Chapters 1 – 3 – ROADBLOCKS to HELL

Do Not Weep

 

 Chapter 1 Walt age 14 300dpi 4

 

Cali held the simple, hand made Order of Service for Walther Colt. No frills, no pretenses. “Born May 5th 1953. Took his last walk, February 19, 2008.”

She read:

It Will Be Lonely Here Without You

We will miss you more each day.

For life will not be the same for us

Since you’ve been called away.

We will always remember the way you looked.

The way you walked and smiled.

All the things you did for us.

Will be with us all the while.

You always did your best for us

Your heart was true and tender.

You lived your life for those you loved.

And those you loved will remember.

 

Cali noticed a tear roll down Peggy’s cheek. Peggy was Walt’s wife. A few minutes earlier, Peggy and Cali had been standing beside Walt’s open coffin in the small family anteroom. Peggy’s three girls (from a former relationship) and several young grandchildren, mingled in the family room. No sobs… only soft voices… and ever so often, slight smiles along with tearful faces while recalling a special memory or moment in time.

Walt wore a deep blue suit. Cali recognized it as the one he had worn the day he married Peggy. She noticed how his full gray head of wavy hair and suit gave him a rather distinguished look. He had always been a handsome man. A teddy bear nestled beside him. Given to him by a grandchild, it was his constant “you are loved”, reminder as he journeyed through his final days.

The fourth button on his light blue shirt was open.

“That’s intentional,” a step-daughter said quietly when Cali mentioned it. “He always had that belly-button button open.” Another step-daughter slipped up beside them and tenderly tucked a hot cup of Starbucks next to Walt’s arm. “Just the way he likes it,” she said.

Mother Peggy smiled and said, “He liked his coffee with 12 packages of sugar.”

“I know.” Cali returned the smile.

Then Peggy lovingly placed Walt’s favorite, well-worn straw hat beside him.

 She began to share her heart. She talked about how traumatic it was for her 12-year-old grandson, Jason, to lose his “granddad.”

“He and Walt were so close.” Her voice trembled. “Walt always took his grandparenting role so seriously and he loved being a granddad.”

“All he ever really wanted was family,” Cali added gently.

Peggy nodded. “Family and freedom. Those were everything to him. He loved to take the grandkids on hikes… he and Jason would spend hours together making these silly toy weapons, and then they’d go out to the bush on a play hunt… Jason is hurting so bad right now.”

Peggy stopped to wipe the tears. “Walt was the most loving, giving person. Yes, we had a difficult time living together, but we loved each other. You know Cali, I never saw that other side of Walt… the violence. Never. ”

Cali reached into her purse, pulled out an envelope and put it into Peggy’s hand. “From my mother and sister,” she said.

“Thanks. Walt often mentioned your family. Your mom always stayed connected with him and his mom – that meant a lot to him.”

For the next few minutes they sat quietly. Cali continued to watch as in simplicity and authenticity, Walt’s family embraced their grief and said their goodbyes. It was apparent that death and grieving were not new to this family.

The time had come to enter the chapel. “Goodbye my love, my rock,” Peggy whispered.

Cali choked back a tear and turned away.

The funeral director wheeled the coffin to the front of the chapel. Cali looked around her and counted twenty-seven people silently waiting for the service to begin. She wondered what their experience and connection with Walt had been. Why were they here, why were they sad?

Music to sooth a grieving soul played quietly in the background. Cali’s husband sat beside her. A little nervous, she took comfort in his presence. In a few minutes she would be asked to give a tribute, one she had spent the past few days preparing.

Cali’s thoughts wandered back to the man lying in the coffin. Over the span of 40 years she had learned much from him; a man whose troubled and tumultuous life had taken her down an unexpected journey that had lasted his lifetime. She held the secrets to much of his life. When they were teens, long before anyone else in that room had even met Walt, Cali was the only friend in his shattered world.

At that moment she resolved she owed him the one thing he had asked her to do; to write his story.

That is how this story came to be.

 

 

Walt order of service 300dpi 2

 

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Chapter 2

The Not So Ordinary Mennonite Girl

 

Chapter 2 Carrie 2 300dpi

 

Although she lived a rather ordinary life in an ordinary Mennonite farming community, Cali Ginter did not consider herself ordinary. Free spirited and adventurous, Cali was always teaching her siblings something; how to climb chairs, or trees, catch butterflies, how to fish for bass in the pond, and build forts and dig snow caves.

