During the month of April, I participate in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. That is 26 posts in one month, for each letter of the alphabet, time off for good behavior on Sundays. Over 1000 bloggers are participating this year. Last I checked, I was #974. This year, Millie and Willie Cottonpoly, my sock puppet creations, are here to tell you their story and share reviews, ideas, and inspiration with you. They’re also helping to teach theatre classes for kids in the Brainerd area, and continue to view and review theatre productions and some books. This retired couple doesn’t just sit around watching reruns on MeTv. (Although, Willie does like to put up his feet whenever Petticoat Junction comes on. It’s that sound of the train whistle. Millie makes no apologies for watching the Lassie marathon while holding her dog Tillie on her lap.)
D is for Discrimination. Willie and Millie Cottonpoly and their friend Mr. Happy are taking a trip to visit Loyalsock National Park in Pennsylvania. Just as the train crosses the border into Indiana, Willie is triggered by a memory of discrimination while he was working on the railroad. Willie shares his story with Millie and his friend Mr. Happy.
Mr. Happy: Welcome to Indiana, the Hoosier state.
Millie: Oh, good, only a few more hours and we’ll be in Bend. I want to get out there and check out a yarn shop.
Willie: (uncharacteristically yells) No! Millie, I don’t want you to get off the train. Not even once in this state.
Millie: Willie, what’s gotten into you. We can get some ice cream, or something. Stretch our legs.
Willie: Close the shade, Mr. Happy. The landscape makes my stomach churn. I won’t be eating a thing until we cross over into Ohio.
Millie: Do you want water? Are you feeling okay?
Willie: (sighs deeply) Millie, I’ve never told you this story, but it weighs heavy on my heart.
Millie: What is it? Did something bad happen?
Willie: (nods and takes a deep breath) One of my jobs while working on the railroad was to assist passengers with special needs. At our stop in Fargo one day, I helped a young man who was in a wheelchair. The ramps weren’t lowered and he didn’t know how to get on board. I made sure everything was secure and he rolled right on and found a good spot with a view. I stopped by to check on him and chatted as we chugged along towards Philadelphia where he was going to play Quad Rugby with a national team.
Mr. Happy: Oh, I’ve seen that. They’re crazy. Rolling and bumping into each other. It’s like a cross between football and basketball. It’s a fast moving game. They seem to be fearless.
Millie: Is it just for young men?
Mr. Happy: No, they don’t discriminate. Men and women play on the same team. The only rule is that you need a wheelchair for mobility.
Millie: Did something happen to that young man, Willie?
Willie: No, he did just fine, but when we stopped in Bend, Indiana, we had a short layover. I assisted him off the train, and he invited me to get a burger with him at a local beer pub.
Mr. Happy: Oh, that makes me so happy.
Willie: It didn’t go so well, Mr. Happy. When we got to the place, I sat down at the table with this young man, and the waiter took his order and ignored me. He walked away. The next thing I know, the manager came over to us and said, “We don’t serve your kind here.” I wasn’t sure what he meant, so I asked him. He said that “No stinkin’ sock puppets are allowed in here. You’re dirty and disgusting.”
Millie: Oh, Willie, I’m so sorry that happened to you.
Mr. Happy: I am very unhappy.
Willie: Well, that nice young man whipped his chair around and said, “Come on, Willie. Their food tastes like garbage anyway.” On the way out, I saw a couple guys from the railroad sitting at the bar. They’d seen the whole thing. Millie, I was so ashamed. I’ve never felt so low down. I thought I wouldn’t be able to look them in the eye when I got back on the train. I felt like I was made all wrong.
Millie: How could you be made all wrong, Willie? Your creator wove you together with love and style and gave you such a sweet personality and big heart.
Willie: Thanks, Millie. We got out on the street and talked about what to do. We were still hungry. The next thing I know, the guys from the railroad gathered around me, told me how mad they were at the pub owner, canceled their orders, walked out, and escorted me down the street. A couple of them went into a grocery store, bought all the egg salad they had, croissants, pickles, kettle chips, and rootbeer. We sat at the park, with me in the middle, surrounded by those guys so I’d be safe, and ate all that food like a picnic. The guys told jokes until my belly hurt.
Mr. Happy: I had no idea they were prejudiced against puppets in Indiana.
Willie: That’s just the thing, Happy. They only hate sock puppets. They like hand puppets and marionettes. They fall over backwards to serve the marionettes.
Mr. Happy: How did they even know you were a sock puppet and not a hand puppet?
Willie: The arms, or lack of them. I don’t know. Maybe I did smell funny.
Millie: Don’t be ridiculous, Willie. I hand wash all your socks before you travel.
Mr. Happy: I wish there was something I could do to make you feel more happy.
Willie: (pulls out some stickers) I brought these along. I think rainbows are cheerful. I mean, they come out after a violent storm. They hold promise for a better day.
Mr. Happy: (puts his arm around his friend) I love you, Willie.
Willie: I love you, too, Mr. Happy.
Millie: (kisses them both on the head and starts writing) Dear President Obama, As you are surely someone who has suffered the sting of discrimination, I am writing to you to correct a gross action in the state of Indiana…
What would the world be like if more people were like Mr. Happy?
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Have you ever felt discrimination? Have you ever shown it towards another person?