Village Vigilantes, Part 2

A blessed Thanksgiving!

Here’s part 2 of the Valley Vigilantes. For Part 1, go to the November 19 post.

Geoffrey stared at the headline: Valley Vigilantes Formed. A file photo of the elders around their table at Ma’s followed. Far as Geoffrey could see, the story was what he had submitted to Byron Wilson, publisher and editor of the Voice. Geoffrey looked up at Miss Beth: What? Exasperated, Miss Beth snatched up the paper and headed for the  Voice office, leaving a bewildered Geoffrey.

Crime was rare in Vintage Valley; the County Sheriff and State Police provided protection; so when word circulated that a travelling insurance agent had scammed Widow Morrison out of a thousand bucks, anger ran high. Miss Beth convened the elders.

We must be more vigilant! she said. Poor Mrs. Morrison! That was her life savings. Vigilant, yes, echoed Betsy, Lem Johnson’s wife. Amen, murmured Pastor Wells, retired minister. I move we organize. How about the Vintage Valley Vigilants? Geoffrey Strom seconded the motion, and the elders’ first-ever motion passed unanimously. Geoffrey offered to write a piece for the Voice.

Miss Beth found Editor Wilson at his desk. Miss B! How nice to see you. Don’t nice me, Byron Wilson. You had to know I would never allow Vigilantes. Wilson fished in his center drawer and shoved a handwritten note to Miss Beth. The heading read, Vintage Valley Vigilantes Formed. Miss Beth’s voice was cold: You know full well Geoffrey can’t spell; you’ve been repairing his writing for years.

I thought Valley Vigilantes had a nice ring, said Wilson. Our town needs a watchdog, and who better than retired seniors, who know the community and its people so well? Be assured: you can count on the Voice for full support.

This was not Miss Beth’s first go-around  with the Byron. As the  staunchly conservative town clerk, there were several brush-ups with the younger, liberal editor at Township Board meetings.  Sometimes she suspected he was teasing her.

This time, she knew she had lost. Valley Vigilantes would endure. Seeking consolation, she headed for Mike’s Hardware to seek consolation from old friend Mike Turner. Entering briskly, she ran smack into a tall stranger who was exiting. The man grabbed Beth to stabilize her.  A thousand pardons!

Mike hurried over. Miss Beth, meet Hap McPhee.  He just leased Jack Steven’s old place! Miss Beth could not know she was shaking the hand of the Vigilante’s first challenge; or that she would be the victim.

Old Grandpa Lloyd


To Late Smart

A blessed Thanksgiving to Hole News and Facebook friends. We’ll return soon to Vintage Valley and see how Geoffrey Strom survived Miss Beth.
Meanwhile, my Wednesday needs reporting. I went shopping! Really: serious shopping. Through the canny maneuvering of the girl from 313 and our driver, Eileen Hagen, I came away with $304 in merchandise for $104.
I returned home pooped and aglow, glad to have that over with for another year. I put my feet up to ponder how incredibly blest I find myself. Then, as happens so often, memory interrupted, carrying me back, ticking off the years. I recalled friends who blessed me, my heritage, my career. Then the ghosts: people I failed.
A dozen faces popped up, young and old. Some had come to me voluntarily, some I hunted out. All were in trouble, one way or another. Being incredibly smart back then, I scolded and told them exactly what to do. Rarely did they do it. Refusing my vast authority, I wrote them off. They had done bad things, and I lost them.
I cried; not the first time. They needed an ear, not a scolding; a friend, not an authoritarian pastor or camp leader. They needed love, the greatest persuader there is. Love may not have worked immediately, but we would have parted friends.
The older ones are likely dead now; the younger ones–how do they remember me? But they had done bad things! Yes, and so had I.
You understand my tears. Too soon old; too late smart.
Old Grandpa Lloyd

The Muse of Winter

The Muse of winter has stirred me to impose a new set of stories on Hole News and Facebook friends with nothing better to do. We’ll visit Vintage Valley, Wisconsin and meet thinly-disguised folks from my past. The stories also have a trace of truth.

How long we’ll stay in Vintage Valley remains to be seen, for Johnson Junction beckons. You can’t resist a Swede Muse forever.

Ma’s Kaffe Stuga

A battered, gallon-size blue coffee pot rested on the stove at Ma Olson’s Kaffe Stuga in Vintage Valley, right where it had rested for nearly 50 years.  Ma’s egg coffee and home-style donuts were legendary, making the Kaffe Stuga a ritual stop on the main road north out of Milwaukee. A traveler’s mantra: Meet you a Ma’s.

That changed with the completion of the new Interstate just up the road. Traffic through town drastically dwindled; the Mobile and Standard stations moved to the exchange. The town’s only restaurant bought into an interchange franchise. Families moved and school was consolidated with the next town. The post office, Mike’s Hardware, a few small touristy shops, and two churches remained. The Valley Voice cut back to eight pages. Ma’s Kaffe Stuga became the only place in town to get a cup of coffee.

