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Baker’s Dozens

Reflections from the Swamp
Richard van Duyvendyk

Dear Reader,

By the time you read this, I’ll have had a full knee replacement done in Kemptville. My doctor said it would take a year’s wait to get it done in Ottawa, but he knew a butcher in Kemptville who did knee jobs on the side. Just kidding. My thanks go out to the doctors and staff of Kemptville Hospital for the gift of a new knee. The other knee was replaced about two years ago. After my first knee operation, I went to Don’s Meat Market and bought a piece of bone with a ball joint. I cut off the ball joint in the garage. It looked like a smooth rounded knee cap. I wrapped it up and gave it to a granddaughter for Christmas and told her it was my old knee cap. She thought it was gross but politely put it in her closet. The story has grown to legendary proportions. She brought it to school for Show-and-Tell. Soon I’ll be going back to Don’s for another knee cap for yet another knee cap story. If you give something to one grandkid, the others will expect the same. I may have to ask you, dear reader, for a knee cap in the future. I’ve run out of knee caps and will need your help to continue the story.

Due to the knee operation and time constrictions, I started looking through the dozens of stories in my files that were never finished. Many stories never got to the birthing process. I like this one, and hope you will too.

Every town has its local hero. If it’s a small town, the hero doesn’t have to be the guy who discovered The Theory of Relativity or has led the charge in a battle. One of our heroes is Baker Bob. He makes good bread. You can see him any time of year wandering the streets wearing shorts, revealing his bowed legs. He looks like he’s ready to let a horse slide in under those legs and join General Almonte at the battle of the Alamo. Bob and I are both members, in good standing, of the Knee Replacement Club.

One day I was in a line-up waiting to pay for a loaf of bread with a few other customers. Somebody asked about getting a baker’s dozen. Baker Bob came across the counter and gave a sermon on the origins of baker’s dozens. Apparently, during the reign of Henry VIII, bakers were sometimes accused of making smaller loaves to increase profits. People complained. A law was passed that if a baker was caught cheating on the flour, his hand (or some other male appendage) could be cut off. Bakers panicked. Bakers started throwing an extra loaf of bread into orders of a dozen loaves to prevent an abrupt end to their lineage. If you asked a baker to lend you a hand, it was no joke.

This story isn’t just about Baker Bob; It’s also about my brother Ron. Ron was a fan of baker’s dozens. In August, it’s common to see a hay wagon full of corn with a kid dangling his legs over the edge, bored silly, selling corn on the cob. The kid looked like he might be a few loaves short of a baker’s dozen, so Ron approached the kid and asked him, “How much is a dozen corn?”

The kid replied, “Four bucks a dozen.” Ron thought about it and said,” Is that a baker’s dozen?”

The kid looked up and answered, ”Yes, you get an extra one when you buy a dozen.”

Ron mused, “I really only want a half a dozen. How much is that?”

The kid calculated while looking into the sky,” That would be two bucks.”

“Is that a baker’s half dozen?” asked Ron, fumbling with his wallet.

“Gee, I don’t know; how many cobs is that?” replied the bewildered kid.

“That would be a half dozen plus one,” said Ron.

“Never heard of a baker’s half dozen before, but, OK, I guess.”

“That’s a good deal,” replied Ron, “I’ll take two baker’s half dozens.”

Last spring, I saw a baker’s dozen of geese fly over the pond. One goose was in the lead while six geese on either side made up a perfect “V.” I thought about King Henry, Baker Bob, appendages, and my brother Ron. I wish they all could have seen these beautiful geese coming home. The geese were the most majestic baker’s dozen I ever saw. The geese are coming back soon so, look for them as they fly home. You might get lucky and see your own baker’s dozen flying by.




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