Reignited Memories

The human brain works in mysterious ways. Last week my grandson called to tell us that his motorhome trip to Zion Park was terminated by a tire blowout on I-57 not thirty miles from home. It happened on an outside lane during heavy traffic, and he had to pull onto the left side shoulder. The tire change would have to be done with his ass hanging out into the fast lane. He opted for safety and called for help. Traffic backed up and the Cops called the freeway emergency trucks to tow him off the road into an accident investigation area.

All week my mind has been sending me messages about roadside dilemmas that I experienced with the family campers. In 1980 we owned a 1978 GMC van with a 405 cu in engine that had horsepower to spare. We pulled a 18 foot long Skamper camping trailer which opened up to 26 feet. We named the trailer ‘G4″, the “G” stood for “Gypsy”, and the four meant it was the our fourth camper. There is a separate story attached to each of the G series outfits, and this one will concentrate on the biggest travel trip our family of five took. That year I had accumulated over eighty hours of uncompensated work time and asked my boss if I could add the time to my three week vacation, and miraculously he agreed.

Barb and I planned to explore the National Parks of the west. My part involved getting the van and the trailer ready. Caution urged me to re-lube the trailer hubs which I did, but this meant I had to remove the wheels first. My trailer manual told me to tighten the lug nuts on the wheels, and to retighten them after a thousand miles on the road. Barb’s part was to cook meals that we could freeze and keep frozen for at least three weeks. This took a big load off her having to cook in camp. We left on a Saturday morning and headed north on I-94.

We planned a route that would take us to Theodore Roosevelt, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, Mount Rainier, Olympia, Lassen, Redwoods, Sequoia, Yosemite, and finally the Grand Canyon, an aggressive schedule for sure. In the beginning we dreamed of staying days at each park, but that changed quickly as we realized to make it we would have to drive 500 miles every single day. When we arrived at Mount Rainier I made a decision to camp more and drive less. One of the biggest impressions we came home with were the trees along the West coast. At Mount Rainier my son and I took an after supper hike up a trail that spiraled upward. What impressed me most was the physical size of the trees growing there. From the road, or from a distance the trees look small, but from the ground they look like they extend to heaven, and a girth of five feet at the base was a baby. When we finally arrived in Redwood territory, the trees on Mount Rainier were truly babies. The girth of the General Sherman tree is at least twenty five feet, and he is at least three hundred feet tall. I never saw any greenery on this redwood because it was so high up.

We left Mount Rainier and headed for Olympia NP, but it was one of the parks I opted to pass by in order to have more quality time. We moved down the Oregon coast and stopped at several beach camp grounds along the way. We even made an emergency visit to a dentist for Barb. In southern Oregon we crossed over the mountains toward Crater lake on Lassen NP. The passage was a twisty windy two lane mountain road. They posted a rule that if you were holding up more than two cars you were to pull over and allow them to pass. I spent a good part of the ride pulling over. We finally reached Interstate 5 at 4 p.m. and there was still another hundred miles to Crater Lake. I made another decision to pass this up in favor of moving on toward the Redwoods. We boogied south on the I-five. About a half hour into the ride, I felt the van suddenly jump-up and land hard. I looked into my rear view mirror and saw a rooster tail of sparks flying off the trailer. I slowed and pulled off to a stop. The Trailer was sitting very low on the passenger side. I looked around and could not tell immediately what had happened. Then I saw it, one of the wheels on the low side was gone. It dawned on me, I never re-tightened the lug nuts. The twisty curvy mountain road had worked the nuts loose on this one wheel and it finally came off the hub. The bump I felt was the free spinning tire hitting the trailer frame to get loose. I never found the wheel. There we were in the boondocks of Northern California with one trailer wheel and four lug nuts short. Thankfully, I had a spare wheel, and I stole one lug nut from each of the remaining wheels to get back on the road. Within minutes of rolling again I sensed a new problem, I smelled rubber burning. This time I crawled under the trailer to see what was happening. When the wheel lifted the trailer to escape it came down hard and the impact of the hub against the concrete road bent the axle. The tire was rubbing on the frame and melting. We limped into a small town, probably Redding, and found a camp ground. It was Friday evening by that time, and finding help to fix the axle was nonexistent until Monday. Luckily, I was able to find a shop that could do the job, but it would take two days. We left the trailer with the fixer and checked into a motel. We spent the time sight seeing the area.

Since this event came to mind, I have recalled three more break down stories on our vacation trips pulling a camper. It has been fifty to fifty-five years that this event was tucked into the folds of my brain, and it took Jerry’s unfortunate breakdown to trigger the memory.

