The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane - Part 10

The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane - Part 10
By Barbara Lynn Terry

Chapter 1 - George’s house is appraised.

The next morning, at nine thirty sharp, Scott Andrew Block drove in to the Shepard’s drive-way. As Scott was getting out of his car, John Shepard and George Simons came out to meet him.

“Morning, Scott,” John Shepard said, greeting his long time friend. “Scott, this is George Simons, the man whose house I asked you” to come and look at

“Hi George,” Scott said, extending his hand in friendship. :It is nice to meet you.”

“Same here, Scott,” George added, shaking hands.

At that moment, Kathy Shepard came out with a cup of coffee in her hands.

“Here is a cup of coffee for you, uncle Scott.”

“Thank you, Kathy,” Scott said with a smile, taking the offered cup. “George, I called the fire marshal last night after you called me. He said ninety per cent of the structural damage is in the kitchen. I will look the whole house over, and give you my findings later on today.”

“That will be fine, Scott. My family and I are staying here with John, until the repairs are finished. You can send me my bill here at John’s address.”
Scott chuckled a little and then walked toward George’s house, coffee cup in hand.

“I will be back in about forty minutes. I’m going to have a look around.”

John and Grorge went back in to John’s house.

“Don’t worry, George, he is the best house inspector I know.”

“Why was he laughing when I said to send his bill here?”

“Because, George, I called him and asked him to appraise your house. See, he doesn’t charge me anything, and he doesn’t charge my friends if I recommened them to him. Sometime, he will send one of my friends a reduced bill, or no bill. It is the way he is. He was my house inspector when I bought my first house in Saginaw.”

“Just how long have you known Scott?”

“I have known Scott almost since he became a house inspector. I have known him for sixteen years, George, and he had been a house inspector for seventeen years.”

“That is a wonderful friendship for it to last that long.”

“Yes, George, it is. I have had Scott and his family over for dinner more than once at my house. We have even had grill outs together, over the years.”

Jay Simons came out as the two men were taking.

“Hello, Jay,” John said, greeting his friend’s son. I like your outfit.”

“Thank you, Mr. Shepard.”

Jay was dressed in light pink shorts with a matching top that had a Minnie Mouse picture on the front. Jay’s canvas shoes matched the shorts and top perfectly.

“George, what’s going on this weekend?”

“It’s a toss up between a block party, a square dance, or a town picnic at River Brook.”

“I would go for the town picnic. We haven’t had one of those in a while.”

“I think you’re right, John,” George told his friend. I will call the mayor and let him know what we talked about. I know he will like the idea. This will give the newspaper time to get the notice printed so everybody will be notified. What time do you think we should start assembling at River Brook?”

“I think we should start getting there around eleven in the morning.”

“Alright, George, you set it up with the mayor and I will call the newspaper.”

“Alright, John, let’s get busy.”

George Simons called the mayor and told him what he and John Shepard had talked about. The mayor said he had heard the same thing from other residents of Pine Forest. George told him that John Shepard was calling the newspaper with all the details. The mayor said that was a good idea.

John Shepard was telling the entertainment editor what was needed at the picnic. He also said that he and his family were bringing soft drinks and pastries, such as pies, cakes, donuts, and a German potato salad.

When the editor hung up, he fel satisfied that he was called by the newest member of Ginger Lane. John DeWitt rushed the copy down to the printing room. He was in time for the evening paper. This notice would be printed for the next three days. This way it would be fresh in the minds of the residents.

Jimmy Shepard, his sister Kathy and Jay Simons got busy, because they were elected the planning committee. In Pine Forest, children were given tasks that they performed with enthusiasm, because they loved being a part of something as important as this.

Since the mayor already knew that the Shepard family was involved, he knew that between the Shepards and the Simons families. Things would be done right. After all, the Shepard family was the newest family to Pine Forest.

The children went from door to door, taking names of those that would bring something to the picnic. Some said they would bring potato chips and other snacks; some said they would bring the foods becessary to make sloppy joes, and still others said they would bring items to make tacos. This went on for about a whole day, until the children were exhausted. Being near the restaurant, they decided to stop and rest before going home.

Jaime came over to their booth and greeted then all by name.

“So, what would you young folks like?” Jaime asked the trio.

Jay saud that she wanted a hot fudge sundae, Jimmy wanted a banana split, and Kathy just wanted a cherry soda. Jaime went to get their orders abd came back in about five minutes. The children ate their repast, and talked about what the people they talked to, had said. They wrote everything down.

This wasn’t a family picnic where each family did their own grilling. No, this was a town affair. All the food that brought would be placed in coolers until needed. Of course, everyone in town knew their would be left overs, but that didn’t matter.

