May 13

After my first thrilling but terrifying Stevie Wonder encounter via Sesame Street, I became a fan. I even managed to scrape together enough cash to buy a bargain bin Songs in the Key of Life:

I still have mine. It plays a little noisy, but it’s complete… booklet, bonus 7″ and all.

I transferred portions of the album to 8-track. That tape and I were nearly constant companions… I even had a portable 8-track player, the kind with the handy “T” handle on top…

“Looks like a detonator, sounds like dynamite!”

I took this thing along on a school field trip to the nearby Spalding Mission historic site, blasting Sir Duke or I Wish in the back of the bright yellow school bus.

Somewhere along the way, to the chaperone’s great disappointment, I’m sure, the batteries faded and Stevie’s singing slowed to a crawl and failed. No matter, it was a beautiful spring day and there were plenty of activities to occupy young me. I set Stevie aside.

Halfway home I realized that I had left the player and tape somewhere back at the Mission… “Stop the bus! Go back!” I demanded. Already dark and chilly in the early spring, the cretins in charge declined to cooperate.

As I sulked and wept into the green vinyl of my Bluebird seat a warm glow overcame the drivers side of the bus… there was a huge fire that seemingly engulfed the whole of a giant paper mill, the largest employer in town! Even several hundred yards away and across a spring swollen river we could feel an intense heat from the flames.

With the bus pulled to the side of the road, we stared stupefied as local fire trucks, dwarfed by the leaping flames surrounded the blaze, closer than I could imagine.

Suddenly my loss seemed insignificant.

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