WINGSPREAD E-zine for June, 2017

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

 Contents

  • New blog article: A Dream Dashed
  • 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: A Dream Dashed

It’s 1959, I’ve just turned 18, and I’m standing in the ready room of a tiny airport outside of Chicago, scanning for my name on the list of students Moody has accepted into their two-year aviation and mechanics program. I have no other goals, no other plans, except flying. I read down the names—Doerksen, Hoisington…

Read more here:   https://jimhurd.com/2017/06/02/a-dream-dashed/

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

 Writers’ Corner

Writer of the Month: Gregory Boyd

Greg Boyd is crazy, but mostly crazy good. He writes about theology—not the boring kind, but stuff you care about. His most recent book: Crucifixion of the Warrior God. Fortress Press. 2017. He addresses the question: Is the enemy-loving Jesus the son of the Old Testament Warrior God?

Other of his books:

Letters From a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with His Father’s Questions about Christianity (1994); reprint edition, 2008.

 God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict (1997). The reality of spiritual warfare.

The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church (2006). A critique of the church’s involvement in politics.

Word of the Month:   Epigram

A short quote or aphorism at the beginning of an article or chapter.

Quiz of the Month: What does the thesaurus bird eat for supper? (Answer next month!)

 Answer to last week’s quiz: Disinterested means   a.  Impartial

 Tip of the Month: Your first paragraph is the most important, and must do several things: 1. Compel the reader to read the second paragraph. 2. Define the “envelope,” the parameters, of your piece. 3. Raise several questions in the reader’s mind. 4. Create tension. 5. Signal the genre of your piece—is it mystery? memoir? essay? 6. Signal the style of your writing—humorous, formal, casual?

 More “How to write good”

  •  I did not object to the object.
  • The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  • There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  • They were too close to the door to close it.
  • The buck does funny things when the does are present.
  • A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer.
  • To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
  • The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  • Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
  • I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  • How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Book and Film Reviews 

Anne of Green Gables: A new beginning. First in a Netflix series based on the book by Lucy Maud Montgomery about an orphan girl on Prince Edward Island who is adopted by Matthew Cuthbert and his sister, Marilla. Warm, engaging. This is a new movie interpretation.

 Gregory Boyd. Crucifixion of the Warrior God (2 volumes, Fortress Press, 2017). Boyd views the violent images of God in the Old Testament through the compassionate lens of the New Testament Christ. A powerful portrait of the enemy-loving God. Nerdy, heavy going, but he promises a “Cliff Notes” version coming out soon.

Subscribe free to this E-zine 

Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to Wingspread  Ezine, 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 on egotism

♠   Egotist: a person more interested in himself than in me.
Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)

♠   The nice thing about egotists is that they don’t talk about other people.                                                                                                          Lucille S. Harper

♠   Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.
Frank Leahy

♠   I’ve always wanted to be somebody, but now I see I should have been more specific.
Lily Tomlin

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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.

A Dream Dashed

I laugh to see your tiny world, your toys of ships, your cars.
I rove an endless road unfurled where the mile stones are the stars.
— Gordon Boshell

It’s 1959, I’ve just turned 18, and I’m standing in the ready room of a tiny airport outside of Chicago, scanning the list of students accepted into Moody’s two-year aviation and mechanics program. I have no other goals, no other plans, except flying. I scan the names Doerksen, Hoisington…

Two weeks before, the Moody van dropped me off at the white hangar, into the care of Mr. Bob Rich.

“Hello, Jim. Welcome to Moody Wooddale. I’ll show you your bed.” He’s 30-something, square-jawed, clean-shaven, with glistening dark brown hair, sartorially perfect in his crisp collar shirt and tan pants. A man on a mission.

He walks me up the steel hangar stairs to the sleeping quarters.  Twenty-four cots sit in two neat rows. “It’s all temporary — in two weeks the students will find their housing elsewhere,” he tells me. I neatly stack my clothes under my assigned cot and lay my Bible next to the pillow.

