Fundamentalist Sundays

It was 1950, and for our family, Sundays were different than weekdays. We were Fundamentalists—conservative, baptistic, churchgoers who took the Bible literally and eschewed the outside world. Without question or debate, every Sunday we went to church. Our house had only one bathroom, so we boys had to get in there before 7:00 a.m., jump in fast and then jump out. Dad lit the gas flame on the water heater about one-half hour before bath time. I filled up the tub and lay there steamy and soaking, ignoring my sisters banging on the bathroom door—“Jamie; are you done? We need to get in there!”

Mother said, “When the water heater gets hot, be sure to turn it off so it won’t explode.” I gazed at my young self in the huge vertical mirror that hung opposite the sink, and harbored visions of flying shrapnel bloodying my naked body.

We always dressed up. Mother would put on a black hat with a black ribbon and half veil, black low-heeled shoes, and always dark hose (no shaved legs.) I think the hat and veil were a hangover from pre-war customs, because women under 40 never wore them. Mom and the girls always wore dresses well below the knee. Even in summer Dad wore a suit, white shirt, and tie. He was president of the county-wide Christian Evangelism organization, and on his lapel he always wore his cross-and-crown CE pin. I usually wore a collar shirt, slacks, brown shoes, and a little brown sports coat with matching pen and pencil in the pocket.

We drove to church in our black 1939 fastback Ford, a car which Dad bought just after World War II. Mom carried Mary in her arms while Dad drove. Virginia and I sat in the back seat, or sometimes I stood on the front bench seat between Mom and Dad. No seatbelts or child seats. We drove eight miles to church—down Cambridge, turn right at Fairhaven, cross the tracks and go south on Santa Clara to 17th Street, west on 17th Street to Edinger Street, then left. We parked near the little white church with its squat bell tower sitting on a sandy lot. It had no air conditioning. Knotty pine walls lined the auditorium, and in both corners above the platform, Scripture verses were painted on white boards. “He that hath the Son hath life…” I memorized them.

Sunday at Silver Acres Church was an extended affair. Opening Exercises started in the auditorium (we never called it a sanctuary). Age-graded Sunday school followed—Sunday school was big at Silver Acres. I sat in Mrs. Wallace’s class, fascinated. She would place the cloth figures on her “flannelgraph” board: “Here is Jesus, and here is Peter and John getting into the boat.” Then we went back to the auditorium for Closing Exercises.

After a short break the church service began with Pop McIntosh up front in his suspenders, leading the singing and waving his arms to keep time. Brother Cantrell’s 40 minute sermon, the morning’s highlight, always came last. He used to say, “Sermonettes make Christianettes,” and, “If you’re looking for a church to join, we are Fundamentalist, Bible-believing, independent, unaffiliated, non-denominational, pre-Tribulational, and pre-Millennial.” I thought, If you understand all that, you deserve to be baptized!

Most Silver Acres men worked blue collar. Dad carpentered for forty years, Ben was a mechanic, Cliff sold lumber, Earl ran a gas station, and Mr. Zanstra milked dairy cows. Regular, unpretentious, Godly people. They and their wives became my surrogate uncles and aunts.

Purity—that’s what we were after. The liberal theology of “Modernist” churches alarmed us, along with the general decay of American morality that began in the 1920s. Brother Cantrell said, “You need to live a life separated from both the polluted world and from the Modernists.” Modernists, which included Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Episcopals, had different doctrines and they didn’t believe in inerrancy.  Brother Cantrell warned us against Modernists such as Norman Vincent Peale and Harry Emerson Fosdick. He taught passionately about the virgin birth, atonement, pre-tribulational rapture, and inerrancy—arcane doctrines I learned thoroughly by the time I was ten. And his certainty fired us up—the Bible was self-explanatory, and its teachings were fixed for the ages. It contained doctrine you could take to the bank.

 

 After church ended, we would drive home to a huge meal. Although we rarely ate rich meat, I never suspected we were poor. On weekdays we would eat hamburger and “organ meats”— tongue, heart, or liver. But Sundays were special. We ate roast beef and potatoes, green beans, and sliced tomatoes, with ice cream for dessert.

On Sunday afternoons, peace reigned. Dad would take a nap. No playing in the neighborhood. No radio. We couldn’t read The Santa Ana Register. We were never allowed to go to the movies. No friends over, unless they were Silver Acres friends. No weekend trips away. Once my friend Jerry asked me, “Wanna go on a camping trip with us?” I asked Mom. She said “You can’t go because it’s over Sunday.” Jerry went to a Modernist church (Methodist).

