Justice and the Vandovers


The following is the prologue to a story I wrote for my 8th-grade students in 2017-2018. My students are the main characters. Obviously this is written for a middle school audience. It is a long piece, and publishing 1 chapter per week, it will take nearly half a year to post to completion. The prologue takes place 150 years ago. The rest of the story takes place today.
The posts for this story can be found on the Long Fiction page at https://gregburton.blog/long-pages/


Justice and the Vandovers


Greg Burton


End of July, 1863, Simpson Fields, Alabama

The Confederate States of America was riding high, victory after victory secured on many fronts, with the most important ones being won by General Robert E. Lee in and around the Virginia area. Still, things were getting tight on the home front. Most men had been missing from the farms for over two years, leaving plowing, planting, growing, and harvesting crops left mainly to the women and older children who were still there. The women generally had to do this, plus attend their regular duties, such as taking care of children, managing the household, preparing food, and any of the other hundreds of daily chores they would take care of if their husbands had been there. It was a straining life, and though they endured happily for The Cause of States Rights, the grind was wearing them out physically and emotionally.

A great portion that had been saved by southern families had been taken by the Confederate government. Agents would come around monthly in search of supplies for the fighting men—food, clothing, material, chickens, hogs, cattle, items that held intrinsic value, such as gold (the main desired item), jewels, and cash. The southerners had taken their ready cash and invested in Confederate bonds. Many were afraid they would lose every penny they had if their men failed in the war, if the Yankees. The families, though, were willing to donate everything—even their last drop of blood—for Confederate victory.

As the months dragged into years, the agents had difficulty getting much else from the southern families. A family in 1863 that possessed more than one chicken felt blessed at its abundance. Cattle and hogs were almost never seen any more on the homesteads. True, some people hid these things when they knew the requisition group was heading into the area. At first, people looked upon these hoarders and hiders are disloyal citizens. Now, however, their prudence was privately being praised, and many people were unhappy with themselves that they had not done the same thing previously.

In late July of 1863 the hamlet of Simpson Fields, a place not usually marked on maps of the state, had its attention drawn to itself because of a “battle”—actually nothing more than a minor skirmish—that transpired in the limits of the town itself. There were a few casualties in the encounter.

The story was retold for years by the people who lived and fought there. As usual in incidents like these, the tale grew in scope and importance. Ten years later it may have been recalled by gentlemen sitting on the bench in front of the barbershop something like the following:

“There we were—trapped by the bluecoats. Couldn’t go forward, couldn’t retreat,” would say veteran number one.

Veteran number two would chime in with, “Thought we were all going to die. Either that or get captured and get sent to a prisoner camp in the north, where we’d be starved out, or beaten, or caught some awful disease and just died.”

“But Colonel Dunwoody came and rescued us—all except Bobby Anderson, Lucas Cadwalader, and Baxter McDrood—they all got killed during the battle,” veteran number three would add. “Terrible shame. They was good men, them boys. Colonel Dunwoody came charging in with about twenty or so men broke through the Yankee line, and we escaped.”

“Yeah, but the Yanks took the town anyway,” the first veteran would say. “We felt bad about that. Hung our heads for years. We were just overwhelmed, that’s all. Yanks had four times as many men as we did. Still, we shoulda been able to whip them.”

In reality, the skirmish lasted just over an hour. Two Union soldiers were injured, and three defenders were killed. The Yankees did occupy the town, though, just for a couple of hours, and then they left.


End of March, 1865

In a little over a week, the Civil War would be over, but there was much going on in Simpson Fields, even though it was removed far from the action transpiring in Virginia. The townspeople, now desperate for nearly everything, starving, no shoes, worn, ratty clothing, and completely void of hope, had little to sustain them, either physically or emotionally. Nerves were on edge, tempers short, and desperation ruled the day. What little food could be found was already readily shared with neighbors, but some people—people of strong character and firmly-established morals—had resorted to theft or deceptive means to obtain what they could eat. Poultry or pigs, when they could be found, needed to be guarded day and night, or else they would turn up missing at a moment’s notice.

