Jim Dandy’s

This past Thursday we held our annual Band Sign-up Night in the Backpack Elementary School cafeteria.  This is the night when 5th graders sign up for band lessons.  Since I live about 30 minutes away, I decided to stay in town after school rather than drive home and return, and this meant I would need to get some dinner.

The Backpack Schools are located in a small Hoosier town with a surprising number of restaurant choices for its size.  There is the Chinese restaurant, for instance.  It has great food and is owned by the parents of two wonderful girls I have had in my classes.  Their mother doesn’t even ask my name when I call to place a lunch order.  She just tells me it will be ready in 10 minutes, and it always is.

Or I could go to Subway where Kayla’s grandmother works behind the counter.  Kayla is one of our flute players, and her grandmother knows what toppings I like on my sandwiches.

But the most popular spot for dinner by far seems to be the local Jim Dandy’s family restaurant, where you can get chicken-fried steak, or the soup/salad/fruit bar, or the famous Jim Dandy sandwich platter.  This is where I chose to go for an early dinner Thursday.  It wasn’t hard to find a table since it was only 4:00.  Seated across the dining room, three old farmers were passing the time talking.  They had obviously known each other their whole lives; their conversation had an easy, forgettable way about it.  I found myself wondering what they had been like as kids together years ago in school.

One of them looked out the window and saw another man approaching.  “Here comes trouble,” he said, smiling.

The new arrival came in and took a seat in a booth.

“Hey, Tom.  So they finally let you out?”

“Yeah, first time to town since they plowed my drive.”  It was hard for me to tell if this was true; it has been a mild winter, and the last serious snow was about two months ago, so he might have been kidding…

One of the waitresses walked over and asked, “Would you like green beans or corn?”  So far as I can recall, this was all she asked.

“Green beans, thanks.”

One of the other farmers asked, “So, Tom, why haven’t you been to town?”

“I been too busy!”

“You know where people go for lyin’, don’t ya?

“Same place as for stealing.”  His quick answer brought more laughs than I would have expected, but I found myself laughing, too.

Pretty soon the waitress walked back over with a bag of carry out, which must have been Tom’s regular order because it was ready fast with few questions.  After paying, Tom said his goodbyes and left.

I, too, finished my meal and headed back to the school.  Sign-up Night went smoothly.  Several of the 5th graders who attended are younger brothers and sisters of band members I have had before.  Nick showed up with his older sister Tori, now a high schooler, who I recalled had suffered through an infection two years ago that was so serious the doctors didn’t know if she would live.  She was in the hospital for a few weeks, and was even longer recuperating at home.  While she has mostly recovered, she still has trouble taking a deep breath, so she often sounds tired.  But she is always smiling.  Nick was, too.

This year’s group of beginners seems exceptionally nice.  There aren’t a lot of them, but they are enthusiastic.  There has been a significant drop in the number of students signing up for band over the last few years.  I wish I knew why.  I suspect it’s due to a number of converging factors:  sports are more popular than ever; video games and other easy entertainment could be a reason; money is tight and budgets are stretched; fewer students seem willing to do anything that takes effort.

But for now, I am focusing on the ones who made the effort to show up and sign up.  Their families are making an investment in their students’ futures, and I get to provide them with some fantastic opportunities.  What a privilege.

And who knows?  Maybe years from now these kids will be the ones shooting the breeze at the Jim Dandy’s, and maybe a few of their stories will be about their time together in the band.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mark Shaver on April 1, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Norman Rockwell couldn’t have painted it any better. Nicely put.


  2. Posted by Angela Shaver on April 2, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    I love Jim Dandy’s!


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