Man or cat

                 I don’t know how much science goes into weather forecasting or how much education the average TV weather forecaster has to have in order to pronounce the day’s weather for the entire world to know.  I’m sure it’s a lot and, in all probability, far beyond my own abilities.

                Now, the TV weather forecasters are very good at what they do and I appreciate their service to the community. I could, however, do without some of the drama. For example: my neck of the woods had multiple storms pay a visit to us the other night. They were serious storms and, having lived through a tornado myself, I took them serious. We have a designated “safe spot” in the house and I went about making sure my wife and our temporary houseguest would be protected in case of a severe storm.

                To hear the weather forecaster on TV tell it, we were not far from a cataclysm. To add to the fear, it was only a few days since some fellow out west proclaimed that judgment day would be upon us on the 21st of this month. This particular event took place a few days after that. I wondered to myself if he perhaps had misheard the Almighty and was off a few days.  Could this be THE end?

                There were two storms cells scheduled to come through town. The first one came through our little neighborhood and all we got was a touch of rain for ten minutes or so. Oh, and we had some pea sized hail that lasted less than five minutes. The second storm, so the man on TV said, was larger and fiercer. It was not scheduled to come through until 2:00AM or so. That’s past my bedtime and I had to work the next day.  What to do?

                Toby is twelve years old give or take a day. He is an ornery orange cat that we got at the pound. We have had him since he was a kitten. In cat years, he is pretty old but remains as sociable as a cat would or could be. His health is sound though he is a little on the fat side. He does not seem to care much about that. Toby doesn’t do much other than sleep, eat, and attack me when I walk by the bannister. We have no mice in the house but we do have rabbits outside. I will allow him out once in awhile so he can pursue his own evil designs against the rabbit. I digress.

                When the weather in our immediate neighborhood is threatening, Toby disappears. He is always found under the sink in the kitchen or the sink in the bathroom. As I sat in my chair and pondered whether to stay up or risk life and limb and go to bed, I suddenly remembered Toby. Where was he at this moment, I asked myself. If he was under one of the sinks, I could rest assured that there would be a rough storm tonight.  A quick search found him asleep on the couch in the front room. I decided Toby was probably the better weather forecaster at our house.

                I went to bed and slept through the night. I don’t know what Toby did.

The first day

                  I imagine anybody that has served in the military will remember their first day. I was reminded of my first day today. That thirty-nine year old memory came back when my youngest son called me late this afternoon. Today is his very first day in the Army.

                  He left hearth and home yesterday morning and made his way to Fort Benning, Georgia where he is to spend his summer in basic training and learning to be an Infantryman ( we called them “jungle bunnies” in my day).  At the conclusion of his fun filled summer, he will return to his studies at Purdue University.  I am immeasurably proud of him.

                   He told me that he arrived at the Atlanta airport somewhere around noon yesterday. He and a group of men destined for the same experience wound up waiting a bit over six hours for the arrival of the bus that would transport them to Fort Benning. He said he managed to get to Fort Benning and a bunk therein about midnight.

                    The Army historically starts its day early. My son reports that they were awakened at 0345 (that’s 3:45 AM). They spent the day standing in line after line getting shots, exams, uniforms, and filling out enough paper to kill a dozen trees. At the end of the day, they were given just enough time to call Mom and Dad and let then know they were safe in the tender mercies of the US Army. Day one was over. This day will be forever etched in his memory.

                    My own day one was January 3, 1972. I arrived at Fort Polk, Louisiana at somewhere around 2:00 AM. The group I was in was moved quickly through a chow hall and given something that look like a cheeseburger but tasted like …never mind. We were then given our linens and shuffled off to a World War II era barrack and told to get some sleep. I don’t remember what time they woke us up but it was still dark outside. The first thing we did was address a postcard to our parents to let them know we had arrived safely at our new “home.”  By noon of that first day our arms had been turned into pin cushions and everything we had brought with us was taken away and replaced by green uniforms. We put our civilian clothes in a box that was mailed home. For the next eight weeks, we had nothing to wear but Army green.

                I wound up wearing Army green for 21 years, 5 months, and 11 days. It was a good life and the memories I came away with are some of my favorite and some of the most exasperating.

                It is day one that is the one that stays forever in one’s mind.

Come to Jesus

                 Here is a list of stories that I relate only to document that I have enjoyed a life long relationship with The Almighty. He has been more than patient with me as the following accounts of my many “come to Jesus “meetings will attest. I can tell you from personal experience that God is a patient God. I am profoundly glad of that. Read on.

                • There was the first time that I got hold of some “Strawberry Hill” wine. I think I was in the ninth grade. I won’t tell this story because I don’t remember much beyond throwing up all over my dog (a large St. Bernard) and the “come to Jesus” meeting I had with my father the following morning.

