Dear Sean

Chaperoning, I discovered, is brutal work. We spent nearly nine hours in a church van, driving Interstate 65. There were eighteen boys, ten girls, and three adults.


I believe our youth group would enjoy your company. Would you ever consider chaperoning with our youth leaders? This year we’re taking our kids to day-hike parts of the Appalachian Trail. Any interest?



Years ago, my minister friend, Bill, and I chaperoned the First Baptist youth group to Dollywood.

Chaperoning, I discovered, is brutal work. We spent nearly nine hours in a church van, driving Interstate 65. There were eighteen boys, ten girls, and three adults.

The ride basically went like this:

Boys took turns making aromas that were strong enough to stop a grown man’s heart—then rated their accomplishments on scales of one-to-ten.

The girls all huddled and sang songs which all contained pretty much the same lyrics:

“Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby, baby…”

Bill was our driver, Miss Sandra was our acting warden. My job was to make idle threats and prevent unnecessary sinning.

I was good at my job I would threaten with things like:

“Quit touching him!”

Or: “Switch seats with Allen!”

Or: “Roll down the windows before we all gag!”

Miss Sandra engaged kids in “constructive activities.” Drawing upon her training as an English major, she explained the finer points of poetry, meter, and literary symbolism to the kids. Then, we passed around notepads.

When the kids finished writing their own poems they recited them.

Miller Watkins recited:

“Roses are red,
Violets for the masses,
These youth chaperones,
Don’t know their heads from their…”

Thomas “Taterlog” Matthews also read his poem:

“The Lord is my shepherd,
I am his sheep,
Now pull this van over,
I have to take a major pee.”

When we arrived in Pigeon Forge, we stayed at a rundown motel that appeared to have been built during the late 1970’s.

I went into town to buy pizzas for the group. When I got back to the motel, I saw the silhouettes of five heathen boys, smoking cigars behind the motel dumpster. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

As soon as they saw me coming they tossed the evidence behind the bushes.

It was a dumb move on their part, I could see billows of smoke rising behind the wax myrtles. But the boys pretended not to notice me. Instead, they had formed a circle and were bowing their heads.

“What in the Sam Hill are you doing out here?” I asked.

Taterlog greeted me with a brotherly hug. Then one boy explained that earlier that evening, the boys had all been moved by spiritual fervor to step outside and pray for the developing crisis facing the Middle East at large.

I called for disciplinary reinforcements.

Bill came running downstairs. He appeared in the doorway wearing his Auburn University boxers, carrying a Bible the size of a cinder block.

Brother Bill preached like a man with his hair on fire. He quoted several selections from the book of Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Ezekiel, Burt Bacharach, Whitney Houston, and the Constitution of the United States.

And when it was over, he led us in a few choruses of “Lean on Me.”

The next day, we hiked in the Smokies. The mist was hanging over the blue peaks. It was the most glorious morning I’d ever seen. The girls reached the summit of the mountain before we boys did.

When we reached the top, Miss Sandra looked worried. She told us that something was wrong.

“I’m missing several girls,” she said.

Bill and I also realized we were missing a few boys.

Panic set it. We looked everywhere and couldn’t find them. We descended the mountain so fast Bill pulled a groin muscle and a hip flexor. But as it happened, we found our defectors in the parking lot.

Spencer and Kyla Ann were behind the van, their dental braces locked in the throes of passion.

Jon Jon Reynolds was selling outdated issues of Victoria’s Secret catalogs for ten bucks a pop to passerbyers.

Greg Little was letting the air out of the van’s tires with a Bic pen.

We caught Chase Smith trying to solicit lunch from a family of Japanese tourists.

Anyway, Dollywood was fun—I think. Actually, it was a blur. The only thing I remember was when Taterlog tried to cram his head through the park railing while waiting in line to ride the Firechaser Express.

Park security finally got his head unstuck after thirty minutes of trying. Park tourists applauded. I applauded. Sandra applauded. Dollywood medics believe Brother Bill suffered a cerebral aneurysm.