Everyone was going to have fun. There would be soft ball baseball, there would be those throwing a Frisbee. Still others, like the girls would be jumping rope, double Dutch style. There would be a day care area, where parents could keep an eye on their babies. This is where the saying, “it takes a village”, comes in. Everybody looked after the children.

This is what the criminals who came to Pine Forest to start trouble didn’t realize. In towns like Pine Forest, the entire town took pride in their neigbors. 99.999% Of the town turned out for the events scheduled or unscheduled. The proceeds from all of the activities went to the Mrs. Mae Harkins Memorial Scholarship Fund.

But, this picnic wasn’t one you had to pay to get in to. However, the money collected by the supermarket and other stores for the food bought for the picnic, would go to the Mrs. Mae Harkins Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Stores were going to be closed on the weekend of the picnic. However, if the food was running short, the supermarket would open temporarily to replenish what was in short supply. Even though it was a Saturday event, this event was going to last all weekend.

Chapter 2. The River Brook town picnic plans are finalized..

Saturday was quickly approaching. John Shepard and George Simons were making sure that the plans were all in order. They both went down to the River Brook and espied the area. They picked out a spot away from where the crowd would be. There was only one steadfast rule at any of these events. No alcohol was allowed to be brought to the event, whatever that event would be. This was so the beer sales would be donated to the Mrs. Mae Harkins Memorial Scholarship Fund. But, only beer was allowed to be sold.

With their plans finalized, George called to tell the mayor what they had planned as far as where they were going to set up the tent to keep the coolers of food and soft drinks in. There would be another tent to keep the beer cold and whatever they couldn’t fit in the food tent.

John Shepard and George Simons would be the grillers at the picnic. Jay Simons, Jimmy and Kathy Shepard and the three McGuire sisters would be the ones bringing the food out from the tents, when needed.

The children, of course, were allowed to have fun. There would be no carnival for this event. At least not for the first town picnic. This issue would be brought up at the next town meeting. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the results, though.

Pine Forest may be small, bu they are proud of what their town has become; a peacful, law abiding community. The Pine Forest police department would be there, but not in uniform. That is because this event was for the town. Informal dress code was the order of the day.

Two blocks up the lane, Jay Simons, Kathy Shepard and Francine, Darlene and Tanya McGuire were playing double Dutch jump rope. Jimmy Shepard and his father, John, were playing catch in their front yard. Eileen Shepard was making lemonade for the thirsty sports enthusiasts.

About an hour after they started, the children were thirsty. Eileen said in sort of loud tone; “Lemonade children”. They all went to get their glass of lemonade. George came out of the house, and poured himself a glass of lemonade.

“Children, I am glad you are all here. Tomorrow, Mr. Shepard and I will set up for the town picnic on Saturday. We would like you children to have bring out the food as we need it. Thi doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but we would apprciate your help.”

“That’s okay, Mr. Simons,” Francine McFuire said. “We are only too happy to help.” The other children echoed what she said.

At that moment, Steve Hastings drove up to John’s house.

“Hi John, hi George. I just wanted to let you know that we will be at the picnic, but not in uniform. Our guns will actually be in an ankle holster, so they are out of sight. Everybody in town knows us, so we are going to keep a low profile.”

“We appreciate that, Steve. Unless there is trouble, and I don’t foresee any, we should have a fun filled weekend.”

“I think so, too. There will be uniformed patrols on foot and in squads, but only a handful. Then those officers that didn’t come to the picnic on Saturday, will come on Sunday. Then a few of us that were here on Saturday will patrol on Sunday. We just kind of switch places. As the senior officer, I will be at the picnic on both days.

The lieut. and captain will be here, too, but they won’t take part in the police work unless it is absolutely necessary. I just wanted you to bhe aware of this, so you know what is going on.” Steve Hastings chuckled a little, then continued. I tried to tell the mayor this, but he said to tell you. So, here I am.”

“We appreciate this, Steve,” John Shepard told his friend. That is the way, “it takes a village” works. Everybody is friends with everybody else. Yes, there a squabbles here and there, but, nothing serious.

The River Brook town picnic was the last real event before school started up again. This was the last week in August, and School started right after Labor Day. Pine Forest was also an old fashioned town, too. They didn’t start school at the end of August, like they do in the big cities.

Saturday was fast approaching. John and George went to the community center and got the tents. They took them right down to the park by the River Brook. They set the tents up. Then as they looked the inside of the tents over, they knew exactly where everything was going to go.

They then went back to the Shepard home, and sat down to another glass of lemonade. Eileen Shepard’s lemonade was tart and would make your lips pucker. But, iy was good. As the two men sat there, they were talking about the setup for the picnic.

“You know, George, I think we will use the striped tent for the beer tent and the white tent for the food. You and I are going to be the only ones grilling, so we should get there a little early, and start with the brats and hot dogs.”

“Not too early, though, John. We don’t want the people that come to the picnic to have cold brats and dogs.”