On this windy, chilly day in March, 1865, a group from the commissary, or collectors of goods requisitioned by the Confederate government, was making one final sweep of the area, desperate for anything that could help the soldiers. Everyone knew it was too late, so the people decided to hide anything of value they still possessed. A man rode in at a gallop, waving his hat, yelling at the top of his voice.

“Saved! Saved, I tell ya! We’re all saved!”

A crowd quickly gathered in front of the court house where the man pulled up his horse. He waited until the noisy talk subsided, then he dismounted his horse and hobbled over to a tree stump where he could stand, and where everyone could hear him speak. He was missing his right leg below the knee, his left arm below the elbow, and was missing his left eye. All these losses occurred on the battlefield in the last four years.

“John Vandover’s got several wagons heading this way,” the man yelled. “They’re full of food, I tell you. Full of food. He’s got mountains of hams, crates full of chickens, he’s driving some cattle, all kinds of vegetables. Probably enough to keep us all fed until our crops come in.”

“What?” someone asked in disbelief. “Homer, where’d he get that stuff?”

Homer, the rider with the missing body parts, replied, “Says he’s kept all this stuff hidden in the woods behind his place all the time. Said the agents were not going to get any of his stuff. But he’s driving it this way. Bringing it to us!”

“Why would John Vandover bring anything to us?” someone asked. “He’s the stingiest man around. Never’s had nothing to do with people in town. Doesn’t talk to anybody. Doesn’t help out anyone. Ain’t nobody likes him, and as far as I can tell, he ain’t never liked none of us. I don’t believe it.”

“Believe it or not, it’s happening,” said Homer. “Saw the wagons myself.”

“Did ya talk to him? Did he say he’s heading this way?” another questioned.

“Yep. Talked to him myself. Said he was headin’ to town. I took off hollerin’ soon’s he said that.”

The crowd appeared convinced. Cheers went up continuously for a half hour or more, but as time passed, cheering dissipated, and looks of joy and hope turned first to anxiety, and then after another interval, to anger. The people realized they were getting no relief. John Vandover and his wagons of supplies never showed.


August, 1865

Nearly the entire town of Simpson Fields gathered in the courthouse. People stood around the perimeter after every available seat had been taken inside the courtroom. An emergency town meeting had been called. Angry voices rang for close to two hours as people shouted each other down in an attempt to speak his mind. The sheriff had deputized four men to help keep the order because he knew the meeting would be heated, and people might make rash decisions to take matters into their own hands.

The topic was John Vandover, and what the town should do concerning the supply wagons that never showed. One woman, Mrs. Elmore Paddock, claimed that her small child had died from malnutrition, and that food from the Vandover wagons would have saved the child’s life. Jonas Edmonds, an elderly man, proclaimed that he lost sight in his eye solely because of starvation, and that the eye quit working a week after Vandover’s wagons had failed to show. A young woman by the name of Stella Owens claimed that she became sterile due to lack of nourishment, and the doctor had told her that she would never be able to have children again.

Some people wanted to go to the Vandover place out the outskirts of town and settle accounts with John Vandover. First, they proposed to fire his house and buildings. Then they were going to run him out of town after tarring-and-feathering him. A few proposed sterner measures—hanging Vandover from the nearest tree on his place after destroying his property. Yet others were convinced that the only remedy to the Vandover scourge was to kill not only John Vandover, but his wife, children, and grandchildren, leaving none to pollute their town ever again.

After discussions had ceased and decisions made, town council president Alden Withers informed the crowd of the final decision.

“Seeing that John Vandover abandoned the good people of this town in their time of direst need, it is the agreed decision, by a vote of the people here, that the name of Vandover—whether it is John Vandover, his wife, children, or any descendant in ages to comes—be cursed. Never let the name Vandover pass over the lips of any resident of Simpson Fields from here to eternity. Cursed be the name Vandover. For the evil that he has done to this town, let the descendants of John Vandover forever be outcasts. Cursed be anyone from now until the end of time who would aid any Vandover. And now, with this final mention of the name Vandover, let it never be spoken again in Simpson Fields.”

The people shouted in agreement.


Danger, danger, everywhere!


