Category Archives: Adventures From Rode Apple Junction

Ebenezer Scrooge’s Christmas Much Maligned And Misunderstood

If you had a sniveling, whinning, and unappreciative employee like Bob Crachit what kind of employer would you be?

If you had a sniveling, whining, and unappreciative employee like Bob Crachit what kind of employer would you be?

Ebenezer Scrooge was a realist and visionary, but eventually he sold out.

Charles Dickens, who created the character Scrooge, hated rich people and aristocrats, which he eventually became. He made a literary career out of exploiting the poor and profiting from their misery. In many ways not much different from the Scrooge he vilified.

Scrooge, though, was doing no more than what any businessman of his day did. He planned to conduct business on the day that Christians wrestled from the pagans. Christmas in the mid 1800’s was viewed by many as too worldly and pagan, which in fact it was. Although Scrooge’s motives are in question, one cannot deny the rightness of his position from either an economic, religious, or a historical viewpoint.

His dreams were, I think and have ample reason to believe, induced by his sniveling and disgruntled employee Bob Crachit. It was no doubt an opium induced dream state that caused Scrooge to change his ways.

Bob Crachit somehow is viewed as a sympatric character in spite of the fact that his lack of industriousness and initiative placed him and his family in a state of poverty. Could he have not displayed an entrepreneurial spirit and start his own accounting business?

What about Tiny Tim and his affliction that rendered him to spend the rest of his life with a crutch? Was Scrooge to blame for that? No one has ever asked if Mrs. Crachit smoked or did drugs while carrying Tiny Tim. What I’m saying is that the Crachit’s cannot be entirely without blame.

Was Dickens’ book, A Christmas Carol, a victim itself of the law of unintended consequences? The very things it wanted to promote in people such as love and charity it produced the opposite – greed and loneliness. Christmas is a greed filled and motivated holiday and for many the loneliest day of the year.

What if Scrooge’s conscience pricked him some other time of year or multiple times out of the year without the overtones of being forced into giving because of some impending holiday? What if charity were something displayed throughout the year?

It is of interest to note that much of what is viewed as Christmas tradition today was  invented by the creative mind of writer Washington Irving. Christmas did not become a national holiday in the United States until 1870 and it was only then that religion and merchants hijacked it for their personal aims and use. Christmas was actually outlawed at one time in Boston and New York. Anyone singing Christmas songs were to be arrested. Likewise when Dickens conjured the Ghost of Christmas Past, there really was none – he manufactured the tradition. There was no tradition.

Displays of charity, kindness, and love displayed once a year are exactly that – ‘displays.’


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A Place To Warm Your Hands and Heart

Welcome to the stories about Rode Apple Junction, a small rural community where people are fair, but small-minded. It is where being yourself is fine, but  it is okay to try something else just to confirm you are not so bad-off after all.

Clyde Pixler was more than the guy who owned the Jittery Goat Café; he was sort of a community caregiver. He looked after people. listened to them, and addressed their needs in the best way he could.

There’s more than warm coffee in a cup.

There were times of disasters when Clyde opened the doors long after or before business hours to serve the needs of Rode Apple Junction and the surrounding township.

It was a place to fill your stomach and your soul. It was a place to warm your hands and your heart.

During the blizzard of ‘78 Clyde trudged through thigh-deep snow to make certain that anyone who needed a meal or coffee got one. He stayed open for five straight days. The only sleep he got was in a booth. As soon as the door opened he was awake and drawing coffee.

Road crews, policemen, firemen, linemen, and rescue workers need fed and refreshed. If there was a family crisis Clyde opened his doors to them also. Usually all it took was a phone call: “Hey, Clyde, Momma died this morning. We got a mess family coming in, but they won’t be here till late. We need a place to talk and our place is too small. Can you open up for us?”

It was two in the morning. A terrible thunder and wind storm passed through. Clyde was open by 2:30 AM. Coffee was ready at 2:45 AM

Clyde grabbed a cup from beneath the counter. It is a cup he hadn’t seen in a while. It wasn’t that he hadn’t seen it, he just never took time to notice it. It was Pop’s cup. It was the one his father preferred.

Clyde held it and turned it in his hand. Nicks were on the rim. It was no longer white, more like a light beige; like the faded pages of a favorite book. Every book has a story and every cup has stories upon stories. The lips that drank from that cup whispered, recounted, and spoke many tales of glories and tragedies, triumphs and failures.

Clyde drew coffee from the urn into the cup. Steam wafted from the cup. His eyes slowly closed; heavy from lack of sleep. He took the coffee with him to a booth and it was there that he fell asleep.