We did play some in the two and a half acres of orange grove behind our house—pulling a wagon up and down the rows or organizing illicit orange fights. Back in the house we read, played checkers, or played Christian music on the Victrola (a wind-up phonograph player with big 78 RPM records). I read Power, a take-home pamphlet from church. Sunday afternoons were quiet, peaceful, home- and family-based. I read good books and learned lots of Bible verses.

After supper we all piled back into the Ford and drove to church for “evening services.” Pop McIntosh led singing—Power in the Blood, At Calvary, The Old Rugged Cross, Jesus Saves; plus Gospel choruses—I’ve Got a Home in Gloryland, Deep and Wide, and Do Lord. I loved these songs and knew them by heart. Dad and I played our clarinets in the church band. I hoped that my platform performance impressed Linda, who sat in the front row.

Our family was a little island, separated from our non-Fundamentalist neighbors. The unworldliness of Fundamentalism turned me in toward family friends and family values, kept me home-centered, secure, and it kept me from the world. As I grew up Fundamentalist, I felt a strong foundation under my feet, a circle of people that cared about me, a set of sturdy, Bible-based beliefs that inspired me. I felt part of a larger family that cared for and protected me. I got saved when I turned five and baptized when I was twelve.

 

Today, I hope I’ve rejected the narrowness, intolerance, and holier-than-thou attitudes I acquired in my childhood. I try to embrace a more generous orthodoxy that makes room for Modernists, Catholics, and others.

And yet I still feel like a dried-out drunk at an AA meeting—“Hello. I’m James, and [it’s like confessing a sin] I’m still [sort of] a Fundamentalist.”

WINGSPREAD E-zine for August, 2016


“Spreading your wings” in a perplexing world
August, 2016                                                                                      James Hurd

 Contents

  • New blog article: Get Thee Behind Me Satan—and Push!
  • Writer’s Word of the Week
  • Book and Film reviews
  • Favorite quotes
  • E-zine subscription information
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying

 *************************************************

New blog article: Get Thee Behind Me Satan—and Push!

You’re kidding yourself! No—really. We all are. What to do?

 In self-deception you’re both the deceiver and the deceived—you talk yourself into a lie. But SD is so frequent that you don’t even notice it.

Examples abound. I tell myself I can indulge my lust and still have high morals. Although I’m all for good nutrition, I tell myself it’s OK to eat lots of sugars and fats. (Anyway, next week I’ll start my diet.) When I was a pilot, I convinced myself I could beat the odds and fly through bad weather–a practice I condemned in other pilots….

Read more here:   https://jimhurd.com/2016/08/05/get-thee-behind-me-satan-and-push/

(*Request: Please share this URL with others, and leave a comment on the website after reading the article. Thanks.)

 Writers’ Word of the Week:   Forward Lean
Forward lean means that your writing keeps the reader reading—it pulls the reader onward by tension, unanswered questions, puzzles, unsupplied information. Be a good writer—use forward lean.

Book and Film Reviews

Ecclesiastes: The meaning of your life. Hea Sun Kim and Mary Lou Blakeman. How understand the most realistic, but pessimistic book of the Bible? Kim and Blakeman help us unravel the writings of Qohelet and his observations on “life under the sun.” 1995. 129 pp.

Tender Mercies: Some thoughts on faith. Another gem by Ann Lamott. Honest, transparent, memoir-ish. Makes you love her, and gives you faith to face the craziness of life. Anchor Books, 1999. 272 pp.

Key Largo. A historic black-and-white Bogey film with army veteran Frank McCloud (Humphrey Bogart) and war-widow Nora Temple (Lauren Bacall), set in hurricane season in the Florida Keys. Bad guys have taken over the hotel. The hurricane comes. Will Bogart again save the day? 1948 1 hr 41m

 Favorite quotes

   If you want good answers, you must learn to ask good questions.

   I hate it when I go to the kitchen looking for food and all I find are ingredients.

♫   I was so sick of semicolons that I lapsed into a comma.  Lynn Truss

♫   Ah synonym rolls! Just like grammar used to make.

   Quote about Amish life:  “If you admire our faith, strengthen yours. If you admire our sense of commitment, deepen yours. If you admire our community spirit, build your own. If you admire the simple life, cut back. If you admire deep character and enduring values, live them yourself.”

♫   “With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone.”  Oscar Wilde
[I hear you, Oscar!]

 Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here http://jimhurd.com/home/
Sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

 Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/ (or at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.)
See NEW pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

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Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread E-zine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and say in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Get Thee Behind Me Satan—and Push

 

 

O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us
Robert Burns

You’re kidding yourself! No, really–you are. What are you going to do about it?

 In self-deception you’re both the deceiver and the deceived—you talk yourself into a lie. But SD is so frequent  you don’t even notice it.