She had one older sister, and two younger brothers. The family regularly attended the local Mennonite church. For a child, Sundays in this little community church could be grueling. They involved an hour of Sunday School, followed by an English service and then a repeat German service. Some Sunday evenings they returned for yet another “special” service. To counteract boredom, or in some cases terror, depending on the service, Cali learned how to wrap and twist a simple handkerchief into a tiny doll snuggled in a blanket.

Her younger brother, Rob, seemed to like it best under the pew.

“Why do you always crawl under there?” she asked one day. “It’s not very comfortable banging your head and all.”

“Because I don’t want to go to hell,” was his definitive answer.

So I’m not the only one who’s sometimes afraid.

Cali thought that if hiding under the pew could save her from hell, she would join him.

By age six Cali had had enough “church” in her life to both convince her of her great need for God, as well as cause her to question whether she was even good enough for Him. Her troubled heart wondered what God was really like. Was He kind, or was He angry? Was He loving, or was He stern? If God was like the preacher said He was, then He was very scary. But if God was like her Sunday School teacher said He was, than He was very good and very amazing.

She decided to settle for a God who was very good and very amazing. They often sang the song, “Jesus Loves Me This I Know”, she reasoned, and if that was so, He was good. All she did know for certain was that she wanted the Jesus of the Bible to be her friend forever, and so she asked Him… and He said yes. That was enough to reassure her that she was not hell bound, but heaven bound. Unhappy, grumpy old preachers who tell us God is always displeased with something or another that we’ve done or haven’t done, don’t always know everything she reasoned. Cali was content and happy with that.

Cali spent much of her time at grandparent’s farm; a hop, skip and a jump from where they lived. She loved the farm. The animals, the barn, the hayloft… there was so much to do. Although the farm held plenty of charm, not everything on the farm was charming.

The pungent barn smells and the angry Hereford bull that everyone had to keep an eye on, weren’t charming. Chicken catching, killing and plucking were some of the worst days one could imagine – not charming at all. Then the hot summer days on the black dirt fields in the scorching prairie sun, weeding sugar beets from dawn to dusk. If you could hold a hoe, you could work – still not charming.

Holding Rosie’s tail while Aunt Sue milked her… that was fun. This required strong arms because Rosie had a strong tail and was determined to use it to swat the many flies buzzing around her milker’s head. The job became even more interesting when the cats and their kittens showed up looking for streams of warm milk.

Cali liked sitting high astride grandpa’s Percheron draft horse, Lady, as she plowed the garden. In winter uncle Todd would sometimes hitch Lady to the stone boat, (a flat sled used for hauling heavy objects or manure). He’d toss on a few bales of straw, throw on some blankets and they’d sleigh ride around the snow covered countryside. When temperatures dropped too low for comfort, (minus 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit, not to mention the wind chill) uncle Todd placed a hut he had made from plywood on the sled.

At the back of the hut he covered a small opening/door with a thick piece of cardboard. Several small side windows caught the view, or were used to rest the muzzle of a rifle when rabbit hunting.

Stone boat public domain 300dpi

A similar stone boat – 1921 Public Domain

Lady uncle Todd

Grandpa’s Percheron draft horse, Lady,

pulling the carriage Uncle Todd build for balmy weather excursions

Cali liked it when Grandma sent her on an egg hunt. Carefully she’d slip her hand under the brooding hen. There she might find three or maybe even four fresh warm eggs. Cali discovered that if she was calm and reassuring, mother hen would not peck and scold her nearly as much.

Then there were the times when grandpa asked her to help him hold the little newborn piglets while he snipped their sharp baby teeth so the mama could nurse more comfortably. She felt especially important those times. Other times she got to hang around in the kitchen with all its inviting aromas, and eat grandma’s blueberry pie.

Sometimes, when the sun was shining and the chores were done, uncle Todd would play football with her and sister Marlie. Uncle taught them all they ever needed to know about the game; how to hold and throw the ball, how to outsmart the opposition, how to think like a quarterback and how to run like the wind for a touchdown.

Then there was the garden in their own back yard. Summer- time provided endless hours of weeding and picking and peeling – the tub full of peas in particular required constant peeling attention. It never stayed empty for long.

Cali’s life was not all roses and happy fairy tale stories. She developed empathy for the rejected, inner strength and a persistent nature… but these traits came with a high price.

By the time she was eight, she was addicted to the feeling of satisfaction and self-approval that came with academic achievement. To Cali’s dismay and surprise, after every battery of tests her classmates refused to speak to her for the remainder of the week.

