and over in my head, but that would have to wait for another day. We loaded our things into the van, said our good-byes to the owners of the inn, and headed on up I-26 toward Ashville. The leaves were several days past their peak of color, but still very nice. Katie was singing along with a Smokey Robinson song from the soundtrack of “The Big Chill”, and I was happy, nearly to bursting, to be out and rolling on such a gorgeous morning. Without saying a word, I set my thoughts on Mt. Mitchell and turned onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We took our time. The Parkway was almost empty, like it was back in the 60’s, and we stopped at every overlook. We swapped pictures of one another and told stories and gained elevation. As we turned into one overlook we saw a wild turkey running across the road just in front of a car that was leaving the overlook. He barely made it. Katie remarked that he was getting ready for Thanksgiving – by running away. When I had almost stopped laughing I said, “That’s a good one, Sweetie.” “Yeah”, she relied with a big smile on her face, “I get two points for that.” At Craggy Gardens, a normally crowded picnic area, there was only one other vehicle. Kate and I ran and played and rolled on the thick grass like a couple of kids, and for a few precious moments I forgot that I am fifty-two years old.

Above 4000 feet there was no color in the leaves, only the various tones of brown and grey that follow the russets and golds and reds and yellows of autumn. In a shaded curve we stopped, and I snapped a picture of Katie in front of a virtual waterfall of icicles, many of which were longer than she is tall. The photo has the appearance of a storybook illustration or a scene from the Superman movie, but it was just a two minute drive-by on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Above 5000 feet the leaves themselves were gone, or nearly so, and we no longer looked up at the clouds over the valleys. We were now on their level, and for the first time I think, Katie conceded that we were actually in the mountains. We took a short hike up onto a bare knoll and looked back down the Parkway where we had been. The mountains rolled out in all directions, but the highest ones still lay in front of us.

At the parking lot on top of Mt. Mitchell, at about 6500 feet, it was 41 degrees – just a couple of degrees below the year-round average - under a bright, though a bit hazy sky with almost no wind – nice enough for a picnic on the highest point east of the Rockies, and practically unheard of in November. Katie had all her favorite foods: macaroni & cheese, biscuits from Bojangles – even her beloved Cheetos - with Starbursts for dessert. And just like at breakfast several hours earlier, we had a view from this table too. From there, we looked down on the clouds, on the other mountains, and on nearly everything else. I had a very distinct feeling of being on top of the world, but then again, I’d felt that way all day.

Beyond Mt. Mitchell, the Parkway was already closed for the winter, and by now, the Mitchell park itself is closed. It will sleep undisturbed until bear cubs and Boy Scouts wake it up in the spring. The mid-afternoon shadows stretched out long and thin as I pointed the van to the southwest and headed for lower elevations. Katie didn’t make it very far. She was sound asleep well before we reached I-26, and she didn’t awaken until we were on I-485 somewhere east of I-77, just a few miles from home. While she slept, I had time to reflect on the day - how exceptionally good it had all been, and to consider the Thanksgiving holiday just coming up on the horizon. “What did I have to be thankful for?” I thought with a smile as a multitude of blessings rolled through my mind: a day off of work to be with Kate; a long ride on the Parkway with no traffic; mild temperatures; breath-taking scenery; good food; a dependable vehicle; the happy, healthy, and frighteningly intelligent and funny kid asleep in the backseat; that beautiful road through the Blue Ridge with the same number of Starbucks and Walmarts that it had when I was growing up; the mountains themselves; the road home; my family; memories – lots of memories. I thought of my Grandma Padgett’s last visit to the mountains. Four carloads of us went along, and we had lunch together at Craggy Gardens. That must have been twenty years ago. Grandma always said that it was the most beautiful place on earth, but I don’t think she ever traveled outside of the Carolinas. Now I’ve been around the world, seen black sand beaches and the spring in New England, but still so far, I’ve seen nothing to prove Grandma wrong.

