Ein Deutsche Prairie Hund

How had it come to this? The boy was treed, 10 or 11 feet up, with the hound from hell below, lunging and snapping at him. It was a good climbing tree. A sugar maple with sturdy branches spaced just far enough apart, permitting him to hoist himself up onto the first level of branches, balance and stand on that limb, grab a limb two levels higher while stepping onto a branch in between, moving higher and higher to safety above fangs and terra firma. Wearing rubber soled high-top Keds that day and possessing opposable thumbs – handy if one hopes to escape death by dog using a nearby tree – Seagy was able to jump and grab a limb 7 feet above the ground and scramble up the limb-ladder to his perch.

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The hellhound, a Doberman pinscher named Blitzkrieg, was the obvious canine-Kaiser of this two-acre plot — a stone cold canine killer. Blitzkrieg had a somewhat worn Michelin Premier All-Season radial passenger car tire for a toy. He stood beside it facing its center. Flew drawn back, his muzzle bristled with razor sharp teeth. Bending down, he latched onto the top bead and sidewall, and with immense jaw, neck and chest strength, picked it up with little effort, placing his tire-toy onto the family picnic table. Blitzkrieg’s power was also reflected on a particular limb about five feet above the picnic table and two branch levels below Seagy. It was distressed, stripped bare of bark, dimpled with tooth marks, and glistened with dog spit. Blitzkrieg paced back and forth atop the picnic table, sometimes stepping over the tire and sometimes around it, barring and gnashing his teeth, snapping at Seagy, growling, and spinning in circles. First left. Then right. Manic. Stopping suddenly and rearing up, he exploded, launching himself limb-ward jaws agape. In a wink, he was clamped onto that branch – swinging, growling, glaring, and waiting . . ..

Dundalk Seagirt Hallstadt, Jr. – “Seagy” for short – was in the line of several generations

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of Maryland Eastern Shore watermen including Skip-jack hands and Baltimore waterfront longshoreman. His grandfather, Frank Karl Hallstadt was himself a third-generation waterman who moved from Crisfield to Baltimore’s Dundalk shipyards in 1917 to start a waterside life leveraging industry and opportunities less subject to Neptune’s

Longshoreman 2moodiness. Seagy’s dad, Dundalk Seagirt Hallstadt (the first) – “Dunk” for short – was named after the town of Dundalk and given Seagirt as his middle name, a somewhat poetic reference to the past (meaning “surrounded by the sea”). Despite his waterman heritage, Dunk would break ranks and take things inland. He was a talented footballer in the leatherhead era whose standout performance at Baltimore’s Eastern High School caught the attention of Don Faurot, Head Football Coach of the University of Missouri Tigers. He was awarded a scholarship to Mizzou, boarded the train from Baltimore’s Penn

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Station one early August day in 1934 and traveled for three days to Columbia, Missouri where he became a standout halfback in the mid and late ‘30s. After graduating in a post-depression economy, Dunk took employment as a repo-man.

WWII broke out, and when the United States joined the Brits, Dunk enlisted, went


through Army basic training and was sent to Europe. His unit was charged with guarding communication lines that ran through the Italian grain producing region known as Cerignola. While stationed in Europe, Dunk played for the Army’s Regimental American football squad, occasionally competing against other regimental teams. He would see only one German soldier during his active duty, a dead Ober Soldat inside a

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barn he searched while on patrol. He relieved the grey clad corpse of its Luger and secreted it home following V-E Day. On a freighter headed back stateside Dunk befriended an infantryman named Houston D. Pruitt – Huey to his friends – from Stewartsville, Missouri and self-described as “just a farm boy from a one-cow farm town” in the northwest corner of the Show Me State. Important connections would soon be made.


Having earned a degree in studio art from Central Methodist College in Fayette, Missouri, Kaye Pruitt intended to strike out for the big city — St. Louis. This put her at odds with her father who wanted her back on the farm. She would have none of that and made plans to move east to St. Louis anyway. Her father threatened to follow her there and bring her back. So Kaye went A.W.O.L., slipping off to Parris Island, South Carolina and returning five years later a United States Marine Corps First Lieutenant, and a skilled marksman – both rifle and sidearms. Relations with her father were said to have improved noticeably. While on Parris Island, she traveled to New York City and met the troop ship that brought Huey back home. On that trip, things leading one to another, Huey introduced Kaye to Dunk. Dunk and Kaye were soon married and raising two daughters. Over the years, every five years or so, Kaye visited Florence, South Carolina, home

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of her fellow-U.S.M.C. Parris Island chum, Ginny Roblais, for impromptu reunions. She did finally achieve her goal of reaching St. Louis when Dunk took employment in the post-WWII automobile manufacturing sector and climbed the ranks of Chevrolet management, first in St. Louis, then Denver, before being posted to Detroit, Michigan. Enter Dundalk Seagirt “Seagy” Hallstadt, Jr.

In 1965, the Hallstadts moved from Birmingham, Michigan (a Detroit suburb) to Shawnee Mission, Kansas (more precisely, Prairie Village) in Johnson County. Seagy was four then and at the age when memories start to take root. Other than the silver tinsel Christmas tree with its slowly spinning red, blue and green color light, he had no distinct Michigan memories. A move to the prairies placed Seagy just a few hours from his mom’s girlhood home, now known as Uncle Huey’s Farm, and planted him firmly in his childhood wonderland.