The reason for this behavior… Cali had attained the highest marks in her grade and “she must be shunned”, not just by those in her grade, but also by the other three grades in the three room school.

Cali knew what it meant to be bullied but she never put a name to it. It just was. She was taunted for being a “Christian”, threatened to have an arm broken if she made a goal in soccer, shunned if she aced her studies.

Except for Nancy, who one day stood her ground and refused to join in on what she rightfully called, “stupidity.” On one of those “silent” days, a bright and pleasant Wednesday morning, Cali was walking to school when Nancy, who was a mere twenty paces ahead, suddenly unexpectedly turned and said, “This is stupid. My not talking to you. After school I’m at home with nothing to do when we could be doing stuff together. I’m not listening to those guys anymore. It’s just stupid.”

Cali was stunned. She was so happy about the unexpected show of friendship and loyalty, but she was having trouble finding the words to express her feelings.

“Thanks,” she offered. “You wanna go fishing in the pond back of our place after school? I saw a bunch of new babies. I think they’re bass ‘cause they have really deep blue bodies and orange heads… kind of. Lots of them.”

“OK,” Nancy cheerfully responded. “That sounds like fun.”

The school bell rang and the girls giggled as they raced each other to the door.

Cali rarely mentioned the “unfair” treatment to her parents. She learned early on in the game that this was her battle. They would probably just make things worse for her. Anyway, she was quite comfortable talking to God about it, out in the field by herself while checking out the birds and their nests or catching butterflies.

At this point in time, Cali’s love for learning was greater than her need for acceptance. She chose to just “put up” with the silent treatment during the exam times and continued to push herself to achieve. Besides, she was not the only one in the grades 1-12, three classroom school that was subjected to bullying. No, she was not alone.

Her heart went out to two students in particular. These families were beyond the descriptions of “American poor” and were prime candidates for rejection and bullying.

Their clothes – dirty rags. Their appearance – filthy. Their attendance – sporadic. Their homes – paper thin walls, made from scraps of wood and cardboard, newspaper filling the cracks to keep the harsh winter cold from freezing them to death during the night.

Cali cried inside on the days Maria came to school with her long brown hair in a mush of knots, deep red well-fed bedbugs weaving their way in and out of the nasty mess. Maria’s desk was up front, row two, in front of Cali.

Everyone knew that Maria’s father was an angry, abusive drunk and that he was “good for nothing.” Everyone knew that her mother could do nothing about it.

Cali cried inside when she saw the puddle beneath Maria’s chair because the teacher had confronted her about not having her homework done. How could life be so cruel to someone so gentle and beautiful? She had a face like an angel. Cali let out a sigh of relief when the teacher stopped with his condescending tone, having notice the “accident” and began to speak to her kindly.

Regularly, Cali’s parents and grandparents (and there were others) delivered fresh milk and food to both of the needy families. She would never forget the day when she first entered Maria’s home.

The stench overpowered her burning her eyes, hitting her like a smack in the face. Instinctively, as if to somehow protect the drink she held in her hand, Cali covered it with her other hand – a reaction she would forever regret, but the writer chose to include this to punctuate how disgusting and horrible, how shocking it was for someone who had everything compared to this family, to suddenly come face to face with the reality of true, disgusting poverty.

Cali’s senses continued to be assaulted with each passing second. The sight that greeted her would haunt her for years to come.

There in the middle of the room on the floor amidst his human waste, sat an adult man in a playpen. Rocking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth! No one had ever mentioned Maria’s mother’s “retarded” brother!

In an instant, the overwhelming, awful stench of poverty had made a deep and lasting imprint in Cali’s tender mind. How she wished she could do something that could make their lives just a little bit better. But she was just a child – what could she do in a situation so desperate as this?

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One day a new student joined the class and Cali’s #1 status was suddenly challenged. This student was the son of the new preacher in town. His name was Paul and he was also highly academically motivated. This meant Cali had to rise to the occasion if she wanted to stay at the top of the class. Now she had to battle for first spot. Soon it became a game. One semester first place, next semester second place, then back to first, and so on.

Finding comfort in their commonality, the two wasted no time in becoming classroom friends and allies.

Then Cali’s life took a sudden left turn. She was just twelve when this hard and fast curve ball hit her. Somehow, and no one knows how, she contacted Hepatitis A.

Cali became very, very ill. Pulled out of school, she would spend that school year lying on the living room couch wondering if she would die.

