MY LIFE THE FIRST FOUR DECADES

My Life,

The First four Decades

By: Lu Webb

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue

This book is just a glimpse into my life as a child and young man. My highs, my lows and the things that make me… me! It speaks of my family, my friends and the places where I lived, I worked, I worshipped, I played and where I went to school. It tells of the hardships and advantages of my “good ole days”. It speaks of my loves, my heartbreaks, my successes and failures. You’ll see the challenges we faced and how we overcame them or they overcame us. You’ll see my strengths, my weaknesses and my mortality.

I hope you’ll observe the legacy of Faith, humor, hard work and patriotism which guided my along my way. You won’t find perfect people here. No one wealthy, finely educated or famous! Just plain ole simple country folks scraping out a living in a dog eat dog world.

Though our family may feud from time to time we pull together in a crisis. We may mess with each other but don’t let an outsider mess with us or they’ll have the whole clan down on them.

All in all I have been blessed with a rich heritage, good friends and a Great God.  Now that’s the Life.

CHAPTER ONE

BEFORE ME

***Mama and Daddy meet***

Mama and Daddy were both born and raised in the same “town” in Tennessee; both moved to the same “town” in Virginia in the forties but never met each other until a chance meeting one Sunday morning.

My dad’s family attended a Baptist church built for the Tennessee folk who moved to Virginia to escape the Great Depression which was lasting way longer than the rest of the country. Later Dad and Granddad helped rebuild that church down and across the road from the old one just past the old debtors’ prison. They were reminiscent of the Okies who moved to California during the dust bowl and were about as well received.

Dad’s girlfriend missed church that first Sunday that Mom and her family attended. One look and he just had to meet her. Mom’s step-sister introduced them and the rest is history.

Dad joined the Navy and ended up in Florida but never forgot that little green eyed gal. He proposed by mail and went home on leave to marry her. They left there for Florida in the midst of a hurricane and when Dad carried her across the thresh-hold he stepped into 6 inches of water because Daddy left a window open.

Well that may have been the first storm of many of their marriage but after 57 years Daddy still calls her his valentine.

***Daddy***

My Dad, Bruce Wayne Webb was born in 1933 at home on Copper Ridge near Heiskell, Tennessee but was raised on Webb Mountain in the Pitman center region of Sevierville, same as his distant cousin Dolly Parton. I used to tell people my dad was Batman because his name is Bruce Wayne. He was the fourth child of Jasper Lee Webb and Ezalee Ownby. His older brother Curtis died of complications with German measles in his early teens. Dad was close to his other brother and sister and remained that way their entire lives. Sis and Charles both served in WWII. Dad spent 26 years in the Navy in Vietnam, Korea and a host of other countries. He was an aircraft mechanic and flight engineer and never served aboard ship. He has a chest full of ribbons and medals and was even wounded by flack in his arm. He never applied for his purple heart because he didn’t want Mom to know he was in Vietnam. His only ship duty was to be paid by some Hollywood folks who were making a John Wayne war flick. They needed some flyboys in flight jackets to walk down the gang plank.

***Granddad Webb***

Granddad and the children were jokesters and loved to laugh. It got them through many cold hungry nights. He kept bees, built roads and log cabins, logged, farmed and worked in cotton mills. His friends nicknamed him Pink because his red sunburned scalp showed through his premature gray-white hair. He served in the army in WWI in the cavalry and ammunition train in a unit called the big Red one.  He was the only child of a stern blacksmith and a Cherokee Indian. His grandfather was found to be a bigamist after his stint as a Confederate soldier and the murder of a man flirting with Grandma Deborah Webb. Her dad was in the war of 1812 and his dad fought in the American Revolution and Indian wars.  I guess us Webb’s just can’t get along with anybody, ha ha. Actually I believe us to be a family of patriots who aren’t afraid to fight for our freedoms. Even our furthest traceable ancestor fought in the crusades and received a knighthood and coat of arms, the four falcons.

***Grandma Webb/ Ownby’s***

Grandma Webb on the other hand was always serious. She was third of thirteen children. Though from time to time she did work in the cotton mills (before child labors laws), she was mostly a stay at home mom, minding the home, the kids, the garden and the chickens. She would always be found in a house dress and apron. She had corn silk hair that she kept up in combs. She canned or froze her own fruits and veggies making everything from scratch. She couldn’t tolerate a liar or sluggard and she lived her life very practically. She loved the mountains of Tennessee and though work or family often moved her away to Virginia or Arkansas or the flatlands she always managed to end up right back up in the “hills”. Her family, though not a bit more prosperous, was always more formal and proper. They were will read, well spoken, sharp as whip and clean as a whistle. They were staunch church people and students of the bible. To keep dad on the straight and narrow, Grandma used to mail him bible questions which he had to answer and send a list of his own for her. It worked. Dad loves the scriptures and had taught us to love them as well.

Dad’s family was the poorest of the poor. He never had much and moving around didn’t allow for many possessions. They had holes in their walls, in their clothes and often in their stomachs. They had no plumbing, no electricity and no automobiles. They never had money or jewels or luxuries of any kind. The only land they owned was a few worthless acres of depleted land which they sold to pay for the move to Virginia. Granddad said the land was so bad you had to sit on a bag of fertilizer to raise an umbrella. Their prized possession was a watch his brother Curtis earned by selling the Grit magazine. To Dad, these were NOT the good old days. To him the Navy was a life of luxury, plus he liked the uniform.

***Mama***

Mom’s family on the other hands was from the Gist Creek area of Sevierville off Chapman Highway towards Seymour. To her, the depression WAS the good ole days because she felt families were closer back then. She was the fourth of five children of Luther James Moore and Eliza Jane Justus. She was a small and sickly child who her mother said was not bigger than a toot, a nickname she carries to this day. She had measles and whooping cough which kept her indoors for a while .There she loved to read and with the tutoring of her favorite teacher helped her read all the books her school’s tiny library. Her dad was stricken with T.B. and died when she was six or seven. They were inseparable right up to the end. He is still “her heart”.

***Grandpa Moore***

Grandpa was also one of thirteen soft spoken children of protestant Irish heritage. He was a farmer and logger who loved to work with wood, making sleds, plows, furniture and toys for his children. His dad was a farmer and wood carver and stressed the importance of education, responsibility and family. He wanted his children to have their education, their own career and home before they married which they all did. And after each outlived a spouse, they moved in with each other. A closer family you’ll never find. Grandpa‘s mom, a descendant of Pocahontas, nearly cut her foot off with an ax and was gimpy her entire life.  She never learned to read herself so she had her children, mostly Grandpa and Uncle Bill read the bible to her. She loved to collect pink Depression glass and chenille bedspreads. She also kept an immaculate house which stunned the whole family when, as a child, I came in from sliding down a red clay hill, filthy as a hog and Grandpa and Grandma Moore laid me down for a nap on her clean chenille bedspread.

Stories had been told of how Grandpa and his Uncle Luther had seen a ghost like creature in the mountain skies. Even Grandpa’s mule saw it and bucked him off and sent him running home leaving his hat behind. I was told, being that I too was a “Luther”, that I’d see it too. Well I never saw that but the supernatural has followed me my whole life, but mostly for the good.

***Maw/Justus***

Momma’s mother or Maw was one of fifteen kids. They all had a slew of children of their own. Farmers had large families to share the work. When her dad, Caleb Justus died, he had 15 kids, 103 grandchildren, 80+ great children and over 30 great-great grand children. Every Sunday they would bring pot luck to his house for dinner after church. This was the origin of the annual Justus family reunion that persists to this day. His youngest child was actually a nephew he raised after his brother John passed away and his wife couldn’t afford to keep him. This was an important event in Maw’s life because when she became a widow herself, she was encouraged to give up her children also. But she made a promise to Luther to keep the family together, and though it was hard, she proudly managed to do it. She had to work doing ironing, laundry and at the shoe factory while the children worked the fields, but they did it by George.

Maw loved to collect old coins and antiques. Most of the dishes and furniture were antiques. She also loved what nots. But she was just like Aunt Millie where she’d give away a memento to every visitor to remember her by. She used most of her best antiques for use on the farm. She had pickle and kraut crocks, wooden bread bowl, cider jugs, wooden butter molds and hand tools. Things had to be old, pretty and yet functional… after all this was a working farm.

***Parrott***

After the death of Luther, Maw’s three oldest girls quickly married young and left home. Maw married a man named Shirley (not Sue) Parrott. He had five children of his own. He bought property in Virginia and moved them to Prospect. He was also a farmer. But sadly, he could be quite abusive. While Maw was pregnant with his little red headed boy, he became abusive and caused her to lose the child. Momma’s sister Betty took his pistol away from him and fought him all night along well into the morning. That was the last time he ever laid a hand on Maw. Shortly thereafter he died of a heart attack. To pay off the taxes and Parrot’s children Dad borrowed money from a friend and gave it to Maw. Maw gave Momma the acreage on the east side of the road as thanks for the gift and as part of her inheritance.

***Poppa George Eggleston***

Maw later met a kind widower, George Eggleston, at a dance in Merrherrin where country singer Roy Clark and his family were performing. He was the kindest, most gentle man she had ever met. He was a hard working man with a good sense of humor, generous to a fault, loved by children, loved music & dancing and was the best neighbor anyone could ever have. He collected wall clocks and loved auctions. Poppa George also had 5 kids of his own though at the time only his youngest son, a 10 year old red headed boy named Reggie was the only one left at home. Pop came home from the field to find his wife Annie dead and Reggie asleep in her arms. He raised the rest of those kids alone until he met Maw. Now where the relationship between Luther and Parrott’s kids was stressed at times, Pop’s kids blended right in. Pop was a simple man with a third grade education, no driver’s license (he walked nearly everywhere he went) and no pretense. He had 2 expressions I carry to this day.1. Simple words are easily understood and 2. Always remember where you came from. He never had an enemy in the world. He had a hard life and just like my Daddy with the Navy, life with Maw was like a life of luxury in comparison. He was the love of her life and the father that my mother never had since Luther died. With daddy overseas often in my childhood, Pop was like a daddy to me as well for a while.

***Mama***

Momma had 5 boys before finally having a girl. The oldest, Steve was nearly born on her birthday, the youngest, Yvonne was born on Daddy’s birthday. In fact so was her eldest son Paul. That’s three generations born on the same day. Momma was a stay at home mom as long as we all were in school. Then she went to work at a preschool and then a nursing home until an unfortunate incident forced her to retire. That’s ok though, it just gave her more time to fish. The old bay bridge was taken out by a barge. When the new one was built, the state turned the old one into a drive on fishing bridge. Momma would spend day and night on that bridge fishing and crabbing and just getting a little fresh air and out of the house. When dad came home loaded after making Chief, mom dragged him out there to sober up. Dad’s mom once tied granddad in the barn all night when he came home drunk. They both learned their lesson. Our women have a zero tolerance when it comes to that mess.

Momma was tough raising five boys alone many times while Dad was overseas. We had school and scouts and ball games. She made quilts, sewed hand me downs, and kept 8 people fed on a sailor’s pitiful salary. She usually found a little space for a garden as well having us kids foraging for nuts, berries, fish, game, poke and creasy salad. We got wild honey from bee trees, flour and meal from the mill where Pop worked and other meats and veggies at times from our relatives, mainly Maw. Momma did wash with an old ringer washer or wash board and hung them on a line to dry or in the kitchen in the winter. She’d make snow cream in the winter, sassafras tea in the fall, and homemade hand cranked Ice cream in the summers. Mom is a great cook, purely country and low budget.

Mother loves music and dancing and bowling and just being around people. She liked country, early rock and roll and southern gospel. The radio was always on and once we finally got a TV, if there was music, it was on.  Mom never met a stranger, she would talk to anybody. Our door also was always open. One winter in Virginia Beach a snow storm forced many motorists off the road in front of our house. Momma just put on a big pot of chili and hot chocolate and invited them in while I and my brothers would get them out of the ditch. Some even spent the night with us. We always had friends overnight or who just showed up for dinner. Momma just dropped another tater in the pot and scooted us over and pulled up another chair. We had runaways or castaways at different times; she’d be mom to them too. She wouldn’t turn anyone out. Momma’s family was all like that. You never needed an invitation or to call first. Just drop in, we’ll make room. Vacation or overnight or just for a meal, just come right on over.

I love my roots, they have formed my thoughts, my ideals, my faith, my preferences, all the things I hold dear and make me, for better or worse, who I am ,some because of them and some in spite of them. I have a rich heritage by God’s grace that has laid a firm foundation to build a life on. I only hope that I prove faithful to that in which He has entrusted me with.

CHAPTER 2

THE PROSPECT YEARS

***Little Green House***

Sometimes we work from memories and sometimes we work on the memory of a memory. Anyway, my earliest “memory” was as an infant being laid on a blue blanket in the front yard while mom and dad’s first home of their own was being built. I know it sounds strange to remember things that young but I do. It was a two bedroom cracker box style house with green asbestos siding and a 3 step covered stoop over the front and side door. There was a dirt circle driveway coming in on the rural route gravel road # 692. Uncle Reece had installed a floodlight in the large oak out front to give us some lighting in the evening. There was a well house out back which doubled as a nest for my chicken. The electric pump sent water into the kitchen sink. Boy were we up-town. We still had an outhouse out back and a #3 wash tub which sat on the porch for bathing when the creek got too cold. Mom carried me inside where I watched Granddad build our kitchen cabinets. I slept in a baby bed in Mom and Dad’s room until Tony was born, then I slept in the other room with my brothers where I shared a bed with my oldest brother Steve. I had an old wooden high chair with a tray that swung up and down that I’ve used with my own children and grandchildren. At first we had an old wood burning stove for heat in the living room but later we took it out and used a floor unit oil furnace which lay in the hallway. I burned my poor little feet more than once walking across that grate.

A year or so before we moved away, we dug a septic tank and put in an indoor toilet and tub. Wow! But now what are we going to do with all those Sears and Roebuck catalogues?  It was especially appreciated when you didn’t need to fight the wasps in the summer or walk in the snow in the dead of night?

We finally got a TV but it was on the fritz more than it worked. Forrest Mason would make house calls to replace a burned out tube. Later we’d take them all out and ride our bikes to the hardware store. They had a tube checker that would let us know which one was burned out. Then we’d buy a new one for 50cents and fix the blasted thing ourselves. Mom bought a roof antenna to replace our rabbit ears in hope to get better reception. Mom, Steve and Mike was too scared to climb up on the roof so Mama made me do it. I was scared too but there was no way I’d ever let Steve and Mike know. They’d run off and leave me enough because they thought I was a baby and I didn’t want to give them another reason. At the time I was too young for school so I stayed home and help Pop or watch “Our Gang”. Mom watched dialing for dollars religiously. They’d call and if you knew the count and amount you’d win money. One day they called and I had turned it over to watch Sailor Bob and Popeye. When I didn’t know the count and amount I was in so much trouble. Oh boy! I too was interrupted one day while watching Captain Kangaroo when they announced President Kennedy had been shot. There are 4 days that all Americans will remember where they were when they heard it, depending on which generation you were born in of course. Pearl Harbor, 9-11, the day Challenger exploded and the day Kennedy was shot. Each of these events changed the world and for sure changed us.

Mom used to give us a spoonful of Caster oil and Cod Liver oil once a week. EW…nasty!  Occasionally she’d let us chase it with a spoonful of sugar. There were all sorts of home remedies too. Chewing tobacco for bee stings, wine for stomach aches, mule urine for earaches, gargling salt water for sore throats, butter for burns, vinegar for sunburn and soaking in Epson salts for muscle pain or infections were some of the remedies. Maw believed you soaked up minerals through your skin by going barefooted outside as much as possible.

We had a woodshed in the backyard, a pig pen in the woods, a clothesline and grapevine in one side yard, old mines in the other, a fire pit out back and down a path towards Maw’s we had a nice vegetable garden. There were old trash heap we used to play in. We’d take the keys off of potted meat cans, make stink bombs from glass Alka Seltzer tubes and pound the heel of our shoes onto tin cans to make them stick to our feet, and then we’d walk around like we had tap shoes on. Once they fell off, we’d kick them down the road. Now sadly, all that’s overgrown. I can relate.

***Maw’s House***

Before our house was finished, we lived with Maw down the dirt road a bit. She had a 2 story farmhouse on 69 acres with a gingerbread trim on the front porch, tin roof and two chimneys. The sound of rain on that tin roof was like a lullaby to me. There were 2 bedrooms upstairs and one downstairs all lined with light green bead board.  We used to slide down the banisters. I fell over the top handrail when I was a toddler. The only thing that stopped me was catching the top of my foot on a nail. I still have the scar. Pop later enclosed it with paneling.

Though later there were several room additions, the original kitchen had no running water. It had a dishpan in the old cement sink with a tin cup there for everyone to drink from. Grandpa Justus had a dipper by the hand pump outside we all shared in a bucket of water we used for priming. Maw though had a well out front with a bucket on a chain that you had to crank up by hand. Boy it was heavy when you got that bucket too full.

Coming up the yard you were met by two large chinaberry bushes followed by a pink dogwood on the right and a white one on the left. There were slate stepping stones from the driveway to the front porch and by the steps was a boot scrapper Reggie made in school to scrape the mud and muck from your shoes before you came inside. The wooden porch was lined with ladder-back chairs and a porch swing on the left. The yard had large metal yard chairs and a glider for enjoying the shade and fresh air. There was a small fence that separated the front yard from the driveway. Along that fence were two large hay rake wheels propped against the posts for decoration. There were also 2 old wooden spoked wagon wheels along the side drive along with a slew of odd make shift planters that Maw keep flowers in. There were 2 wooden rain barrels on either side of the porch to collect the rain coming off the roof. Maw used that water for her flowers or to wash her hair with.

She had a cow barn, three tobacco barns, a corn crib, pig sty, pig pen, rabbit pens, chicken coop, turkey coop, a wood shed, a tin shed, a tractor shed, a tool shed, stripping house, a freezer house, a smoke house, a canner house, out house, well house, hatching house, dog house and an old house trailer there by the main house. The main house had a summer kitchen (or back porch as we called it) with a make shift root cellar underneath for taters and apples and a wood burning cook stove above we used when the lights went out or to cook beans in the summer so the house inside wouldn’t get so hot. It also had a second deep freezer and a second fridge for milk, butter and eggs. In early years there sat a Maytag ringer washer (Mom had one also) out there, but when the kitchen was expanded Maw got an electric washer and put a dryer on the back porch. She rarely used the dryer though because she preferred to hang them on the clothesline. Before we got the Maytag Maw and Momma both used a scrub board.

Coming down the driveway from the mail box there were three yellow apple trees on the right. Across the barbed wire behind them was a red apple tree. They weren’t fit to eat until Pop grafted another variety into it. Now they are sweet and firm. We didn’t eat them very often because Pop left them for the livestock. Coming down to the right side of the run-around was a cherry tree, a pear tree and the grape vines. There were also grapes on the side yard below the clothes pen where Maw also grew her sweet potatoes, gourds and pumpkins. She had green, white, red, Concord and fox grapes. Inside the run around there were three plum trees, a wild black cherry (Haw) tree and a huge crabapple tree. On the other side of the run-around there was another plum tree, a peach tree and some gooseberries. Behind the stripping house there were black walnuts and Chinky Pins and there was a chestnut tree behind the chick coop. In the woods were some hickory nut, paw paw, and persimmon trees.  In the back yard there was a white peach tree by the pole which had the flood light on it and an apple tree behind Reggie’s trailer. Along the fence behind the trailer, behind the barn, the stripping house and along the left side of the driveway were blackberries, dewberries and wild black raspberries. Along the dirt roads near the woods were tiny wild blue berries. We used to put a black hose in the fruit trees. Birds would think it was a snake and stay away. We also used scarecrows and aluminum pie tins in the garden as well for the same purpose. There were always plenty of sweets for pie, cobblers, jelly, jam, preserves, juice, wine (medicinal use only) and dried fruit. Yum!

She also had the “old House” or the old log cabin which was the original homestead. Many members of our family lived there off and on. Out front in what is now the road was a schoolhouse. The spring where they drew water still bubbles up from the middle of the road. The old house was later used as storage, a stripping house, and a haunted house for Halloween or a hunting lodge where we’d stage deer and coon hunting parties from. Reggie now lives on that site as part of his inheritance. Pop once raised strawberries behind it and corn or tobacco in front of it. I loved to play in that old place. I wish I had a picture of it but I guess memories will have to do. Behind and down the hill from the woodshed used to be a spring house or dairy house that was built around a spring to keep milk, butter and eggs in before we had refrigeration. Just before we got electricity there was a real ice box that you put a block of ice in the back to keep the contents cool. That was before me though.

Every evening Maw would send us to the porch with a dishpan, a bar of soap and a washrag made from old feed sacks to wash our feet especially before we went to bed. The living room had no TV back then just a quilt frame which rolled up when we had company and down when the aunts came over. In 1964 we got our first TV at Maw’s and the first thing we watched, laying under that quilt frame, was the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. I slept in Maw’s room downstairs either in a dresser drawer or in a pasteboard box. Steve and Mike slept upstairs with Mama. It was so cold up there in the winter months. We’d pile so many quilts on us to keep warm that we could hardly turn over. But… when you stepped your nice warm foot on that ice cold linoleum, I’ll tell you, you had to pee NOW! Sometime we didn’t make it and we boys peed out the window. Mom was smart though, she had a chamber pot under her bed. Maw too had an outhouse we called the little mission because the tin roof came off a little mission church in Prospect during a tornado.

***Farm life***

Life there was simple for us. We had no money for birthdays or Christmas and farm life, even for the children was work work work. Up before daylight to milk the cows (Rosie, Cherry, Snowball and Blackie), feed the chickens (or turkeys, geese, ducks and guineas) and gather the eggs. Pop would call the cow by chiming “whup…Whoa..” and they’d come running from either the upper or lower pastures, the creek or the woods…just wherever they’d be to enjoy a little grain feed while we milked them. We sat on an upside down 5 gallon bucket to milk while they ate. You had to be fast to finish before they did or they’d step in your bucket or knock it over. You never lived unless you’ve had a cow step on your foot or to be face slapped by tail full of cockle burrs on a cold morning. Pop brought warm water down in the milk buckets to wash and warm the teats before we started.  Once we finished milking, then it was inside to strain the new milk and skim last night’s milkings into the churn to make butter. Now it’s time for a full breakfast. Usually sausage gravy and biscuits, country ham that we cured ourselves, and homemade butter and jam, molasses or honey from Uncle Hubert, Uncle Charles or Granddad and either coffee or blue john (skimmed)milk. Pop got us to eating soakers which was leftover biscuits soaked in coffee and topped with sugar. Pop drank his coffee from the saucer, Maw from the cup. Pop ate his tomatoes with salt and Maw with sugar.

After breakfast, we slopped the hogs, fed the dogs & rabbits then it was off to the fields to work the garden or tobacco. We used old milk jugs to freeze water in and take it to the fields with us. As it melted we had cool water to drink all day. Pop planted tomatoes in the tobacco fields and we would sometimes eat those instead of stopping for lunch. Actually, in the country, the noon meal is called dinner (another full hot meal), and evening meal is called supper. Lunch is a sandwich you take to work or school.  In the evening we would again gather eggs (usually from the free range chicken or guineas in the barn loft or mangers) and milk the cows again. Back to the porch we went to strain the milk and wash for supper. After we ate, we would wax and thread shoestrings for Maw to use at the shoe factory. Then the kids would play hide and seek, kick the can or catch lightning bugs until it was bedtime. In the morning it was a repeat day after day. There’s no vacation from farming, the cows won’t wait until you return otherwise they’ll run dry and you’ll have no milk until after the next calving. We usually hated the spring milk though because the wild onion the cows ate would taint the milk.

There was always something to do for the cows whether it was cutting fence post and stringing barbed wire, toting hay and feed, calving, trimming the horns or taking them to market. It was only just before Pop quit raising cattle that he ever butchered any. We only raised dairy cows and sold the rest. Once mother made him a porterhouse steak and that was all it took.

***Tobacco Farming***

Now working with burley tobacco is a multi step process that begins in the late winter /early spring. First down in the woods we had our plant bed where Pop sowed the seed and covered it with clear plastic. Between the tree cover and plastic the seedlings would be protected from frost or snow.  Pop would plow the fields in the late fall and again in the early spring to turn over the vegetation for natural fertilization and aeration. Next he would spread fertilizer and disc up the soil to make it smooth for plowing. Daddy told me in Tennessee that he’d use a harrow in place of a disc. Finally he would plow it in furrows. Early on he did all this with our plow horse Nellie or Jenny the mule. Later he did this with his Ford tractor.

There were several size shoes on the plow depending on what you were doing. The one largest shoe was for turning over the dirt. The single smaller shoe was for making mounds and furrows to plant in. The smaller multi-shoe plows were used for cultivating or plowing the weeds. You still had to use a hoe to chop the weeds between the plants though.

On plant day right after a rain, it was all hands on deck. Pop would gather the plants from the plant beds and we would all carry them in a sling. We had a wooden peg we’d poke a 6” hole in the furrow with, put in a tobacco plant and cover it with our feet. We’d take a large stride and do it again until all five acres were planted. It was back breaking work. Once, Pop found a planter that had water in one side and held one plant in the other which would make the hole, dispense water, drop the plant and cover the hole all with one squeeze of the handle and all without having to stoop over. This was especially helpful during dry years. The only problem was we’d have to haul water from the creek in five gallon buckets to fill the rain barrel. Just before Pop quit raising tobacco, he borrowed an attachment for his tractor which would do this faster. It had two seats on the back where two of us would feed the planter. We still had to haul water though.

As the plants grew we had to break off the tops and suckers (little extra shoots) by hand and spray them with herbicide called “sucker plucker” to prevent them from returning. Several times during the summer we’d walk the fields and pull, morning glories, tobacoo worms, and grasshoppers off the leaves and plants and spray them with insecticide.

Come Labor Day weekend again it was all hands on deck. On Friday early in the morning we’d go to the ‘baccer barn to gather ‘baccer sticks (5 foot stakes) to hang the tobacco plants which by now were five-7 foot high. We’d place the stakes every 4-5 plants apart. Pop used a spear tip he called a spud on top of the stake. Then he’d use a hook knife, sickle or a blade on a two foot handle to chop the plant off near the ground and skewer the whole plant on the stake with about 4-5 plants per stake until we did the entire field. We’d leave it lay in the field to wilt so that the leaves wouldn’t break when we gathered them in.

On Labor Day it was back to the fields to gather the “sticks” on the flat bed trailer and hang them in the barns. We had three. One barn was near Mama’s house, one below the cow barn and one in the lower pasture. On good years we’d borrow space from other farmers. The barns had long poles that ran the width of the barn about 4 feet apart and 5-9 tiers high. We’d have two men on the trailer and six on the poles handing up the sticks. We started against the walls from top down and work towards the middle hanging the sticks across the poles. We always had to fight the white hornets in the ground, the wasps on the walls and the snakes, owls and doves in the rafters. The worst part though was all the tar that stuck to our skin and hair that took forever to wash out.

When it got cool we’d butcher hogs and take the large cast iron kettles to the barn to render lard and smoke cure the leaves. I’ll say more on butchering later.

Around New years we’d take the tobacco off the sticks and pile it in the stripping house. There we’d grade and pull the leaves, tie them together in hand size bundles and place them on specially made tobacco pallets or bales according to grade then take them to market. Grading was done from bottom up, trash, lugs, big red and cream.

Now please be aware that we were a family farm and couldn’t afford all the luxuries of laborers and equipment the factory farms had. So we shared with the other farmers in the area. Each bought a different piece of equipment and we’d share it and share the labor. We’d do Pop’s field, then Cook Hicks’s, then Bill Foster’s, then Kenneth Brisintine’s, then Mutt Campbell’s. Today they’re called co-ops with lawyers and contracts and such but back then we were just neighbors trying to compete with the big boys like Ottoway Smith and John Young.

Tobacco wasn’t all we raised. There was corn, wheat, silage and hay. I loved pitching hay bales into the barn or onto the wagon. I learned to drive on that old Ford tractor cutting, raking, baling and gathering hay. Then there was cutting firewood, cutting them into logs with a two man crosscut saw, splitting them with a double bitted axe, a sledge and wedge and stacking them into the woodshed. I must say however that was not the only time I visited the woodshed, if you know what I mean.

***The Farmer’s Wife***

Life as a farmer’s wife wasn’t just about cooking and cleaning. And when we weren’t in the tobacco fields we were helping Maw in the garden. We planted, hoed weeds, plowed and gathered. Then in the evenings we’d prepare those veggies for canning or freezing. We’d shuck, silk, and cut the corn for freezing and give the husks to the livestock. We’d shell peas until our fingernails fell off. We strung and snapped a mountain of beans. We’d have to check every day the acorn and yellow squash and okra so they wouldn’t get woody. We’d brine beets and cucumbers for pickling and cabbage for sour kraut. I loved cutting kraut because I loved to eat the cabbage hearts with a little salt. To me they taste like raw turnips. We also dug turnps, red and white radishes, sweet and Irish potatoes. We kept the potatoes and apples either under the back porch or in a space under the feed room floor in the barn. Pop would dust them with lime and they’d last there all year.

All summer long we’d have muscadines, scuppernongs, as well as fruit from our many trees. We had melon also but you can’t can them, they must be eaten fresh. Sometimes though, we did pickle watermelon rind. During any free time we kids would pick wild strawberries and of course we’d fight the chiggers to get at those blackberries.  Occasionally we’d had rhubarb for pies. Maw would either make jelly or preserves or just make cobblers and pies. We’d also gather black walnuts or hickory nuts. When we move to Florida we’d forage for pecans. Yum Yum! We’d also churn homemade ice cream in an old wooden bucket and put some of that fruit in that as well. How I miss those tastes of childhood.

In the fall it was greens; turnips and mustard mostly. After the corn was cut, we’d scavenge the fields for poke and wild cressie salad. We’d also gather gourds, pumpkins and sunflowers.

 Fishing and hunting weren’t just sport, it was a matter of survival and Maw loved to fish. Jimmy Smith, Cook Hicks and later John Young all had a cow pond we’d fish in. Aunt Ruth had one down below her back fence we’d enjoy also. Mike and me would take a mattock or grubbing hoe (hoe-axe) and go behind the corn crib, cow barn or wood shed and dig for worms. It was always a prize to find a white grub worm. That was almost as fun as fishing.

Maw also loved flowers. She could drive a baseball bat into the ground and grow a tree. She had the greenest thumb I’ve ever known. We’d go down to the barnyard and dig up some black dirt, thanks to cow manure, and bring it up to the house for Maw to use in her flowerbeds and pots. Maw liked gladiolas just like my Grandma Webb but she also had foxglove, silver dollars, Japanese lantern, roses, mountain laural,rose of Sharon,tulips,daffodils, hyacinths, roses and once even morning glories. Inside she loved African violets, wandering Jew, Christmas cactus and spider plants.

In the back yard she grew spices like mint, wintergreen, sage and catnip among others

***Butchering***

During the late fall and winter was butchering season. Rabbits were easy, chop, skin and gut…done. Chickens were always and event. Maw got the two cast iron kettles that we used for lard rending and boiled water. Then we’d hang the chickens on the clothes line with baling rope and cut off their heads. After they drained we’d dunk (scald) them in one pot of boiling water to loosen the feathers and pluck’em. Maw would dress and freeze them. So you may ask what the other kettle was for. Well, we’d take all the leftover, year old veggies from the freezer and place them in the kettle with a half dozen fresh chickens and make Brunswick stew. Maw called it firehouse stew because she’d always make some to sell to raise funds for the volunteer fire department. We always ate some with cornbread or biscuits and canned the rest. Since Maw and mother both  made the best chicken and dumpling we’d get them to save one chicken out to make some for Sunday Dinner or homecoming/dinner on the grounds at church.

Hogs were different. First early on the boars would be castrated to prevent tainting the meat. Then we’d get a huge tub with boiling water. There we’d shoot it between the eyes, slit the throat and hang it to bleed out. My Pop and the local Black folks would dip leftover biscuits in that blood and eat it. They called it blood pudding. Gross!! Not me Jack! After it was gutted and drained, it was dropped in the hot water to loosen the bristles which we scraped off. On the butcher block we separated the cuts into ribs, picnic shoulder, ham, bacon or side meat, tenderloin and jowls. The black folks ate the heart, liver, kidneys, tongue, brain, chittlings (intestines) and the head. Then they’d take the feet, tail, snout and ears and pickle them. They’d also get the mountain oysters or testicles, but they would take those months earlier so they wouldn’t taint the meat. Pop would salt cure and smoke our meat in the log cabin style smoke house. Maw would can the sausage and tenderloin.  We cut the skin and fat into small cubes which we cooked down in those large kettles to render lard for cooking and seasoning. Then we took the left over rind and bake it in the oven to make cracklings or pork rind. There was always plenty in the freezer for special occasions. Sometimes she’d use the smoked shoulder to make BBQ / pulled pork for sandwiches. It was funny that when we went to California, someone invited us over for BBQ. We expected pulled smoked pork with a spicy red sauce; instead we got grilled chicken with Ketchup (BBQ sauce) on it. What a disappointment!

***After work***

We boys enjoyed playing on the farm. We’d play in the creek, swimming and seining for minnows, spring lizards, tadpoles, water spiders and crawdads. Then we’d play war mostly by throwing things at each other. We’d throw dirt clods, corn cobs, pine cones, fallen plums and peaches. We boys always built a fort or clubhouse anywhere we could find like the woods, old sheds or pig pens, barn, stand of vines or ivy or just an old woodpile. We’d jump out of the hay loft, out of trees and the porch roofs. We’d take chair twine and make whips or bows for arrows. We’d shoot our cap pistols, bb guns and homemade sling shots made from old inner tubes. We made our own kites and rode tobacco sticks as play horses. We took half a cob and placed three feathers in the soft center to make whirlybirds. My brother Tony was good at finding arrow heads in the newly plowed fields and pasture. Camping out in the old mines or along the creek was always a big thrill, hey any reason to play with fire.

We’d like to walk out to the end of the driveway by the mailbox and bat rocks with a ‘baccer stick or old plank. Mike seemed to enjoy it most of all. He’d stand for hours and bat those rocks over the pine trees. Down by the mailbox was a ditch that Pop would throw junk mail or ditch mail as he’d call it. Once or twice a year he would burn off the banks to keep down snakes and get rid of the residual ditch mail.

On Sundays after church the whole family would come out for dinner, just like at Grandpa Justus’, and afterwards Pop would take us on hay rides. We’d play baseball or football in the pastures or horseshoes in the side yard (with real and old odd horseshoes) by the large oak tree with all those old license plates nailed to it. If there were a lot of women, we’d play crochet or badminton.  Sometime we’d sit in the porch swing or those large metal yard chairs and whittle or play mumblypeg. At Mama’s we’d swing on vines in the woods or the tire swing daddy put up with old chains from an old swing set. Back inside we’d play Rook, Chinese checkers, or Trouble. You knew you were getting older when the grown-up would let you play Rook with them.

On Wednesday nights we’d have our version of prayer meeting. Since church was so far away, we’d just meet from home to home with the other country folk in the area. Our cousin Hubert Justis would occasionally drop by to preach a sermon but mostly Gene Davis, Bill Foster and Uncle Ben Carmichael would sit in the yard and play old timey hymns and spirituals on their guitars and mandolins while we all joined along. If Pop didn’t know the song, he’d just slip off by himself in a corner, pat his foot and slap his leg and sing “I’ll fly away”.

Pop also worked at the Prince Edward Mill in Farmville and Maw at the shoe factory. Sometimes we’d go to town to have lunch with them at Walker’s diner. Pop would get a Brownie chocolate drink and pour the whole thing down his throat without swallowing. He carried a pocket watch on a leather fob, a small pocket knife, coins in a rubber squeeze holder and his cigarettes in a plastic two piece box in his shirt pocket or rolled up in his sleeve. He was a simple man with a simple but hard life and his favorite saying was “simple words are easily understood”. As I became a man I came to appreciate how profound this little saying came to be. Life for me didn’t become complicated until after we left Prospect. Whenever I need retreat from the rigors of the world around me I head up to Prospect. As soon as we turn off the main road I sense my troubles melt away and my heart is filled with piece. Boy I miss those days.

Chapter Three

Holidays in Stereo

Holiday memories in stereo (combined from several generations)

Early in the morning long before daylight Uncle Hubert and Uncle Charlie would head out to hunt deer. They had to step over bodies because Maw’s house would be full kids sleeping on palates on the floors in nearly every room of the house. Pop would be out milking, slopping the hogs and gathering the eggs from the hen house and the barn loft or wherever he might find that guinea’s nest. Soon from upstairs the aromas of coffee percolating and bacon frying downstairs  would drive us from under twelve hand sown quilts, so heavy you couldn’t turn over, to the gravy and biscuits below. But as soon as your bare foot hit that ice cold linoleum floor you had to pee …NOW!  Most of the women went down to the little mission with a sears and roebuck catalogue and the boys and men pee’d off the side of the porch.

 After several rounds of breakfast with soakers of coffee and leftover biscuits, Maw, Momma and the aunts would start cooking. First the turkey in the oven and then the pie cook-off would begin with Maw telling Betty that Bud liked milk chocolate better than dark. Then they’d open the freezers and mason jars and commence with the veggies. Pop however made the corn bread since no woman could make it as good as him. Outside the men would chop wood for the stove heaters and the boys would haul it inside.

Daddy would pile us in the car and we would head over to say hi to Aunt Francis and Aunt Edith who would “force” us kids to eat again. Then he’d call Granddad and spin a joke or two and tease Grandma about Fred Clark. Then it was back to Maw and Pop’s. We’d get there in time to help skin the deer from Uncle Hubert and he’d be sure to leave a shoulder for his favorite sister.

