The Case of the Missing Lawn Chairs #TuesdayTidbit #Memoir #Inspiration

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. Her brown hair is cut short and frames her face. She is wearing a bright red shirt and a dark, flowy scarf swirled with hues of purple, pinks and blues.

 

THE CASE OF THE MISSING LAWN CHAIRS

By Abbie Johnson Taylor

Copyright 2021.

 

“Somebody stole our lawn chairs!” Dad announced.

For many years during the summer months, my family attended weekly band concerts at Kendrick Park in Sheridan, Wyoming, on Tuesday evenings after dinner. We brought lawn chairs and listened to the community band playing old standards, marches, and popular songs. Afterward, we trekked to a nearby ice cream stand for dessert, leaving our lawn chairs stashed behind a tree out of the way, sure in the knowledge that they would still be there when we returned to claim them before walking home. But now, all we could do was gape at the empty spot where we expected the chairs to be.

It was the summer of 1983, and I was home from college on break between my junior and senior years. My ten-year-old cousin, Shelley, who was visiting from South Dakota with her family, had accompanied Dad and me and our Irish setter Clancy to the park. She said, “Oh, no.”

Clancy had wandered off and was sniffing something nearby, blissfully unaware of this tragedy. Dad finally said, “Well, why don’t you two start walking home? I’ll look around and see if whoever took them dumped them somewhere else. I left my New Yorker magazine in my chair, and I wasn’t finished reading it.”

With Clancy, he headed off in one direction while Shelley and I sauntered the other way toward home, which was only about a block away. While waiting to cross a busy street, Shelley suddenly cried, “Look, there are our chairs.”

“Where?” I asked, turning my head this way and that. With my limited vision, I couldn’t spot them.

“They were in the back of that pick-up that passed us. One of the guys in the cab just gave us the finger.”

“Let’s wait for Dad,” I suggested.

A few minutes later when he caught up with us, and Shelley told him what she’d seen, he said, “Well, I’ll be darned. Come on. Let’s go home. It’s safe to cross now.”

At home, we found Mother watching television in the living room. When Shelley excitedly told her what had happened, Mother asked her, “Did you see what the truck looked like?”

“Yeah, it was a green truck,” Shelley answered. “and there were two guys in the cab.”

Turning to Dad, Mother said, “Well, you should call the police. With Shelley’s description, they might be able to find the chairs.”

“Yeah,” Shelley cried, jumping up and down and clapping her hands.

Clancy, who always got excited when anyone else did, voiced his approval while dancing in circles and wagging his tail.

After shushing the dog, Dad said, “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt.” He made his way to the phone in the hall.

That summer, I’d been reading an Ellery Queen murder mystery which featured some police brutality. Not having had much experience with law enforcement, I wasn’t sure it was such a good idea to call the police about stolen lawn chairs. At least we didn’t have a dead body on our hands.

But Shelley was so excited about the possibility of helping find the lawn chairs. I didn’t want her to be scared. So, I remained silent while Dad made the call.

A few minutes later, when Clancy’s barking announced the arrival of the local constabulary, Shelley and I were sitting on the couch together. She must have read my mind for she moved closer to me, giggling. “You nervous?” she asked.

I should have told her there was nothing to be nervous about. Remembering what I’d heard a thousand times on the television show, Dragnet, I should have advised her to give them just the facts.

Instead, I only laughed nervously as Dad opened the front door while Clancy continued to bark and wag his tail. Grabbing his collar, Dad said, “Let me just put him on the side porch.”

To my relief, instead of an entire crew of policemen who arrived after Ellery Queen reported a murder, there was only one detective. Instead of barking orders at people like Inspector Queen, he introduced himself and engaged us in small talk before asking about the crime.

Shelley was a trooper. She described that pick-up truck and the guys in the cab as best she could, saying, “I didn’t get the license plate number, though.”

“That’s all right,” the officer said, scribbling in his notebook. “That sounds like Ricky Rodriguez’s truck.”

Dad described the lawn chairs and said, “My New Yorker magazine was in one of them.”

“Okay,” the officer said, scribbling some more. “I’ll see what I can do. It was nice meeting you all.”

