Wingspread Ezine for March, 2017

Spreading your wings in a perplexing world
March, 2017                                                        James Hurd      

 Contents

  • New blog article: “Al, My Pachuco Friend”
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Book and Film reviews
  • E-zine subscription information
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Quotable quotes

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New blog article: Al, My Pachuco Friend

I met Al Lopez only once after high school—in jail.

Growing up in Orange, California in the 1950s, I saw Mexican kids walking to Holy Family Catholic School, and wondered why they wore blue and white uniforms. I knew that other, poorer Mexican kids went to Kilefer Elementary—“the Mexican school”—over by the Orange Packing House….       Read more here:  
https://jimhurd.com/2017/03/10/al-my-pacucho-friend/

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

 Writers’ Corner

Writer of the Month: Arthur Conan Doyle. (The Complete Sherlock Holmes, “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” “A Study in Scarlet,” “The Sign of the Four”). Perhaps the best known English mystery writer ever. Several movie adaptations have appeared, including many with the famous Holmes character, Basil Rathbone.

Word of the Month:   Lyrical: expressing the writer’s emotions in an imaginative or beautiful way.

Quiz of the Month: Compare these two sentences:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy and peace.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and peace.

Question: What is the formal name of the last comma in the second sentence, and when should you use it?

Answer to last week’s quiz: “Mark Twain” is a pen name. His birth name is Samuel L. Clemens

Tip of the Month: A writer must tighten every piece she writes. Try reducing your piece by 20 percent. Try eliminating all the adverbs. Eliminate all but one adjective that modifies a noun. Try to reduce or eliminate backstory. Shorten description. The narrative’s the thing—focus on telling your story.

 For lovers of English:

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is “UP.”

  • It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?
  • At a meeting, why does a topic come UP?
  • Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?
  • We call UP our friends.
  • And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.
  • We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car.

At other times the little word has special meaning.

  • People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.
  • To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.
  • A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.
  • We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

Book and Film Reviews

Celtic Daily Prayer. A prayer book, but with a Celtic flair. (Think Holy Island, St. Patrick, 6th and 7th century Celtic monks, writers, and missionaries.) Daily readings and scripture. I’ve used it for 15 years. HarperCollins. 2002.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov. One of those classic Russian journeys through 19th century psyches. This one’s about three brothers, their father, and their loves and hates for each other. Betrayal, jealousy, murder, romance, and general mayhem. 700 small-print pages. Don’t plan on a one-night reading. 1957 Signet Classic.

Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here https://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, etc.)
See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

 Quotable quotes about music

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

♠    There are some experiences in life which should not be demanded twice from any man, and one of them is listening to the Brahms Requiem.   George Bernard Shaw

♠   Too many pieces of music finish too long after the end.  Igor Stravinsky

♠   Mr. Wagner has beautiful musical moments but bad quarters of an hour.   Gioacchino Rossini

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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.

Al, my Pacucho Friend

I met Al Lopez only once after high school—in jail.

Growing up in Orange, California in the 1950s, I saw Mexican kids walking to Holy Family Catholic School, and wondered why they wore blue and white uniforms. I knew that other, poorer Mexican kids went to Kilefer Elementary—“the Mexican school,” over by the Orange Packing House.

When I entered Orange Intermediate (middle school), the playground was a vast, dusty tarmac that stretched from the chain link fence along Sycamore Ave. to the bicycle stands and woodshop near Olive Street on the south side. To the west lay a dirty lot that served for track and field practice. I remember running the track with burning lungs, gulping in dust and smog.

On the playground, Anglos and Mexicans mostly clumped in separate groups. I knew the Mexicans were Catholics because they had religious medals hanging on their silver neck chains. A few of these were my friends, and I would notice that their homes where more humble than mine. It never occurred to me to ask if they were documented, but I heard some people calling them “wetbacks” (referring to swimming across the Rio Grande).

This was the era of the butch cut and flattop, but the Mexicans’ greased jet-black hair fell down to their collars, their baggy pants hanging in loose folds over black shoes. The politically-correct word “Chicano” hadn’t come along yet, so behind their backs, we called them Pachucos (as in El Pachuco tuxedos), Chongos (referring to a male wearing a hair bun), Cholos (a man of Mexican descent), Chingos [censored], or just Mexicans. I learned a few Spanish words (hombre, grande), and several bastardized words—savvy (from sabe; to know), calaboose (from calabozo; jail), sankero (from zanjero; irrigation ditch worker), and a few dirty words —ca**jo, hijo de la ch**ada, and the exquisite p**ejo (referring to the more private parts of a bull cow). At the time, though, I didn’t know what these meant.

Students weren’t supposed to leave the playground during the school day, but along Sycamore Street stood a tiny Mexican take-out that sold tamales, access by a breach in the school’s chain link fence. Both Anglos and Mexicans would sneak across to buy a couple of tamales for lunch. I can still taste the pork in the moist cornmeal.

