Those deadly shopping carts

The day all started off innocent enough. My wife, Katy, taught school at Nampa Christian Schools, and my two daughters went to school there. Well, it just so happened that I got off work early one day, so I thought I’d go pick up the kids, go get some ice cream and have a fun daddy-daughter afternoon.

As I was about to leave with the kids, Katy informed me that she had to stay late for a teacher’s meeting and one of her teaching buddies, Mrs. Schierman, wanted to know if I’d take her kids home so they didn’t have to sit around school waiting on her. I said, “Sure, no problem,” but that I had to stop by the grocery store to grab a few things first if they didn’t mind the stop.

(I remembered the time I was walking home from grade school and a classmate, Nancy Spiller, drove by with her mom and said they’d give me a ride home. As we were driving home, suddenly Nancy’s mom remembered that they had to run downtown right fast to her husband’s sign shop. By the time I got home, I had lost 20 minutes of football playing time with my neighborhood buddies. I’ve been traumatized ever since.)

Mrs. Schierman said that’d be fine — it’d still be better than them sitting at school by themselves for two hours. I told her I’d get everyone a treat.

Well, we got to the grocery store, and as we were going up and down the aisles shopping, I suddenly got the urge to take out hauling and then jump up on the grocery cart and coast down the aisle. But every time I’d halfway get going, some old person would totter out in the way and I’d have to hit the brakes.

It was like they had bused every nursing home to the store that day. I’d barely get going, and every 15 feet someone would step out in front of me. So keep that picture in your mind for a minute and we’ll come back to it.

We grabbed whatever vital items I had to get and went out to the car. I put the kids in the car, unloaded the groceries and then turned to push the cart to the cart rack. Suddenly I had a magnificent brainstorm. There were no old people or crowds out here in the parking lot to impede my runs. I had it all to myself! And the cart was empty. I could run as fast as I wanted to. What good fortune had befallen me.

I had put all four kids in the Suburban, shut the door and at that moment was when my Baja 500 plan actually developed. Out in front of my car 50 yards away was the cart rack.

Immediately, I took off at full blast pushing the cart. Very few sprinters in the Olympics could of blown off the starting blocks as fast as I took off. When I was peaked out, I jumped onto the back of the cart to enjoy my ride all the way to the cart rack.

But suddenly everything went awry — like with a lot of my adventures. One second, I’m standing on the cart going 20 mph, the envy of all of the shoppers. Then in the flash of the eye — quick as lightning — the front of the cart tilted straight up. And, of course, I did a head stand inside the cart. After that, it was all a blur. The best I could tell, I went head over heels in a hot second, flipping end over end who knows how many times.

It finally all came to a sudden stop with me flipping onto my back on the asphalt as a grand finale. I had so many knots all over me I didn’t know which ones to rub first. Finally my wobbling vision came back into focus as I gingerly tried to get up into a setting position. The first thing that came into focus was four kids with their chins dropped on the dash of the Suburban, and eight eyeballs, wide open looking out the front window at me.

It was like an Evel Knievel jump gone bad. With all the kids watching, I couldn’t even lay there and lick my wounds. I had to get up and act like nothing had happened.

One of the Schierman kids said, “Wow! This is a lot more fun grocery shopping with your dad than with my mom. Does he always do this?” Kolby, eyes still big as silver dollars said, “No, this one was kinda wild even for my dad.”

And that was the last time I ever took the Schierman kids home after school again. It’d just be too hard trying to top that entertainment session!

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana.

Christmas 2018

This year my wife and I decided not to give each other Christmas gifts with the exception of a traditional gift that my father-in-law gave each of his daughters every Christmas as they were growing up, and I have tried to continue since his death.

Besides, we had to replace our furnace and ended up replacing the water heater also and getting a new air conditioning unit this past year.

My brother decided to come get his gun vault that he kept in our house and gave it to his son along with his rifles and shot gun. I had been keeping a couple of my rifles in that gun vault also, so I had to buy a second gun vault for my own rifles.

We just decided that we each had bought ourselves enough stuff this year that we could count those things as our Christmas presents purchased early out of necessity.

All the brothers and sisters in both my wife’s and my family decided several years ago to just send each other Christmas cards since all our families were growing and the expense of sending gifts to our children and grandchildren was high enough, especially when you have to mail those gifts to places all over the country. In some cases, we have just sent cash to the grandchildren so they can buy whatever they want as long as the amount we sent will cover the cost.

We did Have a Christmas Eve dinner at Mandarin House with my sister’s family, and a family dinner at my sister’s house on Christmas Day with her daughter’s husband and children from Las Vegas.

Getting our two families together for Christmas Eve and Christmas day dinner is a tradition also. We have a program where everyone participates, and I tell a Christmas story about miners, cowboys or others in the old West during the mid to late 1800s. Usually I’m asked to tell the story about the gold miner’s having Santa Claus visit them at the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. After all the funny stuff, my niece’s husband — who is the serious member of the family — reads the Christmas story to remind us what Christmas is really about.

This year, we were treated to my sister’s oldest son playing “Silent Night” on a mini kazoo, my sister’s niece doing a circular presentation of being cooked in a micro wave oven, my sister reciting a poem, my niece reading a story about a toboggan running over a bobcat, which was presumed dead and waking up at exactly the wrong moment. Funny stuff.

It is fun to get together with family and learn of each others talents. I had never heard “Silent Night” played on a mini kazoo, and I’m not sure I want to have that experience again. At the time, I was disappointed that he only played one verse, but it was probably for the best. I also learned that portraying a chicken being roasted in a micro wave oven is an art form.

We decided not to stay for the Muppet Christmas movie, as we had a couple of dogs at the house and we needed to get home and see what they had been up to.

The snow we woke up to on Christmas morning was a welcome sight. My wife had been praying for a white Christmas but with no snow by late Monday night, it didn’t look like a white Christmas would happen this year. Before I could get dressed and shovel our drive way and sidewalk, the youth in the neighborhood beat me to it. That was a nice surprise. My only worry was that they do that primarily for the old folks who aren’t able to shovel their own driveways and sidewalks and might slip and fall. Are those kids trying to tell us something?

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at