Excerpt for No Dramatics by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Dedications and Acknowledgements 

In October 2000, at an Olive Garden in Hyannis, Massachusetts, I met the gentleman who, two months later, would become my father in law. Leonard Thomas Finn was a high school industrial arts teacher in Stoughton, Massachusetts who loved his job as a teacher, a soldier, and an accomplished builder who worked tirelessly on all types of projects – building houses, roofs, desks, or music boxes. No project was too small. I wish to dedicate this book to the most humble man I’ve ever known besides Jesus. 

To Laura. We met 15 years ago today, and we both know how hard life has been, but every step is worth the effort, and we have seen blessings and miracles, as much as tragic losses. This book is dedicated to my children, Joshua and Rebekah, John Isaac… and any other children I may be blessed with in my future… 

To my grandparents, to Mom and Dad, Jackie and Steve, David and Amy, Beth and Arthur. This book is dedicated to Kerri and Josh and their family, Steven and Sadie, Arthur and Audra, Sophie and John. 

If your name is written in these stories, this book is dedicated to you. The format of this book reads, very simply, like a personal conversation that I would have with any reader. 

There are countless people who have made this story something special for everyone, and to give the appropriate mention to each of them, I fear I would forget someone, but so many people who believed in my talent and who encouraged me along the way, I feel indebted to remember, in no particular order… 

To Wayne Franklin and Elan S Babchuck of Temple Emanu-El. You have shown me such respect. I am always grateful for every minute I’m hearing your teachings. Where two or more are gathered, G-d is there in our presence. 

Rabbi Brian Samuel, Stephanie Shea, Rabbi Tobi, Sarah, Michelle, Peter, and everyone – absolutely everyone – from Mishkahn. You are what Roger Williams was talking about, I love you all very much. 

Father Houle and Father Lessard. I am proud of what you’ve accomplished at the parish. You’re a blessing to the entire community. 

I can’t end this acknowledgment without specifically thanking Tom Rudolph and Erik Marcure for all your encouragement. Ken MacNeil, and Beth from Charlotte, for teaching me everything I need to know about Judaism (almost). 

At the end of the book is an “In Memoriam” listing. 

Finally, I would like to thank all my fans who enjoyed this. I hope I will be writing so much more. I am so grateful to all of you. 


In peace, 




Thank you so much (todah rabah) for purchasing my book. I hope you are curious about my journey. Perhaps you know me personally (as many people do), maybe we grew up together, or worked together, or we worshiped together. Perhaps you have never heard of me before, but my story looks like something you’ve experienced. 

I would like to take you on a journey through time so you will understand exactly why I feel so strongly convicted in what I believe. This story will either greatly impact your life, or it will have no effect on you whatsoever. If not, I wish to thank you for giving my story at least a chance to take root in your life. 


Act I: 

Genesis and Exodus” 

The Western Woodlands 

Roger Williams was born in London around 1603. It’s almost astonishing that a man of his significance is a mystery of both his exact dates of birth and death. However, I really feel that it’s probably how Roger would have wanted it to be anyway. What is known about his youth is that he was a parishioner of St. Sepulchre’s without Newgate in London, an Anglican church. In the nearby London community of Smithfield, Williams would have had extensive knowledge of people who were burned at the stake after being charged as heretics. It is my opinion that this experience made him become who he was as an individual – one of his defining moments. 

Sir Edward Coke assisted him in registering for school at Sutton’s Hospital, and Williams then attended Pembroke College, part of Cambridge University with excellence in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew! His defining moments, his studies and interpretation of the Scriptures, led him to be a chaplain to a family after graduation, and then in 1629, Roger Williams married Mary Barnard. With his religious views being strongly favorable to freedom of worship, which did not bode well with the church administrations, Williams fled, with his wife, in 1630 to Massachusetts Bay Colony, where he immediately picked up where he left off. He preached between Salem and Plymouth, continuously in conflict with the strict ways of the Puritans. When they threatened to deport him back to England, Williams left the colonies and was assisted by Indians. He first bought land in what is now known as Seekonk, but where it remained in the boundaries of Plymouth Colony, he was warned to leave or Plymouth would extradite him! 