In Mark Twain’s essay The Danger of Lying in Bed, Twain took to task the people of his time who saw danger where relatively no danger existed. In his day, many people were afraid of traveling by train because of some train wrecks. Using extreme extrapolation, these people concluded that everyone who rode a train was putting themselves in grave danger. 

To combat this overactive imagine and logic, Twain simply pointed out that more people died in their beds than by any other method. Therefore, according to Twain, beds were putting more people in danger than anything else in the world, and if everyone wanted to avoid dying, simply stay out of beds. 

Naturally, that was a ridiculous prescription, but he made his point. 

We need to take his point today as well. 

Social media has had an abundance of well-meaning but rather ridiculous things posted regularly. People want to warn their friends and neighbors to avoid doing something commonplace because there is a dangerous dark side to that event. You might want to get up-to-date on the following:  

Don’t use file folders. Some unnamed man in Folemont, Pennsylvania, got a paper cut when using a file folder. He later got an infection and lost a hand. 

Beware of fruit-based juices. Everybody loves fruit juices, right? A woman in South Dakota poured orange juice in a glass. Apparently, there was a live venomous spider that had survived for months in the lid of the bottle of orange juice. She did not know she was drinking it, and it bit her. She nearly died. 

Never let your child jump rope. The repetitive action of jumping in a single place made a 6-year-old girl blow out both her knees. Do not let this happen to your child. 

Remember the hand sanitizer scare? Children will ingest it and become inebriated because it has a high alcohol content. Keep that stuff under lock and key. Supervise hand sanitizer use with children. 

The list goes on and on. You will probably see a warning on social media this week. A friend is looking out for you. 

Are people simply that gullible? Sadly, it appears so. 

In non-dangerous stuff, how many times have you read on social media that a famous person, such as Morgan Freeman, has died? 

How old are John F. Kennedy, Elvis Presley, and Adolf Hitler now that we have been told they are still living? You know, they have really been in hiding from the world. 

Miracle foods and drinks, magic hair restorers, all the products of overnight infomercials. The pitchmen guarantee they all work, and they do even better than what we were originally told. 

A television show of the 1970s titled Fernwood 2 Night had a segment once about the dangers of wearing leisure suits. On the show, a local college professor dressed hundreds of lab rats in leisure suits, and many or most of these rats developed cancer. Of course, this was farce, but poignant nonetheless. Nor was it mentioned that as part of the project the lab rats smoked multiple packs of cigarettes per day. But the leisure suit was the problem. 

What is on the cancer list today? Bacon again? Nearly all food not vegetable in content? Cellphones, wireless devices, wearing clothes that are too tightly fitting? 

The mine for coming up with new dangers has barely been explored. There will be something soon, though. Very soon. 

There are some things in life we should have a healthy fear of. We should pull our hands away from the hot stove. We should never play with a gun, even if we know “the safety is on and it’s not even loaded.” Things like this are common sense. 

Increasingly becoming more afraid to live our lives because of incessant (and often unverified and ridiculous) warnings is mindless. A worse consequence is that we become desensitized to actual, verifiable red flags. We stop heeding good advice. We increase our chances of becoming a victim of something we genuinely could have prevented. 

I think I will continue sleeping in bed, even though most people still die there. My father died in bed, as did his brothers, my grandmothers, a grandfather, and 3 aunts. 

The Drive


This poem published under Poetry for the Weekend tab


Towns by interstates long bypassed
Housing families many generations
In the midst of uncountable acres of corn –
Tall, ripening, full, tasseled, and proud.

Communities bound by common events:
Plowing, planting, harvesting,
Putting up hay, church suppers, socials,
Celebrations of marriages, funerals, county fairs,
Birthing calves and humans.

Ordinary, regular tasks that constitute life:
Mowing lawns,
Jaunts to the grocery
Or hardware
Or veterinarian
Or to visit family.

Past soy beans lush and green
On the artery that connects east coast to west,
From Maryland to Sacramento,
‘Round curves, down hills,
Traversing rivers and creeks and streams,
Sniffing scents of corn, cut grass, and manure.

A tree nursery appears beyond the bend,
Thousands of saplings striving to survive
And become rustic skyscrapers,
Landscaping homes,
Or protecting them from inclement weather.

