‘BUCKEYE’ the Ohio Gingerbread Boy

Late last year we recieved a letter from the Kindergarten Teacher where our great niece was attending school in Ohio. The letter explained that she had been reading many stories to the children about gingerbread men, boys, and girls from all over the world. Included in the letter was a blank gingerbread cutout with a note stating to be as creative as you wish. Those words, creative as you wish, was all I had to read. Following is the story I developed and returned to the teacher on behalf of our great niece Ava.   

 

THE STORY

Several weeks ago I heard some tapping at our front door. When I opened the door nothing was there. I thought the wind probably made the noise. Closing the door I looked down to see a gingerbread man standing at our front door. I picked the gingerbread man up before closing the door and placed it on our kitchen table. It was just a gingerbread man cookie with no features or identification from where it came. I went back to doing what I was doing before I answered the door.

It wasn’t long before my curiosity brought me back to the gingerbread man lying on the kitchen table. I thought this gingerbread man needs some work! I began to draw a mouth on the gingerbread man and as soon as I finished, the mouth began to move. The gingerbread man said, “I can’t SEE!” Surprised, I jumped back when I heard the voice, but then, quickly returned. I said, “just a minute,” and quickly drew two eyes on the gingerbread man. The eyes blinked, and then in a clear boyish voice, the gingerbread man said, “HELLO!” I immediately responded, “Well, hello yourself!” “Where am I,” he asked. I told him that he was in Wildomar, California which is in the Temecula Valley of Southern California, in southwestern Riverside County.”

I soon realized that our guest was not a gingerbread man at all, he was really a gingerbread boy. I asked him where he was from. He told me that he snuck out of his school in Ohio to seek adventure. He wanted to go to a place he had never been. He then wanted to return to his school to share his adventures with his kindergarten friends back in Ohio. I was impressed with his adventurous spirit and told him we were more than willing to help. We also promised to get him back to his school in time to tell his friends his adventure.

“So,” I said, “you’re the Ohio Gingerbread Boy?” “Well,” he said, “I am from Ohio and I am a Gingerbread Boy, so I guess I am the Ohio Gingerbread Boy!”  I asked the Ohio Gingerbread Boy if I may call him BUCKEYE for short and he excitedly agreed. “I am a BUCKEYE,” he shouted!

Our first day with BUCKEYE was coming to an end and we had to decide where best to put him to bed. Out cat VELCRO would love to have sniffed (he wouldn’t hurt him) BUCKEYE all night long but wouldn’t give BUCKEYE much rest for his upcoming adventure. I decided to put BUCKEYE in the computer where he could rest peacefully and be safe.

The next day we awoke and BUCKEYE was already up looking out our back window. He saw me come in and shouted, “WOW, I love those mountains!” I told BUCKEYE that those were the Santa Ana Mountains and that the Pacific Ocean was just on the other side of those mountains. BUCKEYE asked if he could go to the Pacific Ocean, but I told him there probably would not be enough time. I told him that we would go up the mountain to a very special place in a few days.

I asked BUCKEYE if he would like to help me feed the hummingbirds in our backyard, he immediately agreed and told me that he wasn’t sure he had ever seen a hummingbird before. I told BUCKEYE that in Ohio usually only one kind of hummingbird is seen, but, here we see five or more different kinds. We filled the feeders and BUCKEYE got to see both an Anna’s and Costa’s Hummingbird.

BUCKEYE mentioned that our weather was very dry and he didn’t see many trees. I explained to BUCKEYE that we live in a Mediterranean Climate area where there isn’t a lot of rain and the days are warm and the nights are cool. Since there isn’t a lot of rain the trees are few and smaller and only plants that don’t need a lot of water can survive.

After outfitting BUCKEYE with hiking shoes and a hat, I took BUCKEYE up to my special place on the Santa Ana Mountains. The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve (SRP) which is less than ten minutes from our home.  I showed BUCKEYE how to recognize animal tracks, and introduced him to the Chaparral plant community. BUCKEYE enjoyed sitting in a Scrub Oak and patches of  Lichen. On our short hike back to the car we ran into Ranger Rob. I introduced Ranger Rob to BUCKEYE and they immediately became friends. Ranger Rob showed BUCKEYE around the SRP Visitor Center. As BUCKEYE and I were heading back to the car, Ranger Rob yelled out, “BUCKEYE, you’re invited to come with Jim on his nature hike with the 3rd-graders!”  BUCKEYE immediately shouted, “YES,” and raised a gingerbread fist! I must admit, I have never seen a gingerbread fist before, it was impressive.

I told BUCKEYE that before we could go on the 3rd-graders hike that I would have to provide him with more equipment. A water bottle would be necessary since even when it is cool here the sun shines bright and you will need water. I also provided BUCKEYE with a backpack so he could keep extra water and snacks. BUCKEYE was now ready to go on his SRP hike.

BUCKEYE and I got up early so he could help me load up the car with the materials I needed for the nature hike. BUCKEYE was excited and kept asking when we were going to the SRP. I assured BUCKEYE it would be soon and explained that we should always have a good breakfast before we go on a hike. After breakfast we headed up to the SRP. We went into the SRP Visitor Center to await the school bus that would be carrying the students from the Lake Elsinore Elementary School to the SRP.

