Among my favorite events to cover is anything in a school.
First off, I can dally in the hallways to read essays and view artwork. For some reason, the children's creativity today seems livelier than it was when I was a youngster.
A construction paper Christmas stocking I made in kindergarten proves me right. My stick drawing of Santa would have been unidentifiable except for his cotton-ball beard. Why my mother kept it for 40-some years, I will never understand.
A recent trip through Thayer Elementary's art department was especially fun as the hallways were decorated with self-portraits and painted beach scenes. There is nothing like a purple palm tree and pink sun to warm a drizzly day.
One young girl even took the time to embellish the T-shirt on the sketch she made of herself. It read, "Who's beautiful? You're looking at her."
On Nov. 7, I went beyond being a casual observer, and actually participated in the Alton School Foundation Trivia Night. Barely smarter than a third-grader, I hadn't intended to join a team, but as our name suggests, "Brenda Made Me Do It."
Although this was my first trivia night, it was the foundation's third. The event raised about $1,300 through team fees, a gun raffle and auction of donated baked goods and items (even dogfood).
I had never heard of an apple pie fetching $22.50 before, but both of Bernice Ledgerwood's pies did. I saw emcee Pam Gilliland on Veterans Day at school, who told me she went home with $45 worth of pies, "and they were worth every penny."
Once all the goods (donated by area businesses and residents) were auctioned, the trivia contest began. With my notebook in hand, I asked the gals taking tickets at the door how the game was played.
Then I sat down to watch.
Before I could protest, Brenda Ledgerwood dropped a ticket in front of me.
"No pressure," she said.
I went over and joined my team - Brenda and Amber Switzer. I hoped I would not let them down.
The excitement began as Pam read the questions that gleamed from the screen behind her.
Teams of about three to six members huddled and answered eight questions on eight common topics, such as technology, animals, who's your mama/daddy, songs, faces, TV, sports and potpourri.
I knew I was in trouble by the second technology question. If not for my techno-savvy partners knowing the difference between an iPod and TiVo, we'd have scored a big goose egg in that category.
Then we moved onto animals -- a category I was sure I'd conquer. Wrong. Who knew wombat droppings are cube-shaped or that ostriches have larger eyes than any other land animal?
A couple of the teams, including the eventual winners, swept more than one category. Cheers would erupt after answers to obscure questions were revealed. Did you know Joe Nammath donated his pantyhose to Planet Hollywood and Clyde Barrow's bullet-holed shirt sold for $85,000 at auction?
Even answers that I knew suddenly became trapped in my mind as seconds ticked away. Brenda later confessed she has the same affliction. Brenda tormented herself with trying to remember the name of a "blonde bombshell " actress.
"I can picture her exactly and can even tell you where she died in a car crash, but I can't remember her name!" Brenda gasped.
Fortunately, the answers were revealed at the end of each set. (The beautiful blonde was Jayne Mansfield.)
To add to the suspense, videographer Brandon Goodwin of Springfield was there filming a documentary on school foundation fundraising ideas. Don't tell the judges, but Brandon whispered a few answers to us in the television category.
When the night was over, the team of Brenda Made Me Do It came in eighth place, or as Pam thoughtfully put it, "first from the end."
The team of Cardinals Fans placed first, as they did during the first trivia night a year ago. They also came in third at the springtime event.
Brenda, who is a foundation member, said a date has not been set for the spring trivia night, although plans are already in the works.
Between now and then, I plan to become close friends with a botanist, biologist, anthropologist, farmer, football player, diesel mechanic, musician and third-grade teacher.
Be prepared, Cardinals Fans, to pass over the Twaveling Twivia Twophy in 2012.