The back yards of the homes on his street, W. 91st, abutted those of the homes on W. 90th Terrace. A Johnson County easement, known as the Greenway, ran between these back yards. The Greenway was a turf alley bordered by two block-long parallel stretches of six-foot-high chain link fence with gates placed every third back yard. The fencing was itself flanked by two Osage orange tree lines. Osage orange trees have thick, twisted, knotty trunks. Their wood is dense with irregular, twisted grains and is not considered useful in the commercial production of furniture or flooring. It is, however, virtually rot and decay resistant. With a properly sharpened saw, trunks and branches 6-8 inches thick and 7-8 feet long, which are not too curved, can be cut for use as fence posts that are known to last for 100 years or more. They produce inedible fruit known as hedge apples — softball sized, light green, with surfaces textured like a brain. Their resin is milky and very sticky. Hedge apples were fine projectiles and often put to use in back yard battles.

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The resin took days to wash off and would ruin a good shirt. A hedge apple’s only edible portion is a seed cluster found at the center. Squirrels and horses (it’s also known as a “horse apple”) are perhaps the only food-chain-fans of hedge apples. Squirrels are fond of their seeds, and so the neighborhood back yard tree line was full of them. Seagy and his mates were often envious of the neighborhood teenagers who were allowed to squirrel hunt, patrolling those tree lines with their Daisy or Red Rider BB guns.

His next-door neighbors, the O’Briens, had five daughters and a Great Dane. They were all B’s. Parents Bob and Boots, daughters Barb, Bonnie, Betsy, Bobbie, and Belle, and pet

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dog, Bomber. Bomber, fittingly named, could poop, and often did so in Seagy’s side yard, much to Dunk’s aggravation. Pet progressives, the O’Briens added a potbelly pig to the mix one summer – his name was Bacon. Bacon was maladjusted and would not eat. Having been off his feed for nearly a week, the O’Briens brought a couple of agri-experts out to the suburbs for counsel. Bacon left with them, never to return. In later life, Seagy would come to feel a bit guilty for his enjoyment of certain breakfast meats.

One sunny summer afternoon with time to spare, Seagy found a sturdy empty cardboard box in the garage. Inspired by a slightly overblown friendship with the local postman, he had a great idea. Starting in front of his own house and walking left up the sidewalk, he stopped at every neighbor’s mailbox and removed the mail each mailbox contained. The mail was tossed in his sturdy cardboard box. It grew less empty at each stop. Left up the sidewalk half a block, crossing over W. 91st Street, back down the sidewalk a full block,

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crossing back over W. 91st Street, and back up the final half block, stopping dutifully at each mailbox, Seagy was once again back in front of his own house with a surprisingly heavy cardboard box. Pleased with himself, Seagy showed his mother his collection. Seagy’s mother was horrified. Not stopping to research what the United States Penal Code said about five-year-old mail thieves, she emptied, sorted by family address, and rubber-banded the entire box full of U.S Mail, and gave each bundle, twenty-nine in all, to Seagy to be redelivered. She insisted Seagy make 29 separate deliveries. It took an hour and a half. Perhaps not surprisingly Seagy, after a full career as a hotel chain marketing exec, would begin his second career as a U.S. Postal Service letter carrier.

Seagy’s best friends were Tim and Willy Alexandrides, and their little brother Mikey (a.k.a., “Me-Too”). Mikey was always bringing up the rear as the brothers Alexandrides moved about the neighborhood. If a neighborhood mom offered them a refreshment, Tim would exclaim “Yes ma’am!” Willy would cheer “Thank you!” and Mikey would squeak “Me, too!” And the nick name stuck.

To a family-member, the Alexandrides were accomplished western equestrians. Quarter-horse cutters, barrel racers and bull-doggers from cattlemen stock (by way of Greece way back there somewhere), they rode every year in the locally televised Kansas City Thanksgiving Day Parade. Their family den – a great room with a vaulted ceiling and exposed rough-hewn beams that emptied onto a grand semi-circular patio with a border hedge – was

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full of trophy hardware most of which was spread across a 10-foot-long hewn beam mantle that framed their stone hearth. Saddles, bridles, chaps, stirrups, lariats, cowboy hats, and riding crops – many of which were finely detailed in turquois, silver and intricate leather work – were wall-mounted and on display.

Summers were always full of adventures, but those were interrupted daily by Tim, Willy and Mikey’s nap regimen. For Seagy, their summertime siestas were ninety minutes of lost opportunity. Impatiently waiting for his mates to rise from there midday slumber and not subject to the nap-rule himself, Seagy often hung out in the back yard of casa Alexandrides. One day, meandering closer and closer to the house, while poking around on their patio he, discovered the back sliding door was unlocked. “Hmm. Well, well. What have we here?” Seagy mused. He slid the door open quietly and stepped inside, listening, keeping statue still, and then tip-toed down the hallway toward the boy’s bedroom, heart pounding, ears ringing, palms starting to sweat. Sure enough, there they were, sound asleep. Something creaked, and Seagy made a quick and slick exit, closing


the slider behind him. In fact, Seagy would play cat burglar several more times that summer, not once being discovered. This fact would accidentally come to light one evening at dinner – a fact about which Dunk was none too happy.