Narragansett Indian sachems Canonicus and Miantonomi gave him land in their nation and in thanksgiving to God, Roger Williams named his settlement Providence. Plymouth Colony still attempted to invade Providence, so he went back to England in 1643 to request a charter which established Providence Plantations in Narragansett Bay, thereby incorporating Providence, Newport, and Portsmouth. He returned to England in 1651 with Pastor John Clarke of Newport, to settle dispute with William Coddington’s settlement of Rhode Island, thus later forming Rhode Island and Providence Plantations as one colony. 

It is my belief that the most important subject that Williams taught on was freedom to worship. Where the Puritans were focused on conversion of the Indians to Christianity, most likely for their own control, Williams believed that the complexity of following in the ways of Christ requires careful consideration of what that life involves. He believed it took time… years, if need be… for any conversion to be in a process of completion. He didn’t require people to give up what they believed, he just welcomed people to listen to what he had to say. 

As a pastor, and the founder of a colony, he served as the governor for four years, from 1654-58. King Philip's War brought terrible calamity where most of Providence was burned to the ground. Before he expired, he witnessed the town rebuild from that disaster, and then, sometime between January and April of 1683 (or perhaps 1684), he died, about 7 years after his wife Mary.  

About 15 years after Roger Williams’ passing, Providence families began to consider moving into an area known as the Western Woodlands. The first dwelling located in that territory was built by John Mathewson near the banks of the Moswansicut Lake. A few years later, Joseph Wilkinson and his cow began making their way about five miles past Moswansicut Lake, and Wilkinson built the first barn in Scituate… I guess he was the “barntender”. Actually, he was a surveyor, and a very accomplished surveyor at that. The story of Mathewson and Wilkinson is a foundation for what transpired next. 

In 1710, colonists from the town of Scituate in Massachusetts Bay sought refuge from Puritan persecution and were embraced here in Rhode Island. The name of their town derived from the Wampanoag Indian word satuit, which means “cold brook” – referring to a body of water` that runs from the center of town to the harbor. When they settled in the western woodlands of Providence, they named their settlement after the town which they fled. By 1731, Scituate was incorporated, along with Glocester and Smithfield, and through the difficulties they faced in building up their community, 16 villages were formed. They were, 

Ashland, Clayville, Elmdale, Fiskville, Glenn Rock, Harrisdale, Hope, Jackson, Kent, North Scituate, Ponaganset, Potterville, Richmond, Rockland, Saundersville, and South Scituate 

Of those 16 villages, only six exist today – Clayville, Hope Jackson, Fiskville, North Scituate, Potterville, and what is now known as Chopmist Hill. In the next few pages, I will explain why. 

The success of individuality which my town became famous for brought about a spirit of freedom that was probably lacking from the lives of those oppressed with Puritan persecution. When I really paid attention to the story of why these families came to Rhode Island, my initial reaction was, “Why would they want to name this town after the place where they experienced horrific persecution?” Then I realized how much they loved where they came from, and that veiled all of what the Puritans’ attempted to suppress. 

Stephen Hopkins, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Scituate in 1707 and was well-respected in the affairs of the town and the state as a whole. At the Angell Tavern in South Scituate, Hopkins was elected as the first town moderator, and he later served as a judge, Speaker of the House, President of the town council, Supreme Court Chief Justice, served as Governor for nine terms, and was a delegate of the Continental Congress! 

This is the land where I lived for the first 18 ½ years of my life. The town of Scituate is bordered by Glocester and Smithfield to the north; Johnston and Cranston to the east; Coventry to the south; and Foster to the west. Settled in the southwest hills, Potterville was where I was raised, on a seven acre farm on land that was owned by my family for many generations. We were a well-established family in the community that was united in its commitment to faith and service. There are only two main roads – Old Plainfield Pike runs east to west; and Tunk Hill Road/Route 12, which runs north to south. On Old Plainfield Pike, there are many historic homes that have been in existence since before, or at least during, the founding of our country. There was a bobbin mill just west of the Tunk Hill Road intersection, and heading west from that point were historic homes, a school, a church, and a tavern where George Washington slept one night. Just past the tavern was a tollhouse since, in the beginning years, Old Plainfield Pike was a main thoroughfare from Providence to Plainfield, Connecticut. 

