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So that’s where the can opener went.

That was my first thought when I cleaned out the dishwasher at our son and daughter-in-law’s house not too long ago. It was the can opener of my childhood and a good one at that. The narrow end made prying the caps off pop bottles on the rare occasions when there was pop in our house. The wide end made short work of opening mason jars filled with the fruits and vegetables Mom canned each summer. That end was put to use almost every night before supper.

But those memories weren’t the second thoughts that sprang to mind as I stared at it.

My second thought was of the jars of jelly and jam mentioned in See Jane Run! Teaching duties and solving mysteries don’t leave much time for Jane to make decent meals. She frequently resorts to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Her mother insisted on sending plenty of home canned jellies and jams with Jane when she moved. Her mom was quite sure that grocery stores didn’t exist in sparsely populated Tipperary County where Jane had accepted a teaching job. And that home canned fruits and vegetables were nowhere to be found.

Jane’s mom was wrong on both counts.

Tipperary County had three grocery stores, and almost every cook in the county spent August through September canning and freezing garden produce and lugs of fruit purchased from those three grocery stores. In See Jane Run!, she’s busy figuring out 1) how to teach country school, and 2) who the murderer is that she’s unaware of the county canning culture.

Which led to my third thought while staring at the can opener.

See Jane Can! would be an intriguing title for a future book in the West River Mystery Series. Canning could be a launching pad for flashback memories of canning with her mother. A broken canning jar or a purposefully damaged pressure cooker could be a murder weapon. If Jane has a can opener like the one pictured above, it could unfold more of the story of her dad’s illness.

That thought, the fourth if you’re counting, sobered me.

The writing on the can opener says it came from the Glenwood, Iowa Lumber and Coal Company. Glenwood is in Mills County, Iowa. My dad was the county extension director there when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The story of how the disease impacted Jane’s dad and his family is based on our family’s story.

“Mom,” my son said. “Why are you staring at the can opener?”

“It reminded me of something from when I was a kid.” I laid it on the counter and took a picture with my phone.

“Something good?” he asked.

“Something hard.” I smiled and put the can opener in the utensil drawer. “And very good.”


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