As I rolled down the interstate through the night, I carefully added one more footnote to my Blue Ridge Mountains memories file:
Craggy Gardens – November 3, 2006. Dean and Katie rolled on the ground and laughed together. They were both five years old.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Walking Around the Campground

Today I walked around the campground – slowly, and I thought about how different it was now than it was at campmeeting time. Then it was the hot, humid days of mid-summer. Children were playing everywhere. Families were having huge lunches on picnic tables. There was laughter and singing and people sitting in the shade. The smells of food being prepared drifted out from the tents, and the whole place was alive with noise. Much different today. I am the only person I have seen so far. The only people sounds are those made by an occasional passing car; otherwise, it’s quiet today. I hear the breeze, the crunch of dry leaves under my feet, and the sound of my own voice inside my head. It’s little errie and a bit unnerving – like being alone in a hospital waiting room. Even though there’s no one around for you to disturb, you sit very quietly, and if you walk, you walk with soft, careful steps. I suppose it’s out of respect, or what some might call reverence.

In any case, as I walked those familiar spaces around the arbor, it was with slow and studied steps. I noticed things – a gum wrapper, a bluejay feather, the plastic toys left behind in a sandbox – and I remembered . . .

I remembered Katie and her newly discovered cousins running about in the twilight catching lightening bugs, just as I had done with my own cousins almost fifty years before. And when Elizabeth called her in, I already knew what she would say – “Not yet! Please Mommy, not yet! They don’t have to go in yet. Let me stay out ‘till they have to go in. Wait! I see another one – over there – no there - over there. Yeah!” Was it Katie or was it I who answered? Had it really been almost 50 years? Was Rick really dead from a ruptured blood vessel in his esophagus? Did Terry really drop out of school, join the army, and go off to Panama and get married? And had Robert, the youngest of our group, really been disabled for years with mysterious siezures that the doctors still can’t explain? Had I really grown up and forgotten what it was like to run and play with cousins in the magic of a mid-summer twilight? “Let her stay out for a while,” I answered on her behalf. “She’ll be in soon enough.”

I continued to walk. There was her favorite sliding board and the big swing where I pushed and pushed and pushed some more until my tendonitis flared up and I had to stop, and right there was the hand-hewn pew where she stood, in the fullness of her four years, and told the congregation of several hundred about how her beloved Grandma Pauline had gone up to heaven to be with Jesus. And I remembered writing somewhere that of all the places on earth, here on this campground is where I feel the most at home and the closest to heaven, because this is where Grandma Pauline lives in my memory. I stopped near one of the park benches and became aware of the fact that my face was wet with tears. I wiped my eyes with my shirt sleeve and looked around. I was well across the campground from our tent – ‘way over in the Waxhaw corner. We have friends over there, of course. Katie made them for us at Bojangles. And then, just for a moment, I saw Miss Judy waving at Katie. But that moment had taken place several months ago. The only things waving today were the leaves.

On one of our walks around the campground during campmeeting, Katie and I had noted that Tent #18 was in need of some repair, and as I walked I noted with satisfaction that the old tent had since been torn down and that the corners had already been laid out for a new cabin. As I walked on, it occured to me that a place in time like the campground can only exist in one of two states – either it’s growing or it’s dying. Unpainted, rundown, and seldom used cabins are symptomatic of a tendency toward death, while new cabins, new roofs, new porches and picnic tables are signs of health and growth. Underneath a huge, old pen oak, I stopped and said a prayer for those precious signs of life:

“Lord, please bless these and all other efforts to keep this special place alive, because if you don’t, Katie’s will be the last generation to know about it. A-men.”

I turned and headed back across the campground. The arbor filled my vision. There was talk of a new roof for the arbor; money was being set aside. It would be a major undertaking, but it would guarantee the existence of the arbor for another forty or fifty years – until Katie was my age and I was gone.

I slowly circled the ancient structure once again. Tent #65 would be warm and dry and nearly perfect for writing; however, it occurred to me that I had no idea what I’d write about. That thought had only partially dissolved away, when another took it’s place, and I said aloud, though only to myself, “Why not the campground – just walking around the campground?”