Her parents’ reaction to her illness indicated to her that most likely she would die. She could sense their fear. The silence was deafening. Cali’s emotions were mixed… sadness that her parents had to be put through this ordeal, comfort because they really must love her, but also fear of the unknown.

Hepatitis A is not usually life threatening, and once recovered, one has build up plenty of antibodies to never contract that disease again. In Cali’s case however, this disease had become life threatening.

No one was allowed to visit as she was considered “contagious.” No one hugged her, no one talked to her about living or… dying. No one even talked about what was really wrong with her. Her dishes and clothes were washed separately. She was not allowed to eat fat of any sort. Jaundiced and weak, she could barely walk from the couch to the bathroom. Cali was as thin as a twig and looked every bit as fragile.

To help Cali pass the time and take her mind off her illness, Father had introduced Cali to stamp collecting. Eventually even that was taken from her. Since she was not recovering, the doctor said, “No more stamp collecting.” What in the world was she to do for all those hours of the day?

Broken and wounded, she again found solace in talking to God. This became her escape and comfort. Eventually she came to a place of complete peace. She remembers the day this “peace” dropped into her heart. If she was going to die, she would be in heaven with Jesus, and He would take care of her. She felt herself let go. What a wonderful feeling it was.

This inner strength and peace was key to Cali’s survival, both emotionally and physically. Cali still had much to endure.

For months on end, every Monday Cali’s father drove her the thirty minutes to their family doctor’s office for a blood test. She did not look forward to these doctor visits, but she did look forward to having her father all to herself. He was strong, gentle and kind, and even though they drove mostly in silence, she felt stronger when she was with him.

Cali perched on the cold examining table, her arm held out, bare and ready. She felt a shiver ripple through her frail body. The doctor, old and serious looking, wearing his white coat with a stethoscope around his neck took his time as he selected one of the half dozen needles in a stainless steel container on the counter.

Then the doctor made his way over to Cali. Now began the grueling process of inserting the needle into Cali’s arm. Grueling because in those days, or at least where Cali’s family lived, a needle was used over and over again, until it was so dull it either broke during insertion or it simply had no piercing properties left.

More than once, such a dull and over used needle snapped inside Cali’s veins while the doctor twisted it about trying to find more blood. The result – a broken needle and the now broken glass vial sticking out of her arm. Her deep crimson blood splattering everywhere.

Yes, something one should only see in a horror movie. Cali realized too late that if she had not been so brave, so silent, so determined to take it like a “good girl”, she could have spared herself many a traumatic moment. She would have also saved her veins from irreparable damage. Screaming and fussing would have done her a lot of good, but that was not in her nature. And so she said not a word, not a sound as she watched the doctor clean up the bloody mess, find another needle and then try again. But Cali did gain something valuable from this experience. Eventually, she could look a needle in the eye and never flinch. Needles had nothing on her.

Although Cali was content to die, she was NOT destined to die. After many months, amazingly, she began to recover. By the beginning of the new school year, Cali was ready to reenter the “real” world once again. Over the summer, still on the living room couch, she successfully finished her school year and was allowed to move into grade seven.

Now that she would live, regaining her physical strength became very important to Cali. She was 5’6” tall and a mere 84 lbs. This gave her classmates something else to tease her about. Cali determined to become strong — very strong — not just mentally, but physically as well.

So she climbed trees, tall trees, and she “thought” strong thoughts. So strong that in grade seven, her skinny, but now strong and sinewy arms could arm wrestle any boy in her classroom into submission. Well, not all. All except for one. Cali was not stupid. She simply refused to let the 300 lb. bully Ben come near her and she didn’t give a rip when he taunted her about being afraid he would break her arm. Darn right she was!

By the time grade seven rolled to a close, only one other well built, handsome grade eight student had vanquished her. But he had to work hard for that victory.

Cali was OK with that. That’s the way it should be, as far as she was concerned. She was a teenager now. She had proved herself to herself, and gained some respect from her classmates. The bullying had stopped.

Although she was no longer the object of bullying, she had other issues to overcome. Her alienation and journey to death’s door had changed her considerably. She had become, as the saying goes, “too heavenly minded to be much earthly good.”

Thankfully some of her classmates were brave and kind enough to let her in on their observations. Cali struggled with that for a long time, but eventually with the help of her friend, Nancy, Cali began to figure things out.

“You know what one of your problems is? You’re too nice.”

Too nice!! Not something Cali had expected to hear. It would take her years to really figure that one out. But she would learn that Nancy was right.

