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By Tim Wintermute

A month before Easter Violet Taylor stopped by Prairie Star Community Church to see the Reverend Ezra Beeman.  After seating herself in the Pastor’ Study she wasted no time in asking him to participate in Beulah Crossing’s annual Easter Egg Hunt. Ezra reminded her that it had been four years since the last time they had their “annual Easter Egg hunt”.  The official reason given for canceling the one’s for the previous three years was to prevent the spread of Covid through large gatherings, but everyone knew it was to avoid the embarrassment that there would be no “large” in the gathering and only a handful of people would turn out.  The sad truth was that over the years the number of participants had dwindled as the town’s population had declined. The only population growth Beulah Crossing had experienced was at the town’s cemetery. 


Then things had changed. People living in urban areas started working remotely and even Purgatory County in the rural, Southeast corner of Colorado where Beulah Crossing was located had experienced an influx of newcomers. Not that it took many new people to qualify as an influx for Beulah Crossing.  True, most of the new arrivals were attracted to Picketwire, the area’s economic, social and cultural center with Picketwire College, the County’s only hospital, a thriving arts and culture scene. However, Picketwire had only a small supply of vacant housing to accommodate the influx, so a number of the newcomers moved to nearby Beulah Crossing. 


“Despite people in town saying they want fresh blood it’s a shock when the fresh blood is pumping through the veins of people who don’t exactly look or act like us,” is the way Violet put it. “Too many folks find it easier to spend time with the ghosts they know than human beings that they don’t.  We need ways for all of us old timers to get to know the newcomers and vice versa and I think that’s what the Easter Egg Hunt can do. I brought it up at the last City Council meeting and they voted to restart it this year. Then Mayor Barstow appointed me to be in charge of organizing it.” Violet stopped and smiled. “I’m not sure it was an honor that he bestowed or punishment for me proposing it.”


“Sorry to tell you, Violet,” Ike Elizondo said from the doorway.  He’d stopped by to visit with his friend and when he’d overheard Violet he couldn’t help saying something. “But you’re not an old timer.”


Violet turned around and looked at Ike. “I’m almost as old as you and Ezra.”


“Just being old doesn’t fully qualify you as a Beulah Crossing old timer,” Ike explained. “You also have to be born here.  It’s like being qualified to be President; you have to be born in the U.S. or its territories. Now, I was born on our family’s sheep ranch, which is inside Beulah Crossing’s territory, so I qualify as an old timer.”


“You’re saying that even though I’ve lived here for almost all of my sixty years…”


“And I’ve lived here for almost fifty,” Ezra chimed in.


Violet continued, “Since neither of us were born here we’re not considered to be old timers?” 


“Don’t shoot the messenger, Violet,” Ike answered. “I didn’t make the rules, the old timers did.”


“Well, these so-called rules by so these self-appointed old timers are utter old time nonsense, Ike,” Violet said, shaking her head. “And stop hovering over me and sit down.”


“And what do these rules say we are, if we’re not old timers?” Ezra asked, trying to de-escalate the situation. “We’re hardly newcomers?”


Ike scratched his head and then ventured, “I suppose you’re middle timers.”


“Middle timers,” Violet laughed. “That’s more nonsense.”


“Not to an old timer,” Ike replied with a broad grin as he finally sat down in the chair next to Violet. “But seriously, to get back to what you were saying…”


“Yes, why don’t you be serious for a change.”


“It does seem like a bunch of strangers have moved into town.”


“Why that’s the point, Ike,” Ezra almost shouted at his friend. “They’re strangers and for the old timers and, and…”


“Middle timers,” Violet offered.


“Whatever,” Ezra said, then continued.  “A newcomer is by definition a stranger because they’re new to us and, likewise, we’re strangers to them.”


“And whoever made up these silly rules about who qualifies as an old timer…they’re just strange,” Violet said.


“Okay,” Ike held his hands up in surrender, “I get your point, Violet.”


Ezra looked at Violet and said, “You really think that an Easter Egg hunt is the event that will bring all of us together so we won’t be strangers to each other?”


“Yeah, that does seem like putting all of our eggs in one basket,” Ike chuckled.


