A Blue Light Special


Traveling to the Regionals in pre-dawn darkness

I started noticing multitudes of flashing blue lights

in arrhythmic bursts, sparkles. flickers

everywhere in front of us

and thought…“terrible accident” or maybe “aliens”

I asked others on the school bus, but no one knew

We all watched the blue mesmerizing flashes

Eventually, one by one they whipped past and behind us

but they were not emergency vehicles

It dawned on me, they had to be the

circular irrigators, absolutely all of them in the area,

energetically expressing themselves

with color and with invisible liquid

Later in the day we had sixty-mile an hour winds

ah… the farmers had pre-watered the fields so

the precious dirt wouldn’t move to Nebraska

Windy Competitions


What a trip! With a blurred vision horizon, dust smackling hard against the windows, a blue sky only visible straight above (like through a tunnel), and tumbleweeds flying by the hundreds across the road, catching and scraping underneath the bus, or slapping like rocks into its side. My iPod volume is way over the safe decibel level. I turn it off. The wind shoves the bus around violently, roughing it up like the football team slamming repeatedly against the opposing team. I call my husband to let him know I love him, just in case the bus tips over or I end up in Oz.

Then I notice the coach, Miss D, ignoring it all like she’s in her living room, eating a sandwich, texting avidly, and relaxing behind the driver and his huge front window; a window that just invites someone to use it as a sudden exit. Keeping my eyes on Miss D, enough of her confidence gradually oozes over in my direction, steadily easing me into breathing deep and enjoying the free wild ride to a Forensics Tournament.

Arriving at the tournament safely, almost two hundred students compete against each other with words—rather like the wind storm outside competing against the crazy humans running between the school buildings to reach their contest rooms, and competing against the buildings and trees. Guess what? The humans win!

The Worth of One


Fifty to sixty-mile an hour wind-gusts from the south blasted against our school’s tour bus as the driver struggled to get us all home safely from an all day Forensics Competition in Lakin, Kansas. While the wind raged, anything bendable bowed deeply towards the north. Dust choked the sky, causing grain elevators to look like hazy, impressionistic paintings.

“Now you know what one tree is worth,” the driver said, wrestling with the steering wheel, “every tree makes a difference.” His hands strove to control the swaying bus. At first, I didn’t understand his comment.

I glanced through the windows and saw a line of bare, wintered trees on the right, close to the highway. The winds gushed between the trees, shoving our top-heavy bus to the left and immediately we were sucked right back into the vacuums that each tree provided.

If one leafless, winter tree can block something as powerful as a sixty-mile-an-hour wind, what about one human in troubled times? If we find ourselves standing alone against an attack, we need to keep standing; even if we’re forced to bend sometimes, because regardless, we’re blocking the wind for someone in need. Sooner or later we’ll be noticed, even if it’s just by a brave school bus driver.

Off To See Forensics

A Tanka Fixed Prose


Cars speed through the lot

Quickly dropping off late ones

“…I hate my alarm clock!”

Said the last student breathless

Bus driver shuts door, takes off


Sounds of crinkling snack

Packages, scattered voices

Slowly cease due to

Sleep, smart phones, MP3’s, while

High winds beat against the bus


Exciting group goes to

Liberal Forensics Meet

To speak, read, and act

And nine out of them earn a

First, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth place

My First Major Forensic Experience


(It’s not just “CSI,” the scientific, technological study of facts in criminal cases

It’s also defined as the art, or study, of formal debate or argumentation

In the case of high school activities, Forensics also includes speech, reading, and solo or duet acting)


Woke up at five o’clock in the morning on Saturday

Husband cooked breakfast while I, an Assistant Forensics Coach, got ready

Started the cold, school suburban, couldn’t find the headlights switch

Windshield wipers squealed stridently across the front window

Then the back window wipers squealed

Squealing happened repeatedly until I discovered

The headlight switch was not in the ticker handle, but on the dash

Drove the school suburban in the dark to the high school

Picked up eight students

Followed the Forensics Coach to Satanta; driving well over an hour until

Eventually we determined we had missed the correct turn off

Turned around on the highway, found the right road

Finished the way to the Stanton County High School

We were late; students and coach rushed into the building

While I stayed outside and tried to figure out how to turn off the overhead lights in that suburban

Discovered that when I locked the doors, the lights turned off

Walked briskly through the twenty-degree air

Into the real nice school building and found my group

Frantically getting their competition room numbers and times for their performances


I wandered around the building to get my bearings; ran into dead ends

Found my way back to the coach and she led me to the Tab Room

The Tab Room had nothing to do with an old brand of soda pop

It’s the room for tabulating scores from the various competing subjects

I spent time in the Tab Room and watched the tabulating process, sometimes

I read the judges’ score sheets to someone else who wrote them down

On special sheets, saving the scores from the first three rounds and then later

On sheets for the final round, and then last

On the Sweeps Sheets which were for tabulating overall points for each school


Sometimes, I roamed the halls searching for my students, to take candid shots

Also “interviewed” my students on a digital recorder

To later make a memory video

I walked past groups of students who relaxed throughout the building

Some wearing T-shirts that said things like “Forensicators” or

“You laugh, You cry, Sometimes you judge us”

Individuals here and there talked to a wall or a locker

Couples here and there held hands, eyes shut, while practicing duet lines

Coaches worked in the Tab Room, or encouraged their contestants, or

Went in and out of the Hospitality Room to grab sustenance which helped them

Withstand the pressures of coaching, hunting down students

Worrying about their families at home

Grading class papers from Friday quizzes, tests, or homework in between everything

Or attending their students’ performances

Tension vibrated back and forth through the halls and common rooms

Doors opened, letting in contestants with or without their support group

Doors closed, not allowing anyone to enter until a contestant finished performing

Groups hung around closed doors, awaiting their turn

There was an occasional empty room with open door where sat a lonely judge

Waiting patiently for the next contestant to wander in

All contestants were well-dressed, boys in suit and tie, girls in dress

Or they were styled to fit the type of lines they were doing


During the Final Round I saw even more finalists standing alone, talking to the floor

Or reading their lines, in intense concentration

Or pacing slowly in circles, talking under their breath

Or emoting to lockers, walls, or glass doors that looked out onto a cold, sunlit world

I saw more couples practicing together, either just reading lines, saying them from memory

Or practicing body movements with lines

Groups of on-lookers hung around in the halls by the finalist rooms

Waiting for their pals to finish practicing; chatting quietly together

Or chatting loudly, then quietly, then loudly, and getting hushed

When a door opened, one group waited for another group to leave the room en masse

Then they entered, the hall got quiet until the next group arrived


(I was able to attend two of my school’s finalists

One read humorous prose and was so funny and did so well that she later won first place

The other I watched did Dramatic Solo Acting and later won sixth place

We had a third finalist in Informative Speech who won fourth place)


The coaches hovered anxiously in the Tab Room

To get the word for the time of the awards assembly

Some coaches wrote scores in their notebooks as they were read to score-writers

Others just relaxed, killing time until the last score was entered

Got everybody to the auditorium for the grand finale

Announcer called the finalists to the stage for each category

Winners were announced from seventh place up to first place, in that order

Everyone clapped for each finalist, but stood up while clapping

To honor those who earned the number one spot

Students, teachers and parents from nineteen schools labored all day

Traveled long distances

To experience the thrill of dramatic and intellectual competition

On their Saturday… a work day off

That’s Forensics


Tam Raynor