We drove over eight thousand miles during our five week National Park Tour and arrived home physically tired but very refreshed with memories that have lasted a lifetime. I want to do it again, but this time without the trailer, and not constrained by a five week time limit.

Spring’s Here, No wait It’s Gone

Throughout the month of April I have been shaking my head in wonderment. Over the year’s I have witnessed snow and beautiful mild temperatures and this year we saw some record high temps. The tee-shirts and shorts came out in droves. Air conditioners were turned on as inside temps headed toward the nineties. “This is not right,” I kept telling myself, and I was right. Today, the temperature is forty degrees cooler than it was yesterday, and it continues to drop. If that isn’t enough Mother Nature decided to water the lawns and gardens. It is perfect hypothermia weather.

The opportunity alarm went off at 6:30 this morning, and I turned it off then rolled over to sleep some more. I finally pulled myself out of bed at 8:15, had breakfast, and made it to 10:30 mass. Since then I have read a book, played in my shop, and watched Youtube videos. At this moment I am waiting for Lovely’s sirloin roast to finish and then we will over eat supper.

I had a weird dream two nights ago, and it continues to play over and over in my mind. Have you ever dreamed a scene so real that you actually thought you were living it? In this dream I was watching the Chicago skyline from the west and about five miles from the center. The skyscrapers were backed by a beautiful blue sky. It was windy, very windy. I swore I could see the buildings sway in the breeze, and the longer I watched the more they swayed. I’m thinking this is not good. It wasn’t. The three tallest buildings continued to sway more and more until finally one of them broke in the middle. I’m thinking I hope this is not the twin towers all over again. The buildings broke off in the center and started to topple into a heap in the center of the city. My mind was already beginning to feel for the people in the buildings and on the ground around them. Then something even stranger happened. The top half of the skyscrapers didn’t crash to the ground. The wind swept them away and they flew westward like hot air balloons leaving their stubs vibrating into rubble. My mind then began to envision the fifty story tops eventually crash landing into the the west side of Chicago causing major death. The day suddenly turned into night and I never saw the end.

Dreams are weird, and I know if my mother was still alive she would interpret it for me, she always did. Some people say that dreams are a way the brain deals with built up junk. It has to clear the clutter to make room for new thoughts and more weird dreams. Maybe it was the result of temperatures that were too high for the season.

Christmas Card Greetings

Yesterday I finally dressed, and took my Christmas cards to the post office. I needed stamps and while there I bought them, stuck them on the letters, and mailed them. It was the first time I did anything productive after my minimally invasive procedure on the prostate. I hate to think what the recovery would be like had I opted for one of the invasive procedures. Nevertheless, I felt good enough to drive to the P.O. On the way there I began think about how I started sending Christmas cards, why do I do it?

The answer is pretty simple, I do it because my parents did it, and my wife Barbara’s parents did it. I remember as a kid watching my parents team up at the dining room table to hand write, stuff, and lick envelopes. My parents had many friends and they all exchanged cards for the holiday.

That got me to thinking who the heck invented the Christmas card in the first place. History tells me that before 1843 the upper crust British were in the habit of writing lengthy holiday letters to friends. They would then send a servant to hand carry the greeting to the friend. Then in 1843, along came Henry Cole who worked for the newly invented postal service. His job was to encourage people to use the new service. It was he who invented the very first Christmas greeting card on a single piece of heavy paper. On it he printed a traditional holiday scene, and a Christmas Greeting. These cards were printed and pre-posted with a stamp and called the penny postal, and thus the snow-ball started rolling down the hill.

The volume of cards sent by mail is diminishing rapidly as folks are opting to send electronic messaging over the printed card. The U.S.Postal Service, however still sells Christmas stamps. When they started this tradition the stamp depicted only a Christian scene. This year I had a choice between six designs depicting 2022 holiday seasons, and three from last year as well, and twelve more new commemoratives. At sixty cents each stamp, I shelled out $120 bucks for two hundred stamps and the USPS got that much richer.

At one time I would have bought many more just to add to my collection, but since I am faced with disposing of said collection I have learned that stamp collecting, even though it still does exist is no longer popular. My collection dates back to 1947 when I began at the urging of Sister Flora my fourth grade teacher. All I know is that many foolish people like me spend more money than necessary on stamps for their collections. All of them believing it is a good investment and will grow in value. I have yet to see a collector sell his collection at over face value.

When Dad and Mom sent their cards the postage was three cents, today, it is twenty times higher at sixty cents.

Since I am wrestling with the idea of no longer sending cards through the mail, I will test an idea out on you my BLOG readers. Here is my 2022 Christmas letter to you as a friend.