And then there was Al Lopez. Al, who came to our school in the middle of the year, a slightly-built kid who talked only occasionally, talked in broken English. Sometimes in class, Mr. Hardesty would playfully throw an eraser at him. One day when Al was absent, Mr. Hardesty told us, “Al has an IQ of about 70.” I guess he was trying to solicit our compassion. Once I sarcastically called Al a “brain.” He almost hit me. He and I competed for the forward position on the basketball team. I shot the ball better, but he had a ferocious dribble, and could penetrate the defense. I won the position, but later he replaced me.

The summer after I graduated, I met Al—in jail. Orange Evangelical Free Church had organized a “jail team,” and we were singing and speaking to a group of faceless men. One of them called me over and said, “Hey! Al here knows you.” It was Al Lopez! He explained he was jailed for driving without a license. Today, I lament I didn’t pay the $30 to bail him out. I guess my pride hindered me—against all available evidence, I thought I was better than other people, and was silently critical of him for being in jail.

 

Recently I returned to California for our 50th high school reunion. As I sat down next to my friend César, I looked around for Al so I could apologize for how I treated him.

“Where’s Al?”

“Oh. He died several years ago.”

At that moment I realized I’d lost my chance with Al Lopez, only one of thousands of recently-arrived Mexican kids who, in the 1950s, were struggling to make their way in the Anglo world of Southern California.

WINGSPREAD E-zine for February, 2017

“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”
February, 2017                   James Hurd      

Contents

  • New blog article: First Solo
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Book and Film reviews
  • E-zine subscription information
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying

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New article: First Solo

 I’d washed out of Moody’s flight school, but remained at the Institute’s downtown Chicago campus to take courses in Bible and missions.

All of us students ate in the vast dining hall in Crowell Hall basement. I would look across at the flyboys who ate with us groundlings but sat at a separate table. They trained out at Moody-Wooddale Airport two days a week, but they lived here. Most of them wore immaculate, black flying boots. I don’t know how anyone could be a good pilot without black flying boots. Dave explained to me how he would smell burnt leather when he spent two hours burning off the old polish and applying the new. And their aviation glasses—gray-shaded and expensive. I didn’t feel worthy to wear flight boots or aviation glasses….     Read more here:   https://jimhurd.com/2017/02/18/first-solo/

(*Request: Please share with others. Thanks.)

 

Writers’ Corner

Writer of the Month: Ellis Peters, the pen name of Edith Pargeter. She writes readable novels about live and death in medieval Shrewsbury, England. The wonderful Brother Cadfael series features a Benedictine monk, who also is an amateur detective living in the 12th century at the Abbey in Shrewsbury.

Word of the Month:   slatternly (of a woman—dirty and untidy)

Quiz of the Month: What is Mark Twain’s real name?

(Answer to last month’s quiz: Who is considered to have invented modern German? Answer: Martin Luther)

Tip of the Month: Try taking the most interesting sentence of your story or essay and putting it at the beginning. It’s easier than you think.

 Fun with words:

 You think English is easy? (Jottings from a retired English teacher)


1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

 Book and Film Reviews

Greg Boyd, The Cosmic Dance. 2016. ReKnew Pub. A “Dick and Jane” graphic book (pictures with speech-balloons) about serious topics: quantum theory, relativity, the speed of light, how chaos can generate order, how God can be in control and people still have freedom of choice. Did I mention it’s a serious book? Even if you don’t understand it all (I certainly didn’t), it’s an amazing book about the cosmos and an amazing book about God.

Ellis Peters, The Heretic’s Apprentice. A “Brother Cadfael” novel, set in 12th century England. Will the young apprentice Elave be pronounced a heretic, or will common sense and compassion prevail? Cadfael, the Benedictine monk, herbalist, and amateur detective will get to the bottom of this.

Monk’s Hood. A movie of Brother Cadfael. Who poisoned the landowner? Murder, false accusation, and mercy in 12th century England.

 

Subscribe free to this E-zine

Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to Wingspread  E-zine 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 pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

*    *    *

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.

First Solo

I’d washed out of Moody’s flight school two years before, but remained at the Institute’s downtown Chicago campus to take courses in Bible and missions.

All of us students ate in the vast dining hall in Crowell Hall basement. I would look across at the flyboys who ate with us groundlings, but sat at their own separate table. They trained out at Moody-Wooddale Airport two days a week, but they lived here. Most of them wore immaculate, black flying boots. I don’t know how anyone could be a good pilot without black flying boots. Dave explained to me how he would smell burnt leather when he spent two hours burning off the old polish and applying the new. And their aviation glasses—gray-shaded and expensive. I didn’t feel worthy to wear flight boots or aviation glasses.

But I constantly dreamed of flying. I read and re-read the FAA’s small booklets—Facts of Flight, Path of Flight, and Realm of Flight (aerodynamics, navigation, and weather), and Wolfgang Langewiesche’s classic Stick and Rudderstill the best book I’ve ever read on flying.

When summer came to Chicago, several of the flyboys carpooled home to California, and took me along so I could visit my family. As we drove across the Midwest, I imagined every passing field a potential airstrip.

Now it is August of 1961, and fourteen of us enter Moody’s two-week flight camp. This is my final chance. After two weeks of training, I am one of only eight men accepted into the program.

