2013.07.10 Death visits our curbside

When my friend Richard Posthuma learned that I was leaving town last weekend, he said something along the lines of, “So this means I’m going to have to read an old By the Way column.”

How predictable I’ve become. I did leave town to watch my one-year-old grandson, Ryland, take his initial foray into Lake Michigan. We tried to convince him that it’s much better than the salt water shoreline of Miami, and no sharks to worry about.

For those who are wondering, Ryland is doing well after his early two-pound, two-ounce birth. He’s crawling and looking like he wants to run.

Read on, Rich. It’s been 20 years since you last read the words below. It’s new again.


This year’s big garage sale event backfired for us.

I think people with quality goods view garage sale weekend as a means of making money. At our house, with a lack of prime merchandise, it’s time to unload junk. I know this doesn’t make much sense since the city-wide trash pick-up is this weekend. We could get rid of as much rubbish as we want then.

But what happened this year is that we ended up with a net gain of junk.

This was mostly the kids’ sale this year. They went through their toy collection and came up with a remarkable quantity of items with which they were willing to part—if the price was right. Apparently it wasn’t, because the piles didn’t shrink by much.

Since it was their sale, and since they became bored pretty fast, they closed up shop long before noon. This was their ticket to go shopping for themselves, and shopping they went.

They had fun. They came home with clothes that didn’t fit, nail polish and lipstick, a candle, a ceramic cradle and miscellaneous objects that my wife has already pledged to the Salvation Army.

The biggest purchase was Maddy’s stuffed bear. I mean big. Ben had to carry it home because it was even bigger than Maddy. I suppose it was a bargain at 50 cents. My wife immediately offered to take it off Maddy’s hands for 75 cents: She wanted control of this monster.

“That bear is not going to stay in this house,” I heard her tell a friend on the telephone.

But it quickly became part of the family. It traveled around town in the family car wearing a seat belt. It took wagon rides around the block. All the while, Colleen tried to sell it. First she lowered the price back to a break-even 50 cents, then she tried to push it off for free.

The kids discovered the bear made a great wagon mate. Just cover it with a blanket and it became a comfortable cushion. “Aren’t we clever?” asked Maddy.

And then they finally found a potential buyer. Wes, a neighborhood friend, was riding around the block when he was introduced to the giant. The offer was made and he quickly pedaled home to ask his mother if he could keep it. But not quickly enough.

Alas, this cuddly bag of stuffing met with an ignoble end. While Wes was at home, the bear developed a severe abrasion to the right armpit and streams of foam entrails were squirting everywhere. There’s so much violence in today’s society.

Someone’s once beloved stuffed animal was now standing on its head dying in a garbage bag at our curbside.


We had a surprise visitor Sunday night. It was the granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. English who used to live in our house a couple decades ago. She said she was pleased with what we are doing to the house, but for all I know maybe she runs a second-hand store.

Here’s the strangest part of her visit: She said she remembered a house in Morenci that had a tree growing out of it. In fact, she said, it was in “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.”

She wasn’t talking about our maple seedlings in the eaves trough; she meant someone actually built a house around a tree. Believe or not.

Is this woman confused or have I lost my sense of local history?