Before I begin sharing about how I grew up, there is an important piece to this story which might sound dry, boring, perhaps even unrelated, but the fact is that every angle of this next part is relative to how I grew up, and to why I believe the way that I do. 

In 1915, the Rhode Island General Assembly convened and a vote was passed to take, by eminent domain, nearly 15,000 acres of land and buildings to flood and build a reservoir which would supply water to the city of Providence, and other outlying areas. Scituate residents would not have access to a drop of that water, and ultimately, churches, schools, businesses, a railway, cemeteries, and 1200 homes were destroyed. However, not all of the taken land was flooded, and some of the houses remained vacant for years. Such was the case with Potterville, and some parts of Clayville. Corruption in Providence politics ran rampant, unaccounted for, while the lives of hard-working men living on 200 year old family farms were about to come to a screeching halt! I truly hope that with these words that I’m writing, that you can feel the anger, the bitterness of what these families had to endure. There were a couple of farmers who took their own lives. Many who loved Scituate with all their heart moved away, left Rhode Island, and never looked back. 

By 1938, the city of Providence was near financial ruin – corruption slowly pilfered much of what Roger Williams had set out to accomplish. In order for the city to stay afloat, the land and homes in Potterville (and other areas in Scituate) which stood vacant for years were opened to auction, including the Wilbur farmstead on what is now known as Old Plainfield Pike. My great-grandmother, Mary Wilbur lived in South Weymouth, Massachusetts, after her marriage to my great-grandfather Prince Tirrell. She was born in Providence in 1877 – she was 97 years old when I was born! Her father was born on that property on Plainfield Pike (which is what Old Plainfield Pike originally was known). She fought with every dollar she had to buy it back at the auction, and she outbid her competitor by $20.00! The farm was back in our family! 


My grandfather, John Clarke Tirrell was 22 years old at that time and they set out as a family to build a cabin on the land. Because the land and buildings had to be vacated for so many years, the house itself was beyond repair and eventually it was torn down. Three years later, in February 1941, Grandpa’s sister, my aunt Frances married a successful Bostonian named Ted Eckberg, a first generation Swedish inventor. Grandpa was 25 years old when, in November, he drove Aunt Frances up to Boston where she lived. Uncle Ted’s sister Gladys, a devout Catholic, answered the door when Grandpa showed up with Frances. Apparently it wasn’t long before John was smitten, and Gladys gave him a chance to win her heart! They courted for about a month when one day, an unexpected tragedy hit that changed their lives. John talked about it with Gladys and two and a half weeks later, on Christmas Day 1941, they were married. However, on that day another tragedy hit their families as well… 

The first tragedy was two and a half weeks before Christmas that year - December 7, 1941... a day that will live in infamy. Just after that day, Grandpa took Grandma on a drive to Potterville to show her the land that he wanted to settle and be a farmer. He drove her back home to Boston, and asked her father for her hand in marriage. 

December 25th was an eventful day – with happy times, as well as very sad occasions. Grandpa has two brothers and three sisters: Ruth, Frances, Prince III, Wilbur, and Mary (Polly). Prince III and Polly were both born on the 25th of December. Grandma and Grandpa were married on that day, at Saint Anthony’s Church in Roxbury. And, on the day that they were married, Aunt Frances’ daughter, Baby Ruth died shortly after her birth. 

After one month, Grandpa was drafted into the Army and left in January 1942. They wasted no time in beginning their lives together, and nine months later in late September, as he was fighting a battle in the Philippines, his first son was born. A few months later, he was able to come back home for a short time and before he left, his second son was in the "oven" and was born in early 1944. After serving four years in the Army, he was discharged and came home to fix up Potterville. During those years, Grandma lived in Boston with her family, South Weymouth with Grandpa’s family, and after my Dad was born in April 1946, they moved to Potterville, renting the third floor of a colonial on Old Plainfield Pike. With good wood left from the original Wilbur home, Grandpa built the house on what was previously a garage! He eventually built on a living room and they lived there on that property for the rest of their lives. (Grandma moved to an assisted living facility about six years before she died.) 