The next day, our instructor, Leo, leads a gaggle of new pilots out to a tiny Cessna 150 sitting on the flight line. “Gentlemen, this is an airplane.” We all write it down. The airplane weighs 1500 pounds, and rocks in a light breeze—you can easily raise one wing and lift a wheel off the ground. It has a 100 HP Continental air-cooled engine that burns five gallons per hour.

Leo says, “Drain a little gas out of the gascolator to check if there’s any water.” I drain. The cold, green liquid overflows the little drain cup and runs down my arm. No water, but the fumes intoxicate me.

I write my Dad about Moody Wooddale airport: “It’s really a pasture—the ‘runways’ are all short-mowed grass.” But we will soon get very familiar with this pasture. After a summer downpour, the sodden field turns into an airplane-trap, sucking at the planes’ wheels. Once I got stuck, and had to get help to push the airplane out of a muddy, watery hole. Mr. Anderson sent me out with boots and said, “You have to stomp around in the mud and smooth out the ruts.”

Once every two weeks, Mr. Anderson has to pull a mower behind his red Farmall tractor, driving round and round for hours. After he mows he sets up bright yellow cones along each of the runways. No other markers and no lights. For night operation, Mr. Anderson puts smudge pots out along the sides of runway 18, the 3000-foot north-south runway. When you take off to the south, you climb out over the houses of Wood Dale, and when you circle back around low to land you head-waggle to look for cars along Thorndale Rd.

Runway 24 runs off to the southwest toward a narrow departure tunnel cut through the woods. On a hot, humid day, a Cessna 150 with two people and full fuel can barely rise fast enough to traverse the tree tunnel. Once, when I forgot to retract landing flaps before climb-out, I thought I would carry some of the tree branches with me.

In winter, the whole airfield turns white, so Mr. Anderson plows the airstrips and opens some taxiways. We put the J-3 Piper Cubs on skis for winter operation. The J-3 works well on the snow, but the skis have no brakes, so you have to plan ahead. One cold winter day I had an engine failure in a J3 Cub (my fault), and almost hit the 12-inch approach lip at the east end of runway 09.

Our tiny airport lies in the shadow of Chicago’s O’Hare International. We have to fly below 300 feet because the huge commercial jets approaching O’Hare airport scream over just above us. Each day, fledgling pilots and their instructors take off and fly west through a narrow, prescribed corridor out to our practice area. We learn to watch the smoke on the ground to determine wind direction. Here, we practice turns-about-a-point, S-turns across the road, slow flight, stalls, and spin entries.

This day, I’ve been flying with Leo for about an hour. After a few practice landings, Leo abandons his instructor’s seat beside me, and says, “Well, take ‘er around a couple of times. Remember she’ll be lighter without me in there.”

Suddenly I’m alone, and the next landing will be up to me. No support, no help, not even radio contact with Leo. I carefully taxi out to the runway.

As I take off and circle around, I notice a tiny dot along the active airstrip—it’s Leo, wearing black flight boots and grey aviation goggles, standing there and staring up at me. I take off and make a shallow bank onto crosswind leg. After reaching 300 feet altitude, I pull the power back and level off. Then I turn left onto downwind leg and begin a pre-landing check—fuel valve on, mixture rich, carburetor heat hot. I turn base leg, start a descent, and add 20 degrees of flaps. The last descending turn aligns me with the runway, and I lower full flaps.

But with Leo’s weight absent, the airplane is too buoyant. I point the nose down, but I’m too fast and too high! I remember my training—add full power, retract flaps, climb out, and circle around to try again. The second approach is a repeat of the first—too fast and too high.

I can’t see Leo’s face, but I imagine he’s wondering if I will get the airplane on the ground before sundown. On the third try I’m still too fast and high, but I determine to land anyway. I paste the wheels onto the ground far down the runway, then stand on the toe brakes to bring it to a skidding stop just short of the end.

When I taxi back, Leo says, “I’ve never gotten back into an airplane after a solo flight, and I’m not going to start now. Try it again. Slow up more on downwind leg, and start your descent sooner.” I take off again. This time I watch the speed, start the descent earlier, and come in for a perfect landing.

My first solo opened up a new world to me and began an adventure of a lifetime. But for the next 6,000 hours of flying I never forget Leo’s advice—slow ‘er up and start your descent early!

WINGSPREAD E-zine for January, 2017


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”
January, 2017                                                                                       James Hurd      

 Contents

  • New blog article: Feasting with Mine Enemy
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Book and Film reviews
  • E-zine subscription information
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Quotable quotes

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New blog article—Feasting with Mine Enemy

The Niyayobateri men circle the dance ground several times, then stop and stand stone-faced in the center of the shabono with their arrows cocked, gazing up into the darkening sky. This is the moment when they will learn if their Blapoteri hosts will accept them—or shoot them. I think, This could be the 1500s instead of 1969.

Read more here:   https://jimhurd.com/2016/12/27/feasting-with-mine-enemy/

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

 Writers’ Corner
 doestoevsky  Writer of the Month: Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881).
A Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist, journalist and philosopher. His works explore human psychology in troubled 19th-century Russia. He was convicted of anti-state activities, subjected to a mock execution, and then exiled to Siberia for four years. His works include Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot, and The Possessed.