Examples abound. I tell myself I can indulge my lust and still have high morals. Although I’m all for good nutrition, I tell myself it’s OK to eat lots of sugars and fats. (Anyway, next week I’ll start my diet.) When I was a pilot, I convinced myself I could beat the odds and fly through bad weather–a practice I condemned in other pilots.

St. Paul feels my pain: “…what I do is not the good I want to do.” (Rom 7:19). Vintage SD—no big deal, really—except when it leads to disaster. In dating, SD can lead to sexual immorality and a broken heart. In nutrition, SD can lead to frail health and an early death. In aviation, SD can lead to a fatal accident.

Where does SD come from? It comes from my split will. My “will” is not single; it’s more like a food fight among dysfunctional members of a board. The voices of reason get out-shouted by the short-sighted members who favor easy-feel-good over hard-but-better.

What to do?

  • I need to tell myself the truth, to admit that I’m a sucker for SD.
  • I need faithful people around me to correct and warn me (for example, an accountability group).
  • I need to remember: God is true; I’m not.

As St. Paul says, “…the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). Not my SD “truth,” but God’s.

WINGSPREAD E-zine, July, 2016


“Spreading your wings” in a challenging world
July, 2016                                                                                            James Hurd  

 Contents

  • Subscribe to this E-zine
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • New blog article: Eden: No Walk in the Park
  • Writer’s Word of the Week: head-hopping
  • Book and Film reviews
  • Favorite quotes

 Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here http://jimhurd.com/home/ to subscribe to Wingspread  E-magazine sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You’ll receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

 Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/ (or at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, etc.)

See pics related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying here: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

 

 New blog article: Eden: No Walk in the Park

I remember walking away, looking for Adam and telling myself, Wow, Eve! You got scared by the big green snake, but he really talked sense. I ate the luscious fruit and I didn’t die. Anyway, God loves me so much I’m sure one piece of fruit is no big deal with him.

Shortly after we had arrived in the park God said, “Enjoy, celebrate, but don’t eat any fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or you’ll die.” (Adam and I referred to the tree as “the TKGE.”)

So I asked Adam, “If God loves us, why would he deny us good fruit?”

 Read more here:   https://jimhurd.com/2016/07/01/eden-no-walk-in-the-park/

(*Request: Please share with others, and leave a comment on the website after reading the article. Thanks.)

 Writers’ Word of the Week:   Head-hopping
Switching narrators among several characters. Changing Point of View. Be careful with this one; you’ll confuse your reader.

Book and Film Reviews

The Monuments Men. A 2014 film. Matt Damon, Bill Murray. Directed by George Clooney. The frantic scramble to recover stolen Nazi art at the end of WWII. ♥ ♥ ♥

 Casablanca. 1942 romantic drama of love, war, and escape. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergmann.    ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Michael Phillips, The Baron’s Apprenticeship. Bethany House. 1986. 272 pp. A re-telling of a favorite George MacDonald story. A young boy discovers his true identity and his true love.    ♥ ♥ ♥

Judith Barrington, Writing the Memoir: A practical guide to the craft, the personal challenges, and ethical dilemmas of writing your true stories. 2nd Ed. The Eighth Mountain Press: Portland, OR. 2002. A master memoirist unveils the secrets of her craft.    ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Favorite quotes

♫   Synonym: A word used in place of a word you can’t spell.

   “Britain [or the U.S.] does not have permanent friends or permanent enemies; she has permanent interests.”

   Some people can’t punctuate their way out of a paper bag. Lynne Truss

  I asked our marriage counselor if she wanted to meet only with the innocent party, or should I come along too?

*                      *                      *                      *

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread E-zine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and say in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Eden: No Walk in the Park

Thus, they in mutual accusation spent
The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning.
And of their vain contest appeared no end.

Milton

 

I remember walking away, looking for Adam and telling myself, Wow, Eve! The big green snake was scary, but he really talked sense. I ate the fruit and I didn’t die. Anyway, God loves me so much I’m sure one piece of fruit is no big deal for him.

Scene I: The TKGE

Shortly after we arrived in the park God had told us, “Enjoy, celebrate, but don’t eat any fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or you’ll die.” (Adam and I referred to the tree as “the TKGE.”)

So I ask Adam, “If God loves us, why would he deny us good fruit?”

Adam says, “I don’t know; he has his reasons, I guess. Maybe it’s a test. Anyway there’re so many other good trees.”

“Yeah, but I wonder if the TKGE fruit looks different. There must be something special about it.”

“Maybe, but I’m busy here with the vegetable garden, so let’s talk about it later.” (In those special days, guys ate green, leafy vegetables.)

But I’m wondering why God put the tree in the middle of the park. I’m thinking I’ll walk over and take a good look at it. I should take Adam along, but he’s always busy tinkering, doesn’t like to be disturbed, never likes to go anywhere, would probably be bored, and anyway, he probably would try to keep me from going.