My experience of growing up in Potterville is the product of the effort that Grandma and Grandpa worked for, what Uncle Mark, Uncle Jan, and Dad continued, what the community rallied around… and my perception of all of it. Uncle Mark and Uncle Jan both had three children, so in addition to my three siblings, I had six first cousins right next door to me at first. Most of the people who settled in Potterville by the 1970s had children in our age range. Most of my neighbors were Roman Catholic or mainstream Christian - Baptist, Episcopalian, or Methodist. The idea of a born-again Christian was never heard of until I was much older, but it was a topic that made me ask a good amount of healthy questions. 

Our relationship with Saint Joseph’s Church was solid, built on years of being part of the life of the church. Our lives were influenced by our commitment to the structure of church, taking part in Catechism classes, serving as an altar boy for four years starting in fourth grade. I was also strongly influenced and encouraged in my Christian experience by neighbors who were actively involved at North Scituate Baptist Church where Vacation Bible School was held every summer. In my perception of this experience, I believe that God led me to an understanding that it was with his blessing that I went outside of the one church that I was raised in to experience more of what He was about, and what He could teach me! I carried that conviction deep in my heart and never let go of it. As I continue in this story, you will see where this brought me to. 

I would first like to introduce you to my family. Uncle Mark is Dad’s oldest brother. He is 3 ½ years older than Dad, and Uncle Jan is 2 years older than Dad. The three boys grew up with a competitive spirit within them. That caused them to use their tempers against each other at times, which showed how strong Grandma was to break up those flares. In April 1948, Grandpa walked down the hill to the Potterville Community House where a meeting was held to discuss forming a fire station. The two fire stations in Scituate were in the northeast and southeast corners of town, with Potterville being separated by 15,000 acres of reservoir. It was in the interest of Potterville to have a volunteer company, and Potterville Fire Company was born. One month later, a meeting was held to establish procedures, elect officers, and create fund-raising ideas. At first, two neighbors rented their barns to house the single tanker truck. Grandpa was elected treasurer, and eventually, Grandma served as the president of the Ladies Auxiliary, which served the community and the fire station in many capacities. The red, two door fire station barn was built around 1950 on land donated by the Colvin family on Old Plainfield Pike. With the active Ladies Auxiliary, the community enjoyed a wonderful spirit of cooperation in countless gatherings. 

Tirrell’s, Rollins’, Stein’s, Massa’s, and Ferri’s 

Uncle Mark married Maureen Rollins in 1965, Mom and Dad were married in October of 1967, and Uncle Jan married Joan Massa in 1969. All three couples were married at Saint Joseph Church. 

My mom, Beverly Stein, was born in Federal Hill, Providence. My grandmother Celeste Lucy DeRosa was a first generation Italian who grew up there until she married my grandfather Richard Stein from Chopmist Hill, Scituate. Grammy’s name (Celeste Lucy) literally means heavenly light. Mom has one brother, my uncle Dick who married Donna Ferri in 1978. They have two children, Kevin and Kristen. They are seven and nine years younger than me respectively, and I treasure my relationship with them. Their faithfulness and commitment to their simple faith has effected parts of my life since I took the challenge to become part of their lives. Kevin and Kristen were born in Foster and Glocester respectively, and lived mainly in Cranston for most of their youth. Uncle Dick, although devout in his Christian beliefs, preferred to keep his religion private, and Aunt Donna was a devoted member of Victory Church, based out of the Fall River area.  

The kids were water-baptized at an early age, and they were actively involved in their church too. Their pastor, David F. Sullivan, was a man who we heard vibrant stories about. He was bold, energetic, inspirational, and tireless – and still is to this day. Even still, there were many times I misunderstood what their church was all about, and, growing up Roman Catholic, I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted to get myself involved with. Aunt Donna regularly met up with her twin sister Diane and they would study the Word together with their friends from Pastor David’s.  