I’m a late arrival. Mr. Rich turns to the men who are already settled in. “Men, this is Jim Hurd.”

I scan the room and recognize only one person—Dave Hoisington, a California friend from high school. He’s sandy-haired and confident in his black flying boots, sarcastic but not cynical. “Hi, Jim! Welcome to Moody’s All-weather Airdale Woodport and Country Club.” The other men I don’t know—some seem about my age; a few older. In two weeks, the instructors will winnow these down from 24 to 12.

Mr. Rich tells me the hangar was built in the early 1900s. Exposed steel trusses support its half-Quonset roof. We walk over to a railing and look down onto the gray hangar floor, clean enough to eat off of. Mr. Rich points to the huge yellow T-6. “That’s our WWII trainer—600-horsepower Pratt & Whitney radial engine. We use the blue and white Comanche next to it mainly for cross-country flights. And the Seabee in the corner there is a WWII amphibian with a pusher prop up behind the cabin. Those little floats support the wings on water.” I stare at it—could those stubby wings lift anything into the air? He says, “Those two long tables down there are where you’ll eat your meals.”

It’s hard to believe I’m standing here. Growing up in California, I had only one bright dream—flying. I visited airports. I imagined every farmer’s field a potential airstrip. Now it’s for real. My pulse quickens.

We descend the stairs and walk through a door into the flight ready room, its dark wood walls smelling of lacquer. Mr. Rich introduces me to a tall, sober man who sits in one of the offices. “This is our chief pilot, Mr. Van Dam. He came to Moody from the Air Force Academy because, he says, he got tired looking at the backs of cadet’s heads.” I shake his hand. When he speaks, the earth tremors. I think, if I mess up here, he’ll eat me like a baby marshmallow rabbit.

A brass-tipped wood propeller with a clock for a hub hangs on the wall. Underneath is a Chicago aeronautical chart. Mr. Rich points to the bulletin board. “We’ll post the names of the successful candidates here.” I stare at the blank space. Will my name appear here in two weeks?

We exit the admin building into a languid July day. A dozen metal lawn chairs sit on the grass, and white cumulus clouds float overhead. “The flight students usually sit here for lunch,” Mr. Rich says, “and they listen to Paul Harvey on the radio.” (I remember that famous voice: “Paul Harvey… Good day!”) A Cessna 140 sits on the flight line beside an older twin-engine Apache, and three yellow J3 Cubs, their wings rocking in the breeze. “You’ll fly one of the J3’s with Mr. Lance,” he says. I don’t tell him that I’ve only been up in a small plane once —as a passenger.

Moody Wooddale airport is a pasture. I look out across the wind-wrinkled grass and see a red Farmall tractor and mower. Mr. Rich says, “Each summer, Mr. Anderson tractors for hours. He sets bright yellow cones along the runways. For night flight, he marks the boundaries with flare lamps. After a heavy downpour, the field turns into a soggy airplane trap; gotta watch out for the mud.”

 The Farmall rolls up and Mr. Anderson leans over to tell Mr. Rich, “Last week I set out two flare lamps at the lip of Runway 18 so Mr. Van Dam could see to land. But he got a little confused, and started letting down instead over the high tension wires to the west. After that, he asked me for more flare lamps.” As I inhale this story along with the tractor exhaust, I’m secretly glad this flying galactico has feet of clay. Schadenfreude. My insecurity gives me illicit joy at another’s missteps.

The next morning we breakfast in the main hangar, then walk over to the maintenance shop. Mr. Mayhew comes out, smelling of solvent. A wartime aviation mechanics instructor at Purdue University, he’s now chief mechanic here at Moody. In his 50s, he wears a thin moustache—a no-nonsense, blue-collar guy. As we gather around the long shop tables, he tells us to rivet together two aluminum sheets. I drill the hole, insert the tiny rivet, and pull the rivet gun trigger. Pock, pock, pock! The air pressure is too high and the gun leans a bit, putting a smiley face in the aluminum. On the next try, the bucking bar cocks and ruins the butt-end of the rivet. My sweat drips onto the metal. Mr. Mayhew breathes over my shoulder.

