Grandpa's Harmonica

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Chapter 21

Things were back to normal at school by Wednesday, other than the little kids following Homer around begging him to tell them the snowstorm story again. Thursday morning, Sam ran in waving a newspaper.

“Jamie, Homer, our story’s on the front page.”

They crowded around to see the paper. Homer pointed to the headline and said, “Hey! It says, ‘Three Children Survive Snowstorm in Snow Cave’. We ain’t children.”

Sam said, “Oh, don’t worry about that. It’s just how they write.” Opening the paper, he said, “Everyone sit down and I’ll read it.”

When he finished, a second grader pouted and said, “That ain’t how Homer says it happened.”

Homer said, “That’s for sure. Lemme tell you what really happened.”

He jerked his boots off and acted out the story, making it more exciting than the last time. Each time Homer told the story, he drifted farther from the facts and Jamie figured if Homer told it a few more times, he wouldn’t recognize himself anymore. All the little kids liked it though, cheering and clapping when Homer finished.

Jamie read the article again and said, “Sam, what’s this about us belonging to a school Explorer’s Club? We don’t have one.”

“We do now. I asked Miss Kuelmann and she said we could start one if we were going to learn things and it didn’t take up class time. As long as we have to be inside because of the weather, we could meet at lunch, I mean, dinner recess. What do you think?”

“Sounds good, especially if you’ll teach us what you learned at the Explorer’s Club in New York. I want to make one of those survival kits.”

At recess, Homer, Sam and Jamie ate and then pushed their desks together to plan the club. Sam said, “We should write down what we decide. Jamie, would you take notes?”

He pulled a tablet and a pencil out of his desk. “Ready. What should we call it?”

“Let’s use the school name and call it the ‘Otter Creek Explorer’s Club.’”

Jamie wrote the name in big block letters at the top of a sheet of paper. “Now what?”

“We have to decide what the club’s purpose is and who the members will be. The purpose of the New York City Club is to ‘Scientifically Explore the Land, Sea and Air.’ I don’t how much science we can do, so what if we said our purpose is to ‘Explore the Land, Sea and Air’?”

Jamie wrote that under the name and when Sam looked at what he wrote, he nodded. “Good, the next thing is membership. Anyone who wants to join can be an explorer. Okay?”

Homer said, “We ain’t gonna have girls in the club, are we? Girls can’t be explorers.”

Sam frowned, leaned toward him and in a voice that reminded Jamie of fingernails scraping across a blackboard asked, “And why not?”

If Sam had asked him a question in that tone of voice, Jamie would’ve agreed with anything he wanted. But Homer didn’t hear the warning and said, “They’re girls, that’s why. Girls can’t do stuff like that.”

“Homer, unless you can come up with a better reason than that, we’ll let girls join if they want to. They go to school here too.”

He sat back and crossed his arms over his chest. “No! We ain’t gonna have girls.”

When Jamie saw Sam scowl and his eyes narrow, he slid his desk back to get out of a possible line of fire.

Sam made a fist and held it three inches from the end of Homer’s nose. “Homer, girls can join the club, if they want to. All right?”

Homer’s face turned pale and his eyes crossed trying to focus on the fist hovering in front of his face. Sam and Homer had a staring contest until Homer swallowed a couple of times and said, “Okay, girls can be members.” When Sam dropped his fist, Homer quickly said, “But only if they wanna be.”

“Fine, if they want to join. The next thing is to think up a motto.”

Jamie said, “Okay. What’s a motto?”

“A motto is a sentence that describes the club and I’ve got a great one. Do you know who Amelia Earhart is?” Homer and Jamie shook their heads. “She’s an airplane pilot and has set all kinds of flying records. She spoke at the Explorer’s Club and said ‘Adventure is worthwhile in itself.’ That should be our motto.”

Homer said, “Yeah, I kinda like that.”

Sam checked what Jamie had written. “That’s good. Next, we need a list of guidelines.”

Jamie said, “What’re guidelines?”

“Guidelines are sort of like rules that we’ll use to run the club and do our exploring.”

Homer groaned. “We’re gonna have rules? That ain’t my idea of fun.”

“We have to have guidelines so we can work together. Dad had a list and all the people on a trip had to agree to them before they left. They changed for each trip, but I remember some of the important ones. Write these down, Jamie, we can add more later.”

“Okay. We can see how it works and change things as we go.”

“The first one was that each member did his share of the work. The next one was that in order to be safe, no one went anywhere alone. We have to take care of each other, trust each other and keep club secrets. The last one is that we treat everyone we meet with respect because we’re visitors.”

When Jamie finished writing Sam said he’d take the notes home.

The next day before school, Sam pulled out a page of paper and held it up. What Jamie had written on his tablet had been typed at the top of the page along with their names.

Jamie said, “This is swell and it looks official. Who did it?”

“Aunt Lily has a typewriter so I asked her to do it. We’ll get everyone together at recess and see who wants to join. We can add the names of other kids below ours.”

Homer said, “Okay, but we’re only lettin’ girls join if they wanna.”

Jamie saw Sam make a fist behind his back where Homer couldn’t see it and in a tight voice, he said, “I remember, Homer.”

Homer didn’t have to worry because at recess, when Sam announced the club, none of the girls wanted to join. All the boys did including Terry Smith, which surprised Jamie.

Sam wrote their names down and said they’d meet at dinner to decide what to do first.

Miss Kuelmann walked over and said, “As long as you’re organizing things, it’s time to start getting our Christmas program ready.”

Keith, Ken and Jamie all groaned while Homer said, “Again? We do the same thing every year and I’m tired of it.” Everyone but Sam nodded.

Miss Kuelmann put her hands on her hips. “You may be, but the younger children are not. Also, your parents expect a program at the Christmas party and we will have one.”

They continued to complain and when it looked like Miss Kuelmann was about to give them a lecture, Sam broke in. “A Christmas program sounds like fun. If you don’t want to do the same thing, why not make up something new?”

Miss Kuelmann smiled. “That’s an excellent idea, Sam.” She pointed to Sam, Jamie and Homer. “You three are in charge of writing a new one.”

Homer smacked the top of his head with both hands. “What? How we gonna do that? We dunno how to make a Christmas program.”

“You have all weekend to come with something. We’ll have our first practice at dinner recess on Monday. That’s the first week of November so you’ll have six weeks to prepare. Now, let’s get class started.” She went to the front of the room.

“I gotta keep my big mouth shut. Now what’re we gonna do?”

Jamie drummed a pencil on his desk. “I don’t know, but we sure messed up.”

Sam pushed his desk over and sat down. “This is going to be fun.”

Homer scowled. “You kiddin’? How are we supposed come up with a Christmas program by Monday?”

“Easy. Homer, you make up a Christmas story where everyone can act out a part and sing Christmas carols while you tell it. Aunt Lily has written plays and I’m sure she’ll help us.”

Homer and Jamie stared wide-eyed at Sam in surprise. Jamie said, “You know, that might work. It looks like the only way we can get out of the fix Homer got us into.”

“Me! What’d I do?”

Sam said, “Never mind. Can we meet Saturday afternoon at my house? Mr. Jorgenson can pick you up. In the meantime, Homer, you think up a good story.”

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