“That is true. Everybody will show up at around eleven. Some people will get there early.”

“There are enough picnic tables for everyone to sit at, so we don’t have to worry about that. You know, George, we could have a few more lawn chairs, maybe.”

“I was thinking the same thing, John. I know we could use a few around the tents for us and the children to sit on.”

“We will have to get them from the community center. Just how many lawn chairs do you think we will need, George?”

“Well, maybe, uhm, twenty or thirty ought to do it.”

“Yes, maybe that would do. There are enough picnic tables, but they will seat five small children on either side, unless they are bigger kids, then there will be only four to a side. The tables will hold three adults on either side. So, George, I think we will need about fifty lawn chairs.”

“How did you do that math so quickly, John?”

“Sheer luck, George, just sheer luck.”

Chapter 3. Saturday is here.

Saturday morning dawned with a bright sun shining. It was 9:30 when John Shepard and George Simons took the first of the food to the park. They placed three coolers of soft drinks in the white tent, along with three other coolers that had buns, brats and hot dogs. The two neb set the coolers in the tent, and then went and looked to see if the grills needed to be cleaned before they used.

The grills looked okay, but they cleaned them just the same. With the grills cleaned, they began to get things squared away before the first families arrived. This park had no real name, John Shepard noticed. He thought for a moment and then had an idea that he would bring up at the next town meeting.

John and George set about placing the fifty lawn chairs by the picnic tables. The townspeople would free to move them around to suit them. Sunday night, after it got dark, there would be a fireworks display. This would be the official end of the first all town picnic at the River Brook.

But, we are getting ahead of ourselves. Today, John and George were going to make sure that everything worked perfectly, so they could have another all town picnic at the park by the River Brook.

At that moment, Steve Hastings and his partner drove up and parked their vehicle in the first nspot nearest the tent. There were police only parking signs, but Steve Hastings left that for the marked squads, just in case.

He walked over by John and George and asked if they needed any help.

“I think we will wait about twenty minutes before the first families arrive, to start cooking.”

“That sounds good, George,” Steve said with a smile. “As I said at the house, we will keep a low profile until wen are needed. This should be a wonderful picnic.”

“I agree, Steve,” John Shepard added.

Steve Hastings partner for this weekend was Amthony (Tony) Palmetti. Tony Palmetti was a twelve year veteran of the Pine Forest police department. When he worked with Steve Hastings, things were quiet, even if trouble makers happened to stop by.

Tony came by the tent and said hello to John and George.

“I was just called, Steve, and I was told the Lieut., if coming here today. In civilian clothes, of course.”

“Of course, Tony. We have this weekend off, so to speak. But this is a working day off.”

“Hi Steve, Tony,” said Gregory (Greg) Olsen. Greg was also a twelve year veteran of the Pine Forest police department. He and Tony were actually partners, but today, Tony was Steve’s partner. “Tje captain said I should partner up with the vith of you.”

“Alright, Greg,” Steve answered his friend and collegue. “Just keep our eyes wide open at all times. Have eyes in the back of your head. We want this picnic to succeed without a problem.”

“It will, Steve,” added Tony. I just no outsiders decide to stop by.”

“Well, if we do, we have four squads that can answer on short notice,” Steve informed his partners. “If someone comes by in a car, we cam actually block them from fleeing. That leaves four squads to patrol the town. There are also five squads from the sheriff’s department that will be helping, also.

“I see people are starting to arrive. Just remember, we are just here to have fun. Even though everybody in Pine Forest knows who we are, we are still here to have fun.”

“I agree, Steve. This way if strangers do stop by, we are just townspeople here to have fun.”

“Precisely,” Steve Hasting added.

As the first of the families were arriving, two of the boys went away from the crowd and started throwing a Frisbee.* The two boys were having a great time, as one of family’s dog began chasing the Frisbee. They were having immense fun. The girls were told what to bring out so that their dads could start grilling. Then the girls went by George Simons car and got out two jump ropes. They were going to play double Dutch jump rope.

Darlene and Francine McGuire the first to hold the ropes. They twirled them this way and crossed them that way. Jay was the first to jump the ropes. She did pretty well, until her foot got caught in the ropes. It was Kathy’s turn next, and she didn’t last very long. Then Tanya McGuire took her turn. She lasted almost as long as Jay.

Tanya and Kathy were the rope twisters, and Darlen and Francine took their turns at jumping. Darlene went first, and lasted quite a bit longer than Jay. Francine was the last to jump, and she lasted the longest. One thing about double Dutch is that it doesn’t matter how much you have played the game, ir even how much practice you have had. Double Dutch is a game that usually wins over the player.

After they were finished playing, they went to get a soda. When they got to the tent, there was an unmistaken smell of burgers, bratsm and hot dogs being grilled.