The Alexandrides had a big backyard surrounded by a split rail fence with a big swing set that got a lot of use. The four boys would all take turns swinging, two at a time, back and forth, higher and higher, at last letting go to sail through the air. Imagining

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themselves U.S. Army paratroopers, they would land with a thud and roll a few yards for effect. Each tried to outdistance the others, and to spice things up, a non-swinger would station himself near the imaginary drop zone with a Ranch-Mart dime store bow and quiver full of suction cup arrows. To improve projectile aerodynamics, airspeed and accuracy, the suction cups were temporarily removed. Aiming carefully, moving back and forth in sync with his swinging target, leading the target slightly, the archer would wait for separation as his target took flight, and then loose his arrow. Sensibilities back then were less finely tuned. In fact, all four of these friends were hit. Many times. But no one poked their eye out.

The three Alexandrides were often in trouble and, when caught in some almost-daily transgression, would dash through the den, out the slider, onto the semi-circular patio, breaking hard to the right or left for one of two hedge openings into the back yard, then bee-lining it to the fence through or over which their chances of escaping mother Alexandrides’ wrath improved significantly. Mrs. A. shrieking in maternal indignation, was instantly in hot pursuit. She followed the three fraternal offenders through the den and out onto the

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semi-circular patio at a full sprint. Bounding through the sliding glass door, she grabbed a conveniently placed finely crafted riding crop from a hook by the sliding glass door frame. The boys banked left and right, hoping to confuse her, and tried to get through the hedge breaks, turning up field for the back fence. Rivaling any Olympic triple jumper, Mrs. A. took just two more bounding steps, vaulted over the hedge, past several saplings planted here and there, and was on them like a heat seeking mother-missile, two sweaty heads under her left arm, and the third head’s shirt gripped tightly in her left fist, applying the crop of education in her right hand to their seats of knowledge. Because sensibilities back then were less finely tuned.

Several years later, Seagy’s dad, Dunk, was transferred again. The family pulled up

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prairie stakes and headed back to Motown. Summer vacations would occasionally take them back to or past Uncle Huey’s farm, just 3 hours from W. 91st Street, and in the summer of ‘68, the family spent the Fourth o’ July week at the farm where firecrackers, real ones, were available easily and everywhere. After all, sensibilities back then were less finely tuned.

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A full week was spent plinking horse and cattle rumps with Seagy’s new BB gun (a belated 9th birthday present bought at the Sears & Roebuck in Cameron), lobbing Black-Cats encased in mud balls at unsuspecting sheep a-grazing, doing a little farm work, and enjoying Aunt Gladys’s cooking. Aunt Gladys (nee, Christo) was herself a Greek immigrant to the U.S. whose family established themselves in Panama City, Florida. She and Uncle Huey met upon his return from overseas and WWII. Once faaaarm living was the life for her, she planted and nurtured a flourishing grape arbor in the back yard that yielded Seagy’s favorite desert – Concord grape pie (a la mode). The grown-ups got to enjoy balloon wine – grape juice piped into balloons that were tied off and placed in a basket with a rag in its bottom for padding. The baskets were hung

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on nails hammered into the floor joists above the storm cellar’s dirt floor. Just cool enough, the cellar held the grape juice filled balloons, and the fermenting juice inflated the juice-filled balloons, causing them to further expand. Uncle Huey would loosely keep track of calendar days while eyeballing the circumference of the balloons, and at just the right moment, known only to him, the balloons would be removed from their baskets, held over a vat and popped. The nouveau-Welches would then be bottled in Mason jars that lined a shelf in the cellar, to be enjoyed on special occasions.

The town’s annual fireworks spectacle that year was unleashed at 8:00 p.m., July 4th, a Thursday, from an array of 32 securely entrenched mortar tubes, and three-foot lengths of two-inch pipe, all carefully placed throughout the First United Methodist Church cemetery. Hershel Sorensen and his son, Eddie, had been the show masters for years, and had perfected cemetery mortar placement. As an homage to certain Stewartsville luminaries gone on to their rewards, whose granite and marble memorials were “to spec,” each honorific mortar or pipe – thirty-two in all – was associated with a specific vertically oriented gravestone, each between 12 and 18 inches tall. The mortars and pipes were driven down into, or partially buried in Missouri sod, angled obtusely a few degrees past right, and resting against the top of the marker. The tombstone of Zebulun Clydesworth, 1874-1953, always supported the top-secret grand finale mortar full. He was much respected

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and beloved having served as Mayor pro tem in 1904 after a tornado destroyed much of Main Street including the Mayor’s office, open for business that day. Then Mayor, Pops Wickham, was sucked out his office window and was never seen or heard from again. Zeb – as he was known – shepherded the town’s reconstruction quite capably and was fondly remembered by many for that. The other pipes and mortars were placed beside specified gravestones of the other Stewartsville luminaries, including that of Pops Wickham.

