The grandkids were begging for a picture all afternoon so, OK, I finally gave in–but said only take one. I’ve never liked cameras. My son has put up with my odd behavior his whole life so he just shooed the kids away and took it.

Then the kids said, “What did you do for a living, Grandpa?” They asked this because all their friends have grandpas who were policemen, teachers, baseball players, even astronauts. They laughed when I told them I was a professional checkers player and did they want to play a game. They agreed but I could see they had hoped for a more exciting answer like being an undercover agent for the CIA. Anyway, I brought out my checker board and set it up and we spent the next hour having fun as I taught them basic strategy and showed some of my tricky moves.

The reason they didn’t hear me say CIA is because I can’t tell anyone, even now. My son grew up with the checkers story and believed it until he didn’t. Eventually, he stopped asking which was fine with me. What was I supposed to say–Oh, all those big checkers tournaments in Cleveland, Toronto, Los Angeles and Miami were really assignments in Bolivia, Chile, Angola and Iran? I don’t think so.

As for what I did on those missions, let me just say I am one helluva shot. My favorite sniper rifle was the Barrett .50 Cal. It’s a real beast, 50” long and 25 pounds. It has a 32” barrel and can drop someone from a mile and a half. They never see it coming. Just pull the trigger and it’s Goodnight Irene.

Anyway, all that’s behind me now because I’ve retired. Technically, the Shop can still contact me if the situation warrants, but they never do. So I get to just relax and enjoy my grandchildren.

Wait a minute . . . who’s that guy in the parking lot, the one in the sunglasses talking up his sleeve? And that plain blue sedan. Aw, come on guys, I’m retired!

Story by Will Conway


I sat at a picnic table at an annual summer cookout posing for a picture while smiling and holding a beer, a sight that is often seen around the world as the two go hand in hand. I was thinking about all the different cookouts I hosted over my many summers. I knew that there were more cookouts in the past then there will be in the future, but I was happy. I was holding my beer up in an offer of cheers to all the people who see this picture and enjoy reflecting on the easy days of summer, when the weather is just right and the friends and family are happy. I have made many memories at my cookouts in the past, like when I threw the game winning touchdown pass in the annual football game, or when the grill wouldn’t work so we had to order pizza, or the time when my son proposed to his girlfriend right before all the desserts were presented. I have seen many bad days and good days outside of the cookout, but the cookout is the one day of the year where I get to sit down and reflect on everything that has happened. January 1st is not the day that marks my new year; the day of the cookout takes its place. So cheers to all the summer cookouts we’ve had, and heres to many more because the memories are endless.

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