Viggo Vikkerson was the newest member of Paul Bunyan’s logging crew, just off the boat from Norway. He was a tall, strapping young fellow, lanky and limber and spry. Paul thought he’d be a natural as a pike pole man, hopping from one floating log to another, steering them down river.
It was a dangerous but important job, and Viggo was pretty darn proud of that. So proud, in fact, that he boasted about it to everybody he met.
Funny thing was, his Norsky accent was so thick, he always mixed up his Ws and his Vs. Same with his Js and Ys. He couldn’t help it — didn’t even realize he was doing it.
“I’m Wiggo Wikkerson and I’m the best log valker on the vater, by yiminy!” he’d holler as he thumped his chest. “If I see a log start to vander, I yust yump right on top of it and weer it back vith my pike pole!”
Now, a lot of the loggers had accents, German and Irish and French, and most of the Scandihoovians talked just like Viggo did. But he was the new guy, and the crew liked to tease him about it. That made Viggo mad. And a little sad.
One night after a long hard day, Viggo was sitting all by himself at the supper table, feeling pretty low. “Yeepers, I vish I’d have gone to Vest Wirginia vith my brother, Valter,” he muttered. “Maybe those coal miners vouldn’t be so mean yust because I’m from Norvay.”
That’s when Ole the blacksmith ambled over and sat down. “Vhy the long face, Wiggo? Vhat’s the trouble?” Ole asked. “You shouldn’t be so sensitive to a little bit of yibing. It’s all in fun. All the fellas in this room know vhat a good log valker you are.”
Viggo shot back, “Yah, vell you’re a weteran, Ole. You talk yust like me, but nobody yumps all over you! I bet you’d giff ’em a good vhack and a vallop if they did!”
“Darn tootin’ I vould,” says Ole. “They vouldn’t know vhat hit ’em, by yingle! But if it bothers you so much, vhy don’t you yust ask somebody to help you learn not to mix up your letters?”
“You know, by yiminy, that’s yust vhat I’m gonna do!” Viggo said, and he stood up and hollered to all the other loggers, “I vant to ask if anybody here vill help me vith my wocabulary! Who vants to wolunteer?”
Well, there were some chuckles and a few guffaws, but way back in the corner, a hand rose up. “I’ll volunteer, Viggo. We’ll get you straightened out.” It was Johnny Inkslinger! “Come see me tomorrow morning.”
The next morning, Viggo was up before the rooster and waiting on the office steps when Johnny opened the shade and unlocked the door. “Thank you for wolunteering to help me Yohnny, vhere shall ve start?”
Johnny just smiled and pointed to the big blackboard. “Read this sentence for me Viggo.”
“You betcha I vill,” says Viggo, “Viggo wanted a willing volunteer to help him work on his vocabulary.”
“There you go,” Johnny said. “Nothing to it!”
“Vhat the heck? Vas that me, Wiggo Wikkerson? Vhat did you do?”
“I just flipped around the Ws and Vs and you prounounced every word just right. Now, here’s your homework. It’s my new Scandihoovian dictionary, and you’re going to help me write it. That is, if want to volunteer.”
“Do I vant to wolunteer? By golly I sure vould!” Viggo said. “Vhat do you vant me to do?”
“I want you to copy all the words from the V section of the dictionary, but change the first letter to a W,” Johnny explained. “Then read the new word out loud three times, so you know what it sounds like. When you’re done with that, do the same for the Ws and change the first letter to a V. We’ll have you straightened out in no time!”
“I’ll get right to ’er!” Viggo said, and he plopped down at the desk and started copying.
Sure enough, it worked! In less than a week, Viggo was pronouncing his Vs and Ws perfectly. No more teasing, no more feeling sorry for himself. All because a volunteer took the time to help.
Of course, he still said his Js like Ys. But, hey, you can’t take all of the Norsky out of a guy! It yust wouldn’t be right, by yiminy!
Oh, by the way, the Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Association could use a few wolunteers, er, volunteers, too!
Here’s a list of things folks could help with. If you’re interested, contact us at email@example.com.
• Come to a board meeting and share your input; or better yet, volunteer as a director.
• Check signage and kiosks for necessary maintenance.
• Walk the trails and check their condition.
• Be a fire tower laborer (roof repair on blockade building; building new trail to the tower) and artistic beautification of the area/trail (landscaping, statuary etc.).
• Scrapbook our many news clippings.
• Parades: decorate and walk with or drive our float.
• Be in the Pots and Pans Band (we need “drummers” to march with the parade float).
• Be a Paul Bunyan wannabee for appearances in costume at parades, festivals, schools, reading to grade school kids, photo ops with revelers.
• Help with storytelling or storywriting.