Fourth of July fireworks were always purchased in February, when the fireworks budget was approved by the town counsel, from Mess’s Fireworks in Bend, PA. The Municipality of Stewartsville now had a Preferred Pryo account, and received 10% off and free shipping. A variety of sky rockets and missiles had sturdy sticks stuck to their fuselages. Their sturdy sticks would be stuck down the pipes until launch-time. Mortars were packed with a variety of aerial comets and mines, repeater cakes, and fiery aerial parachutes that streamed pyro pearls. Big & Bads, 37 Shot Victory Celebrations, Screamin’ Eagles Parachutes, and 48 Shot Color Pearl Flowers were Hershel and Eddie’s favorites. All the the other cemetery stone memorials served as impromptu backstops should a pipe or mortar fall over sending an errant missile out of its intended flight path. For a time, town folk were offended that the First United Methodist Church cemetery was used this way. Only once had a flaming fire orb had ever gotten away endangering man, woman, child and livestock. That was in 1957 when an ignited mortar toppled over unexpectedly, which had not been placed in the cemetery next to a memorial backstop. “Lesson learned” the Sorensens clucked.

Pipes and mortars were aimed east out over Pickett’s Purchase, a 5 acre pasture rented by cattlemen as a temporary grazing lot. A large stone barn was in the lot’s south east corner, and the animals would be herded inside before the show. At 7:30 p.m., the town’s one firetruck pulled through the field’s north gate – a 1960 Mack C Fire Pumper bought at a reasonable price from nearby Gower Fire & Rescue when that town upgraded. Three first responders sat atop the truck’s cab, sipping something, and waiting


for a fire to put out. At 8:00 p.m. sharp, Hershel and Eddie each lit a roadside flare to serve as his his fireworks igniter. Each had four more flares in his deep overall side pocket that would be used that evening. Faces washed in hot red flare light, they walked a carefully choreographed path that wound through the cemetery, igniting each pyrotechnic surprise at scripted intervals, sending it skyward. With every fiery light display, concussion, missile whoosh, explosion, and earthbound flaming parachute, the crowd cheered and screamed and “Ooooooed!” and “Aaaaahed!” Except for the cows in the stone barn, everybody was sad to go home when it ended.

Earlier that week – much to Seagy’s delight – his dad announced they would make a

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Wednesday day trip back to the old Prairie Village neighborhood. “We’ll see who’s around and say ‘Hi,’ and then swing by Ranch-Mart for a Chiefs souvenir” (the Hank Stram Kansas City Chiefs were two-time AFL Champs). “Then we’ll grab a burger at Smak’s before heading back.” Seagy was thrilled. Smak’s was a pre-McDonalds burger and fry joint at W 95th and Mission whose mascot was Smacky the Seal. As a five year old, after morning kindergarten and as a treat, Seagy’s mom would regularly take him to lunch at Smak’s. His mouth was already watering. Most of all, Seagy couldn’t wait to see his mates, Tim, Willy and Mikey.

The family piled into the family Chevy Impala wagon and headed southwest to Kansas City. Out the long driveway that was just two gravel strips for your tires to follow, and across the cattle guard, right onto State Road Y, into town. North up Stewartsville’s Main Street and west at the Star-Lite Diner with its multi-colored-neon-light-spiked-spinning-orb and home of Catfish Friday Specials, onto State Route 32 for a bit. Past Cameron and St. Joseph (eastern terminus of the Pony


Express). South down I-29 for a while to the conflicted KC-Metro, KCKC and KCMO. Not the Twin Cities, but twin cities nonetheless. A bustling rivalry of perception and reputation between the KCKC with its industrial zones and decidedly better barbecue, and the KCMO with its luxuriant, snobby, multi-fountained Plaza district. Twins more like Jacob and Esau than the Gemini brothers. Around I-635, south on I-35 to Shawnee Mission. East on W. 95th Street, north on Antioch Road to Prairie Village and west again on W. 91st. Ten houses up on the right, and they were there!

Not quite noon yet, several people – presumed to be residents – were outside in the front yard. Dunk noted they were not the family who had bought their house several years earlier. He slowed along the curb, coming to a stop, and his mom rolled her window down. She offered a pleasant greeting, and the Brimfords – that was their name – stepped over in a neighborly way. His parents explained they’d lived there a few years back. The Brimfords thought that was so interesting. They wondered if we had known the O’Briens. Turned out the O’Briens moved out past Olathe and had a working hog farm. Dunk said they were good neighbors, but that he always did think their dog needed


a bigger yard – “And a saddle, too” he murmured under his breath. More pleasantries were exchanged, but the conversation quickly drew to a close. Seagy’s mom wanted to see if the Johnson’s still lived up the street. Leanne Johnson was a high school friend of Seagy’s oldest sister, who now lived on Long Island, and Seagy’s mom had played canasta with hers for years. Seagy had no interest in visiting with the Johnsons. They were still sore about the errant mail redistribution. Instead, he asked if he could run over to see the Alexandrides. Approval was given, and Dunk said he’d drive around and pick him up in 20 minutes. Seagy took off running east through the back yards until he came to the nearest Greenway gate. Turning left through the gate, he continued on, passing one gate on the right, then stopping at the second which was one backyard away from Tim, Willy and Mikey’s house. He noticed their backyard was bounded by a


stockade fence, considerably higher than the rail fence he remembered. “No matter,” he thought, as he climbed up and over, anticipating the reunion. He trotted toward the house, noticing the swing set was gone. Coming still closer to the house, Seagy saw that the trees outside their patio hedge were now huge spreading shade trees. Each easily 50 feet tall. A picnic table was under the closest tree, and a car tire sat beside it. There was a rather large dog dish by the home’s exterior laundry room door. He slowed, looking for signs that the Alexandrides were home, scanning from the patio slider, past the laundry room door, to the rear of the garage, to a gate that led to the driveway, back to the hedge break . . . . Danger, Will Robinson! Movement!