Metaphor of the Month:   “…lit by a fire from beyond this world….” (enlivened by a transcendent quality)

Answers to last month’s quiz

  • You should vote, irregardless [regardless] of your political preferences.
  • Today they have less [fewer] workers than formerly. [Use “fewer” if you can count the items.]
  • Caribou smells good, like [as] a coffee shop should. [But, in today’s slatternly English, you can get away with “like.”]

 January’s Quiz:

Who is considered to have invented modern German?

  1. The Amish
  2. The Nazis
  3. Martin Luther
  4. Baron von Richthofen

Tip of the Month: How discriminate between “illusive, elusive, or allusive”?

  • Illusive: Unreal, insubstantial
  • Elusive: Hard to perceive, hard to capture
  • Allusive: Referring to, alluding to

 

Book and Film Reviews

Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment. Penguin Books, 2014. A psychological thriller (OK—“thriller” in a clunky Russian sort of way) about a man whose deadly guilt tortures him for years.)

Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son. Doubleday, 1992.  A profound meditation on Rembrandt’s painting of the same name. The unquenchable love of the father for his errant son.

Martin Luther, 3-program set on the Reformation, by Christian History Institute, 2016. The amazing story of Reformation upheaval: Lutheran (Luther and Melanchthon), Reformed movement (Zwingli and Calvin) and Anabaptist movement (Grabel, Sattler, Simons).

 

Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here https://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, etc.)
See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

 Quotable quotes

♠   This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I’d never met herbivore.

♠    I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.

♠    I did a theatrical performance about puns.   It was a play on words.

♠    Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?

♠    What species of dinosaur has the most extensive vocabulary?  A thesaurus.

♠    Don’t worry about old age; it doesn’t last.

♠    Velcro – what a rip off!

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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.

Feasting with Mine Enemy

…that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.

—Psalm 67:2

 

After the Niyayobateri men circle the dance ground several times, they stop and stand stone-faced in the center of the shabono with their arrows cocked, gazing up into the darkening sky. This is the moment when they will learn if their Blapoteri hosts will accept them—or shoot them. I think, This could be the 1500s instead of 1969.

*                *                      *

In Venezuela we mostly fly into Indian country, and today I’m circling over Niyayobateri, a Yanomamo village that lies in a grassy savannah on the Venezuela-Brazil border. Looking down at the donut-shaped shabono with its many lean-to shelters, I watch several children playing in the “donut hole.”

Dan and Diana Shaylor, New Tribes Mission (NTM) workers, live here with their kids. My job is to provide them with transportation and supplies. The Yanomamo depend more and more on the airplane for medical flights and for obtaining trade goods they cannot produce themselves. After I land Danny announces, “They don’t have any lasha fruit, so today we have to go to their old garden to find some. Tomorrow we’re invited to a feast over in Blapoteri.” Lasha is Yanomamo for the delicious peach palm fruit that Spanish-speakers call pejiguau. I decide to sleep here a couple of nights so I can go with them.

 

Getting the lasha fruit

The next morning we set off into the jungle with several Yanomamo to find some lasha, following the scant traces of a trail. As the path beats backward under our feet, the humidity clings to my skin. We cross rocky streams and climb muddy hills. The people walk barefooted (indeed, bare) with only a cotton string around the waist. Surefooted, confident, they laugh and call back and forth. We walk under huge, sheltering trees—kapok, seje palm (good for making bows) and palo amarillo (good for making dugout canoes). How do they know the way? I smell the pungent aroma of decayed vegetation and realize I’m sweating, and breathing hard. Is this little red fruit worth it?

We break out into a clearing where secondary growth overwhelms the old garden spot, and we find the peach palm trees with the inch-long spines sticking out from their trunks. I ask Danny, “The fruit’s high up under the branches. How will they climb these spiny trunks?”

Danny says, “Watch Enrique.” Enrique machete-chops pieces of sapling into four-foot lengths. Then he takes a vine and lashes two of these together to form an X, places them around the tree trunk and then lashes the other ends together to form a platform. With two sets of these X’s he pulls and pushes himself up the tree, avoiding the deadly spines. He machetes the lasha-bearing stalks, sending them crashing to the jungle floor. Women run to grab them and place them in their wicker baskets.

I’m tired, bored and feeling sort of useless here, so I reach out my hand and lean against a tree. Turns out, it’s a peach-palm tree. I scream when the sharp spines pierce my flesh. A Yanomamo woman drops her basket and spends the next half hour extracting dozens of tiny spines from my hand. As we depart, every man and woman (except me) carries sixty pounds of lasha fruit on their backs in a loosely-woven carrying basket.

 

Dancing at the feast

We go to the feast that same evening. As the westering sun sinks into the jungle, we walk across the savannah and climb the small hill to Blapoteri (named after “Blapo” [Paul], another NTM worker). Danny explains, “The people have hunted for several days and have shot a monkey, several birds, and a tapir. Now they’re getting ready for the feast. Women will cook vegetables, meat, and lasha in big pots over their fires. They’ve gathered lots of stuff—cotton string, bows and arrows, dogs, beaded aprons. They’ve brought in other stuff from the outside—machetes, axe heads, aluminum pots, and Yekuana hammocks. They’ll trade these with the Niyayobateri people.”