Well dinner was served in shifts first the men, then the kids then the women. It was always a rite of passage to move from the kiddy table to the big table with the men. The women just wanted the kitchen to themselves that’s why they went last. Soon Ruby, Gail and Eugene would drop by for a bite then Ruby would start on the dishes. Other relatives like Ben and Millie would straggle in all day. Maw just left the food on the table covered with a table cloth to make it more accessible.

Then the men would go to the den with Reggie and Tom to watch the Cowboys play football in Detroit. The kids would go outside and Pop would give us a ride on the trailer and pulled it with his old Ford tractor. Some of us would try to ride ole Nellie or the mule Jennie but as soon as they caught sight of the barn the ride was over. We’d gather us a few horse shoes from the barn or the stripping house and play a couple hundred rounds.

If it was cold Pop would slaughter hogs and we’d take the fat and rinds up to the tobacco barn and render lard and smoke cure the barley tobacco while Pop rubbed the hams, shoulders and bacon with salt and hung them in the smoke house. The black folks that helped him got the head, tail, feet and the organs. They’d take leftover biscuits and dip them in the fresh blood and enjoy blood pudding. Gross!

If it was Indian summer the kids would play football in the cow pasture or have corn cob fights. Then as night approached we’d play kick the bucket until finally Gene and Bill Foster and Uncle Ben would bring the guitars and mandolin outside and started to play hymns. Everyone would grab a yard chair, ladder back or porch swing and sing along well into the night. If Pop didn’t know a song he’d slip off by himself, stomp his foot and slap his knee and sing “I’ll fly away”.

As it got late Maw would hand us a dishpan and a bar of soap along with an old dishtowel she’d sown from flour sacks and send us to the well house to wash our feet before we went to back to our palates. it was hard getting to sleep because of the excitement of the day and knowing we were heading to Uncle Charles’ house tomorrow to look for arrow heads and back to Willie Dickinson’s auction that evening. Soon we’d help Pop strip and grade tobacco getting it ready for market. We’d lay there in the floor under the quilt frame Maw was working on dreading that we’d have to leave the farm soon and go back to school. We could hear the adults waxing shoe thread and picking out hickory nuts and black walnuts for fudge.

All would soon quiet on the Eggleston farm there in Prospect Virginia except for the baying of dogs or the cackling of guineas being disturbed by a varmint. Rain on the tin roof would sing us a lullaby and not remind us until much later how thankful we truly are for this heritage.

Chapter Four

The Prospect Community

***Life in prospect***

Prospect was only a small crossroads with a Mr. Doss’s barbershop, (Harry Yates was our barber in Farmville), Carson Hix feed store, a hair dresser, a Sherwin Williams paint and hardware store, a closed train depot, Nelson’s General store and Post Office, Noodles’ Flying A gas station/ bus station, a few little churches, and later came the volunteer fire department and John Young’s convenience store. That’s it. No traffic lights and mostly dirt roads. The streets had no names just county road numbers. There was a train track there by the depot we’d put penny’s on to flatten them out. There were mostly farmers scattered across the countryside on both sides of US 460. Prospect Depot did play import roles in both the Revolutionary and the Civil Wars. Now though it can barely be found on the map.

Steve had two friends, Howard Johnson and Howard Bucknam. Occasionally Sherry Brisintine would come over and play. The boys got in trouble in school for combing their bangs straight down like the Beatles. I got in trouble once throwing dirt clods and hitting Howard Bucknam in the face with one that had a rock in it. It put a gash over his eye that required stitches. For us, the face was always off limits. My buddies’ were Timmy Bucknam, Howard’s cousin and a guy named Dave. On my first trip back to Prospect years later I found out that Timmy died of a brain tumor. This event shaped my thinking and calling. I wanted to be a doctor from then on out but when I failed 11th grade chemistry, the only “F” I ever got; I gave it up and joined the Air Force. Years later, after I got out of the Air Force I again looked into medicine which led me to my current career path today.

For a short while we attended a midweek service in Prospect at the “Little Mission” and old storefront church. We’d sing out of an old hymnal with shaped notes. We loved those old hymns like “I’ll Fly away”, “The old time Religion” and “I’m Satisfied”. Maw would sit and teach me those old songs that the Baptist hymnal didn’t carry anymore. Mary Lou Foster would play an old pump organ and Cousin Hubert would preach the huh’s. After a tornado took the roof off it we never rebuilt it, but Pop did use the tin off it to cover our outhouse. That Johnny house and all others became known for us from that point on as the “Little Mission”.

There was the town drunk named Tucker Harris. He would always come over when Daddy was overseas and pester Mom. The law carried him off more than once. Years later, we would tease Maw, Mom and the Aunt’s about swooning with old Tucker. That would really get a rise out of them.

There was an old 4H Lake out in Buckingham/Appomattox called Holliday Lake and another one in Farmville called Godwin Lake that Mom would take us to. She was deathly afraid of water and couldn’t swim she but didn’t want us to be that way so she took us there to learn to swim. After an Uncle and a cousin both drowned when Mom was a child, it had a lasting impact on her.

You had to pay to use their beach and they’d safety pin a piece of cloth, different each day, to your bathing suit to prove you’d paid. They also had a beach house and concession stand that served soft ice cream cones. They had canoes and paddleboat, diving boards and platforms, a fishing dock, camping and picnic sites, and once even a water slide. Uncle Reece would spend half the summer down there. Even today I still take my own kids and grandkids there to enjoy the great outdoors.

***Historic Race Relations***

Now this was during the Brown vs. the Board of Education days where Prince Edward County closed the schools instead of racially integrating them. We were handed money under the table to pay for a private, white only church school down at the Methodist church. Our own church did the same over in Worsham. That school was very strict and we were physically punished for our mistakes. Steve was beaten until he learned to write with his right hand instead of his left. I was beaten and made to stand with my nose in a circle on the chalkboard with a dictionary held out straight in each hand for breaking my pencil. Miss Durphy. Her arms were so flappy they erased the chalkboard as she was writing above it.  Mike struggled at that school and had to repeat the second grade. I lost my first tooth there at that school eating a sugar daddy. I never did find it. There was another thing though that was easily found.

Racism was in full swing and still is in many ways. Our city bus in Farmville said “coloreds to the back” and my pediatrician Dr. Terry’s office had a colored entrance. The black schools had dirt floors and no glass in the windows. The area where they lived was called n*****town.

It was odd though that most of our neighbors and friends were black. There were the Ford’s and the Walkers among others. A heavy lady we called “Jean the colored woman” babysat us when Mom went to town. However, she would not enter the front door. It was considered uppity and possibly a lynching offense. Coming back from a visit to Aunt Peggy’s in Arkansas, we saw three black men hanging over the Mississippi River Bridge in Memphis with a sign around their neck stating that they’d been out after dark. One black man was run out of town in Farmville for looking at a white woman. There were members of my family who were in the White Caps or the KKK as they’re called today. Even our neighbor Cook Hick’s family had slaves and share croppers for years even after the War.  There was an old slave cabin on Mama’s land that had been burned to the ground with slaves still inside.  You see we had a trash burning pile there in the woods. Once mama sent me back to the trash pile where I saw smoke. I knew we hadn’t been burning trash yet so as I got closer, instead of a trash pile, I saw a burned out log cabin. The windows were covered with soot but I could still see a light flicker inside. As I wiped the soot off to get a better look I saw a burnt man looking back at me. I called him “Black eyes and blood bones”. I went and told mom but when we got back, there was only a cold trash heap. Years Later as we were walking near that same spot with Pop and Cook Hicks; I asked if there had ever been a cabin in there. Cook told me that his grandfather had slaves and the slave quarters back there had been burned to the ground with everyone inside. Spooky, huh?

My brother Steve was spanked by an old black woman in Prospect for calling her the “N” word. But I enjoyed, as a young child, playing with Phillip Walker a young black man just up the road. The Ford men would help us in our fields from time to time. When John Ford got old and homebound, Maw would fix him a meal and take it up to him, especially around holidays.

The big issue though was the perceived preferential treatment the poor blacks had over the poor whites. It was perceived that the poor whites could never get the help from the government that appeared to come with ease just by being black. The other odd thing though was that the blacks were criticized for sitting on the porch, taking a handout from the folks willing to work and not even trying to work themselves. The paradox was that the white people would n’t even hire the blacks or give them the education to succeed for themselves. The whites would counter that the blacks squandered the opportunities given to them and the crime in their neighborhoods were proof that they were inferior and not worth helping.  After all, with a few exceptions the perception was that all older black men were lazy drunks who wouldn’t care for his family, younger black men were drug addicts or gang members and black women slept around and had a bunch of illegitimate babies on welfare who didn’t know who their daddys’ were. Oh, and they all carried switchblades. Whenever anyone black succeeded it was proof enough that it could be done without a handout. The whites worried that because of class envy, the haves vs. the have nots, that the violence and caliceness in the black neighborhood would spill over to the white kids if the schools were integrated. During the seventies in high school, we had “race wars”. My brothers and I carried knives and wore huge belt buckles for protection. What a mess!

Even though racial jokes flowed freely, Pop would never allow us to treat our neighbors with anything but respect. He believed that character defines a man, not the color of his skin or the family they came from.  Thanks to him our family has become more tolerant and more colorful, if you know what I mean. Yes it may be seen as a double standard today but then it was revolutionary.

Chapter Five

The Farmville Connection

***The Fam***

When Mom and Dad came to Virginia many of their family came right behind them. Maw’s brother Hubert and his wife Edna came and settled over in Buckingham. They had 2 children Buddy and his sister Kathleen whom we all call Cotton.  We played some with Cotton’s son Gary. Her husband, Bobby Barr was a drinker and his mother would cuss at us in French. Uncle Hubert was an avid deer hunter even though at one time he had a pet fawn that he’d let in the house occasionally. The day he died he shot a deer, went over to field dress it and fell over dead on right top of it. Talk about dying doing what you love. Just before his death he married a sweet lady named Minnie.

Maw’s had another sister that moved to Pamplin, Aunt Millie and Uncle Ben. Uncle Ben was the brother to Pop’s first wife Annie. They were brother-in-laws twice.  Aunt Millie was special to me and I guess I was to her as well. She was the only one to remember my sixth birthday. She brought me a whatnot or dish towel every time I visited. She used to call me Luke or Lukie. Aunt Millie was married once before to Uncle Sam Allen who passed in a drowning accident. They had 2 children Virginia, and Stanley whom we call Dale. Millie and Ben had a child of their own about my age, Theresa.  Virginia married Roy Gunter, a contractor who also had a drinking problem. Their oldest son Chris had cataracts at age 13. Janice was born on my first birthday. They were our playmates as children. Ginny (Virginia) had 2 other children who Robin and Keith who became a millionaire. Dale was the comic book king and we’d go over and play with him near the train tracks and read his comic books. Sadly he’d become an alcoholic also. Theresa was my age and we’d hang out mostly at Maw’s on Sundays.

Grandma and Granddad Webb moved around but mostly on Slate Hill and over behind the ball field. Granddad showed us how to rob a bee hive and let us play with his dog Rex, a German shepherd. We stayed with them one Christmas. It snowed and he helped us build a snowman with coal for the buttons and eyes. Mom made us some snow cream, sort of an ice cream made from snow. Grandma reminded us never to eat the first snow of the year. Supposedly it wasn’t safe. They eventually moved back to Tennessee for good.

Uncle Charles at the time lived in Richmond but they eventually moved out to Jetersville. We’d love to play horseshoes, hunt or search for arrowheads. It was always a laugh a minute over there as he and Dad recalled the antics of their childhood. He had 5 girls and a boy most of which were well over six foot tall.

Grandma Webb had four sisters, a brother as well as her parents who moved to Virginia. Thought their last name was Ownby there were many spellings depending who was mad at whom at the time. It was Ownby, Ownsby, Ownbey, Ownsbey, Owenby, Owensby, Owensbey, and Oneby amongst others. Uncle Arlie was in WWII and died from Parkinson’s. Grandpa and Grandma Ownby died and were buried in Mount Pleasant. When I was young however I do remember Grandma kept her hair in combs, just like My Grandma Webb because their hair was soft like corn silk. When they both died, neither had a gray hair in their head. Uncle Lewis & Aunt Veronie lived in Mount Pleasant and Aunt Nellie & Uncle Earl lived in Richmond just like Uncle Arlie & Aunt Audrey so we didn’t see much of them when I was younger.

Aunt Edith and Uncle Frank both lived in Farmville. They both served in the Army during WWII. Their daughter Teresa was older and we didn’t see her much. Aunt Edith usually came over to Aunt Frances’ whenever anyone would visit. She was well read, neat as pin, and sharp as a tack. Sadly, she was raped and murdered/ thrown down the basement stairs of her own home when she was in her eighties.

Aunt Frances and Uncle Geeder also lived behind the ball field in Farmville. They had three children, Rebecca who was older, Virgil who served with Dad in the Navy in Pensacola and who also taught us to surf. Their youngest was Ronnie who was about Steve’s age. We’d play with him some but he mostly hung out with Steve. Aunt Frances was the family historian. Between her and Edith they knew things from before the Civil War about our families. Today I am working on our genealogy and boy how I wished I paid more attention back then. Now there’s no one alive to ask.

***Shular’s***

Mom’s sister Aunt Ruth and Uncle Reese Shular lived out route 45. They had one child that was a blue baby and died in Tennessee before they came to Virginia. The other children were Sandra Gail, Carol, and David. Sandra hung around my Mom a lot because they both liked 50’s rock and roll. She was funny and fun to be around. Her first husband was run off by Uncle Reese after Sandra found out that he was already married. Her second husband, Roger had a little bluegrass band and he always enjoyed muscle cars. He last husband Arthur was her best. Maw made a joke once about Arthur hitting her. We were just about to go and execute the SOB when Maw told us she was talking about Arthur-itis. Sandy had an ongoing problem with anorexia though it was cancer that eventual took her from us.

Carol was just a couple of years younger than me. I accidentally broke his arm twice. Once by pushing him off the 6 inch high porch and the other time was by pushing him too high on the swing. We both had daughters the same age named Jennifer. We played a lot together at his house and down at Maw’s. Carol’s life went out of sorts when his wife left him and again when his mom died.

David was Tony’s age and they and Aunt Shirley’s nephew Bobby Anderson were thick as thieves (literally) when they got older. That’s another story.

We were playing kick the bucket once, David was it and I kicked the can about the same time that David touched it. This made him cry and Steve mad. He clobbered me for not playing fair. This sent me into a blind fury. I don’t know if was because he hit me or because I felt he judged me unfairly but I lost it. I grabbed the ax from the woodpile and started chasing Steve with it. I had every intention in this world to part his hair with it. Uncle Bud though saved his life by sneaking up behind me and taking the ax and spanking my behind. Now in my family all older relatives had the permission and obligation to whip any child that deserved one. David had three boys including a pair of twins. David was in a bad wreck in his 18 wheeler that messed him up. His Dad also had a bad wreck on his motorcycle that he never fully recovered from. He eventually became an alcoholic and left Aunt Ruth after an incident with a gun even though he still claims to have loved her until the day she died.

Aunt Ruth was the sweetest soul you could ever image, though her life was filled with grief. First, her Dad died when she was young, and she had to do the cooking and housekeeping while Maw worked to support and keep her fatherless children. Then she married young and her mom left the state. Her first husband left her. Her second husband, Charles Reese was a thief and swindler. Her first child died as an infant and her first son-in-law was a bigamist. Her daughter beat her out of the family home and her boys beat her out of her inheritance. She got diabetes and died penniless in a nursing home after spending years on dialysis. Aunt Betty had to guard her pitiful social security because her family was taking it and eventually had to go to court to protect her few belongings.

Ruth though was a great cook and fine seamstress. She even won a Betty Croker prize for her graham cracker cake. Yum, Yum! I mostly remember meals at her house for the lime green Kool-Aid. Uncle Reese has since moved back to Tennessee.

***Matthews***

I’ll speak more on them later when I cover the Tennessee connection. Let’s just put it this way, their trips to Virginia rarely went well.

***Perkins***

Aunt Betty and Uncle Tom at first lived just across the Buffalo River on the left. I mostly remember that house because they had store bought toys that we could play with when we visited. Currently they live just up the road from the Confederate Cemetery.  Uncle Tom had several siblings which we spent some time with. Rueben loved us and always call Mike Maestro.  Annie lived with Lou and Garland next door to Uncle Bud. They had a son named Wayne who sucked a pacifier his entire life.

Tom and Betty had three kids Janet, Tommy and Frankie. Janet was born on the same day as Mike just 4 years earlier. She’s funny and a ball to be around. She became a hairdresser and always did everyone’s hair for free at Maw’s after Sunday dinner. She had 2 wonderful children, Angel and Daniel. Angel used to have an imaginary friend. She later remarried a man named Glen and moved away. Tommy was Steve’s age and they mostly hung together. Tommy and Steve used to sneak off behind the barn and smoke rabbit tobacco. His had 2 boys and one of them was burned badly by throwing gas on an open fire. One of the boys eventually joined the Marines. Tommy though is an Army Colonel in the reserves.  Frankie was the rebel. She was the first one with tattoos and such. She’s a riot also but she still tells it like it is. She had three girls including a pair of twins. I guess you can say twins run in our family since there are four pairs in the same generation. Uncle Tom was funny but a bit of a mumbler. You had to be around him enough to understand him.

Betty was the family caretaker. Whenever anyone got sick, Betty would take them to the doctor and manage their affairs. She did Maw and Pop, Tom, Ruth and Sandra as well as some of Uncle Tom’s siblings. Many of them at the same time. This really took its toll on her own health. Now she suffers with gout, neuropathy and diabetes. Recently she fell and broke her leg. Though she really shouldn’t, she still drives. Uncle Bud though tries to run her errands for her.

***Moore***

Uncle Bud was Mom’s youngest sibling. He has always been soft spoken and meek same as his wife and children. He did though like race cars and motorcycles. There is an old picture of him on a motorcycle in leather hat and jacket looking like Marlon Brando. He was good at fixing other peoples cars though he always had a couple wrecks in his back yard up on blocks or something. He married Aunt Shirley in South Carolina because they were too young to be married elsewhere. I love those 2 and always wanted my family when I married to be soft spoken like them and not so boisterous like us. I remember Aunt Shirley mostly for her fried baloney. Yuck!

They daughter Barbara had had bad luck with men. The first was a cad. The second was sick most of their marriage until he died just recently. She’s a very sweet lady and a huge sports fan.

Luther Scott Moore was the boy. He and I used to argue with Tommy (Thomas Luther Perkins) over who was the REAL Luther. Whenever I visit I always tease him about taking his room. He was an athlete in school and always very strong. We’d love to wrestle each other even after we both became men. He’s a great husband and father and now lives in Tennessee.

All in all I truly had a blast with my cousins and enjoyed a wonderful childhood in the heartland of Virginia. I enjoyed learning from my aging elders who came here from Tennessee who came here to find a better life. Mostly, they did, but by moving out of the hills of Tennessee it all came with a price, a loss that we tried furiously to preserve and restore. If Virginia did nothing else though, it forced us into the future and though we sit around and talk about the olden days I’ve found that truly, we brought them with us.

Chapter Six

Life in Farmville

***The road to Farmville***

The road to Farmville from Prospect originally was a 2 lane road, US 460 east. Once it became four lanes it bypassed Tuggle and took out the saw mill and Noodle’s store. It took back up near Adam’s Produce stand where we’d buy our Beatle trading cards. It was lined with kudzu and Burma shave type billboards like The Hub and Leggitt’s.  On the left was Egg’s (Pop’s son Jaime Eggleston) used car and trailer lot. We played with his daughter Joyce some until after her mom died, and then we never saw much of her after that. On the right was Willie Dickerson’s auction house. We loved going there even if we didn’t buy anything. It was an event in and of itself. Just behind Willie’s were the fair grounds. Even though we were poor we never missed it. Maw always had a quilt or two and some canned veggies on exhibit. Pop brought his fresh produce. Once he won for some huge cabbages. We’d love the games and sideshows. My favorite was the crane and the coin toss. We won plates or huge dice or cheepo pocket knives. Each year some poor unsuspecting man relative was going to get his first experience at the hoochie coochie show. Steve likes the Ferris wheels and I liked the tubs. As soon as we were old enough, Daddy would take us on the “bullet”. It was scary for a little tike. I especially enjoyed the food. Cotton candy or candied apples mostly…and of course, anything fried. It was the highlight of the year.

Going under the railroad over pass on the left was Kit Carson motor coach. It’s only claim to fame was that the Beatles once stayed there. Next to Kit’s was the Steer restaurant. That was big time and not affordable to us. On the other hand, just up the road was Tasty Freeze drive in. For a couple bucks you could buy footling chili dogs for all of us. My favorites though were their drippy hamburgers with mayo and tomato, onion rings and a real black cherry milk shake. I measure all other burger joints by Tasty Freeze.

Across the road on the right was the American Gas station attended by Mr. Whit. He was an old black gent that for some reason really liked us kids. Every time Mom got gas there he would give us some ice cream. This was in the days when they were called service stations and provided full customer service. He’d wash all the windows, check the oil, the tire pressure and radiator water. This old station had a grease pit instead of a lift where they did oil changes. I dropped my blue pacifier down that grease pit and Mom never bought me another one. That was it. Mr. Whit moved around to several other stations but we always gave him our business no matter where he was. I miss real men like him.

Across the river on the right was the hospital where I, Mike and Tony were born.  I once had to go there when I got hives from eating too many strawberries. Across the road was the haunted house. It is a beautiful 2 story Cape Cod style. Who knows if anything ever really happened there or not but the legend was that no one could ever spend an entire night there.

Over the hill were the train depot on the left and the bus depot on the right. I remember signs on the buses that said “colored to the rear.” Behind the bus depot was my pediatrician’s office which also had a colored entrance.

Next to the train depot and the Southern States co-op was a cement factory Daddy called the booger maker. He’d threaten to put us in the booger maker if we didn’t be good in the car. We were all scared of that thing. Behind the hospital was a side street with a huge oak in the middle of it. The town built the road around the tree because George Washington slept under it. To the right of it Roy and Ginny lived and to the left was a girl’s only college called Longwood where me and Steve trolled for girls when we were teenagers. We never caught any though.  Down from that was the church Maw and Pop were married in; Hotel Weyanoke Mom and Dad spent their wedding night, High’s ice cream shop, the indoor theater and Safeway. They had electric doors that I used to play on until I got a whipping for going in and out.

Go back to town passed the depot and there was the record store where we bought 45’s and the dime store on the corner. Turn left at the dime store towards Cumberland and down a ways was the shoe factory. It seems everyone in the family worked there at least once. Across the road was tobacco warehouses and Prince Edward Mill where Pop worked. The mill ground, flour, corn meal, and animal feeds. There was Walker’s diner right there by the railroad tracks where we’d have lunch with Maw or Pop sometimes.

Go back to the dime store and turn left towards Rice and there was the A&P grocery and the fire station where they gave us polio vaccines. Up and to the left was where Nellie and Edith lived. To the right was the ball field and the private school was built to keep out blacks. Aunt Frances and Grandma and Granddad Webb lived behind the ball field fences.

When you go out Route 15 on the left was the drive in theater. Mom would sneak us in in the trunk or under blankets in the back. We’d sit on the hood of the car and watch monster movies or catch lightning bugs. The drive-ins in California had trampolines but we couldn’t afford them. Further up on the left was a field we called Stump Town because of all the tree stumps in the cow pasture. Next was the debtor’s prison on the left were Pearl and Jeannie’s house on the right. Pearl was Uncle Ben’s and Pop’s first wife Annie’s sister. Jeanie is her daughter and would later marry my brother Mike. 

Finally on the right is Worsham Baptist Church which Dad and Granddad helped build. I had the same Sunday school teacher as my Dad, Mrs. Reese. She really knew the bible. There is an old water fountain downstairs that taste like rust. Preacher Wilkerson would give a short message to the children down front before his main sermon. The ladies all wore white gloves and pill box hats. The men all wore suit and ties and fedoras. There was a rope in the vestibule which rang the bell before Sunday school and again before Church (the preaching service). Before preaching the men would stand out in front of the church and smoke. There also used to be a well house and bucket out front as well. The pews all had funeral home fans because there was no ac. We sang from the Broadman hymnal and later changed to the Baptist Hymnal. There we chairs on the stage for the pastor and head deacon to sit. Behind the choir loft were a baptistery and two wooden boards giving total on one side and the hymn numbers on the other one. We kids would make fans, monsters or paper airplanes from the bulletins. Once I got choked on a lifesaver and Mom had to take me out, hold me upside down and hit me in the back until a spit it up. Then I got a whipping for doing it in the first place.

When hurricane Camille came through in 1969 the Buffalo river overflowed its banks and flooded downtown Farmville. The water was above the parking meters and hurt many of the farmers and businesses for years to come.

I loved that old downtown area. At Christmas, lights and garlands were strung across the streets and on every lamp post in town. The storefront windows all had a Christmas display with a sprayed on snow design on every glass that faced the street. Newberry’s sold pets in the back and Mom would take us inside to see and pet them. They also had cashews under a heat lamp and a popcorn stand that would send wonderful aromas all over the store.

I used to play a game when I was about 3 years old where I’d dart between the cars down town back and forth across the street. Once Momma got over her heart attack, I got a whipping right there on main street in front of God and everybody. That was before discipline was considered child abuse. Heck, they considered it abuse not to beat the foolishness out of a child.

Finally, just before we moved to California in ‘60s we went to school in Farmville. We rode bus number X8. Mom would make us apple butter or cheese sandwiches and tie a nickel up in our hanky to by milk with. We were only there a few months and then it was off to California. We had no idea what culture shock awaited us but it wouldn’t take us long to find out.

CHAPTER SEVEN

CALIFORNIA HERE I COME

***Moving Away***

In the fall of 1965 Daddy got orders to Moffitt Field Naval Air Station San Jose California so he packed us up and moved the entire family to 1226 Torrance Avenue in Sunnyvale, California. It would be sort of a staging area for his trips into Vietnam. Now the term Vietnam was never mentioned in our home. We were too young to understand the politics of the whole situation and he didn’t want to worry his family. There were hippies and war protestors who spit on him and called him names. Dad told us that he didn’t retaliate. He said men were dying over there to give them the freedom to protest even though for the most part he considered them cowards.  Truth is, daddy busted out his four front teeth and the shore patrol hurried him back to base before the cops.

***Pets***

One of the hardest things to was to do leave behind our pet, a little Chihuahua named Tiger. He was feisty and we enjoyed getting him to growl. Our first dog was a black and white Collie named Tumbleweed. She once had a litter of puppies under the crawlspace of the house. One day she and her puppies just vanished. We believed she was stolen. Next we had a German shepherd police dog named Rex. He was too mean to be a canine so the cops gave him to Granddad who gave him to Daddy. Though he was aggressive to others he was good to me. He’d let me ride him and play rough with him and he’d never even growl. I guess he thought I was his boy-pup. Once Mr. Lane, a buddy of Daddy’s was working on the road near our house so he stopped to shoot the breeze with Daddy for a moment. He looked down at me and said “what a fine boy I think I’ll take him home with me” and he reached down to pick me up. That’s when Rex lunged for his neck. Daddy caught him by the collar in mid-air just inches from Nr. Lane’s throat. Mr. Lane got in his truck and hurried on down the road, his face was white as a sheet.

Maw’s pets we considered our pets too. There were long hair Chihuahuas named Rusty, Cricket, Tippy, Fifi, Wiggles and a few hounds named Elwood and Pluto or old Plute not to mention a long haired yellow Persian named Ida and a slew of white Siamese barn cats.

***Moving Day***

Most of our toys were left behind, not that we had many in the first place. Steve did get to bring his bike. First time he rode it in California, he got a ticket because there were no lights and he didn’t have a license. Mike brought his tin Model “A” Ford. Tony brought a little white stuffed kitty he got when he was in the hospital with pneumonia. I brought my Susie doll. It had pink hooded jammies with a plastic face and hands. I chewed the fingers off of it and left it in the rain until it turned mildew brown. Once we returned to Virginia all the toys we left behind were gone, especially some stuffed bears we never played with, they just hung on a nail in the corners of our bedrooms.

United Van Lines packed and hauled all our belongings away in different sized white boxes. Every time we moved the packers always stole something. This time was no different.

Moving day was an emotional roller coaster. First we were excited about not only seeing an airplane for the first time but actually flying on one. This was cool. Pan Am gave us little pilot wings to pin to our shirts and even showed us the cockpit. This was back during the time you could smoke in the back of the plane and that is exactly where we sat. We also got to eat in a real restaurant in Amelia on the way to Richmond. They had little jukeboxes at each table where, if you had money, you could pick the song you wanted to hear. Cool. That was the upsides.

The down side was leaving Maw and Pop. Everybody cried except Daddy and Mike. In fact we cried almost the whole time we were in California, but especially when we’d get a letter from home. Daddy always promised he’d take us back and we’d have our own horses to ride. Thanks to the Navy, it never happened.

And talk about culture shock, these hillbillies from “back east” was confronted by Hippies, Mexicans and Asians. We’d never seen any of them before. There were different languages, clothes, hairstyles, food and religions. It was like another planet at first. But we eventually found a way to manage.

We spent some time at the Lucky U motel until Dad found us a house. It had all sorts of colored rocks around the place. My brothers and I scavenged the areas for cool rocks and places to have a fort. We found all sorts of cool stuff we didn’t have in Virginia. They had cactus and lava rocks amongst other goodies. That’s also where I finally learned to swim. They had a pool! We’d never seen one before. Daddy pushed me in the deep end and it was either sink or swim. I swam. The only problem though was I had stitches in my right shin and they busted open leaving me with a scar to this day. I injured it just before we moved. My brothers were jumping on the beds from one to the other and I missed and split my leg open on the bedrail. The stitches I didn’t mind. What I did mind was having to drop my drawers for a penicillin shot. I pitched a fit. We boys were always modest and never wanted even the doctor to see our butts or privates. That nurse was the last woman to see me naked until my wedding night.

California did have some fun times. I, Steve and Mike joined the scouts. I started as bobcat, then tiger, and then bear in the cub scouts. Mike made it to wolf and webelos. Steve was older and started right in the boy scouts. We had a jamboree and had our first campout in an open field in a state park. We made paper machete volcanoes, wooden co2 propelled cars and rubber band powered rockets. Cool. One evening Mom got lost on the freeway while trying to take Mike to a scouting event. They ended up nearly to Redwood City before they turned around. Once we moved away we never got hooked up again with scouts sorry to say.

Eventually we did go on vacation to see the giant Redwood forest and Mount Hamilton observatory. We even went to Disneyland and got Mickey Mouse ears. Steve and Mike Bond got lost and when we did find him he was taking his 500th or so trip on the monorail, the only free ride in the park. We also went to Hollywood. We ate at the Brown Derby and followed the walk of fame to see all the stars on the sidewalk outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. I think we did see some movie stars but I didn’t know who they were.

Daddy and Mr. Joe Puett across the street coached our little league baseball team. We were the Bayside Women’s Auxiliary Sparrows with maroon and white colors. The team was good but I was terrible. I never caught a ball and never got a hit. I did walk a lot because I was short and had a small strike zone for the opposing pitchers.

***The neighbors***

A couple of boys on our team, the Bayshore’s who lived just down the block, gave my brother Tony a little red and black mutt terrier we named Reddy (or the Red Hound) who was born on Halloween. Of all our pets we had her the longest and loved her most dearly. She slept with Tony and Mom says she took Tony’s asthma. Another team member was Mike Bond who was about Steve’s age. He lived across the freeway from my scout leader. I found an antique tin coin bank near the curb of his neighbor across the street. I picked it up and brought it home. I still have it though every time I look at it I’m remaindered of my sin of thievery. Boy how I wish I could give it back. Once our parents let us stay a couple of hours alone with Mike and his sister to watch a movie about Babe Ruth while they went out. When they got home they realized we had gotten into the Falstaff beer. Some were passed out but not me. I was sleepy though. Wow did I ever get in trouble.

Mrs. Puett taught a neighborhood bible study for kids called the Good News Club. It taught us the books of the bible, the gospel and scripture memory. There was a pin or tie tack you could win if you could recite the gospel via a color system, black, red, white, green and gold.

The green page represents God’s ultimate plan, that man should be fellowshipping and growing in Him.

The black page represents the darkness of every person’s heart. (By the way, we teach that the colors represent what is on the INSIDE of a person, not what it looks like on the outside! On the outside, we are “red and yellow, black and white,” just like the children’s song. On the inside, we are all black with the darkness of sin before Jesus cleanses us!).

The red page stands for the death of Jesus on the cross, which purchases our salvation, if we believe in Him.

The white page represents our standing before God after He declares us righteous.

The gold page suggests our eternal life with Him in heaven.

I was proud when I won my tie tack and wore it until I wore it out. I still have it. We attended The First Freewill Baptist Church over in Santa Clara but we weren’t as involved there as we were back home.

The Puett’s had a daughter named Shelly who was a sleep walker. They eventually had to put a lock on the outside of her door to keep her safe. At times all the neighbors would be combing the neighborhood looking for her.  That wasn’t the last time the neighbor combed our streets. Dad caught a peeping tom looking in our windows and Dad went out in his boxers along with several other neighbors trying to track him down. Dad and us boys tied a bunch of cans on a string and strung it across the back yard in hopes he would snare his leg on it and the rattling cans would wake us up. It worked. I don’t remember what happened to him after that but I don’t remember him ever coming back.

There were twin boys up the street the other way named Clayton and Layton. Mike and I would fly kites with them.  There was a teenage girl named Jose who used to mesmerize the young guys who used to ride up and down the sidewalks on a skateboard in short shorts. She even babysat us one time. She really was a nice sweet person.

There was another pair of boys that were playing with their daddy’s pistol one accidently shot the other to death. I don’t remember their names.

Across from the Bayshore’s were Ted Eudy and his boys. What I remember most about them was that Mr. Eudy had his own clippers that he’d use to give his boys a crew cut. I hated they way it looked and still do. Dad though decided he’d save a few bucks and cut our hair as well. Darn you Mr. Eudy.

We spent the most time with Mike and Brian McFerrin. They had spider bikes and they let Mike and I use them to learn to ride. First thing I did was ride past Christy Stallcup’s house so she could see me riding. She was in my second grade class and I loved her. She didn’t even know my name. By third grade she was gone and now it was Jessica Williams. A blonde hair blue eyed beauty with her front teeth missing. The McFerrin’s had a high wooden privacy fence that we’d climb on and jump into a thick bed of honeysuckle. Boy that was fun. They played baseball for the Robins (yellow) and we beat them in the championship little league game. They and the Seagulls (green) had the best record and we beat them both.

***The yellow ranch house***

I liked our little house. It had exposed beams in the ceiling with 2 bedrooms and a garage turned family room/utility room which Mike and I slept in. It had the light switch way across the room. We would say our prayers on our knees but the last one finished had to turn off the light. That would generally be me.

The front of the house was yellow with a red bottle brush tree on one side, an apricot tree in the front and a lime tree on the other side. Near the family room door were a couple of lemon bushes. Mom would take those limes and lemon and make real lemonade for us. We’d love to play out there and wrestle on the soft grass and wait for the ice cream truck. I liked the push-ups; Mike liked nutty buddies and Steve like Eskimo pies. Out back we had an above the ground pool. We’d climb up on our flat white gravel roof and jump in the pool. It’d scare Mom to death but Daddy didn’t mind as long as we kept the debris out of the pool.  We had an orange tree back there also that would never ripen. We just used them as hand grenades to throw at each other. We had an old black and white TV where we’d watch “Combat”, “F-troop” and” It’s about time”. Occasionally we’d get a slight earthquake or tremor that would rattle the dishes and send dust off the ceiling beams down onto our plates.

Our neighbors on the right didn’t have kids but they were friendly enough. Once when Mom and Dad went out to the breaking up party for Dad’s flying squadron VR-22 they had to dress up. Dad had a white suit jacket and Mom had her hair up in a bee hive. They were elegant. This neighbor lady, an Asian woman, did Mom’s hair and make-up. There’s a picture of them dolled up like that somewhere. At the time Mom was 99 pounds soaking wet with jet black waist length hair. She was quite a looker in those days.

The neighbors on the left were the Davidson’s. We didn’t spend much time with them. I remember them mostly because they had the first color TV I ever saw. They invited us over to watch “The Wizard of Oz”. They seemed a bit more well to do and Mom and Dad tried hard to keep us boys from disturbing them.

Somewhere along the way Mark was born and Dad spray painted a sheet of plywood out in the front yard that said “it’s a boy”. His was number five. Dad prayed for years for a little girl. He’d have to wait just a little bit longer.

***School Daze***

Steve went to Bayside Middle School. Mike and I went to Fairwood Elementary School. Outside the class room we learned some new games, kickball, four squares and my favorite…tetherball. I could play it for hours. I did get a bloody nose a time or 2 by taking a fastball in the face. What I hated most about recess was having to do the stupid maypole dance with Lupe’ Martinez and Lorelei Fry, the 2 ugliest girls in my class. Guess who Daddy teased me about the rest of my life. You guessed it. Daddy used to tease me saying “ L & L L; Lupe’ and Lorelei lover”. Mike’s was Virginia Martinez and Steve’s was Melinda Glaspell. I swear I’ll get him for that if it’s the last thing I do.

In class I did well. In third grade there was a self paced reading program separated by colors. Clayton and I were always passing one another and eventually we were the only 2 to read them all. The school had a fund raiser once that included a cake walk. Me and Mike won about 5-6 cakes that day. That probably kept us on a sugar rush for about a week. We’d walk to school and that’s where the trouble began. Kids would tease me and Mike about our southern accents and call us names like hillbilly, hicks, rednecks and bumpkins. This would always start a fight. People would naturally think we were stupid because of our accents which made me boast all the more when I beat them in the classroom. Mike wasn’t so lucky. He did fair but never really excelled. We’d get mad and pull the fire alarm about once or twice a week. We never got caught though but it was our way of acting out from this inequity.