And then he introduces us to the turnbuckle. I’d never heard of one. It’s a small brass tube with an eye-screw at each end, for tensioning aircraft control cables. He says, “I want you to safety-wire this.” He gives each of us a turnbuckle, a few inches of stainless steel safety wire, and two pages of opaque diagrams.

I look around. Some of the farm boys plunge in immediately, seemingly a task as familiar as their nose. They’ve probably been safety-wiring turnbuckles on thrashing machines or something since they were five. I look over at Dave—relaxed, dexterous. I hate them all.

After a few minutes I’ve wrapped a tangled ball of safety wire somewhere in the vicinity of the turnbuckle, which lies atop the crumpled instructions. Mr. Mayhew watches, then writes in his little notebook.

The next day, Mr. Lance leads a few of us out to the flight line and introduces us to the J3 Piper Cub. He stands under the wing with his hand on the strut. “Gentlemen, this is an airplane.” We all write it down.

He stands about 5’7”. Handsome, with manicured brown hair, button-down shirt and crisply-pressed pants. Black flight boots. Neatness gone to church. He flew in Yarinacocha, Peru for JAARS, the air arm of Wycliffe Bible Translators. As serious as a heart attack, he carries an unaccountable sadness, and smells faintly of cologne,

He walks us around the yellow, fabric-covered plane. “The J3 weighs 680 pounds empty. Punch your thumb in the fabric. If it leaves a dimple, the fabric’s rotting. Always look underneath the plane to see if there are any tears.” I run my hand over the smooth skin. “Climb up on the wheel here and look into the gas tank. This wire sticking out of the cap is the fuel quantity indicator.” Then he stoops down under the engine cowling. “This is a gascolator. Drain a little gas to see if there’s any water in it.”

I peer at the 65 HP Continental engine with its finned cylinders sticking out from the cowling, evoking the eyes of a huge prehistoric insect.

This day it’s my turn to fly. I climb into the rear canvas sling-seat and buckle up. Mr. Lance hauls himself into the front seat and closes the bottom portion of the door.

Since the J3 has no starter or electrical system, Mr. Rich comes out and hand-spins the propeller. The engine belches, then settles down to a tractor-like clack. I inhale a whiff of exhaust.

There’s no intercom, so Mr. Lance bellows instructions back at me. “Taxi ‘er out, but keep the control stick back in your lap. Steer with the rudders and push your heels to brake.” He advances the throttle and I pull the slack stick back. We start to move, but I can’t see anything except his haircut. “S-turn slightly, so you can see ahead,” he says. I S-turn, inhaling the sweet smell of freshly-mowed grass.

 Since the brisk wind is from the south, we taxi out to the head of Runway 18, make a few checks, and then taxi into position. Leo says, “I’ll advance the throttle, and you keep her straight with the rudder pedals. She’ll want to swing left.” He closes the side window and advances the throttle. As we accelerate, I smell oil mixed with burned avgas. I feel his slight control movements under my own hands and feet. Soon the tail rises, we rotate, bounce into the air, and begin climbing to depart the airport.

 “Keep the nose about four inches above the horizon to climb. Look left and right—each wing should be the same distance above the horizon.” I sit rigid, feeling that if I lean, the airplane will tip over. I move the live stick to bank or raise the nose, the throttle to climb or descend. Below lies a crazy-quilt patchwork—roads, railroads, woods, and summer crops, the small lakes reflecting summer’s light. Cars are pass us on the expressways.

We’re out in the practice area perhaps 20 minutes; then we head back to the airport. “Reduce power and establish a glide at 60 mph. See; the nose will ride about eight inches below the horizon.” When we throttle back to descend I feel like we’re falling. We sink down, turn 90 degrees, and line up with the airstrip. “Before we cross Thorndale Avenue, waggle your head to check for cars.” I waggle. Skimming low over the highway, the J3 touches the smooth grass and we roll to a stop. Mr. Lance turns the controls over to me and I taxi back to the gas pump.

