Smoky the Baptist Rides Again

April 10, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Connie Cavanaugh –

“I hate camping,” my husband confessed, late one night.

“You hate camping? Since when? We’ve camped for years!”

“I know,” he admitted. “But I’ve never liked it.”

“You’re the one who researched space efficient camping equipment and bought all those supplies,” I declared. I couldn’t believe my ears. We had camped all across the country with three kids. Everything fit into the trunk of a Volkswagen.

“I like research,” he said. “But not camping. I do it for the kids.”

Our kids loved camping. These adventures were the highpoint of their summer.

We were in a pickle. Not only had we promised our kids we would go camping as soon as school let out, we planned to go with another couple.

We finally concluded that tent camping was too rustic. Perhaps if we brought along a few more comforts, we would enjoy it more. The day we arrived at our campsite we looked like a Saharan camel train. Our van was stuffed, had a bulging topper strapped to the roof and we pulled a huge pop-up trailer.

When we got to our site, within ten minutes our bicycle camping companions, who carried everything in two backpacks and four saddlebags were finished. They erected their pup tent, slung a hammock between two trees, and made tea on what looked like a Bunsen burner. They sipped and watched as we constructed our forest kingdom.

It took three hours to assemble the trailer, the tent, and the screened gazebo for our camp kitchen. We looked like a feeding station for tornado victims. By the time we were done, it was late and everyone was hungry.

Dad got ready to fire up the Coleman stove on the picnic table inside the gazebo. The first “firing” of the season was usually worth watching. We dubbed him Smoky the Bear since he had stomped out many a potential forest fire that resulted from his pyrotechnics. Smoky’s method was to pump the stove until it threatened to burst and then stand back and toss a lit match. The explosion was spectacular. After the mushroom cloud dissipated, the small burner would flame merrily and we would cook dinner.

But this time, something malfunctioned. Kaboom! Flames shot up and out. Only this time, they kept shooting.

Smoky grabbed a beach towel to use as oven mitts. Gingerly he picked up the stove and, dancing like the great Ali, struggled through the tiny zippered opening in his attempt to save the gazebo. Once outside he doused the inferno with water and stomped on the smoldering towel.

He mopped his sweaty brow with the charred towel and looked up to where we were all standing, watching him with grateful amazement. This had been the best annual fireworks display to date. Slowly, we began to applaud.

”Whew!” he exclaimed. “I almost didn’t make it through that dinky doorway. Maybe we should leave it fully unzipped from now on in case this happens again.” The kids and I had noticed that the explosion had melted one entire mesh wall in the gazebo. You could drive a car through the hole that resulted.

“Oh that’s ok,” one of the smart alecks quipped, pointing. “Leave it zipped. We can use this new opening. It’s much bigger.”

Knowing he could never outdo this performance without risking hectares of prime forest, we made that camping trip our swan song. Nowadays we “camp” in an RV at a national park where open fires are not allowed.

The Keys to my Heart

February 21, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Connie Cavanaugh –

Four drivers, two keys, one car – no matter how you add it up, it equals frustration. No one has the time to get more keys cut because we’re too busy hunting for the two keys we allegedly have.

I was working at my desk when my iPhone™ alerted me to a haircut appointment in fifteen minutes. Grabbing my purse, I lunged for the key rack. No key. Where was the one all by itself on a Free Willy key chain that I shared with our two driving daughters?

I ran to my youngest daughter’s bedroom and barged in. She was working a string of night shifts as her summer job and had to sleep during the day. Our encounter was not something I’d recommend in Good Parenting magazine.

“Where is the key to the Volkswagen?” I demanded.

“Mrrphh kublah, zzzz.”

I waded into a room that looked like it had been recently vandalized and began flinging clothes aside in an effort to find the floor and perhaps, the vagrant key.

Peeking out from under her pillow she moaned and mumbled, “I never drove the Volkswagen last, mom, you did! Please let me sleep!”

“If I drove the car last, the keys would be on the key rack!” I huffed, all righteous indignation.

Sitting up in bed with tears beginning to spill over, she reminded me she hadn’t slept properly for a week and now she probably wouldn’t be able to fall sleep again. She assured me she had nothing to do with the lost key.

By now, I was hopelessly late, frustrated and not totally convinced Willy wasn’t somewhere under the one of the piles surrounding me. I called my husband at his nearby office and he came to my rescue. He rushed into the foyer where I waited, ready to hand over his Volkswagen key when something caught his eye and stopped him cold.

“What’s this?” he asked. He stepped over to the key rack, bent down and picked up Free Willy from the floor directly below. “It looks like Willy made a break for it….”

“I am the world’s worst mother!” I wailed, tears bursting forth. Gerry was a bit dazed by my emotional reaction but he gallantly assured me that it wasn’t so. I managed to get a grip on my emotions long enough to endure the haircut while seated in front of an acre of mirrors that reflected the person I most despised at the moment – The World’s Worst Mother. Every barren woman I had ever known, biblically and literally, came to mind as I wondered why I was chosen to procreate and not them. I questioned God’s wisdom.