That night, Bill made the marathon drive back home while the kids all slept. And when we reached the church parking lot, it was like arriving in the Promised Land. Mothers and daughters embraced. Boys thanked us for a wonderful trip. Parents blessed us.

But when they had all gone home, Miss Sandra lit a Virginia Slim and laid down on the church lawn. And Brother Bill resolved to quit the ministry and take up heavy drinking as a hobby.

When my wife picked me up, I was exhausted. She asked how things went. Before I could answer, Brother Bill answered for me:

“Roses are red,” he said.
“Violets are poop, I will never chaperone, another youth group.”

Good luck on your trip, Brother Danny.


  1. Judy Kate - October 29, 2018 6:59 am

    Sean, I started reading your stories to My Guy, aka husband, a few weeks ago and we both enjoy hearing them for the first time together. While I’m happy he enjoys your home-spun stories as much as I do, his new-found love of your writing has messed up my Sean schedule to heck and back. You see, I’ve always read your stories during a middle of the night bathroom run, or first thing each morning. Well, since my workaholic guy awakens each morning to a 3:30 a.m. alarm, or a hungry cat wailing in his ear … whichever comes first … and leaves for work by 4:15, the first chance we get to share you is over supper each evening. It has taken all my resolve to hold fast to this new schedule, and tonight the temptation was more than I could bear. I’m glad the bathroom door was closed so my loud snorting didn’t awaken him before the cat. I can hardly wait until tonight! My Guy’s gonna laugh so hard at this story, he may pull some random body part. Taterlog’s name alone would make him choke on his low-carb, almond flour pretend cornbread, so I’ll serve this hilarious story for dessert. Lawdy mercy, Sean Dietrich, you are balm to my soul.

    • Carol - October 30, 2018 3:33 am

      Well said … I’m still laughing!?

  2. Dawn Stanford - October 29, 2018 8:36 am

    This one! Oh, my gosh! Thanks for the early morning dose of laughter!

  3. Marilyn Vance - October 29, 2018 8:45 am

    The puppy is looking at me like I have two heads because I am laughing so hard and wiping tears! My ‘baby’ is almost 55, so I did my share of these, too……oh, my!

  4. Nancy Rogers - October 29, 2018 8:48 am

    And Jamie said Amen! Love it!

  5. Kelly Crowl - October 29, 2018 9:56 am

    Laughing out loud at 5:45 a.m. is the best way to start the day! This brought back so many memories of my own church youth road trips and adventures with my youth group! Our church parking lot faced the local drive in movie theater. Since going to the movies was considered the “devils work” we heathen kids found every opportunity to slip out the back door during evening services to watch whatever we could see. Winter was the most prize time since the trees lost their leaves and we had an almost clear view! Godspeed, Brother Danny?

  6. Camille - October 29, 2018 10:03 am


  7. Linda brown - October 29, 2018 11:46 am

    I can totally relate. We chaperoned once. Still laughing NOW.

  8. Joy Johnson - October 29, 2018 12:18 pm

    I find myself forwarding your message to someone almost every day. You are definitely a light in the tunnel. Thank you!

  9. Joe Patterson - October 29, 2018 12:22 pm

    Beautiful story most of us adults have had a version of this experience and will never return for another one thanks for yours

  10. Rhonda the Time Keeper - October 29, 2018 12:43 pm

    Yep. Chaperoned 20 girls on a dance team to Myrtle Beach for a week for a dance competition. Permission slips should have a clause at the bottom giving permission to smack the tar out of my child.
    It was a PMS convention with the older girls giving the younger ones lessons in how to be a Hussy! The entire trip somebody was crying, mad, lying, puffed up, missing, sick, obnoxious, loud or giggling. 3 Mama’s vowed to pray for horrible things to happen to the Mama’s that sent their demon daughters without giving us any warning of what was to come. NEVER AGAIN.

  11. Margaret Coley - October 29, 2018 12:45 pm

    Loved it…made me laugh…You are a gifted writer…

  12. Peggy Savage - October 29, 2018 12:47 pm

    Been there. …done that. …..