As we approach the shabono, I feel close to the beating heart of the village, a living, breathing thing. We pass the Niyayobateri guests who have stopped several hundred yards from the shabono. A man is inserts parrot-feather earplugs into his ears; another paints his face with red ochre. I smell the hot air, heavy with perspiration. Danny whistles an alert that we are friends and not enemies.

We walk ahead, duck our heads, and enter through a break in the shabono’s outer wall. Three men squat before a bark canoe where they’re stripping bananas and mashing them into a bark trough. The village headman comes forward and offers hammocks for us to recline while we await the feast. People seem nervous. Feasts offer great hospitality but also provide opportunity to hurl accusations of stinginess or wife stealing. A feast can erupt any time into arguments, chest-beating contests, head beating with ten-foot poles, or even fights with machetes and bows and arrows. People can get killed.

Suddenly a woman bursts through one of the narrow openings in the outer wall. Danny whispers, “Look—here come the Niyayobateri people.” The incoming dancer wears body paint, decorative leaves in her earlobes, and a cotton cord around her waist. Her breasts bounce up and down as she stomps back and forth and then circles the dancing ground, all the while shaking two large palm fronds.

Several more women run in, their palm branches undulating. The Blapoteri hosts roar as they encourage, exclaim, and comment on the dancers’ physical attributes. “Isn’t that my cousin’s niece? She sure has gotten fatter. See her body paint. Look how she stomps!”

Then the Niyayobateri headman dances in, resplendent in black and red body paint with white turkey down sprinkled in his hair. He prances back and forth as he circles the dance ground with his bow and arrows held across his chest and his arrowpoint case bouncing up and down on his back. His weapons form part of his costume, but they’re always at the ready if the party sours. He has pierced his ears with red and yellow macaw-feather earplugs, and set off his biceps with tightly wrapped cotton strings. A cord around his loins holds up the foreskin of his penis. He stops, arches his chest and makes several pelvic thrusts as he clacks his bow and arrows together. Tobacco juice dribbles from the corners of his mouth.

Now the visiting men group in the center of the dancing ground and stand stone still, gaze up at the sky, and wait. Will their hosts accept them? The hosts lie still in their hammocks, eyes dustbowl flat. A thunderous silence. I shiver, searching the perimeter for any tremor of danger.

After a few minutes (it seems like an hour), several hosts rise and walk out to the guests shouting “shodi” (brother-in-law), and invite them to recline in hammocks near the cooking fires. I sense we’ve slenderly avoided a confrontation.

As day darkens and shadows stretch across the shabono, we sit in our hammocks under the palm-leaf roof and gaze out at the empty dance ground. No inner walls separate the individual families, whose hammocks hang around each cooking fire. As Robert Frost wrote, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” Families use stout saplings and woven palm leaves, building lean-to’s next to each other to form a protective shield against their enemies. I smell the smoke that rises from the cooking fires. Our Blapoteri hosts bring us lasha, along with roasted tapir meat on a banana leaf (it tastes something like pork) and their women bring us gourd bowls filled with banana soup and a dollop of cooked yucca root. I swill down the soup, taste the yucca, and relish the fat-laden tapir meat. You can feel the tension—like the excitement of waiting for the first pitch of a baseball game.

We relax and eat in the smell of dust and tobacco smoke. Nataniel, muscular and a good hunter, comes forward as an honored guest. He has a special gift to distribute among his friends. As he walks across the dancing ground, he carries over his shoulder a severed tapir’s head, snout down. Like most Yanomamo men, he stands just over five feet tall, with his bronze skin and thick, straight, ebony hair hanging down in great shocks. White circles and stripes punctuate his black body paint. A shaved four-inch circle on the crown of his head sets off his scar-topography, the result of head-clubbing fights. He wears monkey tail armbands and a penis string.

 

Drinking the bones

After the feast, I watch the two headmen, host and guest, squatting on their haunches facing each other in typical Yanomamo fashion, squaring off, chanting in singsong voices. Danny says, “They’re wayoumouing—sharing information and going over old disputes.” The missionaries have struggled to understand the Yanomamo language, filled as it is with nasalized phonemes. (For instance, for the foreigner, the word Yanomamo is best pronounced while holding your nose.) The big chaw of tobacco that men and many women carry in their lower lip makes learning the language even more difficult. As the headmen chant, Danny says, “These wayoumos are important. If they don’t settle their disputes, the two groups might begin chest beating or head clubbing—somebody could get killed.”

Then Danny points to a small group of people gathered on the opposite side of the shabono. “They’re drinking the bones now; let’s go over.” As we walk up, Nataniel sits in the middle of a circle of relatives and allies, and weeps as he rubs a small gourd. Danny tells me, “Raiders killed his brother a few months ago, and the gourd holds the victim’s pulverized bones mixed with water.

People share the gourd around, take a sip from it, and pass it on, crying and murmuring, “Octavio, Octavio.” Yanomamo names are personal, and any other time, speaking the name out loud might invite swift retaliation from a relative. But the bone-drinking ceremony is special, since these “communion services” honor the dead person’s memory, provide an outlet for grief and stoke anger against the killers, anger that often provokes a retaliatory raid.

