The Great Tomato War


There was a problem at Elkhill Elementary School. Travis and his band of friends were bored. Playing ball was not much fun since none of group could play very well; they had never bothered to study the rules. The game of tag was not an option either since that always started an argument about who should be IT. The swing sets on the playground were off limits because they were for dorks; at least that is what Travis thought. In short, there just wasn't much left for this uninspired group to do. As Travis wandered aimlessly around the playground with his 3 friends following closely on his heels, they came across Tyler who was crouched down on the grass looking intently at something unseen to anyone else.

Tyler loved science, math, art, and poetry. In fact, he pretty much liked everything about school. This left most of the kids in the school believing Tyler was a bit strange. Tyler didn't take any of their comments personally; he was too busy living his life just as his heart directed. Tyler knew there was a much bigger world beyond Elkhill Elementary and he was going to concentrate on that world. Unfortunately, Tyler's world was now directly in the path of Travis and his gang.

Travis slowed his pace a bit. The three friends on his heels slowed their pace. Travis stopped directly in front of Tyler. Tyler never noticed. This annoyed Travis who thought everyone should be aware of his presence. Travis kicked at the dirt between him and Tyler, sending a cloud of dust right over the area that Tyler was examining.

"What you looking for Tyler?" Travis asked loudly. "Did some of your brains fall out on the ground?" The three friends on Travis' heels laughed.

Tyler looked up casually at his tormentors. He knew this group would not understand about microbes, soil nutrients, and decomposition. He knew that if he took any time to converse with this group it would be time lost from his mission, which was to learn all he could about natural science. Tyler stood up and without a word, turned and walked over to a corner of the playground he had been planning to explore.

Travis and his three friends were shocked by Tyler's lack of a response. Travis called after Tyler, "Hey brainless, don't you even know how to talk?" The friends laughed in unison, but Tyler didn't seem to hear. With Tyler gone, Travis and his friends continued to have nothing to do, and their boredom only increased.

Elkhill Elementary was located in a small Midwest town where the soil is rich and dark, just right for growing vegetables. In fact, a large community vegetable garden is located right next to Elkhill Elementary. Travis walks past this garden every day on his way home.

When school let out for the day, sure enough, Travis was still bored. Fortunately for Travis, his friends lived near him. Travis noticed the bumper crop of ripe tomatoes hanging from a long row of vines. The tomatoes looked to be the size of baseballs. He got closer to have a look. Red baseballs were what they were, at least to Travis. Travis picked a tomato from the vine nearest him, and he threw it at the first target he saw. That target happened to be Molly Peters. The tomato went splat on Molly's backpack. Molly screamed and ran. Travis and his friends laughed heartily. Travis picked another tomato, and his friends each picked one too. One by one they zeroed in on their targets. Splat went the tomatoes as screams or yelling emitted from each victim. It didn't take long before some of the kids at Elkhill Elementary decided to fight fire with fire, or at least tomato with tomato. As tomatoes kept flying out of the hands of Travis and his friends, other kids fired them right back at Travis. Travis and his friends weren't bored any more.

More and more kids got into the action. More and more tomatoes flew. But this war was very one-sided since most of the tomatoes were still on Travis's side, as the returning ammunition resupplied him.

Amongst the crowd of on lookers was Tyler. He seemed to be taking notes on the action. He would look up and observe the activity and then jot down a few things in his spiral binder. Tyler repeated this process several times. Because of his careful observations, Tyler knew the best place to stand that was out of the range of the flying tomatoes but still afforded the best view.

Finally, George Johnson noticed Tyler and asked, "Tyler instead of wasting time writing a novel, why don't you help us fight Travis?"

Tyler replied, "You could have all the help you want and it would still do no good if your methodology is all wrong."

George did not understand Tyler's reply. He was about to ignore it but Sandra Mendez who had overheard Tyler's reply wanted more clarification.