The next day, Mother received a phone call from the detective. He told her they’d found the chairs, along with other contraband, in the back of that green pick-up. Unfortunately, they needed to keep all found items for evidence, and we didn’t get the chairs back until October. But miracle of miracles, that New Yorker magazine was still folded up in one of those chairs.

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Note: The above true story appears in the current issue of Magnets and Ladders, which can be read here. You’ll also find it on Beetley Pete’s blog here. I was inspired to write this piece last year while taking a memoir class from fellow author Glenda Beall, who blogs here.

 

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

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A Road Trip to Remember #Open Book Blog Hop

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

Please be sure to read to the end of this post to find out about a live interview in which I’ll be participating tomorrow. If you miss the program, don’t despair. It’ll be recorded, and I’ll share it here and on Facebook as soon as it’s available.

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Stevie Turner’s Open Book Blog Hop question for this week is this. “You’re going on a road trip: where are you headed? With whom? What are your snacks? Music? Plans?”

Since today is St. Patrick’s Day, I’d love to tell you about a road trip through Ireland, but I’ve never been there. However, I remember many road trips I took with my family through the United States when I was growing up.

My most memorable journey was one I took with my father in 1971 when I was ten. We were living in Tucson, Arizona, at the time. My paternal grandfather here in Sheridan, Wyoming, had just passed away, and Grandma needed help with the family’s coin-operated machine business. That summer, Dad volunteered to drive up to Sheridan and give her a hand for a while.

Originally, he was planning to go alone, but at the last minute, he asked me if I wanted to accompany him, and, always ready for a new adventure, I said yes. We left one warm evening in our old Mercedes Benz. After driving for a few hours, we finally stopped at a campsite where Dad unrolled a sleeping bag on the ground next to the car, and I stretched out in the back seat.

The next day, still in Arizona, we drove through the Navajo reservation and stopped at a trading post, where we saw Indian beadwork and other items. Being visually impaired and only ten years old, I couldn’t appreciate such things, but I enjoyed sitting on the porch, drinking Coke, and watching people come and go.

We then drove into Colorado and spent that night in Durango. Below is a poem I wrote about that night, which appears in my collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. you can click on the Play button below the poem to hear me read it.

 

A Memorable Stop in Colorado

by Abbie Johnson Taylor

 

In the summer of 1971 at the age of ten,
I traveled with Dad from our home in Tucson, Arizona,
to Sheridan, Wyoming, to visit Grandma.
While bar hopping in Durango,
I had Coke–Dad drank something stronger.
One establishment served hot dogs.
I liked them plain with not even a bun.
I must have had at least three.
Intoxicated, we made our way to the car.
I slept on the back seat
while Dad slept on the ground nearby.
Who knows where we were when we woke up?

The next day, we drove to Mesa Verde, where we toured a cave, crawling through parts of it on hands and knees, which I found exciting. We spent that night with friends in Beulah. Despite my limited vision, I loved stairs, and this house had them on the outside. So, to get from one level to another, you had to go outdoors and up the stairs, then enter the house through another door. If I remember correctly, there were three levels. I also enjoyed playing with other kids in a nearby creek.

The next afternoon, we drove to Denver, where we spent some time with my maternal grandparents before traveling the rest of the way to Wyoming. In Sheridan, I loved to play the jukebox and pinball and bowling games in my paternal grandmother’s garage, which had been converted into the coin-operated machine business’s shop. I met a couple of girls close to my age, who lived down the street, and we spent a lot of time listening to music in the shop. I got to go swimming, and we spent one day in the mountains where we observed a log rolling competition, which was interesting, although I couldn’t see a lot of the action. We also attended a rodeo parade and local band concerts in the park, which I also enjoyed.

In August, when it was time for me to start school, Dad needed to stay in Sheridan a little longer. So, he drove me to Denver, and I flew alone back to Tucson, which was also exciting. Dad returned home a month later. In the summer of 1973, my family moved to Sheridan permanently, and Dad ran the coin-operated machine business for the next twenty years until it was sold.

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What about your most memorable road trip? You can either tell me about it in the comment field below or click here to participate in Stevie Turner’s blog hop.

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Thursday March 18, 2021, Tell It to the World – Chat with Author Abbie Johnson Taylor: 7:30pm ET, 4:30pm PT, 1.30pm HT

 

In this month’s call, guest author Abbie Johnson Taylor talks with us about her writing life and more. In a brief interview, led by Patty Fletcher, Abbie will give a presentation and then take questions from the audience.