There was a drainage ditch in from of the school that led to a dairy farm behind the housing complex where we lived. We going exploring down there where we’d find cool rocks and other such “artifacts”.

Dad rarely took us to the base but once at Christmas Daddy took us to the hanger to see his airplane and to see Santa Claus coming down out of a helicopter to give us each one of those prefilled (candy) red mesh Christmas stockings with the candy cane striped trimming. Our neighbor had a silvery aluminum Christmas tree with a rotating lens that changed the colors of the tree. Dad got a fake green tree with real lights. Forty four years later and they’re still using that same old tree.

We had an old manual push mower that I’d go door to door offering to cut grass for a dollar. I made quite a bit but most of my earnings went to the ice cream man.

Though at the time leaving that place was the best news we could ever get, looking back on things, it really wasn’t that bad, it just wasn’t home. I didn’t realize it then but I’d spend the rest of my life trying to find “home”.

CHAPTER EIGHT

The trip across the Country

In the Spring of ’67 Daddy got orders to Ellyson Field in Pensacola Florida which to us kids it only meant one thing, we were going home. Dad sold the Torrance house, packed five boys, Mom and a dog in a little white Plymouth Valiant and headed cross country. Dad decided we’d see America along the way, so we’d get our kicks too on Route 66.

First we headed down the freeway and were caught in a typical L.A. traffic jam. Mom had switched to the back seat to get some shut-eye before it was her turn to drive. We boys would stick our arms out the window and pumped them up and down to get the truckers to blow their air horns. Cool. Mom had her long black hair stretched out in the back window when the red hound had to go number two. She just hiked herself in the back window and started to go in Momma’s hair. The trucker stuck behind us was laughing so hard he would beat his steering wheel and cackle like a crow. Dad was laughing. We boys were laughing. Mom wasn’t laughing. Steve had to get out on the side of the freeway with the whole world looking and take Reddy out to complete her business. Of course Dad had to get out his 8mm hand cranked camera and record it for posterity. After that whenever we stopped, Steve got stuck with dog dookie …er…I mean…duty.

Down near Bakersfield we ran into a swarm of honey bees. We had honey smeared all over the windshield and had to find a filling station quickly to clear the mess.

***The Desert***

First stop was Arizona. We saw the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert and the Petrified Forest. I was pretending to fall over the edge so Steve could save me. Then I actually did slip and Steve really did have to save me. That little event nearly got us left behind because Dad was leaving. We had to run to catch the car. We never made that mistake again. Even though it was spring in the desert it still snowed. Down near Flagstaff it started to snow and Steve got caught on camera with dog duty again. That was the first time we’d seen snow since we left Virginia. Home suddenly was within sight.

The next two weeks were awful. We drove straight through the night with Mom and Dad taking turns sleeping and driving. If one of us boys had to pee, Dad made us pee in a pop bottle and pitch it out the window. Mom and Dad often put their cigarettes out in the pop bottles as well so you’d better be careful which bottle you picked up before you started drinking. We only stopped for gas or the let Mom go potty. We’d put groceries in a cooler and we had our meals in the car. Coming through the Mojave Desert was torture. We had no A/C and when we rolled the windows down it was like opening a hot oven. Sleeping was miserable. Once I had to sleep on the floorboard over the hump. Ug! The evening we went through Paris Texas was the foulest part of the trip. They’d poured new asphalt and there were smelting pots lining the highway for miles. The stench was horrible. It was too hot to roll up the windows and too foul to leave them down.  If that wasn’t enough we nearly ran into a tornado that it seems we’d been follow for miles. It seemed to take forever to find a place to pull off the road that late at night.

***Finally Family***

Finally we arrived in Mississippi and we stopped in Purvis to visit Daddy’s niece Pat Brothers and her family. Pat and Don were hanging paneling and we stayed on and helped them out. I got my first headache that night. From there we went to visit Pat’s sister Charlotte and her husband Carl. They used to live in Louisiana but by this time they were in Arkansas running a little grocery store. Those girls are just as funny and full of life as are their Mom and Uncles. Next we went to Tilar Arkansas to visit Aunt Peggy and Uncle Walter. Uncle Walter was a man’s man with a cowboy hat and disposition to match. He was a committed Mason (Shriner) as was Daddy and Granddad, but he hated snakes…even rubber ones. He’d kill you if you tried to put one on him.

He also did tricks for us including putting his foot behind his head. They had horses and hunted razorback hogs and armadillos. Uncle Walter gave us some of his old cowboy boots.  We conned Tony to pee on the electric fence. I’ll just say I’m glad he tried it first.  Uncle Walter would go down to the catfish farm to buy some fresh white catfish for our fish fry.  Once he took us to fish for our own catfish. I caught a nine pounder with a cane pole. Boy we’d eat catfish and hush puppies until we were about to bust. Uncle Walter would push on our tummies to find room for one more piece.

Daddy was the dog exterminator. When a dog was old or hurt or rabid people would call Daddy to put them down. Uncle Walter’s faithful friend had cancer which had broken his back. Dad took me with him to do the deed. Later in my life I would assume this responsibility.

We laughed and joked all day long. Aunt Peggy was a riot. We had a blast and from there we went on to Tennessee. Home was closer than ever.

***Tennessee***

By the time we reached Tennessee, Grandma and Granddad had moved into a little house trailer in Pitman Center just down the old dirt road from Dolly Parton’s brother Lee. They had a little wooden tool shed on one side of the house and a tiny fish pond on the other. It was so small that the only things living in there were a big ole snapping turtle, some bull frogs and a bunch of fantail goldfish that came from a pair a little girl up the road had won at a carnival down at Cass Walker’s Grocery Store. They had three apple trees that Granddad and grafted himself, a muscadine vine and a nice size garden down below. Out back was a fire barrel beside a weeping willow tree and the little stream that Grandma called a “branch”. Across the branch was a well house. On the back porch was a small freezer, a clothes line and an old Maytag wringer washer.

It was great visiting our Grandparents. Granddad would regale us with stories from WWI and jokes from his youth. He smoked a corn cob pipe or rolled his own cigarettes from a Prince Albert Tin. Grandma dipped snuff that came in a little jar that she’d wash out and use for juice glasses. She also had a few glasses she’d gotten as prizes in her soap powder boxes. She had delft blue dishes that I always thought were too delicate to use. Us boys would take the leftover biscuits (Granddad called them cat heads) and feed them to the goldfish.

 Visiting always meant helping or working and that was alright with us, it was a way of life and not an interruption to it. We helped Grandma hoe her garden and weed her gladiola beds. While Daddy was cutting the overgrowth from around the trailer, Mike was in the branch catching crawdads. He found one particularly large one and was excited to show it off. Unfortunately for Mike, while he was trying to show it to Daddy he got it a little too close and the crawdad grabbed Daddy’s earlobe with its pincher and wouldn’t let go. It looked kind of like a crawdad ear ring. Well, um, Dad wasn’t amused. He went all Vietnam flashback on Mike and nearly cut his head off. Dad grabbed Mike by the neck, slung him against the wall and put the knife to his throat. Mike nearly messed his pants. Thank God Momma stopped him in time. Daddy once had a bona fide flashback in bed and nearly took Mom out with his survival knife. After that Mom made him keep it in the shed.  Daddy was jumpy for quite so time and if you wanted to wake him you had to speak to him from across the room. Once one of us touched him on the shoulder and he slung us across the room.

Dad got his though one time when he snuck in on Momma in the middle of the night. Dad thought it was funny but when he failed to answer when Mom called his name, she put a pistol to his head. I still have that old 25 Baby Luger pistol. Granddad had taken it off a German officer in WWI and gave it to Momma for protection when Daddy went overseas.

While we were there in Sevierville, Dad took us up on Grassy Branch way back in the sticks to visit Curtis’ grave and see Dad’s old home place. He showed us some of the old log cabin that Granddad had built all by himself. They remain standing to this day. We visited some of the Ownby relatives and went swimming in the Little Pigeon River. We explored the countryside playing on the swinging bridges and climbing the hills. We’d find wild red raspberries along the waterfalls and ditches. Yummmmm…! Steve got lost on Richardson Cove which was a dangerous place for a little boy. First, there were moonshiners there about.  Then there were the high cliffs. Oh yeah, let’s not forget the bears. Down the road in Caton’s Chapel was a cemetery where we’d hear taps playing wherever they buried a soldier who had been killed recently in Vietnam.

From there we visited Mom’s family. First were Grandma Moore and Uncle Bill. We liked visiting them because they had hens that laid blue and green eggs. They had beautiful hand carved furniture, sleighs and tools made by Grandpa Moore. From there we went to Gist Creek to visit Mom’s old home place and the cemetery where her Dad is buried. We also went to see Aunt Kate, Aunt Ollie, Aunt Sarah, Aunt Ida, Aunt Laurie, Aunt Teeny (who lived on Grandpa Justus’ home place) and Uncle Charlie. Aunt Kate was always a family favorite. She was as sweet as could be and so hospitable. She had a hand pump facet in her kitchen and she was a fantastic cook. Aunt Laurie’s husband was Uncle George. He loved to collect arrowheads and show them to us. He had a plastic skeleton we’d let us play with.  I loved the knotty pine wood paneling they had. It reminded me of a log cabin. They had a son who played for the Tennessee volunteers. Aunt Laurie had a loom out her outbuilding that she’d use to make all sorts of useful things such as purses, placemats, chair seats and rugs among other things. 

Finally we went to Aunt Jean and Uncle Judd’s house. She had saved us each a snowball in the freezer to eat because California didn’t have any where we lived. A warm Christmas now just isn’t the same is it? I’ll leave the rest of the Matthews folks for a chapter of their own coming up soon. They were such a huge part of our lives and they kept the Tennessee connection alive for many years. We were very happy to see them but we knew our next stop was Maw and Pop’s and the anticipation was building.

***Back Home Again***

At last we made it to Maw and Pop’s. You’d have thought we were in heaven…well…er… we were. Back on the farm doing things that were familiar. No judgmental Yankees and rich snobs. Just folks. After catching up we went up to Momma’s house to clean up after the last tenants left. What a mess! The house has never been the same since. A few things were different. Bud and Betty both had moved and built their own homes. Ruth had divorced Reese and Sandra had married and divorced a bigamist. Pop had expanded the back of the house making a large kitchen, dining room, indoor bathroom and a den. He added an enclosed back porch and a deck. He replaced the rotting gingerbread porch with a cement porch and later a parlor. He paneled the hallways, and both upstairs bedrooms. But otherwise it was still home. Well school was still in session and Dad had to report for duty so it was off to Florida we go. That was ok because now we knew that home was a long days ride away, close enough to visit, and we did as often as we could. Florida, though it was as different as California, it wouldn’t be nearly as difficult a transition for us and we’d come to be comfortable with living there though there’s truly “no place like home”.

CHAPTER NINE

The Tennessee Connection

*** The Way Back***

Maw had an old black Chevy Pickup that we used to drive to Tennessee. Early on we kids would sit in the bed with a quilt all the way to Tennessee. Later Pop built a plywood cover to keep the rain off of us. Maw had a lead foot and would speed to try to get us there inside eight hours. That was before interstate highways you see and we’d have to come through every little one horse town along the way. We’d look forward to seeing the big red castle in the Virginia foothills. We loved to stop at Stuckey’s and get peanut brittle and red cedar toys. To pass the time we’d count cows, cars by the color, and gas stations by name or just do the ABC’s on highway signs. Of course if there was a cemetery on your side of the road you’d have to start over.

You could always tell when you got near Sevierville; you’d start seeing the “See Rock City”, “Gold Rush Junction”, “Lookout Mountain” and “Ruby Falls” signs painted on the tin roofs of dilapidated barns along US 411 & 441. I’ve never been to those places but they are on my bucket list. All that was before Dollywood and the commercial explosion of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Back then Pigeon Forge was just a country crossroads. Gatlinburg had a couple of wedding chapels and a few souvenir shops/ trading posts. That’s it. My cousin Debbie Matthews had a trained black bear she’d do tricks with for the tourist at one old trading post. The ladies in our clan would go there to buy chenille bedspreads. Harrisburg had an old covered bridge and Pigeon Forge had a waterwheel powered grist mill. As a child, my Uncle Charles would get up early in the morning before dark and take a sack of corn that they had shelled the night before and walk across two mountains to the grist mill to be ground into corn meal. He had to leave some as payment. Then he’d make the journey back home. He would arrive back home way after dark. Once a week every week he made this trip. That mill is still active today.

***Matthews***

Coming down Chapman Highway we turned off onto a dirt road and up Matthews Hollow. Way up the holler was Old Fred Clark. He was blind and ran a peddlers’ business out of his home. He could identify money by feel and people by their walk or voice. We always tried to give him our business whenever we could. Back down the holler was Uncle Judd and Aunt Jean’s (Momma’s sister).  Jean married Judd when she was 14. They met when Judd passed by driving a berry truck. They lived there in Matthew’s Hollow where Judd grew up as a child. They had a farm where they raised tobacco, potatoes, milk cows and kids (Brenda, Charlotte, Diane, Debbie and Jeff). The house was nestled between two hills and two hollers. Debbie built her house on one hill and Jeff the other. The only problem was the water had a white hue and didn’t really taste very good. We always brought spring water from Virginia whenever we visited.

Brenda placed a trailer down the front holler and Charlotte placed her trailer down the back holler. She started to build a house but never quite made it. Diane, the middle child married our cousin Ronnie Moore and moved to Seymour on Chapman Highway with their two children. Mike always thought Diane was the sexy one. Ronnie once dated Dolly Parton and a love note is written to him in her yearbook on display at Dollywood.

Debbie also married our cousin Robert Justus whose scraggly beard and wild hair made him look like Charles Manson. They gave their three girls Indian names. Debbie and Steve used to fight like cats and dogs. Brenda was married three times. Her first husband Danny died in a car crash. She divorced her second husband Larry and is currently married to Bill. She had one child with each husband. The youngest was born within minutes of my daughter Jennifer. She had throat cancer and now speaks with the aid of an electronic voice box. Charlotte was my childhood favorite though I couldn’t say her name very well when I was a baby. I just started calling her Lottie and it’s a nickname she’s carried to this day. Lottie was married twice. Her first husband was a cop named Chuck whom she had two girls and a boy with. After they divorced, she married Floyd Hubbs. She cared for his aging parents and when they died they left her a valuable plot of land which she parlayed into a small fortune.

Jeff was about my age and we spent most of our time together building forts, picking blackberries and making chigger remedies. In fact, Jeff built his house on the site of our old fort. Jeff and I fished for gar in the French Broad River, swam at Flint Rock in the Little Pigeon River and picnicked down at Douglas Dam. We once were riding down the road on his bicycle with me on the handlebars when a logging truck ran us off the road and into a ditch filled with rambling rose bushes. Aunt jean watched in horror from her front porch thinking we’d been killed, that is, until we started laughing. We were a bloody mess between the gravel and the thorns but we were so tangled up we couldn’t get out.

Jeff and I always explored the mountains, ridges and woods. Once we travelled further than we should have and walked right into a moonshiners’ camp. That’ll get you killed. Even when there’s no one around, those things are booby trapped to keep out revenuers. Jeff and I would ride Uncle Judd’s white mule named Ole Blue up the holler towards town.

Jeff has done well for himself. He played football in high school and later went into carpentry. He used the barn board from his dad’s old barn as paneling for his living room. He raises bob whites and has a boy and a girl with his wife Karen.

Uncle Judd was a tough guy who in addition to farming worked at the Alcoa plant. He chewed tobacco by the pound. He used to drink hot coffee right from the stove top percolator until an ulcer slowed him down. From then on it was RC Cola. He could be quite demanding on his family. He had to have gravy and biscuits every morning before work and fried potatoes and cornbread for dinner every night. He had a leather strap on the fireplace mantle to adjust attitudes. Aunt Jean had a different approach. Once when I cried to go to town with my Mom, Aunt Jean tied me to the clothes line by my big toe. One used pain, the other used humiliation. We joke about that now but we didn’t back then.

Aunt Jean really though was a sweet lady. She had red hair, a big smile and always had a song in her heart. She suffered from severe diabetes and had us help her with her shots as long as I can remember. As her symptoms worsened, her kids would take turns caring for her. It was the same as Uncle Judd developed Alzheimer’s. Those kids gave up a huge part of their lives to care for their aging parents.

***Justus Family Reunion***

Every Fourth of July we have a Justus Family Reunion. Relatives from all over come out for the event. The cooking starts days before the event. Pies, cakes, homemade ice-cream, melons, casseroles and chow of every kind. We enjoyed taking turns filling the wooden bucket with salt and ice and cranking the tin tub until we had that delicious ice cream. Maw and her siblings were the honored guests. We’d recognize the new additions and mourn those not with us anymore. From relatively large families of 13 or more we now have only one left from each still with us. Uncle Freeman Moore, Uncle Frank Justus, and Aunt Nellie Ownby (Mallory), Granddad was an only child but of his children only Daddy remains, Bruce Wayne Webb. The reunion though gets smaller every year

 We’d fish, play horseshoes, softball or we’d just catch June bugs or jar flies, tie a string to their legs and watch them fly in circles like a kite. In the evenings we go down to Patriot Park to watch the fireworks and to Gatlinburg at midnight for the first 4th of July parade in the country. Sometimes we’d buy fireworks and set them off over at Uncle Judd’s place but the old folks would always carry on about the law and burning the place down.

At times we’d slip off and go horseback riding, swimming or make the tour of the other Aunts and Uncles. Sometimes Dad would take us back up on old Grassy for a trip down memory lane.

Well, going back to Tennessee now takes on a new agenda. We go up in the fall to take in the cool weather and autumn colors. We tour the craft & antique villages and hit all the amusements. We visit Cades Cove to take a step back in time and see bears and deer in the wild. Oh sure we still stop in on the kinfolk but it’s not the same anymore.

It’s about time for this generation to begin our own traditions. I’m sure Caleb Justus would not have us stuck in the past but to bring his name forward with pride into the new century, but let’s not forget Poppa George’s favorite saying, “Boy remember where you came from”.  That’s what this writing is all about. RIP Pop.

CHAPTER TEN

Pensacola 3.0

***Getting There…Again***

This isn’t the first time my family lived in Pensacola, but it was the first time for me. Dad and Mom moved there first after their wedding. Daddy was already stationed down there when he and Mom married. A little more than a year later and Steve would be born. Dad was so proud at having a boy first. After that he wanted a girl. If Mike had been a girl I might never had been born. Dad would have to wait 14 more years for that to happen. Things went ok until Mom got pregnant with Mike, and then she moved back in with Maw for the extra support. Oh boy did she need it. Mike got double pneumonia a few times which with a two year old at her hip really kept her hopping. Pneumonia wasn’t the only thing that kept her at Doctor Terry’s. Mike like to stick stuff up his nose. Cotton stuffing, beads, food… it didn’t matter with him. He still smells everything. After a while though things settled down and Mom packed up the boys and headed back to Pensacola. A year or so later Mom became pregnant with me and it was back to Maw’s again. My first time seeing Dad was about age 3 because the first leave Dad got after that I had the chicken pox and the Navy wouldn’t let him near me because Dad didn’t know whether or not he’d ever had them. The next time He came home on leave I nearly ruptured him when I accidently (really Daddy it was an accident) busted him in the groin with my head when he came in the door. Hey, I didn’t know who he was! Anyways, we’d be there seven more years until we moved to California in 1965.

***The Fight for Respect…again***

With the Golden State behind us, we started our new life in Florida, the Sunshine State. In Tennessee, The Volunteer State, we were Hillbillies. In Virginia, the Old Dominion, we were Sore Backs. In California we were Hicks. Down in Florida we were Crackers. Cracker was derived from whip cracking drovers who used to herd cattle in the everglades and swamps and not a racial epithet as many may think. We found out that we still faced discrimination either because of our accents or our lack of money and “culture” and we’d still have to fight to gain respect, but….we were used to that. Two guys in the cafeteria was making fun of me and started a fight. I hit the biggest one in the face breaking his glasses and putting a 4 inch gash in his forehead. The teacher saw the whole thing and suspended them both. Once they got back to school it was suppose to be payback time for me. At PE they started in on me again. As I was running I hooked the basketball pole, swung around and hit the big one again. This time I broke his glasses and put a gash over the other eye. The coach saw the whole thing and suspended them again. Those two never bothered me again…at school.

My brother Steve had an encounter with a boy named Donald Thompson. Steve laid him out in the medium on Ninth Avenue. Donald and the two boys that attacked me put Donald’s step-brother Artie Woods up to fighting me after school. Artie and the boys followed me while I was walking home from school and was egging me on to fight. I was out numbered so I kept on declining…that is until the pushed me down in the woods onto a big pile of lumbar. I lost it. I reached down and grabbed a board with nails in it and started swinging. Blood was flying everywhere. I chased Artie all the way to his house. Even after he closed the door, I kept swinging the board against the windows and the door. It wasn’t until his mom threatened to call the law that I snapped out of it and went home…but not before I had a few choice words for that family of my own.  Later I learned that jerk-wad brother of mine had picked that fight with Donald by sticking a pencil in DT’s ear every time Steve went to the sharpener. DT would yell, Steve would act all innocent and DT would get in trouble.

Artie and I eventually became good friends but no one at school really believed it. We were playing around, just goofing off and the principal thought we were fighting again. We had to go to the office for three licks each. We left laughing but that wouldn’t be my last trip to that office. Once when Mike and I were fighting, once when the clay I stuck to the ceiling fell on the teacher and once when I put a tack in Anna Belle George’s seat. I thought I’d gotten away with it until the guys in the back started chanting “Luther did it Luther did it”. Drat! I didn’t get in trouble though because it seems the teacher didn’t like Anna Belle either. I almost got in trouble one other time when Maureen Williams made fun of my “poor clothes”. She wasn’t laughing anymore when I pushed her in the mud and destroyed her brand new frilly pink dress.

***Fishing***

We stayed in Philpot Motor Court on Scenic Highway while Daddy was finding us a house. We bought some fishing poles and went surf fishing below the tracks in the bay. Boy that was fun. We caught eels, ribbon fish, skate, shark and blue&stone crabs as well as catfish, flounder, croakers, blow fish, mackerel and speckled &white trout. We’d wear the cowboy boots uncle Walter had given us as waders so the crabs wouldn’t pinch our toes. A while later while fishing down there Mom had a catfish spur impale her foot right through her boot. Someone also broke into our car down there and stole Mom’s purse. After that we generally fished off the pier or bridge.

We fished off the Fort Pickens Pier, Pensacola Beach Pier, the Bob Sykes Bridge, and the old three mile bridge over Pensacola bay. This three mile bridge was ripped in two by a barge so Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties along with the cities of Pensacola and Gulf Breeze turned them into a drive on fishing bridge in 1960. They were used this way for 44 years until Hurricane Ivan torn it up in 2004. The Santa Rosa side is still closed but the Pensacola side just reopened this year. We loved that old bridge. We spent the weekend night and day fishing and crabbing as long as they were biting. Tony would occasionally use a casting net. It was Mother’s safe haven. Once Daddy caught a man’s arm between the two bridges.  Boy we’ve had some times out there.

***Settling in***

Daddy bought a brand new three bedroom two bath house right beside the airport fence for $13900 in the College Park subdivision. It had central heat but no a/c. A few years later Daddy installed one in the living room wall and let it drip into a trash can on the carport. The streets were sand and occasionally the state would spray it with oil to keep the dust down. The yard though was nothing but a big bunch of weeds. Daddy had a plan though. He’d draw circles in the sand and put a boy in each one. Before we could go play, we had to pull up every weed in our circle. It seemed to take for-ev-er. Once the front yard was done Daddy planted centipede grass. In the back yard he and Pop planted Bermuda or what Pop called “wire grass”.  We lived literally at the end of the runway and the planes would rattle the house every time one took off. We did eventually get used to it though; however their radios did interfere with our TV reception.

Dad had the brilliant idea to put an antenna high in the oak tree in the back yard. Dad had one of those lapses in judgment that we all wish we could do over. He climbed the tree without shirt or shoes and with just short pants. As he was finishing, the limb broke and he went down that tree like a fire pole. He was all scratched up on one side from his head to his foot. As soon as we boys realized Dad wasn’t dead, we started cracking up laughing. We laughed all the more when Mom put alcohol and methialaid on it. OUCH!!! Daddy hollered like a little girl. Needless to say he didn’t see a thing funny about it and made us leave before we got a whipping. Now if it was one of us boys he’d howl like a dog. In fact he did so to me. I was climbing a dead tree in the front yard and it fell with me in it and knocked the wind out of me. Daddy just laughed, looked down and said “hurt didn’t it”. Then he told me to get the saw to cut it up and stack it by the road. Thanks for the empathy there Pap!

We had bunk beds. Steve and Tony shared one room and me and Mike shared the other. I used to sleep on top but I kept falling out, even with the rail up, so I slept on the bottom.  I suffered really badly with growing pains back then and I remember Momma sitting with me in that bed giving me an alcohol rub to sooth my aching joints. Mom also used to let me sit up late with her until my pain settled down.

We started collecting things about this time like coins, Monkee cards, bottle caps with the cork inside, Bazooka Joe comics, metal matchbox cars (Mike called the Jack and Bill cars) and football cards. My favorite though had to be my first Bible that Maw and Pop gave me. I’d use it until it fell apart. Then I fixed it and gave it to Mark. Whenever an evangelist like Billy Graham or James Robinson would come through, I’d get them to autograph it. I hope Mark kept it.

***Mr. Turner’s***

Daddy worked a second job at Mr. Turners Enco/Exxon gas station. When he got off at 11pm Momma would usually have some dinner on the back of the stove for him, sometimes just cornbread and milk. Well, one night when I was sitting up with Momma, Daddy came home and took the “corn bread” off the back of the stove and had a bowl of ‘cornbread and milk”. As he was eating Mom came out of the back and started to cook him something. When He told Mom he had eaten the corn bread with milk, Momma started laughing. It turned out it wasn’t cornbread but salmon patties on the back of the stove. Dad said he thought it tasted funny but he never complained about food especially Momma’s cooking. He was just so hungry that he didn’t care what it was or what it tasted, he’d eat anything “as long as it would make a turd”.

Dad had a few adventures at that ole station from being robbed to meeting the golf pro Johnny Miller to seeing his first acid freaks. One freak thought he was an apple and the other an orange, they didn’t want Dad to open the door so they wouldn’t roll down the street. Another sailor that worked there, Jack Holt from Nebraska, used to chew on a wart on his hand. Dad told him to put one drop of battery acid on it and it’ll never come back. Well, the moron let Dad try it. The pain was excruciating. He was a huge man and he was pissed. He tossed Daddy and Mr. Turner all over that garage. Well anyways, it worked. Many years later on my travels I happen into Scottsbluff Nebraska and met ole Jack Holt on his buffalo ranch. He still insists he owes Dad one.

***Tonsils***

All four of us older boys had our tonsils out at the same time. It was news that hit the local newspaper. I’ll tell you, Sacred Heart Hospital didn’t know what hit it when the Webb boys hit the doors. We were all over the place. Because we had ether, there was puke all over the place also. We got to take our tonsils home in a jar, cool…gross! The hospital gave us a little toy packet that the sisters had put together for us. I had a harlequin puppet and a stuffed Mickey Mouse, both of which I still have along with my Beatle cards and Cub Scout shirt. Tony was in a crib that was chained to the wall and he hated needles. Once when the nurses tried to give him a shot, he nearly pulled the chain loose from the wall trying to get away from them. Of course, the ice cream was the best part of the whole ordeal. 

Yvonne was born about this time and Daddy finally got his girl. Boy, he didn’t know what he was asking for. She was the screamer and moody as all get out. When Mike complained about her screaming waking us up, Mom moved her bassinet into our room. Swift move there moron! Now she was our responsibility. She became a tomboy and tried to keep up with the boys. Oh she tried to be girly, but when she dropped her doll out Steve’s car window her girliness went out with it. Another bright move there Sherlock! Mom got severe postpartum depression here. Mom would just lie on the couch and cry. She started to get real bad headaches and for the first time in her life started to gain a little weight. Great going sis! Naw, we think that birth control pills and smoking was the culprit after all.

***Trouble in School***

I had never had trouble in school until third grade Math with Mrs. Lum at Cordova Park Elementary. It was long division and we’d gotten behind on the trip across country. I missed that part. The stress was so bad that I nearly forgot how to read. I still hate reading to this day but surprisingly I’m good at math. But this was “the new math” and I just couldn’t get it. Mom would sit with me day after day trying to help me with my homework. I don’t know what I did or what I said but it ticked Mom off and she tried to slap me in the face. I raised my hand to block her, the hand with the mechanical pencil in it, and when she hit me the pencil went all the way through her finger. Boy was I in trouble and really really scared. I was bargaining with God that night. The only other time I remember making a deal with God was when we boys were having a food fight over at Jane and Carl Scarborough’s on our way out of Florida in 1971. Dad hurt his arm hitting Steve and Mike and I knew I was next. From being so poor as a child Dad didn’t believe in wasting food or insulting the kind folks who fixed it for us. God spared my life that night and years later God collected on that debt.

In fourth grade I had Mrs. Depew. She was much more patient and helped me get my math back on track. She taught us a little rhyme that I still motivate myself with even to this day.

“If a task you once begun

Never leave until it’s done

Be the labor great or small

Do it well or not at all.”

In fifth grade we moved into a brand new school, Holmes Elementary School. It was yellow. We had to walk to school for the first time, but again we had to face bullies. They’d hold me and Mike down and give us pink bellies. That didn’t last too long because I became the crossing guard and I had a badge. I wrote them up and had them suspended. They never bothered us again.  We loved to walk to school. We played with the fresh tar at the hardware store, search for tiny shells in the gravel, checked the pull out pop bottle machine at the Hancock station for free soda or just spend our lunch money at Hall’s old fashion grocery store for licorice strings, Shasta cherry cola or Hostess zingers.

Mrs. Kent’s class was great. We had a boy that could turn his eyelids inside out. Cool…gross! We learned to play kickball and basketball. That was really neat. Mrs. Kent’s class always started with the Pledge of Allegiance, a scripture reading and a prayer which we all took turns doing. Later that year an atheist Madeline Murphy O’Hare got the Supreme Court to outlaw prayer in schools. When Mrs., Kent refused, they had her replaced. Schools and society would only go downhill from this point.

The only thing I remember about sixth grade was my teacher reading Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I could really see myself making a raft and floating down the river and though I never actually made a raft I did become quite good at getting other people to whitewash the fence for me.

Seventh grade was at Workman Junior High School. The Jaguars. We had lockers and we even changed classes. We felt big time. Mike and I would walk to school early to play paper football on the cement benches out front. In class once I accidently stuck a pencil in the palm of my right hand and the lead broke off deep inside me. It’s still there as sort of a pencil lead tattoo. Life wasn’t all good there though, there were the Sutton boys. They were ornery and picked on us unmercifully. A show down came when one threw a chunk of concrete and hit Tony on the head. That was it. Mom and her posse of boys went to their house to enact justice. We took bats and knives and headed straight towards their place. We finally chased them up a tree in the McCluski’s yard. We just started heaving rocks, oyster shells, pine cones…just about anything we could find to try to knock them out of the tree. We would have cut the tree down if we had a saw. Finally their mother came to the rescue … or so she thought. After Momma was done with her Mrs. Sutton was just a puddle of goo on the ground. Needless to say, they never bothered us again. Years later Tony would eventually become friends with these boys.

***Scenic Heights***

We attended Scenic Heights Baptist Church on Creighton Road pastored by Rev. Joe Gwyn. We loved that old church. I gave my heart to Jesus there on February 17th, 1971 and a Wednesday night during a Revival meeting with the Rev. Orville Reed. He had a strong man shtick which got my attention enough to hear what he had to say. When we sang the hymn of invitation, “Have Thine Own Way”, he asked if Jesus was truly having his own way with me. The choice was simple, I walked the aisle. I had joined the church at age nine and was baptized and even took the new members class but I really didn’t know what that meant at the time. I was rebaptized four years later, this time as a believer.

We were faithful members attending Sunday school, Vacation Bible School and served in the community. There was an old man who had a stroke, was a little slow and lived with his sister, his name was Glenn Bowman. He loved music and the Holy Spirit really moved him at times. When Glen was on the preacher was on. Hurricane Camille took off his roof in 1969 and all the men of the church, including my family went over to repair and replace it. I was playing with some black walnuts in his yard that were still a bit green. Big mistake! It stained my hands for weeks until it finally wore off.

***Aw Nuts… and other great chow***

Even though there weren’t as many black walnut trees as there were back home, there were a bunch of wild pecan trees. Mike and I would keep Mamma loaded up with pecans.  They were easy to crack, just squeeze two of them together in your hand and crack. Most of the time they come out whole or at least halves. Mamma makes a great pecan pie or pecan cheese roll. At Christmas we’d just crack and eat them raw while watching football or our favorite Christmas movie. We’d also get the mixed nuts to crack and eat. Mom kept them in a bowl that looked like a thin carved out piece of stove wood with the bark still on it. It had a knob left in the middle to hold the crackers and pickers. Daddy likes the Brazil nuts. Mom liked the hazelnut or filberts. Mike liked the almonds.  I and Steve ate the pecans and English walnuts.

Mom is a great cook. She kept eight people fed on one small sailor’s income. My favorites are:

  • Potatoes soup
  • Soup (Pinto) beans
  • Fried potatoes,squash,okra,chicken
  • Chili, firehouse stew, chicken and dumplings
  • Lasagna
  • Mustard, turnip and creasy salad(greens)
  • Sausage gravy and biscuits
  • Graham cracker cake
  • Popcorn

Our favorite TV shows were Looney Toons, Dark Shadows, Hee Haw, and Lawrence Welk.

Steve had a TV guide route similar to a paper route except he sold the TV guide. We’d travel the better neighborhoods delivering it. This also gave us a heads up on where to go trick or treating for the good stuff. Mom would also take us back to those neighborhoods to see the Christmas lights during the Holidays. After deliveries once, Mom stopped at a convenience store and some joke reached into our car and tried to abduct Yvonne right out of her car seat. 

***Forts***

I found a great place to make a fort. There was a huge stand of honeysuckle over near a pecan grove stashed in the middle of the woods. I took a pair of clippers and made rooms and passageways throughout the vines. From the outside all you could see was a bush but from the inside I could see all around. I would pick up some pecans, take them into my fort and escape from the world. Once Mike had a birthday party and I was jealous because I didn’t. I got upset and hid out in my fort until everybody was gone. My birthday is right after Christmas and there wasn’t any money left for a party.

I had another fort in the woods right next to the kindergarten.  I took a rake and raked a path all the way to the back of the woods. Then I collected rocks and lined the path on both sides. I then took fallen pine trees and limbs and nailed them to other trees to form a small three sided enclosure. Finally, I collected every pine cone in the place into one pile for our pine cone fights. Boy did we have a blast.

My last fort got me in trouble. It was right beside the house across the Stifflemire’s in a little patch of woods against the airport fence. It was just a small clearing but we had a sign for girls to keep out. I dug a pit and put thorns and glass at the bottom. I covered it with small fragile sticks, then leaves and pine straw, then with sand and debris on top. You couldn’t even tell it was there, that was the whole idea. Well…I did too good a job, a neighborhood girl; Debbie Clarke invaded our fort and fell in the pit. She gashed her leg pretty good and had to have stitches. Her old man told my Dad and I got it big time. Needless to say, the fort and the pit were history.

There are pear cactus and horned toads everywhere. We made terrariums, planters and such with those. We went barefoot a lot and we had to be careful not to step on them, especially in the makeshift baseball field across the Crow’s place. There was another unfamiliar culprit that we became quite familiar with, the stinging nettle. If you step on one of these it’ll itch for half a day. We would take all sorts of odd ingredients, mix them in an Alka Seltzer bottle, bury it for a week and make stink bombs to throw at each other and especially the girls. There were two sets of woods that had huge thick rope swings. We’d climb way up into the tree and swing off. Fun Fun Fun! We decided to make our own rock and roll band. Tony had Steve’s maracas, Steve and Mike had play guitars and I used three old coffee cans to make drums. We’d generally play Beatle songs. We called ourselves the Monkeys. Boy, were we mad when a TV spoof band stole our name.

***The Hood***

We had some great neighbors. There was Jimmy French and his sister Babs at the end of the block. Jimmy was deaf and it was hard to communicate at first. But we learned to sign the alphabet and Jimmy got better at reading lips so things got better. Behind Jimmy on Tulane lived a boy who family had a piper cub airplane. I thought that anyone with a plane was rich. Across the street from them were the Scarborough’s and their children Tammy and Rodney.

Next door to Jimmy were Elwood and Wyvette Stifflemire and their daughters Bridgett, Brenda and Bertina. Occasionally Elwood would have to work in Mississippi and they’d live in a trailer park. We’d visit them over there occasionally and play with some boys from Michigan. The only thing I remember about them was that the whole family spoke really loud and hard. I used to earn money pushing ‘Tina around in her baby carriage to give Yvette a break. There were some hippies that lived behind them and I’d stroll their baby as well. Two things I remember most about Yvette, 1. Her mashed potatoes were runny and 2. She served gravy for dinner. This was new for an old farm boy. Elwood was an electrician and he and Dad would pull practical jokes on each other. Once Daddy pulled a Christmas tree through the cab of his pickup truck. When Reddy had puppies with a stray wolf, Daddy named the ugliest one Elwood. We gave Elwood to Pop and turned out to be a great ground dog. Maw liked him because he bit Reece Shular.