While waiting for the bus I introduced BUCKEYE to the other SRP docents who had arrived to help lead the 3rd-graders on their nature hike. One of the docents brought in two huge bags of a special fruit. BUCKEYE climbed up on the pile of fruit and said, “What are these?” I told BUCKEYE that they were California buckeyes, and everyone chuckled. BUCKEYE told us that they didn’t look like the Ohio buckeyes he knew. I confessed to BUCKEYE that I was just joking and that they were not buckeyes at all. I told BUCKEYE that they were Persimmons from a Persimmon tree, and mentioned that Persimmon trees grow very well in Mediterranean Climates. I mentioned that the fruit was delicious and people eat them before they are ripe, when they are ripe, and when they are dried out by the sun. Coyotes love them as well.

One of the docents shouted, “The bus is here,” and we all gathered up our equipment and headed out to greet the visiting students. I placed BUCKEYE on the top of my pack.

When the students were divided into smaller groups and the docents selected their group, the two hour nature hike began.

I still had BUCKEYE on the top of my pack when I took my group to a trailhead to start our hike. I introduced myself, talked about what we might see and where we would be going. I noticed that some of the students kept looking at the top of my pack and smiling and giving little waves. I knew that BUCKEYE must have been waving at the children. I finally told the students that we had a special guest for this hike and introduced them to BUCKEYE.

I told the students that BUCKEYE was from Ohio and was on an adventure, and that he had to return to Ohio soon. I asked the students if they would like to help me on the hike with BUCKEYE, and they all agreed.

I divided my group of students into four smaller groups; the Acorn Woodpeckers, Bobcats, Coyotes, and the Dangerous Deer.  This gave all the students a chance to be at front of the line as we switched groups during the hike. I then gave BUCKEYE to the Acorn Woodpeckers who would be the first group to lead the hike.

The nature hike went very well and the children enjoyed showing BUCKEYE all the things they were learning about as we passed through the Chaparral, Oak Woodland, Grassland, and Riparian plant communities.

The Bobcats, Coyotes, and Dangerous Deer also enjoyed passing BUCKEYE amongst themselves and making sure he got to see everything when their group was leading the hike. Several times when I was explaining what we were looking at I noticed that the students were holding BUCKEYE up high so he wouldn’t miss a thing.

Towards the end of our hike a little girl approached me and told me that BUCKEYE told her that he would like to stay with her. I smiled and told her that I am sure he would, but he had to return to Ohio soon so he could share his adventure with his school friends in Ohio.

The nature hike came to an end and I passed out mementos to the students to help them remember their SRP Nature Hike experience. Since BUCKEYE participated with all four of the smaller groups I gave BUCKEYE all four of the group cards.

I asked BUCKEYE if he had a good time and BUCKEYE started talking and smiling, and talking. BUCKEYE told me all the things he saw, and all the friends he made, and how he would have loved to stay with them all. BUCKEYE talked all the way to the car and during the drive down from the plateau. As we were pulling into our driveway, I wondered why the talking had stopped and I looked over at BUCKEYE who was in his seat belt, he was sound asleep. I gently carried BUCKEYE into the house and put him back in the computer for a nice long nap. I think BUCKEYE most certainly had a great time with the 3rd-graders on their nature hike.

BUCKEYE awoke a little before sunset and I asked him how he was feeling. He smiled and said, “I feel so special, I made so many new friends today, and saw so much cool nature stuff, I had a great day!” I told BUCKEYE that I knew he would like the hike and meeting new friends. I was so happy that he had such a great time.

Looking over my shoulder, out the window, I said to BUCKYE, “I think you woke up just in time.” “It looks like you will get to experience a special Southern California sunset tonight. BUCKEYE looked out the window, and said, “WOW, it’s beautiful!”

After watching the sun go down and having a nice dinner, I told BUCKEYE that tomorrow we would have to get him on his way back to Ohio. He first looked shocked, then sad, and then a BIG GRIN filled his face.

BUCKEYE told us that he knew his adventure would have to come to an end and that he would have to get back to Ohio to share his adventure with his friends , but until he heard the words he had put the thought  out of his mind. He was sad at first but the realized that he had so much to tell his kindergarten friends back in Worthington, Ohio about his adventure and that made him very happy.

We told BUCKEYE that he was always welcome and the next time he came back we would make a trip to the Pacific Ocean. BUCKEYE smiled and  crawled back in the computer to go to bed.

The next day we packed up BUCKEYE with all his mementos and souvenirs and the gear we provided him for is hike on the SRP.

As BUCKEYE left I asked him if he was sure he knew his way back to Ohio. As he jumped off our front step and headed down the walk, he turned and with a smile said, “I knew how to get here didn’t I?” BUCKEYE continued on his way back to Ohio walking proudly with his head held up high.

As he faded into the distance, we thought we heard him whistling California Here I Come and wondered whether that meant he might be back some day.

 

END

BUCKEYE returned to his school with a PHOTO ALBUM and POSTCARDS of his adventure in Southern California and the Santa Rosa Plateau. His return was received with great interest and appreciation. We are looking forward to Buckeye’s return.

copyright 2012 jl-studio – All rights reserved.

Jim Lockyer

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.  Mark Twain

 

2 Responses to “‘BUCKEYE’ the Ohio Gingerbread Boy”

  1. Marie Rossachacj says:

    A beautiful story filled with love and adventure. Jim you never fail to amaze when you write, draw or photograph. Your love of the natural world explodes from the story. I believe this should be published. Thank you for sharing.

    Marie Rossachacj

  2. Ava's Grandma says:

    I am so glad that you posted this story. It was even more fun reading it this time. I know that you spent much time putting it together and everyone enjoyed. Ava’s teacher was amazed. Love getting the Graben updates. It’s been a long time. Take care and we miss you!

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