Dean Greene
October 7, 2006

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pleasant Grove Campmeeting 2009

After a long winter’s nap, the Pleasant Grove Campground has woken up and is returning to life. A new tent is being framed up on the Waxhaw side. Several old, diseased trees have been removed, and several new ones have been planted. Someone has added a nice screened back porch to their tent, and another has added vinyl siding, giving their tent an entirely new look. Lots of work has been going on inside of several tents, and recent work on the well has resulted in the best water supply that we’ve had in years.

The Pleasant Grove church building has been recently scraped and repainted, and it looks great – like a picture postcard. And we hear that there will likely be a new roof on the little church very soon. And the new roof on the arbor, that was shining in the sun like a new penny last year, after a year of weathering, has made itself completely at home and looks as if it could have been there forever.

The campground now has a website at, and for those of you on Facebook, there is a campmeeting group with nearly 200 members at Pleasant Grove Campmeeting, Mineral Springs, NC. All of these changes, improvements, and beginnings are signs of health, and we are extremely thankful for each of them. Youth Camp was three weeks ago, Vacation Bible School was two weeks ago, and Campmeeting 2009 is less than two weeks away. Right now, before we get too deep into planning meals, inviting friends, and moving in, is the perfect time to pause for a few minutes and consider what Campmeeting means to us.

I recall when our tent was being built a few years ago, how surprised I was at the number of people who pulled over, rolled down the windows of their cars, and asked what the place was? (And they didn’t all have New York accents either; many of them were local folks.) But when I laid down my hammer, paintbrush, or whatever and walked over to the car to talk, it was their turn to be surprised. They would listen like children as I told about how the folks first came there in 1829 to have a campmeeting, because there wasn’t enough water at the site they had been using, how that first campmeeting was held under a real brush arbor, and the people who came thought the place was so beautiful that they began to call it Pleasant Grove and decided to build a permanent camp there. Their eyes would get wide when I’d tell them that in those early days there would be five services a day and that the last one would sometimes continue until midnight, and their look of surprise would sometimes change to downright disbelief when I’d tell them that those campmeetings lasted for two weeks, that the preachers came in from all around on horseback, and that many of the people brought their livestock along with them.

I’d tell them how there used to be over 200 tents in two rings, but that now there was only one ring with 89 tents, and I’d always end my little seminar by giving them the dates of the upcoming Campmeeting and inviting them to attend. “You know which tent’s ours” I’d say, “and you’re always welcome to stop by and have a piece of cake after the service.”

I suppose that having found something special, it’s natural to want to share it, and that’s the way I feel about the Campmeeting at Pleasant Grove. Oh, by the way, Campmeeting 2009 starts with the 11 o’clock service on Sunday morning, July 19th and goes through the 6:00 PM service on Big Sunday, July 26th. Services will be held each evening through the week at 8:00 PM and Monday through Friday mornings at 10:30 AM. Rev. Rosemary Brown (Sun – Wed) and Rev. Talbot Davis (Thurs – Sat), both of whom are gifted speakers with incredibly strong messages, will be leading the evening services, and the morning services will each feature a different preacher from the surrounding area. You can get additional information about Campmeeting 2009 and see pictures from Campmeeting 2008 at the website mentioned above, so check it out. Pick some services to attend, and come on over. Come early and walk the grounds. Sit in the shade under those ancient oak trees. Visit with your neighbors. Pitch a game of horseshoes if you feel like it or maybe just have a bowl of ice-cream at the stand. Have a great time, but don’t miss the service, for it is there that you will come to understand why the Campmeeting has endured – how it has lasted through wars and depressions and the passing of generations – and how, through it all, that “old, old story” has remained as close and as warm and alive as a hug from a child, a clear summer day, or the next beat of your heart.