“It’s a start, and if we don’t start then we’re going to end up as a bunch of strangers and not a community.” Violet looked at Ezra then Ike, “This year we’re going to have teams just like we did before. Prizes will be awarded to the team that finds the most eggs, finds the most beautiful egg and, of course, the Grand Prize will be awarded to the team that finds the Easter Special Egg.”


“As I recall nobody won the Grand Prize the last few times we had the hunt because nobody could find the Easter Special Egg,” Ike said.


“Well, that’s why it’s called the Easter Special Egg, because it’s really difficult to find. Otherwise it would be just like the other eggs.”


“Difficult is one thing, but impossible is something else,” Ike muttered.


Ignoring Ike, Violet continued.  “There is one major change from past hunts and that is people will be assigned to teams rather than picking their own.  That way we’ll have diverse teams with a mix of newcomers and oldtimers.”


“Makes sense if the point is for people to get to know each other,” Ezra nodded in agreement. It also saved anyone from the embarrassment of not being chosen to be on a team, he thought.  It seemed that he was always the last person chosen for a team when he was growing up.


“I’m glad you agree, Ezra, because the reason I’m here is to ask you to be a team leader.” She turned to Ike and said, “And since you’re here, Ike, consider yourself asked as well.”


Ike steepled his fingers under his chin as if he was giving it deep consideration and then raising the hand to his forehead in a salute said, “Ready to serve.”


Turning her attention back to Ezra, Violet said, “Before you agree, Ezra, there’s one other thing I’m asking of you. Somebody has to have Bud Howell on their team and…well…”


“You want put him on my team?” Ezra asked. 


“But,” Ike sputtered.  “Everybody knows that Bud Howell doesn’t like that there are new people moving in. He’ll be throwing eggs not hunting them.”


Violet reached over and patted Ike’s right forearm, “He’s a member of the Town Council like me and even though he opposed people being assigned to teams where they would be with people they didn’t know he agreed like all the other Council members to participate.”


“Why can’t you be the leader of his team?”


Violet snorted, “It’s no secret that he and I don’t see eye to eye on most things, make that everything.”


“No secret is right,” Ezra said. “I remember you and Bud having a heated argument at the very first Council meeting after you were both elected. He got so angry at you that he got up and walked out. Sort of undercut the invocation I gave about everyone working together.”


“Too bad he didn’t keep walking right out of town,” Violet chuckled. “But he didn’t and as much as I hate to admit it, he has a following. Since you’re a Pastor and a long time respected member of the community - even if you aren’t an old timer according to Ike, you have a better chance than most people to keep Bud from disrupting everything.”




A month later on the Saturday before Easter, instead of practicing his Easter sermon in the empty sanctuary of Prairie Star Community Church, Ezra was crawling through the grass looking for eggs to fill his empty basket.  “I found another one,” shouted the youngest member of Ezra’s team, ten year old Susie Kim. whose family had moved into town less than a year ago. He looked up and saw her holding the egg she had discovered nestled in a flower bed in front of the house next door. “Bravo,” yelled another member of his team, ninety year old Annie Hufnagel who was pushing her walker across the lawn. Annie’s basket was attached to the handlebars of her walker and was filled with eggs that she’d plucked from their hiding places using the long metal pole with a claw at the end that she used to grab things off of shelves that were too high to reach. After a half hour of hunting everyone had eggs in their baskets except Ezra.  How could the other members of his team respect him as their team Leader if he wasn’t contributing.  If he didn’t have any eggs in his basket he’d have them on his face. 



Ezra tried to console himself with the thought that no one “found” Jesus in the first Easter - he revealed himself. Maybe instead of hunting for eggs they could reveal themselves?  He stopped crawling and slowly stood up then let his eyes wander over the lawn.  Lo and behold he spotted an egg.  It was a rainbow of colors and seemed to leap from the blades of grass.  He couldn’t miss it, except that he had crawled right by it just minutes earlier. In the next half hour five more eggs revealed themselves to Ezra.  