The Stuga had a six-stool counter, four small oilcloth-covered tables, and an antique oak table with two leaves in the far corner, where the elders met Thursday mornings, the town’s self-appointed watchdogs. They were drifting in now, led by Geoffrey Strom, recently widowed.

Last to enter: Miss Beth, retired sixth grade teacher and town clerk. Always prim, she wore a matching wool jacket and skirt, knee-length gray sox, and low-heeled black shoes. She carried the Valley Voice, hot off the press.

With fire in her eyes, she marched directly to Geoffrey Strom, opened the Voice to page one,  slapped it on the table and said, How could you!



My Jesus I Love Thee

When detractors asked Jesus to name God’s greatest command, he gave a simple answer: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12: 30-31). That sounds like two commands, but it’s one, and a tough one.

Being spiritual means loving people.  Bear in mind:  Bible love is not a mushy feeling; it’s treating people in a Christ-like manner no matter how you feel toward them. Jesus was not gentle with everyone. He did not tolerate hypocrisy or knuckle under to pretentious leaders. He turned over crooks’ tables in church and called some leaders sons of snakes.

Tolerating bratty kids is not love; it’s stupid, harmful to the kids. Beating up on bratty kids is sin (sin is falling short of God’s expectation—there are no little sins). The Book tells us to speak the truth in love. Not easy.

Certain old saints spoke of a holy frame, a mythical state of mind that constantly contemplates God. One saint grieved because he allowed himself a moment of levity. Poor guy. No one can grunt, grit his teeth, and love God more and more.

Yes, loving God has an emotional dimension, a learned response. Music and ritual from our past can stir emotions, and that’s good, but my memories are not your memories. I never finger a rosary or recite a Hail Mary—Baptists don’t do that—but I respect those who do.

When I spot a half dozen unattached kids running the aisle of a plane bound for Anchorage, and corral them with stories and games for three hours, that’s loving God, though I never mentioned Jesus.

If I truly love God, I will treat people right. You can’t have one without the other.

Old Grandpa Lloyd


Winter Tales 2 Jackie to the Rescue

As the Wordshed Mission began to run its course, a second and vastly broader outreach came along. In late 2008, as Elsie began to fade, I began a nightly group email to keep family and close friends informed. When she died (mid-February, 2009), I continued the emails as therapy, writing during the inevitable sleepless hole each night brought. Hence, Hole News.

Readers began sharing my notes with friends, who wanted on the list. Soon, I found myself wrestling with 250 names. Jackie McBride of Sun City, Arizona followed the Hole News. She was a webmaster. “Lloyd, you’re wearing yourself out,” she wrote, and set up The web server automatically emails posts to subscribers. Today, about 400 friends at home and abroad get the blog in their Inbox.

Then I discovered Facebook, exposing the Hole News to the world.

Awhile back, dear Jackie did me another favor. When I wanted to get out of book-printing, she created My choicest adventures now hang on the Story Tree.   Soon Prologue will join them, and one day, all the Wordshed Mission books.

Technology turned publishing on its ear, but has content improved? History’s greatest literature was laboriously inscribed one letter at a time on long leather scrolls. Can you imagine Apostle tweeting the church at Rome?

Old Grandpa Lloyd


Winter Tales 1 The Wordshed Mission

Among Native Americans, winter is the time to tell stories. With winter at hand, and encouraged by positive responses to the Epilogue, I’ll spin a few more online tales from the last decade, best years of my life.

The Wordshed Mission

In 1986, Elsie and I took early retirement to pursue a dream. Our Alaska visits had acquainted us with quiet servants of the faith whose stories cried to be told. We put together the Wordshed Mission to achieve that goal. We would give half the books to those we wrote about, the other half to friends and relatives, leaning on interim-pastor income to fund printing and distribution.

We began our mission with one title, an anthology. But it soon became apparent one book would not begin to hold the stories we found. We settled on two small books: one about Don and Lorene Stump, pioneer Alaska missionaries; the other about Paul and Nattie Boskoffsky, a Native couple we had come to love.

The books were well received and we reprinted several times, distributing about 13,000 copies. Along the way, we turned Paul and Nattie’s story into a three-CD audio book.

Then we broadened the vision and added three more titles, then three from my memoir series. All told, the Wordshed Mission distributed 32,000 copies of eight titles, plus 1,500 audio books. From somewhere, over $100,000 came in to cover costs.

The Story Tree

Now my book-printing days have ended. From now on, I’ll hang writings I wish to preserve on my Story Tree–

Our retirement dream outstripped anything Elsie and I could have imagined. But there’s more to tell. Stay tuned.

Old Grandpa Lloyd


Field Trip

Woodland Garden residents are enjoying a new transportation opportunity. Tuesday and Thursday mornings, an Arrowhead Transit bus pulls into our parking lot, complete with lift ramp for us walker/wheelers. Our destination this morning: the new Aldi store.

Though I suffer classic shopping allergy (cold sweat), I signed on. Cost: one buck, November free. Over 90? it’s always free. The giggly, teasing spirit among this morning’s riders reminded me of field trips I led during school teaching days. I offered to get a rope residents could hang onto so they wouldn’t get lost.

