While there are still leaves on the trees, I want to tell you a story. It’s about Zeke and me, and it goes back about 67 years! See, that’s when I read a story in my basal reader (Yes, a basal reader) about a handyman named Zeke, and the way he surprised the neighborhood children.
I’m not sure why I was I so impressed by this story. Maybe it was because my father always raked and burned leaves. Maybe it was because all the neighborhood children used to gather around my father when he was working outside, and that reminded me of Zeke.
Well, at any rate, the story I would think of every fall for all these years is that one day when Zeke was raking leaves, all the children helped him., so they had a huge pile of leaves from all the yards. The children wanted to burn the leaves right away, but Zeke told them they must wait until after dark and come back with their parents. With all the neighbors gathered around, Zeke burned the leaves, and when the fire had gone out, it was time for a surprise. Zeke had put potatoes under the pile of leaves, and now there was a baked potato for each child and parent.
With the advent of Internet search engines, more than ten years ago I began trying to find the story every now and then. The problem was that I didn’t know the name of the book and could only guess it was a Dick and Jane book used in the early grades. When I did find a general site, there were a number of books, but no way of knowing which book might contain the story.
Then, a few weeks ago, I Googled Zeke & leaves & potatoes and was directed to a site devoted to the Dick and Jane graded series by Scott Foresman. The owner of the site seemed knowledgeable and accessible, so I contacted her. She told me she was pretty sure the story was in “Friends and Neighbors,” and directed me to a site where I could purchase it. I was prepared to pay big bucks, as it was a vintage item, but the book, even including postage, was under $20.
When the package arrived, I tore open the wrapping, and there was the book, and there was the story that I had remembered for so long: “The Big Surprise.” I have no idea why I never asked my father to put potatoes under the piles of leaves, no idea why I never did it myself.
But that story is a memory of autumn as surely as anything that happened in real life.
© Dorothy C. Judd
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