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Shake 'n bake is somewhere over the rainbow

August 24, 2009

o If you like reading Tim Rowland, you'll love watching him. See what else Tim has to say

I'd never seen such a vivid rainbow, so I really can't quibble. But why did it have to be shining so brightly over a strip shopping center? And would we even have seen it if it weren't for Shake 'n Bake?

Even toy farming has its ups and downs. It can make all but the most exceedingly pious man paranoid, convinced the Lord is up in heaven purposely steering every rainstorm around your land so that everyone else's fields are drenched, while you don't get squat.

On a higher note, you grow a lot of your own food, which minimizes trips to the grocery store.

I'd spent most of Friday afternoon angrily shaking my fist at the sky demanding justice. It had rained earlier in Hagerstown to the north and it looked as if it was fixing to rain in Middletown to the east.

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But nothing I had done, from tribal dances to sacrificing another chicken, had brought a drop to Little Farm by the Creek. Late in the day, I was in the middle of one of my more vociferous threats when Beth grabbed me by the ear and pulled me to the car, insisting we had to make the bimonthly trip to the grocery store.

Curiously, this did not improve my mood. She keeps a meticulous grocery list, I don't know why. I know it by heart: 1. Dog food. 2. Cat food. 3. Kitty litter. 4. Carrots for the horses. 5. Grapes for the donkeys. And so on.

I'm lucky if I get so much as a slice of bacon.

We're not exactly food snobs, but neither would you ever find boxed macaroni and cheese in our house.

With two exceptions. Before we were married, in the interest of full disclosure, I felt it necessary to tell Beth that I, not often, but on rare occasions, got a taste for Stove Top Stuffing. I feared rejection, but she used the opportunity to confess that she, not often, but on rare occasions, got a taste for Shake 'n Bake.

(I haven't worked up the nerve to tell her of my fondness for iceberg lettuce.)

So we're walking down the aisle (grocery store, not the church), and on the list, Beth sees a notation for "S&B."

She later said she was reluctant to write out "Shake 'n Bake" because, in the event of her death, she didn't want someone coming into the house and seeing it on the grocery list.

But for the space of 10 minutes, given the feebleness of our aging memories, this "S&B" reference left us stumped. It got to be a test of our resolve. We would not leave the store until one of us deciphered the code.

Because of the delay, our timing was perfect. Outside, it had been pouring, and when we walked out, the parking lot was bathed in a strange light, and above the store, against a black sky, was the brightest, most perfect rainbow ever. Just think of the best rainbow you've ever seen and imagine it in high-def.

But weirdest of all, everyone in the parking lot had frozen in their tracks, their gazes fixed skyward. It was like the rapture, if God had turned out to be Walt Disney. The rainbow appeared so close that the pot of gold would have been located in the grocery store's produce section.

Adding to the glorious effect, the sun was setting to the west, and some low-hanging clouds were dripping fire against a backdrop of turquoise sky.

This had to be a sign. The gods, admitting the error of their ways, had showered the fields with water and offered the rainbow as a sign of peace. Eagerly, we raced 10 miles back home to check the rain gauge.

We hadn't gotten a drop.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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