Across the street was Mr. Mitchell, a nice man who kept mostly to himself. Every time it rained his yard flooded. We called it Lake Mitchell. Across from the side yard was Billy Frees. His dad built a rail dragster. When he drove it around the neighborhood every boy in College Park went out to see it. The rest of the time he was content to let us play on it.

Behind them lived Glenda, Wyvette’s sister and her two boys. Robert was the oldest, about my age and we used to play tetherball at his house. Glenda married Elwood’s brother who had a slight deformity. Glenda was the first divorced person we ever knew. Later our own family would be plagued by this. We first met them in Mississippi.

Next to Billy on Airlane Drive was the Malone’s. Brenda and Joyce, undeniably the two ugliest little girls on the planet! If ever there were a poster family for white trash, this was it. Their old man had a wielding shop in his back yard where he’d take in odd jobs. We teased Tony and Mark about them all the time. Their cousins, Jackie, George and Sarah Gilmore lived a few blocks behind Billy’s. George was the town drunk and we’d see him staggering around the neighborhood from time to time. Jackie was as ugly as his cousins and we’d tease Yvonne about Him. Sarah and the Malones always had that purple Mercuochrome on their legs because of the fire ants that were menace down there.

Next to the Malone’s were the Clark’s, Shirley, Debbie, Roseanne, Don and Keith. Shirley was our baby sitter. I learned a valuable lesson with her, “don’t give girls a titty twister, it’s not funny”. Deborah got small pox and scared the whole neighborhood. She also fell into my pit. Don was retarded with a deformed hand and a noticeable gimp. He went to Petre School on the short bus. We’d tease each other every time someone would do something stupid about going to Petre. Keith was the youngest. Roseanne was in my class in 5th grade and had a huge dent in her forehead which she tried to cover with her hair. Mr. Clark loved raw oysters and would sit on his carport, shuck and slurp them down raw. Looks just like snot to me! He gave me a quarter to try one. I had to give it back to him because it wouldn’t stay down. Yuck! Now he did have a huge Japanese persimmon tree in his side yard that I’d bum fruit off from. The apple sized fruit was much bigger that the tiny ones at Maw’s. So were his plums.

Next to the Clarks was a couple we just called “the old people”. Actually they were The Browns, Mrs. Crow’s parents. They lived in a fenced in trailer way off the road. I remember the folks next to them quite well, Mr. Scott Frances. I had found a pipe ring and placed it on my ring finger, and it got stuck. Daddy was at these people’s house at the time and they cut it off with a HACKSAW! Yeah, ow! I still have the scar. When dad took me to the base infirmary to get a tetanus shot, the corpsman told us he had a device that would have cut it off in a second, without bloodshed. Great going Dad! To me it was an omen to never put a ring on my finger which to me only meant one thing, “Bachelor to the Rapture”.

Next door, just past a small patch of woods was the Crow’s. Dorothy Crow was also a divorced from her husband, Johnny Forsythe. Their children were Randy, Gary, Phil and a little sister named Susie. They had a minor bird that had quite a vocabulary, if you know what I mean. Their Grandfather used to shave with his pocket knife. He was an avid fisherman and kept the family fed on fish, crustaceans, and turtles. Randy was a good friend of Steve’s even to this day. Randy turned us on the rock and roll radio, WBSR. We loved it to the point that Maw gave us portable transistor radios with an ear plug for Christmas so we could listen to it in our rooms without disturbing anyone. Mom let Steve use her old RCA record player to play his vastly growing record collection. I usually mimicked what Steve was listening to. Gary was my age and Phil was Tony’s age. We were all BFF’s. The first thing each of us did each morning was to find out what the other was doing. We played ball, rode bikes, swung from trees collected pop bottle for their deposit, hunted pecans or just hung out.  We built a bike trail through the woods by his house and we did sort of our own brand of off road/mountain biking long before it was popular. I remember when Gary got saved. I went to his baptism down at the Faith Baptist Church.

Behind the Crow’s was Ricky Lewis. He and Steve would go back and forth between being friends and being enemies. He would cross the street and play baseball with us occasionally. He was a good player. So was Gary. We generally played barefooted and had to watch out for cactus whenever we went for a fly ball. A couple houses up from him on Douglas were the Sutton’s. Next door to the hippies was another boy who came later. We generally just listened to Elvis music with him.

Across the street from Jimmy on Beaumont was another old couple. I remember them for two things. 1. The swing tree was on the street behind them and 2. They gave popcorn at Halloween. We always cleaned up at Halloween. With 6 trick or treaters in our family we always were able to trade the yucky stuff for the good stuff with each other. Sometimes we’d make a new costume and go out again.

Yeah we had a good neighborhood for boys to be safe and have fun. Now you have to x-ray the candy and send it to CSI and God forbid you let your kids out of your sight. The world’s become a sad place.

***The Beach***

How can you talk about Pepsi-cola…er…I mean Pensacola Beach without mentioning the beach. Pensacola has the whitest sand in the world. When you’re on the gulf side, between the clear waters and the white sand, the view is pristine. The gulf side has good fishing and good waves for surfing. The bay side still has white sands but the water is darker, greener where the gulf looks bluer and the water is calmer. Don’t let that fool you; there are under tows that’ll drag you under. It happened to me once. I was being dragged under for the second time. I’ve heard you’ll drown when you go down for the third time and I was on my way when Steve came from nowhere and pulled me up. I don’t know if he noticed or was just playing with me but he saved my life again. I really mean it.

The bay also seems to have more crabs where the gulf seems to have more jelly fish. Both have nice picnic areas and board walks.  Down by the big beach ball water tower there is a beach house and a few surf shops & Tiki bars. You must watch the nautical flags for bad weather, currents and rip tides. Occasionally there be a red tide where the water becomes infested with algae or something but it clears in a few days. Just don’t swim or eat the seafood until then.  Hurricanes are great for the surfers because the waves are bigger. When Cousin Virgil was stationed down here, he let us use his surfboard. Hurricanes though have always been a way of life in Pensacola. Many times the beaches and bridges have been demolished with the hotels and pools filling with sand. Rebuilding is part of the landscape of Pensacola, always has been always will be.

***The Navy Family***

The guys Dad was stationed with was always part of the family and we spent a lot of time with them. Dad use to play cards, BBQ or spend holidays with these folks. There was OB Jones and Lois, Carl and Jane Scarborough, Max Bradley, Gary Gaines, Jack Holt, Ted Eudy and others. They’d play canasta, hearts, spades, rook, pinochle, chess and cribbage.  Daddy taught us boys these games and the men would let us sit in occasionally. These men were with us in Norfolk, San Jose and Pensacola. Even today daddy keeps in touch with these men and their families. Brothers in arms, brothers at home!

NAVAL AIR TRANSPORT SQUADRON TWENTY-TWO

(VR-22)
Established June 1, 1946, NAS Norfolk, VA as VRJ-2

September 1948 designated VR-22, FltTacSupron

July 1958, Incorporated into MAC

April 1965, Relocated to NAS Moffett Field

De-established April 1967, NAS Moffett Field

Only Squadron to serve both Atlantic and Pacific Divisions of MATS/MAC

Aircraft Types Flown:
Martin TBM, R6D Lift master, C-130 Hercules

 The squadrons operations were best summed up in their motto – “Omni Tempore Ubiuis” – ANY TIME, ANY WHERE!

***The Josephs***

Granny and Papa Joseph went to our church along with their deaf daughter, Auletta and they lived just down from the Bowman’s on Creighton Road. Papa worked at the scrap metal yard and it always smelled like sulfur. The only thing that smelled worse was the paper mill or sometimes the bay. Papa always seemed to have a bushel of oysters on the screen porch for shucking. They really taught us a lot about fishing and eating the local seafood, especially blue crab and croakers (which they called ronkers). They were simple folks like us and were as close to country folks as we’d find since leaving for California. They had a huge trout in an aquarium in their kitchen and an alligator in their cement pond in the front yard. Granny had other sons and daughter which mom became friends with. Their children would come over and play occasionally. Otherwise we were quite bored over there. They did have some property in Milton where we’d go swimming in the creek and picnic. They were good people and eventually would become family, but that story is for Pensacola 4.0.

***Bikes and Spacemen***

One year we got bikes for Christmas. I remember that year because Dad got a smoking jacket that made him look like Hugh Hefner. I gave Tony a rock. Actually it was a brick I painted in art class. It was yellow with a daisy painted around the hole. Tony still thought it was a rock and a joke. Everyone thought it was a funny practical joke so I never corrected them. Mark had fallen down the back stairs and as a baby, was now sporting professor style bifocals. Me too except my bifocal was at the top to correct my lazy eye. We loved our spider bikes with the ape hanger handle bars, banana seat and high sissy bar in the back. We’d build ramps and jump like we were Evel Kneivel. Steve put extenders on his front forks to make his bike look like the chopper on Easy Rider, but when he did a wheelie in front of the Methodist church the extenders and his front wheel came off. The forks stuck in the sand and sent him over his handle bars breaking his right arm. Boys! Yeah we’re lucky to be alive with all the stunts we pulled like putting our fingers in the light socket to see who could hold it the longest, shooting each other with BB guns and playing chicken with the train. Now that’s dain bramage or testosterone poisoning poison as my friends call it!

1969 was a historic year. Woodstock, Nixon, the Beatles and the British Invasion, hippies, Jesus Freaks and Apollo 11! Watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon changed everything. The world would never be the same. Technology would soar and the possibilities would appear endless. What did the next decade hold in store for us? Well as we’d soon find out, it would take us back home to Virginia…almost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN…

***The Rising Tide”

It’s 1971 and we were finally headed home, well, at least back home to Virginia. Daddy got orders to NAS Norfolk and decided this time we’d go with him. Daddy had been in Norfolk before and though it was “officially” a Navy town, sailors were given a hard time. There used to be signs in the store windows that said “No sailors or dogs allowed”. The war protest was in full swing, and being military wasn’t exactly popular.

But, Nixon had just won in a landslide, promising to end the Vietnam “Police Action” and bring’em home. This left the country in a sort of apathetic state. Hippies were giving way to the disco scene and with the left having nothing to protest and the right having no military cause to rally around the was a noticeable void. But within a year the ERA and abortion would take center stage on the left and the Jesus movement would surface on the right.

***Church Life***

We stayed at Maw’s while Daddy found us a house. We rented a house in Virginia Beach at 4841 Haygood Road across from Oliver’s Farmers market and Aragona Baptist Church pastored by Horace Culpepper and his wife/choir director Susie. We all joined that church and because some Members didn’t want to be associated with John Aragona, they changed the name to Calvary Baptist Church. The church had a huge front yard which the whole neighborhood used for playing ball. We played football, baseball, whiffle ball, and smear the queer or any other yard game. It brought kids to church and gave them something to do rather than getting in trouble.

We were all very active in that church by singing in the Adult and Youth choirs, attending and teaching Sunday School, Training Union,  VBS, teaching pre-school, setting up sound for musicals and cantatas and helping with various building projects. Basically we were there whenever the doors opened; in fact I had a key.  We joined the RA’s (Royal Ambassadors), sort of a Christian Boy Scouts and did many campouts and other outdoor outing.

Jim Saunders( who had twin girls and twin boys), Charlie Harris(the music director) and his southern gospel group the Harris family and a young black teenage friend of mine, Roosevelt Holloman (who married the sister of my old girlfriend) provided beautiful worship music for our church and for the nursing home ministry we all served in. Daddy would take us to the nursing home to serve the old folks and bring them to our worship night. Some old people who had grown bitter with age and especially by being put in an “old folk’s home” would soften and come to Jesus through our care for them.  Judy Harris got me involved with the Jesus movement by ministering to old hippies and junkies down at “Broken Needles”. David Langborn (Beef Steak), a completed Jew and a student at the Virginia Wesleyan University introduced me to the “renewal”, though at the time I rejected it. He had given me a book call “Clap your Hands” by Larry Tomczak, an ex rock star and saved catholic. He’d play a huge role in my life later on though at this time the term “catholic” deterred me from reading it until years later.

Our Church hired a British evangelist named David Stillwell who held tent revivals all over the area. Our family sang for him in the choirs and well as being part of the moving and security crew for the huge tent. Once during a meeting they accidently left the microphone on and my 5 year old sister grabbed it and started singing “delta Dawn”. Church was always a gas sometimes literally. Mrs. Agar farted in church so loud it made the seat rumble. Tony, without thinking said out loud “Mrs. AGAR!” which not only embarrassed her but both of our whole families. Mr. Saunders was ushering once and quickly went to the bathroom before he collected the offering. As he was walking down the aisle, he was trailing a six foot piece of toilet paper behind him. Half the church was falling out into the aisle trying to grab the t.p. and the other half was falling out laughing. Daddy would always pull practical jokes from the choir loft from wearing a Halloween mask during prayers to pretending his was naked under his choir robe. Sure Dad could be irreverent at times but other things were non negotiable, like making us take our hats off in church and eating at home instead of inside the fellowship hall.

I was finally baptized at this church and deepened my commitment to Christ. I became very active in the outreaches in the church and eventually was trained to counsel the comers at the Billy Graham Crusade at the Norfolk Scope. While leaving that event a man fell back into Daddy’s arms and died of a heart attack. I was selected a couple times during revival on youth night to give the Sermon. I was beginning to sense an urge from the Holy Spirit I’d eventually have to respond to. I guess God was beginning to collect on our bargains I made during childhood.

When I was old enough I joined the youth choir. It was the social hub of our youth group. The choir did performance trips to other churches in other states as well as musical in our own church. To be an officer in the choir meant you were “somebody”. Only the most popular kids were given this honor. Well image my surprise when the most popular guy selected me as assistant librarian. He didn’t know me and well, I was a nerd. If you ever saw the “nerd poster” at Spencer’s, that could be me. It may not sound like much but to me it meant I finally belonged somewhere. Well as the years went by I eventually became the top dog and I didn’t forget what Dave Miller did for me. I picked as my successor someone who “needed” it.  

We did many great events as a choir.  We had annual fund raising events like the rock-a-thon. We’d sell time slots while we rocked in rocking chairs listening to rock music. We had an annual sweetheart banquet where a King and Queen of the choir were elected every year. On my senior year they elected me and Mona. She and I taught children’s training union on Sunday evenings.

Every Christmas season we’d do an overnight Christmas party at the Anchor, a Christian retreat down in Pungo. I pity the dude who fell asleep first. You never knew what practical joke was coming your way. It may be your hand in warm water to make you pee yourself, clams under your covers pinching you as they close up as they dry out, your big toe tied to the bed post, make-up on your face or shaving cream in your hand as we tickle your nose. Hey, that’s where I learned to short-sheet a bed. We’d cap it all off with the Polar Bear Club taking a swim in the icy sound.

We had fun cast parties after performances.  We’d take our old school bus that we had painted green (we called it “The Pickle”) and visit churches in other states to perform. We called ourselves “The Inspirations”. We went to Pennsylvania and even Disney World once.  Mom, Dad and Mrs. Bunch chaperoned to keep us out of TOO much trouble. As Mom and Mrs. Bunch was coming out of the Haunted mansion, Dad scared them so bad that Mom peed her pants and Mrs. Bunch broke her bra strap. It was so funny seeing those two “old” ladies smacking Daddy over the head with their purses.

There was a naval officer from Statesville Georgia name Russ Brown that helped out with the youth from time to time. When he and his wife had a baby, Dad made a suspended cradle for them. He helped transition us from pop and folk music to a stronger rock like the Almond & Doobie Brothers. Steve had already started listening to Alice Cooper, Deep Purple, Foghat, Steppenwolf and Jethro Tull. Russ eventually went back to become a professor at Georgia Southern University.

***Beach Bums***

My best buddies were Dave Miller, Dave King, Rosy (Roosevelt Holloman), and Dirk Rhodes. We’d go to the beach at a moment’s notice, especially after dark. We’d go to 17th street by the Diary Queen because they had spot light that shone way out into the water. The tourists were mostly off the beach at night and we’d have it to ourselves. Only then could we throw the Frisbee, play football or just body surf. We used to get the tourist hyped up by pretending a shark ate one of us. We really enjoyed messing with the tourist. We’d flirt with the old ones or make fun at those who were so obviously tourist. A “10” tourist had Bermuda shorts, Hawaiian shirt, a “Virginia is for Lovers” visor with the green plastic sunshade, sandals with black socks, camera and binoculars around their neck and toting a beach bag &  umbrella. The clip joints on Atlantic Avenue made a fortune selling souvenirs to these folks. We locals wore our Birdwell nylon surfing pants under our clothes. No towels, no anything.

There were 3 amusement parks on the beach we frequented, Seaside, the Loop and Oceanview where we’d play pinball, ride the bumper cars or play foosball and air hockey.  There were the Peppermint Beach Club and Peabody’s down on Virginia Beach and a no name club down at the locals only “Chick’s Beach”. Fort Story had a beach with an old fashion Beach House down below Cape Henry Lighthouses and First Landing. First Landing was where the Jamestown folks first settled but the mosquitoes moved them further up the James River.  We didn’t swim much over there because of the jellyfish but at least we’d get to see the dolphins. Sandbridge beach was another “locals only” beach which had a lot of nice shells but not much else. It was more of a family beach. Now it’s all private where the rich people live.

Around four in the morning we’d head over to IHOP for a quick bite before we headed home. Usually teenagers out that late are in trouble but not us. We didn’t do drugs, booze or anything illegal so our parents trusted us. How many families and kids can say that?

***My Friends***

Dave Miller and I were best friends. We’d go backpacking and biking together. He showed me all the best spots and really gave me a connection with Virginia Beach. Once Dave and I showed up for an outreach event at church with our long hair pulled back in a ponytail and bandana and a deacon grabbed my ponytail and jerked my head back. He said “get a haircut, you look like a girl.” Pastor Culley grabbed his wrist and made him let go of me. Culley told him that as long as we were in church, he didn’t care how we looked.

Now this was big, it could have been a turning point for us all, but Culley did the right thing. We were all super active after that. Church was a cool place to be. Back in the corner it looked like Woodstock with all the bell bottoms, love beads and chokers, Jesus boots (sandals) and long hair. At times you’d see a bunch of us walk in the door with Birdwell’s, a tie dye hang ten wife beater and Jesus boots with our hair on our shoulders. Culley bought a pool and ping pong table and put it in his garage so the teenagers had something to do and some place to go.

Dave King had culture and being around me, the nerd, made him look cool. His family had the first microwave, the first CB, the first eight track and later the first cassette player. He talked me into joining the high school choir, an easy “A” but a total waste. Dave later went to The College of William and Mary in Virginia. Dave was a musician and plays piano and sang solos in church. We also enjoyed rock and roll and we really shook the walls in church when we performed “Godspell” on Sunday evening. The guys would sleep over when the folks went to Maw’s and Dave would be the cook. His baked Alaska was a hit. I was even invited to preach a revival at his church in Williamsburg.

Rosy lived on the street behind us with a house full of family, so full that he slept in the bath-tub. He was a big man and was very good at sports, especially football and basketball. He was always around the house about dinnertime and so Mom would just start setting him a plate at the table. Rosy liked to sing old “Negro Spirituals” so I’d set up the sound system and let him sing away on the microphones. I’d even join him from time to time.  Rosy helped bring down a lot of racial walls in our family and he became just another member of the family.

Cindy Williams and Rhonda Lambert went to school with me at Bayside and as Christian friends we just hung out with each other. We formed a student prayer meeting where we’d pray with other Christian students and teachers before school every morning. High school is difficult anyways and for folks like us it was even harder. One Monday morning I was being teased for what I was wearing. But this time instead of taking an offense, I pretended I did it on purpose as a joke. It turned out to be a hit. So big in fact that I started doing it every week! Each Monday I’d find the weirdest clothes in the house and make a sort of costume out of it. It made the Monday blues go away because everyone wanted to see how I was going to dress this time. Who needed streaking and pet rocks when you had …me? I even let them call me Spiderman. Webb is an easy name to make fun of and you know how kids can be so cruel, but when you take that off the table by not showing that it bothered you, they’d stop and you’d be cool.

There were the Struck boys, Richard and Robert, who lived down the street. While playing football in their back yard, I hit my head on the clothesline pole knocking me out and cracking my skull right between my eyes. My Mom thought I was dead. That was just the first skull fracture I had. Unfortunately, there’s more to come.

Mr. Oliver owned a farmers market across the street with several fields up and down our street. He used to pay me to pick fruits and veggies for him. He had a son that Mike and I used to hang with. He’d take us back to the irrigation ditches to shoot carp or crows.  We used to take Yvonne over to ride her bike in their parking lot. Once she wanted to go and I wanted to play basketball with Rosy, so she tried to cross the road by herself and was hit by a car and broke her leg. I saw the ambulance in front of my house from the basketball courts and I thought something had happened to Grandma Webb, who was staying with us for a while. You can image the guilt I felt when I saw my little sister laying under a car.

Dirk Rhodes and his sister Debbie was the organist’s, Margaret (Maggie as we called her) children. Dirk was a hoot and would do anything on a dare so you really had to be careful what you dared him to do especially after he streaked the neighborhood. Years later I found out his sister Debbie had a crush on me but I never knew it.

Unrelated to Dirk was my next door neighbor, Keith Rhodes. Keith was older and taller and always beat me in sports. He played football, baseball and basketball for the varsity teams. He had a basketball hoop on his carport where we played almost daily. He set up a sort of Olympics track and field in his back yard where all the neighborhood kids competed against each other. That was a lot of fun. Keith somehow got a hold of a picture of his parents having sex…gross!

***More Bullying***

Keith was once a backup for me in yet another fight. There was this kid on my bus who was the paper boy in his neighborhood. He thought it was funny to shoot rubber bands at me on the bus. This was the same bus that I snuck aboard and installed a radio so we could listen to music on the way to school. His older brother Charlie was a bully too and he used to throw those sharp gumballs at me at the bus stop. Well on the way to school one day he shot me with a water pistol and I had about all could stand from him. As we stepped off the bus at school, the bully shot me in the back of the head with his water gun. I quickly spun around and squeezed his hand breaking his gun. He told me that he was going to beat me up. I said “where and when”. He said “after school behind Louise Luxford Elementary School”. I said I’ll be there.

Well all day the kids at school warned me that he knew karate and that he had a lot of friends that were coming to watch. That’s why I asked Keith and my brother Mike to come. If he beat me then fine, I could take my licking, but if others jumped in at least they could help me escape and run. Well sure enough after school there was a crowd waiting for me. The bully charged at me with some sort of kung fu leap. I just put him in a head lock and wrestled him to the ground. Then I started wailing away at his left ear. It swelled into a huge cauliflower ear almost immediately. He started screaming but I couldn’t hear him because I had lost it and was in a rage. Actually Keith and Mike had to pull me off of him to save his life. The crowd was hushed as I was looking around for someone else to fight. Keith and Mike finally dragged me home until I came out of it.

Once while playing baseball a friend of Tony’s, Steve Beagle was caught cheating and he wanted to fight about it. Even though he was younger, he outweighed me by about 20 pounds and I couldn’t whoop him. But to add insult to injury he smacked me in the back of the head with a baseball bat and cracked my skull again. I still have both knots on my head to this day. Steve Beagle really got Tony involved in gangs, drugs and violence. You’d never know that at one time they were little boys fishing for carp with biscuit dough down at Smith Lake.

By far the worst fighting came during the race riots in school. We actually brought knives, brass knuckles and num-chucks to school. We also used our huge belt buckles as weapons. There were times we’d literally have to fight our way down hallways to get to class. The peaceful marches that we actually saw in Alabama with MLK Jr. were being replaced with a more violent protest with Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panthers. These continued from junior high until about my junior year in high school when the Vietnam Vets came home. The POW-MIA folks gave memorial bracelets for the missing Americans. The guy I had, Adm. Jeremiah Denton, was released and actually can to our school.

***Girlfriends***

My first date was with a girl named Karen Beasley. Dark hair blue eyes and skinny! She did love the Lord and had a sweet personality. I didn’t have much money to do anything so Dave Miller gave me some leftover tickets he had from the carnival down at Pembroke Mall.  I wasn’t driving yet so I had Daddy drop us off at the opposite end of the mall and to pick us up a couple hours later. So…as we walked to the other end of the mall we realized that the bloody carnival left that morning. Now what?!  I suggested a movie but she wouldn’t go for that. She thought at first I had planned it that way so we could make out in the balcony.  So we just walked around looking in the stores until Daddy came back to get us. I was surprised after such a bust that I still got a kiss at the door. I was so embarrassed that I never asked her out again.

I had three other girls, Mona Misco, Missy and Patty Fillmon, I wanted to date but since my friends liked them I just became friends with them and worked on them on my friends’ behalf. Funny thing though is that I kept in touch with these ladies long after I had forgotten my own girlfriends. They were just nice people. The guys they eventually married were other good friends of mine, Mark, Rob and Dirk.

My first real girlfriend was Mary Duc. She had just moved back from Bahrain and boy had she changed. The first Sunday she came back to Sunday school I spotted her and asked her out before anyone else saw her. Her family really liked me and thought probably we’d end up together. I picked her up in my brother Steve’s ’71 Road Runner. The problem was that Steve had dinged the door running from the cops and the driver side door wouldn’t open. So… I had to crawl through the window like a NASCAR driver. We always had a good time but she was never very affectionate, so I broke up with her. I was too shy to make the first move and she was too much of a lady to do so. She later ended up with another friend Don “Hoot” Gibson (Steve and Mike once got in a fight over his sister Sharon). When I came home on leave once we all went out as a group. Mary and I ended up in a car alone while waiting for the gang to come out. We both were wondering what it would have been like so we just starting kissing. After that we never spoke of it again but I can tell she enjoyed it. For me any kiss was a good thing but she was not much of kisser, tight lips-no passion.

My next girlfriend was Teri Hartley. She was about a year younger and she attended our rival high school (Princes Anne), same as Mary Duc. Her sister Karen dated Rosy. It was an interracial event that took a long time for our church and families to work through, but eventually we did. They’ve been married for nearly thirty years now.

We met while climbing a tree in Bob Harmon’s back yard. Bob and his wife Joan owned B&J’s Hotdogs across from the Jack-in-the-box. Bob was our Sunday School teacher and he always had a full house. He made it fun and interesting and he was always coming up for things for us to do. I liked it that Teri was a bit of a Tomboy and didn’t mind doing “guy” things. She wasn’t shy about letting me know she liked me by kissing me once we made it to the top branch.  She was a good kisser, but not as good as Lana. She lived across the street from Mona and we three hung out together all the time.  We visited all my thinking spots down on Witchduck Rd. She helped me with my collection of road signs that I had on my bedroom walls. I used to have a pull tab chain that went three times around my room but that was now kids stuff. I also gave Tony my Popsicle stick collection of close to one thousand sticks.

I took Teri to my Senior Prom and then for a midnight stroll down at Chick’s Beach.  Even though we enjoyed kissing each other, we never went beyond that. We were taught better and we lived it.  The potheads went down to the “bowl” (a crater shaped sand dune) down on 84th street. I had a blue tux with dark velvet lapels and a peach ruffled shirt with maroon piping which matched Teri’s dress. The weird thing is that she ate my carnation right off of my Tux. I borrowed Daddy’s ’65 GMC red pickup truck for the event. Oh well at least it was wheels.

As the summer approached, I realized that I needed a job. I failed chemistry so my plans to go to the Naval Academy and become a doctor were out. My only option was the military. I wanted to work on planes but didn’t want to go to sea so I joined the Air Force. I broke up with Teri because I didn’t want her waiting for me. She promised to wait anyhow but when I came home on leave I discovered she had gotten pregnant out of wedlock and the sailor she hooked up with left her high and dry.  I guess even the purest of morals can be compromised by a sweet talker. It broke my heart just the same.

***Changes***

In 1972 Granddad Webb died of lung cancer. Steve was the only one of us kids to attend the funeral in Arkansas. The rest of us stayed with Mr. And Mrs. Vincent and their daughter Donna. Mr. V was an ex Marine and ran a tight ship. A year of so later he’d end up as the team cook for the Ole Miss Football team. What was unexpected was that Grandma came back to live with us. Well, as I’ve said before, it wouldn’t take long for her to want to be back home in Tennessee. Daddy got Mike to go with her but he got homesick with a week and I went to replace him. I stayed the whole summer and had intended on staying but Mom and Dad wanted me back in school at home. The following summer I went back again. More on that later. Mrs. V had a silver poodle that had epilepsy. Once, Rosy’s sister was cutting through the Vincent’s yard when that yappy mutt came over and bit her. Rosy’s sister was so mad that she grabbed that dog and bit him back. That dog was tame after that.

About this time Daddy left the rental on Haygood Road and bought a house on Dorset Avenue. Steve got an apartment down at Chick’s Beach with his buddies, Doug, the “freak of the weak”, and Sang Nak Cotton, a Korean. Bringing a “gook” into our home was another racial milestone in our family. Dad and his brother had just spent the last thirty years killing them in the Far East and now here was one in our home. Mike had finished school, broke up with his girlfriend Darlene and moved to Maw’s to work in the Furniture mill in Appomattox.  Steve eventually went back to Maw’s also. This finally gave me a room to myself.

I missed that house on Haygood. Daddy had gotten a hanger down by the Seabee’s along with a monster wood shop to build mock ups of ships and aircraft for the Navy. He’d build and restore furniture for the family in his spare time. He built a Sopwith Camel for us to play on in the backyard including a rotating electric prop. We had plenty of room to work on our own cars, everything from Granddad’s gold barracuda with the push button transmission to Steve’s ’65 Chevelle Malibu or his black dodge van he was trying to customize. We even replaced the motor in Dad’s pickup.

We’d take that old Chevy truck down to Maw’s to get firewood for our fireplace.  One cold night it broke down with me, Dad and Steve in it. The drive shaft fell out. We had to walk halfway to Crew until we hitched a ride to the laundry mat and Pop came and picked us up. The next morning we went back and put a u-joint and bearing in it right there on the side of the road and drove it back to Maw’s. After we filled it with firewood Steve went to town to buy Mom a Christmas present while I hunted mistletoe. On the way home I accidently messed up the bow on Mom’s package. Dad couldn’t resist. He egged Steve on about working in the cold snow at the gas station for 3 hours to earn enough money to have that package wrapped and there I was messing it up. That was it. Steve pulled the truck over and started to wail on me trying to get me to say I was sorry. It was an accident and I was sorry but I didn’t do it on purpose. But I didn’t want to be hurt anymore so I finally said I was sorry. Once we got back in the car Daddy said,” look at him Steve, he’s not sorry”. I really was sorry but when Dad said that I had to grin. That was it; Steve stopped the truck and started in on me again. He’d say “say you’re sorry” and I’d say “you’re sorry”. Then he’d wail on me some more. Daddy was howling with laughter, I was crying and laughing but Steve wasn’t laughing.  Dad was a bit of a sadist, his own siblings made him this way, but Dad also knew this would toughen us up in a cruel world. Another thing Dad would do was if something was broken and no one would own up to it we’d all get a beating and the one with the black eye in the morning would be the culprit.

Dad would play all sorts of practical jokes on us. He put an ice try on your belly under the covers or shines a flashlight in our eyes to wake us up in the morning. He’d place disgusting notes in our books so when they’d “accidently fall out and someone would read it, it’d embarrass the heck out of us. It may sound cruel but we knew it was really just boys having fun.

After I came back from Tennessee we moved over to Dorset. This house had a garage in the back yard and an empty lot next door that we grew a garden it. I had my own room. Mom and Daddy’s room was downstairs but it didn’t have a closet, so me and Dad made one. The house was tri-level with an eat-in kitchen, a formal dining room with chandelier and a large family room downstairs. We lived next door to Tommy Snow and his twin girls. This would be the last house I ever lived in with my parents. In 1980 after I went to Germany, Dad retired and went back to Pensacola in hopes to get Tony away from trouble. It didn’t work.

***Work, work, work***

 Steve and I always had a job or some way of making money. Steve laid carpet, worked at McDonalds, worked at gas stations, was a barker at Seaside amusement park or drove a truck. As for me, I picked vegetables, worked at McDonalds and was even the clown at Jack-in-the-Box. I was always trying to sell something even though I was no good at it. I had to buy my own gas and car insurance as well as my prom gear. I shoveled snow, mowed grass and even did some babysitting. Daddy worked a second job at the Esso gas station until a man robbed and threatened to kill him. After that he took a correspondence class and became a locksmith. He also worked maintenance at JC Penny’s. Mom started an Amway business out of our home and taught in our church’s preschool. In 1978 Dad retired from the Navy after finishing his career with a helicopter squadron. This was the same squadron that went down in the desert in Iran after Jimmy Carter’s failed rescue attempt of the Iranian. During the Carter Presidency, he had raped the military budget so bad that we could barely keep the birds in the air. Inflation, interest rates and unemployment was all over 20%! His do nothing policy with North Korean and Panamanian hostilities empowered Islamic extremist and set up the terrorism we know today.

***Bayside***

High school years for me were fun. I was a proud Bayside Marlin class of ’76. I was a member of the student government and finally found a way to influence things and be somebody. I went on a weekend leadership conference that really influenced the rest of my life. I took 4 years of Latin thinking I’d need it if I became a doctor only to find out they didn’t use it anymore. I joined the Latin club and became the club president. We had toga parties and Roman games including chariot races. I also attended Junior Achievement and Explorers in Medicine (part of the Boy Scouts) and helped out as an orderly in the ER at the General Hospital of Virginia Beach. I joined the Spanish club even though I never took Spanish because I wanted to do something with my brother Mike. I joined the chess club and played almost every day. I was so involved I was selected to who’s who among American High School Students.

I still was too poor to go to the football games so I’d sneak in under the fence. Later, I took a job in the first half hocking drinks and peanuts. After halftime I could stay and watch for free.

My favorite class was sociology. Mr. Murello was a retired artillery Sergeant who nearly lost his hearing by shooting cannons in WWII. Our class was small and we were very close. On senor skip day the entire class went to Sandbridge Beach together. I also liked government and math but I hated English and Chemistry. I did well in English but Chemistry just wasn’t clicking. I dropped it to avoid failing it but that put an end to my hopes of the Naval Academy or becoming a doctor. I felt like I let both Timmy and my family down.

In my freshman year my chain came off the bike I was riding, my foot slipped off the pedal and hit the pavement breaking my ankle. I was in a cast and crutches for 8 weeks. The only thing that didn’t suck about it was that I ended up on the cover of the yearbook because of it.  That same week: Dad broke his right arm playing football with us. Mom broke her left arm when the lid blew off the pressure cooker. Steve broke his arm, Mike broke his collar bone, Tony had a sprained ankle and Yvonne had a broken leg. Mark got a concussion jumping off Maw’s porch roof. We walked into church like we’d just come back from a war zone. All we needed was a fife and drum!

When I graduated June 6th, 1976 I had no idea of what I was going to do with my life. So I went down to the Air Force recruiter after I received a pamphlet in the mail and joined up. Good thing because I was the last class to get the GI Bill. Mom threw a going away party for me where I said goodbye to all my friends and family and left for Texas to boot camp. Life would forever be forever changed and so would my view of the world.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Hillbilly Heaven

Grandma Webb came to live with us for a while after Granddad died. Then she went to live with Uncle Charles (whom she called Winfred) in Amelia and then on to Aunt Peggy’s (whom she called Bernice) in Tilar, Arkansas. But… it still wasn’t the hills and soon she’d be insisting to go home.

It was nearing summer and her garden wasn’t out yet so I packed up and headed to Caton’s Chapel Sevierville Tennessee. We lived near Dolly Parton’s family and I’d house sit from time to time to feed their animals and water the house plants. There were the Townsends just up the road who had a crippled man I’d go to town with and help him in and out of the car and they’d take me to get groceries. A ways up the hill was old Lady Lewis who was a friend of Grandma’s. I’d always walk them both up and down the road to visit each other. She eventually bought Grandma’s place when she passed. There were red raspberries in the ditch along that road I’d pick and eat. Yum-my! There also was a fresh water spring pouring right out of the rocks just above the mountain laurel that was a cool relief on a hot day.

***Little Country Church***

The church up by the water fall was a hard shell Baptist church which handled snakes. That wasn’t for me. I rode my bike to the southern Baptist church up near Grassy Branch. It had no plumbing and no running water. It had several outhouses out back, a bell in the belfry and a dipper hanging on a root by the spring which we all drank from. The preacher had a pink Depression glass goblet and pitcher that he’d fill up between Sunday school and church so he could wet his whistle between the fire and brimstone. He also had a pillow on the pulpit that he’d pound during his sermons. Well… some “un-named” rascal put a flat river rock under his pillow and when he hit that pillow he broke his hand. No one there knew me very well but they did know my Dad so they put two and two together and came up with “innocent little me”. I ended up having to sing a couple of solos during worship for that little event.

The Clarke girls would occasionally give me and Grandma a ride in bad weather. Their dad was Fred Clarke whom Charles would tease Grandma about after Granddad died. The Clarke’s were bleeding heart liberal democrats and Grandma and Granddad was staunch conservative republicans. They were good friends until they started talking politics and then the fur would fly. Wanda had a wild teenage boy and a disabled son in a wheelchair. I’d go over after that and help with their son and shoot pool on their pool table. I could listen to rock and roll over there and not just country and western like at Grandma’s.

***Grandma’s Place***

Grandma had a 2 bedroom house trailer on a four acre lot. There was a nice garden on one end, a huge yard with flowers and apple trees, a tool shed with muscadine vines, a brook out with a burn barrel, a well house and a weeping willow tree.  At the other end of the property was a nice little spring fed pond with goldfish, snapping turtles and bull frogs. It was well over grown so I had to take a swinging sickle and chop the weeds down to size. Next I had to throw out the rocks and sticks and then mow around it. I had to do this every year I went down. After that I’d just mow it with the rest of the yard which would generally take all day. She’d have me to help her in the garden, fix the steps, water proof the roof, can and freeze the veggies and fish for dinner. In my “spare” time I’d roam the hills exploring and riding my bike. I found some Ogle boys down near the river I’d pal around with. I’d fish from the swinging bridges and swim down at Flint Rock.