                                      December 18, 2022

Dear Friend:

I love reading Christmas letters. Friends report their activities, and those of their children and grandchildren. When I don’t see a friend for a long time reading all of those details makes me happy. Many times, I learn that someone has moved and I didn’t know it, or worse that a friend died. Watching families grow and shrink are all a part of this magnificent life God has granted us. That is why we celebrate the birth of Jesus each year, because we love Him, and we see His love in the families we know.
My own life is not very exciting anymore, not that it ever was, but things are slowing down. I haven’t traveled since 2016, except to drive to the Grumpa Joe family reunion in Covert. Otherwise, I drive the same car, live in the same house, eat the same food, sleep the same hours, and drink red wine with the same terrific friends. Even my plan to move into an apartment changed, and instead, I did some remodeling by finishing the basement.
The kids are doing well. Jacque has passed the five-year mark with her cancer, but she continues to develop side effects which the doctors can’t decide are from the cancer, or her radiation treatment. As poor as she feels, she insists on visiting her dad most every Sunday. Her two kids are out of the nest, Jenna started college and Joey works as a chef. My oldest son Steve turned 60 this year. I can’t believe he is just a few years away from retirement. His oldest son Ben started college, he’s headed toward pharmacy. God knows I can use another pharmacist to keep me straight with my collection of pills, Bradley continues in high school. Michael the youngest is also an empty nester. Dana and Abbey moved to the towns they work in, and Dan finished his degree in Astro-engineering, but signed up for a master’s degree. He wants to keep on learning more and more about less and less until he knows everything about nothing.
Lovely and I invited her grandson Gerry to come and live with us, and by golly he accepted. That means my family is growing again. Barbara celebrates her twentieth year in heaven, Peggy her fourth, and I left Panduit for retirement twenty years ago.
Work on intarsia art has slowed down because of the remodeling, but will resume again soon. One thing I did was to build myself a shop with walls, lights, outlets, and shelves to keep things neat. Note, I didn’t make a home-made Christmas card this year. During the summer, I help Lovely with her vegetable garden tending to pickles and cucumbers which I call the Pickle Factory. She makes dill pickles nearly every day of the summer. That girl loves her pickles (so do I).
After fifteen years I resigned from the Lions Club board of directors, but remain active as a plain Lion. Instead, I joined the Board of Directors for OASIS a support group for people with vision impairment. So many things to do, and so little time or energy to do them.
For once I have put up my outside Christmas lights before the temp dropped below freezing. In years past I hated the frozen fingers and ears, but loved the Vodka warmups. This year I just loved the Vodka.
Here is wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

With all our love,

Grumpa Joe & I.

Annual Christmas Story-Santa Is Missing

Santa is Missing is short, and easy to read. I am presenting it to you as my gift. The story is very adult like in composition since the view-point changes every chapter. Children twelve and older will have no trouble reading it by themselves. Kids younger than twelve may need you to read it to them.

There are a few characters I should identify:

1. Morty Angel is the Guardian Angel assigned to Ben

2. Ben is a ten year old who is guarded by Morty Angel

3. Jasper is a Lead Elf who works for Santa

4. Gabriel is the Archangel working in Heaven as God’s assistant

5. Sentra-vision, a special communication device used to call heaven.

6. Sky-scooter, a special flying scooter given to Morty by friends. Since he cannot fly like other angels he needs the Sky-scooter to travel. It has amazing properties.

7. Polly is a polar bear, a friend of Morty’s

8. Major Joe ‘Do-Do’ Taylor is an Air Force pilot at Elmendorf Air Base.

There are cartoon pictures scattered throughout the story done by Grumpa Joe.


Santa is Missing

Grumpa Joe

Chapter One-God Calls

Morty sat invisible on Ben’s shoulder. He watched the snow falling gently. Ben listened to Miss Brown. The temperature dropped since they got to school this morning. Ben looked out the window and wished he could be playing in it.  Miss Brown went over math sets. There were two more days before school let out for the Christmas holiday.

Morty’s head bobbed with sleep when his wings fluttered. He jumped to attention as his wings fluttered again. “God is paging me,” he said to himself. Morty raised the end of his Sentra-vision belt to his eye. He saw Gabriel sitting at the desk outside God’s office. He squeezed the belt to signal that he was ready to receive. Gabriel pushed a button on his console and God appeared. Morty watched and listened carefully.

“Santa is in trouble. I want you to help him. It is only a few days until my Son’s birthday celebration. I don’t want Christmas to be spoiled because Santa can’t make it on time. Leave immediately.”