He heard the door open, men talking, plates clanging, the sizzle of bacon on the grill, eggs popping, and coffee being drawn from the urn. He smelled the bacon, toast and coffee. Through all of that he was unable to break free from the grip of sleep. His conciseness told him not to fight the urge to awaken, but to surrender.

It was not long after complete unconsciousness that the gatekeeper of sleep said your sentence is up; awaken!

Clyde focused on the counter. Four men from the power company sat at the counter. He reached for his coffee. It was gone. As if by some homing device he saw it immediately. It was in the hands of Pop. There he was; a man in his mid eighties behind the counter and leaning forward.

“We had a doozy that blew through her back in ’57. A lot of folks around here didn’t have power for nearly a week. The biggest thing was milkin’ but none of the old times missed a beat. They hadn’t bought into those automatic milkers ran by electricity. There were a couple of farmers that didn’t even know you could milk by hand….”

Clyde relaxed as he watched Pop tell another story over the cup. And he was reminded that what Pop has passed on to him was far more than a place to eat, but a heritage to fill souls and warm hearts.


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Uncle Bert’s Fixit Shop (Part 4)

(Continued from last week.)

Welcome to the stories about Rode Apple Junction, a small rural community where people are fair, but small-minded. It is where being yourself is fine, but  it is okay to try something else just to confirm you are not so bad-off after all.

If you see your doctor in the frozen food’s section, don’t assume he’s off the clock. If you ask him anything about what frozen vegetables are best for your heart he many send you a bill for his advice. You’ll be better off asking the ‘sample’ lady.

“I’m a doctor,” Doc said. “You can talk to me.”

“I suppose we can talk on a profession level, but just to be safe let’s pretend we’re talking about something else, so if ever asked in court we can claim plausible deniability.”

“What ever,” Doc said.

“If the big hand on your clock stretches out like it’s 9:15 so it looks like it’s gonna make a left hand turn; the contacts might pull free from the battery.” Bert winked. “And that’s the heart of the matter.”

“So should it be removed by surgery?” Doc said.

Bert’s eyes widened and he made a cut sign across his throat.

Doc rolled his eyes. “I have client patient privilege.”

“Pull the blind Ferdy,” Bert said and suddenly panicked. “No! No! The stretch could kill him. You know the big hand and little hand; ‘the heart of the matter‘.” Bert and Doc pulled the blinds.

Bert spoke quietly. “I think it’s loose contacts,” Bert said. “It’s either got ta be fixed or Ferdy can’t make left hand turns or reach across the table for another biscuit. The stretch may pull the contacts loose again.”

“I’ll send you into to the surgeon who installed it and let him look at it,” Doc said to Ferdy.

“Is it okay if Bert goes along with me?” Ferdy said. “I want to make sure the surgeon is giving me the straight scoop.”

“Sure,” Doc said. “If that makes you feel better. You went to the doctor in Ft. Wayne didn‘t you?”

“Yeah,” Ferdy said.

“I’ll make an appointment for you when I get back to the office.”

“See if you can make it early in the week,” Bert said to Doc. “Kinda of a professional courtesy; I gotta pick up some fuses at the supplier in Ft. Wayne.”

“Now I don’t want you to get upset or anything, Ferdy,” Doc said. “But I got to charge you for this today. If word gets out that I don’t charge for consultations like this I won’t be able to pick up a gallon of milk at the grocery without answering a dozen health care questions by people I just bump into. It acts like a deterrent to taking up my time with frivolous questions in an inappropriate setting.”

“Is that sort of thing legal?” Bert said.

“I asked our town’s lawyer, Melvin Belly and he said it was legal. Anytime you give your opinion in a field that you are licensed you can charge. ” Doc said. “A week later he sent me a bill for $200. I was furious. I saw him a day later at the Jittery Goat Café. I told him there ought to be a law against what he was doing. He said there‘s not. I got a another bill for $100. He rendered a legal opinion, but because it was asked in the same week as the other one he discounted it.”

“Ya gotta watch what ya say these days and who ya say it to,” Ferdy said.

“Ya got that right,” Doc said. “So Ferdy, I’m gonna have to bill ya.”

“How much we talkin’ here?” Ferdy said.

“It’s going to have to be $400,” Doc said. “I’ve hired an office manager and she sets the prices. I‘ll discount it five percent if you pay now.”

Ferdy pulled his wallet from his hip pocket.

“Before ya go too far,” Bert said. “I’m gonna have to charge you rent for usin’ my place as a medical facility and when those blinds were pulled I became a hired consultant.”