***Grandma***

I and Grandma loved to read the Grit together. She’d tell me about the olden days without any sugarcoating. I asked her once to fix some popcorn. What I didn’t realize was that it was going to be dinner. Many nights we had popcorn and milk for supper. We listened to Gospel music on Sunday mornings and Porter Wagoner’s & Cass Walker’s country music show on Saturday.  Granddad had some old western albums of Tex Ritter and Hank Williams we’d listen to over and over. She told me all about the skeletons in the family closet and the truth about things we’d romanticize. At supper she’d give me some scriptures to read and we’d discuss them at breakfast the next morning. I’ll tell you, her questions were tough. She could tell if I’d been reading the old Reader’s Digest on the bookshelf instead of my verses.

Grandma kept her hair up in combs and always wore shoes, a house dress and apron from the time she woke up until she went to bed. She never walked around in slippers or a housecoat. When you walked out of your room in the morning it was time to go to work. Grandma also had a goose down featherbed she stuffed herself. When I was a child she’d let us nap on it. She also dipped snuff and chewed tobacco. The snuff came in jars that she’d clean out and use for drinking cups or jelly jars.

Finally she became too frail to stay at home and she spent her final days with Aunt Peggy. We went to be with her but she lingered longer than expected and Dad had to go back. As soon as we walked into the door the phone rang to say Grandma went home. We just turned around and went back to Arkansas. Since I’d just gotten my license, I drove almost the whole way. It took us two days to drive the 1300 miles. It took my cousin David 13 ½ hours. Wow!

I made my first of many calls as a pall bearer to help Grandma one last time. I and Daddy still miss her very much. She’s resting beside Granddad in Arkansas even though she always in life wanted to be near Uncle Curtis on Grassy. We all await that grand reunion in the sky where the family circle will be forever unbroken and united. What a glorious day that will be! “See you then Grandma.”

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

FORCE BE WITH YOU

***Saying Good-Bye***

In July 1976 I went to Richmond for my induction physical. To be honest, I failed. I have no depth perception, which explains why I have trouble catching a baseball. The military was short a few good men because the draft had ended with Vietnam and it wasn’t quite as popular to be military as it used to be. I found this out the hard way. My Daddy used to have no trouble hitching a ride as long as he was in uniform but I actually had people try to run over me when I tried it. Sure, I’ve hitched a lot of miles but never again in uniform. Next you went to see someone at classification who let you pick out what they wanted you to be. Even though you had an idea what you wanted to go into, they would downplay the benefits of that job and play up the benefits of the holes they were trying to fill. It didn’t work with me. Hey, I had brothers who tried to talk me out of the last piece of chicken who were more persuasive than that. They finally told me I’d have to wait until October 8th to be called up. That was ok with me. It gave me time to visit all my relatives one last time and say good bye to my girl friend before I left.

I went to Williamsburg to visit Dave King, to Clifton Forge to see Dave Miller, Prospect to visit Maw, Pop, Steve and Mike and to the only Webb reunion up on Grassy Branch. It would be the last time I ever saw Sis and Walter again. I finally got to go inside a log cabin that my Granddad built. It belongs to Dad’s cousin Crettie. I went over to see Jean and Judd and hang with the cousins for a bit. I collected phone numbers and addresses to try to keep contact. It didn’t work. The world was becoming a busy place and out of site was truly out of mind. I hardly ever got an answer to the more than two hundred I letters I sent during my first two years in service. After that, I just quit sending them. My family began to play a lesser role in my life and now my colleagues, church family and friends would be the only one I would learn to depend on.

***Boot Camp***

Boot camp was a joke. It was more of a mental game than physical training. I thought it was going to make me a lean mean fighting machine. Instead, I gained 20 pounds. Three big meals a day without much exercise! Oh we had PT but it wasn’t much different than PE in high school. I guess the Air Force mission needed more brains than braun. Basically it was trying to tear you down mentally and try to get you to work as a team and to the Air Force way of thinking. It taught self reliance, pride, discipline, respect and attention to detail. Yo mama don’t work here, you’ve got to clean up after yourself. Communal living required mutual respect and consideration. Oh we had inspections, spit polishing, marching, firing range and drills but mostly we had classroom training where we learned about rank, history, military bearing and UCMJ. I did so well in fact that I was the only honor student in our squadron, 3704 BMTS flight 634. We were even awarded “Honor Flight” because of it. A squad was ¼ of a fight, about 10-12 men. A flight had 4 squads, about 40-50 men. A squadron had several flights, hundreds of men, next you have group, wing, number and then command e.g. MAC, SAC, TAC, and ATC. Other awards I received were Airman of the month and NCO of the month.

When we arrived at Basic we were called “Rainbows” because of our civilian clothes. Next we were called “Pickles” because we had fatigues but no insignias. Once we got to our first assignments we were called GIPS (Pronounced jeeps) which stood for government issued personnel. Our yearbook had a picture of me in the barber chair getting my haircut. The barber asked me if I wanted my sideburns. I said that I did so he handed them to me. My long locks that it took forever to talk my Dad into letting me grow were now on the floor. We all looked the same which is just what the military wanted. We were no longer individuals, we were a team with a common enemy, the T.I., training instructor. I couldn’t stop putting my hands in my pockets. The T.I. threatened to cut them off and sew up my pockets. At the end of boot camp we were asked to fill out an eval. on our TI. I said that they cussed too much. After I turned it in I wondered what repercussions I’d face because of it. Instead, Sgt. Salvo thanked me for reminding him of the values his grandmother taught him as a child.

After graduation some of us had to stay on base a few weeks until our tech school opened up. We went into town to see the Alamo and do a little souvenir shopping. In the evening some of the guys went to the Airman’s’ Club to drink and dance. I had a great time dancing and enjoying all the new disco music. Since I didn’t have a girl friend I could dance with them all and take them back to their tables without any commitments or expectations. There was no fraternizing allowed, not between sexes, officers and enlisted or with the Iranians which were allies at that time studying with our pilots. When the Shah fell years later, all that would change. My buddies though drank too much and I’d make sure they got back to the barracks so they wouldn’t miss roll call.

***Tech School***

I arrived at Chanute AFB in Rantoul, IL. In November 1976 and left in April 1977 and I never saw the ground. As far as I know, they don’t have grass in Illinois because all I saw was snow and lots of it. We marched to the hanger for ”A” school at 7pm and returned around 3am right through a wall of snow that was about 12 feet high. In fact we walked everywhere we went because airmen were not allowed to drive on base. I went to church off base and I had to walk more than a mile in dress blues in that weather. At one time the temperature hit -85F with wind chill factor. Our breath and snot were literally freezing to our face. We put Vaseline on our face to keep the ski mask from sticking and frost biting our nose and lips. I promised God that I’d be good because I was sure if I didn’t be good He wouldn’t send me to hell, He’d send me back to Champaign stinking Illinois in the winter time. We didn’t need a fridge because the window ledge worked just fine. Once when we were falling out for formation, one of the guys was missing. I sent a squad to look for him. Oh we found him alright. He had gotten drunk and fell from the three floor window. He wasn’t hurt though because the snow broke his fall. We just looked down and saw a Gomez size hole in the snow bank.

Because of my student government training, I was selected to become a squad leader. We wore a green rope for one squad, a yellow rope to handle a whole flight and a red rope to march the whole squadron. I roomed with the red rope (Andy) I served under and with the red rope (Camp) who eventually replaced me. Lucky room huh?! On one occasion the base was running a blood drive. It was suppose to be voluntarily but I just marched the whole squadron down there, close to 400 men and women. I’ll tell you the blood bank didn’t know what hit them. I got an award for that little trick. I eventually became the barrack’s sergeant at my next assignment and got a room to myself. My responsibility also was doing a pre-inspection on my barracks before the commander came through. The big job would always be to police the day room. Since we had beer and cigs in the vending machines there’d be cans, butts and pizza boxes everywhere. When things got too out of hand I’d call a GI party. A GI party was a mass clean-a-thon with base restriction and spot inspections. It didn’t exactly make me popular with the crew but when we won honor flight, the party made it all worth it. We had a huge Airman’s club with live music and plenty of fun & games. When the movie Tommy came out we all went out to see it as a group, then we came back to the dorm and philosophy about it the rest of the night. Andy was in a very bad accident on his way back home on leave to Vienna Virginia. He had bought a baby blue Lincoln Continental. He hit some black ice on the interstate, went airborne and ended up upside down under the sloop of an overpass. It messed him up pretty badly and we thought he was going to die, in fact we saw another accident in the same place in the road where Andy was hurt. This guy’s car hit the support pillar under the bridge and ejected him from the car. We tried to help but we couldn’t do anything. It was the first time I ever saw someone die. Unfortunately it wouldn’t be my last. The old guilt resurfaced that if I had done better in Chemistry I could be a doctor and helped this poor man.

Andy was born when his parents were in their mid fifties and they had three more kids after him. Since his Mom was so old and his Dad too frail to travel, his girlfriend came with her to the hospital. Well after a few weeks Andy started feeling better but his relationship with his girlfriend deteriorated. Thanks to me I kept her morale right up there. We corresponded for the next couple years after that. There was one other young lady Debbie that was more of a pal. She was from Lake Placid, New York. She was Baptist also and since the base chapel had no Baptist service, we walked together into Rantoul to the church there.

***Tech School 3496th Air Training Command***

Tech school started out with teaching about tools, “the right tool for the right job”. Then we started on principles and history of aeronautics. Finally we went to the hanger where we had a B-52H bomber. We’d take it apart and put it back together. The little ride on the ejection seat nearly shook our filling out.

Avionics were a challenge, I’m glad I took electric shop instead of wood shop in high school that day. (I also took home ec. but that was because I could be the only guy in a class full of girls, slick huh?) Engine shop was cool, and eventually I’d qualify for engine run duty which increased my value in the squadron.

In February we had an outbreak of measles and half the class was set back. This made graduation a low key event and we moved on to our next duty squadron without any fan fair. By the time I PCS’d to Charleston AFB, SC No one from my boot camp or tech school would be coming with me. I’d be starting over again. Charleston would eventually produce challenges that would change everything I knew about life and I would become a different person with a whole new outlook on EV-ERY-THING.

Chapter Fourteen

Doing the Charleston

I spent the next 3 ½ years at Charleston AFB in South Carolina or as we called it “Bubba-Land”. All the locals referred to each other as “bubba”. Hey bubba, whatcha doin’ bubba! We’d just tell them that “Dude I ain’t cho bubba”! You see the locals were tired of the military for several reasons. One, we come and marry their women and take them away and worse yet…the residual anti-war resentments. Short haired straights just didn’t fit in with the disco scene. Oh we’d buy the polyester leisure suit, gold chains, and wide collared silk shirts but without the hair to go with it, we just looked like posers. We still went to Stonehenge and other discos but all we’d get to dance with us was jailbait. Women just didn’t like a man in uniform anymore. I made up a little poem I’d recite because I hated it so much:

Jolly, jolly Charleston,

Don’t you love it here?

I’d rather lose a million bucks

Than be here another year.

During the winter we had an ice storm that showed pictures in the local paper that depicted icicles hanging from the Charleston city limits sign. We hung it in the day room with a caption that stated “the end is near, hell hath frozen over”.

Once at Stonehenge, a local disco, we saw a guy fry on angel dust. He went from being ballistic to melting down his brain and dying right there in front of us. He had super human strength tearing stuff off the walls and four of us couldn’t restrain him.

***Roommates***

Even amongst all this angst, my roommates always seemed to find some skank to bed for the evening. My one roommate was so sleazy we called him “The Sleaze”. His name was Ron Cotterman from Dayton, Ohio. He turned me on to the rock-a-billy sounds of Daniels, Tucker, Ronstadt and the Eagles among others. He had these 2 sluts he’d abandon after he got them liquored up and took advantage of them. I’d find them the next morning hung-over and confused so I took them home to Moncks Corner or Goose Creek and give them to their mothers. I learned a valuable lesson that even the lowest of human beings had someone at home who loved them or praying for them. Even the Sleaze!

I flew with him to pickup his Torino with a 351 Winsor engine. I met his sister and mother who was committed Christians who asked me to pray for Ron. I baby sat him many nights when he was so loaded it scared him.

I had an opportunity to share the gospel with him on our trip back from Ohio. We stopped in at Jean and Judd’s in Tennessee on the way through. This would be the last time I’d see Aunt Jean. She had suffered most of her life with diabetes and in her final years and months her children sacrificed much to care for her just as they did later for Uncle Judd when he got Alzheimer’s.

After him was some pothead who had porn taped all over the place and pot leafs on the walls. He was more into the psychedelic rock.  He frequented the many “head shops” in and around Charleston and during inspection nearly got caught. I eventually got him moved, took down the porn and painted the walls.

Next was big goofy Tom Landreth from Indiana. Tom was kind of a dufus but intellectually he was smart as a whip. We played chess for hours every day and listened to a lot of John Denver. Tom drove a 302 Boss Mustang.

Brian Darby was in the room next door where we shared a bathroom. Darby was from Brooklyn and it showed. We were watching the footage of the blackout on TV when all of a sudden Brian blurted out “Yo, that’s my brother Bobby looting that TV, Yo Bobby put that back, Ma is going to kill you”. Sure enough, the cops were watching TV too and Bobby was busted. CNN 24 hour news had finally given big brother the tools to watch us all.

My next room mate was Ken Solomon from Silva, North Carolina. There was an obnoxious used car dealer in the area named Sam Solomon so we always called Ken Sam after that. Sam was always trying to beat the system, always had a scheme or racket going on. He was quite the ladies man but he preferred the under-age local jailbait.  He had a black Dodge Charger with a 440 magnum, hood scoop, mags and racing slicks. I once gave him money to supe-up my 1970 Duster while he went home on leave but he ended up blowing the cash and returning my car all messed up. We went to the first Sergeant over that one. Another time we were playing poker and he refused to pay up for my 400 dollars worth of chips. Our last encounter was him all drunk slapping me on the back when I had a blistering sunburn. That was the last straw! He and I duked it out for over an hour. Finally, since he was stronger than I he got me in a scissor lock and refused to let me go until my rage abated.

After that he and I became good friends and we helped each other out on many occasions (though I kept my money at arm’s length). I towed his car from North Carolina and he towed my car from South of the Border. Once around midnight after work we decided to go to Waffle House for a bite before we hit the sack. Instead, after we had already left the base, the guys decided to go to a bar instead for a quick one and then back to the Waffle House. I’d never been inside a bar and wanted to stay in the car. The guys acted offended and said I could just have a coke and wait for them inside. Well…I should have known something was up when we had to show i.d. through a door slot. Once inside it didn’t take long to figure it out, it was a brothel and the guys were trying to get me to …well… you know. I refused and held my ground. After that, if we went anywhere as a group, I was driving.

Sam also got me into motorcycles. I had a Suzuki 500 and a Honda 260. I didn’t do so well my first couple of trips out. Once I crashed into a parked car and then I flipped it hot-dogging for the kids at church.  My old Duster, with the three on the tree and little slant six finally gave up the ghost. I traded it for a Volare 4 on the floor 318 Road Runner, my first new car. I had to pay back Mike first for the 800 bucks I borrowed from him to buy the Duster. I put a C.B. and cassette player in it with fog lights. Sweet! Turns out it was more than I could afford and I had to sell it. I ended up buying an old Ford station wagon that daddy helped me fix the power window motors and the tailgate door hinge. When I shipped out I took the Honda with me but gave the Ford to a friend of mine who ran a pizza shop.

Gordon or Gordo as we called him was from Maryland. He was from the Church of Christ which basically doesn’t believe in using musical instrument in church. I visited with him a time or two but it wasn’t for me. Gordo was very neat and not a slob like most of my roommates. We were always ready for inspection. Gordo and I had 10 speed bikes which we rode to work on. We could actually ride it onto the flight line which made totting a huge toolbox around a little bit easier. Once while working a 2 day 48hour shift during “Reforger”, the Sarge brought us an “in-flight” meal. We both got food poisoning really bad and ended up in the hospital. Gordo was the best Air Force roommate I ever had.

Tommy was a Virginia Beach boy like me. He drove a blue Goat (GTO) convertible. On long weekends we’d take turns driving home to visit the family while grooving to Billy Joel. Tommy also had family in Jacksonville, N.C. There was a Lays potato farm that would let us gleen after their harvester went through. We’d get a pickup full of spuds in no time. Tommy got in trouble with a “lady” in Puerto Rico. Tommy and I used to run the golf cart path across the street every day. It was exactly 1 mile long and we’d run ten laps every day, sprinting the last leg and hurl ding the hedge by the clubhouse before we started the next lap. I golfed once with Tommy but I was so bad that I never tried again.

After Tommy, I became the barracks sergeant and finally got a room to myself. This privacy helped open brand new doors for me. I’ll let you in on that shortly.

***The War***

“The War” was what we called the military. I was at 437 OMS when we won a presidential citation from Jimmy Carter and several outstanding unit awards. I started out working on C-141 Starlifter cargo planes, later I was trained to do the C-5 Galaxy and the C-130 Hercules. I eventually became a flying crew chief on Tail number ***611 and earned my wings. I eventually learned every job on the flight line including engine run, cherry pickers, yukes, tugs and the de-icer. My main job was to do pre and post flight inspections and record them in the flight log. Then I’d make the repairs which I could and then dispatch and coordinate the specialist for each of the sub specialties. I’d have to configure the bay for each mission, refuel recover and launch each flight. I also had to load liquid oxygen “Lox” and liquid nitrogen. A red x item would ground an airplane. If we were someplace nice, I might ground the plane to keep us around longer. If the crew was mean and the place was awful, I’d ground them and then leave on the next flight out. Keeping the chief happy was an important goal.

If someone got hurt, they’d end up in the tool room. Once I volunteered for the tool room on the graveyard shift. If I had evening plans I could sleep in the morning, if I wanted to go to the beach or fishing, I’d sleep in the evenings. Work could be done when nothing else was happening. I advanced well and made Staff Sergeant 7 level on my first testing cycle. Occasionally we’d be pulled for other duties. I spent six months TDY as a customs inspector. I also served on the search and recovery team at aircraft crash sites. I had two such missions and I’ll tell you it was never a pretty site. I did make the TV news though.

***TDY***

TDY stands for temporary duty assignment. When a mission called for a ground crew at an airstrip where they aren’t trained to maintain our birds, they’d send us for the duration of that mission. My first trip was to Connecticut. There was the blizzard of 1977-78 which closed all of New England. They couldn’t get to their snow plows to even start digging out. That’s where we came in. The closest we could get was Bradley AFB in Hartford. They managed to clear a strip big enough for us to land. From there we caught and launched birds from all over America for two straight weeks which started plowing out the rest of the runaway and ramp, then the rest of the Airbase and finally on to the rest of New England from there. We were issued arctic gear and I still have my mukluks which I use to this day. Between games we played ice hockey or poker.  We thought it’d be funny to throw a can of red hydraulic fluid into a snow bank and let the snow plow run over it. When that blood red fluid came spraying out of the chute, it almost gave the driver a heart attack, thinking that he’d run over someone. Practical jokes are part of being in the military. We’d sit around the chow hall table and talk of all the gross and nasty stuff we could think of trying to see who’d leave the table first. It was never me. After all, between dead body parts from a crash site and my next TDY, ain’t nutin’ mess up my gut.

My second TDY was in Guyana via Puerto Rico. The People’s Temple cult ran by Jim Jones, a de-frocked A/G preacher committed mass suicide after murdering a US congressman in South America. That’s 917 dead bodies that had been laying in the sun for 10 days that we had to recover and return to Dover AFB for identification and processing. Talk about nasty! We worked the first 72 hours straight without sleep or rations. We were robbing the flight crews, coconut trees or anything we could find. If you never changed a jet engine in the jungle, boy you’ve never lived. The Caribbean was beautiful with its teal clear waters and the exotic birds and plants. I got two medals for that mission.

My third TDY was to the Azores Islands which are part of Portugal. When Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers after they illegally went on strike, it left a huge gap in coverage so the Air Force took over the civilian operations until new controller could be hired and trained. That put more military flights through the Azores. This was a paradise. Moderate temperature, old world charm and a quaint culture. The high cliff’s and rocky sea-sprayed shoreline was much different than the sandy beaches of the US eastern seaboard. I made some local friends though the parents where protective of their daughters; not wanting to lose them to the GI’s who’d move them away.

The next TDY took me to Panama. Jimmy “stupid” Carter gave the Panama Canal back to Panama 20 years earlier costing us billions of dollars and brings a dictator Noriega to power whose influence funneled a torrent of drug to the US. This created a third world uprising and a time when Central America was already politically on fire. What a moron! So… we sent extra troops and supplies to prepare our military against any violence. I had to go to handle all the extra air traffic. I did get to the Panama Canal and other local historic sites. The food was nasty so I just ate on base. They had a nice airman’s club where we did a little dancing. The Pacific Ocean was a deep blue compared to the greener Atlantic. They had an interesting tree they called a rooster tree because the blooms looked like a rooster’s tail which was nearly as colorful as the local customs. My favorite was a Golden Altar and the historic attachment to the Spanish conquistadors.

There were Army maneuvers annually in Savannah which we had to support. The grunts were always mad because the Air Force bunked and ate at local Hotels while they roughed it in tent city. Savannah’s a classic Deep South city with Spanish moss dripping from the Live Oaks and classic southern seafood at the more redneck beaches.

We went to Paris Island to support the jarheads (Marines). I really ticked them off when we refused to salute on the flight line. Air Force considers hats, saluting and other such nonsense a safety hazard and has exempted us from doing it. Off the flight line it’s a different story.

I went once to Yuma with the Jarheads to practice low level cargo drops in the desert. That was nearly a puker.

Occasionally we’d have to go to Fort Benning Georgia to jump school. All branches of the service go there to learn to parachute. Once, a recruit on the last jump of the day, grabbed my loadmaster’s flight jacket on the way out the door. He was on a static line which pulled his chute immediately. The Jumpmaster had a rip cord allowing him to freefall below that recruit and was on the ground ready to kick his legs out from under him before he reached the ground and making him fall flat on his back. The master got his jacket back but it cost both men a few stripes.

We’d go to Fort Brag/Pope AFB North Carolina to pick-up rangers to take to jump school. We loved to gross out those “tough” airborne rangers. The Jumpmaster would tell the troops that if they had to puke to use a barf bag, hand it back and the jumpmaster would pitch it out the back door. My job would be to stand by the back doors and push out anyone who froze up. While this speech was going on, the loadmaster of flight engineer would heat up vegetable soup and tie it in a barf bag. Then he’d pretend to be sick and fake throwing up in the barf bag. Then he’d pass it back. Some rangers would vomit from just having to touch the barf bag. I got the rest when the bag got to me I’d eat it. They weren’t so tough after that.

During similar Asian maneuvers, I had to spend some time at Norton AFB in San Bernardino California. It was a boring trip, nothing but hot dry work. Yuck!

I had a short TDY in Panama City Florida. I collected some nice sea urchin shells and shark teeth for my fishnet decoration that hung above my bunk.

My last TDY abroad was to Zaire or now renamed as the Congo. Again our first 72 hours and our last 72 hours in country we spent working straight through without rations or sleep. We were supporting the CIA in a covert mission to help a dictator quell a communist uprising. The Cold War was in full force down here. We had to remain in civilian clothes so as to not attract attention. This stupid policy by JFK and now Carter created the terrorism we’re now experiencing.  Once we finally got a rest we were put up in the same place as Foreman vs. Ali in the “Rumble in the Jungle”. It was a Presidential bungalow on the Congo River. Not exactly the Ritz! We kept chameleons in the rooms to eat bugs. Speaking of bugs they had Rhino Beetles over there which were about the size of your fist with huge pinchers on the front. They’d get tired, close their wings and just fall out of the sky. One fell on Barbara Martin and got tangled up in her hair. She was screaming for help but we were laughing so hard we couldn’t get off the ground. Once she finally evicted the beast she started heaving tools at us for laughing at her. We found some old c-rations that had an orange nut roll in a green can. We opened it with our p4 can opener but before we could eat we had to go out again. We just tossed it in a helmet along with a cup of stale coffee. When we came back, the roll which started out the size of a can of tuna swelled to the size of the helmet. That’s what happens in our stomachs. No wonder it lasted so long and our gut hurt. When we finally got “real” food, it was water buffalo and some kind of bird. We really didn’t want to know what it was as long as it was cooked well with a layer of black on the outside in order to kill whatever parasites might be in it. The fresh pineapple they gave me though was so acidic that it made my tongue bleed. It has never recovered.

I had to guard the planes still on the ground at night. It was the first time I had to carry a weapon since boot camp. There were wild animals, the enemy and other boogers in the jungle at night that really makes you jumpy. There were Moroccan and French Foreign Legend mercenaries that we were supporting there with us. They were the meanest people I’ve ever met. Their officers weren’t wussy college boys like ours. They loved killing and they would brag about their cruelty. I didn’t mess with them. I did do some swapping with the local troops though and they even took me to town to trade with the locals for things like ivory, ebony and malachite. They made clothes and canvasses out of flour sacks. I could relate.

I saw some natives in a dugout canoe poling down the Congo River when I noticed some water lilies near the bank. I started over to pick one to take it back to my bungalow when a Zairian soldier stopped me. When I insisted he throw a stick in the water where several crocodiles jumped in after it. The dude saved my life. I gave him for a reward a bottle of aftershave; you’d have thought I gave him a million dollars. Some of the natives would rummage through our trash looking for food rejects. One man that was helping us refuel had a p4 can opener around his neck that was rusty and groody. I always kept a new one on my keychain or dog tags to use as a tool so I gave him one of mine.  You’d have thought I gave him the moon. He was so happy. He looked around on the tarmac and found a big rice bug and offered it to me to eat. When I graciously declined, he ate it himself. Gross!

On the way back, another sergeant told me he had a lucrative side business at teaching people how to get rich. Being naïve’ I bought into it. It turned out to be Amway. My folks got suckered into it in Virginia Beach by a church member. It was a bust for both of us. I’d be snookered again by another pyramid scheme called Market America in the nineties. What a dope!

After a few stops in Senegal and the Ascension Islands we finally made it back home. I got back to Charleston late at night so I went right to bed. I woke up two days later with a whole new perspective on the world.

My last TDY was to Dover Delaware to C-5 school. The head deacon of my church in Charleston was Chief Burton and he was now stationed in Dover. At one point he opposed the charismatics in our church but since he moved to Dover, the Holy Spirit had met him similar to the Apostle Paul who had also oppressed the church, but with a sincere heart. With a heart like that, God can do great things. I had another great encounter there that I’ll discuss in chapter 18. Let’s just say that my spiritual perspective was getting ready to change in a more dramatic way.

***Making Memories***

In early 1979 I was attending Riverbend Baptist Church just outside the Dorchester gate to the right there in Charleston. If you went right up Dorchester it’d take you to a park I used to net shrimp at. Go up a little further and it’d take you to Somerville where Patty Fillmon and her family from our church in Virginia Beach lived. Somerville had the most magnificent azaleas in the spring time. The Filmon’s gave me a little touch of home away from home. They lived near the Gullah-Gheechee people who are a type of Creole similar to the ones in New Orleans who are a blend of West African slaves, French and Native American. If you turn left out the gate you go by a dried up lake bed where we used to find fish fossils. Further down was the beautiful Magnolia Gardens with the awesome angel oaks and beautiful flora. My church friend Al Harrison owned a pizza shop down there. Al and his wife Carolyn would play an important role in my life within a few years.

My brothers Mark and Tony visited me, first Tony and then Mark. They stayed in my dorm room while I was at work. On the weekend, we took the Greyhound bus to Disney World and then to Busch Gardens Williamsburg before I finally took them back home.  The most fun though was picking on the tourist or rolling smoke bombs down the hills into a crowd of people or dropping firecrackers off the tram. We had a blast, even though I did wreck my motorcycle with Mark on the back. I tore up my leg but at least Mark was ok.

Charleston also had a couple of nice beaches. Folly Beach is where people went to party but the surf was too rough to swim. The Isle of Palms was a better beach with nice shells and calm waters. You could always find starfish or sand dollars down there. I’d love to ride my motorcycle over the Cooper River Bridge after church, eat lunch at the Trawler Seafood Restaurant with their yummy red snapper stew appetizer and then cruise on over through the marsh and wetlands on over to the Isle of Palms. I’d stop and see the Yorktown WWII aircraft carrier docked at the confluence of the Cooper and the Ashley down near the Battery (historic Charleston). While I was down there I’d take the ferry over the Fort Sumpter to see the dolphins chase the boat out to the island, to see the lighthouse at Fort Moultrie and the place where the civil war began. The South took it in one night and held it until the surrender in 1865. Pirates like Blackbeard and others tormented Charleston harbor and between the Revolutionary War, slavery, the Civil War, the Pirates fires, floods and hurricanes, the city of Charleston still bears the scars.

Chapter Fifteen

Spiritual Renewal

In early 1979 I began a correspondence seminary through the Southern Baptist’s Southwestern Theological Seminary headed by W.A. Criswell and monitored by the local SBC ministers. I studied doctrine, theology, Hebrew, Greek, homiletics, exegesis, hermeneutics, eschatology and old and new testament. Upon completion I was licensed as a minister of the gospel by the Southern Baptist Convention and began work as an assistant pastor at Riverbend Baptist preaching the evening service as well as guest speaking at a few local revivals and teaching various Sunday School classes.

At the same time I began listening to contemporary Christian music and starting watching the PTL and 700 Club as well as Kathryn Kuhlman and Orel Roberts.  Later I’d watch Copeland, Hagan and Swaggart but not as often. Several families and singles in the church wanted some more personal in-depth Bible study one of the deacons, Skipper and Ginger Queen opened their home for a Monday night Bible study. It was very well attended and you could tell that it wasn’t just another elite social gathering but truly a place where committed believer met to learn God’s word and encourage one another. Later we were encouraged that the underground church in Korea pastored by Paul Yungi Cho used the home church or cell groups to keep the church alive during the persecution. Once it was legal it came out from the underground to form a church in Seoul of about 800,000 the largest single congregation on record.

 Well…our pastor wasn’t so encouraging. He visited the group only to tell us that 1) all church meeting should be held in the church building and 2) we were to cease watching any religious shows on TV. This didn’t sit well with me. Not only did we continue the Bible study but I also left to serve Rev. Dr. Seifert at Northside, an Independent Baptist church like Jerry Falwell, Oliver B. Green and Bob Jones. Oliver B. Green had a radio bible study that I listened to every morning before high school. The only issue I had with them at the time was that they hated Billy Graham. It was until later that I discovered their racist past. Once while worshipping at this church I felt like I should raise my hands. Now Baptist don’t raise their hands. I thought that if I did the deacons would throw me out. So I just held onto the pew in front of me until my knuckles were white. If that song had gone on any longer, I would have lifted that whole pew with everybody in it straight over my head. Stranger things were yet to come for that church.

My friend Craig and his wife Tammy were very good friends of mine. I later dedicated their son Levi. Craig had to go TDY for three months to Germany and he asked me to look in on Tammy from time to time to see if she needed any help. Well I was coming back from the beach one Saturday and decided to stop in on Tammy. She told me “Lu, Lu I’ve got to tell you what happened to me last night. God gave me a wonderful gift. Tammy and Craig were huge into acid BC (before Christ/conversion) so I thought maybe she had backslidden. I said “ok Tam what gift did you get?” She said “the gift of tongues”.

I thought “oh no she’s involved in a cult, when Craig comes back he’s going to kill me. I’ve got to get her delivered from this before Craig returns”. “Tammy,” I told her, tongues are of the devil, you must renounce this!” She responded, “Lu, I don’t know the bible as good as you but I do know that what I have is real. I can’t explain it but feel close to God when I’m doing it”.

Well, I didn’t know or study much on tongues, only what I’ve been told but I made it a priority to find out. That night I got my bible and concordance and read everything I could find on tongue. Then I found out that Dr. Seifert was going to be teaching before the Sunday evening service on the cults and the first one was a three part message on a cult called “The Tongues Movement”. Well, I’ve never heard of the tongues movement but I figured that since Dr. Seifert had a doctorate in theology he must know. I invited Tammy to go but she refused and asked me to go instead and tell her what they had to say. Finally, I’d be armed to set Tammy back on the straight and narrow before Craig returned.

***”The Tongues Movement”***

Dr. Seifert asked us to open our Bibles to I Cor.12:1-1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.

And then he said to open to chapter 14 verse 38-38But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.

He said that everything between “Ignorant and ignorant is ignorance and we don’t need it. It was for a reprobate church and not for us today”. This made my blood boil. I am passionate for the Word of God and to tell me it is ignorance really chapped my hind. I reminded him of the curse in Rev. 22 about taking away for the Word of God. I also asked him “should we throw away the whole book since we’re not from Corinth? I’m not from Ephesus, Or Philippi either, should we through them out too. I’m not Jewish so how about the Old Testament?! I was furious. He tried to calm me down but every time he made a point I’d respond ,” hey that’s not what I read over here last night, or here or there”…quoting the scriptures that I studied just last night.  I wasn’t there to pick a fight with him; he was my senior, my boss. Finally some folks in the back started asking him questions that he couldn’t answer. It was then that he quit and decided to go on to the JW’s next week.

After the meeting the folks in the back praised me for knowing so much about the tongues movement. I told them that I knew nothing except what I read the night before. They asked me if I wanted to go home with them to learn more. Dr. Seifert overheard and asked me to stay away from them that they were dangerous. I thought to myself “now who is more dangerous, the people who knew the Word or the man or told us to ignore it. I said, I’m going with them”.

***The Holy Spirit Connection***

Once we arrived at their house, we opened the scriptures and began to read about the Holy Spirit. Jesus comforted the apostles by promising the Holy Spirit. He was convicting the unbeliever drawing him to salvation. He would teach the believers to understand the teachings of Christ. He would regenerate the lost and produce the rebirth. He would guide the believer in the paths of righteousness. Then there was the scripture. John 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. It seems the Spirit was with you at salvation but the “in” you was something else. It was an infilling or as Jesus and John the Baptist called it “a Baptism” from the inside out. Luke calls it an endowment of power. Luke 24:49And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. In John it says John 20:22And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost:

So the jest of it says that the Spirit was active in bringing us to Christ, regenerating and saving us, teaching us about Christ and actually being Christ to us all. But the initial filling or baptism with the Holy Spirit is a separate experience that empowers believer for service and thus opening the door for the believers to exercise spiritual gifts. Acts 19:2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 10:47 Can any man forbid water, that these (gentiles) should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we (at Pentecost)?

***That Tongues Thing***

Now I was good until I heard that Pentecost word. It reminded me of the Pentecostal Holiness church where they shout and fall out and speak in tongues all at the same time. I thought they were a cult, especially with the tongues thing which is what we were studying. I found out that tongues had many separate uses.  First, It could be a real language but unknown to the one miraculously speaking the gospel to folks who did understand it. Second, it was a gift to be spoken in a gathering of believer along with a gift of interpretation. This unknown tongue was a heavenly language to speak encouragement to God’s people. Thirdly, it is used as a way to worship in the spirit. When your known language and vocabulary is insufficient to express your whole heart to God, this gift becomes instantly available to bring glory to God. The fourth is the most common and is used in scripture as a measuring rod to identify the completion of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. It’s commonly called a prayer language or praying in the Spirit. It a means for the Holy Spirit to intercede for us in ways we are unable to express. Let me give you a scripture for each.

  1. Acts 2:-7 
    1. 3And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. 6Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?
  2. 1 Corinthians 14:5
    I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

3.        1 Corinthians 14: 2For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.  

  1. a.      14For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.
  2. b.      15What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also:

c.       Jude 1:20 20But you, beloved,(A) building yourselves up in your most holy faith and(B) praying in the Holy Spirit,

  1.  
    1. Romans 8:26
      Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
  2. 1 Corinthians 14:15
    …: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.
  1. Eph 5:18-21 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, [19] speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,

 

***Apprehensions***

Now, even though “intellectually” I understood the doctrines of the Holy Spirit Baptism and unknown tongues, several things still concerned me.

  1. Hadn’t tongues passed away and
  2. Tongues present day still were common amongst many cults and I didn’t want to get involved in a cult.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 states:

 8Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. …10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

Most of the people I studied under always said that the “perfect” in verse ten which was suppose to put an end of tongues was the canonization of scripture but the context of the verse suggests otherwise. There is one perfect and that is Christ. The Chapter is all about love. God is Love. So, when perfect loves returns there will be no need for anything but Him however in the meantime God has given these gifts to help us on this earthly journey.

Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:

I had become convinced of the scriptural soundness of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit being a separate but necessary experience after conversion and that unknown tongues accompanied each instance in the book of Acts during an initial infilling with the Holy Spirit. This then according to Acts 10-11 is the initial yet not the only evidence that the infilling has taken place. Tongues were either directly indicated or alluded to in the context. So now what? My response is obviously to pray and ask Jesus (the Baptizer) to baptize me with the Holy Spirit. So, I did?

But deep inside I couldn’t shake the devil/cult connection, thus nothing was happening at first. Then we took some time to test my heart, to see what compromises I’d made which may have affected the Spirit from entering an unclean heart. I repented and renounced things in my past that I’d forgotten until I started praying. I remembered Ouija boards and horoscopes and pet prejudices. Better, but still, nothing! That’s when a deacon’s wife from my old church came in. She asked me how I was praying. I told her I kept saying “Jesus if this is from you I want it but if it’s of the devil then I don’t want it and I don’t want to be caught up in a cult. She reminded me of two scriptures:

James 1:6-8 

 6But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

 7For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

 8A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

Luke 11:11-13 (King James Version)

 11If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?