The bell rang just as God finished the message. School was over for the day.

Ben rushed to get his boots and coat.  He ran out of school with his Guardian Angel hanging onto his sleeve.

“I want to be first in the new snow, he whispered to Morty.”

Ben jumped into the deep new snow, and fell backwards. He swept his arms above his head and spread his legs apart.

“Look, Morty, I’m making an angel.”

That’s when Morty became visible and told  Ben to get ready. “We have to go rescue Santa.”


“We have to go rescue Santa, God just told me to go help him. Come on, get onto the sky scooter.”

“But, but, but . . . my parents will wonder where I am.”

“Don’t worry. God will send an angel to let them know that you are okay. Now, let’s go, Santa needs us.”

Ben climbed on and wrapped his arms around his guardian angel. Morty set the navigator for the North Pole, then pushed the thrust button. They were out of sight in an instant.

To be continued…




Chapter Two-Where is He?

Santa is never late said Mrs. Claus to herself. She paced back and forth wondering where he was.

“He has never been late before,”  she explained to Gabriel over the Angel Network.  “He left at 8:00 p.m. last night for a training ride with Rudolph and the  first team. On a regular day, he is back by midnight. It is  3:00 a.m. and he is still gone. I sent the elves to look for him.”

“Santa keeps a strict training schedule. They have to be in perfect shape to be able to deliver all the gifts. They fly fast, stop on a roof, then start-up fast again. They pull all the presents, and Santa is not a light weight. I keep him on a diet, but poor Santa never loses a pound,” said Mrs. Claus.

The elves were still very busy making toys and wrapping presents. They used Santa’s computer to know how many toys to make. Before Christmas, Santa visits children all around the world to ask them if they were bad or good. If they answer “good,” he asks them what they want for Christmas. Each kid gives him a list of toys. Of course, Santa already knows if they were bad or good because he has Sentra-vision like the angels. He keeps a record of all the good deeds and all the bad things that a kid does on his computer.

Elf-Jasper was charting Santa’s route and connecting each gift to a child’s house. He was ready to download the chart into the tracking system on the sleigh when Mrs. Claus asked him to look for Santa.

Jasper ordered his elves to hitch the back-up team to the red sleigh. They left to search all of Santa’s training routes, but it was snowing so hard and they could not see anything.

To be continued…


Ben and Morty Angel are rushing to the North Pole to Find Santa aboard Sky-scooter.


Chapter Three-Rescue Plan

Ben and Morty hung onto the scooter as it sped to Santa Claus Village near the North Pole. Morty used his Sentra-vision belt to get information about the mission. He learned that Santa was missing on a training mission, and the elves could not find him in the snowstorm. Morty wondered how he was going to find Santa.

Ben must have read his mind.

“Morty, why don’t you send a message to all of the animals in the world to look for Santa.”

“Great idea,” Morty shouted over his shoulder. They were traveling so fast the noise from the wind and snow made it hard to hear.

The Scooter, automatically began to slow down and lose altitude. The voyage to Santa’s Village was nearly over. Morty called Jasper to ask for help.

“Jasper, please contact Gabriel. Tell him to spread the word to the animal kingdom. Have them report all suspicious activity.

“Make a special call to the wolves to search for the reindeer with their noses. They have a keen sense of smell and can tell when an animal is hurt. If the reindeer are injured, the wolves will find them,” said Ben.

“Fantastic idea,” said Morty. “Did you copy that Jasper?”

“Ten four,” answered Jasper, “I did.”

Jasper locked Sky-scooter onto the landing beam. Then, he relayed the message to Gabriel.

To be continued…


Morty and Ben begin the plan to find Santa as they fly to the North Pole.


Chapter Four-Roll Call

High on a Mount Denali glacier, deep in a dark crevasse, Santa crawled out from under the green sleigh. He checked himself for broken bones and brushed snow off his suit. He started a roll call.




“Here,” answered Donner weakly.


“I’m here,” he said, “My antlers are tangled in the runner.”


“Here, but my leg is broken.”


“I’m here, scrapped and bleeding.”

“Comet,— Comet, does anyone see Comet?” asked Santa.

“I can feel him,” said Cupid, “He’s out cold.”

“How about Dancer and Vixen?”

“We are okay,” they answered in unison.

“Donner, please help Comet.”

“Dancer, Vixen, see if you can help Prancer.”

“Rudolph, turn your nose on.”

“Oh great, my light doesn’t work, now what do we do?”

“Try harder,” said Santa, “we need that light.”

“How will we find our way home without your light?”

“Why did we crash?” Asked Cupid.

