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Supply run 

One parent's strategy to equip his kid for school

General Patton takes Target

September goes fast for families. Technically, it might still be summer, but it's the beginning of the academic year for most kids. I don't know about you, but I've spent the month honing my back-to-school shopping skills. I dutifully scrutinize the district's recommended supplies lists, organize my ads, and wargame my shopping trips much as Patton plotted his invasion of Sicily.

But stay! My incoming freshman son, Will, hadn't been sent a supply list. A quick check with other families confirmed the worst: there was no supply list! For a parent who likes to wear epaulets and carry a riding strop while addressing the troops, it was a cold slap in the face. Senses duly awakened, I regrouped to attack back-to-school shopping with a rough semblance of aplomb.

I searched for hints... nothing on the school's home page, no lists in the stores. The Web suggested only elementary school needs: construction paper, crayons, and glue (a vegetable in some states). Certainly nothing a sophisticated frosh would deign carry in his backpack. Frustrated, I grabbed a few things and headed for checkout. "Hopefully, this is all you need," I told Will.

Then, at the end of the first day of school, Will came home with a list.Most items I'd purchased were actually on it! I needed only a few to complete the mission.

It wasn't as easy as I'd hoped. Retailers have already begun stocking shelves with plastic Jack-O-Lanterns and other Halloween paraphernalia. I found myself shuffling though reams of closeout binders and wide-ruled paper looking for those elusive No. 3 pencils. Sheesh. I wonder how Patton would have done it.

--- Stan Merrell

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