With an hour remaining before the hunt concluded, Ezra’s team took a break. They crowded onto a picnic table in Pioneer Park. After counting the eggs they’d found so far Ezra reminded them that they would need to select an egg as their candidate for the best Easter Egg prize. “That should be easy,” Bud announced. So far he had been under control, but that was probably because Ezra everyone had spread out, so they could cover as much ground as possible, but now that they were together it was a different matter.  Not only that, two of nine members of the team, long time residents Trish Small and George Paulson, looked at him as if they would agree with whatever he said. Bud picked up an egg that was dyed red, white and blue. “This is like the American Flag that’s flying right over us,” reminding everyone that they were seated near the flagpole in the center of the Park. “And it would be downright unpatriotic to choose any of the others.” He left out that the egg was one that he’d taken from his coat pocket and slipped into the basket when no one was looking - except Ezra, who decided not to light Bud’s short fuse by saying anything. Bud saluted the egg, his right hand touching the brim of the red cap he wore on which the slogan “Make Beulah Crossing Great Again” was printed in black. 


“Bud’s got a point,” Trish Small said and George nodded his head in agreement. 


“Although I agree that the egg Bud’s holding has the same colors as the American flag,” Annie Hufnagel said looking at Bud from the seat of her walker, which she had positioned at the head of the picnic table. “I don’t think Francis Scott Key would have written the Star Spangled Banner if he’d seen an egg flying over Fort McHenry.” 


“I’m not saying this egg and the American Flag are exactly the same thing,” Bud replied, which was one of the rare times he admitted to not being a hundred percent right. “And I should know since I have two American flags flying from my pick-up…”


 “So, you are the person who owns the red Toyota Tundra,” Ashwin Mukherjee said, interrupting Bud. “I was thinking of buying one, but decided on a Ford 150 Hybrid instead.” Ashwin was a software engineer who had moved a year before with his wife and daughter to Beulah Crossing where he could work remotely for a software company in Boulder.  When the they were introducing themselves he had explained the reason he had binoculars with him wasn’t to spot eggs but because he was a bird watcher and you never knew when you might come across a rare one.


Ignoring Ash’s comment that brought unwanted attention to the fact that he drove a Japanese pick-up, Bud picked up where he left off, “I’m just pointing out that the red, white and blue on this here egg reminds us what it is to be a patriot. It’s really important now more than ever when there’s a threat to our American way of life, which is what we’ve always lived here in Beulah Crossing.”


“What do you believe goes into making the American way of life?” Tiffany Johnson, who had opened the Body and Soul Café in town six months ago. She was a native of the Caribbean, moved to Miami when she’d turned twenty one where she had learned to be a chef and then relocated to Beulah Crossing when her partner, Jen Rydell, got a job at Picketware. “As the owner of a cafe I’m always interested in the ingredients for a good recipe.”


“They’re the all American ingredients that the original pioneers that we’ve named this Park in honor of brought with them when they settled Beulah Crossing.” 


“As you know, my great grandparents were among those original pioneers,” Annie said from the head of the table where she sat on the folded down seat of her walker. “And they had to get rid of most of what they were bringing to make it here. Turns out you can only carry so much in a wagon.  They were immigrants from Germany and the only thing they knew about America was that there was free land they could farm. Since my great grandparents didn’t know much about farming and even less about ranching my great grandfather, Otto, became a blacksmith, which is something he did know.  Our name Hufnagel means horseshoe nail in German, which by the way was the language they continued to speak since they didn’t know a lick of English. Didn’t really have to since the town’s first newspaper, which was called the Beulah Crossing Zeitgeist, had a German edition that out-sold the English one. The publisher was a German immigrant who owned the town’s printshop and claimed he was a descendant of Gutenberg.  The Lutheran and the Catholic Churches in town had services in German and there were German heritage and cultural associations and Octoberfest was as big a celebration as the Fourth of July. Things didn’t change until the First World War when German’s were seen as unpatriotic.  The paper stopped printing its German edition and was renamed the Beulah Crossing Times, the churches ended their German services and some people even changed their German names to ones that sounded more American.”


“Well, you can’t get more American than Howell,” Bud said, drawing attention to his last name.


“That’s probably why your great grandparents changed it from Hohenberger.”


“What the…” Bud sputtered.


“If you want to verify what I just said you can look at the records kept by the Beulah Crossing Historical Society,” Annie looked at the others sitting beneath her and added. “I’m the Society’s archivist so I’ve actually read them.”


“To get back to the egg, let’s have a vote,” Bud said, holding up the egg.  “Who’s for this one that’s colored red, white and blue like the flag up there.”