                • Then there was the time I got caught smoking in school. That was another come to Jesus meeting only this time it involved the principal, my father, and a large portrait of George Washington. The principal we had back then always had the wayward student lean on a table and stare at a picture of our first president as he applied the “board of education.” I got to know the father of our country very well.

                • I swiped a bunch of small metal toy cars once from a gift shop and my mom caught me. That resulted in another come to Jesus meeting as I had to take them back to the store and confess my crime to the store’s owner.

                • I had an argument with my sister one night with the result being I locked her out of the house. In her zeal to get back in and strangle me, she put her fist through a pain glass window. I forgot the number of stitches she got that night but I can tell you I had a meeting with my Dad, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God Himself.

                • Right smack in the middle of 7th grade shop class at _______ Junior High School in Amarillo, Texas, I blurted out the “d” word for the entire world to hear. My shop teacher escorted me to the Vice Principal’s office and to yet another come to Jesus meeting and along with some further consultations with Mr. Washington.

                I am on extremely close terms with the Almighty. Good thing for me

I don’t know about this one…

                (NOTE: the following is a short piece written during a writer’s workshop that I have been attending. The project was to write a piece about going to lunch with somebody. The class was given five minutes to produce as much story as possible. What follows is unedited (well, LIGHTLY edited). You have been forewarned).

                Fred is a voracious eater. He is known to empty entire buffets tables at one sitting. In fact, he has been forevermore banned from every buffet restaurant in Potter County, Texas and increasingly more next door in Randall County.

                Fred had invited me to lunch at one of the last places that would take his business. I made sure I got there before him so that I would be able to eat before they threw him and me out.

                As it happened, he arrived just seconds after me. The manager took one look at him and pronounced his store closed. He had heard of Fred’s ability to devour a buffet table like a heard of locusts over the fields of the Texas Panhandle. I managed to talk him into letting us stay only by my personal guarantee that I would keep Fred’s perpetual hunger in check. No such luck.

                The first round produced an empty meat stand as Fred’s overlarge personage laid waste to heaps of chicken, beef, fish, and every scrap of pork in the place. The manager grew angry and stared at me. I winked and assured him I had everything under control.  

                Before I could get back to slow Fred’s culinary destruction, he had polished off all of the meat on his highly stacked plate and was now waddling towards the dessert table. I knew I had to stop him now or there would be the devil to pay. “Fred”, I inquired, “Aren’t you worried about all this food you’re eating?” “I’m hungry,” Fred replied hollowly. He was “in a zone” and there would be no stopping him. The dessert table never had a chance.

                We were thrown out with great hostility. Fred looked around and decided that he wanted to join the Army. “The Army!” I exclaimed. “Why in the world would you want to join the Army?!”

                Fred looked me dead in the eye and said, “I saw one of thier commercials that said I could take all the food I want but I had to eat all the food I take.” I feel sorry for the Army.

Friends along the way

             I was thinking the other day about some of the people that I come across on a regular basis. I’ve written about several of them within this blog. All of them are part of what makes up the content of my life. I do not have a top ten favorite people list but there are some that improve my life every time I see or talk to them. Not in any particular order, here are a few;

  • Steve is an educator and an ordained pastor. I’ve known him I’d guess ten years now. He had a huge hand in educating my two sons and is one my closest friends. He is one of those people that you can call day or night for anything. He is a loyal friend and my life is much enriched by his friendship.
  • I don’t know Charlotte very well. She is a greeter at the grocery store that my wife and I go to. She is retired from somewhere else and I imagine that this greeter job allows her to be out and about. I have never seen her without a smile on her face and she never fails to bring one to mine.
  • Byron is a financial planner uptown. He is very good at what he does and I imagine his clients know that. My experience with him is as a man of integrity and an honest desire to do right by his clients. He is one of the best men I know.
  • Erin does my taxes and she is my hero. It is not because she saved me a lot of money this year but because I genuinely like her. She’s what I call “good people.” Erin is getting married this year. Out there is one really lucky man.
  • Bob is a missionary in Washington D.C. with a ministry called Christian Embassy. He and I served together in the Army many years ago. He loves his God and his Sheila with all his heart. There are not many men devoted to their cause as Bob is and I am very fortunate to call him my friend.
  • Ellen is my speech coach and just by virtue of that she should be a candidate for canonization! She has been a constant source of encouragement to me. She has a heart for people and families dealing with Alzheimer’s.  My regard for her knows no bounds.

         This is just a small sample of the people that move through my life. For these and many others, I am grateful. So, why am I telling you this? Look around your world at the people that make up your life. They are a gift to you. Are you a gift to them?