Out from the hedge break crept a sleek 60 pound canine with bad intentions. Seagy was frozen in place. The dog was a Doberman named Blitzkrieg. “Blitzie” to those he didn’t plan to eat. He was locked on Seagy, his presumptive next meal, head lowered, ears back, teeth bared, half-stepping to meet the adolescent intruder. Seagy was about twenty yards from the dog and ten yards from the picnic-table-tree. Blitzkrieg was twenty five yards from that tree. Both looked at each other. Then at the tree. Then at each other. Then at the tree. Then Seagy feigned a look toward the driveway gate and as Blitzkrieg turned his deathly gaze that way, Seagy bolted for the tree. He ran a 4.9 forty yard dash in gym class that spring – 24.5 feet per second, and in just three short, powerful steps he was at full speed. In two of Seagy’s steps, Blitzkrieg was on his way at intercept speed – Doberman’s

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are known to reach speeds of 35 miles per hour over 50 yards – 36.6 feet per second. Five full strides later, Seagy sprang, planting his right foot on the tree’s trunk, grabbing the second branch up. Pulling himself upward with all his might, and stepping with his left on the bottom branch, he suddenly felt a canine fang tug on the left rabbit ear of his right Ked’s shoelace. He shrieked “I don’t wanna die!” The shoelace slid free from around the dog’s fang, and Seagy’s adrenaline-fueled fight or flight instincts propelled him still higher up the tree. Blitzkrieg was insane with rage, but not tall enough. Seagy was safe but stuck.

Blitzkrieg latched onto the tire beside the picnic table and with immense jaw, neck and chest strength, easily and angrily placed the tire-toy on top of the family’s picnic table. He circled his prey pacing back and forth atop the picnic table, sometimes stepping over the tire and sometimes around it, barring and gnashing his teeth, snapping at Seagy, growling, and spinning in circles. First to the left. Then to the right. Stopping suddenly, rearing up, he exploded, launching himself limb-ward. In a wink, jaws agape, he was clamped onto that branch swinging, growling, and waiting.


With Blitzkrieg below hoping Seagy’s branch would break, Seagy considered his options which were few. Deciding it would be wise to shelter in place, he craned his neck, squinted to see between and beyond the thick maple leaves, in hopes of spotting a neighbor to whom he could call. Seeing no one, he began to call out anyway. “Help! Hello?! Anybody there?! Hello! Can anybody hear me?” His cries for help agitated Blitzkrieg who wanted no one to interrupt his meal plans. He resumed his menacing terrible growling and barking and latched once more onto the spit-coated branch below, glaring at Seagy.

Just then, Blitzkrieg dropped off the branch and stood below stock-still, facing the driveway gate with pointy ears pointed that way. The sound of tires rolling over a gravel driveway could be heard and grew louder. Then a car horn sounded. Again. Dunk had arrived to pick up Seagy. He pulled all the way up the drive, coming to a stop by the back yard driveway gate. At 36.6 feet per second, Blitzkrieg was at and crashing into the gate, snarling like a dog possessed. Seagy called to Dunk. Spotting him up in the tree, Dunk waved in acknowledgement and feigned aggression toward Blitzkrieg. Blitzkrieg grew more intensely hostile and raged at Dunk, leaping again and again against the gate. Seagy called toward the dog, but the dog was now only interested in the prospect of the new intruder and a bigger meal.

Moving to a lower branch and hoping he’d remain unnoticed, Seagy looked toward the sliding glass door off the patio. He could see into the house, and thought he could make out the gleam of a trophy, and other “western equinalia.” He postulated the Alexandrides did in fact still reside there, suddenly remembering the back slider was never locked when he executed his naptime sneak-abouts. It’s now or never, he thought, as he climbed still lower, hung from a bottom branch, and dropped to the ground. Dunk remembered the unlocked slider as well – happier about it this time – and continued to purposely


aggravate the dog, as Seagy sprinted low to the ground, around to the far patio hedge break and onto the patio. Getting flat against the wall, he moved to the slider and grasped the door handle. He pulled and . . . the door didn’t budge. Again . . . the door slid open. Seagy stepped inside, drawing the door closed, he yelled “Dad! I’m in!” But Blitzkrieg was still raging at the driveway gate, so Dunk didn’t hear that.

Observing no signs to the contrary, and wagering Seagy was safely inside, Dunk warily walked around to the front door. Then up the steps, observed by two lantern-holding lawn jockeys who would keep their silence. Blitzkrieg’s barking rage had stopped, and Dunk heard nothing suggesting he had seized any prey. Seagy moved through the den crossing the main hallway that bisected the house, to the front door. He unhooked the door’s chain

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lock, and unlocked its deadbolt. Opening the front and storm doors, just as Dunk rang the doorbell, he fell into his dad’s arms.