“That’s stretching it,” Doc said.

“Well if you’re not sure here comes Melvin to pick up his back-massager,” Bert said. “I’m sure he has a legal opinion.”


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Uncle Bert’s Fixit Shop (Part 3)

(Continued from last week.)

Not only can Bert make emergency repairs on pacemakers he can build a defibrillator from spare parts too.

Welcome to the stories about Rode Apple Junction, a small rural community where people are fair, but small-minded. It is where being yourself is fine, but  it is okay to try something else just to confirm you are not so bad-off after all.

“Hey, Ferdy,” Doc said. “How’s that pacemaker doing?”

“The pacemaker,” Ferdy said. “Not so good. I had to come in here to Bert’s and he fixed it for me. If it wasn’t for him I’d probably be dead by now.”

Doc’s eyes widened his jaw dropped, “My lord, man, you should have come to the office, what if you’re heart stopped beating?”

Ferdy was making change for the twenty Doc had just handed him. “If that would have happened I got the rescue squad’s defibrillator in her workin’ on it. It works fine now.”

“Please don’t tell me how you found out it didn’t work,” Docs said.

“The rescue squad was called out to Mitch Peckenpaugh’s place,” Bert said.

“Is Mitch okay?” Doc said. “I didn’t hear.”

“They had to use it on one his pigs,” Bert said. “The defibrillator failed. They’re in litigation now. I’m givin’ my deposition this week. Peckenpaughs have been eatin’ a lot of pork lately.”

“Thank goodness it was only pig,” Doc said.

“Try tellin’ that to the Peckenpaughs,” Ferdy said. “They was heart-sick. It was a prize pig.”

“Why am I not consulted on these things? Doc said. “This is a health care crises for a community our size.”

“Well I suppose one reason you wasn’t consulted,” Ferdy said, “was because of, oh let’s say, the consulting fee.”

“A consulting fee is small price to pay when it comes to the general health and welfare of the community,” Doc said. “I’m bringing that up at the next town council meeting. We should have at least a back up.”

“We do,” Bert said. “I rigged one up with some spare parts I’ve had around here since ’84; parts from two coffee makers, a ping pong paddle set, and an old trickle battery.”

“I hope ya got the other one fixed,” Doc said. “The community should not have to rely on a tinker for public health.”

“The last I heard,” Ferdy said. “It shocked Mrs Gillison’s cat back to life.”

“The one gone around town with its fur singed?” Bert said.

“That’s the one,” Ferdy said.

“I’m gonna hafta put a regulator on that thing,” Bert said. “I sure don’t want them doin’ parakeets with it. Margaret Beasly has a house full. It’s just a matter of time before they rescue boys get a call from out her way.”

“What do you think the problem is, Bert?” Doc said.

“The cat walked in front of Walter Atkins’ truck,” Bert said. “Not a mark on the cat. Just scared it and it’s heart stopped.”

“Not the cat,” Doc said annoyed.

“Oh I’m sorry,” Bert said. “As long as this thing is in litigation I can’t talk about the defibrillator.”

“Bert’s pacemaker,” Doc said nodding at Bert.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Look, Doc” Bert said. “I’m not violating any HIPAA law am I? Ever since this defibrillator thing I’ve come to find out we live in a very greedy and litigious society. The wrong word and the Peckenpaughs can be out the price of a prize-winning pig.”

(Continued next week.)

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Uncle Bert’s Fixit Shop (Part 2)


(Continued from last week.)

You can bring in an old clock, food mixer, or pacemaker; Uncle Bert ‘ill fix it just like new.

Welcome to the stories about Rode Apple Junction, a small rural community where people are fair, but small-minded. It is where being yourself is fine, but  it is okay to try something else just to confirm you are not so bad-off after all.

Ferdy’s eyes widened. He smiled. He breathed deep and caught his breath. “I’m feellin’ good.”

“Ya probably stretched and a contact came loose,” Bert said. “Ya oughta have that looked at by a doctor.”

“Do you think you can do it?” Ferdy said.

“I’d have to go in,” Bert said. “And I ain’t no doctor and I got ethics.”

“Well I’ll do what ya said and go have that looked at,” Ferdy said. “How much do I owe ya?”

“Well, since you brought the problem in and didn’t have to leave the shop,” Bert said and scratched his head. “Five will do it.”

Ferdy reached for his billfold in his left hip pocket.

“Careful,” Bert said. “Ya don’t want to pull any wires loose again.”

Ferdy cautiously removed his billfold and counted out five crisp one hundred-dollar bills.”