A stop at a diner, a place whose existence was unknown prior to today.
We are the only first-time patrons,
But we are not strangers.

A small country store interests us.
We purchase things insignificant, yet memorable.

Finally, an orchard.
Delicious cherry cider – sweet, red, inviting.
A gallon to go, please.

Then return to the suburbs,
To the dwelling called home,
To recall the drive
That burned itself into permanent memory,
And in future days, like a Siren,
Beckons to quaff its fullness again.

Ed Lowery’s dog


I went into the local restaurant for breakfast recently, and over in the Liar’s Corner sat a parliament of the local gentry, discussing the next thought that ran through someone’s mind. I arrived at the establishment just after opening, around 6:00 a.m., and the men in the corner consisted of grizzled, retired, ancient men, a couple of farmers, and some construction workers. Also, the president of the town council dropped in and took his place with them shortly after I placed my order.

I got my food and took a small table within earshot of them. I hoped to pick up some wisdom.

“Ain’t heard nothing from you all morning, Ed,” said one of the men.

“No,” returned Ed, who then stretched and yawned for a good 20 seconds or more. “Just nothing to say.”

“Something bothering you?”

“No. Only that I ain’t said hardly a dozen words in the past few weeks at home. You see, Mary left about 6 weeks ago.”

“Zat so? Sorry to hear that. Why didn’t you say something to us ‘bout it?”

Ed scratched his head, took a long draw on his coffee mug, and then he finally raised his eyes at his friends. The entire group was listening by this time.

“You all may think I’m upset, but I ain’t. I ain’t talked at home only because I’ve no one to talk to. Gets a might lonesome in the evenings.”

“Where’d she go? Do you know?” inquired the council president.

“Nah. No idea. But I ain’t concerned. Mary’ll be back sometime.”

“What do you mean, she’ll be back?” asked the first man. “You don’t know where she is, she’s been gone 6 weeks, you haven’t heard from her, but you think she’s coming back? Ed Lowery, that don’t make no sense. No sense at all.”

The rest agreed.

“I knowed a man whose wife ran off,” said one of the farmers. “She never came back. Moved to Arizona, married another man, even though she never divorced her husband, and he never heard from her again. Hope something like that don’t happen to you, Ed.”

Ed Lowery smiled meekly and shook his head.

“Only thing I know is she’ll be back, once she’s got out of her whatever she needs to get out of her. She’ll come back, and we’ll be just as happy as we’ve always been. Maybe happier.”

The men mumbled things, mostly in disagreement with Ed, and they shook their heads at each other.

“What makes you so sure she’ll be back?” asked the man who had started the conversation. “And what makes you think you’ll want her back?”

Ed smiled meekly.

“Well, I got a philosophy about such things,” he began. “A philosophy that’s worked for me all my life. Something happened to me when I was 8 years ago, and it’s kind of guided me since then.

“When I was 8, a dog wandered up onto our property. Fine dog. Mixed, but as friendly as could be. You know Harold Benson’s dog he had a few years ago? Kinda looked like that, except this one was missing part of his left ear, and he had a long scar on his left hind leg.

“He didn’t have no tags or nothing, so I decided to feed him. You know how dogs stay around where there’s food?

“Well, naturally, he stayed. Stayed for, I don’t know, maybe 9 months. Never left the property. Slept in my room, playful and happy as can be. We were inseparable companions, that’s what we were. Inseparable companions.

“Well, we got up one day as usual. We both went outside. It was summer, you know, so we spent most of our time outdoors. I went into the house to get a drink of water or something, and when I came back out, the dog—his name was Fella—he was gone. Don’t know what happened to him or where he went.

“Of course, just being 8 years old, it upset me. I cried and cried for a day or so. Then I accepted the fact that he was gone.

“Six years later, when I was 14 years old, Fella wandered up my driveway, let me know he was home, and stayed there until he died 9 years later.”

Ed paused. I suppose he thought everyone would get his point, but they didn’t. Neither did I.

“Okay,” said another construction worker. “What are you trying to say? I don’t understand.”

Ed held out his hands, apparently not believing the question.

