Friday, February 02, 2007

Boxers 'n' Briefs: A Tale of Leabhar, Nitrocat, and a Very Amazing Man


Let me repeat that, because I can't think of anything else that so succinctly sums it up: wow.

The unthinkable has happened: I am at a loss for words! Why am I suddenly just reduced to a whimpering, blathering idiot? Because of two wonderful ladies and one amazing man. Let me 'splain.

Last Boxers'n'Briefs, I offered up a challenge: whoever was first to sate my curiosity by telling me about the "Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement" would win the world-acclaimed dubious honor of being, uh, honored in the blog. *Leabhar* and *Nitrocat*, those googling goddesses, those search-engine sirens, those masters of mustering mysteries, came through with flying colors. Now, before I share their wonderful stories, let me ALSO offer my heartfelt thanks and kudos to all the others that whiled away many a good hour in this quest... Galaxy4, TrekkieGal, kascadekat, and others whose efforts remained anonymous; your efforts were not in vain. And Now, the Rest of the Story...

I got an email from *Nitrocat*, giving me the name, address and phone number of a gentleman named Ralph Morrison, Director, Toad Hollow, in Michigan. *Nitrocat* then CALLED the number, to get more information, but got no answer. And yes, brownielocks (galaxy4), it was the same person YOU came up with. Then, shortly afterward, *Leabhar* sent me an email giving the same contact information, but in addition, found his webpage, and offered this:

Mr. Morrison portrays (among other personas) a rabbi specializing in biblical stories, and a peddler from rural 1950s Michigan, residing in the mythical Toad Hollow "where you imagination comes alive, your dreams come true, and old fashioned values are honored."

*Leabhar* then emailed Mr Morrison, to get more information. It was at this point that I declared, on the last blog, *Leabhar* as the "winner". But did it end there? NO! I subsequently got another email from *Nitrocat*, and it said:

I just talked to Ralph, the sponsor of Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement. This story gets wilder by the minute, but here it is: 20 (or so) years ago, Ralph was teaching a class in MI on storytelling. Someone named Eunice moved to MI from Toad Hollow school. Ralph was entranced with the name and tried to find out about the school and Toad Hollow...long story....he eventually found some info. The school was gone, but there was still a cemetery there, so he and his wife and artist son drove there to see it. On the way he had his artist son draw a logo for Toad Hollow. And by coincidence, when they got there, the logo matched the logo at the cemetery. When he got home, he was given a chance to purchase from the county "Scott's Mill" to form a park. Many volunteers with little money turned a dilapidated park into a non-profit living history park with complete 1800s town, including working grist mill, museum, library... all dismantled from other locations, moved to the park, and reassembled. They started doing volunteer workshops in the community teaching writing, storytelling blacksmithing, sheep sheering and other early American Arts.The volunteers wanted to know what more they could do to encourage people so they started working on a personal level with cards, meals and other things to become involved in other people's lives. Then someone suggested that it be "official" on the calendar and the rest know. The sad part is that once the county realized what they had missed, they took the park away, but not before the "voluntoads" (as they call themselves) dismantled and donated the structures and things to other organizations doing similar work. So all the county got back was the park. Ralph and the voluntoads still continue to do their workshops and other things, but they are a little more low profile now. As Ralph said, "The county can't take that away. Because Toad Hollow is really in your heart."

You can't make stuff like this up!

And still, did it end there? A RESOUNDING NO!

Because *Leabhar* then sent me yet ANOTHER email, and this time, she ALSO had talked to the wonderfully garrulous Mr Morrison. To wit:

I just got off the phone with him (Mr Morrison), he reiterated everything that he told Nitrocat, and I got a little additional information as well. Toad Hollow still functions as a non-profit organization, though on a low-keyed basis, and the former park volunteers are still conducting their workshops and classes and service events. A lot of them seem to focus on getting inner-city kids out to the country, and teaching hand crafts and skills. In addition to the two days we're already mentioned, there is a whole Toad Hollow WEEK of encouragement, March 14-21.

Not only that, *Leabhar* was able to find an ACTUAL PICTURE of the original Toad Hollow Cemetery that inspired it all!!

Surely, you must be thinking, this is where it ended. WRONG AGAIN!

Because I was SO inspired by the wonderful volunteerism and community spirit that Mr Morrison inspired, that I decided to call him myself. Well, actually I called him "Ralph", not "myself", but you know what I mean! I spent nearly an hour on the phone with him, and in addition to hearing more about Toad Hollow and the above stories from him , I was also able to tell Ralph about letterboxing, AtlasQuest, and the fabulous and eclectic "community" that has gathered electronically to share the obsession(s).

Ahhhh.. that MUST be all there is to it. Well, I HOPE not. For you see, as *Leabhar* mentioned, March 14-21 is the Toad Hollow WEEK of Encoragement. Let's try to do a little of what Mr Morrison has achieved and inspired, and show our Encouragement for the people around us. Take a moment to make a card for a friend, carve a stamp and dedicate it to a teacher, or just take a buddy to lunch. Let someone know you APPRECIATE and ENCOURAGE them for who they are, because THAT, my friends, is EXACTLY what the Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement is all about.

Mr Morrison has promised to send me more information and pictures, etc., of Toad Hollow and the organization's activities, and I will certainly share here when they arrive. In the meantime, I want to know if there are any letterboxers reading this who are from the Kalamazoo MI area, and if so, would they be willing to help me organize a Letterbox series in the area dedicated to this wonderful Volunteer and his Voluntoads? You can certainly bet that when I get the actual logo from Mr Morrison, I'll be carving away!

By the way, any inaccuracies in the above stories are most certainly my own, as I am not a very good note-taker while jabbering on the phone. Ralph, if you are reading this (I told him this is where the sudden flurry of phone calls originated - it's all my fault!), forgive me any misstatements!

Thank you *Leabhar* and *Nitrocat*.

Ha! I made you read through all that before we got to what you REALLY wanted to see... the Weekly Summary!

1) Duct, Duct, Goose!

2) The Officer let it slide.

3) Flow, flow, flow your Thoughts, Gently 'cross the screen...

4) Wink Rules!

5) Preative Writing.

6) Don't worry, he doesn't read THIS either!

7) Syntaxes Hold'Em

8) Musee des Bow Arts

9) Half-pint halfback?

10) MO UR Complete!

11) And they call ME a dip!

12) If nothing else, The Land Pirates have Character!

13) I'm ready for my closeup now, Mr DeMille...

14) Congratulations! How'd Jamaica cry?

15) Once again, making the rest of us poor slobs look bad.

16) A bird in the hand is... gross.

17) Things you never knew you needed to know...

18) Ryan gets board so easily.

And... that's it! I know, I know... it was a loooong post. But did I mention how excited I am about the whole Toad Hollow thing? How PROUD I am of *Leabhar* and *Nitrocat*? And how I am looking forward to bludgeoning you electronically over the head with all this again on March 14-21, when I try to drum up some Letterboxing Enthusiasm for Toad Hollow Week of Encouragement? This is NOT the last of it, count on that!



At 1:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Blog this week. Great to hear the outcode of Toad Hollow Day of Encouragement. I have the whole week in my diary now. Can't wait to hear if some letterboxes get planted there. I am sure there will be more fun to come


At 10:33 AM, Blogger orion36 said...

An amazing story of great research and persistance!

The Toad Hollow story needs to be spread. It can't be so obscure that even the internet can't help uncover it's origins. Volunteerism is something that can make a positive difference in so many people's lives and needs to flourish. This world can use it!

Thanks for the back story.


At 3:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree w/Orian...this story needs to be spread. Thanks to everyone for all the work on this!!



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