Poppy and Grammy helped out taking care of “the little kids” as often as humanly possible, and many times, I went with them. After dinner on some nights, Poppy would just drive up to Cranston and he and Uncle Dick would just talk about politics or about life in Scituate. It’s my understanding that Uncle Dick was not a fan of living in the city, but who could blame him? Having grown up on a farm with his grand-uncles teaching him everything they knew, even still, as he got older, he needed the convenience of the city and the school system was top notch. They tried a Christian school for one year, but the cost to send to a private school is too unaffordable for most people to make ends meet. 


Richard and Alice (as my grandmother was only referred to - but we only called them Grammy and Poppy) were an active part of every part of our lives. Every graduation, every birthday, every wedding, they were there. Almost every Friday night, two or three of us slept over and Grammy made fried potatoes every Saturday morning. 

From what we were told, Poppy’s father, Otto Carl Stein, was a first generation German whose parents settled in Marthasville, Missouri. Their family moved to Arkansas, and Papa (as Otto was called by most) came up to Rhode Island to seek employment. Papa had 14 brothers and sisters! Some lived many years, while others passed away very early in their life. And there was one other sister who died, which I will describe later in this book. He worked on the project to build the Scituate Reservoir. He just came to Rhode Island to find work, but he also found my great-grandmother, Lena Angell. They had three children – Poppy, my aunt Margie, and my uncle Fred. Aunt Margie and Uncle John Higgins had two children, and Uncle Fred and Aunt Joyce Coriveau had five children. 


Chopmist Hill 

Weekends and Holidays 

In a similar story to Dad, Mom also lived on a one acre farm that was owned by her family for three generations. She is part of the legendary Angell and Hopkins families! Poppy was a toolmaker by trade. He loved his cars, usually Fords. He had a Model T, T-bird, Galaxy, Granada, Tempo, and Taurus. He was also a church elder at Clayville Assembly. 

With the many weekends that I slept over at Pop and Gram’s house, it’s truthful to say that I’ve spent, probably, a good couple of years of my life in Chopmist Hill (all combined). Any holiday was a particularly festive time. Easter was always exciting, with Easter egg hunts throughout the forested areas of the property, and Poppy always having a story to tell and song to sing. 

Even Memorial Day was not forgotten. We always have, and always will take very seriously and solemnly the sacrifice of our soldiers who gave their life for freedom. Every year on Memorial Day, the North Scituate Village hosted a parade to honor soldiers, and Potterville Fire Station, along with Hope Jackson, North Scituate, Chopmist Hill, and Scituate Ambulance Corps all had trucks in the route. Every single year, it rained. Poured! Downpours! One year, we were in the middle of such a strong downpour that Mom was driving our Plymouth Horizon, and we couldn’t even see out the windshield. And people marched in that. Soaked, but proud. And just about every year, along with the rain, Potterville had an emergency call. I think it was 1985. When the call came in, the Colvin’s house had been hit by lightning. The next rescue call came in a few minutes later. Across the street from the Colvins, our neighbor Barbara, one of our church organists, had been struck by lightning. She did survive, thank God, and she continued to be a visible part of our lives for many years. 

When I was young, the Fourth of July was not a lot of fun to me. It was always way too hot. I would have been happy if there was snow on the ground back then! On many years, before Papa Stein got sick, we gathered at his house and had chowder and clam cakes until we couldn’t eat anymore! But then, I wasn’t so thrilled about the whole idea because it was wicked hot outside, then the chowder was so hot it would burn my mouth, and then the rain would start, and then I’d be miserable from that… Oy, what a time that day was! Since then, Independence Day has become the best holiday I ever celebrated, and now, I have a more personal reason why. 

Thanksgiving was Grandpa Tirrell’s all-time favorite holiday. The whole family gathered at his house for an all-day feast. Christmas Eve was traditionally an Italian celebration at Chopmist Hill and on Christmas Day, Santa found us in Potterville, where we would have as many as 25 guests stop by. Birthday parties were pretty much the same, so basically, every month there was some big birthday party or holiday, and almost everyone was always there. It was a very special way to have grown up. 