"What do you mean, Tyler?" She asked. "If you are so smart, what should we do about Travis and these flying tomatoes? Should we just let him get away with his awful behavior?" Molly waited impatiently for a reply from Tyler.

Tyler calmly looked over to Molly and said, "I am only suggesting that perhaps your problem could be solved more easily and quickly another way."

"And just what way would that be?" Asked George.

"If you look at this problem scientifically," answered Tyler, "then there are two things you are doing wrong. First of all, you are taking these tomatoes personally, and second, you are continually supplying the opposition with more ammunition to use against you. There can be no victory with those deficits."

"Are you suggesting that we just give up?" Inquired Molly.

George interrupted, "How is it possible to NOT take tomatoes that are being thrown directly at me, personally?"

Tyler could see his schoolmates were very confused. He took and deep breathe and thought of the best way to help them understand his point. "Suppose that Travis, instead of throwing tomatoes was calling everyone names. That would no doubt cause many kids to become angry and some would take those names very personally. Some kids would quite naturally want to get back at Travis and in order to do so, they would start calling him names. But what they have actually done is to fuel Travis with more words. Words that he can once again use against his victims. A war like this will not stop until acted upon by outside forces, in other words, a teacher or parent steps in."

"Are you saying that there is no way to beat Travis? We need to go get an adult to help us?" Asked Molly.

Travis shook his head and continued, "Getting an adult to help you is certainly one way to end the dispute but it isn't the only way. I told you that from my observations you were doing two things wrong. Correct those errors and you can tip the scales to your side."

George was getting frustrated with Tyler's answers. "Just spell it out plain and simple, ok, Tyler?"

"It is quite simple, George." Replied Tyler. "Stop taking what Travis throws personally and stop giving Travis ammunition to use against you. If you quit assuming that the tomatoes he is throwing are meant for you, the whole perspective changes. Let's say that Travis is delivering tomatoes to Elkhill Elementary for the benefit of a big spaghetti dinner. Everyone would be excited about that instead of angry. They would also work to save the tomatoes knowing that each tomato means more sauce for the dinner. By saving the tomatoes and not throwing them back, Travis will naturally run out of ammunition and his actions with have to cease."

"Tyler you are pretty smart after all." Noted Molly. "I say we pass the word around to all the kids to stop taking the tomatoes personally and to stop supplying Travis with more fuel."

Within a few minutes, no more tomatoes were being thrown back at Travis. Instead kids were gathering up tomatoes and placing them in a large neat pile. The best catchers of the group were sent to the front lines and as Travis and friends threw out tomatoes, each one was quickly caught and stacked with the others.

Soon, Travis was out of tomatoes and his team was not happy with this development. They looked at each other with confused looks. Travis gazed around the garden and spotted the other vegetables growing there. He grabbed a green pepper and threw it in the direction of his victims. But the green pepper was quickly caught and added to the pile of tomatoes without any comment. One of Travis's friends pulled up an onion and threw it towards the students. The onion was also easily caught and placed with the gathered tomatoes. Travis realized their fun was over. Travis picked up his book bag and with his friends on his heels, he left for home.

The next evening at Elkhill Elementary there was indeed a big spaghetti dinner. The sauce was some of the tastiest any of the kids had ever had. They were almost grateful to Travis for picking all the tomatoes and they felt a little sorry that Travis couldn't attend the party. Instead he was busy in the school kitchen washing all the pots and pans under the watchful eye of Elkhill Elementary vice-principle. Travis's three friends were put in charge of emptying the trash and mopping the floors. In the days to come, Travis and his friends were to head back to the vegetable garden and begin raking the soil for a new crop of tomatoes. It is very doubtful they will have any spare time left for boredom.

Regrettably, Tyler also missed the spaghetti dinner. He was at home experimenting with ideas that involved creating a use for static electricity. His experiments were going so well, he completely forgot about the time.

Contributed by Linda Williams linda_williams@udscorp.com

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