“Fella came back. I didn’t ask him no questions, like ‘Where ya been?’ or ‘Who ya been with?’ Didn’t think it was any of my business. Only thing I cared about was that he had returned. Didn’t need no explanation.

“Gonna be the same way with Mary,” he continued. “She’ll be back some day. I don’t know when. Ain’t gonna ask her no questions, either. If’n she wants to tell me anything, I’ll listen. Regardless, I’ll be happy when she returns. In the meantime, I’ll just bide my time.”

I had not taken a single bite of my breakfast, but it was time for me to leave. I quietly left my table and dumped my breakfast in the trash can. Some day in the next 6 years I think I will return for another breakfast and get an update on Ed Lowery and his wife.

Decision paralysis


An amazing phenomenon has transpired from the time I was a child in the 1960s to today. That phenomenon is, primarily due to the information age, people now have to make many more choices than say, 50 years ago.

Consider this. As a person growing up in the sixties where I lived, we had 4 choices of what to watch on television. In my household, in actuality, we had only 2 choices. We lived in an area that had an NBC station, a CBS station, an ABC station, and a PBS station. However, in our home, we only watched NBC and CBS. ABC was at that time on a lower tier. And no one in my house watched anything on PBS.

CBS was our first choice, and most programs we watched were on that channel. It was not until my teens that a new, independent station came on the air for part of the day. Sign-on was 3:00 p.m., and it went off the air sometime during or right after prime time.

If we did not like what was on those stations, we turned the set off and usually went outside and played. We could also choose to read. Either that, or we watched whatever was on even if we did not like it. At no time during a program did we change the channel.

Today, I have hundreds, possibly thousands, of choices to make concerning what to watch. Even though I have cut the cable cord, I subscribe to a non-cable or non-satellite service where I can still get those same channels. Plus, there are seemingly countless apps I can use to watch practically any type of entertainment or informative program I desire.

Yet, I find myself at times disappointed or dissatisfied about the myriad of choices I have. I have heard myself grumble in my mind, “There’s nothing on to watch.”

With that many choices, how can I be unhappy? Can I not simply find something and watch it? Why do I find myself constantly switching, looking for something a little more entertaining?

Graphic designer Chip Kidd provides us with words of wisdom that I believe can give us some insight. “You can be crippled by too many choices, especially if you don’t know what your goals are.”

So, the problem might be that we have too many choices? Couple that with not having something particular in mind before embarking on something? Can too many choices end up being a bad thing?

In the 1960s and 70s I generally listened to my favorite baseball team on the radio. Occasionally they were on the Saturday afternoon game of the week, and I actually got to watch them. That was a treat. The television dial never moved an inch while that baseball game was on. My viewing goal was fixed. I searched for nothing else, even if the game was out of hand early.

Switch to today. Just last night my wife and I were watching a DVD. While this was happening, I also watched a baseball game on my phone. A little later, I switched to my Kindle Fire because it had a larger screen. After our DVD finished, I switched between watching The Big Bang Theory and the baseball game on our high definition television.

I could also listen to the game over the air on my radio, but who listens to radio anymore? By the way, listening to a baseball game is still my favorite way to take in a game, other than in person. But my phone or my Kindle provides a much better sound than my radio. Actually, my Amazon Echo device or Amazon Show device gives even better sound. Or my Echo Dot connected by bluetooth to a Bose speaker gives an equally great sound.

I have too many choices, and our electronic and information revolution, I fear, has made us all impatient listeners and viewers, for I constantly switch from one thing to another. A commercial in a show means seeking something new to watch for 3-5 minutes.

Do we become crippled, as Kidd says, by too many choices? It can be frustrating for sure.

And this is not confined to watching TV or listening to something audibly. There are so many choices in life now for us that it can be mind-boggling. Which one of those 43 vacuum cleaners should I buy? How do I sift through the hundreds of options on 16 vehicles so that I can get the best automobile? Etc., etc.

Life is not going back to a simpler time. I guess we simply need to have a goal in mind what we want to do or buy or obtain.

One thing is for certain. No matter what choice we make, we will usually find something better out there at a later date.