The Tirrell and Eckberg families 

Our extended family was also a direct part of our lives. My great-grandmother Lena Angell Stein still had two brothers and sisters-in-law living when I was born. Grandpa Tirrell’s family remained in South Weymouth where Uncle Wilbur was a proudly liberal Democrat – in direct contrast to my Republican state representative great-grandfather. Aunt Ruth never married, and she was quite an accomplished writer and English teacher. Uncle Wilbur married Mary Norma Starkey, and they had five children. Aunt Frances married Uncle Ted and had two more children after Baby Ruth died on that Christmas in 1941. Uncle Ted had three children from his first marriage to Beatrice. Prince III was lost at sea in the Merchant Marines, and Aunt Polly married Ted English and they had two children. 

Grandma also came from an even larger family – Her oldest sister was 18 years older than her! Her name was Lulu, and she married Charles Church and had two children. 

Ted was one year younger, he married Beatrice first and had three daughters, and later married Aunt Frances. 

Jack was an amazingly accomplished artist and devout Roman Catholic. In 1938 after the hurricane passed through Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire, he took wood from the downed trees and put it to use by building a house with it. He married a beautiful Irish lady named Mary Jane Griffin, and they had two children, Mary and Irene. Aunt Mary died young due to a condition which is probably now curable (I’m not sure exactly what caused her passing, or even where she died). But Uncle Jack was a very influential part of my life. 

My uncle Bob was very different from Uncle Jack. Where Jack did all he could to be part of our lives at any occasion, I only met Uncle Bob when he was well into his 90s. Years had gone by before he talked to our family, not that our family was at feud at all, just personal differences that he had with some of his family, apparently. When I finally met him in 1998, he had driven from Framingham, MA to my parents’ farm in Foster at the age of 92 to attend a family get-together. I had a wonderful time learning about his life – being the age of 23, I thought it was the neatest thing to finally meet an uncle who I never had the chance to know anything about. 

Our uncle Edwin, who we called Ned, was an accomplished inventor. My cousin Michael (Uncle Jack’s grandson) spent time with him during his youth. What I know about him is that he was married at least twice, he had an invention idea stolen from him which is something we use in each of our lives very often, and he died in 1984 in Idaho. 

Grandma also had two other sisters who were adopted. The oldest was Annie and she was really only 13 years younger than my great-grandmother Johanna. She was Adrian and Johanna’s niece and she came to live with them at some point. And then, there was Helene, but all I know about her was that she came into their family at some point, and Grandma saw her again sometime in the 40s. She was never spoken about, and it was only by finding documents of her online that I even knew of her existence. When I found documents, I asked Grandma about her, and then she told me, although there was very little she could tell me about her. It’s very likely that Grandma was just very young when Helene came to live with them. 

That is my family’s story of who’s who for at least a couple of generations. It’s not everyone and nobody is intentionally left out. You will read more about my family as the book goes on. Now, back to my childhood. 


Building up Potterville 

Uncle Mark and Aunt Maureen built a house just to the west of the original farmstead in a location which was actually the most beautiful place in all of Potterville to build a house. The front of the house faced away from the road, and the bay window of the living room looked out over Potterville Brook and Old Plainfield Pike just beyond it. A year later, my cousin Garth was born in 1966, followed by Pamela one year later. My sister and brother, Jackie and David were born next in the Knightsville area of Cranston. Uncle Mark and Aunt Maureen had one more son, my cousin Matthew. My sister Bethny was born one month after Matthew. 

One year later, Uncle Jan and Aunt Joan had their first daughter Jeanne in 1972. I was born in June 1974, and Jeanne's sister Jena was born two months after me. Their third daughter, Jaclyn, was born about four years later. This means that after 25 years of marriage, Grandma and Grandpa had twelve years (1966 – 1978) of welcoming a new generation into their lives. 