On the way home I stocked up on some provisions. Tiptoeing around so as not to reawaken my exhausted daughter, I set up a shrine outside her bedroom door with two 12-packs of cola and several gift certificates for free pizza. Atop this was a lengthy note confessing my grievous sin and begging forgiveness for blaming her for my own misplacement of the key. I left again to run more errands.

By the time I returned home hours later, ready to grovel, my daughter was already up and gone. She had obviously read my note, removed a can of cola and taken the pizza certificates. Ripping off a corner from the note I had written, she penned a response I’ll never forget: All is forgiven. Hey mom, you can yell at me again tomorrow. This could be a lucrative enterprise!!! xoxoxo.

I no longer questioned God’s wisdom. Thank God for children. They teach us grace.

The Preacher Who Put the Arson in Parson

February 7, 2021 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Connie Cavanaugh –

When my new husband took his first pastorate in a northern village, he thought he’d ignite some spiritual fire in the community. He went way beyond that.

The church’s parsonage perched atop a hill overlooking a lake. Gerry kept the lawns trimmed but the rocky slope below our bay window was impossible to mow. The grass and weeds were an unsightly tangled mess that marred the beauty of our lake view so I suggested that Gerry find a way to clean it up.

He watched our neighbor burn off his tall grass early in spring before the snow melted under the fence that encircled his property. Quick to recognize a good idea, Gerry planned to copy him. But it wasn’t until several weeks later, after a hot, dry spring that Gerry finally had a chance to tend to my nagging. He decided to surprise me for my birthday.

Off to work I went on the thirty-first of May, the day before my birthday, oblivious to what lay ahead. In the late afternoon, I returned to a vacant house filled with unsettling clues. A trail of sooty water marred the white linoleum between the front door and kitchen sink. A melted, misshapen plastic blob near the door, on closer inspection, turned out to be the charred remains of my garbage can liner – a wedding gift from a dear friend. A blackened soggy pile of rags beside the sink was all that remained of my colorful handmade heirloom throw rug from Auntie Ada. I was alarmed and upset.

I headed back outside where I spied a garden hose snaking over the lip of the hill toward the lake. I ran to the crest of the hill. Blackness! All the way to the lake, to the edges of our property and dangerously beyond, the ground was still smoldering.

Halfway down the hill, slumped atop a boulder holding a dribbling hose was what appeared to be a chimney sweep from Mary Poppins.

“Caawww-neee,” Gerry hallooed, giving a feeble wave. “I can’t leave my post. Come down.” I minced my way over the scorched earth, tottering on three-inch heels. My bedraggled spouse’s smoke-reddened eyes darted in all directions. He kept whirling around, shooting pitiful spurts at puffs of smoke. There were so many burn holes in the hoses a well-aimed spit would have had more volume.

The harrowing tale unfolded. Midmorning he had decided to clean up that unsightly grass as my birthday surprise. Just like our neighbor, he had matches and a cold drink. (The missing factor was the snowpack around the perimeter!) Always in a hurry, Gerry thought he’d speed things along. He fetched the can of gasoline. After pouring a line of gas along the top of the hill, he tossed a match. Kaboom!

He managed to save our house before he ran for help.

Five elderly women—the only people he found at home—and he waged a furious battle to subdue the runaway inferno that threatened to consume our village. The not-so-volunteer ladies’ brigade plunked Gerry on that rock with strict instructions to “Stay there, young man, and keep a sharp eye. Or else!”

“I’m starving,” Gerry lamented.

I headed uphill to fetch a sandwich and found my neighbor Florence on my verandah. Her hair was still wet from the shower and she had a glass of whisky, straight up, in one hand.

“What is it with you Baptist preachers and fire?” she asked, waving her empty hand. “The last guy did the same dang thing!”

You’ve Got Mail

December 13, 2020 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Connie Cavanaugh –

My husband Gerry wakes up happy. He discovered long ago, the best way to stay happy is to be with happy people. He eats breakfast at McDonalds.

However, when we have houseguests, I get up early and make breakfast because I don’t want people to know the truth. I stumble around the kitchen trying to say as little as possible because I don’t trust my tongue until after I’ve had two cups of strong tea.

Several years ago, at the dawning of the Internet Age, Pastor Bob, from Winnipeg, was billeted in our home. Bob bounced into my kitchen with a face-splitting grin early the next day; he obviously loved morning. One look at me should have told Bob I did not share that view.

I was slumped against the cupboard in yesterday’s clothes, waiting for the kettle to boil. Suddenly I remembered that three days earlier I had sworn off caffeine. I moaned.

“Connie!” Bob bellowed, thinking I needed cheering up. “Let’s thank God for this beautiful day!” He yanked open the shades, threw back his head and launched into “You are my suuunshine, my ooonly sunshine. You make me haaappeeeee…” He took a breath.