I’m walking among the maple, oak, apple and pear trees, and just happen to spot the TKGE. It seems kind of ordinary, really, but with big red fruit. No fence around it or anything. I think, I’ll just walk over and look at it; I won’t touch it.

Then I see a form gliding through the nearby trees, now revealed, now hidden by the leaves.  Smooth, iridescent green skin, dark unblinking eyes, looking steadily at me. I jump back, but he fascinates me. It’s kind of like the dirty parts in a movie—you try not to look, but you do anyway.

I startle when he speaks—“The fruit trees are great, aren’t they? Did God say you can’t eat from any of these trees?”

“Oh no, actually we can eat from all of them, except we can’t even touch that Knowledge Tree there or we’ll die!”

“You won’t die! It’s just that he knows that if you eat it you’ll have great knowledge like he does. He’d rather keep you in the dark. I’ve been around here for awhile; I know how these things work. Anyway, you’re special. If God loves you, he wouldn’t want to deny you anything, would he? What’s the point of creating the big red fruit if he didn’t mean for you to eat any?”

I thought, That seems reasonable, like the voice of experience. I’m feeling the pull of the serpent’s eyes, and smelling the sweet fruit. I kind of wish Adam were here with me….

All at once, I reach out my hand, grab the fruit, and eat.

The fruit explodes sweet in my mouth. I eat the whole thing but, not wanting to litter, I save the core. And I’m not dead! I can’t wait to tell Adam. The snake has disappeared.

Scene II: The God-encounter

I find Adam tilling the kale and Swiss chard (green and leafy). “Adam—I ate the TKGE fruit and look, I didn’t die! It tastes so sweet. We must have misunderstood what God said. ”

“O boy! Do I have to go everyplace with you? Who’ve you been talking to?

“Well, you were busy and I was only going to look at it.”

“But what’re we going to tell God? He said don’t eat it.”

“Why did he put it there if he didn’t want us to eat it?”

His face clouds, he hesitates, then suddenly he grabs the core from my hand and eats it.

Just like a guy, I think. But is he really hungry? Or just so dependent on me that, realizing I might be kicked out of the park, he wants to be sure he’ll be kicked out with me?

Now Adam starts looking me up and down–and up and down. I blush. Strange; I’ve never felt self-conscious before. I find some fig leaves and use fibers to sew them together to make loincloths for us. As an afterthought, I sew two additional small round ones for me. We walk deeper into the forest because for the first time, we just want to be alone. And I feel something new—guilt.

After a couple of hours I hear God calling out: “Adam, where are you?” (Why doesn’t God call for both of us?) We walk deeper into the forest, playing hide and seek.

God finally catches up with us and says to Adam, “Why are you hiding?”

So my smart husband comes up with humankind’s first excuse: “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”

God asks, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat the fruit I told you not to eat?”

Adam gets a pained look on his face, immediately confesses, and then passes the buck: “Yep, I did, but this woman that you gave me insisted that I eat it, and you know her—I just couldn’t say no.”

At this point God rolls his eyes, gives up on Adam, and turns to me. I boldly re-pass the buck: “Well, the serpent told me to eat it, and you know weak little me—no sales resistance. Adam wouldn’t come with me—he didn’t even warn me.”

God finds the serpent and tells him the bad news: “Henceforth you’ll be looking at life from the ground up. And people will step on your head.” The unblinking eyes disappear into the greenery.

Then he turns to me: “It will hurt you to bear children, and now your husband will be telling you what to do.”

“You mean Adam? Really? How well do you know this man? He can’t even change his mind without consulting me. Can’t follow instructions, no initiative. How could he be the” leader?”

“Well, Eve, you know he’ll be ticked if he isn’t in charge. And even though you have to pretend he’s the leader in public, you can always influence him at home. Trust me; this’ll work.”

“Well, I guess I’ll just have to try to keep Adam from screwing up.”

Then God turns to Adam: “Failure of leadership! Why didn’t you stop her from going? Why didn’t you tell her not to talk to strangers?”

At this, Adam is probably thinking, I’ve tried that before, but you know how hard it is to tell her anything.

God tells him, “You thought life was complicated in the garden. But now you’ll have to dig in harder soil, wrestle with thorns and destroying insects, and perform sweaty labor. It isn’t going to be a walk in the park.” Adam hung his head and thought about his easy work—the garden vegetables had almost sprung up by themselves. Then he made a fateful decision that has influenced all of his male descendants—he promised himself, I’ll never willingly eat green leafy vegetables again.

Then God kicked us out of the park and posted a guard so we couldn’t get back in. He replaced our fig-leaf loincloths with the skins of slain animals. I hung my head, but Adam asked God if he could eat the animal meat.