When Dad and Uncle Jan built their houses just to the west of Uncle Mark’s, they shared a driveway which they plowed, graded, and regularly maintained. They bought a Volkswagen Bug, and they also raised pigs together. They shared the maintenance of a meadow which was our backyard at the south entrance, and Uncle Jan’s backyard entrance to the meadow was at the north. We raised a cow in that field, and we also raised goats and sheep later on. Our property was very much forested, but Dad cleared an area for a garden, barn, fruit trees, and a garage as well as a swing and slide area. 

Jena and I got along like a typical brother and sister, and that’s exactly how I felt about all my first cousins. I didn’t understand the concept of first cousins, I just assumed them to be my extended brothers and sisters, and as such, we also argued, competed, and took each other for granted like brothers and sisters. We tried to get each other in trouble once in a while… one time I got Jena mad and I told her she should just push me then. So she did, and I made sure that I fell… right into a tree where I bonked my head. One time, we were in the meadow and I got stung by a yellow jacket. I guess I had a dream later that night that I had a big hole in my hand – it sure felt like that to me! But like normal children that age, we forgave easily.  

Jena came with me one summer to Vacation Bible School at North Scituate Baptist Church. On one particular morning at VBS, Jena was missing her mother, so she cried. I was not upset in the least bit, but just so she wouldn’t have to cry alone, I cried with her! It was very rare that I would cry like that. 

A short walk 

Later on that summer, Aunt Joan was pregnant with Jaclyn and she walked over with Jena to visit Mom and have some afternoon tea. We were told we could go outside and play, and I walked over to the front yard. I figured it was a nice day for a walk, and Jena went along with that. As we walked down the driveway toward the path, I thought about it and said, “Hey, that’s where Uncle Mark lives. Why don’t we go over and say hello.” I’m sure Jena had a better sense about her with it, but she followed anyway. A few minutes later, Mom and Aunt Joan realized we were too quiet and they went to check on us. 

As I walked around Uncle Mark’s yard, just behind Grandma and Grandpa’s farm, I did hear Mom and Aunt Joan yelling for us, but because I didn’t sense any danger in being there, I didn’t think I needed to answer. In fact, Jena and I ran toward the woods near a path. I saw Aunt Joan first, and she looked kind of mad for some reason, so I figured maybe I should “play hide and seek”; and a few seconds later, I don’t think I ever saw Mom run so fast… 

What were you doing way out here, Karl Peter Tirrell??!!” Hmmm. She used all three names, that’s not a good sign… I got to think of some answer. I got it! “I was picking daffodils for you!” Big smiles. No harm in that right? Uncle Mark wouldn’t mind if I was picking some daffodils in the woods up here (daffodils come out around early spring, not in August – so I guess I was about five months late in finding them then). Well, we walked back to the house, and that was the last time I walked up to Uncle Mark’s without telling someone. I guess, in some way, in my four year old mind, I was trying to demonstrate courage. In going to a place that scared me, I had an opportunity to show bravery on my part. 

What was it about Uncle Mark’s beautiful house that was scary to me, especially at that age? There are a few things that come to mind when I think about that question. In fairness to my overactive four year old mind, I can confidently say that it was a combination of several factors – 

It looked like a picture in a book that I read that might have been partly scary (like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, perhaps) 

It reminded me of a house I saw on a TV show with a storyline that might have included someone being kidnapped or they hurt themselves while they were there (like Little House on the Prairie or The Waltons, for instance) 

Uncle Mark’s house and property was different than mine and Uncle Jan’s. Where Uncle Jan and my house were more cleared, Uncle Mark had many more trees around, which kept the land darker. 

Although I have no bad memories at all of being scared of him, I can say that he was just very loud. He spoke loud, and he also smoked, so his voice was rather raspy at times. 

I do think that a combination of those factors played a part into why I felt I needed to be brave even though my 40 year old mind now knows that I was not in danger (although thank God he didn’t have like junkyard dogs like a German Shepherd or pit bull or a Rottweiler!). In factor #2, I really just revealed a lot about myself in that… 

Having grown up in the 1970s and 80s, television was a normal, central part of our lives. We were not influenced by cable television during those years. In fact, it wasn’t until I was sixteen years old in 1990 before cable was even offered out in our town! So our TV lineup was: 

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