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

Next Post: Monday, October 29th


About twofelines

What to say? I love my family and friends. I also love kids, cats, and books. Oh, and potato chips and Cheez-its. I am a retired teacher who still loves to be in the classroom, so now I am a substitute teacher.
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5 Responses to Zeke

  1. Lisa Gross says:

    Very nice!

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Pi Cheney says:

    Too bad you aren’t teaching in Elementary school so you can share it with little kids. Pi

  3. Ann says:

    How fabulous. This is why I collect old, first edition children’s books – mostly picture books. And now I know who to send my Dick and Jane plastic, sandwich tote bag to!! 🙂 Yes, you. My grandfather Ernest who greww up on the lower east side of Manhattan, after the family emigrated from Russia, used to tell me about the roasted chestnuts kids could roast or buy, buried in ashes in the steel drums with fires, on street corners, to help the men keep warm. Everything in the 1880s-1890s had at least two purposes. From Papa I learned that our sharpest, most comforting memories usually involved food, and smells.

  4. Bob says:

    So funny!!! I’m 66 years old and was sitting here and for some reason thought about Zeke and the potatoes that I remembered from about 1955 or 56.. Never thought to google it till just now and searched by: “Zeke potatoes leaves” the same as you and came up with your posting.

    Yeah, there really was something kind of exciting about that story and I remember that I imagined that it would be so much fun. I’m sure if I told my grand kids about it they would just roll their eyes.

    Anyway, it is nice sharing memories with another “old fogey”.

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