Scene III: Outside looking in

I remember those early “outside” days. We hung on the chain link fence like banished traitors, looking in at the beautiful park we could never again enter. Some brambles were already sticking their ugly heads through the fence into the park, and the grass inside was browning. I thought, How ungrateful we were; how much we took for granted.

Adam asked me, “Eve, why did you wander off like that? Anyway, who ever heard of a talking snake? Why didn’t you ask me before you ate the fruit?

“Well, why didn’t you warn me? Why didn’t you put your foot down? Then I never would have gone. Or at least, you should have insisted on going with me. Failure of leadership.”

“Eve, Didn’t you even stop to think? You knew God had a good reason to prohibit that tree.”

“Well, maybe, but it’s not my fault you ate the fruit that I gave you.”

And so we passed the hours in fruitless arguing.

 

How was I to know that my simple decision would affect our grandchildren’s grandchildren? That they would only be able to dream about a walk in the park? They’ll blame us for eating, but I’ll bet they would’ve done the same thing. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

WINGSPREAD E-zine for June, 2016

WINGSPREAD E-zine

“Spreading your wings” in a challenging world
June, 2016                                                                                           James Hurd  

 

Contents

  • E-zine subscription information
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • New blog article: Entwined Travels (see below)
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Book and Film reviews
  • Favorite quotes

 Subscribe free to this free E-zine   Click here http://jimhurd.com/home/ to subscribe to Wingspread  E-magazine sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

 Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/ (or at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, etc.)
See pics here related to “Entwined Travels” and the book Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: https://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/minnesota-discoveries/

 New blog article: Entwined Travels

An obscure entry in the Guinness Book of World Records electrified us. We’d visited many Minnesota marvels—Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse, the mighty boat locks on the Mississippi, the Paul Bunyan statue in Brainerd, the 50-foot-tall Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth. But here was a Guinness-honored marvel just a few miles away, a wonder we could drive to see this very weekend….

Read more here:   https://jimhurd.com/2016/05/23/entwined-travels/

(*Request: Please share with others, and leave a comment on the website after reading the article. Thanks.)

Writers Corner

Term of the week: Dashing Ideas. 

Pity the poorly-paid author—-the old typewriters never had these dashes.
Now we have three to choose from (listed from shortest to longest):

  1. Hyphen: Used to break a word between lines, or to join closely-related words
  2. En dash: Good for between numbers: 1960–65; pp. 13–15
  3. Em dash: A sharp break: George Washington–an amazing leader–died in 1799.

If you’re using Word, you can find these options under “insert symbol.”

Book and Film Reviews

The Life and Faith of C.S. Lewis: The Magic Never Ends. 2002. 85 mins. NR. This sweet biopic helps me understand why Lewis’ books have sold millions of copies, some made into movies, and why he is still popular today.

Arturo Perez-Reverte. The Nautical Chart. Harcourt: New York. 2000. A dark tale of sunken treasure, sea navigation, determining meridians, stolen love, and finally, treachery.

Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots, & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.  Gotham Books, New York. 2003. A painless, hilarious, guide to correct punctuation, American and British. Sample (paraphrased) concerning help for over-users of semicolons: “There’s a hospital somewhere in England that does semicolonic irrigation.” A helpful hoot of a book.

 Favorite quotes

♫   We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out. Decca Recording Co. rejecting an album by the Beatles, 1962

♫   Mr. Wagner has beautiful moments but bad quarters of an hour. Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868)

♫   “Autocorrect” has become my worst enema.

♫   Arrogance doesn’t suit you, it dresses you like a fool.

♫   If you’re addicted to semicolons, there’s a hospital somewhere in England that does semicolonic irrigation. (after Lynne Truss)

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If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread E-zine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and say in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Entwined Travels

An obscure entry in the Guinness Book of World Records electrified us. We’d visited many Minnesota marvels—Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse, the mighty boat locks on the Mississippi, the Paul Bunyan statue in Brainerd, the 50-foot-tall Jolly Green Giant in Blue Earth. But here was a Guinness-honored marvel just a few miles away, a wonder we could drive to see this very weekend.

Barbara and I had argued the details of our getaway weekend—When? Where? What to do?—but the Guinness entry galvanized us —“The World’s Largest Ball of Twine., Darwin, Minnesota.” Darwin was only a two-hour drive away! The huge twine ball fired our imagination—“the largest in the world,” it said—and filled us with burning desire. So instead of the casual May road trip we had planned, we embarked on a pilgrimage to see this twiny wonder that had spread the fame of one man and one tiny town across the world. Would Barbara and I find concord and happiness on this quest?

We decided on a circuitous route that ran west along MN 7. We knew we would face hardships on our mission, so we discounted a few drops of cold rain that bounced off our windshield, but we were alarmed to see the maples and oaks whipping their newly-leaved branches in the 20-knot wind. I wondered how the great ball of twine was faring.

