The choice set before the two girls came with the condition: no matter what happens, no one gets mad and no one cries. Our 6- and 7-year-old granddaughters, both believing one would be the winner and the other a loser, confidently announced their selection.

As it turned out, both were winners at the beginning, losers in the middle (and did indeed get mad) but went away happy in the end. Want to know what choice they were given and who chose what? Continue reading, Dear Reader, and you too can play along. But as I have already stated, you can only make one choice and getting mad or crying is not allowed.

Early in the morning while carrying a bag to the outside trashcan, I saw him. The large green cicada was lying on the top of the lid but didn’t move when I neared. So, I grabbed him. At first, he didn’t do anything, and I thought he was already dead. But as I slowly opened my cupped hands for a look, he started crawling around, making the loud buzzing noise you hear outside at night this time of the year.

It being so early, the girls were still sleeping so no one was around to witness my great capture. Walking back inside the house, I had three ideas all at the same time.

First, I pictured waking up the girls and letting the cicada loose so they could chase it all over the house. Second, I imagined what their mom would do to me if I did such a thing. And finally, and this is what I decided to do, I’d gently place my newly captured insect friend in a jar to show the girls when they woke up. Later, The Wife said I had made a very wise choice.

After a quick trip to the chicken place with the red roof, I returned home with my chicken biscuit and a large sweet tea and checked on my house guest. The large green cicada was doing fine and seemed contented in his jar. Now it was time to cut the grass.

Removing the tarp covering the lawnmower, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. Was it another cicada or the elusive blue tail lizard? Neither. Reaching down, I grabbed the baby frog, a little smaller than a golf ball, before it had a chance to hop away. Now I needed a second jar.

During grass cutting, I decided to use my two new captives to help demonstrate a life lesson to the girls. And as much noise as I was making, I was sure they’d be up soon. An hour later, I went inside and asked them to follow me.

Hurrying outside, I gently grabbed the baby frog in one hand and the cicada in the other then stood on the front lawn. When they came out, I announced, “Girls, you both have a choice to make. I have captured two woodland creatures. You have to choose the left or right hand. But you have to promise not to get mad or cry because you didn’t get what you wanted.”

Making the promise, they made their choice. Now, Dear Reader, you can make yours, will you choose what’s in the right or left hand?

Being the youngest, Sweet Caroline went first and wanted what was in my left hand. Gently transferring the large green cicada from mine to hers, it didn’t make a sound, nor did it move. Moving it closer to her face, Caroline exclaimed, “Aww, look at its big eyes. He’s so cute.” She was very happy with her choice … and that’s when big sister decided it was a good idea to give the seemingly lifeless cicada a little nudge with her finger.

With a loud buzzing, the cicada took off, flying out of her hand and up over the roof before disappearing into a tree. Instantly forgetting her promise, Sweet Caroline first got mad, then started to cry, but her older sister wasn’t paying attention. She had made her choice, so I dropped what was in my right hand into hers.

Like the cicada, the baby frog didn’t move. “A baby frog! I got a baby frog!” Just as her big sister raised it up to get a closer look, Caroline returned the favor by poking the frog. Froggie jumped to safety in the newly mowed grass. Now both girls were mad and crying.

For the next hour they jumped after the baby frog, ran after grasshoppers, and even found another cicada. By the time they went in for lunch and a good handwashing, both girls were happy once again. They had spent all morning outside playing, and in the words of Sir Mick, “You can’t always get what you want, But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find, You get what you need.”

It seems a lifetime ago, I too was given a choice. Come up with a new topic each week, and the editor of this newspaper would give me my own column. When I asked The Wife what I should do, she said, “Just keep writing until you run out of things to say.”

Today starts the twentieth year of this column. That’s 989 different stories. I’ll forever be thankful for the life-changing choice the editor offered me so long ago. His support over the years has been unwavering.

But he hasn’t been the only one out there that has made a choice to support me. You, Dear Readers, have also been there for all these years. Thank you for your readership, comments, and indulgence when I sometimes stand upon my soapbox — because without you there would be no column.

And have I run out of things to say? Well, I don’t look at this story as number 989, but rather the first story for the next nineteen years.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]