Before the vote could be taken, Jan Smits said, “Red, white and blue are also the colors of the Dutch flag.” Jan was a professor of physics at Picketwire College and his wife was a Professor of Psychology.  They and their two children had moved to Beulah Crossing six months ago having outgrown the house in Picketwire where they’d lived for several years. 


“You mean the Dutch stole our colors,” George Paulson blurted. 


“The Dutch flag was adopted in 1575 and the American flag was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1777, so if anything, the U.S. copied their colors.”


“And how do you know this?” Bud demanded.


“I was born in the Netherlands. I came here to get my PhD in physics at the University of Colorado ten years ago and decided to stay and become a Citizen. I had to study American history and government for my citizenship test so I know when the U.S adopted the flag.”


“That means you know more than most people who were born here,” Annie laughed. She was tempted to add that “most people” included Bud, at least when he was one of her students in the history and civics classes that she taught at the Beulah Crossing High School, long since closed due to declining enrollment. 


“Are there any other eggs people would like to nominate?” Ezra asked.


“I really like this one,” Tiffany held up an egg that Ezra recognized as the one he had found. “It’s got all the colors of the rainbow.”


“It sure is pretty,” Suzie added.


“You want to pick pretty over patriotic,” Bud said, shaking his head. “Instead of this egg that’s got the same colors as our flag.” 


“But as Jan pointed out the Dutch had them first, Bud,” George said to Bud. “So, it seems to me that the colors aren’t what make the flag American.”


“We can defer a decision until the end of the hunt,” Ezra suggested.


“Why wait,” Annie said.  “I move that we make the rainbow egg our candidate.” 


Ezra asked for a vote and everyone raised their hand but Bud, who said, “For the record, I didn’t vote for it.”


“We’re not keeping a record,” Ezra replied.


Bud slammed his right hand on the picnic table in protest, forgetting that he was holding his red, white and blue egg. As egg white, yellow yolk and fragments of the red, white and blue oozed between his fingers, Annie said, “But I can make a note and put it in the History Society’s Archive if you want, Bud?” Annie smiled. “It will record for posterity that everyone voted for the rainbow egg, but you.”


As Bud wiped the egg from his hand with a red bandanna George handed him, Ezra loudly cleared his throat and said, “We only have half an hour left in the hunt to gather more eggs and to see if we can find the Grand Prize, the Easter Special Egg. The one clue that we were given is that it will appear for all to see. That makes me think it’s here in the Park since it’s at the center of the hunt.”


“We only have forty five minutes,” Trish said, holding up her wriswatch. 


“That means looking here in the Park is probably all we have time for,” Ash said. 


“What if we all look together instead of each going off on our own?” Jan suggested. “We could do sort of a grid search by starting here at the flagpole in the center and as we walk straight each of us look really carefully at the ground in front of us. When we get to the end of the Park turn around and walk back.  That’s the best way not to miss anything.”


“That seems as good a shot as any,” George said, nodding his head.


“Well, let’s get going then,” Annie said, getting up and grabbing the handles of her walker.


They formed in a circle with their backs to the flagpole and when Ezra said “start” they began walking outward, their eyes glued to the ground in front of them.  A half hour later they were back. Some of them had found Easter eggs but nobody had discovered the Easter Special Egg. 


“Well, at least we know where it isn’t,” Ashwin said.


“We only have fifteen minutes left,” Trish said. 


“Anybody else have any bright ideas?” Bud said.


“What kind of bird is that white one?” Suzie asked Ash. 


“Where?” Ash asked.


Suzie pointed up. “It just landed on the top of the flagpole.”


“Just a Mourning Dove,” Bud said as they all looked up.  “You see them all over the place. They’re like pigeons around here. Should be an Eagle up there not a dove.”


“Can I look in your binoculars?” Suzie asked Ash.


Ash gave her the binoculars.  Suzie looked up at the bird, “It just laid an egg.”


“An egg, you mean there’s a bird’s nest on top of the flagpole?” Annie said, in surprise.


“That’s not possible, Mourning Doves don’t make their nests on top of flag poles” Ash said. 


“Look,” Suzie said handing the binoculars back to Ash.