 12Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

 13If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

She said,” Lu I know you love God and you know He loves you. If you ask God for the Holy Spirit, He’s not going to give you a rock, or scorpion or snake/devil. He’ll pour out Himself to you. Just ask for Jesus, not for tongues or any wild experience. Ask for more of Himself and He promises to do it. Don’t ask or even worry about the gifts, ask for the Giver.”

***The Outpouring***

This finally made sense and I was free to surrender, in faith the Lord Jesus Christ. Immediately the unknown tongue started to flow. It was sweeter than honeycomb, clearer than spring water and as exelrating as a cool shower.

Proverbs 25:20 

20 Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather,
      And like vinegar on soda,
      Is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.

Or as we’d say today, “goose bumps and overflowing”

It was like waves upon wave of joy. My heart’s desire was only to worship Him. At first I didn’t even realize that I was speaking in tongues, I was just praising and worshipping. Then I stopped thinking, nah this is just me not the Holy Spirit. Carolyn reminded me that the Holy Spirit is a Gentleman wan would force this upon me, but the Spirit gave the utterance but I had to speak it. Again, it just flowed. As a matter of fact, I spoke in tongues all night until by morning I was so hoarse I could hardly speak, but the joy was still there.

John 7:37-39 

 37In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

 38He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

 39(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

 I was full of the Holy Spirit and the scripture and God’s presence was more real and alive to me now more than any time in my life. I was free.

John 8:36
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

You see, the Holy Spirit’s purpose is not to exalt Himself but to reveal and exalt Jesus and to guide us into understanding Christ’s Word to us. John 14-16.

I was so hungry for the Word that I attended every service I could find. I read the Bible straight through for the first time in my life. I prayed and worshipped night and day seeking more of God. I became bolder in my witnesses and lead many to Christ. I’d pickup hitchhikers just to lead them to Christ.  I attended outdoor Jesus festival where 30-60 thousand believers met to worship and hear God’s Word.

After I had attended the Son Festival in Myrtle Beach, I was travelling home last and was getting tired so I pulled over to catch some z’s. There were to route back to the base and I took the one on the left. I laid down at 1205am.At 1210 am I woke up only now I wasn’t where I pulled over. I was nose down in a ditch facing a swamp with my back door jammed against a light pole. The car was still in park and the motor was still off with my keys in my pocket. I tried to back out but my tires were too slick and the ditch was too steep. I got out to look around when two guys came out of nowhere and offered to push me out. I sort of laughed because I knew they have to basically lift the weight of my car to push me out but sure enough they did it rather easily. When I got out to thank them, they were gone. That was eerie but what really freaked me out was when I got to the main road I discovered I was 20 miles back on the right sided road to Charleston. Needless to say, I wasn’t sleepy anymore. If I thought I’d dreamed the whole thing, the next morning I noticed the swamp grass in my fender and the back door handle smashed in.

I had faith to believe in the gift of the Spirit and experienced them all at least once.  I went back to my old Baptist church and worked there until I was transferred out. By that time every member of our church except the pastor, his family and the head deacon had become baptized in the Holy Spirit.

When Craig came home from TDY, he had quite a shock. He and Skipper Queen were the last to receive “the baptism” but they did. Like me they didn’t want emotionalism to sway them. The Spirit honored their faithfulness with a glorious outpouring. We used to make fun of Holy Rollers, now we were one of them, sort of.

Chapter Sixteen

Church History

***How it all Started***

There have been many moves of the Holy Spirit during the ages. There was the reformation in the 1500’s followed by the inquisition. There were Martin Luther, John Wesley, William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, John Huss, John Calvin, John Knox , and John Owen. Later you have D.L. Moody, Billy Graham, Billy Sunday, Smith Wigglesworth, Charles Finney, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Chuck Smith, George Whitefield, William Wilberforce, Charles Spurgeon, Watchman Nee, Jonathan Edwards, Jack  Hayford , Leonard Ravenhill, Jakob Amman, Frisian Simons, Roger Williams, William Penn, George Fox and William Seymour. These men were founders of the many protestant denominations we know now like, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Quakers, Presbyterian, Amish, Puritans, Mennonite, Congregational, Church of Christ, Pentecostal and Assemblies of God. The untold story is that all these men spoke in tongues but as their movements grew, they were increasingly discouraged to either reveal or practice their gift in public. The twentieth century produced several Christian movements.

***Pentecost***

First there was the Azusa Street revival which produced a great move of the Holy Spirit but the persecution from the established churches were so great that folks were forced to leave their denominations and form new ones some good so not so much. These were the Church of God, the Assemblies of God, the United Pentecostal Church, The Pentecostal Holiness church and the Four Square Church. It took a while for these churches to catch up scholarly speaking but now they are among the best known. While giving these good folks a haven of rest for each other and despite their outstanding work in missions to win the lost, they weren’t having much impact on the ceasationist (those denominations who believed the gifts had ceased).

***Jesus Freaks***

In the turbulent sixties a new wind was blowing. It was called the Jesus Movement or Jesus freaks. These were mostly hippies who after trying everything else like drugs, sex and rock-n-roll decided to try Jesus. Billy Graham really spearheaded this move by growing his hair a little longer and doing outdoor festivals like Explo, a program our Baptist Church supported.  I was even as a teen supporting these churches like Broken Needles, Teen Challenge, and The Open Door Chapel down at the beach. Since the established church let them down, these Jesus Freaks created their own street churches, contemporary worship music, and even Christian communes. Glenn Kaiser, Barry McGuire, Randy Matthews and Larry Norman were the unofficial founders and the most well known. Many were saved and delivered from drugs. Many also were also persecuted by the established churches. They indeed had passion but lacked direction and guidance.

***The Charismatic Movement***

That’s when probably the most significant move of the Spirit hit the U.S. It was called The Charismatic Movement. Folks in established churches were without prompt or prior instruction started speaking in tongues; in fact, these people would otherwise have considered themselves ceasationtist. They had to go to the scriptures to find out what was happening to them. One man was sent from guidepost magazine to investigate these phenomena only to be filled himself. The most well know was an Episcopalian priest named Dennis Bennett. Later they were joined but other men like Don Basham, Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Charles Simpson, Demos Shakarian, David du Plessis, David Wilkerson, John Sherrill, Oral Roberts, Kathryn Kuhlman, Larry Tomczak and Tim LaHaye.

At first these folks stayed within their denomination to influence them with matters of the Spirit as well as becoming a stabilizing force for the Jesus Freaks. The established Pentecostal church eventually embraced the movement. New Charismatic store front and home churches were popping up everywhere under the inspiration of Cho Youngi. Sound doctrine, New Testament practice, passionate and expressive contemporary praise and worship and most importantly …no traditions or rituals. “If it ain’t in the book we ain’t gonna do it”. No robes, no collars, no idols or statues or prayers to saints and Mary. No separation between the clergy and laity.

***The Critics’ Contribution***

God was honoring His work as people were being saved in droves. Hardliners tried to oppose the movement but it still grew. They hated the tongues, they hated the music, but mostly hated that they were exposed. Bob Larsen, John MacArthur, and publications like Moody Monthly tried very hard to quench this outpouring but all it did was purify it. True there have been scandals and doctrinal errors but name me one denomination which hasn’t. There also has been misapplications of truth but it was done innocently and not to deceive. The tendency has historically been to throw the baby out with the bath water but not this time. Instead, this movement has learned from their mistakes and has corrected them and grown stronger. They have gotten accountability in practice and finances and has sought true scholars to help them define sound doctrine. Yes there is much overreaching when there is such an emotional outpouring but God is using it all to open us to the abundant life and giftings He had died to provide for His children. Their churches are alive, not dead cold cemeteries.

***The Critics’ Contamination***

There are other critics that have wormed there way in as friends of the movement and in many cases have rotted it from the inside out. These men are Wayne Grudem, R.C. Sproul, Jerry Bridges, Jeff Purswell, John Piper, Mark Dever, and Albert Mohler. They are predestinational reformed doctrinally and known ceasationist. By partnering with reformed Charismatics they have offered a compromise called Third Wave which denies Holy Spirit Baptism as a separate experience but leaves the door open for spiritual gifts. The scripture calls this as having a form of godliness but denies the power thereof.

2 Timothy 3:4-5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over the gullible…

Many large charismatic congregations have adopted this heresy including, The Vineyard, Sovereign Grace and New Frontiers amongst others. Some of the smaller churches have fallen to the “Church Growth Movement” or “Seeker Friendly” which basically compromises doctrine to keep butts in the seats. No sermons stepping on your toes here just warm fuzzies.

***Getting to the Point***

Now why you may ask am I including this in my story. First I’ve researched this thoroughly to make 10 times more assured that this was from God from the beginning and not just some passing fad or heresy. Secondly, was because I’ve lived through some of it myself.  I’ve seen the abuses, the glories and the changes. I’ve endured the persecution and I’ve seen God work in His power. In the next chapter I’ll be more specific in how God was working in and around me. Please know that I’ve done my due diligence to be honest and accurate and to ensure these events I’ll be discussing weren’t just fake, deception or exaggerated. God is still on the throne and He still is the Almighty even though some people want to say He’s not.  You’ll see that the real apostasy is from the ceasationist  who are not willing to sell out to God thereby justifying that since they didn’t get” it” the way they wanted to get “it” then “it” can’t be real. What a stubborn and stiff necked people

Chapter Seventeen

A Whole New World

I could tell that things were changing for me.  Sure tongues were a part of my spiritual life but that, though significant, was only a small part. First of all the scriptures were given new life. As I read the Holy Spirit began to illumine to me things I’d never realized before. Also Jesus was more real to be than ever before .These scriptures really explained to me what was happening:

2 Corinthians 3:6
Who also hath made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

John 16:13-14 

 13Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. 14He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

I was hungry and thirsty for more of God, more scripture, more fellowship, more worship and more service.  I was reading everything I could get my hands on. I started reading the Bible through every year in a different version. I went to concerts and Jesus festivals. I even rode 100 miles in the rain on my motorcycle to see Kenneth Hagen and Charles and Frances Schaeffer and then turned around and rode 100 miles back through a mosquito infested swamp to see Mike Warnke and Pat Terry, I attended Bible studies and prayer meetings. I’d attended other churches. My faith grew strong and I found people looking to me for answers. The supernatural gifts were starting to flow through me though discernment and the prophetic seemed to be the strongest.

The more you know of the Word and the closer you walk in the Spirit the more you can tell when something’s not right. Then the Holy Spirit reminds us of what’s true and reveals the way to walk it out.

Once I was in a meeting in a store front church. The Holy Spirit spoke, silently, to my heart, that this pastor, whom I’d never knew nor even heard of, was in sin. Not only that but I was suppose to tell it out loud right now. I never saw nor heard anyone doing anything like this. I tried to suppress it as if it was gas or something but the more I tried the harder it became to withhold. Finally I just spoke it out during a quiet time during worship. Then I sat down and held my head in my hands and waited for the repercussions. Instead there were tears. The pastor and his whole family confessed and repented before the whole congregation. The church family was so moved that they also began to confess and repent.  I decided to leave during this sweet time so that God could get the glory and so that no one would praise or exalt me.

Another Baptist church in town had a similar outpouring as ours but the reception by their leadership was very harsh and sobering. During a business meeting the pastor and his deacons stood in unison in front of the church to take a stand against those who were being Baptized in the Spirit. They basically picked a corner where they all had to sit and they were stripped of any teaching or areas of influence in the church.  Then they were commanded to stop spreading this doctrine or they would be asked to leave the church. While the pastor was still speaking his voice became weaker and weaker until he totally lost his voice. He never spoke again. Within weeks he was dead. A sense of awe filled not only that church but the whole city. God, my friend, will not be squelched.

On the other end of the spectrum an active charismatic church had a pastor whose child had a brain tumor. I loved worshipping at that church because the pews were doubled spaced apart for dancing and kneeling or whatever position the Lord was moving us to do. Many miracles had already been taken place there so faith was high, perhaps to the point of presumption. You see they had erred to the name it, claim it crowd. They believe they could sort of dangle God’s feet over the fire to perform today in every case, the same miracles that He did in the Bible if they only had enough faith. Failure meant only two things, 1. There was no God or 2. You sinfully didn’t have enough faith. This movement generally judged your faith by the size of your contributions. Well the baby died. This threw the church into a tailspin where many backslid or left the faith altogether.

God’s giftings are to accomplish His specific will and not a birthright of the church. When people “own” the gifts (I have the gift of…) instead of receiving a gift, they exalt themselves and the gifts above the Giver. God will share His glory with nothing or no one. I learned early that sound doctrine and practice are essential for the church to thrive.

There were several really good churches and para-church organizations. The Full Gospel Businessman’s Association and the Women’s Aglow meetings were quite anointed and many healings, salvations and miracles were happening before our very eyes.  I saw legs lengthened, the lame walk and the deaf hear. It was the manifestation of the scripture:

Mark 16:20
And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the Word with signs following.

Two other charismatic churches though totally separate would partner when one had a special singer or speaker and the two congregations would join. I wasn’t used to that except maybe for a Billy Graham or James Robinson Crusade. This was the unity of the church God desired. Once while we had a combined time of worship the Holy Spirit fell on the whole place. The presence of God was so real and tangible. The gifts were flowing and God was greatly magnified. Then all of a sudden the fire department burst in. They said “everybody out the building’s on fire.”  What we saw was truly amazing. We saw the fire of the Holy Spirit like flames licking the roof of the building but nothing was consumed, no smoke, and no damage.

The fear of the Lord fell on us all. We knew that something Wonderful was happening in our mist and if anyone had ever thought that this was just emotionalism and not from God, those doubts were removed by what was happening in our mist. It even made the newspaper. At another time during a particular deployment, many military members were missing on Sunday morning including all of our musicians. The pastor asked if anyone could play the guitar or piano for us but no one could. So, with our new found boldness, we prayed and asked God to provide. A young man stood to his feet and said “I think God wants me to play, but I don’t know how.” The pastor verified that he’d never seen the fellow play but was trusting God. The guy got up there and played and led us in praise and worship. It was beautiful. After the meeting, again he couldn’t play a note. The Holy Spirit truly provides and teaches all things for our good and His Glory.

Signs and wonders were frequent there but not like you’d see on TV. God wasn’t doing this to entertain the church but instead He did them to confirm the Word and open doors for the Gospel.

Back in our bible study God was also confirming the validity of this outpouring with healings and other wonders. Once, Mrs. Tisdale, an 86 year old dear saint, was due to have heart surgery with very little chances of surviving. So we fasted and then got together to pray and lay hands on her to be healed. As we were praying she said she felt warmness deep in her chest. During the surgery the doctors opened her up, looked around and then closed immediately. The doctor was mad at being asked to cut her open. He said that not only was nothing wrong with her heart but said she had the heart of a 14 year old child. She not only was symptom free but went on to live a good way past 100.

We were empowered against the works of Satan as well. There are several amulets/ necklace pendants which the world uses as “harmless” decorations but really they are talisman which are occultic symbols used conjure demons. Some of the most common are the peace sign or broken cross, Italian horn or cornuto, and the key of life or Egyptian ankh. These things are not harmless. Demons travel with them and oppress anyone who where them. The same was true ceremonial tribal masks and such from Asian, Africa and even Native Americans. We would pray against them before we destroyed them and would literally see the spirits leave them.

We like the Bereans were moved to burn anything in our homes that did not honor God. Pop, rock, soul, country and jazz music were a poor testimony for any believer. The lyrics or the lifestyles of the singers were hardly holy. They spoke of promiscuity, adultery, drunkenness, drugs, anger, murder, and suicide, cultic and even blatant occultic activity. These things are not neutral. They effect, your thinking, your behavior, your values and for the believer is an idol that effects your relationship with God and the flow of the Spirit within you. We at first thought it was just acid rock but as we read the words and learned about the artist in their own words, we learned it permeated ever genre in every generation from classical to country.

Some like Jimmy Swaggart and Bob Larson tried to throw the baby out with the bath water and opposed all music except hymns and southern gospel. We learned better from the lesson we learned with the gifts of the Spirit. Instead we used discernment and investigated our secular music and then God raised up artists in every genre to Glorify God or to bless and entertain His people. This “Contemporary Christian Music” opened many doors for the gospels and led many souls to glory. Later we learned that many of the hymns and hymn writers experienced similar opposition in their day.

The more God purified and sanctified our hearts the more effective we became. We identified things like tarot cards, horoscopes, Ouija boards, fortune cookies, fortune tellers, palm readers, mind readers and “Good Luck” symbols as all compromises to faith, the scriptures and the Holy Spirit. We also identified hidden occult things in our culture like “Mother Earth”, Mother Nature, New Age and Good Luck. We needed to modify our language in a way that would honor God. We saw simple things like that open the door for demon possession. After we cast out the demon out of a young woman (boy was that a trip) she told us she had opened the door through drugs and the TV show Bewitched. Yes even horror movies and TV comedies like I Dream of Jennie, the Munsters, It’s About Time and the Addams Family can soften one’s heart towards the enemy and open the door for ungodly concepts to affect our thinking and behavior and resist the flow of the Holy Spirit within us.

James 4:7
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

1 Peter 5:8
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Ephesians 5:11                                                                                                                                                                1 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

I once had a drug dealer knock on my door. I thought he was there to oppose me for encouraging his customers to give up drugs. Instead he asked me how to be born again. Right out of the blue! Of course I led him to Christ, but then I asked him “why me”, I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me? He told me he’d seen me around and thought if anyone could tell him what was happening inside his heart and mind it was me. My friend used to pray so much that people accused him of mumbling. This is quite humbling but is a testament of the power of the Holy Spirit working in His people.

I know that in 20th and 21st century America these things seem archaic and absurd but that’s just the enemy trying to get us to ignore the vast powerhouse available to us and to get us looking beyond instead of the work God has given us right now. Still, I’ve had my own doubters within my own family. Even Jesus had the same problem.

Matthew 13:58
And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

Mark 6:4
But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

But I am strengthen by God’s Word:

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 

 4(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

 5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

1 John 4:4
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Even with all this supernatural things happening in and around me the most profound was a love for children. I taught Sunday School in the 3-5 year olds. I baby sat their parents could attend meeting and really saw the Holy Spirit work through these little minds. I also taught the middle schoolers and I’m convinced that if you reach them here when they’re starting to develop their own opinions, God can stop generations of sinners and turn them into generations of believers. Now that’s a work of the Spirit we can all agree on.

***the trip to Steve’s***

I was so excited about what was happening to me I just had to tell my Big brother Steve about it. I took a long weekend and headed to Pensacola where Steve and Loretta had already moved. It was a long drive alone so I picked up hitch-hikers along the way, make them drive, and then I’d lead them to Christ. The first one was a runaway. After he prayed to be born again we felt that he should go home so we stopped at bus station, called his family and sent him home. My last hitcher was a young black Jehovah Witness.  As he drove, I reached in the backseat to get my bible and read it. He told me that he had a bible too but didn’t know what it meant and asked if I’d explain it to him. He pulled out a pocket sized new testament and thumbed it open to a well marked up Isaiah 51. It reminded me of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.  As the Holy Spirit gave me Words to reveal the scriptures to him, huge tears began flowing down his face. He received the Lord just before we came to his exit.

After a brief visit with Steve, Daddy told me that Tony had been arrested in Jacksonville Florida for stealing a car and asked me if I’d go see what I could do. I drove across I-10 to the Naval Base for the evening and attended his hearing the next morning. The judge placed Tony into my custody and I took him home. He could have gotten 5 years.

Some years later we’d see God work again in Tony’s life in a great way.

Chapter Eighteen

The Utter Most Parts…

***Florida 5.0***

Winter 1979 marked more landmarks for my life’s journey. First, the family dog died. Reddy was a part of the family and losing her was like losing a sibling. Dad buried her by the woods at the edge of the garden. The next thing to happen was since Dad’s retirement from the Navy a year earlier he was becoming less and less tolerant of the cold and he desired a warmer climate. Mom liked Pensacola because she could fish year round on the drive on fishing bridge in Santa Rosa/Gulf Breeze. Tony was also getting in a lot of trouble in Virginia and a move away may provide a fresh start for him. My Brother Steve’s wife was getting homesick for Florida and to be honest, Steve needed a fresh start of his own. Things working as they do the Webb Clan began their pilgrim back to what would become their permanent home. Mike had just married Jeanie Mobley and moved into her house along with his mother in law in Worsham where they remain to this day. Tony and Yvonne would follow me around a little over the years from Massachusetts to Tampa to North Carolina but eventually they’d end up back in Florida. Mark joined the Navy and spent some time aboard ship off the coast of Lebanon or San Diego. A botched appendectomy eventually brought him back home at the end of his first tour.

Now I had gotten orders to Germany in November and by January they were gone. I’d always considered Virginia Beach my home but with no one else left there I sort of felt homeless, except to me they were the ones who’d run away from home. Even my buddies Dave and Dave never came home after college. I felt like calling out “where is everybody…” When they say you can never go home again, I guess, for me, they’re right.

 Life in Pensacola would go on without me and I knew I’d have to make my own place in this world. There was a period of about 5-10 years where I would be out of the loop on what was happening back home but let’s just say that things would be in turmoil for them all. I alone stayed above it which put me in the middle as an objective confidant or peacemaker. I’m glad to be there for them.

***safe haven***

For a long time home was just where I hung my hat. For the next 20 years though, Maw’s house would become my sanctuary, my fortress of solitude. Once I turned down that dirt road, my cares would be left on the black top and I could finally breathe again. I spent the next thirty days after I got my orders travelling around Tennessee and Virginia visiting the family. We had our first and only Webb reunion up on Grassy Branch. That would be the last time I’d ever see Sis and Walter. I needed one more fix of southern cooking before I had to face the mess hall again or foreign food which I had no idea what it would be like. I was also getting addresses so perhaps I’d get some kind of letter from home at mail call. Sadly, in the ten years I spent in the Air Force and in Germany, I could count the letters from home on one hand. I was truly being all alone.

What I didn’t know was that trouble had also been brewing in Virginia also. When I visited I began feeling more like company or long lost kin than like family. Much was kept from me both in Virginia and Florida, things that almost ripped my family apart. As a matter of fact, things were really taking their toll on Daddy and he had a heart attack during my first year in Germany. I’ll tell you, a telegram from the Red Cross is rarely good news and it nearly scared me half to death. Daddy still carries nitro in his pocket for his occasional episodes.

***Overseas***

Back in Charleston, I was getting ready for Germany. I was a sergeant by this time which meant I could take an automobile with me. I chose my motorcycle. My old Ford station wagon, I gave to Al Harrison. I should have sold all my electronics because what I didn’t know and should have been told was that the US power is 60 hertz 120 volts and European power is 50 hertz 220 volts which means all my electronics were useless. I had to repurchase everything. Except for the cost though, it worked out for the best because European gear is switchable and cheaper which further means I had a killer stereo and speakers while I was over there. In my Monday night bible study, we were fasting and praying for God’s direction and guidance. I was passing on the young men whom I was discipling over to proven men of God. I was asking the Lord to help me to become fluent in the gifts of the Spirit so I could be as useful as possible once I arrived in Germany.

I had to go to Dover to learn to work on the C-5A Galaxy, the largest plane in the world. Fully loaded with fuel and cargo it weighed over 1 million pounds. While I was there I met a female radar tech that was stationed with me in Charleston named Babs Martin. Babs was the one who had a Rhino beetle fall in her hair in Zaire. She, I and her Mormon roommate would do dinner together in the evenings. She scared me because she smoked pot in the car and always ate at someplace with a bar. I generally don’t hang like that but God was telling me to go and trust Him. I was able lead her roommate to Christ but she was a hard-sell. She and I would meet again in Germany with a much different outcome.

***epiphany***

One evening while I was praying in the Spirit and for Babs I began to question God about what I was praying for in tongues. The Lord impressed upon me that they were unknown for a purpose and just trust Him to intercede for me. But… being the hard-head that I am, I continued to press God until He finally opened my understanding to the tongue. He showed me the ugliness, darkness and wretchedness of my own heart that God was dealing with me about in the Spirit. I had always thought I was such a good little church boy growing up in a Christian home and had never done anything really bad. There was no doubt I recognized these things as mine but the utter horror of them in the presence of God’s Holiness scared me to the point that I thought I was going to die. I had to beg God to “please stop the vision” which by His kindness, He did. Never again did I ever doubt the gifts or the Holiness of God. Grace that evening became even more amazing to me and God had definitely gotten bigger and I had gotten smaller in my own heart. Gratefully, God continues all these works in my life even to this day. “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like Lu”.

***fitting in***

As soon as I arrived in country I did two things. First I signed up for German language classes and then I began looking for a church. I went to the base chapel and found out that a Church of God fellowship was meeting in downtown Frankfurt. A kind gentleman from personnel attended with his wife and they gave me rides back and forth. They had these little black wiener dogs which made them popular with the Germans.

The Germans are peculiar with their dogs. First they prefer German breeds only. Secondly, where they leave their children at home, they take their dogs everywhere. In America we take kids to the ice cream parlors but not so over there. They take their dogs and even let them eat from the table. There are dog watering stations everywhere. The ice cream is more like ice milk or Italian ice. They love American ice-cream though and consider it a prize whenever I bought American Ice cream from the commissary and gave it to them. American ice cream and booze will win you many friends among the locals.

I also visited a Pentecostal church held in a castle renamed King’s Kastle and I learned many things at those churches. First I learned a little history of the Pentecostal movement. I learned about their ordinances of foot washing, breaking bread (not Communion) and sanctification. Though their intents are good I believe that they are going back to ritual instead of an actual change and attitude of the heart. Doing so in remembrance is ok but as a requirement of faith is works over-shadowing grace and faith. I also learned that they saw tongues as a “requirement” to salvation. The scripture simply doesn’t support it. It’s another example of a good thing done badly. That’s why the baby is often thrown out with the bath water on things of the Spirit. Some Pentecostals believe that God’s name is Jesus and things like baptism and such should be in the name of Jesus only and not in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These same folks refuse any translation other than KJV. Though one must be careful using any translation or versions because they all have issues, God had used most of them to His Glory. We should rather find the ties that bind us together as believers into a mighty army and kick the Devil’s butt all the way to hell and quit hurting each other. It’s been sadly quoted that Christians are the only ones who wound our weak and kill our wounded. As far as the Jesus name folks, the issue is really like the phrase “Stop! In the name of the Law”. It’s not your words which make them stop; it is by the authority granted to you by the law that requires to a criminal to stop. Therefore, as believers we bear the name of Christ and it’s by His authority given to us that we preach, pray, baptize and minister in the spiritual gifts. Here’s an example:

Luke 7:7-9 

 7Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.

 8For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

 9When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

Luke 9:1
Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases.

Mark 16:17-18 

 17And these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

 18They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

John 14:13
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Though there is much power in the name of Jesus, it’s not by saying “In Jesus name” that gets anything done, it is the power of the Holy Spirit given to us by Christ that make the demons run.

***Enroute***

Enroute or “the root” as we called it was the squadron I was assigned to, The 435 OMS. It was a unit built to service the cargo planes not stationed there at Rheine Main mostly c-141’s and c-5’s though we did service at times, the c-9 medivacs, the c-130’s on base and other personnel and cargo transports including Air Force One, L-1011’s, DC-10’s and 747’s. We even took care of the planes that brought the Iranian hostages back home. After 2 years in the desert they couldn’t bear a German winter so we gave them our cold weather gear for that year. As a matter of fact, I had several men in Iran who left just days before the embassy takeover. I even trained with Iranians in boot camp. Several times I worked on Air Force One but not without an escort. I received a medal for humanitarian work on a stalled medivac flight.

I also worked the de-icer, the 6 story and the nine story cherry pickers as well as the liquid oxygen and liquid nitrogen units. I did engine run, jack team and tire changer. Also at the root we had all the specialists from avionics, hydraulics, electricians and the jet shop. We just pitched in and helped each other with our work to get the job done. There were hours of long hard work like during “Reforger”, followed by long hours of boredom. We fixed this old shop to look like a Germ Guest house/tavern. We played darts, chess, checkers, bat gamin, cribbage, and Risk. We also played many card games like, poker, blackjack, hearts, spades, slap, rook, pinochle, Uno and old maid. Each of us had our own darts where we played 301, 501 and cricket. We even created a make shift kitchen and staffed it with one of us to feed the crew when it was too busy to make it to the chow hall. We used the proceeds for a monster Christmas party.

***a light in the darkness***

The root was also a din of iniquity with drugs, booze and fornication flowing like water. In the mist of it all I met John Howard and John Gordon. John Gordon and his wife Julie were saved Catholics who stayed with the church to make a difference. He and his priest even let me teach the gospel at catechism. John and his wife both received the Holy Spirit during communion without the other being aware. It was a sweet moment. John G. was a great artist who did his best work on eyes and hands.

John Howard on the other hand was different. First he was a triple-a, Asian Afro American. His mom was Japanese and his dad was a black American who abandoned him to an orphanage. Another Japanese woman married to a different black American adopted him and brought him back to the states. He was raised without any religion at all. John didn’t even know that “Jesus Christ” was someone’s name until the day he got saved. His only religious experience was a visit to a Catholic mass where all that up and down kneeling made him throw up. John was lead to the Lord by another airman while he was stationed at Homestead just before he came to Germany. He had a passion for the Word and loved to worship. We became best friends and he helped me overcome much of the prejudices I still bore and other prideful corners of my heart.

***The 97th***

John introduced me to an Assemblies of God Tuesday night Bible study at the base chapel. It was run by a captain/pilot and he did a suburb job. Within a year or so it was me who was leading this study. There I met Fred Clous and several other Spirit filled believers. They all attended an A/G church which was not part of the chaplaincy but used the chapels at Atterbury and the 97th general army hospital to have a charismatic service at 2pm Sunday afternoons.  This was wonderful. The Word was preached, the soldiers and airman were encouraged and loved, spirit filled worship filled the air and hearts, the gifts were flowing and people were being saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. Though there was constant turnover with people being transferred every 18 months to 3 years, this fellowship always grew because God was in it. There were German nationals who attended but it was in English for Americans and other English speaking peoples.

It was lead by two American missionary families. Brother Dick Fulmer, his wife Jean and their daughter Leigh Ann were from California though they spent most of their ministry before Germany at the A/G headquarters in Springfield Missouri working with youth and radio. In Germany Dick not only served as our pastor but managed the staging area for all European and African missionaries. They lived in Bad Soden. Dick and Jean were like grandparents to me and were probably among humans the single most Christian influence in my life. He was the wisest man I ever knew. Once when John and I went to him challenging the prideful way an A/G bigwig and retreat speaker presented his message, Dick asked us to check our hearts to see if we cared more for the Word or for the presentation. Dick did though humbly address the speaker in the right approach.  We used to share lentils or German pizza with them and play chess or watch football. For a gift once we made them a king size quilt for their queen size bed. I love those guys they mean so much to me.

Now even though Jean played the piano for us Darrell Delozier led worship. He was very anointed at this and truly brought us into God’s presence. There were times I swore I heard angels singing with us. Darrell was a retired Army Major from Oklahoma who was called into missions back in Germany. He and his wife Dosha along with their daughters Donna and Diana bought a large home which they opened to GI’s all around the country. It was a Christian home atmosphere with teaching and practicing Godly principals in a home environment. It was called the Berea House after the Berean church from the book of Acts who studied the scriptures daily to verify what was being taught. It was tucked away in a little town in the Tanus Mountains near the Bad Homburg castle of Frederick II, husband of the daughter of King George III and also near the Saalburg Roman fort of Julius Caesar. Now some forty years later, the “Berea Bunch” still keeps in contact and serves at some of the highest levels of the church today worldwide.

Cary and Faye Tidwell also joined the crew to help in counseling and education. With their help, I started seminary all over again, this time with the A/G’s, to get my preaching credentials with them as well. I stayed on even after my military commitment and worked as a missionary for three more years.

Every winter we’d have a retreat with all the A/G fellowships, missionaries and chaplains throughout Western Europe in Berchtesgaden near the Austrian border. We’d visit Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest and the salt mines in Austria. We’d also visit the local castles and the home of Mozart. Königssee was a lake nestled away in the Alps where Kings used to retreat far away from the pressures of the crown. There was also an old monastery and elaborate cathedral used only by the royals. We used to visit and feed the swans, enjoy the architecture and take in the snow cap grandeur of the Alpine peaks.

***meanwhile back at the root***

Uncle Pervy (short for pervert) was having a birthday party and the whole root was invited. I knew what would be going on there and I knew in my mind that that was no place for me to be. First, it was a bad testimony. Second, it was open to temptation. Third, I didn’t want to get busted. Problem was, God was telling me in my heart to go. After battling it over in my mind and with God in my heart, I trusted in God and went.

True to form, it was everything that I suspected. After several hours I was planning my exit strategy and found it when Babs stated she was leaving. She was drunk and high and I feared she might not make it safely back to her barracks. So, I offered to escort her home. She only made it to the hallway and sat down. I used that time to share the gospel. Her reply was that she was beyond God’s forgiveness. I assured her that God would remove her sin and wash her white as snow. She asked me “even murder”?

I shared with her the story of David and Bathsheba and their adultery and murder. After David repented, God called him a man after “God’s own heart”. She began to weep as she realized that the guilt from her abortion could actually be lifted. I wanted her to pray with me then and there but realized that she was still impaired, so I just invited her to join us for church the next morning. She accepted and we planned a time and place to meet.

The next morning I picked up John and Fred and headed over to get Babs. The guys told me she’d be hung-over and wouldn’t show but sure enough, there she was. As we were worshipping you could see the “burdens of her heart roll away” and her heart began to fill with joy. Brother Fulmer did something he rarely did. He held an altar call before the sermon, during worship. Babs responded immediately and was also immediately baptized in the Holy Spirit without any knowledge of it at all. Her only religious experience was as a Catholic and then she abandoned it early in her teens. After the meeting she went with us to the Berea house where Dosha and the other female believers gathered round her and embraced her and helped her start off her walk with God on sound footing.

After we took Babs back to the dorm she went over to tell her best friend Jan what God had done for her. Later that evening Babs asked John and me to have dinner with Jan and her boyfriend also named Jan. During dinner John and I shared the gospel with them. You could see the Spirit move as their countenance changed. Without any prompting “he Jan” starting praying and repenting. John and I began to help him. “She Jan” said “wait a minute, don’t forget me, remember it was me who invited you guys here”. So with great joy we led them both in the sinner’s prayer, encouraging them to repent. Then we laid hands on them and they were immediately baptized in the Holy Spirit and praised God in unknown tongues. We were all filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.  They were both immediately convicted of sin and decided not to live together anymore, instead they were getting married. After a while, we walked down to the corner to get some ice cream. On the way home it started to rain and we had to run. “He Jan”, still filled with the Holy Spirit began to rejoice and praise God. Because he never attended any church, he didn’t know any “praise words” so it sounded more like a string of profanities. John and I both laughed realizing what a baby Christian he was and yet he was doing what he knew to give glory to God. Later were learned that earlier that day Jan woke up hung-over and discouraged. She wrote in her diary that she needed something different, maybe God, and she was going to find it even if it meant leaving Jan. Coincidence? I don’t think so. It was a divine appointment.

So how did they do after that? Well, inside one year Jan and Jan had lead over 100 people to Christ and continue to do so regularly. Babs and her husband Steve are still very active in sharing Christ with catholic couples and in youth ministry in their local church.  I too had to read and study much about Catholics and Catholicism because God was bringing so many our way. Except for Alfie, John’s roommate who became a monk, most young Catholics were hardly practicing and most rejected it all together. Needless to say, John and I were very busy discipling all these baby Christians.

We saw the need for a local home bible study and started one at Carlos Castro’s house. It gave us more latitude without time restraints. We could practice the gifts, do water baptism and discuss the hard subjects in a friendly atmosphere. Carlos saw that we all needed more training to help answer the onslaught of questions from over 100 new baby Christians. So we more mature believers took one subject and tried to be an “expert” in that one area. The subjects included the gospel, the scriptures, the cults, the deity of Christ, end times, the Holy Spirit, praise and worship, the spiritual disciplines and spiritual gifts. I was given “God”.

I had to be able to convince someone who had never even heard of the concept of God, who He was. It was overwhelming. It took me nearly three months before I could even begin. Oh, I’d try to start but then all I could do was weep. I mediated and fasted and prayed and begged God for help. God is fathomless and how could I even attempt to make Him finite. Finally, I became weak and then sick with pleurisy. I laid in my bunk hurting every time I breathed. My roommate Brian was a Mormon and saw my plight. He said that even though he knew I was sick he had an offer to make me. Brian was getting a new Yamaha guitar and he offered to give me his old one if I’d tell him how to be born again. I told him that wasn’t necessary I’d tell him anyway but after he received Christ he gave me his old guitar. After that God helped me with my study which is proving to take a lifetime.

Brian in turn introduced me to two more John’s; John Keaton and John Carrero. They were roommates and firefighters who lived off base in Waldorf. John K. was a very gifted artist. His work though looked like a reincarnated Picasso. He was strange as most artist types can be. Once he shaved off his eye brows. John K. (as well as John C.) were committed Christians who attended the navigators to get some in depth bible study. John K. and I once were discussing the topic of “counting the cost”. I asked him if he was willing to give up everything for Christ. He assured me that he was. I asked him “even his painting”? He hung his head and said “no, I cannot do that.” And he immediately left the faith. I pleaded with him and told him that I didn’t say that he “had too” I just asked him if he was “willing to”. He understood but he wasn’t able to “surrender all”. Years later John K. came back to me a broken man and with a child’s heart asked me to help him find God again. God met him there.