We enjoyed nearly two hours of no-frills, bargain-price shopping (bag it yourself). I made one quick round with the girl from 313 then settled near the entrance with a book. Two little boys, racing the walkway along the long packing shelf, interrupted my reading. The smallest boy found my walker intriguing, but I wouldn’t let him race with it. Their mother stood nearby loading her bags. As we chatted, I learned her parents lived across the street from my old home on Glendale Street! Small world.

We made it back to Woodland Garden just in time for the monthly birthday celebration. Larry Rodgers, Arrowhead Transit marketing and public relations guy, showed up. He talked briefly about his company then gave each of us a fine coffee mug.

Larry cruised the crowd and stopped by Norma and me.I discovered he has written a book modeled after C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Tales. I look forward to the book and following Arrowhead Transit’s unique service.

Epilogue note: I have pulled together and edited the eight Hole News/Facebook posts to hang on my Story Tree. Look for it soon:

Life is good!

Old Grandpa Lloyd


Repeat: Handhold to Handhold

My current writing and Facebook’s flashback feature leads me to rerun a Hole News post.  First time. I have a bunch of new friends since the first posting, and I can’t say better what needs to be said:

It’s curious to watch yourself grow old. Once I skipped from rock to rock on a trout stream. This morning I moved about my kitchen handhold to handhold, aware that one miss would put me down for the count. Proverbs 16:18 records what goes before a fall.

No haughty spirit for me. I embrace my wheeled walker, cane, and handholds. When the walker isn’t practical, I turn to the cane. When the cane alone won’t do, the Girl in 313 lends her arm. My life is simpler, plainer, and filled with joy.

I remember so well the years of walking willy-nilly, compromising family time and primary duty to walk into stuff beyond my pay scale. Because I could do something didn’t mean I should. Now retirement allows me to choose what makes tired. I indulge quiet think-time, play-time, and rest time, no longer equating busy with spiritual.

As a professional God-server (called full-time ministry) I gave far too much time to meetings doing work that properly belonged to an individual or committee. Now, in retirement, I remain under orders but I never know what they are. I sit back and watch Philippians 2:13 unfold. .

I guess I filled my God-serving days reasonably well, but on the grand scale, I didn’t count for diddly. Though bent on serving God, he sought a servant heart. To gain that heart, we must die, take up our cross, like Jesus. Pour over Luke 9:23.

People Jesus Met on His Way Somewhere Else is a book I never got to write. It guides me on my way, handhold to handhold, with a dear Friend, who lends an arm when I need it.

Older Grandpa Lloyd

Gulpers and Nibblers

I’m reading a really good book: Christianity: Endangered or Extinct, by Rodger Cragun & Thomas Kessler.  Some books you gulp, swallow, and smack your lips; others you nibble, sip, and savor. This is a nibble-sipper.

One sentence grabbed me: “Today there are nearly 3,000 different churches at clear variance with one another, often intolerant of one another’s positions on theology and beliefs.”

A fist-pump amen to that. Who determines who is right? Must tribal warfare go on forever?  Not for me.  I’m a simple Jesus’ follower, guided by a simple creed: Mystery, Sovereign Grace, Incarnation. Can I prove I’m right?  I don’t even try. God’s Grace covers my errors.

We have been celebrating the Reformation these days. Luther leaned on Sola Scriptura; but so did the other Reformers and they all reached different conclusions. Whose scriptura should we sail by? I’m not knocking the Reformers, nor am I knuckling under to them. I toss their differences in my mystery bin and move on, resting my faith on Matthew 28:18 and a bunch of Old and New Testament texts that affirm Jesus’ absolute authority (power).

God functions beyond human understanding or influence. We are not partners with Jesus; we can only be servants.  Nothing God would get done goes undone because we fail.

Another book gem lists all Scriptures that reference Jesus absolute authority. He does not share that authority with the Bible or its writers. I count the Bible authoritative, but Jesus is my guide. His rules are simple, few, and fun.

I love my church but religious ritual does not influence God. It’s all about the daily walk—how we treat people in life’s ordinary encounters. Pray until you’re blue in the face and it counts for zip if you are snooty, mean, or self-serving.

Old Grandpa Lloyd




Epilogue 8 Happily Ever After

I have been writing most of my life, sometimes just to untangle my thoughts. That was my goal as I fired up the computer. What might I say If I caught up with Norma? Fully intending to delete every word, I wrote, Dearest Norma, please don’t laugh, but I’ve fallen in love with you…

Romantic clichés filled the page. I wrote and rewrote, finding some relief. I read the screen one last time, highlighted it, and reached for delete. Then, gripped by foolhardy abandon, I hit print. I hunted out an envelope, padded down the hall to 313, and slid the letter under the door.

Back in my apartment, near panic. What kind of fool was I? Compared with me, Norma was a young woman. Certainly she would laugh. It was a long night.

Daylight came. Life stirred at Woodland Garden. I was making coffee when I heard a knock on my door.  Norma stood there, love letter in hand. She wasn’t laughing.

Old Grandpa Lloyd