My wife, thirty minutes later...as fate would have it that the big gusts had subsided: "It doesn't seem that bad; I'm going to go out and work in the yard."
I'm tellin' you people - when I was out there I saw a Pepsi can blowing down the street 20 miles an hour and my leaves WERE blowing every which way. Listen to me; it made no sense to try to rake them! True, I have been less than industrious with the stresses of a new baby and my own unemployed self pity party, but....it was windy.
There was another southerly breeze coming from Oklahoma seven years ago. I was in the Missouri woods when I found a deflated red object in a thicket with a little kindergartner's name and school address attached to it. The impetus for the once helium inflated balloon was for children, coaxed by adults no doubt, to tell people to stay drug free.
The following is a copy of a letter I sent to a little guy named Braden.
My name is M.G. I am 42 years old. I live in Kansas, with my wife; she teaches special education to children from kindergarten through 5th grade. She thinks it’s really cool that I found your balloon and am writing to you.
I work for UPS – you have probably seen our brown delivery trucks. Do you know that, like you, UPS also delivers packages and messages by air? Your message came to me by air; about 200 miles of air! Good job, Braden! I wonder if your balloon, when it was really high, came close to bumping into one of our UPS planes.
Braden, on Saturday, November 6, 2004, I found your balloon at 10:00 in the morning. I was bow hunting for deer in a patch of woods that is, and will forever be, very special to me.
When I turned 6 years old – about your age – my family moved to the country in Missouri. I still drive from Kansas to Missouri every chance I get. Sometimes I hunt for mushrooms or blackberries; sometimes I hunt for deer or turkey. It’s always good to see my parents, and they know how important the woods are to me.
The first few years of living in the country, my family and I had no county water line. Our water was pumped from a spring way back in the woods. History teachers have seen this spring and believe it was likely a gathering place for Osage Indians hundreds of years ago.
There used to be a small, wooden, 10-foot by 8-foot pump house that covered the spring. As a boy I sometimes went with my dad when he worked on the pump.
Once, I opened the pump house door to enter and right in front of me was a 6-foot long, thick-as-a-man’s-wrist, hissing black snake! It scared the heck out of me! Dad jumped in front of me and grabbed the snake close to its tail. He quickly pulled the snake out of the pump house, whirled it several times over his head like a lasso, and threw it 50 feet through the air! It hit the ground with a thud. I just kind of stood there, wide-eyed, with my mouth open.
Black snakes aren’t poisonous, but I’ve heard that their bite can hurt and become infected. I’m glad my dad was there to protect me from that snake when I was a boy. I’m also glad, Braden, that you have caring people protecting you from drugs; letting you know that drugs can hurt you much more than the bite of a nasty, ole’ black snake.
Braden, I’m proud of you for deciding to stay drug free! I’ll think of you every time I go to my most special place - the spring where Indians once lived, where I still roam, and where Braden's red balloon fell to earth.