I guess it takes a courageous person today to make choices.

Reading is fundamental

A public service announcement on both television and radio from the late 1960s and early 1970s promoted the idea that Reading Is Fundamental. RIF for short. 

Being a middle school English teacher, I subscribe to that philosophy. There are too many scientific studies that have conclusively determined that reading is the most educationally important skill a person should learn at a young age. Without the ability to read, a person is destined to frustration, certainly in all things education, but more importantly in life, generally speaking.  

Yes, there are anecdotal stories about poor readers who become CEOs and powerful and influential people. Those are the exceptions, however. Using today’s terminology, those people have beaten the metrics. They are rare. 

In the book To Kill a Mockingbird, the narrator, a 6-year-old girl named Scout, has a small crisis. She went to school already knowing how to read. Her teacher, a young, first-year teacher, did not like this, and she demanded that Scout cease reading with her father at night. The teacher’s claim was that Scout learned incorrectly and it would ruin Scout’s reading, along with the belief the teacher now had to break Scout of learning to read without professional instruction so that she could re-teacher the girl how to read “correctly.” 

Scout struggles with the idea, mainly because reading has been natural to her. In actuality, she learned to read all by herself, without her father’s instruction. She makes an amazing statement.“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” 

I know many people who love to read. I love to read. I tell my students that I read for 20-30 minutes every morning, and 20-30 minutes before I go to bed. It seems that I simply cannot not read before retiring, regardless of how late I get home and climb into bed. 

Scout was right. It is like breathing. It is food for my mind and soul. My morning soul food is the Bible, usually 5 chapters. Evening reading consists of a book I am reading for pleasure, or a book I have assigned to my students. 

Of course, I have a wide variety of students in my class, some of them very good readers, and on the opposite end, some who struggle with comprehension because they are challenged with sounding out the words.  

I would like to say that I feel sorry for the struggling readers, and in an educational sense I do. I also realize that they are going to find something in life that excites them as much as reading does me. To that end, our objective as teachers is to help students discover their life’s passion, their life’s work, even if has little to do with reading. 

Regardless, everyone has to be able to follow instructions, follow what is written on a computer screen, know how to read leases and fill out job applications, and a myriad of other things that require reading ability. 

One of the saddest moments in my life occurred when I was working in the office of a plant that manufactured shipping containers. The business was adding a shift on a particular machine and needed 4 more employees. The prospects had to come to our main office window, get an application, fill it out, and turn it in before leaving.  

I left for lunch one day, and the outer office was full. Three or four people in the group were sitting there, attempting to fill out the application, but who could not read. They had brought a friend or relative with them to read the application and fill it out for them. Needless to say, they were not considered for the job, for after filling out an application, they had to take a written test of basic skills privately. The test consisted of simple reading and math skills, each of which were necessary to work the job. 

Certainly, some of these applicants could have done the work, but they had no chance. It made me sad. 

The PSA was correct. Reading Is Fundamental. 

Slowing Down – A Little Bit


Those of you who have read any Shakespeare probably know The Seven Ages of Man, depicted in the image above.

In big picture terms, our lives are linear, moving inexorably from beginning to end. During that span of years we delineate as our lives, there come changes. Some are quite dynamic, others sneak up on us and catch us apparently unaware.

I love my job, and I have no plans of retiring in the near future. My goal is to work another 9 years. At that time I will turn 70 years old.

Thankfully, I still have the physical and mental abilities to perform at a high level. Certainly, I have had physical challenges over the past few years. What person does not in his or her fifties? Three years ago I suffered from an extremely bad case of gout, something from which I have suffered since my thirties. I missed 3 days of school then, mainly because I could not walk, and the pain was intense. Counting those 3 days, I have only missed 4 1/2 days in the past 13 years because of illness. However, an intentional change of diet, and a loss of 40-45 pounds has apparently been the answer.

But the changes keep coming, and this year I have made 2 decisions that will help me adjust to my stage of life. First, I will not being rising in the morning as early as I have been for the past 13 years. I am going to be sleeping in until 6:00 a.m. every morning, instead of groping about in the darkness at 4:45 or so. This means I will not be getting to school as early, nor bearing the responsibilities I have had where I have been on duty since about 7:00 a.m.