John K. and his roommate John C. were excellent musicians. They had many instruments and recording gear. When I asked John C. if he was willing to give up music if God asked him too, John was ready, his heart was right. Not only did God not ask John C. to give up music but instead God richly blessed his music. After John K. left for the states, I moved in with John C. We shared music and meals and rides to church and back. We studied the word together and we both grew immensely. Once we went over to see Brian in the dorm. There I discussed with him the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. John C. was also interested and I laid hands on both of them to receive the Holy Spirit. Brian was eager and received immediately. John C.’s navigator background was anti-charismatic and though he was convinced by the scriptures his heart was torn. I encouraged him from Luke just as Carolyn had done for me years before. I asked him to commit it to God and see what happens. We headed for home shortly thereafter in separate cars, me in my old Mercedes and him in his Karmann Ghia. He was already home when I arrived rejoicing and praising God in unknown tongues. God met him in his car on the way home. God is so faithful to His Word and deals with each of us where we are.

John C. fell in love with a German girl named Gigi who lived with her brother Andy and grandmother Oma. God miraculously met them at our home bible study and we ended up meeting in their home. John and I turned their cellar into a recording studio. What’s interesting is during WWII Oma would hide Nazi’s in her attic and Allies in her cellar. Gigi got pregnant shortly after their wedding. I learned some strange German customs. First, during the bridal shower family and friends break their old dishes on the lawn and give them new one. During the wedding reception, the groomsmen steal the bride and the groom has to visit all the pubs until he finds her, picking up the tabs along the way. Pregnant women aren’t seen much in public but after the delivery they stroll up and down the streets showing off their new babies and fancy prams. Their new babies wear a cloth mesh around their tummies for a few months to ensure all their babies have innie belly buttons instead of outies.

I had the privilege of leading many lost souls to Christ and praying for them to receive the Holy Spirit. There was the PhD. Dr. from Brown who came to debate with us on an intellectual basis who left pumping his hands in the air praising God in tongues. There was the Jewish Pharmacist and his wife whom we helped find the Messiah. There was then the whole staff of AFN “armed forces network Europe radio and TV whom we lead to Christ and changed the programming into a more Godly format. We selected contemporary Christian music and even interviewed many of their musicians like Andre Crouch and Larry Norman and others. We hosted Dave Roever, a Vietnam vet who was badly deformed by a phosphorus grenade and came to minister to the troops. We organized “Berlin for Jesus” a rally to try to reopen the iron curtain as well as open a way for the gospel.

I loved Germany. If I had not married, I’d probably still be there. It was the best time of my life and ministry to that point. In the next chapter I’ll tell you more about living abroad and the beginning of the next chapter of my life. I had no idea what God had in store for me or where that might take me.

 

 

 

CHAPTER NINETEEN

GERMAN LIFE AND TIMES

***the Rheine***

I had a ball in Germany. I spent as much time as I could down on the Rheine River visiting the castles and enjoying all the Tudor architecture. The history and folk lore was very interesting. The cities like Rudesheim, Rothenberg and Bacharach have hardly changed since medieval times. They have torture dungeons, moats and draw bridges. I even saw a red fox running from the hounds.  Twice a year during the early and late harvest, they’d close the town down had have free wine tasting. On one certain rocky bend in the river there are cliffs that supposedly a siren witch named Lorelei used to mesmerize the sailors causing them to wreck on the jagged rocks below. It was a beautiful overlook.

***the Black Forest***

Down in the black forest was the Neuschwanstein Castle, a 19th-century Gothic Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as homage to Richard Wagner. The palace has appeared prominently in several movies and was the inspiration for Disneyland‘s Sleeping Beauty Castle. Over in Dachau was a WWII concentration camp which is now a holocaust memorial. You can still feel the death there near the gallows, the gas chambers and the ovens. Also in the black forest is Munich home of the Rathaus-Glockenspiel of Munich is part of the second construction phase of the New Town Hall, in Marienplatz the heart of Munich. Every day at 11 a.m. (as well as 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. in summer) it chimes and re-enacts two stories from the 16th century. It consists of 43 bells and 32 life-sized figures. The top half of the Glockenspiel tells the story of the marriage of the local Duke Wilhelm V (who also founded the world famous Hofbräuhaus) to Renata of Lorraine. In honor of the happy couple there is a joust with life-sized knights on horseback representing Bavaria (in white and blue) and Lothringen (in red and white). The Bavarian knight wins every time of course.

This is then followed by the bottom half and second story: the coopers’ dance. In the 16th century a particularly bad period of the plague hit town and everyone went into hiding. The first people to dare go back onto the streets were barrel makers who performed a big dance to show that it was okay to come out again. The Duke of Bavaria was so happy about this that he actually ordered them to re-enact this every seven years, a custom which continues to this day. The dance can be seen during Fasching (German Carnival).

The whole show lasts somewhere between 12 and 15 minutes long depending on which tune it plays that day. At the very end a very small golden bird at the top of the Glockenspiel chirps three times, marking the end of the spectacle.

The Alps in the winter is magnificent with it rugged snow capped peaks and iced over lakes making it the perfect backdrop for ice skating and tobogganing. The Matterhorn is a mountain whose summit is 14,692 ft high, making it one of the highest peaks in the Alps. The four steep faces, rising above the surrounding glaciers, indicate the four compass points.

While in Munich in the fall we visited the Hofbräuhaus brewery, the home of Oktoberfest. The Munich Oktoberfest, traditionally, takes place during the sixteen days up to and including the first Sunday in October. All the new beers are on display and it there are Swiss maids and men in short leather pants, lederhosen, doing traditional dances.

*** Christkindlmarkt***

Another popular event is the Christkindlmarkt literally meaning “Christ child market” is a street market associated with the celebration of Christmas during the four weeks of Advent first being mentioned in records in 1384. Generally held in the town square and adjacent pedestrian zones, the market sells food, drink, and seasonal items from open-air stalls, accompanied by traditional singing and dancing. On opening nights (and in some towns more often) onlookers welcome the “Christkind“, or boy Jesus, acted out by a local child. Popular attractions at the market include the Nativity Scene , Zwetschgamännla (figures made of decorated dried plums), Nussknacker (carved Nutcrackers), marzipan (candied, toasted almonds), roasted chestnuts, traditional Christmas cookies such as Lebkuchen and Magenbrot (both forms of soft gingerbread), Christstollen (Stollen), a sort of egg bread with candied fruit, Bratwurst, and for many visitors one of the highlights of the market: Glühwein, hot mulled wine (with or without a shot of brandy), or Eierpunsch (an egg-based warm alcoholic drink). Both help stave off the cold winter air which sometimes dips below freezing. Many other handmade items, wooden toys, nutcrackers, smoker men, candle powered windmills (some 5-10 tiers high) cuckoo clocks, Christmas tree decorations; wood inlay artwork and ornaments can be found at a Christkindlmarkt.

***Fasching***

Another German event is Fasching similar to Brazil’s carnival and New Orleans’ Mardi Gras. It’s odd to see a normally stoic people go nuts. Adultery is sort of “permitted” during this time. The time of merrymaking in the streets is officially declared open at the Alter Market during the Cologne Carnival on the Thursday before the beginning of Lent starting at November 11 at exactly 11:11 a.m. The Carnival spirit is then temporarily suspended during Advent and Christmas, and picks up again in earnest in the New Year. The main event is the street carnival that takes place in the period between the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and Ash Wednesday. Carnival Thursday is called Altweiber (Old women day) in Düsseldorf or Wieverfastelovend (The women’s day) in Cologne. This celebrates the beginning of the “female presence in carnival”, which began in 1824, when washer-women celebrated a “workless day” on the Thursday before carnival. They founded committee in 1824 to strengthen their presence in the still male-dominated carnival celebrations. In each city, a woman in black storms the city hall to get the “key” for the city-/town halls from its mayor. In many places “fools” take over city halls or municipal government and “wild” women cut men’s ties wherever they get hold of them. Also, as a tradition, women are allowed to kiss every man who passes their way. On the following days, there are parades in the street organized by the local carnival clubs. The highlight of the carnival period however is Rose Monday (Rosenmontag). Although Rose Monday is not an official holiday in the Rhineland, in practice most public life comes to a halt and almost all workplaces are closed. The biggest parades are on Rose Monday, the famous Rosenmontagszug (Rose Monday Parade), e.g. in Cologne, Düsseldorf, Mainz, and many other cities. During these events, hundreds of thousands of people celebrate in the streets at low temperatures, most of them dressed up in costumes. Almost every town has a special carnival cry.

Visiting the local swimming pools and lakes are and adventure. First you are required to wear a bathing cap to keep the hair out of the pools however, clothes are optional. There are common showers and locker rooms. The whole country is like that. Even German TV has nude commercials.

***Tanus Mountains***

In Bad Homburg was the palace of Frederick II. The wood inlay was magnificent and priceless. The stag hall with the heads of white bucks where incredible. There also was an old Roman fort built by Julius Caesar still intact with many Roman artifacts. We visited castles, palaces and fortresses all over Germany in cities like Neurenberg, Heidelberg, and Wurzburg. There was a nice national forest in the Tanus Mountains where John and I would hike and enjoy the few landscapes. Nearby Max Milo, a Samoan friend of mine and the worship leader at the Berea House, and I found a trout farm/ restaurant. We’d order fish and they’d catch it fresh and cook it immediately. The weird thing was is that they’d leave the heads on. Max made me eat the eyes saying it was a Samoan friendship jester. John Howard did the same thing to with octopus at a Japanese restaurant. They both got a good laugh at my expense. The good thing about Germany is that ethnic restaurants were run by immigrants from that country so the food was authentic. 

A little side note about immigrants, in Germany, when unemployment reaches a certain level they deport people until the citizens are working again. As it is, everyone in Germany is required to do two years of government service after high school. Those on welfare are required to be looking for work four hours every day and working four hours for the state doing menial tasks otherwise they get nothing. Most people take public transportation because it takes 2 grand to get a licenses and gas is ten dollars per gallon. There is no speed limit on the autobahn but when you crash you die. Insurance rates are through the roof. Fortunately, the military subsidized most of the cost for us.

***folks marching***

Germans have a sort of national fun and exercise program called folks marching, similar to a walk-a-thon. They raise money for different clubs or charities. They are generally 10 & 20k pathways through scenic historic villages and rural byways and forest. (The German Forestmeister knows every animal in his forest). Hunting is expensive and you generally don’t get to keep what you shoot. They also do folks swims as well. Along the way there are check points where you get your card stamped and some fructose tablets for energy. Sometimes they had a wood fire going where they’d cook up fresh bratwurst. At the end there’d be tents for drinking, eating and socializing. When you turned in your card you be awarded a commemorative medal, a plate, a pin or a patch. Jean used to fuss at us for marching on Sunday’s.

***Frankfurt***

I really enjoyed walking along the Main River in Frankfurt which runs through the center of the city. There was a walking path on both sides with beautiful gardens, ornate play areas, parks and of course, beautiful architecture. It was a very peaceful, romantic stroll. Once while taking a date on a midnight stroll, some young men came from behind a bush and asked me if I was an American. This scared me because the Red Army Rebels had recently been rioting in Frankfurt and I thought I was in trouble. Worse yet, my date was a general’s daughter and if anything happened to her I’d be toast, so I told her to run for help. Turns out, they just needed my help. Someone jumped off the bridge and was barely hanging on to the brick riverbank, about three feet down and he would only speak to an American. You see his wife was German and she left him for another man, that’s why he attempted suicide. I had a borrowed umbrella which I held down to try to get him to grab so I could pull him up but he pulled it out of my hands. The river was ice cold and the current was fast. He broke his legs when he fell because he couldn’t hold on any longer. When he let go I went in after him. I had his arms and the German’s had my feet. Together we got him up and out of the water. Just in time too because the police were coming! I left because I didn’t want to be caught with the General’s daughter.

***the Romer Platz***

At the end of my walk on the Main was what is known as the Romer Platz. Römer is the name of the city hall building, in translation “citizen of Rome, Roman.” It actually consists of three adjacent Gothic houses, which were purchased by the local council in 1405 to a wealthy family of merchants. Römer house in the middle is the actual site, which later was tied to the surrounding buildings. The first floor is the “King Hall” or “Hall of kings” (Kaisersaal), where banquets were held newly crowned kings. In it are portraits exposed to all the 52 emperors of the Roman Empire of German Nation, executed during 1838-1853. Römer was destroyed during the Second World War but later rebuilt identically.

St. Paul Church – St. Paul Church (Paulskirche) is a relatively new church. Its construction began in 1789 and ended only in 1833. Its importance derives mainly from the Frankfurt Parliament, which was hosted here from 1848 to 1849 to draft a constitution for a unified and democratic Germany. The action failed because the monarchs of Prussia and Austria did not want to lose power, in 1849 Prussian troops ended the democratic experiment by force of arms, and parliament was dissolved.

After that, the building was used again for religious services. St. Paul has been completely destroyed in the Second World War but later rebuilt. Currently, there is no sacred purpose for the building; it is also used for exhibitions and important meetings.

You can also see St. Catherine’s Church from the old bridge over the river Main, Paulskirche, Frankfurt Cathedral, Frankfurter Wertpapierbörse (Frankfurt Stock Exchange). A romantic covered red-stone bridge was built to connect the wing to the main building. This bridge is known as the Seufzerbrücke or Bridge of Sighs, named after the famous bridge in Venice.

The Frankfurt Christmas market at the Romerplatz should not be missed if you’re going to Frankfurt. The entire old town center is a fun, festive marketplace reeking of roasted chestnuts, Glühwein and gingerbread. We enjoyed the entire historic square and surroundings. I was told that it was one of the oldest and largest Christmas market in Germany. They always have an impressive tall Christmas tree (over 100 feet tall) in the center of the Christmas market. Just a block south of the square is the Main riverbank where we crossed Eisener Bridge towards the museum row (the famous Staedel & numerous other museums) and the Schaumainkai flea market.

The Eschenheimer Turm – a 154 ft high gothic tower – is one of the few remaining towers of the medieval fortifications that once encircled the whole city of Frankfurt. Near it was the Alte Oper (Old Opera) originally Frankfurt’s Opera House. Initially constructed on the 20th of October 1880 it was heavily damaged during WWII, the building was reconstructed and opened as a concert hall in 1981. One of my favorite places was the Frankfurt Zoo which was established in 1858 and is thus among the oldest zoological gardens in the world. In open cages and in unique animal houses, the zoo presents a total of 500 different species and more than 4,500 animals. In addition to all this, the zoo also offers a children’s zoo and a petting zoo for young visitors, a large playground and pony rides on weekends but to me it was a beautiful romantic place to take a date.

*** Other adventures***

We also visited Luxemburg, where Patton was buried. Holland was a treat. We visited a farm where they wore and made wooden shoes and Gouda cheese turned by the old windmills. Then we went to the Keukenhof, also known as the Garden of Europe, which is situated near Lisse, Netherlands, (where the pilgrims were from) and is the world’s largest flower garden. Keukenhof is situated on a 15th century hunting area. It was also a source of herbs for Jacqueline, Countess of Hainaut‘s castle, which is the source of the name Keukenhof. After Jacqueline, the land was owned by merchants. Eventually, the Baron and Baroness Van Pallandt had the Zochers, who also worked on the Vondelpark; design the grounds around the castle. We also stayed at the “Bad Hotel” on the coast where we went swimming in the north Atlantic and saw the sun set over the Atlantic horizon for the first time. I started to go to the Moscow Olympics but after an encounter with Russian and East German guards at check point Charlie, I turned back. Jimmy Carter ended up boycotting them anyways.

***Walldorf**

My flat was in Walldorf just out the back walking gate of the Air Base. I lived on the second level of the private home of Mrs. Schmuller. She had relatives on the other side of the iron curtain. She could visit them but they couldn’t leave. She lived downstairs and two Lufthansa stewardesses lived upstairs. Walldorf had a very nice Gasthaus at the end of my street where we ate often. They had good cordon bleu. The canteen on base had the best Jaeger Schnitzel with pomme fritz (French fries) & mayonnaise and the Sportsplatz in Darmstadt had the best Weiner Schnitzel served with a German noodle called spaetzle and they were huge. Since they don’t serve sweet ice tea, we either drank mineral water, apple juice or Spezi which is a mixture of cola and orange soda. At the movies or carnivals they serve popcorn sprinkled with sugar, yuck! There was a trinkhalle (Kiosk) where we bought soda and mineral water. It was a gathering place for men to drink after work or at lunch. Every afternoon was a 1 ½ to 2 hours break called family time when the children got home from school and the parent helped them with homework and such. Then they’d go back to work and finish the day. German education is far different than here in the U.S.   Optional Kindergarten (nursery school) education is provided for all children between three and six years of age, after which school attendance is compulsory, in most cases for 11 to 12 years. Most children, however, first attend Grundschule from the age of six to ten or 12.

German secondary education includes four types of school. The Gymnasium is designed to prepare pupils for university education after grade 12 or 13. The Realschule has a broader range of emphasis for intermediate pupils, after grade 10; the Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education after grade 9 or 10 and the Realschulabschluss after grade 10. Other than this, there is the Gesamtschule, which combines the approaches. There is also Förderschulen/Sonderschulen. One in 21 pupils attends a Förderschule. German children only attend school in the morning. There is no provision for serving lunch. There is a lot more homework, heavy emphasis on the “three R’s” and very few extracurricular activities.

The next street over had an ice cream store. They’d call it ice (eis). They don’t put ice in their drinks so if you ask for ice you get funny looks. The eis sometimes is strained to look like spaghetti, and then it is topped with strawberry sauce and white chocolate. On Thursdays they close that street down and hold an outdoor market. Flowers were cheap there and we always had fresh ones on the table. Next door was bakery so I woke every morning to the smell of freshly baked bread. My favorite was the Kassebrochen which had a crispy cheese crust. The owners were old and when it snowed, I’d shovel our sidewalks and theirs. Even though they never spoke of thanked me verbally, they’d place a bag of Kassebrochen on my door handle in the morning. I enjoyed watching the Fasching parade from my living room window. It was a quiet community, no crime and no noise. The private shops made for great shopping. The Germans have tiny fridges so they shop for groceries every day.

We had a canary named Sonny and a pair of turtles named Mork and Mindy. That bird never sang just squawked just like the myna bird Terri’s roommate had. I gave them to Gigi’s brother Andy when we returned to the states.

I rode my bike to work on most days through the back gate. If it was nice I’d walk. Once me Babs and Fred were walking back to the base. There was a house at the beginning of the path through the woods which had a big Rottweiler in the backyard. As we walked past the dog jumped the fence and chased us down the path. Fred and Babs jumped on me to keep the dog from biting them (thanks guys). Just before he bit me I noticed he didn’t have a tooth in his mouth. I shoo’ ed him away and we started laughing and howling like dogs. I learned a lesson from this event. Check out these 2 scriptures:

1 Peter 5:8 

8Be sober be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Psalm 3:7
Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.

The devil tries to scare us but really he’s a defeated foe. He’s really afraid of sold out believers. Once we know who we are, we have more confidence in God to give us the victory.

My next challenge would take me out of Germany and bring me to the heights and depths of my soul. I never saw it coming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty

To have Loved and Lost

***courtship***

In January 1981 a mutual friend introduced me to the woman who would eventually become my wife. Though Helen, I later discovered, really liked me herself, she knew all I had to offer her was friendship. So, she introduced me to a new girl that she had brought to the Berea House. Her name was Terri Sherwood, an AG WAF from Massachusetts. Now most of us were not raised charismatic so Terri was a real treat. We thought she could offer insight into growing up in the spirit. Being the gentleman that I was, I offered to show her around the Berea House. When I took her downstairs to show her the bookstore, she kissed me on the back of the neck. “Forward” I thought but I knew that I rarely made the first move on any woman and if she wanted me, this was the way to show it. I quickly asked her out before any of the other guys had a chance to beat me to it. Soon afterwards I was smitten or maybe I’d just been lonely for so long that I ran through all the red lights and lived for the moment. Now I had dated both Linda Wilson, an Army Sgt. and Regina Flier, a German college student and Lufthansa stewardess but nothing ever became of them except Christian friendship. I truly thought that she was an answer to prayer but I’ve since realized that the devil will bring a counterfeit while we’re waiting on God to provide the blessing. Neither Dosha nor my Mother ever had a good feeling about her but I listened to my peers instead of the wisdom that comes from our elders. I made the same mistake Solomon and his son made all with disastrous results. All that said though, I truly was in love and gave her my whole heart and being.

Later in January John Howard PCS’d back to the U.S. and it was the first time I had cried since I was beaten as a boy. This drew me deeper into my relationship with Terri. One afternoon as I arrived back to my flat in Walldorf, one of the stewardesses upstairs came home at the same time and we had an impromptu snowball fight. We ended up rolling in the snow playfully mashing snow in each other’s face. Then came the moment when our eyes caught and a spontaneous affair nearly occurred, but I remembered Terri and didn’t want to blow it, plus I was a virgin and knew this could get out of hand. So I belted her with another snowball and bolted for my apartment. The stewardess and I never had any other encounter from that time on. I saw it as a sign that Terri was the one. From that time on we just sort of started planning a wedding without any formal proposal or announcement.

***wedding plans***

From that time on there were all sorts of red flags which I ignored. First she wouldn’t pray with me or even do devotion with me. Second, she didn’t feel called to the ministry as I was and thus she rarely participated in it. She knew bible stories pretty well but not much doctrine and never attempted soul winning. Thirdly her worship was hardly expressive especially for a Pentecostal/charismatic.

Even when we went to her home for the wedding there were red flags. First, she had a crabby side and was easily angered. I swore I’d never end up with someone like that but I felt I’d come too far to back out now plus her sister Tammy was more of a match and everyone knew it. I was playful and a bit mischievous in a fun way and Terri was serious. The Yankee/rebel differences were really starting to show through. I thought it’d be tacky to switch girls, especially sisters just before the wedding. Even on the honeymoon she seemed a little more experienced than a virgin should have been. Me, I was scared to death and ate Tums and Alka Seltzer like candy for a week. Then shortly after the honeymoon the romance just dried up, that is until a year later when she decided she was ready to have children. Things went well right through the pregnancy but shortly after Jenny was born the estrangement began again, especially after we got orders back to the “world” (States).  (More on Jenny later). She claimed her coldness was relative to being raped and beaten in her dorm shower by a black man when she was an Airman at Wright Patterson AFB but there was no record of it in her medical record. Just the same I was patient and thoughtful.

 Twice I left the ministry because I felt that since Terri wasn’t “called”, then perhaps I wasn’t called anymore so I got a full time job and took college courses with the University of Maryland European Campus. Both times the church recognized my gifts and convinced me to come back.

***New England bound***

In the summer of ’83 we got orders to Hanscom AFB in Lexington Massachusetts near Boston. Jenny and I went on ahead of Terri to try to find us an apartment and me a job but once I arrived I found out that our missionary board had recommended me for an associate pastor’s job at Terri’s home church in Worcester. At first we tried to get base housing or a reasonable rental near the base but when that didn’t pan out, the Worcester Church offered us the parsonage apartment in the church. I worked there as an assistant janitor as part of my pay. We loved living there because it was close to work for me and close to the freeway for Terri, walking distant from the bank and markets and not too far from the in-laws. The only problem was that we were robbed twice in the same year, once when we were in Connecticut visiting relatives and once when I was attending an evangelism conference in Tulsa. Both times they took all our jewelry including our class rings and Air Force rings and all of our Christmas gifts.

***the call***

The ministry there was really blessed and fruitful but I’ll spend more time on that later also. Once though, I received a call about 3 o’clock in the morning. It was a jealous wife informing me that if I didn’t keep my wife away from her husband that she was going to kill Terri. I was agasted. My heart sunk so low I thought that I would die immediately. I never saw it coming, though years later I’ve learned to recognize the signs. Terri never denied it. She told me that she had been having affairs all through our courtship and marriage and that though she “never meant to hurt me”, she never really loved me either. She had been on the outs with her family especially after her Dad died and thought that marrying a preacher would get her back in their good graces. She wasn’t a nympho by any means; she just used sex to get what she wanted from men.

At first she wasn’t sure she even wanted to save the marriage but finally she did consent to counseling at the pleading of her mother.  It seemed that things were going to get better especially when we found out she was pregnant again but sadly she miscarried. Then it happened again. At least I was told she had miscarriages until a few years later she said something to me to make me think she may have had abortions so I wouldn’t know that the children may not be mine. But at the time I was feeling the loss of my unborn children and I think of them even to this day.

I begged and pleaded for the stronger ladies of the church to talk with her and help us but all they’d do is “pray for us”. Now I don’t discount the power of prayer but sometimes prayer is not enough you have to put feet to your beliefs and go. Unfortunately I learned that love is not enough either. It takes more than love to make a marriage work. I learned that women marry men in hopes to change them later. Men marry women in hopes that they’ll never change. Just the opposite is true. A marriage filled with secrets, unmet needs and expectations is doomed from the beginning.  The truth will truly set you free. I’d hope the church would come to our rescue. The church however disqualified me from ministry because of this and fired and evicted us. This was all I wanted to be since I was a preschooler and now it was all gone. How could I face anybody? I felt so ashamed. I’m also concerned that generations that would have gotten saved through my ministry may now be lost or in hell now because of this. I weep for them. I’ve let God down.

***starting over/college daze***

We moved to an apartment in Whitinsville on the middle floor of a tri-level house. I knew I needed a new career so at first I tried to go back into the Air Force but found out I was too old, so I got a catalogue from the local community college and searched for a career that might interest me. I remembered how during career day at high school that x-ray appealed to me as a way to get into medicine without being a doctor. Quinsigamond Community College (home of the Chiefs) had a 2 year program so I signed up. I got grants and my GI Bill to help but I still had to work. I had three jobs, working at a fastener factory with my step-father-in-law, working as a store detective at a department store called The Fair and as a painter’s assistant. I also continued to help with cleaning the church and by doing farm work for my in-laws. I even took my baby to class and work with me at times. Why? Because Terri volunteered for an overseas assignment to Korea and left me and Jenny for two years which I later learned was to carry on several affairs with other men.  Even with working all those hours while caring for a baby I graduated with a 4.0 average, first in my class, class president, captain of the college bowl team, who’s who, distinguished service award, outstanding student award, phi theta kappa and I had nearly a perfect score on my boards. I was the first person in my family ever to attend college and they were all so proud of me. Best yet, even though I had been also working part time in x-ray already, I had a good job offer waiting for me when I graduated.

Sadly though, Terri had refused to take leave to see me graduate or to my pinning ceremony. This was supposed to be a highlight for our whole family instead I was embarrassed and humiliated. I left for Prospect and lived with Maw while I looked for a job but when none was to be had, I went back and took the job as a Cat Scan Tech travelling throughout Mass, Vermont and New Hampshire. During that winter, Jenny and I lived in the in-law’s wood room without heat. What really broke my heart was seeing Jenny in my rear view mirror running after me while I was on my way to work. Was she afraid I was leaving her too?

The sadness overtook me and I slipped into a dark place. I was doing things that now I totally regret, giving myself permission to commit sins to try to soothe my aching heart. It didn’t work, it just caused more shame. What an utter fool I was!

***reconciliation…not***

Terri did come home on leave in October. I really wanted to make it special since she’d miss being home for Christmas so I decorated for Christmas and even went out to cut a Christmas tree. Problem was it turned out to be on state property and I got busted. The court let me off with a warning considering the circumstances. I was hoping for a happy reunion but instead I got ice. During the next few days she asked for a divorce. For months I and her family pleaded with her to reconsider. Finally a few weeks before she came home she said she loved me and asked me to take her back and forgive her. I was ecstatic. It was an answer to prayer. Not really, you see she got orders to Florida and during the trip south she told me she really did want a divorce, she just didn’t want to deal with her family anymore about it. I was crushed and heartbroken. More than that, for the four years we were going through this I suffered from an ulcer and a case of hives that had me on daily Benadryl three times a day for years. Once I finally let her go, the itching stopped.

We stopped at Mom and Dad’s for a few days and we went fishing on the bridge while Terri sunbathed. I caught an eel and paid Jenny a quarter to put the dead thing on Terri for a joke. Knowing what I know now, I might have not killed it just yet.

***Tampa***

Once we settled in down in Tampa, we went to the Air Base and got the divorce on Christmas Eve. The real heartbreaker was that in Florida, unless I could prove abuse or neglect, the mother got custody of the children. I had to move out without anything but my clothes, personal items and a few record albums. I remember seeing Jenny’s little wet footprints on the floor, heartbroken that she’ll grow up without me and I’d never see them again.  When Terri finally made plans for the divorce, I told her that she would have to tell Jenny. Of course she cried and then she said,”I’m going with Papa” It broke my heart to have to tell her she had to stay with Terri. I guess I could have drug it out but the outcome would have been the same and besides it would have only delayed the inevitable and squashed any hope of a reconciliation which sadly never came. Jenny had also been away from her mother for two years and I could take her away again so soon. I also slipped into a depression until I heard a song (My Redeemer is Faithful and True) by a man who lost his entire family. Remembering God’s faithfulness is the only thing that got me through it all. This song became my anthem.

 Within a few months, Terri took an early out and moved back to Mass to marry a friend of mine who’d lost his ministry when his wife left him for the same reasons Terri left me. Now I had lost my, wife, my baby girl, my ministry and my dignity plus I was stranded in a place without family or friends in a new church and in a new career (MRI). I lost myself and walked around numb for more than a year. I began writing poetry to give voice to all I had loved and lost. What I didn’t realize that one of my favorite scripture songs was about to come true. Psalm 30:5… in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

 

Chapter Twenty-One

The Yankee Years

 

***Jenny***

I was working at the base commissary bagging groceries when I first got the news.  I was going to be a father. I had heard a John Denver song called “Zachery and Jennifer” and I knew exactly what I would name it. It turned out to be a Jennifer. My cousin Carol was upset that I got to use it before him because his Jennifer was 6 months behind mine. My cousin Brenda had her daughter Courtney within 15 minutes of Jenny.

We went to the bundespost (post office) and called our parents with the news. Dad was a bit dense when I told him the rabbit died but Mom caught on right away. What a joyous day! Well I attended every doctor’s appointment and we were very excited about the big event. 12:50 am Friday morning June 17th Terri woke me up to let me know her water had broken, so we dressed, grabbed her bag and sped off for the 97th General Army Hospital in Frankfurt. We could have chosen the Air force hospital in Wiesbaden but the 97th was closer and our church met in its chapel. For hours there were contractions and dilation but no pain. Terri started to cry thinking something must be wrong but at 8:30am the “big” one hit and it was game on. By 9:30 we delivered. First the doctor said “I see red hair” and then I said through my tears “it’s a Jennifer”. I really wanted a girl because I was raised around boys. I had moved away and didn’t get to see my sister grow up too much. The red hair was a plus. As the girls were getting cleaned up I went to call the family, then I went to the gift shop to get something for the girls and the daily issue of stars and stripes. The headline said “Ride Sally Ride” from the Lou Reed hit “Mustang Sally” except this was to honor Dr. Sally Ride on being the first American woman in space.

While her mother was resting, I took Jenny down to the chapel and gave her to the Lord. I also gave thanks for a safe healthy delivery. You see, when our family and friends found out that we were expecting, of course everyone always asks “what do you want a boy or girl and the typical response is always “I don’t care, as long as it’s healthy”. God really tested my heart on that one. What if it wasn’t healthy?  Was our hearts prepared to care for a sick child? So for months God worked on my heart to prepare for the worst but just like Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah God provided. The next day we went to the nursery to bring Jenny in for a feeding but she wasn’t there. We started to panic until we found out that Pastor Fulmer had taken her to the chapel himself and lifted her up before God.

Within a week Terri’s Mother was over for a visit while Terri went back to work. After she left, I stayed on nights as a painter so I could stay home with Jenny. Jenny was lactose intolerant so we had to feed her soy formula which gave her bad colic. Fortunately our landlady told us about folic acid in fennel tea. Between that and molasses water we got her through until we got back to the states where Terri’s mom had goat’s milk fresh from her own farm. Just before we left Germany, Terri was laying out in the backyard to get a tan while I was at work. When I got home I noticed that Jenny was bright red. Terri had left her in the sun and she had nasty sunburn. Most people who tan don’t consider us fair skinned folks when it comes to the sun.

***Massachusetts***

Living in Massachusetts was a great experience. First my in-laws had a small farm. My mother-in-law had just moved to this property a few weeks before Richard died. Fortunately all his loans had insurance policies on them so when Richard died his house and automobiles were paid off. She soon afterwards married a divorcee which neither of them had any farming experience. She got books from the library and believe it or not managed fairly well. Once I got there, with my farming experience, we really made a go of it. We raised cows, goats, sheep, hogs, turkeys, ducks and rabbits.  The growing season in New England is much shorter than in the south. You get frost the first week in June and the last week of August. We also made it an organic garden using compost for fertilizer and wood ash and marigolds for insecticide.  The garden thrived and we canned or froze most of the foods we ate. Jenny loved the garden. She would eat everything but onions and she’d eat it right out of the garden raw. Evidently we all learned to eat them this way. We made all our own bread and even learned to spin wool. I helped them clear some pasture land to increase the herd. Turkey day was fun. All the family came in to butcher and pluck the turkeys. We had fun throwing heads and blood at each other. We used the sheep fat, which is pure lanolin, to waterproof our gloves and work boots. No need for a mower because we’d stake sheep and goats in the yard to eat the grass. We also raised collies for a while. Each property was separated by low stone walls, something I hadn’t seen since I left Portugal.

We had a wood burning furnace in the cellar which was very efficient. Three logs would burn all night and heat the whole house. We’d leave the cellar door open in the summer and blow that nice cool air upstairs since it had no central air. In the cellar also was the can goods, freezers, pool and ping pong tables and of course firewood. We either pitched it down the storm doors or down a hatch from the old summer kitchen (with an old bee hive brick oven) which was now being used as a wood room. This is where Jen and I slept when Terri was in Korea. The fireplace had a huge hearth and built in iron hooks for hanging pots. We cooked stew in there on cold days. The side of the fireplace had a built in smoker where we hung meat to cure. The house was a historic landmark built in 1746 way before the revolution.  We were always finding historic artifacts from the creek bed like axes and grindstones and such. We even had a wooden well with the original bucket which we used only for decoration.  Up the road was a reservoir where we went fishing in our canoe in the summer and ice fishing in the winter. We’d also go ice skating on it or take the ATV’s across it once it was well frozen. We took inner tubes to the hills at the golf course and slide down once it was covered with snow. What a blast! I once even tried skiing in Vermont. In the summers we’d take our motorcycles up Mount Wachusetts or go swimming in the many local lakes. We loved to visit the Worcester Science Center/Zoo to see the polar bears Ursa Minor and Ursa Major and their cub Kenda, who was the first polar bear to be born and raised in New England.

After storms we would go to Cape Cod and gather snails and clams. Autumn was beautiful in New England. We’d visit Vermont, Maine or New Hampshire to shop and take in the fall leaves. Then we’d go down to West Virginia or Pennsylvania to go deer hunting with Uncle Melvin. I loved going to downtown Boston to the aquarium or to Faneuil Hall and Quincy market. The most fun was watching the fireworks off the USS Constitution while listening to the Boston Pops. We also visited some of the historic places like Plymouth Colony and Old Sturbridge Village which had characters pretending to be from the 1620’s. Mystic Connecticut and Point Judith Rhode Island were sea ports with a lot of history and good seafood. We visited Roger Williams Park in Providence and a Salvation Army retreat house near Hartford. As you can tell I love history. Each little village is unique. No chain or box stores or restaurants.  Their seafood is the bomb. Everything is locally owned and operated which gives each place a character of its own. Many towns look like they hadn’t changed in 250 years. They strive very hard to keep it that way. Unfortunately, their mindset hasn’t changed either.

***in laws***

At the in-laws house were Sandy and her three other children Ricky, Tammy and Rosie. Then there was an adopted child named Lisa. Sandy remarried Don Wilson a divorcee preacher’s son (good people) and his two children Vaughn and Valerie. Sandy’s sister Karen died young of diabetes and her two children Mike and Matthew came to live with her. After trouble with another sister, her niece Sarah Kate also came to live there. Sandy’s parents divorced when she was young and her mother evidentially told her that he was dead. I later found him (Duffy) and rejoined the Aldrin family, kin to the astronaut Buzz Aldrin. They were good people too. Sandy’s mom, Grammy, hated Richard and was glad when he died. Grammy had softened in her later years so I’m told.  She’s currently in a nursing home. Her granddaughter Patty was raped and beheaded shortly after we moved there.

Rick and I were good friends and ministered together quite often. Rick has since left the ministry also and his wife Kim left him for a younger man. Rick has joined the Seabee’s (after a couple years as a bounty hunter) and is currently serving in the gulf. Rick and Kim have since remarried and have new babies though their older children Josh and Rikki are a mess.

Rosie married a good Christian man named Frank Salensky. They are still together living in Georgia via Michigan they have two children and have adopted several others. His children are doing well. Frank served with me well in the ministry mostly as a musician. He wrote a beautiful song for Jenny on her birthday which has since been lost.

Tammy married a friend of mine named Mark O’toole. He was a former Dead Head and druggy whom Tony and I lead to Christ. He is very committed to Christ and serves as an elder in his church. Tammy and Rick both went to Valley Forge Christian College earning their degrees there. Tammy and Mark have three children who are also doing well with the Lord. Tammy works as an occupational therapist working with violent autistic adults. Tammy and Mark also ministered well with me.

Mike joined the Army, married and is still living for Christ.

Matthew married Amy and went to the famous culinary arts school in Providence. He is a 5 star chief and runs some of the best restaurants in Boston. Matthew was always physically kind of awkward but it looks like he has found his footing.