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The Story behind the Handkerchief Doll

 

During the war, money was hard to come by, food was rationed and when it came to toys, people had to use their creativity. At the time, handkerchiefs were part of a woman’s ward robe. Mothers learned to use these little pieces of cloth to make “handkerchief dolls.”

Also known as “Church dolls”, these simple dolls kept a child quiet and entertained during the service. Most importantly, if the doll was dropped, it did not make a sound.

 

 

A Handkerchief doll 8

 

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Chapter 3

Real Friends Are Friends Forever

 

Chapter 3 Friends 300dpi

Cali was fourteen when one evening at the supper table her parents made a startling announcement. They were going to move to the big town of Steinbach. Steinbach, a distance of sixty plus miles from Horndean, could just as well have been across the country as far as Cali was concerned. It always baffled Cali how her parents could make such significant decisions without her having an inkling of what they were planning.

This decision making happened on other occasions. When Cali was ten, father took Mother to the hospital one day and when Father came back home he said proudly, “You have another baby brother!”

How in the world did that happen? She wondered why babies were such a secret until they were born, and then all of a sudden they became something to make a big fuss over. Unlike when baby brother number one was born, this time she had noticed mother’s growing round belly. But since no one ever uttered a word, she was never sure about anything when it came to babies.

When brother number one arrived, she was too young to think much about the process. She just loved the fact that she had the cutest little brother around to play with and teach things. One of her proudest moments was the day she taught him to walk. He was as delighted as she was. Laughing and giggling he soon walked circles around her, letting her know he could do this all by himself.

Now, four years later baby brother number two arrived on the scene. Despite the shock and need for family structural adjustment, it didn’t take but a moment for Cali to fall in love with him as well. She came home from school a few days after Father’s birth announcement and there he was, lying in his cradle, tightly wrapped in baby blue flannel. He was even tinier than her doll. He wasn’t bald like other babies she had seen, but had a thick head of rich dark hair. For a good long while, she stood beside his tiny crib and watched him as he slept. That was when she first loved him.

Once again Cali’s parents had managed to catch her totally unaware. Never in her fourteen years had she entertained the idea that maybe one day, they as a family would move away from their quiet little farming community. Cali’s initial response to the announcement was resistance. Eventually resistance turned into anticipation, which then turned into excitement.

As much as she knew she would miss the farm, Cali was now looking forward to life in the “city.” At fourteen, she had never just dropped in at a diner with friends for a pop and French fries. She had never been to a theatre. This town had one, although a few years would pass before she was allowed to enter it. She had never been part of a church youth group. The church they would be attending had one of those, she was told.

Yet, Cali had apprehensions. Friends had become important to her. She would miss them, especially Nancy.

Nancy’s family lived just down the street from the Ginter home. Cali clearly remembers the day they met. Nancy’s father brought Nancy over to the Ginter house so the two of them could play. Cali was just four and Nancy three when their friendship began.

Over the years they learned to make everyday life an adventure. Since coming back into the land of the living, Cali was determined to enjoy every moment of every day. If the two of them weren’t net fishing for minnows and snakes in the muddy pond from a wooden raft, they were swimming in it. They practiced table tennis until they were dizzy, just so they could be “the best” when it came to the in-house school tournaments. They learned to throw and catch a baseball like athletes. When the boys wouldn’t let them play ice hockey with them because, they said, “You can’t raise the puck”, the girls quickly learned to raise the puck. They would not be outdone or left out.

Some of their adventures were rather unusual and even daring. The story of Laddie, the black Labrador dog, comes to mind. The girls’ neighbor and school teacher owned a large, beautiful, energetic black lab. One winter day the school bus that transported the grades 9-12 students to a nearby community high school hit and killed poor Laddie. Laddie had a habit of chasing the bus and his thrill for a moment had unfortunately been his demise. (Grades 9-12 were now being bussed to Altona some 30 minutes away)

For several months, to everyone’s chagrin, Laddie’s frozen black body lay beside the road. Cali could not understand why this teacher, who was one of her favorite teachers, did not respect his faithful dog by giving him a dignified burial. Day after day she walked past Laddie and day after day she grew more and more upset seeing him lying lifeless in the white snow.

Perhaps Mr. Denner was angry with the bus driver for killing his dog and this was his way of making a statement. Maybe he simply did not care? Or was he too preoccupied with other “life” stuff, and just didn’t have the time to get down to it?