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of two novels, two poetry collections, and a memoir and is working on a third novel. Her work has appeared in The Writer’s Grapevine, Magnets and Ladders, The Weekly Avocet, and other publications. She’s visually impaired and lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, where she cared for her totally blind, partially paralyzed late husband, worked as a registered music therapist with nursing home residents, and helped other blind and visually impaired individuals. When not writing, she participates in a water exercise class, sings in a women’s group, and enjoys walking, reading, and listening to podcasts.

Website: http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com

 

To join us and subscribe to our email list to receive the daily schedule, which will include Abbie’s call-in info, send a blank email to: Acb-community-events+subscribe@acblists.org

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By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. No matter how you read it, please be sure to review it wherever you can. That goes for all my books. Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, happy, and healthy.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

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How I Coped with Summer

Now that fall has come, I reflect back to “those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer,” and as the song says, I wish we could just stay in that season. Like most, this past summer went by way too fast. It wasn’t as long or hot as other summers. Of course, like everyone else, I complained about the heat, but I had my ways of dealing with it.

The window air conditioning unit in the spare room was my best friend. With the help of ceiling fans scattered throughout the house, it kept things pretty cool. I drank plenty of water, as I always do. With a few pieces of ice, it also kept me cool. Then of course, there was my old pal, Dr. Pepper. It was just what the doctor ordered, although it took away some of the water I drank, but that was okay because I could always drink more water.

On summer evenings when the weather cooled, I sat in my back yard and did email or read a book, slapping mosquitos when necessary and eventually moving indoors to avoid being bitten. I sometimes went with friends to concerts in the park, where we bought ice cream at a nearby stand.

In the early mornings before it got hot, I took long walks by the creek, feeling the cool breeze caress my bare legs and arms. It was a great way to start a hot summer day.

When I was growing up, my family often took trips to the mountains to cool off during the summer, but now, my family is either dead or scattered across the country, and I don’t have many opportunities to visit the highlands, especially since I don’t drive.

In my younger adult years, I attended a camp for the visually impaired on Casper Mountain, approximately 200 miles south, then west of Sheridan, Wyoming, where I now live. Here, I made friends and learned computer and other skills and had plenty of opportunities to walk in the woods and enjoy nature. Although the camp is still there today, there’s no adult program anymore due to an unwillingness by the state and other entities to pay for it.

Now, summer is gone, and fall is upon us. I already miss those days of relaxing in my back yard with a Dr. Pepper and a good book, the sounds of band music floating through the air at the park, the salted caramel ice cream I enjoyed during such a concert. Oh well, there’s always next year, isn’t there?

How did you cope with summer heat? Are you glad fall is here? Why or why not?

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

 

Sunday Best: Concert in the Park

Last Tuesday, I went with friends to a concert at a local park’s band shell. Such programs are held every Tuesday during July and August. This week, the community band, made up mostly of music teachers and students, played a variety of old favorites and new pieces.

My friends and I bought ice cream from a nearby stand. I had a scoop of salted caramel in a dish, and that was good.

There’s also a food truck that sells burgers and chips, so next week, we’ll go a little earlier so we’ll have time for both a hamburger and ice cream before the concert starts. A different band will play. I’m looking forward to that.

What’s the best thing that happened to you this past week? Please share in the comments field. I hope something good happens to you this coming week.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Saturday Song: Amazing Grace–Scottish Bagpipes

Last week when I attended a concert by the U.S. Air Force band in a local park, I heard one lone bagpiper play “Amazing Grace.” He played it three times, and after the first time, I half expected the other band members to present bagpipes and play along with him, but of course they didn’t.

Nevertheless, that lone bagpipe took me back several months to January of this year when I visited my brother and his family in Florida. One day, we attended an epiphany ceremony at a local church where we heard a chorus of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace.” That was phenomenal.

My mother liked “Amazing Grace,” so I sang it acapela at her memorial service after she passed in 1999. However, she didn’t like bagpipes. Who knows why I’m so taken with this version, which is similar to what I heard in Florida? I hope you find it as moving as I do. Enjoy your Saturday.

 

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.