“Something exploded right next to us,” answered Rudolph, “the shock forced me into a downward spin, then my light went out. We broke through the clouds, and saw the mountain, but it was too late. We landed fast, and slid into this crevasse.”

“Comet is waking up,” said Prancer.

“Where am I?”

“We crashed into a crevasse,” answered Prancer.

“Let’s put our heads together and see how we are going to get home,” said Santa.

“Does the  Sentra-vision work?” asked Rudolph. “We can call Jasper. He can  find where our signal is coming from.”

“I checked it before, it doesn’t work either,” said Santa, “See if you can repair it.”

“Blitzen, splint Dasher’s leg. Dancer and Cupid, explore the crevasse in that direction. see if we can climb out of here.”

“Donner and Vixen, explore the opposite direction. I’ll help Rudolph with the Sentra-vision.”

To be continued…




Chapter Five-Under Attack

Sergeant John Jacobs watched the radar at Fort Greeley missile base. Sargeant John served at on the far edge of Alaska. Everything appeared normal until eleven o’clock. At eleven the screen started flashing, and the horn sounded. John nearly jumped out of his seat. A strange blip headed toward North America at very high speed. He knew what all the other blips on the screen were, but this one behaved different.

Could it be a missile coming in? He checked the equipment. Everything was normal. The blip kept coming. John picked up the red phone and dialed Elmendorf Air Force Base.

“Major, we have a red alert coming at us from the west. All the equipment checks out; it is the real thing.”

“I’ll be there in a flash.” Major General Holmes was at home decorating his Christmas tree when the Sergeant called.

“I’m sorry kids, it’s an emergency I have to go.”

Minutes later, Major Holmes saw the blip on the radar screen himself. The object was near the coast line now.

“Scramble the tactical unit,” he ordered.

“Yes sir.”

Elmendorf confirmed the unidentified object approaching U.S. airspace. It was too fast to be an airplane.  It had to be a missile. Three F16 jets sped toward the blip.

“It looks like we’ll intercept it over Denali,” Radioed Major ‘Do-Do’ Taylor.

On this evening Santa took the team to Siberia. He was returning to the North Pole from the extended training flight. The reindeer were at peak condition. Rudolph and the team were feeling good. Santa knew they were ready for Christmas Eve. They would deliver presents to good kids all around the world.

The team was excited. It felt good to fly fast. They loved speed. Santa was anxious to get home early. He and Mrs. Claus still had gifts to wrap for the elves. Mrs. Claus knitted new caps and socks for them.

The F-16‘s approached Denali, the highest peak in North America. A heavy cover of clouds hid the mountain, and the pilots flew by radar. Major Do-Do spotted the object on his radar.  It flew under the clouds. Most of the time the jets flew above the clouds where the the pilots could see the stars and the moon. This flight was different.

Major Do-Do used pilot nicknames to talk to his wingmen.

“Crackers, do you have anything on your radar?”

“Yes I see something that is flying a crazy pattern.”

“I see it too,” said Dogface.

“The orders are to make contact with the object and determine if it is a missile, turn on your after burners,” ordered Do Do, “Let’s catch it.”

All three jets sped up to sixteen hundred miles per hour and broke the sound barrier with a loud bang.

“Did you hear that?” shouted Santa.

“Yes,” they sang in unison, “What was it?”

“I don’t know,” answered Santa “Maybe it is the ice cracking on the glacier below.” Just then, Santa let the reindeer have some fun. He flipped the reins gently, signaling them to go faster. The sleigh jumped forward. The team loved going fast, the faster the better. Even at this high speed they were barely breathing hard. They could go even faster if Santa asked them to.

“Get ready to practice a high speed landing,” said Santa.

“Okay,” responded Rudolph, “Let’s have some fun.” Neither Santa nor the reindeer had any idea that they were being chased by the jets.

Just as Santa gave Rudolph the signal to speed up, Major Do Do received orders to shoot. He fired a missile without knowing that he was shooting at Santa. The rocket was just a few yards behind the sleigh when the team kicked into high gear, and shot forward. They flew faster than the missile. Santa signaled the landing maneuver. Rudolph turned them into a sharp upward loop. The team was at the top of their loop, flying upside down, when the rocket exploded. It blew up just as they curved downward. The explosion caused Rudolph’s nose-light to go out, and knocked them off course.

“Oh oh, this is going to be ugly,” said Rudolph. The confusion caused the team to drop hard and fast.

Do Do, Crackers, and Dogface saw the object disappear from their radar.

“Mission completed,” radioed Do Do, “let’s head for home.”

