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The blueberry muffin mystery

Detroit Lakes Newspapers columnist Lynn Hummel recently published his fourth book, "The Last Word," a collection of some of his favorite columns from the past 40 years.

Do you trust strangers? Does it make any difference if the strangers shop at the same grocery store as you do?

Here's the situation. Last week Eartha went to the grocery store early in the afternoon for a routine half-hour stop to pick up the usual necessities: bread, potatoes, milk, hamburger, etc. When she came out, there was what appeared to be a blueberry muffin, all wrapped up and somehow attached to the windshield of our car.

On close inspection, the muffin was a big, delicious looking (crumpet? cake? shortcake? coffee cake? pastry? tort? tea cake?) the shape and color of a popover all wrapped up in the distinctive waxed paper of the bakery inside the grocery store.

She brought it home in the original wrapping and we examined it with the thoroughness of a bomb squad. "Do you have any idea who left it?" I asked. "Not at all." "Do you remember seeing anybody you knew in the parking lot when you got in or out of the car?" "Nope. Nobody." "Do you remember any of the shoppers inside the store?" "No, just the usual crowd — familiar faces, strangers—no faces or names that stand out." "Do you have any enemies" I asked. She just glared at me — "You're the one with the enemies" she snipped.

"Do you think it's safe?" she asked. It looked too delicious to be dangerous, so we agreed — "Let's eat it." We cut it in half and then into quarters. We each buttered a quarter, then ate it — carefully at first. It tasted just as I imagined it — sweet and perfect. Innocent, delightful. All visions of Putin poisoning ex-spies were considered, then forgotten by the temptation of that fresh, irresistible blueberry muffin.

Neighbors, more cautious and less trusting, said they wouldn't have taken a single bite. But such is the confidence we feel in our hometown, some grocery store unnamed friend, that we couldn't resist. We took it as a compliment to Eartha.

TRUST. Trust is the foundation of all healthy small town relationships. Take a chance in the name of trust. How bad could it be? There is no way to disguise a hand grenade as a blueberry muffin.

I told you a couple weeks ago about a note stuck to my car window when I had carelessly parked the car and took two spaces. The note said: "Nice Parking." I checked the space carefully and I was wrong. I related that years earlier, I had squeezed my car into an absolutely minimum size space and blocked another car for hours. The driver of that car left a note that started: "You selfish bastard..." Again, I was guilty.

So yesterday a friend stared me straight in the face and asked me "How come is it that you get nasty notes stuck to your car and your wife gets delicious blueberry muffins?" I knew the answer but I didn't want to say it out loud.

One further question remains. If you appreciate a stranger's delicious gift, how do you pay it forward? Do you put a blueberry muffin on somebody else's windshield? Do you do first aid on a stranger/accident victim you find bleeding on the side of the road? Why not?

Order Lynn Hummel's new book, The Last Word (171 articles, 310 pages) by sending $15 plus $3 postage ($10 plus postage for additional books) to Pony Express Books, 1948 Long Bridge Road, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501, or order at: