Instructor’s Note: Go out there and find a spring story.
Essentially that was the assignment. However, embedded in this simplicity were layers of complexity. The student reporters were each given a list of five challenges to guide the structure and content of their stories. They also drew slips of paper from a box that instructed them where to go to find their stories.
Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post asked his feature writers to do something similar in 1994. He sent four reporters in four directions surrounding the newspaper’s office in search of Christmas stories. Each reporter was given a sealed envelope with five challenges, such as the first and last word of the story had to be the same, and the first letter of consecutive paragraphs had to spell J-O-Y. The series of stories was titled “A Perry White Christmas.”
“There was something messy and haphazard about that kind of journalism, but something good too,” Weingarten wrote in an introduction to the stories. “It was based on a principle often forgotten today, that the best stories lurk everywhere, not in choreographed events but on street corners and bar stools and everyday places plain people go about the excruciating, laughable, pitiful, glorious business of being human.”
Here are the challenges for the spring stories presented below:
In your story, someone must reference water.
The first letters of three consecutive paragraphs must spell U-C-M.
You must describe the weather using a simile or metaphor.
Your first and last sentence must each contain five syllables.
One sentence must include three consecutive words using onomatopoeia.
-Matt Bird-Meyer/Muleskinner Adviser
Spring stories in Warrensburg, part 1 of 3
UCM main campus
That’s what freshman Bethany Paul exudes. From her kind smile and warm tone, like the warmth of the spring sun on a chilly morning. It’s unexpected but makes you smile.
Paul was recently sitting on a bench outside the Student Recreation and Wellness Center with a friend talking when a large soil bag tumbled by in the wind.
Paul didn’t think twice before she paused the conversation to pick up the large bag and find a trash can for it.
“I know our campus is so pretty and clean,” Paul said. “The world is a great place and I always just pick up trash. It was a huge thing, I was not just gonna let that blow around.”
Usually rising temperatures and longer days indicate that spring has arrived.
Campus in the springtime is filled with laughter and more people sitting in the Quad talking with friends or just watching the world go by.
Memories are made and friendships bloom like the flowers.
“Once spring rolls around, winter is done. The sun is out and honestly everything turns better when the sun is out,” Paul said. “When it’s bright and sunny everyone is more happy and everybody is just in a better mood. Plus that means the lake is getting warmer and I can go to the lake.”
Paul said she’s been going to the lake with her family since she was a year old.
“I love going to the lake. It’s my favorite place ever,” Paul said of Table Rock Lake. “I always go with my cousins — the water is warm and the sun’s out. It’s just so peaceful.”
A slap, woosh and ripple — the camper door, the wind and calm waters do their own thing. It’s another day at the lake.
“We have a camper down there, we have two boats and two Jet Skis. I’ve gone down there for years, me and my three siblings,” she said.
Paul said some of her favorite memories were made cliff jumping and on the rope swing.
“You know, sometimes people get up there and they’re like they can’t jump and I always convince them,” she said. “I’m like, ‘You have to jump, it’s so fun.’”
Paul said it’s scary for everyone, even people who’ve done it before, but the adrenaline takes over.
“Even people who jump, they’re always scared but you just gotta do it because you just get so energized from it,” she said.
Paul said she enjoys spending time with her family. She is a triplet and hadn’t seen her siblings since winter break.
“It’s the weirdest thing being with them 24-7 my entire life, then we all went to different schools so I haven’t seen them in forever,” she said.
Paul was able to make it home for Easter weekend. Her siblings weren’t the only part of home that she was yearning to see.
“I just can’t wait to see my dogs,” she said. “I’ll take them out now that it’s nice outside. They love to walk. We walk around in the field and the creek and I’ll let them off the leash to run around.”
Both are rescue dogs, a 90-pound lab and 60-pound pit bull-boxer mix. She said they’re the sweetest.
Paul and her two sisters have a simple and fun Easter tradition.
“We bought these cheap bunny ears from Target four years ago and we just wear them every year,” Paul said.
Whether Paul is at home, school or in the community, she said her mission is to make the world a better place each day.
“You always gotta spread positive energy because if you just spread negative energy nothing’s gonna happen, ya know,” she said. “I always just try to make it brighter, better however I can. So picking up trash here and there is just nothing.”
Paul’s sorority sister, Shelby Nelson, can attest to Paul’s good character.
“I love Bethany. She’s probably the most down-to-earth person you will ever meet,” she said. “I swear that girl never gets frustrated with anything and she’s so easy going.”
Nelson and Paul recently met but they share a close bond.
“I just met her this year, but she’s seriously one of my favorite people. I can go to her if I need a laugh and also go to her if I need to cry,” Nelson said. “She would do absolutely anything for anyone, without question. She’s truly one of a kind.”
When Paul isn’t giving back to her sorority, studying or staying on top of campus cleanliness, she enjoy hammocking.
“I went over by Houts-Hosey and I am hammocked out there,” Paul said. “It was honestly the most peaceful thing I’ve ever done.”
She intended to get homework done but laughed and said she did some for five minutes and then took a nap.
An avid outdoorswoman, Paul can also be found enjoying the weather by going for runs.
“I’ve run cross country for the past three years,” Paul said. “Something about running, you just feel good afterwards and now that it’s nice outside, I know there’s a park so I go run there.”
From running or creating gifts from what she’s got around her, Paul’s naturally kind heart has always been apparent.
“I like those little purple weeds. I know that’s not really a flower,” she laughed. “I used to pick them and make little bouquets for my mom when I was little, so that’s always a good memory for me.”
At home or in Warrensburg, with friends or alone, Paul is one of the few who carries a glow with her. She makes the lives of those she interacts with brighter.
Zealous about life.