Rudolph pulled the team out of the loop onto the glacier at top speed. The reindeer skidded and plowed a trench in the snow. Rudolph went down. The team tumbled, rolled, and slid behind him. Dasher clipped a large chunk of ice and shattered his leg. Comet banged his head and went unconscious. After sliding and plowing snow for what seemed like an eternity they disappeared into a deep crevasse.

To be continued…


The Air Force spotted Santa, but thought he was a missile. They fired at the team, but they out ran the missile. The maneuver caused them to crash-land on Denali, and to disappear from all radar.


Chapter 6- THE SEARCH

At the North Pole, Morty and Ben set up a communication center. Ben opened a map of the world and pinned it to a wall. He marked the location of every report that came in from the animal kingdom with a push-pin. The messages began coming in immediately.

Most reports were “nothing sighted, scented, or heard in our sector.”  If a spot on the map looked empty, Morty called the animals in that sector and asked for a report. Soon the map was filled with red push pins. There was one bare spot on the map.  It was in Alaska. It was snowing very hard all over the state and the snow kept the animals from moving around.

Morty called Gabriel, “Send a fleet of Guardian Angels to Alaska, and have them look for Santa.”

Gabriel paged all available angels and sent them to look. Each angel was assigned a sector, and was asked to report unusual activity.

The grizzly bears were hibernating, so they were out, and the wolves, elk, sheep, and goats were all down at lower levels for the winter. The highest points of the mountain were assigned to the bald eagles, but they had to wait for the morning light and for the snow to stop.

Mrs. Claus began to cry. Ben took her to the kitchen to make some tea. There, in the kitchen, he spoke softly and assured her that if anyone could find Santa, Morty could.

Morty studied the map with Jasper. There were red pins everywhere. Where could Santa be?

“Do you see what I see?” asked Morty.

“Yes, there is a big blank spot over Denali.”

“I bet that is where they are,” said Morty, “If he is high on the mountain in the storm, it would explain why we have not heard from anyone there. It also means that we’ll have to use some special tools to find him. I’ll ask my friend Polly to help.”

He called Gabriel over the Sentra-vision.

“Find Polly Polar Bear, and let me know where she is. I think she can help us on Denali.”

“I will get back to you as soon as I find her,” said Gabriel.

Just as he promised, Gabriel called back with Polly’s location, “she is on an ice floe near the North Pole.” He down-loaded her location into Sky Scooter.

“Let’s get going,” said Morty.  Together, they boarded the scooter. Morty hit auto pilot and they were off to find Polly. It was still snowing hard when they left.

Polar bears love the cold, and Polly was on an ice floe hunting for seals. Morty landed on the ice right next to her.

“Hello Polly, meet Ben.”

“I haven’t seen you since last year, what brings you here on a night like this?” asked Polly.

“Santa is missing and I need your help to find him. We think he is lost on Denali,” said Morty.

“I know, I called in my report earlier,” answered Polly.

The three of them squeezed on the scooter, and took off.

On the way, Morty called Gabriel.

“Tell Jasper to get the elves and the Red team ready to meet us.”

“Roger,” answered Gabriel. “While you were fetching Polly I got a report from Guardian Angel Frederick. He was with his pilot who got an order to fire a rocket over Denali.”

“Oh Lord,” said Morty, “I hope it wasn’t directed at Santa.”

To be continued…


Morty and Ben have picked up their friend Polly Polar Bear to help with the search for Santa.


Chapter 7-The Smell of Fire

Morty landed on the top of Denali. Polly jumped off and put her nose into the air.

“Nothing human or animal, but I do smell something, it smells like fire,” said Polly.

“That could be the missile. Can you tell where it is coming from?”

“I can’t tell for sure.”

“Polly, you scout this side of the mountain, Ben and I will fly to the other side. I’ll check with you later.

“Ben, you drive the scooter, and I’ll look for Santa.

“Don’t be afraid,” said Morty, “you will do very well, I trust you very much.”

With that said, Ben and Morty left to start their search.

Polly followed her nose down the mountain. The smell of the fire was still there. She ambled down to the glacier. “This is going to be fun,” she thought, “I’ll just slide on my belly while I search.”

Polly zigzagged going down. The smell of the fire got stronger.  She changed direction and the smell grew weaker. After the third pass, she was certain the smell was stronger on the West side.

“I’ll stay on the side where the smell is strongest, and cut my slide time in half,” she said to herself.

The big polar bear continued sliding, but now she only went half the distance. On her fifth pass the scent was very strong, and she saw disruptions in the snow.

Those look like tracks that have been snowed over.  I’ll stop here and wait for Morty to check in.

