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Where in the world is Ted ?
The little village, much like so many other country villages of that year, had fallen on hard times.  For three years crops had not been good.  The windmill which ground the wheat and corn to make bread stood still.  There were only a few sheep left and they were skinny.  Carts used to carry wheat, corn, vegetables and fruit to sell in the city stood empty on cobblestone lanes. 

The village people were only able to grow enough vegetables in their little home gardens to feed themselves.  Farmers hoped this year was going to be better, but it would be a long time yet before the next harvest.
 
It was a bright sunny day when Ted and his good friend, Porridge, came upon the little village.  People called him Porridge because he often carried a porridge pot on his head. "Easiest way to carry it", Porridge said.  
Ted carried a wooden spoon over his shoulder ... it was so large it was as long as Ted was tall. 

When villagers saw strangers coming towards their village they closed their windows, shut their doors and pretended they were not home.
The villagers didn't hide in their homes because they were afraid or mean ... no; they were kind-hearted people who just didn't have enough food to give to strangers.  If they didn't answer the door they would not have to face hungry beggars and tell them, "no, go away". 

As they peeked out their windows at these new strangers, they felt badly.
 
 
"My tummy is starting to growl," Ted told Porridge.

"Then we should make some stone soup."

"We passed a good spot for our fire, on the main road, just at the edge of town, by the creek," Ted pointed back down the road.  "Maybe the farmer will let us camp there and use some of his wood for a fire.  We will invite him to share our stone soup."

After the farmer agreed, Porridge said, "I'll get the firewood if you get the water.  There's a bucket by the pond."
 
Have you ever have the feeling someone was watching you and when you looked up there was  someone there?   Ted got that feeling.  He looked around slowly.  He couldn't see anyone in the trees or behind him up by the road.  He looked at the barns and the simple houses.  That's when he saw it ... an eye looking through a knot hole ... a little fuzzy eye.
"Sure thing," Ted said happily and whistled as he went down to the water.   Porridge would be a while getting wood and starting a fire, so Ted sat down on the little dock and watched a duck have a bath by some reeds. 
The eye grew bigger as Ted smiled and then the eye disappeared.

"Just townsfolk being curious about us strangers," Ted said after he told Porridge.

"I don't like being a stranger," Porridge said sadly.  "I'm really a nice guy." 

"Yes, you are," reassured Ted who knew his friend had a heart almost as big as he was.

Porridge got the fire going and Ted filled the pot with lots of water.  It was just coming to a boil when the farmer came by.  "How are things going?" he asked peering into the boiling water. 

"We are just about to put the stone in," Ted answered.  Then, as if he were opening a special gift, Ted folded back the corners of a black cloth to reveal a stone. 

"It's a rock," said the farmer.  "Just a dumb ol' ordinary everyday rock."  Ted smiled and held it out for him to take a closer look.  "What's them goldy lines goin' through it?" he asked Ted. 

"It's hard to say what those are," puzzled Ted.  "They could be what gives the soup it's specialness.  As good as it is, we sometimes add herbs ... 'wow-eee', herbs sure do improve the taste."  Ted turned to the pot, held the stone over the centre and let it go.  "Plop."  

"Guess I could let you have a few snips of my herbs." 

"I've got some onions, if you can use a few," said a lady walking towards them holding a few onions in her apron.  When she got closer, Ted smiled ... not only because they now had onions for the soup but because he recognized the eye from the knot hole.  

"Thank you so much.  Onions, carrots, potatoes, garlic, cabbage ... they all add their own special flavours to stone soup.  My name is Ted, this is Porridge."  Porridge nodded and stirred the pot.  "We hope you will stay and share with us."

A horse and buggy came clip-clopping and rumbling down the main road.  When the driver saw the four of them talking around the fire he stopped and asked how everyone was doing and what they were doing.  "We are making stone soup," the farmer said passing Porridge a handful of herbs to put in the pot. 

"Stone soup?  Never heard of such a thing."
"Well, maybe there are still a few things you don't know about in this world, Henry," the farmer said pleased to know something his big brother, Henry, didn't ... even if it was just stone soup.

"Henry," the onion lady called out, "invite Verona to come over for some stone soup and ask her if she will bring a couple of carrots."

Henry told Verona, who went next door and told Peggy, who told Tavis, who told Tyler, who told Carter and Keaton.
By the time the sun had set, it seemed the whole village was coming and bringing vegetables to add to the stone soup ... even a little meat. 
It had been a long time since the villagers had eaten together; talked and laughed together.  Trying to work through hard times on their own, they had forgotten how to be good neighbours and friends. 
Sharing a little of what each of them had made the soup taste better and it made the 'hard times' not seem as hard.  They made plans to have soup together more often.
 
The soup?  It tasted delicious, right down to the stone at the bottom of the pot. 

Ted and Porridge would be on their way in the morning; Porridge with the pot on top of his head and Ted carrying the spoon over his shoulder ... and the stone in his pocket.

Tonight Ted watched Porridge on the other side of the fire sharing travel stories with new friends.
 Porridge looked happy ... he wasn't a 'stranger' anymore. 
    
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