Don’t be playin, play’r


Maine to Texas

Finally, on the road south. Leaving the snow and below freezing temps, we are packed and ready

Hitting I95

The cross country ride did not disappoint. I wish I had taken more shots but just when a great view came, it was gone.

Finally warm weather. Short sleeves in Louisiana!

Three days!

Home again. Now to relax and regroup. In about a week the UHaul box arrives and the real work begins, yeeha

A farmers logic

There was a farmer who grew excellent quality corn. Every year he won the award for the best grown corn. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.

“Why sir,” said the farmer, “Didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”

So is with our lives… Those who want to live meaningfully and well must help enrich the lives of others, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all…

Texas to Maine ( and back again )

This adventure begins where most adventures begin, at the beginning.

The time has come for dad to leave his beloved Maine and come stay with us on the third coast. His partner, Carol Ann in now in an excellent memory care unit where she can be cared for and live a quality of life she deserves . The dementia had progressed to the point where dad just was no longer able to provide for her care. It ie a cruel disease that affect everyone involved, not just the victim.

So yesterday, I leave sunny Texas for Maine.

After a long flight and a few delays, it’s good to be on the ground in Portland.

There’s this white stuff EVERYWHERE. I really should speak with someone about this!

So the plan should go something like this:

We take care of the technical stuff first, lawyer, moving notices etc. Then the actual packing of the items coming to Texas. A U-Haul Pod handles this. Once we have it packed up, they pick it up and deliver it to our home. Pretty nice.

The “Pod”…and more of that white stuff!

Once all of the T’s have been crossed and the i’s dotted, and the pod loaded, then dad and I will begin our road trip back down south. More on that later. Now it time to get started…

Magic On I-95 – A Christmas Story

For your Christmas enjoyment.

The following story is true, of course.

While I lived in Maine, I got to know Phil Kandusky, who is now retired from the force and spends most of his time in the woods.

He has a cabin there, that is only accessible on foot or skis.

I met him in a truck stop, late one cold night.

We got to talking about the snow and the weeds and how we both loved to be in the woods in the snow season, and how beautiful the light is even on moonless nights deep in the Maine woods.

One thing led to another and he just looked at me and said

“Jerry, I know I can trust you. I am going to tell you a story that I have never told anyone.”

He smiled and I could swear that I smelled the perfume of the Balsam Fir.

Magic On I-95

-Bangor Daily News-

A Christmas tree stopped all traffic in the north bound lane of I-95 Friday evening. All traffic came to a stop at eight o’clock when a seven foot Balsam Fir mysteriously appeared in the highway.

Sergeant Phil Kandusky of the Maine State Police said, “I don’t know how it could have gotten here except it might have fallen off a car or truck. Nobody saw how it got there. The first person to see it was a woman in a small car that almost turned over when she swerved to miss the tree. She was driving with her dim lights on. She said she was taking Christmas gifts to her mother’s house and just was not paying attention. She came very close to having a bad Christmas,” the Sergeant concluded.

Thirty-five vehicles were stopped before traffic began to move. Slim Goodnight, driver of a tractor trailer, on his way home from a long haul out of Canada, was second on the scene. He almost plowed into the swerving car full of packages. Officer Kandusky reported that both the woman and driver were shaken up by the incident.

The news item continues in the Christmas Eve edition of the Bangor Daily News about the officer and the truck driver moving the tree onto the long sloping shoulder of the interstate and the traffic moving on again. 

The story, however, continued that windy, cold and frosty night.

Phil Kandusky had just finished filling out his report and was satisfied that traffic was  moving normally, when he glanced over to where the tree had been lift on the shoulder of the road. “Well I’ll be,” he said to himself. The tree was not there. Officer Kandusky retrieved his flashlight from it’s bracket and left his cruiser, walking directly to the spot where he and the driver Goodnight had deposited the tree. Nothing. He shined the powerful light down the embankment and up the other side to the tree line at the top. All the trees were bending with the wind, bobbing back and forth, all except one. It was the missing tree. It was bent into the wind and moving along the tree line near the fence.

“Hey you. Stop!” shouted Officer Kandusky. The tree stood still and for a moment seemed fixed to the spot. Then it turned and ran into the fence at the edge of the wood and bounced back and rolled down the embankment and was stopped when it rolled into Phil Kandusky’s legs, which had just about reached the top of the slope. The Officer sliced the darkness at the tree line with his light looking for whoever had taken the Christmas Tree from the road side, as Christmas Tree pilfering was taken very seriously  in Northern Maine.

“Ow! You’re standing on my branch.!”