“Hi girls, want something to eat? We have brats, burgers and hot dogs ready,” George Simons told the girls. “Where’s Jimmy?”

“He’s over there throwing a Frisbee with Tommy and Bob,” Darlene McGuire answered.

Thomas (Tommy) Jensen, lived in town, two blocks from the community center. He is twelve years old. Robert (Bob) Evers is nine years old, but tall for his age. He lives a block away from the hardware store.

On both sides of the business district street, right behind the stores are residential house where most of the Pine Forest residents live. Even those livinedg on the outlying areas, are within the city limits and are also Pine Forest residents.

John Shepard was running the grill that was by the striped tent. He already treated four customers to a brat each, and three of then asked for a beer. The fourth person alsready had a soft drink in her hand.

Since this was the first such town picnic, George and John were taking notes to present in the minutes of the next town council meeting. Steve Hastings was walking around talking to the townsfolk. Greg Olsen was watching the baseball diamond at the far end of the park. Tony Palmetti stationed hinself on a lawn chair so that he could see everything as well as the water and the road.

The road was filling up with cars from the townspeople. They were bringing dishes to share like pasta salad, chili, cornbread. Some even brought more brats, hot dogs and burgers. Still others brought more soft drinks. Everytime there was a town event such as this, everybody in town chipped in to make it a successful event.

Over on the baseball diamond, two teams of boys were playing softball and the parents were either watching from the small diamond bleacher, or from their lawn chairs. There was also a single tennis court, and a swimming area that was roped off from the rest of the River Brook.

The children mwere having a fun filled morning, so far. Some of the girls were playing hopscotch, or they were playing with their dolls that they brought with them. Jimmy, Tommy and Bob were still throwing the Frisbee.

John Shepard and George Simons were watching the townsfolk having fun. There were even groups of adults that were talking with each other. The two men were watching the children having fun, fun and still more fun.

It was now going on twelve o’clock noon. People were lining up to get their lunch. The best thing about an all day event like this was, the women didn’t have to cook. Jim Bowers, who lived in town, came over and told George he would relieve him, if George wanted to go and mingle. George accepted the invitation, and told John Shepard that Jim was taking over his grill for a while.

John said that was fine. Jim didn’t really know John Shepard, since John and his family had just moved in to the area.

“I’m Jim Bowers, I live over on Oak Street in town.”

“I’m John Shepard, we just bought the Widow Harkins cottage on Ginger Lane. This is our third event since we moved here.”

“So, how do you like Pine Forest?” Jim asked John.

“It is a far cry better than Saginaw. I’m in the hardware business. My company delivers hardware all over the country and in Canada, too. I’m working with Bob Thicke over at the hardware store, so he can better his business and enlarge his store a little.”

“Bob would like a little input. It seems hardware is last abd very least on the minds of the townspeople. They just don’t need hardware.”

I just cannot believe that nobody in this town uses hardware. Don’t fix things with nailsm screws, ‘L’ brackets? I cannot believe things are that bad here. What will people think when they have a basement flood, or a leaky roof? Jim, there has to be a need for hardware.”

“Well, John, I hope you can get Bob’s business back to where it should be.”

“I am too, Jim. I think what the problem is, is that Bob needs yo get his stock in order before he can advertise a premium product at low prices. He is going to be ordering from me. My products out rank ninety per cent of the hardware on the market today.

“What I am going to talk to Bob about is how to enlarge his store. We can do that by shuffling a few bins around to make it appear there is more room in the store.”

“I see. Just exactly how are you going to do that?”

“Well, Jim, I have the idea, but I axtually have to be in the store. When I was there the first time, there were no bins along the back wall. But, like I said, I actually have to be in the store to figure this out completely. Jim, would you like a brat and a beer. My treat.”

“I’d love to, John, thank you.”

John Shepard put the amount of money in the till, so that he and Jim could have a brat abd a beer. Jim went in the tent to get two beers.

“Jim, I don’t drink alcohol. I’ll just get a Black Bear soda.”

“Sorry, John.”

“Don’t be sorry, Jim. It’s just that in my business I travel a lot, and I have to have my wits about me at all times.”

“I understand, John”

“Well, Jim, it’s just when I am on the plane, I look at my files to see what progress has been made at the place I either have been, or are going to. I never sleep on the plane. Besides, I am constantly thinking, and to do that, I need a clear head. You should really try this Black Bear black cherry soda. It is really good.”

“Thank you, John, but I have my Bud.”

“I just thought I would offer.”

At that moment, Greg Olsen came over by John’s grill.

“John, Jim, there are five guys in a silver Mercedes parked up the street. I have already alerted the other officers. I just thought you should know.”

“Thank you, Greg, we will be looking dor any trouble also.

I may have forgotten to tell you, but in outdoors events like this, each tent and table had a yellow light, that when turned on, would summons the officers nearest to the trouble spot.

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