Yes, I do love to tell the story. It’s too good not to share, and it’s ‘way too important to miss, so I’ll see you there.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Please Remember

I don’t suppose that Katie’s any worse about it than most kids, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t bad. It simply means that she’s just medium terrible. However, in one way she may be actually be worse than most. While virtually all kids will ask the same question over and over, most kids, I believe, will let it rest and move on to something else after they get the answer they want. But not Katie. She will continue right along asking the same question every few minutes until someone finally says, “If you ask that one more time, I’ll change my mind, and the answer will be ‘No’.” After that, she’ll normally wait at least half an hour before running the risk of asking again.

One of Katie’s favorite activities is eating out. Fortunately that’s something that Elizabeth and I also enjoy, and we’re often able to use it as an incentive for Katie. Of course she’ll continue to ask whether we intend to go, even while we’re in the car on the way to the restaurant. Well in any case, breakfast out on Friday is a long-standing reward for good cooperation during the week, and quite understandably, Katie has come to view it as something of an entitlement program. However recently, due to scheduling issues, we missed a couple of Friday breakfasts. This fact was not in the least overlooked by Katie. On Saturday she launched a pre-emptive barrage of questions, in an all-out effort to make sure that two weeks didn’t turn into three. Well, by about Tuesday, we’d had all we could stand.

Elizabeth actually had the conversation with Katie, and I haven’t seen the transcript, so I’m not exactly sure what was said, but it was effective, and the questions about Friday stopped immediately. Then Thursday evening as I was driving Katie to karate practice, she looked at me through the rear-view mirror and began:

“Daddy, when you’re talking with Mommy this evening, I need you to remember that I’m supposed to be going out to eat on Fridays for breakfast and remember that we’ve already missed two Fridays, and remember that I really like those Friday breakfasts, and Daddy, please remember that I didn’t ask.”

For the record: On the morning of Friday, June 19, Katie, Elizabeth, and I had breakfast together at the Flying Biscuit in the Stonecrest shopping center. I was still laughing.

Monday, June 22, 2009

You Need to Have Something On

I've been writing little true stories about Katie for several years. The selection below is very early but is still one of my favorites.

Our daughter Katie is almost 3 1/2 now, and is very much a real person. One of her favorite things to do is to take off and run through the house naked after a bath or while getting her clothes changed. During those moments she is oblivious to the cold, to the time of day, or to guests in the house. A few days ago, while my Mother (age 75) was visiting, I was helping Katie change clothes when she broke loose and took off through the house stark naked. My Mother followed after her exclaiming, "Katie, you need to have something on!" Well, it was a bit cool in the house - probably too cool for running naked, but then again it was Katie, and I knew she was not bothered one bit by the ambient temperature. Even knowing this however, out of deference to my Mother, I said, "Katie, would you like to have something on?" To my surprise and embarrassment she stopped and said, "Yes." I then asked the only thing that would come to my mind at that moment, "What would you like to have on, Sweetie?" She looked at me smiling and said, "The Rolling Stones", and then took off running again.

December 2004

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Measure of Humor

I think she may have gotten the idea from an old movie that we watched recently on TCM called "I Remember Mama", but in any case, Katie has started keeping a record of her growth. She has an area in the kitchen where she goes and stands with her nose to the wall. Then she slides her right index finger "straight" across from the top of her head to a point on the wall, and she markes that point with a push pin. She checks her growth almost every day, to be sure that she doesn't miss anything. Yesterday, after measuring herself, she stood for a long moment looking at the new position of the push pin with a very satisfied smile on her face. "Almost one sillimeter," she said emphatically, and I thought to myself, "No Sweetheart; it's exactly one sillimeter."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The plan was that Katie and I would go by the recycling center (trash dump) on the way to school and leave several bags of garbage. Not wanting to have to load the stuff that morning, I had put it in the van the evening before. Due to the warm and humid weather, the garbage had already developed a quite intense odor while sitting in the garage, and by the time it had aged in the van overnight, the smell was simply overpowering.