  13. Susan Bradshaw - October 29, 2018 12:53 pm

    Spot on!

  14. Rhea Wynn - October 29, 2018 1:11 pm

    The only thing even close to chaperoning a youth trip is working at summer camp. I do this almost every summer. Oh, the stories I could tell; although, I could not write them nearly as well as you do. Thanks for the laugh this morning!

  15. Susie Hardin - October 29, 2018 1:15 pm

    This is sooooo funny, I’m crying as I imagine all of this! God bless you and not let you chaperone again!

  16. Ruth in AL - October 29, 2018 1:19 pm

    This is one of your best! You just keep getting better and better. Another teacher and I once chaperoned 23 kids on a 2 week trip to Japan. What an experience that was. First one of our kids was caught smoking in the airplane bathroom. It went down from there. We almost lost one on the way back when in the airport he didn’t get on the tram with the rest of us. You had to be fast with all thoses 100’s of people. I was afraid we would never find him again. Needless to say when we got back, I slept for the rest of the summer.

  17. Connie Havard Ryland - October 29, 2018 1:37 pm

    I have chaperoned more high school band trips than I can count and several school trips. I would do it all again in an instant. It’s exhausting and the most fun ever. Of course, there are always a couple of kids who won’t listen but for the most part I have never regretted a single trip. ???‍♀️

  18. Bobbie - October 29, 2018 1:45 pm

    Hilarious, but so much truth in this one!!

  19. Julia Strain - October 29, 2018 1:49 pm

    Being a new follower, I can tell you that I laughed out loud during the entire description of your trip. I taught high school for 25 years and raised three children of my own so I appreciated every word!!!!Being a chaperone is not for the faint of heart!!!! I gave it up after several similar experiences. you have a great style of writing and I look forward to becoming a Sean follower!!!!?

  20. Jones - October 29, 2018 1:57 pm


  21. Pat - October 29, 2018 2:05 pm

    God knows that I love to laugh and he certainly blessed me this morning through you Sean!

  22. Edna B. - October 29, 2018 2:24 pm

    Oh my goodness, this one is so funny. Thanks for the morning giggles. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  23. Christine Lance - October 29, 2018 2:48 pm

    That is hysterical!!! Point well taken! And I know two Brother Bills that I pictured in my mind. Even funnier then!

  24. Debbie - October 29, 2018 2:48 pm

    You DON’T have a clue how much I needed this today!!?. I laughed until I had tears!! ?

  25. Janet Holliday - October 29, 2018 3:05 pm

    I am laughing so hard….whaf a “trip”.. ok, is this really true?????? Lol

  26. Bev deJ. - October 29, 2018 3:58 pm

    Having been a chaperone a time or two on youth trips I only wish I could have written with such wit!!! That was the funniest youth trip story ever!!! Thanks for the fabulous start to my day. ❤️
    Keep writing, Sean. You are awesome ??❤️

  27. Patricia Gibson - October 29, 2018 4:46 pm

    Hilarious! And so true

  28. Reneezydaizy - October 29, 2018 5:23 pm

    I think that is about the funniest ‘no’ I have ever heard! Oh, you keep me laughing…thank you!

  29. Dolores S. Fort - October 29, 2018 6:04 pm

    I spent 12 years of my life chaperoning band, including summer band camps, competitions, football games, and church youth groups. It was definitely an experience. One at my age now would not be possible, but I will never regret the time I did do it. Children do give you gray hair, but they also keep you alive and on your toes!

  30. Gloria Knight - October 30, 2018 2:26 pm

    Sent this to my son, a former youth minister, but warned him against letting his own children hear him laughing. Tender ears/eyes don’t need to hear/read this. Thank God I never had these problems on youth choir tours or camps- at least I don’t think so…..One of your funniest! Most make me teary or nostalgic.

  31. Mary Ellen Hall - November 2, 2018 12:41 am

    Reminds me of a few trips I’ve been on, with Adolescents!


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