Now it’s two weeks later. Decision day. We eat breakfast, then spend an hour or so out near the flight line talking.

Gary Jenkins walks over to where we’re sitting on the grass. “They just posted the names.”

I feel the adrenalin rush. This is it, the day I’ve dreamed of since I was 12 years old back at Orange Intermediate School! The day I’m convinced God has given me, to fulfill God’s plan for my life.

Gary and I walk silently into the ready room. We’ve become friends, feel we’re in this together, two men with a common destiny.

There’re only 12 names listed. I scan down—Doerksen, Hoisington… My name should be next. It isn’t. I didn’t make the cut. Neither did Gary.

Neither of us say much. What’s there to say? I have no Plan B. My dream feels ripped up, root and branch. We pack up and ride back to the downtown campus.

The van rolls into Moody’s asphalt campus and we disembark to search for an assigned dorm room on Edgren Hall’s fifth floor. The heavy Chicago air oppresses.

What to do? It seems I will never be a pilot, and yet I still want to be a missionary. Should I redirect and go into Bible translation?

Against all my expectations the sun comes up the next morning, but I can’t appreciate it through the bleak haze of failure. I stay that summer, enroll in Bible classes, and get the first two C’s of my life. I’m just not interested.

But then the summer brightens. Nobody knows me here; I’m 1800 miles from home and I’m starting over. I’ve left behind me the awkwardness and loneliness of high school. Gary and I hang out with other students and commit sophomoric acts of mischief. For the first time in my life, I feel like I belong to a group of friends.

And something else. That summer I learn that I can study Bible courses two years downtown in the “pre-aviation” program, then reapply for flight camp. My renewed hope burns like hot coals amid the ashes of failure.

WINGSPREAD E-zine for April, 2017

 “Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

April, 2017                                                                                                              James Hurd      

Contents

  • New blog article: The YMCA—a Dangerous Place
  • 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 YMCA—a Dangerous Place

 Why do I do stupid things? Once when I drove to a wedding, I found the correct church, arrived in good time, remembered my gift, only to discover an empty parking lot. Turns out I was exactly one day late. On the first day of a recent school semester, I walked into the wrong classroom to greet incredulous students. I’ve put the wrong oil in my car… once without replacing the drain plug. A couple of years ago, when I pulled into my garage I forgot to press the “park” button on my hybrid car, and got out with it still turned on. It rolled forward and rammed the workbench….

Read more here: https://jimhurd.com/2017/04/18/the-ymca-a-dangerous-place/

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

 Writers’ Corner

Writer of the Month. Mark Twain. Pen name of Samuel Clemens (1835-1910). Quintessential American storyteller and humorist. His Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Life on the Mississippi betray his deep 19th century roots in Middle America.

Word of the Month. Platform: Refers to everything the writer does to increase her visibility—website, social media, networking, etc.

Quiz of the Month:

Disinterested means?

  1. Impartial
  2. Uninterested
  3. Bored
  4. Unengaged

Answer to last week’s quiz:

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

The last comma is called an Oxford comma. It’s optional, but if you use it, be consistent and always use it before the last item in a series.

Tip of the Month: Sometimes you need to create a natural break in your narrative. Instead of inserting asterisks or a little symbol, perhaps the easiest way is inserting a couple of blank lines.

More of “How to write good”:

  1. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
  2. A bass was painted on the head of the bass
  3. When he shot at the dove it dove into the bushes.
  4. I did not object to the object.
  5. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

Book and Film Reviews

Ellis Peters, The Virgin in the Ice. Another of the Brother Cadfael Chronicles that brings to life 12th century England and the town of Shrewsbury. Cadfael is a veteran of the Crisades, an absentee father, and now a herbalist at the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul, Shrewsbery, England. He is also is a first-class sleuth.