I rolled down the passenger-side window several inches and opened the vent windows to circulate some fresh air, but the odor was still strong enough to make your eyes water. "Katie," I said, "I'm sorry the smell is so bad in here." ""Oh, it's alright Daddy," Katie replied. "I smell my feet, so this doesn't bother me."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

That's What I Do

I had the opportunity recently to fill in for a few hours for my daughter Katie's first grade teacher. Katie suggested that I bring my guitar and sing a few songs. "Kate," I said, "people don't listen to the kind of music I play anymore. They'd all laugh." "Nobody'd laugh," she replied. "I would, but I'm your kid. That's what I do."

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Recently I've lost two goods friends - one to pancreatic cancer and the other to liver disease. Both were heartbreaking. In addition, the preacher who was responsible for my return to the church after a 30 year absence, was recently pressured into resigning from the pulpit, and the superintendent of the small Christian school that my daughter attends, whom I'd grown very close to, is returning to Texas in a couple of weeks. They say that when one window closes, another one opens, but here lately I'd been feeling like all four of the windows had been rolled up tight, and I was left sitting in the car alone. My wife suggested that I start a blog and join facebook, and I did both of those things today. Almost immediately I started hearing from family members as well as old friends, and it has felt great. Sort of like someone rolled down all the windows, put the top back, plugged in an 8-track and tossed me the keys. Thanks.

I Should Have Known

I really should have known, or at least guessed, and in a way I did, I suppose. Nevertheless, I was still surprised – not shocked, but certainly surprised – and maybe a bit, or somewhat more than that, amused. After all, I’d seen it before, many times in fact, although on a somewhat different scale. You see, Elizabeth never goes anywhere without her lipstick. I mean this literally. If we’re going somewhere together, I generally know it for a fact, because it’s usually in my pocket. If you’re wondering why I carry the lipstick, it’s because, with a very few exceptions, women’s clothing doesn’t have pockets, and even in the case of those precious few exceptions, the pockets are not meant to be functional – I mean to actually be used to hold things. I fully intend to write an essay dealing with that foolishness in detail in the near future. In fact it’s already on my “to write” list right after the one which will be entitled “Why it is Nonetheless Necessary to Sort a Dryer-full of Black Socks”. But for now, just consider this one fact, and I’ll get on with the current story, if I can remember what it was. If a person requires a support group (or new britches) just to deal with an occasional flare up of panty lines, think of the trauma they would experience if they were ever stricken by the dreaded curse of wallet bulge, or even worse, the black death of fashion locally known as lipstick lump.

Well, needless to say again, the lipstick always goes, and it’s usually in my pocket, but what about the times when we’re not together? Does she stick it in her pocket, and make the best of it? You already know the answer. Of course not. She puts it in her purse. Some call it a pocketbook. Some call it a handbag or a shoulder bag. Some have a purse inside of a handbag, and some are as big as a suitcase, but whatever the name, whatever the size, whatever the price (and 100 bucks is cheap), they all have one function – to carry the lipstick when I’m not around. But what about all of that other stuff in there? It’s a heck of a lot more than just lipstick. To fully appreciate the answer to that question, you must understand the relative differences in various conceptions of space.

In a discussion of the cosmos, “space” may be used to refer to the vastness of the unexplored universe. On a cross country trip, it may be used to refer to the open expanse of a sunrise on the prairie. For a newlywed couple “space” may be a patch of ground upon which a first home may be built. Space can be all sorts of wonderful things, but inside of a woman’s purse it is simply the room left over after the lipstick is placed inside – a yawning void that cries out to be filled. The range of items used as filler (“ballast” may be a better word) is as wide as the span of human possessions – everything from hand lotion to handguns, from matchbooks to checkbooks, from cigarette lighters to light lunches, from door keys to keyboards, and from best sellers to cell phones. Oh you’ll find cards there too – credit cards, debit cards, birthday cards, insurance cards, gift cards, business cards, playing cards, even postcards and recipe cards – all kinds of cards. And at one time or another in one purse or another, virtually anything else.