“What the..”, the Officer stammered. He pointed the beam of light at the tree at his feet expecting to see a small person balled up in the branches and saw instead…. A Christmas Tree. Just a tree lying on the hillside.

“Well, are you just going to stand there and mash every needle off my beautiful branch?” Trooper Sergeant Philip S. Kandusky, veteran of eighteen years of strange things on the road of northern Maine felt himself slipping. His head was spinning. The wind was moaning through the tops of the spruce and snow was beginning to spit through the beam of his light. Phil Kandusky steaded himself, shook his head and began to speak out loud to himself.

“Hold on now Trooper. Check it out, by the book”, he said, looking about as though there might be someone else within earshot.

“There is nothing to check out my friend. Move your right foot and I will gladly explain.”

Officer Kandusky slowly moved his foot and then laughed a nervous laugh. “What am I…. talking to a Christmas Tree? Wha….” The ground seemed to move beneath his feet and instinctively he dropped to one knee and braced himself with one hand on the uphill ground. He checked his cruiser. It was gone! He seemed to be surrounded by trees. Christmas trees of all sizes and shapes. Phil Kandusky slowly turned and sat on the frozen ground and looked at the tree beside his leg.

“Well now you’ve done it,” said the tree. “Just look at this branch. It will have to be pruned.” Officer Kandusky stared at the place where his car was supposed to be and slowly turned his head to the tree and s
aid, “What?”

“Do it,” the voice from the tree commanded.

“What? Do what?” The officer was whispering.

“There is no need to whisper. There is nobody here but us.”

“Us?” the officer looked around unbelievingly. The flesh covering his spine was definitely trembling now.

“Look, you got a knife; cut the tip of this branch where you mashed all the needles off.” The branch lifted up to within easy reach of Phil Kandusky. His mouth dropped open and he could feel his heart pounding in his chest. The tree shouted, “DO IT!“

“Stop it. What’s going on here? Where am I? Who-what are you?” The wind sounded like and organ playing music from another world in the trees all around.

“I am a Christmas tree. Any child could see that. My name is, well I don’t think you could say it but you can call me Buddy. Buddy Balsam. And as for where you are, you are where you are and for the time you are somewhere else also. Just leave it there, Phil. Yes I know who you are. I have seen you drive by here hundreds of times. Now, help me get up on my roots before I loose my beautiful shape.”

With that Buddy Balsam pushed off with two  of his strong lower branches and leaped to his roots. “Here, give me you hand”, Buddy said, and before the Sergeant could think, he reached up with his hand and grabbed a branch and the branch grabbed back and pulled him forcefully to this yet unstable feet. “My God”, Kandusky breathed. “Yes, well. Now do you suppose you could trim this little twig for me?” Without a further word Phil retrieved a folding knife from his pocket and cut the twig as he was directed. He stood there looking at the twig. Just looking at it. His mouth open. He felt warm. Perspiration began to  dampen his collar.

“What is this, what’s going on here? I must be sick.”

“No, you are not sick. You might as well be, however, for all the brain straining you are going to do over this, Phil old boy.”

The officer looked sick even in the near darkness of the winter night. He weaved slightly and looked up at the sky as though there might be an answer there. Snow that was spitting was now steadily falling, quietly, not heavily, but in that way that signaled persistence and some accumulation. There would be eight to ten inches by the sun’s rising. Officer Kandusky looked once again for his cruiser and once again he say nothing but a circle of the most perfectly shaped Christmas trees he had ever seen.  He noticed something else, the ground was not sloping but was level and thickly grassed and spongy. It was sinking in that he really was somewhere else. Something like reality began to rake root in this consciousness. For the first time since he started up the embankment he felt steadier on his feet.

He looked at the tree from top to bottom and said, “Say something.”

“Well, you seem to have gained a little composure.”

“Where did you take me? Where is my car? My god, what is going on?”

“Steady, Phil, you’re losing it,” Buddy said. “One thing at a time. I had to take up somewhere else or someone passing on the road would wonder what a Policeman was doing up on the hill talking to a tree.” There was a ripple of laughter all around.

“Wha!,” and Kandusky whirled around and and crouched, “What was that? Do all these trees talk?”

“Well of course we talk. How else do yo think we can get our job done?”

“Job! What kind of job is that? That’s what I’d like to know! Just tell me that!” demanded Officer Kandusky.

The wind began to blow a little harder and the other trees seemed to gather in a little closer. Buddy Balsam moved closer to the officer and reached out and touched his arm very softly and said, “Phil look at me and tell me just what you see. Look at me Phil, do not turn away. All is well, I assure you.”