Ben and Morty flew back and forth down the opposite side of Denali, and saw nothing unusual.

“It’s time to check on Polly.” Ben pointed the scooter to the top of the mountain and over to the other side where Polly was waiting for them.

Morty called Gabriel.

“Frederick reported that after the missile exploded the object disappeared,” said Gabriel

To be continued…



Posted on 08/12/2010 by Grumpa Joe | Edit

Morty, Ben, and Polly split up to search for Santa on both sides of the mountain. Polly finds something suspicious.


The big snow storm covered over the crevasse, making it impossible for Santa and the reindeer to see. Donner and Dancer returned from their exploration. There was no way out, except up. Rudolph worked on the Sentra-vision unit with Santa. They could not make it work. Rudolph stomped his hoof against the dashboard in frustration and to his surprise his nose lit up.

“Santa, watch this,” he said. He held his hoof against the dash and his nose glowed red. It didn’t light up as brightly as it did when he was leading the sleigh, but it was bright enough to give them some light in the crevasse.

Ben and Morty crossed over the peak of Denali and started down to look for Polly.

“Did you see that?” asked Ben.


“The red snow down below.”

“No, I didn’t see it. Do you see Polly yet?”

“Yes, she is just up ahead.”

Ben landed the Sky-scooter next to Polly.

“I’m glad you finally came, I found something interesting in the snow, and a few seconds ago I thought I saw a red glow in the snow up ahead,” said Polly.

“I saw it too,” said Ben.

“Let’s check it out,” said Morty. “Turn on the signal beacon so Jasper will know where to send the rescue team. Ben, you hover over us while I ride on Polly’s back. We will move forward cautiously.”

“There it is again,” shouted Ben, “a red flash in the snow about fifty yards ahead of us.”

Polly walked slowly down the glacier with Morty perched on her back. She followed the tracks, then suddenly she stopped.

“I smell reindeer blood,” she said, “it’s fresh under the new snow.”

“Where are they? Asked Morty, Keep on walking.”

“I just saw the red light again,” said Ben from the air. The snow lit up with a red glow just a few feet ahead.”

“They could be covered by snow,” said Polly, “but I don’t see any bumps or mounds anywhere.”

“Let me try something,” said Ben, “if I pass over the top of the snow quickly, maybe I can stir it up, and uncover something.”

“Go ahead,” said Morty, “tap the thrust button, and then hold on tight.” Ben tapped the button, and the scooter shot down the mountain, creating a turbulence of air behind it. Snow flew everywhere. Polly and Morty felt like they were in a blizzard. The swirling snow covered them over. Ben turned at the bottom of the glacier, and flew back. Morty and Polly were brushing snow off of themselves

“There is a hole in the snow with a red light coming out of it,” said Ben.

Polly took a few steps forward. She stopped abruptly, and backed up. Suddenly, the snow covering the crevasse began to cave in revealing a deep canyon in front of them.

“A crevasse,” growled Polly. “They slid down the glacier into the crevasse. That explains why we couldn’t see them or smell them.”

The falling snow-bridge nearly buried Santa and the team.

“I hear voices, someone has found us,” said Santa, “Rudolph keep your nose flashing on and off.”

Rudolph was up to his antlers in snow and couldn’t move.

“I need some help to dig Rudolph out of the snow pile, come here quickly,” called Santa. Cupid started jumping as hard as he could and soon freed himself.  He sprang up and over to Rudolph and started moving snow with his antlers. Santa was on the other side digging with his hands.

Morty got on the scooter with Ben and looked down into the crevasse. He saw Santa and Cupid shoveling snow off of Rudolph.

“Don’t worry Santa we’ll clear the snow out of there in a second.”

Morty moved Ben out of the driver’s seat. “Hold on Ben.”

Morty took Sky-scooter high over the crevasse in a big arc. He nosed downward and tapped the thrust button. Sky-scooter swished down into the crevasse at supersonic speed. Just as he was about to hit Santa, Morty pulled up, and steered the scooter out of the crevasse. The scooter created a vacuum and the snow that fell came flying out after the scooter. It looked like a giant white tail on the end of Sky. The snow arched up and over Polly’s head and landed into a huge pile.

“Gabriel, we found Santa. Send Jasper with the rescue team. They are trapped at the bottom of a deep crevasse,” radioed Morty.

To be continued . . .



Posted on 09/12/2010 by Grumpa Joe | Edit



Mrs. Claus breathed a big sigh when the news came. The elves cheered. Jasper left immediately with the rescue team. He followed the signal sent by Sky-scooter. The Red Team landed on the edge of the crevasse. The elves jumped into action with rope ladders and lifting equipment.