The point to all of this is that this space exists, and it has to be filled. As we already know, ladies can’t use their pockets, and they can’t carry around a bag with nothing but a tube of lipstick inside, so they fill that void with anything that happens by. Think of a black hole, and you will have the right idea. And I knew all of this - had known it for years, but still somehow I missed the connection to a walk in the woods. You see, last Saturday, I took Katie for a hike at Morrow Mountain State Park on the Pee Dee River over near Albemarle. Just an afternoon hike – 1½ miles in, a picnic lunch, and 1½ miles out. I would be carrying the lunch and other necessaries – like camera, first aid kit, Swiss army knife, and compass, and I asked Katie to pack her own small backpack with a light jacket, snacks for the trail, and a bottle of water. Afterwards we each went off to pack our respective bags. A short while later, as we headed for the door, I reached down to pick up Katie’s pack. I was immediately surprised by its weight, which I estimated at something near 10 lbs. It should have weighed only a fraction of that. “What in the world do you have in here?” I asked her. “Just some things I’ll need.” she said. I partially unzipped her pack, to find it brim-full of stuff – just stuff. “Where’s your jacket and water and snacks?” I asked. “We’ll need to put that in another pack, I guess.” she replied. I sat her pack aside for a time when I could take a more leisurely look. That opportunity came the following Monday afternoon, and having the feeling that a detailed list would come in handy, I recorded the contents:

last year’s gymnastics medal
2 Crayola Color Explosion markers
1 Crayola Color Explosion tablet
1 plastic necklace
1 regular size lead pencil
1 lip gloss compact – 3 flavors with brush
1 writing tablet
1 “Celebrate” wall plaque
2 business cards
1 Canine Companion book marker
1 Max Lucado Childrens Bible
1 electronic spinning lights toy
2 Kleenex tissues
1 package of Starbursts
1 Barbie lip gloss compact – 9 flavors with brush
1 container of cleansing wipes
1 tube of Cocoa Butter hand cream
1 note pad with pen
1 container of body polish with sponge applicator
1 small resin owl, a gift from Barbara
1 Swiss Army knife with 11 blades/tools
1 sequined coin purse with 2 necklace links inside
1 Superman pedometer from Burger King (never worked right)
1 action figure from Burger King
12 Crayola crayons
5 large jingle bells
5 plastic bracelets
1 container of lip balm
1 toy plastic cream pitcher
3 tubes of Jello brand lip gloss with sparkles
1 “find the dime” magic trick
1 small lead pencil
1 hairband
1 nail file key ring
1 charms key ring
1 mechanical cow key ring
1 plastic heart ring
1 small key
1 small (store sample) tube of lipstick
3 decorative “gemstones”
1 black felt-tip pen
1 make-up compact with brush and mirror (but no make-up)
1 Starburst wrapper

Also, a small sequined hand bag containing the following:
1 small package of sticky notes
1 package of dental floss
1 cross necklace
5 tubes of assorted lip gloss
2 Easter seals (stuck together)
1 Christmas wristwatch (non-functioning)
1 small doll with clothes
1 5-piece set of make-up brushes
1 large paperclip
1 bottle of nail polish
2 bracelets – 1 magnetic and 1 collectible costume jewelry
1 necklace with ring
1 key ring
$1.41 in change (mostly pennies)

Now if you read closely, you probably noticed that there was no mention of a partridge in a pear tree – strange that she missed something as critical to a good hike as that, but you may not have noticed that

In packing up her backpack my Katie took all these:
12 Crayola crayons
11 useful knife blades
10 types of lip gloss
9 make-up brushes
8 U.S. nickels
7 plastic bracelets
6 assorted markers
5 jingle bells
4 old key rings
3 gemstones
2 business cards
and a tube of cocoa butter hand cream

Truth really is stranger than fiction sometimes, and it can also be more fun. I hope you enjoyed this little story – all of which is true, of course.

Dean Greene