We turned north at Hutchinson (site of Little Crow’s death in 1863) and overnighted in Litchfield where we walked the paths of Anderson arboretum, a little gem perched on the shores of Lake Ripley that boasts flowering crabapples and dozens of different breeds of hostas. Early the next morning (to beat the twine crowds) we took the road again, driving east on US 12. We were now nearing our goal!

We accidentally drove right through Darwin (Pop. 280) and had to do a U-turn. Our excitement rose as we drove back into town. I puzzled that I saw no great billboards, in fact, no twine signs at all. Where were the crowds? Where was the Great Ball of Twine? We turned right at Darwin’s only traffic light, and after a block or two, the concrete street turned into dirt and gravel. Darwin didn’t seem symmetrically laid out—I guess, being Darwin, it must have just evolved.

We re-crossed US 12, and then we spotted the soaring silver water tower with “Darwin” painted in black capital letters on the side. At its base stood a hexagonal building. The Plexiglas windows seemed to glow and pulsate in the sun. My pulse quickened. Could this be it?

We saw not a single soul when we parked along the street in front of a green mailbox that announced, “Pictorials, souvenirs.” Behind, we saw the souvenir shop, but alas, it didn’t open until Memorial Day. My brochure informed me that Darwin celebrates Twine Ball Day the second Saturday in august. What a day that must be! I read the list of treasures one could buy in the shop:

– tee shirts in a variety of colors and sizes
– postcards
– yo-yos
– shot glasses
– miniature ball of twine magnets
– pens
– earrings (metal, not made from twine…but twine ball shaped!)
– mugs, water bottles, cozies
– bumper stickers and keychains
– Frisbees
– playing cards

And (my personal favorite):

– twine ball starter kits

We walked closer to the hexagon building and, finding the door locked (“not open until Memorial Day”), we squinted through the window to see The World’s Largest Ball of Twine. (Was that a security camera I saw under the eaves?) The ball stood majestic, twice my height, entirely wrapped and re-wrapped with thick strands of baling twine.  It was gray-colored, and over the years had developed a sort of potbelly at the bottom. The sign said: “8.7 tons. 40 feet in circumference.”

Nearby was printed the testimony of one Frank A. Johnson: “Well, one day I just wound a piece of twine around two fingers and sort of kept on winding.” Frank, who reported that he worked “four hours a day, every day,” soon graduated from hand-winding to using a forklift, with huge timbers to support the growing ball.

Frank the twine-winder was even more famous than his father Magnus, a U.S. Senator. What motivated Frank to spend almost 30 years (1950-1979) of patient winding? I can imagine Frank’s wife over the years—raising kids, cleaning house, cooking—and constantly asking him, “When’re ya gonna lay up for soybeans? The fields look dry enough” or, “Looks like the corn wants harvesting,” or “The barn sure needs a couple coats of paint.” But because Frank was on a mission—winding, winding, winding—he had trouble focusing on the mundane needs of his family.

Soon Frank became internationally renowned as the man who put Darwin on the map. Then one day in 1979 he stopped winding. Was he satisfied with the ball, or did he just stop?

We lingered, staring through the Plexiglas, trying to photograph the image in our minds. The majestic silence of the gigantic ball spoke for itself. But at last, we had to tear ourselves away.

As we drove home, full of twine memories, Barbara said, “How big it is!”

I said, “Yes, and how old, and well-preserved!”

She said, “How the town treasures it.”

I said, “I can’t believe more people weren’t crowding in for a view through the glass….
But after we left, I could only think of one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“I wish I could have grabbed a loose end of that stupid twine ball, hooked it to our car bumper, and unraveled it all the way back to Minneapolis.”

 

WINGSPREAD: E-zine for May 2016

“Spreading your wings” in a challenging world
May, 2016                                                                                           James Hurd  

 Contents

  • E-zine subscription information
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • New blog article: Learning to Love Manure Day
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Book and Film reviews
  • Favorite quotes

 Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here http://jimhurd.com/home/ to subscribe to Wingspread  E-magazine sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

 Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/ (or at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, etc.)
See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

 

New blog article: Learning to Love Manure Day

I’ve always hated manure. So on my first day of work at the egg ranch, when Ron said, “the real fun here is manure day,” I thought he’d gone mad.

During high school, we worked on Marv’s egg ranch. Marv was the kind of guy who only washed from the waist up. A serious, bible-quoting Christian, thick-necked, bulbous-nosed, and rough-edged, he talked like someone had put sand in his toothpaste….

Read more here:   https://jimhurd.com/2016/05/06/learning-to-love-manure-day/

(*Request: Please share with others, and leave a comment on the website after reading the article. Thanks.)

