Chicken Little & The Paper Route
Copyright © 2020
“Have you ever seen a squonk’s tears?
Well, look at mine
The people on the street
Have all seen better times
Any major dude with half a heart
Surely will tell you my friend
Any minor world that breaks apart
Falls together again
When the demon is at your door
In the morning, it won’t be there no more
Any major dude will tell you”
Any Major Dude Will Tell You by Steely Dan
Last week, I think it all started to get to me, and I must apologize to you, Good Reader, for losing my cool. I felt like (and sounded like) Chicken Little running in circles and proclaiming that the “sky is falling.”
For those who don’t remember, I went on and on about the price of the Local and the need for an increase. My panic was unnecessary for several reasons: faith, loyalty, and ingenuity.
As for faith, I have always liked the phrase, “Let go and let God.” Recently, I was speaking to a worker in a local grocery store, and she said the atmosphere was “&#@* crazy!” We were talking about the mad rush to snatch up toilet paper. I shared the following quote from the Gospel of Luke 12:24:
“Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!”
And yet, less than a week later, there I was, panicked -- “Oh, ye of little faith!”
Determined to begin practicing what I had been preaching, I decided to take last Thursday off. I started the day by doing some much needed early-season yard work, which I had been neglecting for years. I trimmed some long overgrown bushes and then started on the fallen trees in the back of my yard. I listened to the birds sing, the woodpeckers tap time, and I sang “Bungle in the Jungle” by Jethro Tull as I chopped away.
Even with the occasional burst from my chainsaw, it was peaceful -- serene, even. I looked at a sparrow bringing a twig to one of the birdhouses I had mounted with my son years ago, amazed they were still deemed useful by our avian friends. I recalled the article shared last week by Reverend Jon Turner of the Clinton Baptist Church, and I remembered that God provides, maybe not all that we want, but certainly all that we need.
Later that afternoon I spent a few hours sitting (six feet apart) with my friend and Local subscriber, John Hauck. We fished for catfish from his pond and talked about family and times past. We watched the unbridled energy of his dog, Ringo, as he ran around the pond at full speed. We listened to the spring peepers in a bog near the edge of his property and the sound of someone target shooting (I hoped!) behind his acreage. As we talked and he asked me questions, I was reminded of the fierce loyalty that is part of every Local subscriber I’ve had the pleasure of talking to in person or in writing. There is a deep loyalty to the Village of Clinton and to its community newspaper.
The next day, last Friday, I went to the office (lonely now due to the virus) and struck upon an idea. I had said the Local needed to either double its fees or double its subscribers. Seizing on the latter, I created an old school promotional campaign -- I would go door to door in Clinton and leave flyers in an attempt to double readership. I created my flyer to go on top (see page 7) and began to rubber band them to leftover papers from the week. (Quite a few leftovers since school is out and several of our business stands are closed.)
That evening I began the door to door process, but tuckered out after only an hour and a half. I did get a chance to admire the variety of architecture in one of the village’s older neighborhoods, and I did get some much needed exercise. Even so, I decided to subcontract the rest of the job to the Smith Twins -- Samantha and Stella -- under the guidance of their father, Mark.
During my short lived effort at distributing the papers, I recalled my first job. When I was about 12 years old, my brother, Paul, and I pestered our mother to let us have a paper route. She checked into it and got us what’s called a “shopper” -- those advertising papers that are delivered to every house in a neighborhood.
We were excited the first week, but after doing the route a couple weeks, we quickly grew tired of it. The hours were long and the money was insignificant, especially when compared to the earnings our friends boasted about from their “real” paper routes with the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.
When the papers came the next week, I had a plan to avoid that work. (People talk about Millennials today, but kids of every era could exhibit slothfulness when left unchecked.) We still had to roll and rubber band the papers, of course, because that was done at home with Mom watching. Then Paul and I set out to do our route.
“Are you sure this will work,” Paul asked. I always accused him of being our mother’s pet, and I’m sure he didn’t want to disappoint her as much as anything else.
“Sure, we’ll deliver a block or two. When we get far enough from the house, we’ll dump the rest in the field,” I said. The field was owned by Ford Motor Company and sublet to a farmer, who tilled and planted most of it. Further down from our house, however, was a copse of small trees, saplings really, where someone had posted a hand lettered sign that read ‘Passion Pit.’ I had no idea what that meant, but the grass was tall there, and our treachery would go unnoticed -- of that I was certain.
Craftily, we meandered up and down a few blocks on the way back home just to kill some time. When it felt like we had exhausted the right amount, we headed home. Mom was waiting for us at the screen door.
“How did your paper route go? she asked.
We muttered “fine” and “okay,” but we could tell ‘the jig was up,’ as they used to say in the old movies.
“Where are the papers?” she asked.
“We delivered them,” I gamely asserted, but my gaze wavered, and Paul was looking at his shoes.
“No, you didn’t,” she said, and her confidence in the next statement puzzled me. “Go back to those trees where you dumped them and finish your route.”
Flabbergasted -- that’s what we were, unaware that, even in the big city, back then everyone knew whose kid you were and how to get in touch with your parents. And they weren’t afraid to do so.
Paul and I fulfilled our duty that day, then we quit the route.
Older and wiser, but perhaps still a bit lazy, I’ve struck upon an easier method once again. During the crisis, we will be sending sample copies to Clinton residents who currently do not subscribe. It is our hope that they will avail themselves of the offer on page 7 and join our community of subscribers to the “Best Little Newspaper in Clinton.”