But, she reasoned, what possibly could possess one to be so disrespectful to both one’s dog and to the people passing by each and everyday? Whatever the reason, leaving the body of his dead dog for the world to see for weeks on end, was simply not acceptable.

Cali had a natural affinity for animals; dogs, horses, cats – she loved them all. Skipper, her uncle’s battle-worn German Shepherd-Lab, Rottweiler mix was her first love. He was a dog of a rare sort; the “King” of the community’s dog world and he remained king as long as he lived. He could take on a pack of dogs and always come out the winner.

Skipper fiercely protected Grandpa’s farm and its occupants with his life, something Cali experienced personally. On a bitter cold winter morning she and Skipper were on their way to the barn to join the milkers. Overnight, mounds of blown snow had swept up over the barbed wire fences making it easy to walk to the back of the barn. Unbeknownst to Cali, an angry cow whose new-born calf had just been taken from her, was looking for something, someone to take out her rage on. Guarding the barn doors behind which her newborn lay, she snorted and stomped her hooves, shaking her head in great distress. Too late to turn around, Cali ran for all she was worth towards the other side of the barn – with Skipper right behind her and the mad cow stomping and snorting mere steps beyond. Cali could feel the raging animal, could hear the heavy breathing. When the cow was almost upon them, that is when Skipper took action. He turned and challenged her – dodging her butting head, snarling and snapping, distracting her, giving Cali time to run to safety.

As soon as Cali turned the corner to the front of the barn and disappeared, Skipper stopped his defensive battle strategy and raced after her, tail between his legs. The smell of rage was so strong, it even shook brave and courageous Skipper. Disoriented, the cow had gone back to take her stand by the barn doors. Needless to say, Cali and Skipper were buds.

Eventually, Cali had a dog of her own. First there was Tinker, a little spry, smart terrier mixed breed. Then came the even spryer and smarter Tippy, a purebred Pomeranian “runt.” (Cali had a thing for the underdog)

The day came when Cali could no longer stand looking at the frozen carcass. She conspired with Nancy and the two of them made a plan. They waited for just the right time. One winter evening, when it was very dark, no one was out and about and Mr. and Mrs. Denner weren’t at home, they went into action. Carefully they pulled Laddie’s body to the Denner’s doorstep and respectfully placed him on the welcome mat. This was the porch on which he had lain, the porch of the home of the master he trusted and guarded.

To their defense, the girls had talked about first going to Mr. Denner and asking him kindly to please bury Laddie – plan Number One. They decided the message that went with plan Number Two would have a much stronger impact. They were not just two squeamish teenage girls appealing to someone to bury his dead dog. If they decided on plan Number One and it was not successful, they would not be able to implement plan Number Two without arousing suspicion.

The girls knew the consequences of their actions could be drastic. In those days, the 1/4 inch, heavy duty leather strap was often put to good use, both at school and at home. Embarrassing a teacher was an unacceptable action — unless you did not get caught. They determined that whoever implemented plan Number Two would simply have to remain a mystery.

The next day the school was buzzing. Who had done it? The story went that Mr. and Mrs. Denner had arrived home from partying, a little tipsy and quite happy. When Mrs. Denner tripped over Laddie she let out a blood curdling scream… and then the excitement began.

The little town of Horndean did not need a lot to create a buzz of excitement. In the end, the interesting thing was most everyone was actually grateful something had finally been done about Mr. Denner’s deceased dog.

In this little community, where it was very easy for everybody to know all the juicy gossip about everybody else, it didn’t pay to hold a grudge or fight with one’s neighbor. So rather than cause bad feelings or start a feud, most just kept quiet, turned the other cheek and put up with inconveniences or embarrassments.

To the girls’ relief, Mr. Denner was neither angry nor vengeful. He took the rebuke with humility and even perhaps some remorse. And yes, he was also a little embarrassed. Laddie received his proper burial. Mission accomplished! No one ever suspected Nancy and Cali.

When moving day arrived, Nancy and Cali made a solemn pact to keep in touch. The occasional phone call and a visit a couple of times a year was the most they could expect during a time when long distant calls were costly and trips just to visit a friend were not on any adult’s priority list. Cali would have to make new friends and that was the one thing about moving that actually frightened her. She now had a small circle of friends; Marilyn, Betsy, Jackie and Nancy – and she valued them. Who could replace them? Who could replace a friend like Nancy?

Of course the answer was, no one. But friendships come in many different, often unexpected packages; something Cali would learn. A person who would make a big impression on her and whom she would eventually call “friend”, was unexpectedly, the delinquent boy next door.

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