Greg Boyd, The Crucifixion of the Warrior God. Vols. 1&2. 2017. Yahweh the warrior, and the peaceful Jesus. Another offering from Boyd, who reflects on the works and message of Jesus in the light of a sometimes violent god. (Unrated…. Okay; I haven’t read it yet!)

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/

Something to ponder

If we could shrink the earth’s population to a village of precisely 100 people, with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, there would be:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere, both north and south
8 Africans
52 would be female
48 would be male
70 would be non-white
30 would be white
70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian
6 people would possess 59% of the entire world’s
wealth and all 6 would be from the United States.
80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
1 would own a computer

When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for acceptance, understanding, and education becomes glaringly apparent.
*     *     *

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 YMCA — a Dangerous Place

Why do I do stupid things? Once when I drove to a wedding, I found the church, arrived in good time, remembered my gift, but discovered an empty parking lot. Turns out I was one day late. On the first day of a recent school semester, I walked into the wrong classroom to greet incredulous students. I’ve put the wrong oil in my car… once without replacing the drain plug. A couple of years ago, I forgot to push the “park” button on my hybrid car when I pulled into my garage, and got out with it still turned on. It rolled forward and rammed the workbench. Once, flying a small plane back from Nebraska, I was heading for Sioux City when I wanted to head for Sioux Falls. Awkward… And did I mention I’ve never done a house electrical project without getting shocked?

After all this, I imagined that the Emma B. Howe YMCA in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, would be a safe refuge. Swimming with friends, relaxing in the whirlpool and sauna—what could possibly go wrong? Yet even there, I’m my own worst enemy.

For instance, I sometimes forget where I’m parked. So I hold my electronic key fob on the top of my head and push the red button. My car horn starts honking; then I walk until I see someone holding her ears and jabbing her index finger toward my car.

Once or twice, I’ve arrived at the Y without bringing my swimsuit, so I’ve had to skip the pool, strip down to my tee-shirt, and work out upstairs on the machines. I’ve resorted to hanging my swimsuit on the garage doorknob the night before so I won’t forget it.

Another day, I walked into the Y carrying my bag with swimsuit, towel, and shampoo. I locked my locker with a combination lock, but when I returned, I couldn’t remember the combination. One of my Y friends told me, “Just write the combination number on a piece of tape on the back of the lock.” Good idea, but I wonder if it defeats the purpose of the lock.

After forgetting my combination, I get smart and buy a pathetic, weak, little lock and key, hoping it might at least slow down a thief. I stow my street clothes in the locker and lock it. I’m walking over to the urinal carrying my towel and swimsuit, when I drop my key. I get down and crawl naked all over the floor staring at the grey tiles, but can’t find it. I search under the adjacent commode, but no key. Did it go down the floor drain, or…? Finally, I ask the stranger standing there watching me, “Hey bud; could you go call the Y guy to bring in his bolt-cutter and cut my lock off?”

I finally get used to keeping track of the key. But how to keep from accidently locking the key inside the locker? I think, I’ll just never reach into the locker with the key in my hand. That proves hard to remember, so I leave the key in the lock until I have securely closed the door. Or I sometimes put both up on top of the locker. This seems to work pretty well. When I shut the door and lock it, I stow the key in the little pocket in my swim trunks. I never lost a key that way.

But one day I have a different problem. When I get dressed, I always return the lock and key to my gym bag. However, this day I forget to zip up the zipper on the little side pocket. The key, lock, and shampoo fell out—I never saw them again.

See what I mean? If you look at me now, you might imagine that I’m a together person. But even the YMCA is a dangerous place for people like me. And I haven’t even begun to tell you about other stupid things I do. I’ve just put a Post-it note on my dresser—“First the pants; then the shoes.” Help! I need a life coach.

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

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

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

*    *    *

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

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

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/

*    *    *

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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.

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

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

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!

*    *    *

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.