Sleeping in until 6:00 will mean that I will not have to be in bed by 9:00-9:30 p.m. each night as well. It has seemed like I have missed a lot of life going to bed that early.

The second decision I have made involves sports writing. Last year I went to high school sporting events and wrote sports write-ups for football, basketball, and baseball for a friend’s website. I have been involved in sports since I can remember, and I enjoyed writing again after a few years’ break. However, most of the time it meant not being in bed before midnight. I could keep that schedule 30 years ago when I took up the task of sports writing. Not any more.

I feel far from the last 2 ages of man. I do feel the practical effects of getting older, however. Sometimes I look in the mirror in the morning, and I see the effects of getting older as well.

There is a rather poignant episode of Rod Serling’s classic TV series The Twilight Zone, titled Changing of the Guard. It deals with aging and being forcibly put out to pasture. It details the mental and emotional effects on a person whose time to quit had come, but he did not know it.  I highly recommend it to all my teaching colleagues, and anyone else whoever doubts the impact that their life has made any difference.

I plan on a very enjoyable end of this fifth stage that I believe I am in, however long that may be. I plan on finishing it with all the energy I can muster. I never want to coast. If I find myself doing that, I will have to consider calling an end to what I do. Right now, though, I am  filled with enthusiasm and new ideas.

Also, I am ready to make adjustments so that I can finish the race in the best fashion possible.


A Visit Home


Summertime for teachers is rolling to an end, and so we find ourselves attempting to squeeze one more day into our schedules just for ourselves.

Actually, school work for the upcoming school year has already begun. For some people I know and with whom I work, the current school year simply stops one day and the next day the next year begins.

My wife and I decided to make a trip to Lawrence County, Indiana today. It is my “home” place to be, the place I want to go when I want to get away from everyday life. Our usual trip takes us to Amish farmers to buy fresh produce, to an orchard called Applacres, and to the most home place of my home place, Spring Mill State Park. Lawrence County is the place I will be buried when my time has finished. I will rest in the Burton family cemetery in Mitchell. It is located on a road called Burton Cemetery Road.

My family derives from Lawrence County. They came here from North Carolina around 1820, and they were a huge family when they arrived. In the 1850 census there were about 1,800 Burtons in Lawrence County and adjacent Orange County. My father was born in Lawrence County, and he lived there for about 10 years or so before the family moved to Jeffersonville. His old house stood until just a few years ago.

My parents took us to Spring Mill often when I was a child. At that time the ice-cold lake was still open for swimming, and I spent many summer holidays freezing in it. Going to Spring Mill is likely the fondest of my remaining childhood memories.

So it was with great joy we ventured an hour’s drive northwest today, and we visited all of our usual spots. We returned home with a dozen ears of sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers, and green beans from our Amish friends. All were fresh from the fields.

An interesting tidbit from the Amish farm was that there was a huge piece of equipment near the house. They were having a well dug so they did not have to go traipsing through one of their back fields to an existing well any more to get water. They had been digging for three days, and they found water at 110 feet today, so the family there is happy. They also discovered a cave as they were digging. That is not unusual for Lawrence County. It is filled with caves, mainly due to the limestone structure of big parts of the county.

We also arrived home with some goods from the orchard: cherry-flavored cider, some Amish wheat bread, chocolate-covered peanuts and chocolate stars, and a huge watermelon from Vincennes (it was the smallest they had; the three of us will have a difficult time eating it all.)

Next came a quick stop at the Mitchell Dollar Tree for school things for Denise and me, and some things for Michael (Dollar Tree is his favorite store in the world; he is a big believer in quantity over quality.)

Finally, we went into Spring Mill State Park and ate the at Inn, something we do a handful of times a year.

Determined not to end the day so quickly, we drove home an alternate route, through Orleans, then onto an 11-mile stretch to Livonia, and then back to Salem to reconnect on our usual route home.

We did nothing extravagant, and spent very little money (the produce from the Amish are priced really well; we got a dozen ears of fresh corn for $3.00.) All this to create a long-lasting memory.