2011.03.09 Potatoes in the pipes

Written by David Green.

Sandy Shepherd has been after me again about an old April Fool’s story. Not just any story. It was the king of April 1 that she was after: the tale of when Morenci became part of Ohio.

Many of you will remember Rick and Sandy Sheppard. Rick served as pastor at the Morenci United Methodist Church. He also served a church in Saginaw and that’s where the Sheppards had an odd incident with instant mashed potatoes.

Sandy occasionally furnishes columns for a little weekly paper in Iowa—I can’t recall the story of how that got started—and she wanted to write something for early April about my infamous prank.

She sent her future column to me to read and she also attached a potato column. I took one look at it and offered a trade. She could write anything she wanted about me in Dayton, Iowa, if I could have the potato story this week. Here it is.

By Sandy Sheppard

My husband almost left me over a box of instant mashed potatoes.

Well, maybe that’s a teeny tiny exaggeration, but the incident did give him something to tease me about for years. It wasn’t that he discovered I was feeding him instant rather than homemade. Nothing quite that simple. Because when it came to mashed potatoes, we were in total agreement—we both disliked the boxed kind. Only real, creamy, buttery mashed spuds would do. Here’s how the whole thing started…

We were living in our first parsonage in Saginaw, where Rick served as Associate Pastor in a large church. I worked full-time at the Wickes Lumber Home Office, so fixing dinner after a long workday required some effort.

I searched the contents of the fridge one evening after work. The leftover roast beef needed mashed potatoes, but there was not enough for two good-sized servings. I decided to stretch the remaining potatoes by adding some instant, hoping Rick wouldn’t notice the difference. I found a half-full box at the back of the cupboard where it had sat for a long, long time. Too long, in fact. 

BUGS! It crawled with bugs!

Without thinking, I poured the contents down the churning garbage disposal and turned on cold water. There! All gone! I dropped the empty box into the trash and went back to fixing dinner. We’d just have to share the leftover potatoes.

Later, my husband washed his hands and watched as the sink filled up with soapy water. “Did you pour something down this sink? It seems to be stopped up.” He looked at me questioningly.

“I don’t think so.” I shrugged.

He brought out his tools despite the advice a plumber once gave him after a Saturday night fiasco with some leaking bathtub pipes. “Reverend, you’d better stick to preaching and leave the plumbing to professionals.”

In a minute he took apart the trap under the sink. Clean as a whistle. Next he tried threading the metal snake down the pipe. No luck. The water still refused to go down the drain.

Frustrated, he eyed me again as he headed for the basement. “Are you sure you didn’t put anything down this drain?”

“Well, I did pour some instant mashed potatoes into the garbage disposal. But it went right down, so that couldn’t be the problem.”

“Why’d you do that?”

The answer seemed quite obvious. “It had bugs. I didn’t want them crawling around in the trash can.” 

He gave me his “I can’t believe anyone could be so dumb” look and went downstairs, muttering under his breath. 

A few minutes later the phone rang, and Rick answered it on the basement extension. Suddenly I heard him bellow, “Sandy, come down here!” I quickly answered the voice of authority and stopped, transfixed, at the bottom of the stairs. Rick had dismantled a trap in the ceiling pipes. He stood, phone still in hand, behind the ironing board where he had strategically placed a bucket under the open trap. Large quantities of fluffy mashed potatoes, slightly greenish-tinted, dripped noisily into the bucket.

Plop! Plop! Plop!

“Oh!” I raised my eyebrows and looked at him innocently. “Do you want me to heat up the gravy?”

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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