“No,” Bert said. “Five dollars.”

“But ya saved my life!” Ferdy said. “It’s got to be worth more than five dollars!”

“But I didn’t do anything, except tell ya to move your arm so there’s electrical contact again,” Bert said.

“But the Doc would have charged me a couple of thousand for it,” Ferdy said.

“That’s right,” Bert said. “But he’s got an education to pay for.”

“Well I don’t get it,” Ferdy said shoving the five one hundred-dollar bills back into his billfold. “But here!” Ferdy said. “Take this!” He shoved a twenty-dollar bill into Bert’s shirt pocket.

“Yer overpayin’ me, Ferdy,” Bert said.

Just then Doc came in to pick up a clock that Bert repaired. Doc and Bert exchanged a few Rode Apple Junction obligatory formalities; yesterday’s weather, health, today’s weather, crops, tomorrow’s weather.

“How much do I owe you for that?” Doc asked.

“Oh, I suppose fifteen dollars,” Bert said.

“What!” Doc said. “I can buy a new one for twelve ninety-nine at Wal-Mart.”

“Well,” Bert said. “That’s the risk you run for buyin’ cheap.”

“This is highway robbery,” Doc said.

“Well, Doc,” Bert said. “I removed the hands and made sure there was no extra drag. I tested for conductivity. I cleaned the corrosion from the contacts. And I installed a new battery. Oh, yeah, I forgot,” Bert added. “While I had the hands off I sprayed them again with some paint to make them look new.”

Doc reluctantly paid. He turned and noticed Ferdy sitting on a chair.

(Continued next week.)


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Uncle Bert’s Fixit Shop (Part 1)

Uncle Bert’s fixit shop has just about everything and can fix just about everything.

Welcome to the stories about Rode Apple Junction, a small rural community where people are fair, but small-minded. It is where being yourself is fine, but  it is okay to try something else just to confirm you are not so bad-off after all. 

Right smack in the middle of Rode Apple Junction’s business district is Uncle Bert’s Fixit Shop.

Bert can fix just about anything except what belongs to him. He still drives around in his ‘68 Chevy pickup truck with “Uncle Bert’s Fixit Shop” stenciled on the doors. He still had the four digit phone number. He uses a long flathead screwdriver to open the tailgate and to start the truck by bypassing the solenoid.

The man is a genius though. He can fix anything. Bert always says, “If you have just basic mechanical ability, logic, and time you can fix anything.”

Not too long ago Ferdy Fenstermaker climbed down out of the cab of his tractor and stumbled into Bert’s place white as a sheet and short of breath.

“What can I do fer ya, Ferdy,” Bert said looking over the top of his glasses.

“I don’t know, Bert,” Ferdy said gasping for air. “I think it’s my pacemaker. It could be on the fritz.”

“Shouldn’t you be seein’ the doc?” Bert said about to reach for the phone. “Can’t afford him and he’s at the edge of town; I don’t think I can make it.”

“The only thing I know what to do is call the Doc,” Bert said about to dial.

“No, no, don’t do that,” Ferdy said. “He’ll charge me a house call and for the emergency. Last year I had a cow’s udder caught in the milker. I didn’t know what to do. I called up to the house and told Louise to call the Doc; the cow’s got an udder caught in the milker. I meant the Vet. Doc comes out. He lubricates the thing with baby oil and I get a bill $817.42. I ain’t callin’ the Doc.”

“Well maybe after that one ya got free one comin’,” Bert said putting the phone to his ear.

“I’m not takin’ any chances,” Ferdy said. “Any body who can fix a ’59 Philco transister radio ougta be able to fix a pacemaker.”

Bert rested the phone on the wall. “What did ya do just before you started getting short of breath?”

“I turned the corner down at the stop sign,” Ferdy said.

“Hmm,” Bert said. “Nothing unusual about that.”

“Show me how you did it?” Bert said and brought a chair he was working on from behind the counter.

Ferdy sat in the chair and started to speak.

“Hold on,” Bert said. “Was ya bouncing around?”

“Sure,” Ferdy said.

“Than bounce,” Bert said.

Ferdy looked confused , but bounced.

“Good,” Bert said.

“Now make a sound like a tractor,” Bert said.

Ferdy hesitated. Bert gave him an assuring nod. Ferdy created a sound with his lips vibrating.

“No that’s not right,” Bert said. “That’s more like the sound of a lawn mower. Less nasal and more throat. Remember, yer a Massy-Ferguson.”

Ferdy stopped. “Is this necessary?”