After two hours, the moon, with upturned horns, rises over the thatched roofs. Danny and I get up and prepare to leave the feast. The Niyayobateri will dance, feast, and talk far into the night before they turn homeward to their own shabono across the valley.

 

 

I’m back in the airplane now, flying the 2-1/2 hours back home to Puerto Ayacucho. I think about all the Indian groups, all the village airstrips, in this vast Amazonas territory—Coshilowateri, Mayubateri, Yuwana, Caño Panare, Tama Tama, Ocamo, San Juan Manapiare. I pray silently: Lord, the Christian faith seems foreign, imported, alien to everything these people experience. I have my doubts that Christianity will penetrate this Yanomamo world of warfare and vengeful spirits.

I am wrong.

      *                      *                      *

Fast-forward to 1999. I’m sitting in a church in Bloomington, Minnesota, where Bautista, an old Yanomamo friend, is the visiting speaker. This is the same man whose faith I had doubted forty years earlier. He talks about the encounter between his hekura spirits and Yai Pada (God). His Jesus-encounter transformed him so much that people nicknamed him “Doesn’t Grab Women,” an unusual name for a Yanomamo man! Bautista is the headman of his village, and has led his people out of warfare into peace. He’s a great man and a faithful Christian. Years earlier, I had sat at the Blapoteri feast a skeptic, but today I believe. The Yanomamo Christians have greatly reduced fights and murders, and they have the Bible in their own Yanomamo language, which they are learning to read. I now realize that the light of the gospel can extend to all people—even the Yanomamo.

WINGSPREAD E-zine for December, 2016

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

 

Contents

  • New blog article: The Game My Mother Taught Me
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Book and Film reviews
  • E-zine subscription information
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Quotable quotes

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

New blog article: “The Game My Mother Taught Me”

 “Mom, I’m bored. What can I do?”

The clock nibbles away at the afternoon. It’s Sunday and I’m a fidgety ten-year-old sitting on our living room couch. We Fundamentalists embrace a strict set of biblical doctrines, and a list of forbidden “worldly” practices—practices especially prohibited on Sundays. I can’t go to the movies or read the newspaper. Can’t ride my bike out of the neighborhood….   Read more here: https://jimhurd.com/2016/12/05/the-game-my-mother-taught-me/

Writers’ Corner

Writer of the Month: Henri M. Nouwen (1992-1996). Dutch priest. Powerful devotional writing that shows great transparency and vulnerability. Read by millions of Catholics and Protestants alike. Books: The Return of the Prodigal Son, The Wounded Healer, In the Name of Jesus, Genesee Diary).

Words of the Month

Scening: Think motion pictures. A “scene” is a place where an un-interrupted series of actions takes place. Temporarily label each scene in your manuscript and make sure you’re signaling to the reader where she is in the story. This also helps you keep chronology and transitions straight.

Tagging: Temporarily use colored print to reveal the anatomy of your manuscript.

Normal print for narrative, story. Should be over half your piece. It’s what engages the reader.

Green for reflections about the narrative, and descriptions of people, places, etc. Limit this.

Orange for dialogue. Use lots of this.

Grey for “backstory”—explanations of the story; previous happenings—eliminate this, limit this, or feed it to your reader in small bits and pieces.

Answers to quiz for November

  • Before I realized it, I had driven much further into the desert. (Use “farther” for distance)
  • He noticed a large stain in the rug that was right in the center of the room. (Stain or rug was in the center?)
  • The dog aggravated the little puppy. (Irritated. “Aggravate” means to make worse)
  • He had shone how not to fly the airplane. (Shown. “Shone” is past tense of “shine”)

 New Quiz for December. Correct these sentences:

  • You should vote, irregardless of your political preferences.
  • Today they have less workers than formerly.
  • Caribou smells good like a coffee shop should.

Writer’s tip of the Month: Use descriptions (of places, people, things, weather) but limit them to a few essential details, and tell your reader only what they need to know.

Book and Film Reviews

Foreign Correspondent. 1940. An early Alfred Hitchcock film. American triumphalism. (three stars)

This Changed Everything. 2016. A video documentary on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation (2017). Excellent, three-program set, narrated by David Suchet.
(five stars)

George Herbert (1593-1633), The Complete English Poems. Penguin Press: 2004. Great, insightful clergyman with a magic pen. (four stars)

Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here https://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, etc.)
See pics here related to Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying: http://www.pinterest.com/hurd1149/wingspread-of-faith-and-flying/

 Quotable quotes

   Both optimists and pessimists contribute to aviation.  The optimist invents the airplane; the pessimist, the parachute.

   Aviation training: Death is just nature’s way of telling you to watch your airspeed.

♠    Venison for dinner again?   Oh deer!

♠    England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

♠    They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a typo.

♠    I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic.  It’s syncing now.

♠    I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.

*    *    *

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.

The Game My Mother Taught Me

“Mom, I’m bored. What can I do?”

The clock nibbles away at the afternoon. It’s Sunday and I’m a fidgety ten-year-old sitting on our living room couch. We Fundamentalists embrace a strict set of biblical doctrines, and a list of forbidden “worldly” practices—practices especially prohibited on Sundays. I can’t go to the movies or read the newspaper. Can’t ride my bike out of the neighborhood.

