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Dick Anderson

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Students and colleagues who know Dick Anderson, long-time professor of geology at Augustana College in Rock Island would never make the mistake of calling him absent-minded. They would say he was a man whose mind was often lost in higher things.

For a geologist, you see, a million years is just blink of an eye, a foot-wide layer of fossils in a cliff side. What small war is taking place outside the laboratory—number I or number II--is of small concern. The last time I checked, he has not yet managed to get out to see the big mall at the edge of town: it's only 25 years old.

Dick Anderson somehow managed to get to his scheduled classes on time week after week, but he had little patience with annoyingly small questions like what to eat on geology field trips. He stuck entirely to bologna sandwiches and Kool Aid for everyone. Stopping at McDonalds offered too many choices.

The only person not entirely thrilled by Dick's higher mind was his wife, Ethel. She wished that just now and then he would remember not to let the cat out of the house—it always got pregnant. She wished he would remember an anniversary or birthday, or the names of his children.

That would explain her practical joke back in November of 1982. On this particular morning, she made Dick's lunch for him to take to the office: a bologna sandwich as usual. Only this time she replaced the slice of bologna with a circle of thin cardboard on which she wrote the word "bologna." At least, at lunch that day, he would be reminded that he had a wife who lovingly made his lunch. He might even give her a call and they could laugh about it.

There was no call. Dick Anderson never even noticed the replacement or mentioned it when he got back home that night. My guess is, he may well have noticed the difference, but, being lost in the Pleistocene Epoch, simply decided to enjoy a fossilized circle of bologna even more than a fresh one.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by the Scott County Regional Authority, with additional funding from the Illinois Arts Council and Augustana College, Rock Island.