Phil Kandusky squared off and faced Buddy Balsam and with a deep sigh said, ” Just about the best looking Christmas Tree I have ever seen. No question. so what’s going on, and how are you doing all this hocus pocus?”

“I can tell you what is going on, Phil, but as to the mechanics of all this, well, you might have to live with some of this for a while without all the answers.”

“First, we are the Starry Night Copse. Our area of responsibility is the southern Penobscot county region. there are thousands of Copses all over the world with the same mission, which is to make sure that every Christmas tree in the world is the most beautiful Christmas tree anyone has ever seen. What’s the matter Phil? You look strange.”

“I…I thought I saw you face while you were talking. I…I just thought, I don’t know.”

“You did see it Phil. If I wanted it, you would see your care where it is supposed to be. We are talking about real power here Phil. It helps that you want to see my face, where the voice is coming from. It means you are ready for the next phase of you unexpected indoctrination.”

“Wait just a minute, here. Not too fast. What’s this indoctrination…”

“Phil, time is growing short. Listen. Haven’t you
ever noticed how there are really no really ugly Christmas trees? I mean, some are more fancy that others, some larger or thicker, but at some moment as the tree is decorated, we like to call it dedicated, something happens. Suddenly everybody thinks it is just right. You know what I mean, Phil?”

“What has that got to do with all this, Buddy?” Phil Kandusky looked nervously around as he said the tree’s name.

“Everything. We make that happen. Now Phil, we are real trees. But we have some extra….shall we say abilities. For instance we can become invisible and enter the room where a quite ordinary tree is in the process of being dedicated, or decorated as you call it, and sort of get inside that tree and make it shine. That is all there is to it, Phil. I don’t think you are the only one to ever stumble onto our mission, but I don’t think anyone ever got this far before. I guess you can see what that means, don’t you?”

“Well, yes… NO! I don’t see. What does that mean?”

“Come on, For us to continue our work, we don’t need every crazy hot-rodder in the county out here on Christmas Eve running up and down the interstate looking for trees that walk and talk, now do we, Officer Kandusky?”

“I see you point.”

“Well I’m not so sure,” thought Buddy. the memory was still in the mind of every tree in the copse. The memory of that night twenty years ago when the entire group was planning to cross the interstate at once in order to save the time it would take to cross one by one as usual. Lookouts had been placed along the right of way and they reported all wall clear. The operation seemed regular in every way. They were in the median which was about a hundred feet across and scooped out for drainage with a patch of little pines and the north end, when all of a sudden there was a yell from the direction of the little pines and blinding lights that cut through the middle of the copse. A door slammed and a whirring motor ripped the night in two. Then into the light came a staggering man wielding a chain saw and running toward the nearest tree who ran up the incline as fast as he could go. the yelling man was obviously drunk or crazy with the common result that if he succeeded in his apparent purpose the entire copse would or at least could be wiped out.

Just then the lights of another speeding car slashed the night. A young state trooper who was in pursuit was speeding down the hill and when the beam of his lights came into rage he saw the crazed chainsaw cowboy running and staggering down the trough of the median.

As soon as the copse saw the lights of the oncoming car they stood fencepost still in the median like they hand been growing there for a hundred years. The chainsaw man was about thirty feet from the nearest Christmas spruce when he saw the patrol car and stopped in his tracks. The saw was idling in his hand and he was saying from side to side. It was no secret to the cop. “What we got here”, he told his dispatcher, ” is your basic freeway drunk trying to cut down the prettiest little patch of Christmas trees I ever saw. As a matter of fact, I don’t ever remember seeing them before. Just goes to show you, I guess.”

“That officer was you, Philip Kandusky,” Buddy said. “You saved my life that night, Phil, and now I and my friends here are going to give you something back.”

So that is how, when Buddy Balsam found himself profoundly discovered by Officer Kandusky, he considered it the time and place to let him in on their little secret and to show him how it works.

“Phil, I think you really do see my point, but I want to show you something, and it won’t take as much time as you think, and it will answer whatever remaining questions you might have. I don’t know if you can handle it, but we need you confidence.”

“What you mean is you want me to keep my mouth shut.  Right?”“Couldn’t have said it better, Phil. Here, hold onto my branch.” Officer Kandusky reached out quite naturally and took hold of the offered branch and suddenly all was motion but there was no wind or sound except the beating of his heart. He looked around and down! They were flying. His hand began to slip, but that was when he noticed that there were others there holding him from behind. ” OK, here we are.”
And they were on the ground just outside a small cabin. There was an ancient Pontiac Chief  up on blocks right in front of the door. To the side of the cabin were the remains of two other automobiles of indeterminable species. There was a dog chained to a large eye bolt screwed right into the side of the cabin.  Phil thought it strange that the dog had not taken notice of their presence. He also noticed the name on the mail box nailed to a post on the porch. It was Goodnight. He looked at Buddy and Buddy nodded his understanding.Buddy Balsam, with Officer Kandusky in tow, moved toward the door of the cabin stepping right over the large mixed breed in front of the steps. Not a whimper. Then they were in the living room. Phil tried to hide behind Buddy. “Don’t do that, Phil, they can’t see or hear us. Don’t waste any energy trying to figure it out. Be still and wait just a moment. We got here at just about the right time.”The room was small and warm. Not dirty, but filled with clutter, the clutter of living. There was a mother in her late twenties and two small children, one about five and the oldest, the other was three and had her little hands filled with the popcorn that her mother was trying to string together for the scrawny little pine in the corner. The five-year-old was sitting on the stuffed couch holding ornaments in her hands and making suggestions to her mother as to the order with which they should be placed on the tree. A large tabby cat lay in the matching chair unconcerned and sleeping. There was the distinct aroma of bacon in the air, the remnants of supper. Buddy and Phil waited in silence. Soon the popcorn was strung and the mother held the youngest child who had the gilded star in her hands and lifted her up to the top of the tree and coaxed her into setting it on the bare stem that had been prepared for the hollow bottom of the star. Together they managed to get it on after three tries. Buddy moved toward the pine and disappeared into it. Phil started and said, ” Where are you?’ There was no answer, but there was an event. Something happened.Phil’s mouth fell open  as he stared at the ugly pine and saw and felt the beauty of the moment. The children ooed when the young mother turned the single string of lights on and at that instant it happened. It was a beautiful tree, just right and the light in their eyes was just right too. “There,” the mother said, “when daddy comes in later tonight he will be so pl
eased.”Buddy was at Phil’s side and suddenly they were airborne passing the weaving tops of tall pine and spruce. Then with a breath sucking whoosh they were at the edge of the same patch of woods where they had started. Still no cruiser in sight.

“Well Phil, now you have seen and heard all  that we are about. What do you think? Can you keep our little secret?”

Phil looked at him and smiled. “I would be medicated and licked up the minute I told this story to a soul and you know it.”

“Maybe so, but all the same, any word of this, crazy or not, would hurt our security. So far nothing has leaked out as you well know.”

“Wait a minute. How come you didn’t just disappear when…you…you didn’t have to be discovered in the middle of the road like you did. You could have just disappeared. I have seen you do it. My god, you are invisible when you want to be. What is going on here Buddy?”

All the perfectly shaped trees moved in closer as Buddy reached out and touched Phil’s shoulder. “Phil, times are changing. Magic is not as popular as it used to be. People just don’t believe anymore. Every once in a while – twice in this century, you are number three – we reveal ourselves to someone who we think we can trust to keep our little secret. Someone who might be willing to do just what you did here tonight. Just what you did twenty years ago. Every year, several of the younger trees get in trouble on the turnpike. Tonight when you pulled me off the road and placed me in a safe place, I knew. We have been watching you for years, but tonight I knew you would help.

“But you are not young!” Phil almost shouted.

“No, I am not. It can happen to anyone. And that is the point. We need a few real people to help when there are no member of the Copse in the area. Just as you did. I knew when you touched my branch. Call it concern. I knew you believed. Call it love. And you are also in a position to help out here on the turnpike every Christmas eve when you could be home yourself. You are not too hard to figure out, Officer Phillip S. Kandusky. Your heart is good. You are right for the job. Farewell.”

It was like a fog clearing. At first Officer Kandusky could see only the ground where he was standing. Slowly he began to see further. The Christmas trees were gone. His cruiser was where he had left it. He ambled rather than walked down the hillside. When he reached the car he turned to look up the hill toward the tree line. the snow was falling straight down. It was dead calm. But the trees were all waiving boisterously. Philip Kandusky waved back and shouted to the top of his voice, “Merry Christmas, Buddy Balsam. Have a happy New Year.”

As he buckled into the driver’s seat he looked at the clock on the dash. Only five minutes had passed since he had noticed the tree was not where he had moved it. “Magic”, he said to himself.

Sergeant Officer Philip S. Kandusky shook his head and reached for his radio to make his report. “Just a scare,” he would say. “No one was hurt,” he would say. “Merry Christmas,” he would say.

-Jerry Henderson-

Thank you Dad 

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December 24, 2014

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