A movie moment ensued. Dunk made certain the doorknob lock was set and pulled the front door closed. Then, taking a business card out of his wallet, on the back with his Chevrolet logoed Cross pen, he wrote “Sorry we missed you. Seagy had quite an adventure. Call me so we can catch up, and I’ll explain.” Seagy slid the note snugly between the door and door jam, and the family headed across town for a late lunch at Smak’s before returning to Uncle Huey’s Farm. The Chiefs souvenirs would have to wait.

In fact, the Alexandrides never called, and that was Seagy’s last trip to Prairie Village, but he’d never forget Blitzkrieg the Deutsch prairie hund.

Michigan the second time yielded many distinct Michigan memories. Free passes every year to the Detroit Auto Show at Cobo Hall. Expo ’67 in Montreal. The 1968

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World Champion Detroit Tigers. Annual Thanksgiving Lions games played outdoors in Tiger Stadium – usually against the Packers or da’ Bears. Useful snow in the winter. Did you know you can shovel banked snow in the shape of a rectangle in your backyard, exposing the frozen grass, then sprinkle water from a long laundry room hose for several nights in a row, and make your own hockey rink?! Back yard hockey after school!

One Friday in February 1969, Dunk brought home one of a limited series of convertible Chevrolet Z-28 Camaros that would run as Indianapolis 500 Pace Cars that year. Dunk and Seagy rode around town all that Michigan February weekend, top down, as proud as peacocks and

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the envy of all Seagy’s friends. They saw Dunk’s Mizzou Tigers play the Michigan Wolverines one year in Ann Arbor, and the Michigan State Spartans in Lansing the next. Seagy couldn’t have imagined it a few years earlier, but Michigan parte deux had become his new childhood wonderland.

Through all of this, Seagy realized anyone returning to old haunts is a different person returning. A chapter read once is never read the same way again. And because new


chapters always open, once present chapters must always close. Seagy’s mom saw nothing useful about snow and couldn’t wait for the cold Michigan winter chapters to close. She wanted to live where she could see all of the snow banked mailbox before July. In time, another move would take Seagy, Dunk, and the family back east to Maryland where Chesapeake Blue Crabs would top their list of favorite foods, where he would first swim in the Atlantic Ocean, where he would follow the Washington Senators and Redskins, where there would be very few useful snows, and where their newer, later life chapters would begin to write themselves.

Blackberries, Or Bushes Afire?

Thanksgiving has become a calendar marker more significant than other holidays for several reasons. Time and Distance are two. But more significant are certain events on Thanksgiving Day 2009.

While our expat and eldest daughter and her family (five in all) are living lagom in the distant realms of Sweden, we travel southwest this year to central Virginia, joining seven remaining stateside progeny, three sons- and one daughter-in-law, five grands, and my sister (who wears the mantles of Auntie and Great Auntie).

Tryptophan ground zero is Swift Run Farm. Scenic, pastoral, and featuring three distinct, well-appointed dwellings that will sleep and feed us all, Swift Run was graciously made available to our troupe by Drew and Madeline Masterson, parents of son-in-law, Drew 2.0.

As I scribble, some watch the umpty-umpth Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Adults are distractedly looking for the University of Missouri Tigers Marching Band (my Mizzou leather head football playing dad’s alma mater). Kids are hoping to see gigantic Bluey and Ultron float by. Those strong of back, are moving tables and chairs into place, while the more gifted are chopping, dicing, mixing, tasting and basting – prepping for a late afternoon meal.

Shaping up to be a fine family time.

At the bottom of this post, I cite a link to our Thanksgiving Experience in 2009, that I hope you’ll enjoy.

BUT FIRST, I’m happy to step out of the way of my good friend, Frank Smith III, over in the Hook. Frank’s a far more gifted writer than I am, whose spot-on Thanksgiving missive, emailed annually, I am pleased to share below. I’m pretty sure you’ll be blessed by it.


Reading the headlines, listening to the news, glancing at the faces of people traveling or passing on the street… one is reminded again of the hardships and fears that are part and parcel of a fallen world. As we continue to navigate through, seemingly daily, such profound sadnesses, facing a strange new horizon every morning, the ground can certainly seem more thorn-infested than ever.

I’m so glad this morning, therefore, for the day that stretches before us. A day in which we pause — take a breath — and remember why we have reason not only for thanksgiving, but for praise… and great rejoicing as well. Thank God.

Earth’s crammed with
And every
bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his
The rest sit around it and pluck

(Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Aurora
Leigh,” Book VII)

I read Barrett’s beautiful poem again this morning, as I do every Thanksgiving since I discovered it. The poem says it all, and says it well. So few have the eyes to see that, as the Seraphim cry out in Isaiah, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts… the whole earth is full of His glory.” Ps.19:1 tells us, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” Rom.1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine
nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.”

Take a few moments, and silently list just a few of the ways in which you are blessed every day. The tolling of distant church bells on a crystal clear, frosty night… the touch of a child’s hand, or a grandmother’s cheek… the warmth of a friend’s arm around your shoulder. The taste of a turkey that your beloved labored over for hours. An expanse of dark green, snow-capped forest under the rosy-pink of early dawn. A dog’s eyes, expectant and bright, when he brings the ball back. For the fifteenth time.