“Bob! Drop dead.”

Bob’s face went slack; his arms hung limp. Entering the room Gerry quickly assessed the situation and gently piloted me back to bed. He kissed me goodbye, grabbed his packed suitcase and tiptoed out.

“Get your things, we’re going to McDonalds,” I heard before pulling the pillow over my head. Gerry took Bob to the airport after their meetings because he was flying out as well.

Hours later when my head had cleared, I was filled with shame at my rudeness to our dear friend and fellow pastor. Without Gerry to comfort (“Bob’s a pastor. He’s accustomed to abuse”) or advise me (“He’ll have to forgive you or he won’t be able to preach on Sunday”) I fretted. I needed to apologize but dreaded making the call.

It came to me in a flash: “Bob has email!” Never mind that Gerry had repeatedly tried to teach me how to do email to no avail. “How hard can it be?”

Thirty minutes of random clicking amid mounting frustration and up popped an email. With Bob’s name on it! “Thank You Jesus!” Remembering Gerry’s instructions to get right to the point, I hurriedly typed:

Dear Bob,
I must apologize for being so cranky this morning. The way I treated you bothered me all day (especially since Gerry is out of town!). I hope you can forgive me. I should have warned you that whenever I go off caffeine it has a bad effect on my mood. I hope you will stay overnight again.
Still friends?

“How do I make it go?” I continued clicking until suddenly I saw Bob’s name wing it’s way Winnipeg-ward. “Whew!” My relief was short lived. There was a name behind Bob’s. And another behind that. And another. And another. I backed away in horror realizing I had stumbled into Gerry’s boss’s prayer letter for all the pastors in our denomination and pressed, “reply to all”.

I put on my pajamas, knelt by my bed and rasped: “Dear Jesus. You said You’d return. This would be a really good time.”

He tarried.

The phone awakened me early the next day. The first caller was a pastor on the East coast. It rang all day. Each wanted to let me know he was praying for me. Bob called to forgive me. “It was worth it,” he claimed. “That’s the best laugh I’ve had in years!”

Sometimes Winning is Losing

September 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Humor, Stories

By Connie Cavanaugh –

I love Coupon Day at my local grocery store. You save 15 percent on every hundred bucks you spend. We’re talking pizza for supper! For free! (That’s femonomics, where spending is actually saving.)

One Coupon Day long ago, an item on my list was underwear — I never bought my own until my mother died. At the tender age of 36, I was cruelly thrust into the world of shopping for big girl panties.

A stroll through the aisles confirmed they did not carry my brand but I found my preferred style: I want the whole whale, not just the tail if you get my drift. I chose two packages marked M.

I finished shopping, pocketed my 15 percent and grinned all the way home. I ripped into the first bag and pulled out … a crib sheet with leg holes! I grabbed the package – “M”. As in Mega?

I was steamed. Although I had read the sign in the department saying “No Returns” I felt wronged. There were no samples on the wall. How was I to know not all “M’s” were equal? I headed back to the store.

I couldn’t find my cashier so I chose another near my age. “These are not the size they claim to be and I want to return them,” I whispered, smiling and nodding.

“But madam, there are no returns on….” She smiled and nodded too. We looked like two wooden bobbing birds with a water glass between us.

“Ah, yes. I read the sign,” I murmured. “However, the manufacturer is lying to the customer regarding the size.” I raised my eyebrows and gave one slow nod.

The line of carts grew. Children whined. Mothers grew restless. The cashier and I both stood our ground. She called for reinforcements. A skinny kid strode up. I doubted if he even shaved yet. “Is there a problem?”

I repeated my complaint ending with: “This M must mean Much Much More!” He failed to see the humor.

He leaned toward me. “There. Are. No. Returns. On…,”

I snapped. Grabbing the opened package, I pulled out an M for display. “I’m no Tinkerbell, but does this look like a Medium to you?!” Mothers covered their kids’ eyes. The manager’s face went gray.

“Give her a full refund,” he rasped and dashed.

But the cashier still had some fight in her. “I will refund you for the sealed package, “she huffed, “but not the opened one.” We locked eyes. No more smiles.

“What do you think I did? Wore them all over town? Then washed them, dried them, and ironed these creases back in? I bought them 30 minutes ago!”

She harrumphed, punched some keys, stabbed at some bills, dropped the money into my hand and dismissed me with a toss of her head.

As soon as the cash hit my hand I had a Judas moment. Instead of celebrating my victory I was filled with remorse. When I could have represented the Jesus in me who turns the other cheek, gives the shirt off His back and goes the second mile (Matt 5:39-42) I showed them the Judas who, for a handful of silver, bullishly pursues his/her own agenda.

Thankfully this lesson wasn’t wasted. I became more conscious and careful of whom I represent in all my interactions. The next time I accidentally bought something too big I passed it along to a friend of mine. She never calls anymore….

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