“Why don’t you work on your Bible memory verses?”

I decide to give it a try. I find my yellow cardboard Velveeta cheese box and riffle through the dozens of little square cards. I’ve written a verse on one side with its reference on the back. Fundamentalists take the Bible seriously, and this box is my own idea. I’ve memorized perhaps 100 cards, and I’m working on more.

But I soon lose interest. “Mom, what else can I do?”

“Why don’t you read your King Arthur book?”

I find the big hardback, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. I love the pathos of the wounded knights that crimson the grassy sward, with a beautiful maiden trying to staunch the flow. I wonder if I would have the courage to do the great deeds they did. Probably not.

“I’ve already read most of it.”

“Well, why don’t you play in the orange grove?”

We kids would spend hours running between the orange trees; building living spaces underneath the thick branches; creating lakes, islands, dams, and rushing rivers with the irrigation water. Orange fights were the most fun. We had one rule—don’t use hard oranges, only rotten ones lying on the ground. Mother discouraged orange fights, but we waged many illicit wars.

“It’s too hot. Besides, there’s no one to play with.” On Sundays, my parents discouraged me from playing with my neighbor, Jerry. My sister Virginia was visiting a friend. Mary was playing with her dolls.

Mother lays her dishtowel down. “Why don’t we play Authors in the breakfast nook?”

I tell her, “I’ll get the cards!” I love this game. They’re still in the original box that has a colored picture of Mark Twain on it.

We shoehorn ourselves into the tiny breakfast nook that protrudes from the front of our kitchen. With a bench on each side of an oilcloth-covered table, our whole family squeezes in here to eat all of our meals. The pale green board-and-batten walls are punctuated with two screened windows that open onto the small front lawn. I look out and see sparrows rising in random gusts above the bird feeder.

I dump the cards out, shuffle them, deal four each to Mother and me, and put the rest in the draw pile. A Massachusetts clergyman’s daughter, Anne Abbott, created the Authors game at the beginning of the Civil War. Each card has a color picture of a famous author, such as Louisa May Alcott, James Fenimore Cooper, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, or Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

I look at my cards. One has Mark Twain’s picture and the title The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. At the bottom appear three additional titles by the same author: Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and The Pauper, and The Mysterious Stranger. Each title evokes a world. Who was Tom Sawyer? Why did the prince hang out with a poor boy? Who could the stranger be? I long to share these adventures.

I need to collect all four Mark Twain cards. “Mom, do you have Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain?” (Mother always insists we name the author when we ask for the card.)

Mother says, “No, but do you have Crossing the Bar by Alfred Lord Tennyson?”

I reluctantly hand over the card. She hands me a plate of sugar cookies. I help myself to a couple and wash them down with lemonade squeezed from real lemons. Then she asks, “Do you have Idylls of the King by him?”

“No. Do you have The Tempest by William Shakespeare?”

“No. Do you have Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens?”

“Yes.”

When all the cards are played, we each count the complete four-card sets we’ve collected. She has five sets. I win with eight.

When I was ten, I’d never read any of these Authors books, but the mere titles conjured up vast worlds to explore. When I later encountered these books in high school and college, they seemed like familiar friends.

I never dreamed that playing cards with Mother would give me such a rich gift. Simple game, but Mother used it to suck me into her love of literature—a love I’ve cherished all my life.

WINGSPREAD E-zine for November, 2016


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”
November, 2016                                                                                            James P. Hurd   

 Contents

  • New blog article: “Flying Corozalito”
  • Writer’s Corner (puzzlers, tips, books)
  • Book and Film reviews
  • E-zine subscription information
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Quotable quotes

 *              *              *

New blog article: “Flying Corozalito”

I landed the mission Cessna 180 at Corozalito and walked into the tiny grass-roof house where Wycliffe Bible Translators Florence Gridell and Mariana Slocum lived and worked. A small Chol Indian woman followed me in, laid her precious newborn baby girl on a rough wooden table, and cried out for Florence—“Doña Florencia; ayùdame, por el amor de Diòs! (Florence, help me, for the love of God!)” Florence took the baby in her arms but it was too late—after a few minutes the baby stopped breathing. It was 1968.  Read more here:   https://jimhurd.com/2016/11/04/flying-corozalito/

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

 Writers’ Corner

Writer of the month

Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957). English novelist and essayist, a friend of C.S. Lewis, a Christian, and a member of the Inklings writing group. The lead in her detective novels is Lord Peter Wimsey, complemented by Harriet Vane. These novels include The Nine Tailors, Gaudy Night, and Whose Body?

Word of the Month:   Craft essay. An essay about writing. Good writers make a thousand decisions about their work. In a craft essay, they talk about this process.