“Yes it is,” Bert said. “We have to recreate the exact conditions if you want a proper diagnosis.”

Ferdy bounced a little and made the sound of the tractor to recreate the entire experience just as it happened..

“Ya better change them plugs,” Bert said.

“I’ll do that,” Ferdy said. Ferdy pretended to apply his breaks. He extended his arms to signal a left hand turn.

“You got push that deep on the brakes ta stop?” Bert said.

“I’m short,” Ferdy said.

“Right, right,” Bert said.

“Don’t your signals work?” Bert said.

“Haven’t worked since the winter,” Ferdy said.

“I’ll fix ‘em for ya,” Bert said. Then he stroked his chin. “Take your left arm and extend it across your body to the right. The opposite of a left-hand turn signal. But before ya do come to a stop and turn off the engine.”

Ferdy did just as Bert instructed him.

“Now hold it there for a moment,” Bert said.

The two men stared at each other.

(Continued next week.)


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How Radio History Was Made In Rode Apple Junction

(Continued from last week.) 

A Saturday afternoon at Pete's Gas and Gulp in Rode Apple Junction.

It was close to seven o’clock when Pete and Vic got to The Jittery Goat. Pete ordered the Saturday meat loaf special and Vic ordered the Manhattan roast beef.

“Something happened today,” Pete said. “Did you feel it?”

“Yeah,” Vic said. “I’ve never felt quite that way before.”

“We were doing good,” Pete said.

“You mean Margie Randell,” Vic said.

“Sure,” Pete said. “But there was a whole lot more going on. Margie was the most important, but something happened. You felt it, I felt it, and everybody else had to feel it too.”

“Do ya think?” Vic said.

Clay brought the meals an slid them in front of Pete and Vic. “Enjoy your meal.”

“Hey, Clay!” Pete said. “Did you feel it today.”

“Sure, I felt it,” Clay said. “What was I supposed to feel?”

“The remote broadcast,” Pete said. “There was something special.”

Clay brought the carafe to refill Pete’s and Vic’s cups. “People helping people,” Clay said smiling and pouring the coffee.

“No, it’s not business,” Pete said and looked across the table at Vic. “Why did you get into the radio business anyway?”

Vic sipped his coffee. “Join us Clay.”

Clay sat next to Vic.

“I just wanted to tell people things,” Vic said. “I would have worked for nothing. In fact, I almost did. I got a job in Cleveland after I‘d been in the business a few years. I was nearly at the top. I could taste it.”

“How did you end up here?” Clay said. “This ain’t exactly the top.”

“All the sudden it became impersonal,” Vic said. “Every decision was made in New York, LA, or Atlanta. Funny guys took over behind the microphone; dirty mouths, minds, jokes, and double meanings. It was nothing but laughs. You couldn’t sit in front of a microphone and say anything unless there was a punch line. I used to read four newspapers a night just looking for stories and going to the library to check for facts. They hired a joke writer for me. When I went into this business I saw a responsibility to inform in an entertaining and pleasing way. Now it’s just entertaining. I tried to get a job in public radio, but because my background was in commercial they wouldn’t touch me. I think they thought I’d poison the well. I put every dime I saved into this radio station.”

“Well we’re sure glad you came to Rode Apple Junction,” Pete said.

“Me to,” Vic said. “And today was one of the first days in a long time I saw radio doing what I thought it should do; bring the community together and help. You can’t do that sort of thing in conference room two thousand miles away.”

“Well you sure did good today, Vic,” Clay said.

“I didn’t do anything,” Vic said. “I changed oil. Pete did the broadcasting.”

“I don’t want you to think I was takin’ over,” Pete said.

“No, I don‘t think that,” Vic said. “I had an old timer tell me hosting a radio is like driving a car; just stir it. Let the motor do the work. Accelerate, step on the brakes, keep it on the road. Make your show about others and others will listen to you.”

“My first couple of years down at Pete’s Gas and Gulp was the same way,” Pete said. “Some guy would roll in broke and I’d pump ‘im enough to get back and forth to work till pay day. I didn’t worry about Slim Jims or the economy. I just wanted to keep people going.”

Pete,” Vic said. “Let’s do this every Saturday. I string the cord down to your place and you just ‘go to town.’”

“Ya got a deal,” Pete said. “Ya know if things do get a little slow can I tell a couple of jokes?”

“Sure,” Vic said. “As long as it comes from you heart.”

“Ya know guys,” Pete said to Clay and Vic. “It’s never about the economy, it’s about how people feel.”

From that day on a three hour radio auction was held every Saturday at Pete’s Gas And Gulp.

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