Forgiveness. Lovingkindness. Justice.
Grace under pressure. It’s hard to stop, isn’t it? This is our Father’s World. And how He reveals Himself to us, in it…

Yes, the world has fallen, and until Christ’s return, the creation groans: longing for things to be made right and for freedom from sin and death. There are wars, and rumors of wars, as there have been in every year since that Fall. Amidst the beauty thorns of many kinds and shapes sadly “infest the ground”.

But still, He walks our paths alongside us. God’s amazing handiwork still shines through, causing awe and wonder to well
up in our hearts and pour forth in thanksgiving. Praise Him.

And praise Him also, that even when sin and sinners mar His work… He has willed to redeem those actions for good. A far deeper good, a greater and more far-reaching good, in fact, than the enemy
could ever imagine… and a good that will one day reflect His sovereignty and His wisdom and His love for all eternity.

Remember Joseph, whose dreadful fate turned into the salvation of his family, and his family’s people. And then, remember Jesus…! And say out loud with Paul, as he marveled at God’s handiwork in Romans 8, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”


So. See with new eyes, the handiwork of the One through whom all things were made, and have their being. And look also, as the Spirit even now moves and heals and transforms, and love grows in human hearts where there was none before, and God’s Kingdom advances.
And watch as Our Lord — already Victor over sin and death — continues to roll back the darkness and prepare our world for His Second Coming: that time in which, as John writes in Revelations, “… He will dwell with (men). They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them, and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes… and there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying in pain, for the old order of things will have passed away” (Rev. 21: 3-4).
See, look, watch… and be thankful.


Thanksgiving 2009


He Is Risen! Just As He Said.

Happy Easter!

Diabolus now holds sway in mere feigned absoluteness. Our once great and horrible adversary, the king of terrors now the atonement-silenced accuser. Death now vanquished and stingless. Dominator turned doorway.

A favorite song of mine below. Watch “Easter Song” on YouTube https://youtu.be/8ClwvRJMmZY

Hope you dig the ’70’s moog-synth riffs.

A Wee Bit o’ Surgery

I re-read these this morning. I needed a chuckle and a boost as I go under the knife this afternoon for a few plumbing repairs.

I tend to worry easily and early, before seamlessly shifting to grumbling and resentment. My DIY stress management.

It’s a better idea and a good thing to make time to remember God’s faithfulness, particularly when facing scary stuff involving smart steady-handed guys in masks, general anesthesia, scalpels, forceps, 3-0 silk and sutures, because we are otherwise dim witted and woeful, complaining forgetters.

Read both. Be encouraged.



2020 Heidel Holiday Greetings

This year’s Heidel Holiday card is placidly inattentive to 2020’s global virulence and U.S. political throes, themes of which we were daily and painfully aware. If you squint and count carefully, you will see a new grandbaby and a new in-law. Daughter One added a son, and so we welcomed grandbabyboy #5. Daughter Four was out the door, taking a fine husband and adding sonnyboyinlaw #4 to the extended family roster.

The compulsory family mob shot is set at a lovely nearby herb garden in the Upper Chesapeake region — wedding venue and site of the husband-taking. The knot was tied as our fair state’s “Guvnah” made ever stricter proclamations almost daily, reducing the number of people who could legally assemble indoors. Even though he was not invited, his honor did not shut down our celebration — there’s a good chap — so from rehearsal dinner through wedding day, we planned activities with PPE, social-distancing, and elbow bumping de rigueur. And in his honor, I bought local, sporting Route 1 Apparel’s snazzy sublimated Maryland state flag patterned facemasks, with complimenting socks and ties. My Rehearsal Dinner outfit accessories featured a dizzying yet tasteful blend of Orioles, Ravens and Terrapins colors, while my Wedding Day accents were a more serious but whimsical charcoal grey and black theme. A good time was had by all. Understandably, some friends and family did not travel as COVID-19 positivity rates climbed, including Number One Son and and Number One Daughter, and their families. Through the marvels of technology, they and quite a few others were able to participate virtually via Livestream, but their absence put a bit of a dent in the event. You’ll see them below the fold on the card’s B-side. And, having been excluded from last year’s card, Nellie Johnstone (aka, Number One Pooch) returns looking quite self-important.

Having downsized in 2019, this summer we tacked on a garage and full driveway — both great conveniences. I continue to work gratefully, as many I know were furloughed or lost jobs due to marketplace contraction brought on by COVID-19. August 2020 marked my eleventh spinal cord injury “Accidentiversary.” Alice continues daily to exude loveliness and heroism as she cares for me. My health would seem to be stable generally, but minor intestinal surgery planned for October was postponed by the sudden onset of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) — blood clots in my left leg. I’m hoping to have DVT matters sussed out soon and to have that surgery in late winter.

I continue to pray for political calm and stability, and scientific, COVID-19-killing advancements. While it is easy to feel distrustful, fearful, and isolated, it is better to remember what we know, and by remembering to regain hope, confidence, vim, vigor and pluck. Though not commonly associated with the Advent season, I love William Cowper’s* God Moves in a Mysterious Way:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform:
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour:
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own Interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

(*1731-1800, pronounced “Cooper”)

The hymn above reflects God’s omnipotence and sovereignty in song. Remember also His Advent, foretold and fulfilled, is about His well-ordered, purposeful, most holy wise and powerful governing and preserving all His creatures and all their actions. Think about that. More importantly, own it and rest in it. These observations are but the tip of why we can and should be hopeful.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Take heart — God’s goodness crowns the year! For all the Heidels, I bid you the Happiest of Holiday Seasons, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. And so does Nellie.