Answers to October’s Quiz of the Month

  • Jake said, “I’m going out on the back porch to rest a while.” (adverb: awhile)
  • For some people it always takes more friends, less enemies, more excitement, more money, and more renown, whatever else it might take, to make them happier. (Place the last phrase earlier in the sentence)
  • We had a great day, it was unforgettable. (“comma splice”make two sentences)
  • The dog’s wound laid bare it’s internal organs. (“its.” Use “it’s” only as a contraction of “it is”)

 New quiz for November

Correct these sentences:

  • Before I realized it, I had driven much further into the desert.
  • He noticed a large stain in the rug that was right in the center.
  • The dog aggravated the little puppy.
  • He had shone how not to fly the airplane.

 Tip of the Month: Ensure vs. insure vs. assure. Insure means a financial guarantee. Ensure involves personal effort to promote an outcome. Assure means to inspire confidence. “He assured me when he said that he will ensure that we insure the building.”

Some of my favorite verbs:
ape (imitate)
botch (fail)
bristle (react angrily)
cameled (to ride a camel)
cauterize (cover over, paper over, gloss over, a matter)
conjure (create out of nothing)
crimsoning (bloodying; using –ing to change noun to a verb)
disembowel (eviscerate, render lifeless, destroy)
eclipse (surpass)

Some of my favorite metaphors:
borne by silent sails across the seas
thermals that waft our sentences to higher altitudes
sentences corrugated by excessive underlining
sticking my oar in the water (a daring beginning)
returning to the swamp from which it crawled (fitting end of an evil plan)
a poison which, unnoticed, poisons everything it touches
drinking spiked Kool-Aid (approving  of a disastrous plan)

 Book Reviews
C.S. Lewis, Pilgrim’s Regress. Eerdmans, 1992. A takeoff on Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Lewis wrote this soon after his Christian conversion. Many allusions will be unfamiliar to the modern reader.

Strunk & White, Elements of Style. (4th Edition) Pearson, 2000. A lovely little book that goes beyond commas and capitalizations to unveil the secrets of a gripping writer’s style.

Subscribe to this free E-zine

Click here https://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.

 Quotable quotes

   “Do you think a woman will ever occupy the White House?”
“Are you kidding? I’ll believe that when the Cubs win the World Series!”

   The first five days after the weekend are the hardest.

    I childproofed my whole house, but the kids still get in.

   Ban pre-shredded cheese–make America grate again.

   Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore—it’s too crowded. (Yogi Berra)

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

 *              *              *

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.

Flying Corozalito

I landed the mission Cessna 180 at Corozalito and walked into the tiny grass-roof house where Wycliffe Bible Translators Florence Gridell and Mariana Slocum lived and worked. A small Chol Indian woman followed me in, laid her precious newborn baby girl on a rough wooden table, and cried out for Florence—“Doña Florencia; ayùdame, por el amor de Diòs! (Florence, help me, for the love of God!)” Florence took the baby in her arms but it was too late—after a few minutes the baby stopped breathing. It was 1968.

The woman wrapped up her precious bundle. When we walked outside I felt the heat and smelled the steaming jungle with its rotting vegetation. Florence told me, “We need to get to Mexico City. If you can fly us out to the highway at Salto, we’ll arrive just in time to catch the bus up to the capital.”

I agreed, and grabbed my spring scale to weigh up the women’s baggage. I told her, “With this heat and humidity we can’t carry more than 200 kilos.  I’ll have to take Mariana and the baggage out to Salto, then return to pick you up.”

Mariana and I climbed aboard the plane, and I taxied out to the end of the 300-meter airstrip hacked out of the jungle with the help of the Chol Indians. We took off, and at best angle of climb barely cleared the treetops at the end. Then I made a fateful decision. “Mariana, I think we should go back and pick up Florence.” I reasoned that we would save time by making only one flight to Salto rather than two. So I circled back and landed the second time in Corozalito.

Florence boarded, and we taxied to the end of the airstrip. She told us, “The mother already took her dead baby back to the village,” I thought about Florence and Mariana—fifty-ish, unpretentious, always wearing blouses and skirts (never pants), dedicated to the Chol people all around them. Every day they passed out pills, taught health classes, delivered Chol babies, and buried the dead. I thought about their brave work, thankful that Mission Aviation Fellowship could provide them air service.

For this second takeoff, I got out and pushed the tail of the plane back into the weeds so I could use every inch of the airstrip. The relentless sun rose hotter and hotter, and I felt sweat running down my spine. I noticed I was breathing heavily and my clammy hand clung to the throttle. Did I make the right decision? Do we have enough margin of safety? A little proud and overconfident, I hesitated to change my mind again.

I applied full power, released brakes, and the plane hurtled down the airstrip. We accelerated well, and as we rotated I willed the airplane into a climb. The engine sucked in the hot, humid air, doing its best. The trees loomed larger and larger.

Soon the highest tree branches filled the windshield—then we shot over them.

After flying the ten minutes to Salto, I unloaded the passengers and cargo and then checked the landing gear, half expecting to find twigs or pine needles caught in the wheel struts. I took off with a troubled mind and flew home to the MAF base in San Cristobal.

That evening, I scoured the inscape of my mind, wondering why I had talked myself into making that second takeoff with no margin of safety, a takeoff that jeopardized precious lives, all just to save twenty minutes. Instead of listening to the voice of my better angel, I had made a poor decision.

I said a humbled prayer—“Thank you God that yet again you refused to give me the consequences I deserved.” Mercy.