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This is the tale of a little brown telephone that traveled from pillar to post.

It's not a cell, nor even portable. The phone is an older one, not ancient. It's made of lightweight, plastic material and is disposable. Like many products of modern times. Disposable diapers. Disposable cameras. Disposable razors. Disposable people.

Even so, the small phone is sturdy and has continued to faithfully carry messages for more than a dozen years. It also took a few trips with Dick before both of them left the road and settled in Missoula. The instrument is one of several he owned. Our house is well-wired. All are tethered to lines. We are content with just ordinary telephones.

The small brown number was installed on the top shelf of my home desk. It's practical, not pretty. The face carries all 10 standard keys with the numbers, letters and figures.

Four larger keys are on the right. These "convenience" keys are designated "redial," "mute," "flash" and "hold." I never paid attention to this quartet.

It's no exertion to let my fingers do the work instead of the redial button.

Oh, sure. There are occasional calls I might like to mute, but that would be rude. (Almost as rude as folks who monitor calls through an answering machine or never listen to messages.)

As for the hold button, I get so irritated with others doing that to me. (It's even more annoying when screeching sounds or repetitive commercials are turned on in the ear.)

The flash button is a mystery. Maybe it makes the phone glow or shoots a flame out of the receiver.

Since it's such an ordinary telephone, I was surprised by a suggestion from daughter Sally. Their home in Seattle has all the latest electronic equipment. Computers up and downstairs, several cells and portables.

"All I want for Christmas is the telephone on your desk," she declared. "If you send it to me, I will replace it with a red one. I know you like red …"

"But why?"

She explained. Occasionally, a family member will answer the telephone in the basement. The call will be for someone in another part of the house. Sometimes the first person to answer forgets to hang up the receiver, cutting off service on that line. A "hold" button would solve the problem.

Sally said she searched in vain for a small desk telephone with that particular feature.

That's why the little phone was disconnected from the wire, taken from its niche on the desk, carefully wrapped, padded, taped and shipped to Seattle.

On Christmas Eve day, just before leaving for Kalispell, a package arrived from UPS. Thinking it was my new phone, I opened the box. It wasn't red. Brown. My own telephone!????

The mystery was somewhat cleared later when Sally called and explained it just "wouldn't ring" in their house in Seattle. It just sat, silently.

When we returned home after Christmas, Dick dismantled the instrument, but couldn't find any problem, so he put it back together and placed it on the shelf.

A short time later, while working at my desk, the phone rang loud and clear.

When I answered and told Sally, she replied, with some indignation, "Well, it wouldn't ring in Seattle!"

Maybe the little, brown phone is like a faithful, family dog. It will travel great distances to return home.

The cost for the round trip was only $14. As I hung up, I'm sure the flash button winked at me.

Evelyn King is a retired Missoulian reporter. Her column appears every Sunday in the Territory section. Reach her by writing: Evelyn King, Missoulian, P.O. Box 8029, Missoula, MT 59807.

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