 

Writer’s Corner
Term of the Week:   backstory

Backstory refers to a flashback. A history of a character in your story. A recollected memory. An explanation of something that happened earlier that allows the reader to better understand the primary narrative.

A giveaway that you are reading backstory is the word had.

 Examples:

“Harry met Sally. Sally had been a dancer in the Starlight Club in the 50s.”

“Harry remembered the last time he had been there—he had become very drunk.”

“Harry had worked as a bartender in several bars when he was in his 20s.”

Beware too much backstory! The reader is impatient, and wants to get on with the primary narrative. Descriptions of people or places, flashbacks, mental activity—these are all wonderful and necessary, but if they obstruct the flow of the narrative they may frustrate the reader. If you must use backstory, feed it to the reader is small medicine-like doses.
Book and Film Reviews
*Alert: These books and films are selected. Some may be “popular and contemporary,” but most of them have been around for awhile.

 The Intern. 2015. 121 min. Rated: PG-13. Robert De Niro and Ann Hathaway. A retired CEO interns under a beautiful young woman in a startup company, and saves her
bacon.

Hornet Flight. Macmillan, 2002. A Ken Follett page-turning WWII thriller about the Allied underground at the start of the war. The fate of millions hangs on an intrepid crew of men and women running around Denmark under the noses of the Nazis.                           

 Favorite quotes

♫   Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.      Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

♫   Thank you for sending me a copy of your book—I’ll waste no time reading it.
Moses Hadas (1900-1966)

♫   A story is the shortest distance between a person and the truth.             Fr. De Mello

♫   God gave you two ends: One to sit on and one to think with. Success depends upon which one you use most —
Heads you win
Tails you lose.

*                      *                      *                      *

Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread E-zine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and say in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

Learning to Love Manure Day

I’ve always hated manure. So on my first day of work at the egg ranch, when Ron said, “the real fun here is manure day,” I thought he’d gone mad.

During high school, we worked on Marv’s egg ranch. Marv was the kind of guy who only washed from the waist up. A serious, bible-quoting Christian, thick-necked, bulbous-nosed, and rough-edged, he talked like someone had put sand in his toothpaste.

I drove my pea soup green 1953 Ford to work. When I had it painted, Marv and Ron mocked its gleaming metallic gold paint—“Hey, Ronnie! Jim’s car’s all brown. That sick cat must’ve crapped all over it.” And later when my ears reddened at their sexual jokes, they ate me like a baby marshmallow rabbit. I resented that they always targeted me, but now I realize that I took myself too seriously. And Marv always treated me well and paid me well.

My first day, Marv took me on a tour. “The chicken cages sit in ten long rows there, eight Leghorns to a cage. When they drop their eggs, they roll down the sloping wire floors into the trays.” He showed me how to push a four-wheeled cart alongside the trays, gathering the eggs, inhaling urine and manure smells. I picked up the eggs four at a time and placed them into cartons stacked on the cart. I smelled my own sweat while swallowing the dust that filled the stifling, motionless air. The eggs came with a byproduct—manure. Some fell on the eggs and left brown streaks, so we later had to wash them with a mechanical egg scrubber. Most, however, fell through the cages and accumulated on the concrete slab beneath.

Then I had to pee. My clothes were so dirty I couldn’t go up to the house and ask Frances if I could use their bathroom. So I did as Marv and Ron always did—leaned against a cage post and discreetly let fly, watching the little yellow rivulets in the manure beneath—an action which provoked the startled chickens to raise a clucking alarm, part commentary and part protest. After they settled down I returned to egg gathering, but when I exited the row, a whole stack of egg cartons dumped off the front, and dozens of eggs broke. Marv said nothing—he was a patient man.

While I gathered eggs, Marv walked down the cage rows to check for any wounded or dying hens. He saw a chicken with a red, tumid butt, pulled it out, and swabbed some foul-smelling purple stuff on it to staunch the bleeding. If he hadn’t done this the other hens would have pecked relentlessly at the bloody feathers until they disemboweled her, leaving her intestines to hang out like a lariat.

After a bit Marv saw a chicken that had a lariat and he yelled over to me, “Hey Jamie—look at the cowboy chicken!” He grabbed the cowboy’s feet, smashed its little head against one of the wooden support posts, and hurled the lifeless body onto the manure pile underneath the cage. “It would’ve died anyway,” he said.

 One auspicious Saturday Ron and I arrived early at the egg ranch. It was my first manure day. Would I be able to do this? Ron seemed ready. He was a bit smaller than I was, but one of the most confident kids I knew, funny and smart.We walked over to look at the Model A truck and manure trailer, and Ron told me, “Marv’s dad designed this trailer.”