Ash looked through the binoculars, “You’re right, it seems to be an egg, but it’s too big for any dove to have laid. It seems to be cradled in something that’s attached to the top of the pole.”


“By gosh,” Annie shouted.  “It must be the Easter Special Egg.  Remember, the only clue they gave us was that it will appear for all to see.  Everyone can see top of the flagpole. It’s probably the highest point in town, other than the top of the Prairie Star Church steeple.”


“It’s just the ‘thing a ma jig’ at the top of the pole,” Bud said dismissively. “Although it should be an Eagle, a gold one.  In fact, I’m going to introduce a motion to that effect at the next Town Council meeting.”


“Well, this ‘thing a ma jig’ sure looks like an egg and its gold, if that makes you feel any better,” Ash said, still looking through his binoculars. 


“Then it must be the Easter Special Egg, just like I said,” Annie said then added with a chuckle, “Unless some goose laid a golden egg up there.”


“How do we find out if it really is the Easter Special?” Jan asked.


“The only way is if somebody climbs the pole,” George said, then added.  “And it’s not going to be me. I get altitude sickness from being on a step ladder.”


“I can climb it,” Tiffany said.  “In the Caribbean I crewed on charter sailboats and had to climb the masts.”


“This flagpole is probably way taller than any mast you climbed,” Jan warned. 


“It is taller, but at least there’s no wind and it’s not swinging back and forth because of the waves like the sailboat masts I had to climb, and I’ll be holding on with my arms and legs when I shinny up. We will need to lower the flag, though. Otherwise, I’ll get tangled in it.”


“Lower the flag during the day,” Bud gasped.


Ignoring Bud, Ezra said, “How many are in favor of lowering the flag so that Tiffany can climb up the pole?” 


The response was a chorus of “ayes” from everyone but Bud, who registered his dissent by staring at the ground and shaking his head. 


Jan and Ash quickly lowered the flag, folded it and handed it to Bud, who clutched it against his chest. Tiffany quickly removed her shoes and socks and started shinnying up the pole. In several minutes she was at the top. “It’s the egg!” she yelled down. “It’s gold and it has Easter Special Egg written on it.”


“We found it!” Suzie screamed in delight as she jumped up and down.


“It doesn’t count as the grand prize unless it’s in our basket and it can’t be cracked,” Ezra reminded everyone.


“Can you bring it down?” Ash shouted to Tiffany.

“I don’t have anything to put it in and I need both of my hands to slide down the pole.”


“I know what we can do,” Annie said. “We can use the flag like one of those safety nets firemen use to rescue people who jump from buildings.  Everyone can grab onto an edge of the flag and pull it until it’s stretched out and then Tiffany can drop the egg into it.”


“You can’t drop an egg on the American flag,” Bud protested as he clutched the folded flag against his chest. 


“The egg is hardboiled,” Trish said.  “So, it’s not like throwing an egg at the flag, Bud.”


“And we won’t let the flag touch the ground,” George added.


Bud felt like Julius Caesar after he was stabbed by his so called friends, but instead of saying “Et tu Brutus” maybe it should be “et tu Bruti” since there were two people stabbing him, not that Bud knew Latin. 


“We only have five minutes before the hunt is over, Bud,” Trish said, holding up her wristwatch in front of his face.


“You can’t go against the majority, Bud,” George pleaded.  “It’s undemocratic.”


“Well, as long as the flag doesn’t touch the ground,” Bud said, and handed the flag to George.


Everyone held onto an edge of the flag, including Bud to everyone’s surprise, and they pulled on it until it was unfurled.


“Don’t hold it so taut that the egg will crack or bounce out,” Ezra said. 


“Okay, Tiffany, drop the egg right on the flag,” Ash yelled. Tiffany plucked the egg from the cradle it was nestled in and in one continuous motion stretched out her arm over the flag and released the egg.


The entire team was mesmerized by the golden orb flashing in the sunlight as it plummeted until it landed in the center of the flag. Everyone seemed stunned as they looked at the egg. Suddenly, Bud reached in with his right hand and lifted it from the flag.  After carefully examining while the others held their breath, Bud held it up for everyone to see and with a broad grin proclaimed, “It’s the Easter Special Egg and there’s not a crack on it!”

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