Heidel Holiday Greetings

It’s that time of the year again when holiday cards are exchanged (send me one and you’re gonna get one). And so, Shutterfly’s 30% Off promotion dangled in front of me, we once again received 100 holiday cards and envelopes, we bought 100 holiday themed postage stamps (two for a dollar), and out they went.

This year’s card reflects a new address, a new grandbabygirl, and the usual cast of characters. The compulsory family mob shot is enacted twice – once seriously, and the other just a little less seriously (sic). Nellie B. Johnstone (aka, da dawg) was not afforded even the smallest of spaces on this year’s card and has been nigh on inconsolable, whining and howling all the live long day. The aforementioned family mob shot was taken at the luncheon we hosted 10 years following my August 2009 spinal injury — my Tenth Accidentiversary. Everyone stateside was on hand, and our Swedes (daughter Emily and her family) Skyped-in for the ceremonial remarks (and just a look at the delicious crab cakes). Not a dry eye in the house, as they say.

Despite that celebration — and there is a lot to celebrate — and my other clever non-sense, it has been a challenging year. Prevailing winds have often blown me into the doldrums, and my emotional rudder was often stuck hard-left, leaving me to circle there. On one of those days, I came across a few bytes of writing, set down by my daughter Ginny. They were a tonic for me, and I share her post with you. Even the Stones.

God’s goodness crowns the year. I bid you the happiest of holiday seasons, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Thanksgiving in the Time of COVID

Thanksgiving in the Time of COVID

It is a good practice to look back. Not an easy one, but a good one. There are lessons once learned, then forgotten, which we benefit by recalling.

Thanksgiving rolls around again tomorrow. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce . . . and a side of COVID. My state continues to tighten the rules and regs, constrict businesses, and recommend compressed, minimal in person interaction, even at the expense of holiday recognitions. A sense of guilt hangs heavy over those who might attempt a friends and family gathering, let alone presume to cross state lines to join such a gathering. I mean it’s not like we’re trying to pull off a — oh, I don’t know — a wedding. Really? A very strange feel to this Turkey Day, for sure.

So, I invite you to join me as I look back to an earlier Thanksgiving holiday. Things were tough differently then, but eleven years later I find encouragement revisiting the ways God worked, His handling of my situation. I hope you will, too. He is not different. And I am certain He will sustain us in and through the time of COVID-19.

A Thanksgiving Tale Retold


Out promised? Rifled? Emptied? Never.

I read and shared this Spurgeon M&E 5 years ago today when I was in the hospital for a few phased holiday surgical procedures a la derriere. In all, laid up for 40 days. As encouraging today as then. I hope you’ll find it so.

Isaiah 41:10 — Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Believer, till thou canst drain dry the ocean of omnipotence, till thou canst break into pieces the towering mountains of almighty strength, thou never needest to fear. . . . The same God who directs the earth in its orbit, who feeds the burning furnace of the sun, and trims the lamps of heaven, has promised to supply thee with daily strength. . . . Shall he that created the world grow weary? He hangeth the world upon nothing; shall he who doth this be unable to support his children? Shall he be unfaithful to his word for want of power? Who is it that restrains the tempest? Doth not he ride upon the wings of the wind, and make the clouds his chariots, and hold the ocean in the hollow of his hand? How can he fail thee? When he has put such a faithful promise as this on record, wilt thou for a moment indulge the thought that he has outpromised himself, and gone beyond his power to fulfil? Ah, no! Thou canst doubt no longer.

O thou who art my God and my strength, I can believe that this promise shall be fulfilled, for the boundless reservoir of thy grace can never be exhausted, and the overflowing storehouse of thy strength can never be emptied by thy friends or rifled by thine enemies.

C.S. Spurgeon. M&E 22 December

French Toast, Fireworks and Freedom: Epilogue

Late afternoon thunderstorms put the kibosh on Capon Springs and Farms 7/4 fireworks, and power outage killed electricity and the elevator.

As plan B, lovely heroic Alice and I found lodgings a half hour drive away at the Winchester Marriott Courtyard where there was power and cooling a-plenty. Back to Capon late Thursday morning to conclude our final day in WV.

In fact, power was restored at CSF Wednesday evening, so the rest of the gang on grounds was able to run fans and stay reasonably cool. The elevator service was not restored until this morning. Grateful to have had options.

French Toast, Fireworks and Freedom

It is a reasonably warm morning in Capon Springs, WV, site of many an extended family vacation since 1994. The kids’ Fourth of July parade has wound its way down to the Main House. A costumed dramatic proclamation of Independence has been Declared. The stars and stripes have been raised to a rousing hand-to-heart rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. And last night’s fast has been broken by eggs any style and Wednesday’s French toast.

With a gob of hard-fought, dearly won (others’), grateful (mine) patriotism, with the anticipated retinal after-images of sparklers and fireworks bursts and their post-boom concussive ringing in my ears, with the smoky airborne bouquet of chicken, burgers and dogs on the grill only

a few hours away, and wearing my red, white and blue ensemble, I hail you all, my family and friends near and abroad.

Happy Independence Day!