“Take care of Dasher’s leg first, then Comet’s head,” said Santa.

Four elves found Dasher, put a sling around his body, and gently lifted him up to the sleigh. Albert Elf placed a compress against Comet’s head, and Mercy bandaged Prancer’s bloody shoulder. It was Prancer’s blood that Polly smelled.

The Red Team raced back to the infirmary at the North Pole with Dasher, Prancer, and Comet then returned. The elves lifted Santa and the reindeer out of the crevasse while they were gone. Only one more thing had to be rescued; Santa’s favorite supersonic sleigh.

The sleigh was wedged between the walls in the deep split. Neither Santa nor Morty could budge it. Ben came to the rescue again.

“I’ll tie a rope to the runner and you tie the other end to Sky-scooter,” he said.

“Great idea,” said Morty.

Ben shimmied down a rope into the crevasse.

“We will use the power of the scooter to pull the sleigh out.”

“I can pull too,” said Polly, “let me try first.”

Morty looped a rope around Polly’s neck. Ben tied the other end to the runner.

“Pull hard Polly,” said Morty, “pull really hard.” Polly pulled with all her might, and the sled moved a tiny bit.

“That’s it Polly,” yelled Morty,“it’s moving.”

Ben pushed on the sleigh from another direction, and loosened it some more.

“Pull again, Polly,” said Morty.

Polly strained and the sleigh started to move up the wall.

“I can’t hold it,” she said.

“Ben, is the rope tied to the runner?

“Yes, it is.”

Morty pushed the thrust button for power.

“Pull, Polly, pull.”

She pulled as hard as she could. On the other side of the crevasse Sky-scooter made a long loud roar, and the sleigh inched out of the hole onto the glacier.

“Thank you,” said Santa. “Now, please take me to the North Pole, it is Christmas Eve, and I have work to do.”

To be continued . . .



Posted on 10/12/2010 by Grumpa Joe | Edit

In the last episode, Ben and Morty  rescued Santa and the reindeer from the bottom of the crevasse.


Morty rushed Santa back to the North Pole. Polly said she would find her way back alone, and Ben returned with the elves.

Mrs. Claus and the elves had a back up sleigh packed and ready to go, but there was still one problem. Santa didn’t have a replacement light for Rudolph’s nose.

“I’ll lead you Santa,” said Morty, “with Sky-scooter I can fly anywhere.”

“Would you do that for me Morty?”

“My orders from the Boss were to make sure his Son’s birthday was not spoiled. If you don’t get the presents to all the good kids, they will be disappointed on Jesus’ birthday.”

By this time, Ben arrived.

“Can I come too? He asked.

“You can ride with us until we get to your house.”

“We will go to your house first,” said Santa. ‘Morty will tuck you into bed while I climb down the chimney. After I eat the milk and cookies, we will be on our way again.”

That night Morty rode on Sky Scooter at the front of the reindeer team. Morty and Sky-scooter did such a good job, Santa didn’t even know Rudolph was not there. Santa took off from each roof shouting his wish

“Merry Christmas, ho, ho, ho.”

Morty helped Santa complete the delivery of Christmas presents to good children all around the world to celebrate Jesus birthday.

As Morty led Santa from house to house, Ben slept. He was cozy and warm in his bed dreaming of how he helped to rescue Santa from the glacier. He remembered having tea with Mrs. Claus and assuring her that Morty would find Santa.

On Christmas morning, Ben awoke and ran into the room where the Christmas tree stood. There were presents piled everywhere. Morty was there too. He sat on a pile of packages with Ben’s name on them. He yawned, and stretched his arms out wide. Ben dove into the presents and started tearing them open.

Morty thought to himself, I’m really tired. The trip with Santa was a great work out. I wonder how he does it every year?




Return of the Junco

Just what is a Junco? It is a small bird about the size of a sparrow. He is black to dark grey from his beak to his tail. His belly is a pure white as is the underside of his tail feathers. He has arrived from the north because winter has set in there, and he likes warmer climates during the dark months. He will stick around until April or May when it is safe to return to the mountains of Canada to begin breeding. Why he chooses to spend his winters here where the snow and cold is almost as bad as it is in the mountains is a mystery. I use his arrival as notice that our cold season has come with him. I also use his departure or rather his disappearance as warning that Illinois will be getting hot again. He is my weather detector, and I love him.

This morning I spotted my very first Junco of the 2022 winter season, welcome birdie. Officially, winter is still two months away, but the days are much shorter and cooler. His early arrival could be a sign that we will have a very cold and long winter season.