Marv walked up, and said, “The Old Man found this rusty trailer chassis with an axle and two wheels and built a steel bed for it. (I always call him ‘The Old Man’—it’s a navy term of respect.) Then the Old Man rigged up a small gasoline engine. This hydraulic pump here tilts the trailer bed to dump the manure.”

The Old Man maneuvered the truck and trailer down the narrow driveway between the first two cage rows. Ron and I trailed behind, shoveling manure from each side into the trailer. It became a silent competition to finish our row first, and Ron always finished a little ahead of me. Shoveling dry manure would not be so bad, but the night’s rain had turned the dry droppings into a sodden, slippery slurry that oozed out from under the cages.  The stinking slime ran off the edge of my shovel and dripped over my tennies. My shod feet squelched through the sticky slush. The term “stepping in the cow pie” took on new meaning, although instead of dry, sterile pies, this was more like stepping into a smelly soup.

Then it got fun, because these manure guys planned for crazy. The Old Man loved driving the truck and relished the banter of his shovelers. You would have thought Ron loved this job more than anything—he seemed to savor every shovelful. We all took jabs at each other, but I usually ended up as the butt of their jokes. Marv drew upon his vast repertoire of manure stories, flavored with colorful Anglo-Saxon words. When he threw the “cowboy chickens” into the trailer, he made comments that were less than complimentary to the chickens.

After we filled the trailer with manure and bloodied, dead chickens, we drove out into the orange grove and stopped at a wooden access cover that hid a large, underground pit. Marv said, “Jim—Take off the cover.” The acrid, rotting stench of manure and decayed flesh almost overwhelmed me. We tilted up the trailer bed and shoveled all its contents into the hole, carefully scraping out the last of the slurry. Then we went back for another trailer load. After several more loads we were done, leaving only a manure-less concrete surface under the cages. The whole job took four or five hours.

*                      *                      *                      *

I knew I was destined to do great things for God, but never before realized it would include shoveling chicken manure. And yet shoveling taught me not to take myself so seriously. How could I, when my shoes were stained brown and my clothes smelled of rotting chicken flesh? Manure days taught me that even tiring, stinking work can make you proud because you feel as if you’ve accomplished something. Ron targeted me with his jokes, but he also helped me learn how to work well with other people. And I learned to love Marv—at once a good Christian and a worldly, somewhat profane man—one of the best bosses ever.

I confess that still today, I miss Saturday manure day.

WINGSPREAD E-zine for April, 2016


“Spreading your wings” in a confusing world

Contents

  • E-zine subscription information
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • New blog article: Two Dead Babies
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Book and Film reviews
  • Favorite quotes

 Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here http://jimhurd.com/home/ to subscribe to Wingspread  E-magazine sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share this URL with interested friends, “like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

 Buy James Hurd’s Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying.  How childhood (Fundamentalist) faith led to mission bush-piloting in South America—and Barbara. Buy it here:  https://jimhurd.com/home/ (or at Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, etc.)
See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

 New blog article: Two Dead Babies

As I’m loading the Cessna 185 in the oppressive heat of the Puerto Ayacucho, Venezuela airport, I wonder where I should lay the dead baby—in the cabin or the belly pod? The father speaks little English, but I can read his abject eyes. His home is 230 miles away, up the Orinoco River, and he has to return there to bury his dead little boy. Will we get there today?  ……

Read more here:   https://jimhurd.com/2016/03/28/two-dead-babies/

(*Request: Please share with others, and leave a comment on the website after reading the article. Thanks.)

 Writer’s Corner
Term of the Week:   Comma splice:  Two sentences joined by a comma. (Don’t do this!) Example: Susan and I walked down by the beach, we had a great time.

Book and Film Reviews
Dava Sobel. Longitude: The true story of a lone genius who solved the greatest scientific problem of his time. Harper: London. 2005. The amazing story of seamen trying to determine their longitude, and John Harrison’s amazing clock solution. (Caution: you might learn something.) My rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Little Boy. 2013. 107 minutes. PG-13. The story of a little boy who desperately wishes his WWII soldier father back.    My rating:   ♥ ♥ ♥                                                   

Favorite quotes

♫   Be careful if you don’t know where you’re going—you might end up somewhere else. Yogi Berra

   Seeking God is like the mouse seeking the cat. You cannot be too careful.

   Every day in the US, nine children are shot by accident — almost all with a parent’s gun.

   Mixing church and state is like mixing ice cream and cow manure. It won’t hurt the manure, but it sure messes up the ice cream.

♫   It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.        Irish proverb

*                      *                      *                      *

 Follow “james hurd” on Facebook, or “@hurdjp” on Twitter

If you wish to unsubscribe from this Wingspread E-zine, send an email to hurd@usfamily.net and say in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.