Lisa had battled with spousal abuse and anorexia but seems to be coming around. She has a little girl. Lisa’s real mom choked on a Spanish peanut and had too much brain damage to properly care for her.

Sarah Kate is still at home and in school.

Don and Sandy divorced after it was found out that he was molesting the children. Don was a minister of music and a deacon and the church was really shaken over it. The pastor (the same one who had me step down) was later found drunk with a hooker at a casino. My how the mighty have fallen!

Vaughn was discovered molesting the children first and was made to leave the home and go back to live with his real mother who was an addict herself. It was especially sad to see this after he was the one to pray with Jenny to receive the Lord.

Valerie’s fate is unknown to me but she lived with her mom most of the time anyway.

***x-ray***

Before I get into my ministry, just a few words about my x-ray years. I was the oldest person in my class. Now even though I failed high school chemistry, I aced it in college. Maybe a bit more mature, maybe a better math base or maybe no beach bumming or girl friend as a distraction. They were kind enough to let me bring Jenny to school or on clinicals every so often. My first x-ray was of a c-spine. Not inside a person, just the bones. Once they found out that I was squeamish, I made regular trips to the morgue.

I worked part time in several hospitals in the area. I worked the midnight shift in the ER at St. Vincent’s. I did Nuc Med and cath. lab at Worcester Memorial. I did O.R., male mammograms and MRI at UMass Medical Center. I also did Specials and routines at Milford Regional.

Once I returned from Prospect, I did CAT Scan in Turner Falls, Ayers, Framingham, Melrose, Lawrence, Holden, Medford, and Green field Massachusetts, in Nashua, Manchester and Portsmouth New Hampshire and in Brattleboro Vermont. I have literally worked every area of radiology except ultrasound.

Once we moved to Tampa my old CT boss hooked me up with a mobile MRI Company and that’s where I found my niche. I have moved up quickly wherever I’ve worked and also ended up in management/supervisory roles in short order. I’ve worked mobile, outpatient, hospital, and medical centers. I’ve done applications/education with GE, Phillips, Picker, MTI, DMS and have been a private consultant working with Alliance and other private businesses. I was once the North American Image Quality Specialist and still get calls for help from around the world. I’ve been published several times and have even done research.  God has really blessed this phase of my life to Him be all the Glory.

***Friends***

Scott Lapworth was a dear friend and co laborer with me in the Gospel. He helped with what we call in reach, that is training and encouraging believers keeping them motivated to serve. He dated Tammy for a while but ended up marrying a divorcee with three children. He was an ideal step-father and a good friend. When I had to go back to school he gave me a job as a painter. We shared a love for the outdoors and often walked the park trails together.

Jamie Doyle was a med student at Holy Cross. He helped me understand the needs of young disgruntled Catholics. His brother was killed in the south tower on 9-11.

Ken Taylor was a little older than most of the singles in our group but he served just as much. Ken had a rough life and childhood so watching the children in our church serve or worship always touched his rough ole heart and he was weep with joy to see God at work.

Patty Sherborne was a case right out of the movie “Carrie”. Mary Greene, Pam Malquist and the other CIA ladies really recued Patty from her weird scary mother. She happily married now still serving the Lord with her 3 children.

Ernie Hart was a deacon that served with me in the CIA’s (more on that later). Sadly Ernie’s wife Becky left him too for another man.

Uncle Art the janitor was a dear friend. Already in his late fifties he helped me start the Soul Patrol, an outreach for the homeless. His daughter Joyce was Terri’s second husband, Alan Aspe’s first wife. She also destroyed his ministry and left him for another man. They attend Zion Bible College near Providence and joined us in the ministry for only a short time before their demise.

John Morello along with his sister and her husband Michael helped me with music and the next generation. They went with us to Christian rock concerts and Jesus Festivals and helped organize these events. Their biggest contribution was to help wean our young people off of ungodly musical influence and turn the on the good Christian alternative. I had a ministry at a local skating rink playing only Christian music, doing fund raisers and leading young people to Jesus. John took this over for me when I stepped down.

Floyd Danielson was Richard’s old partner in an auto repair shop. He helped keep our heaps on the road and loaned us transportation from time to time.  The Larson’s and the Petersen’s were also good friends and active church members. Brother Corey at the district office was like a father to me. There were many more folks whom I loved dearly I hope one day to see them again in glory.

***the ministry in Worcester***

Upon arrival in Worcester I was given several assignments. First was a nursing home ministry next door I walked over there with Jenny and my guitar and led the residents in worship and devotions.  Then we’d pray together leading many to Christ and other’s filled with the Holy Spirit. Mostly they just enjoyed having a baby around to hold and play with.

I also assisted with teaching Sunday School. I especially enjoyed the middle schoolers. I learned that you could change generations of sinners into generations of believers if you could reach them young, while their minds are still forming opinions.

The Chi Alpha’s was a Christian college fraternity. We formed chapters at all ten of the local colleges and used them as a springboard for college outreach. At a Chi Alpha rally in Tulsa I met David Wilkerson from “The Cross and the Switchblade”. I learned how to reach many different groups with the Gospel including street ministry. His message on “Let the Redeemed of the Lord say so” was powerful and once worship began at the end I was in the Spirit for several hours. When I came to I was all alone in the meeting hall. Soon afterward we joined the New Years Eve celebration in downtown Tulsa. We went through the crowds sharing the Gospel until the cops tried to stop us. This actually opened doors which would normally have been shut and we were able to lead many to Christ.

I also spoke at youth retreats and as a guest speaker for neighboring churches. At one youth retreat it was a blend of Baptist, Congregationalist and Roman Catholics. When they heard I’d be speaking on the Holy Spirit, several of the more intellectuals schemed to discredit my doctrine. What they didn’t realize was that I once was in their shoes and had already walked down that path. God gave me the answer to every question before they even asked. The Spirit moved mightily and there was a massive outpouring.

Rick was a co-pastor of a congregational church. They invited me to preach revival and also do some youth seminars.

My main focus was on the single adults. These folks had the most time, energy and passion; it just needed a forum and guidance. My work with the American military was great training for this task. We so formed a Friday night bible study which the group named “The CIA’s” or Christians in Action. They were a ready crew for any church activity. What changed the group forever was my brother Tony.

Tony was spending a 60 year prison sentence in Mecklenburg for several crimes which we won’t mention here. I sent him two books “The Cross and the Switchblade” and “Run Baby Run”. Tony gave his heart to Christ in prison and on his first parole hearing, he was released into my custody. I took him back with me to Massachusetts and we enrolled in Teen Challenge. After Teen Challenge he lived with us until he found a job trimming trees and found his own place. Tony met Mary Greene and I was the best man at their wedding. Tony adopted Mary’s 3 year old daughter Rene’. Yvonne eventually came up and lived with Tony for a while after she got pregnant with Paul. After Terri and Jenny returned to Massachusetts, they promised to look after Jenny for me.

Tony’s street smarts and his new found faith and passion was a Godsend. Tony would go out on the streets and bring them to my place to share the gospel. Some of these guys were high as a kite. We’d just let them sleep it off on my living room floor and then in the morning when they were lucid, we lead them to Christ. Once Tony went to a Grateful Dead concert and brought home a couple of Deadheads named Ron Parker and Mark O’Toole.  After they sobered up God met these two men mightily. They were instantly delivered from drug addiction. Years later Ron married Katie and became a pastor. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and had a driving desire for holiness and for the Word. Within a year they were part of our outreach team. We would go to concerts or to the streets and share the Gospel. Our group went from about thirty to more than 200 quickly. Discipleship was key to keeping those whom God was giving to us. We had three teams, outreach, in reach and social. The younger addicts we sent to Teen Challenge and the older ones to World Challenge residence programs. There was however another group which had no place to go. It was the non addict homeless adults like Vietnam Vets and such.

I was speaking to Uncle Art and the Pastor about this and we decided we needed older adults helping us. Thus was the beginning of the Soul Patrol. The church gave us money to go out and find these folks and buy them lunch. Then we’d share the Gospel with them. Then we took the church bus and brought them to church on Sunday and have a feast afterward. This was hugely successful but they still had nowhere to go but to shelters or back to the streets. So, we bought an old hotel and fixed it up to house 20 men at a time called the Soul Patrol House. The men of the church would teach them a skill and find them a job. Once they were straight on their own for six months, we’d reunited them with their families.  The church grew from about 300 people to about 1500 people in three years. We also hosted Christian concerts and brought in some well known evangelists to serve the rest of the community.

Once I was stepped out of ministry I was confident I left them in good hands. Even though I was no longer “in charge”, I still stayed involved as long as I could and served those I had entrusted with it. I occasionally taught in small venues but eventually I just served in the background like Mr. Horton did so many years ago back in Virginia Beach.

Once I left Massachusetts and went to Tampa, the ministry part of my live had been completed. I never taught or preached again. I was never asked to be so much as a Sunday School teacher, a care group leader or deacon or anything public but God has shown me the value of a prophet and a layman with a heart to serve. God makes no distinction, neither should we.

 

CHAPTER 22

HAVE a TAMPA

***Florida 6.0***

It was a warm June night and my emotions were coming down hard on me. If I had to spend one more heart breaking night, I just might not wake up. The hives were itching like crazy and now all the atarax was doing was turning me into a zombie. The ulcer in my gut was growing every day and I already was spitting up blood. My chest felt like an elephant was sitting on it and my eyes were burning dry because I had no more tears left to cry. I missed my daughter, I missed my wife, I missed my life. I recall walking past the mirror and my countenance had fallen so much that I truly didn’t recognizing the blank face staring back at me. The only other time I was in this much despair was when I was a young teen listening to my parents argue. I thought our family was falling apart. I took a knife and stood in my closet with the blade against my throat. I felt that way again but the same thing stopped me again. I could do this to myself, to my family but I could not do this to my God. He was the only thread I was holding on to.

Still, I’m sitting in an empty apartment with only an iron bed that was left in my old GMC truck and a TV whose color was smeared. I was sitting on a box of old record albums which were too painful to play. “God, if you don’t do something I’ll surely die”. I prayed in the Spirit all night long. That night was terribly long but I finally fell asleep. The next morning I woke up and my old nemesis was missing. I felt light as a feather. Though the knowledge of it still existed, it didn’t hurt anymore. I was free.

***life in Tampa***

I joined an A/G church in Tampa whose pastor was a friend and classmate of my pastor in Germany. They helped me walk through a few issues and even let me do some drama ministry both there and also in a few other A/G churches.   A friend there was a Gideon pastor and I helped him from time to time. Later I joined Carpenter Home Church in Lakeland mostly because they were more charismatic, which I am more drawn to.

I nearly asked out 2 separate women who turned out to be mother and daughter. Whew, that was a close one! It was for the better because I really wasn’t ready anyway but it did help me open my eyes to the possibility of older women. My whole life I felt like I was born too late. I seemed more at home my whole life with folks 10 or more years ahead of me. From music to fashion to values I was always one step behind. Oh well!

Jen came for a short visit and I packed up all the remnants of my marriage and sent it to her grandmother for Jen to have once she was older. I embraced my new life and started getting on with living. I’d take canoe rides on the lake or fish for catfish in the bay. I’d go out on the Gandy and fish for cowfish and stingray. I’d take my 3 wheeler to a small island in the bay or to some nearby woods.  There were grapefruit and orange trees in Jenny’s backyard which borne fruit twice a year. She liked the juice so her and I would squeeze them and keep fresh or frozen juice in the fridge all year round. Jenny’s oranges weren’t edible, they were wild. It seems that only grafted orange trees are edible. The oranges we used came from the creek bank behind my apartment. Thing was they were “juice oranges” which mean they don’t peel so all they’re really good for is juice.

I found a pair of roller skates near the dumpster that fit me perfectly. I used them mostly as street skates to get some exercise. Once or twice a week I’d skate over Bayshore Blvd. and up the world’s longest continuous sidewalk several miles past the Jose Gaspar pirate ship along Tampa Bay and over to Davis Island and back home again. Whew, what a workout, but great scenery. There was a park at the north end of the sidewalk called Ballast Point Park. Jen and I would go over there to fish, watch the dolphins or let the squirrels eat peanuts right out of our hands. A couple of times we’d see folks having family reunions or church socials at the picnic pavilion so we’d just pretend that we belonged and enjoyed a free meal.

Dave Miller lived in Tampa with his wife and three kids and we hung out a lot. He and I took a road trip to see Dave King and then we went backpacking up on the Appalachian Trail. I got reacquainted with my family in Florida and Tennessee and started making friends.

Jen and I went to all the usual Florida amusements: Disney, Universal, Cypress Gardens, Silver Springs, Weeki Wachee, Tampa Zoo, Sea World and of course Busch Gardens. We hit the beaches and the Red Sox at spring training really enjoying ourselves. We liked going to Lowry Park Zoo and watch the baboons throw poop at everybody. We enjoyed the Gasparilla parade which is Tampa’s version of Mardi Gras where the Pirates take over the city. The Air Base had air shows every year where I’d go just to be close to the flight line again. There was a nice park called Lithia Springs where we’d go swimming. My apartment also had a swimming pool, hot tub, basketball and volley ball courts.

I bought a fish tank with tropical fish and a cockatiel we named Sunny. Sunny would get out of her cage, fly down to the floor and walk over to me. Then she’d climb up my body, put her head under my beard and fall asleep. I even bought a cocker spaniel named lady. What a good dog, but when I moved out into an apartment we couldn’t keep her and Terri wouldn’t, so we had to get rid of her.  Jen really missed her and so did I.

***travelling man***

At work I started travelling a lot. I went to Fort Myers, Sarasota, Brandon, Bradenton, Winter Haven, Daytona Beach, Orlando, Leesburg, Eustis, Panama City, Bay Pines, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Hollywood. I was raking in the frequent flyer miles, eating well and driving nice rental convertibles. I loved going to Brandon because it had a tangerine tree next to the scanner. Yummy! I’d fish off the sunshine skyway bridge in Bradenton and the lakes in Eustis and Winter Haven. A  Leesburg fish camp had good Gator tail and Miami had the best Cuban sandwiches and twice baked potatoes.

I met some ladies at the hot tub but even though they tried, I just wasn’t ready for that yet. Our company had a business cruise down in Miami. We really enjoyed ourselves but my female boss, Joyce was hoping for a high seas romance. Dad always said you don’t sh** where you eat so I just kept it casual. Several of my female colleagues sought me out for casual affairs but I just wasn’t interested in that either.

I did receive several promotions at work, first as a unit manager, then as an application specialist and finally as the Florida East Coast Manager. I was in line for V. P. of South Eastern United States when I quit. I even worked weekends for GE MRI applications as a consultant.

***Love of my Life***

In the spring of ’89 I was invited to a church function by Lana Garner, an x-ray tech at Humana Brandon. She’s a pretty blonde bombshell, very kind and sweet hearted.  I really don’t care much for choir music so I turned her down. Later she gave me a greeting with a few words of encouragement in it. I normally read a card and keep it about a week or so, some I keep another little while in a drawer and then throw them out. And I did, sort of. For some reason, I kept taking in out of the trash. I bet I threw that card away 2 dozen times but I always seemed to dig it out of the garbage and display it on my TV or something. It was like “Chucky”. It was haunting me and just wouldn’t go away. Actually, the Holy Spirit was using that card to prepare my heart. I still have that card today.

In the summer, some of the techs at Brandon invited me on a canoe trip. Of course I accepted, that is until I found out Lana was coming. I felt like I was being set up, so I backed out. Then I was told Lana backed out too so I was back in. Imagine my surprise when I stopped to pick up Maureen and Lana was there. Ok, I thought, I’m going to enjoy myself anyway and hang with the guys. Didn’t work! Everyone was paired in the canoes which left me and Lana in a boat together all day. Turned out we had so much in common and really enjoyed each other’s company. When we stopped to join the others for lunch, Lana flipped the boat while trying to get out. We both got soaked and laughed hysterically. While we were wet anyway, we went swimming.

After we got back to the cabin, we got cleaned up and went out to Jim’s barn which he had converted into a rec room along with a juke box filled with oldies. We spent a lovely evening dancing and having fun all evening. When we turned in all I could think of was Lana. I’ve never enjoyed a lady’s company as much as I enjoyed hers. I had told her in the canoe that I wasn’t ready for a relationship but she was all I could think about. I lay there hoping that she’d get up so I could go out and talk with her. She never did, she’s a lady and was waiting for me. My track record of making the first move was pretty slim. The next day as we drove home Lana found my notebook with my poetry and songs. She really enjoyed them which made me happy that I had someone to share them with who appreciated them. After we dropped off Maureen, I took Lana home. I helped her carry her things inside and I guess being impatient with me to make the first move and sensing the spark between us, she asked me for a kiss. It was a kiss so warm it made me cry.

I had to go home and process things and didn’t call for a couple of days. Finally I got up the nerve to ask her out to dinner. We went to a nice seafood place overlooking Tampa Bay. During dinner it started lightning and we were treated to a fantastic light show over the water, especially as the sun set and the moon rose over the tides. We had so much in common and it was becoming joyfully obvious that God was putting us together. Lana came over to my apartment afterwards where we took a midnight dip in the pool and hot tub before retiring back to my place for a little music. She made me play my guitar and sing some of my songs. I even put on a tape of Christian love songs I used for couples’ skates back when I D.J.’d for the church. I hadn’t played that in years, it was too painful but now it was salve to this old broken heart.

Her daughter Bree would be home soon and I needed to get her back so I took her home, then I drove down to the beach and walked and prayed and pondered all that had been happening to me. On our next date I took her on an evening stroll on a small beach. There I put down a blanket and built a fire and we watched the moon rise. When the fire died down the no see ‘em’s chased us out of there.

I told her that I wasn’t a casual dater and that if she didn’t see this going anywhere then we’d have to stop. Her heart instead was already quite engaged and we discussed speaking with our girls about our relationship to get their blessing. We didn’t want to hurt them because they’d been through a lot also and if it was too early for them, then we back off until they were. Fortunately just the opposite was true. They wanted to us be happy, because they’d watched us go through so much as well and wanted us to be happy. At least that’s what they told us at the time. As it turns out, blending families would be much tougher than we thought.

I snuck over to Lana’s house and came in her back door. She had two dogs. Buffy was a black Chow Chow and Shalamar (Shally) was a beagle mix mutt. I have always been good with animals so they didn’t give me a way. She nearly croaked when she saw me standing in her kitchen asking “What’s for dinner?” You know you’re in good when the dogs like you. Shally was a bit high strung and we eventually gave her to a family with small kids. Buffy was a good dog but when we moved from Brandon, Lana gave her back to the family she got her from. Buffy liked taking a bath outside but she hated the tub. She would spread her legs and toes as far apart as she could get them to avoid the tub. Once Lana’s parents came for a visit and when they went downstairs to have coffee, Buff wouldn’t let them back upstairs until Bree got up.

I went to a family reunion in Tennessee and really started missing Lana. I sent her and Bree little post cards so she could see how pretty it was. I stopped at Mom and Dad’s in Pensacola and called Lana from there. She immediately flew up to Pensacola and helped me drive back to Tampa. After we got back I invited she and Bree over for a lasagna dinner and a swim. Things were beginning to get serious and we began talking in what ifs. What if we got married and what church and how formal and where to go for our honeymoon. Before I knew it we were engaged. It was just the common course of events.

***setting the date***

We attended pre-marriage counseling at both churches but had difficulty finding someone to marry us because we were both divorced. We finally arranged for my Gideon friend to do the wedding in my church’s chapel but when he got sick and went into the hospital we needed a plan “B”. We looked around for a wedding chapel and thought we had found one in Thonotosassa but when we went over to look at it, it turned out to be in a bloody mobile home park. Lana thought it was a riot. We did however find one in Valrico. All was set until they called to reschedule our date. The next day available was seven o’clock THAT day. So I called Lana at work and asked if she could do it.  It was like an announced elopement. Since we already had our licenses and rings she said it was a go.

It was too short of notice to have my family attend and David was at work so Jim Griffiths, a professor of horticulture at USF and the owner of the cabin we stayed at in Brooksville near the Withlacoochee River, was my best man. Maureen was the maid of honor. I was so excited about getting married that I forgot to bring cash to pay the JP. We went to Bennigans for our reception and then to work the next day.

***honeymooning***

Over the weekend we went to the Victorian style Westcott House, a Bed and Breakfast in St. Augustine. There were big brass beds, plush bath robes and beautiful view of the ocean. We took carriage rides and enjoyed bicycling around America’s oldest city. We even drank from the Fountain of Youth. We extended our stay another night at the Casa De Salona, a Spanish style hacienda. It was very romantic with Champagne and Brandy and a fireplace in every room and Cheri in the parlors.

We were back at work for another month because our original reservations in New England were in October. We flew to Boston and tooled around there the first day. We took the trolley tour and went out on a whale watch. Then we stayed at the Jackson House for a few days, taking in the autumn hues and the New Hampshire White Mountains. We took the Kangamangus Highway over Mount Washington and the Appalachian Trail over to Lincoln to see the bear show and get some real and fresh maple syrup and candy. Next we took the Bear Mountain Road over to Fryeburg Maine to visit the Fryeburg County Fair.  We took a short trip to the Vermont Green Mountains and into Western Mass where I used to work. We found some nifty gifts over there. Finally we took a trip down to Conway to ride the old mountain railroad through the scenic countryside that you couldn’t get to by car. We hit every covered bridge and outlet store but especially the craft shops. We ate at a different local restaurant for every meal and took in the local color.  Our B&B had two golden retrievers, one named Sandy that kept us company.

We decided to pick up Jen in Worcester and take a day trip to Sturbridge Village and Plymouth colony. We stayed on Cape Cod in Hyannis and saw the dolphin show. Then we went to see Tony and Mary who were living in a shelter at that time.

***Holidays, Washington and Maw’s***

We weren’t back home long before Thanksgiving was approaching. I took Lana, Bree and my mother-in-law Connie Hart to Maw’s for Thanksgiving. As we entered Virginia we noticed that they had had an over-night ice storm and icicles were hanging from everything. It was silver spectacular and the snow on the ground really made it enchanting. Of course my family drew them right in. Everyone had a blast. We took a day trip to DC to see the Monuments and the National Zoo. Connie had never been and she had a blast. I got to see the new Vietnam memorial and find Daddy’s friends on the wall. Back at Maw’s, my sister took Bree out in the pasture to teach her how to shoot a gun. She was a good shot but the recoil put her on her butt.  She blew the wing right off a buzzard but the others tried to chase her and puke on her. We laughed until we cried. On the way home we noticed how in South Carolina many of the tree tops were missing. We were told that hurricane Hugo had cut them in half.

Our first Christmas was coming and we wanted it to be special. We made cookies and really went all out. The only problem was that Tampa was having one of its coldest winters on record and they had rolling blackouts for three days. The power was 45 minutes off 45 minutes on. We had to mix cookies in the dark and bake the once the power came back on. Fortunately we were one of the few Floridians with a fireplace so we did manage to keep warm. The next day was worse so I took Mom and the family to Village Inn and waited hours for a table. It was worth it though and we had a blast.

Come Valentine’s Day I took Lana to Arizona. We went to the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, NASA’s one mile wide Meteor Crater, Sedona and of course, the Grand Canyon. When we flew into Phoenix about midnight it was about 85 degrees. On the way through the desert we saw the sequoia cactus and tumbleweeds. As we approached Flagstaff we noticed the cacti were changing until eventually they were replaced by the majestic Ponderosa pines. By the time we reached the Bright Angel Lodge there was 6” of snow on the ground. Our cabin had no heat so we used the blow dryer to warm up our sheets before we went to bed.

The next morning we looked out our window and noticed it was actually hanging over the canyon. What a view! We dressed and went up to the lodge to eat and warm up. The fireplace is so big you can actually sit on the stone benches inside of it. After dinner we went out to see about a mule train down to the dude ranch at the bottom and raft the white waters of the Colorado River. The path was too slick so we didn’t get to do that but we did visit the mules. Their coats were long and thick because of the climate.

As we drove around taking pictures we saw some mule deer. Lana rolled her window down to take a photo and a buck came right over and stuck his head in the window. All we had to offer him was a Tic Tac but he ate it right down just the same. We made a little snow man before we headed down the mountain.

As we descended into the valley along the Verde River we began to see beautiful large River Birch trees in full bloom. Further down we began to enter the desert again with the aroma of the blooming Yucca and the majesty of the red mesas rising off the desert floor. The Hopi and Zuni Indians had left their mark on this tiny town. The turquoise jewelry and colorful pottery and bead work made this a must stop on this trip.

We concluded with a side road into the desert to see how many different cacti we could see. I hoped to give Lana a view of America she had been deprived of for so long.

Over the years we’ve also been to:

Tennessee

Natural Bridge

Appomattox

Western North Carolina, Boone, Dillsboro, Silva, Balsam, Asheville, Waynesville and Blowing Rock

Cooperstown

Portland Maine

Harper’s Ferry

Mount Airy

Charleston

Virginia Beach

Chicago

Motown

Niagara Falls, Canada

Maryland

Philadelphia

Lancaster

Gettysburg

The next Christmas we had a Christmas party at our house, hoping to use our fireplace again. Unfortunately it warmed into the eighties so we ran the a/c on max for two days to make the house cold so the fireplace wouldn’t run people out of the house. We sang carols, drank egg nog and really had a grand time.

***back to Illinois***

The next summer we went to see Lana’s Dad in Danville, Illinois very near Rantoul where I went to tech school in the Air Force. On the way up there we stopped in Chattanooga to get a bite to eat. We’d been looking for miles for a KFC. We went in an ordered as usual but my food was cold so cold in fact that the grease on my chicken had congealed and turned white again. When I tried to get another meal or a refund, they refused. Well, one thing led to another and I lost it and started throwing mash potatoes all over the restaurant, stopping patrons coming in telling them how much that place SUCKS!  Once I got to Dad’s I called the number on my receipt. I ended up with free coupon, a refund and an apology.

Dad and Lana took me all over to see the place Lana lived and went to school and church. We went to Georgetown and Olivet to see her Grandma Hart and precious, her little dog, and other relatives. Dad took us to eat at all his local hangouts. He and I even went bass fishing one afternoon. Lana took me to see this Indian statue. This Indian Archer, aka The Chief, was a 17′ tall copper statue built in 1949.  From 1949 to 1994, the giant Indian was located in Danville, Illinois on North Vermilion Street (Illinois Route 1, the Dixie Highway). It was built for Herbert Drews to advertise his house and heating business.When the business closed in 1994, the owner’s grandson moved the Indian to the Curtis Apple Orchard. The statue represents Kesis, a famous Kickapoo Indian from Illinois. He also took us to Rockome Gardens in Indiana. It was a large Rock and flower garden built by Catholics in the 1920’s and later sold to the Amish in 1958. It remains very old world and very beautiful.

While we were in Indiana they were having a covered bridge festival. Dad drove us all over to take pictures and enjoy these great structures. Much of the trip however, I rode lying down in Dad’s truck bed because my back was killing me.

Dad regaled us of stories about some of the cities celebrities like Dick and Jerry van Dyke, Gene Hackman, Mike Ditka, Donald O’Connor (of Frances the talking army mule) and Robin Yount among others. Jerry even taught Lana to do cartwheels. What a fun trip!

***meanwhile back at the ranch***

My sister Yvonne was pregnant again, and still unmarried, she needed a change of scenery. Her and her boyfriend, Dallas did eventually get married and Jr. was born at Tampa General. He had meningitis and his cranial bones fused too quickly, but with much prayer he’s recovered just fine. She was soon pregnant again with Jessica and after that she called it quits.  Shortly thereafter she moved back to Pensacola.

After our marriage, Brandon Hospital got a permanent MRI and I went to work there as the Lead MRI Tech. and hired the former Radiology Director an MRI tech in training. We had a beautiful suite, great doctors, and a firm client base. The only problem was a jealous radiology staff. MRI was getting a lot of recognition as was Mammography where Lana worked. Soon we found ourselves out of work. I appealed and won but the damage was done, it was time to move on. Fortunately, I kept good records and reported the whole leadership team. Within a year, they were on the bread line and Lana and I was in Charlotte, North Carolina. Oh, we tried to stay in Florida but after 3 months of searching, Florida went dry.

***Charlotte and beyond***

It was hard moving Bree away from her family and friends so she tried to live with her Dad but it didn’t work out. She reluctantly came with us to Charlotte and the transition was very difficult on her. 

We found the church of our dreams and the best friends we have ever known. Our three grandchildren were born there. My sister and daughter Jen tried to live there but both ended up moving back. We bought our first house together and care for both of Lana’s parents there in Charlotte, God rest their souls.  We enjoyed to more Chow Chows, Sasha and Shadow whom we loved dearly.

My grandmother passed and her place was sold to a stranger. It was the end of an era. Lana also lost her Grandma Hart at age 102. Now we were the grandparents and the grandchildren would come to our house.

Bree, Lana and I has had our share of risky surgeries and once I was near death but God delivered us again and again.

My job was very successful and Lana eventually got to be the homemaker she always wanted to be. I got back into applications for five years until it was time to stay home. Then we went to Florida 7.0 until the work dried up again. Then it was off to Richmond, finally back home to Virginia after 42 years away. Sadly our grandchildren’s father was murdered and we were given the privilege of helping raising our wonderful grandchildren Autumn, Caleb and Christian. I’ve been blessed to see Autumn and Caleb say the sinner prayer and I’m very excited to see how Christian faith is developing.  Richmond has been hard and there are challenges that remain, but it’s the perfect place to go through them at this time. God has planted us right where we needed each time and provided the friends, neighbors and co-workers for each challenge we have faced.

The details for the past 20 years are still playing themselves out and are left out intentionally. Some of my many shortcomings are omitted, not to make anyone think that I’m blameless or perfect, but just because there are others who would be hurt by revealing them now. Other painful memories are also left out to prevent opening of old wounds.

For my siblings, I encourage you to fill in the missing details of your individual early life and the family’s home life during the late 70’s and early eighties when I was away.

***epilogue***

I hope this book has given you a glimpse into what made me who I am. I have a rich heritage and thankful that with all the hardships and challenges God has shown his faithfulness again and again and my anthem will always be “My Redeemer is Faithful and True”.

APPENDAGE

MY LISTS

***AUTOMOBILES***

  1. BLUE 1970 PLYMOUTH DUSTER
  2. RED 1974 HONDA 260
  3. GREEN WOODY FORD TORINO STATION WAGON
  4. BLUE PLYMOUTH YOLARE
  5. WHITE BEETLE
  6. YELLOW BEETLE
  7. YELLOW PLYMOUTH CRICKET
  8. WHITE 1965 MERCEDES BENZ
  9. BLUE VARIANT SQUAREBACK
  10. GREEN VARIANT SQUAREBACK
  11. RED VARIANT SQUAREBACK
  12. RED KARMANN GHIA
  13. GREEN MUSTANG
  14. GREEN LTD
  15. TAN VOLARE
  16. BLACK YAHAMA 1200
  17. RED HONDA 3 WHEELER
  18. RED FORD ESCORT
  19. BLUE GMC PICKUP
  20. BROWN BUICK REGAL
  21. RED TOYOTA MR2
  22. WHITE WOODY CRYSLER LEBARON
  23. TEAL TOYOTA COROLLA
  24. BLUE MAZDA PICKUP TRUCK
  25. RED DODGE DYNASTY
  26. BLACK CHEVY S210 PICKUP
  27. WHITE FORD TAURUS
  28. GREEN DODGE INTREPID
  29. BLUE FORD EXPLORER
  30. SILVER SCION
  31. RED DODGE GRAND CARAVAN
  32. GOLD BUICK LESABRE

 

***ADDRESSES***

  1. RT. # BOX 31 PROSPECT, VA  (MAW’S AND MOM’S)
  2. 1226 TORRENCE AVE. SUNNYVALE, CA
  3. 5600 SHERRILL AVE. PENSACOLA,FL
  4. 4841 HAYGOOD RD VIRGINIA BEACH, VA
  5. 328 DORSET AVE VIRGINIA BEACH,VA
  6. APO SAN ANTONIO,TX
  7. APO RANTOUL, IL
  8. APO CHARLESTON, SC
  9. APO FRANKFURT GERMANY
  10. 36 WEST ST. EAST DOUGLAS,MA
  11. 30 Tyler Prentice Road, WORCESTER,MA (PARSONAGE)
  12. 634 Church Street Whitinsville, MA
  13. 6013 Elkins H, Tampa, FL, 33611
  14. 6306 South MacDill Avenue · Tampa, Florida , (PAVILLIONS AT BALLAST POINT)
  15. 531 CHARLES PL BRANDON,FL
  16. 4000 Providence Rd Apt H, Charlotte, NC, 28211-4468 (1993)
  17. 10503 Osprey Dr # H, Charlotte, NC, 28226-4601 (1992) 
  18. 5723 Sardis Rd, Charlotte, NC, 28270-5364 (1995)
  19. 2621 Crescent View Drive Charlotte, NC (THE TRADITIONS AT MALLARD CREEK)
  20. 131 SE Hancock St Stuart,FL , (ESTATES AT STUART)
  21. 3514 TRAYLOR DR RICHMOND,VA
  22. 11721 TROPHY CLUB DR MIDLOTHIAN,VA (THE TROPY CLUB APARTMENTS AT BELLEGRADE)

 

***Pets***

  1. TUMBLEWEED & HER PUPPIES-COLLIE
  2. REX-GERMAN SHEPARD POLICE DOG
  3. TIGER- CHIHUAHUA
  4. REDDY-TERRIER
  5. BOOGIE-BEAGLE HOUND
  6. LADY-COCKER SPANIEL
  7. MORK AND MINDY-TURTLES
  8. SONNY-CANARY
  9. SUNNY-COCKATIEL
  10. TROPICAL FISH
  11. SHALIMAR-MUTT
  12. BUFFY-CHOW CHOW
  13. SHASHA-CHOW CHOW
  14. SHADOW-CHOW CHOW
  15. REGGIE- Schnauzer
  16. BAILEY-BETA FISH

 

***COUNTRIES VISITED***

  1. US
  2. CANADA
  3. PUERTO RICO
  4. GUYANA
  5. PANAMA
  6. SENEGAL
  7. ZAIRE-CONGO
  8. ASCENSION ISLANDS
  9. AZORE ISLANDS
  10. GERMANY
  11. FRANCE
  12. HOLLAND
  13. BELGIUM
  14. LUXENBURG
  15. AUSTRIA

***US STATES NOT VISITED***

  1. MONTANA
  2. UTAH
  3. IDAHO
  4. ALASKA
  5. HAWAII
  6. IOWA
  7. SOUTH DAKOTA
  8. KANSAS
  9. OREGON

***JOBS***

  1. FARMING
  2. MOWING LAWNS
  3. SHOVELLING SNOW
  4. PICKING PRODUCE
  5. BAGGING GROCERIES
  6. PAINTING HOUSES x2
  7. MCDONALD’S FRY COOK
  8. JACK IN THE BOX-CLOWN
  9. USAF-MECHANIC/CUSTOMS INSPECTOR
  10. MISSIONARY
  11. ASSISTANT PASTOR
  12. JANITOR
  13. STORE DETECTIVE
  14. MACHINE SHOP
  15. BOJANGLES-COOK
  16. XRAY TECH
  17. CT TECH
  18. MRI TECH
  19. HANDYMAN

***SCHOOLS***

  1. PROSPECT METHODIST CHURCH SCHOOL-PROSPECT,VA
  2. FARMVILLE GRAMMER SCHOOL-FARMVILLE,VA
  3. FAIRWOOD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL-SUNNYVILLE CA
  4. CORDOVA PARK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL-PENSACOLA,FL
  5. HOLMES ELEMENTARY SCHOOL-PENSACOLA,FL
  6. WORKMAN JUNIOR HIGH/MIDDLE SCHOOL-PENSACOLA,FL
  7. BAYSIDE JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL- VA. BCH,VA
  8. BAYSIDE HIGH SCHOOL- VA. BCH,VA
  9. US AIR FORCE AIRCRAFT MAINTAINENCE SCHOOL- RANTOUL, IL
  10. BEREAN SCHOOL OF THE BIBLE- BAD SODEN, GERMANY
  11. UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND- EUROPEAN CAMPUS FRANKFURT,GERMANY
  12. QUINSIGAMOND COMMUNITY COLLEG-E WEST BOYLESTON,MASS
  13. MRI APPLICATIONS SCHOOL- EINDHOVEN, HOLLAND
  14. CORRESPONDENCE WITH SOUTH EASTERN AND SOUTH WESTERN THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
  15. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENCE INSTITUTE

 

***MEDICAL HISTORY***

  1. STITCHES RIGHT SHIN
  2. TONSILS
  3. BROKEN LEFT ANKLE
  4. FRACTURED SKULL FRONTAL
  5. FRACTURED SKULL OCCIPITAL
  6. STITCHES IN SCALP
  7. BROKEN LEFT RIBS
  8. PLURICY
  9. BROKEN RIGHT RIBS
  10. BACK SURGERY
  11. STITCHES RIGHT EYEBROW
  12. SKIN CANCER X8
  13. LT RING RING CUT OFF
  14. LT RING FINGER CUT BY SAW STITCHES
  15. RT WRIST CORTIZONE INJECTION x3
  16. LT WRIST CORTIZONE INJECTION x3
  17. LT ANKLE CORTIZONE INJECTION
  18. LEFT KNEE MENISCUS AND PATELLA TENDON TEAR SURGERY
  19. SLEEP APNEA SURGERY
  20. DVT LT LEG x5
  21. P.E. BOTH LUNGS
  22. TORN LEFT TRICEPS
  23. OSTEO ARTHRITIS ANKLES, HIPS,HANDS, WRIST,FINGERS AND SPINE
  24. JAMMED FINGERS,NOSE BLEEDS AND BLACK EYES

 

 

 

 

 

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