WINGSPREAD E-zine for July, 2019


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

July, 2019                                                       James P. Hurd       

Contents

  • New story: Leaving Lancaster County
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Puzzler
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Wingspread subscription information

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

 

New story: Leaving Lancaster County

The Saturday after that wonderful Thanksgiving of 1959, Alex drove Shawn around Lancaster County.

“Let’s stop and buy some venison,” he suggested. The Oldsmobile’s tires crunched on the crushed limestone farm lane as they pulled up to a house and found Ruth Hostetler standing in the kitchen doorway.

“Where’s Seth?” Alex asked.

“He’s still sleepin’.”

“Oh, don’t bother him; we want some venison but we can come back later.”

“That’s all right. Chust come and sit here in the livin’ room and I’ll go up and get ‘im.”

They sat down, calmed by the smell of the hot woodstove with its black chimney. After about ten minutes Seth walked down the stairs in his long underwear. Ignoring the boys, he leaned over to tap out his pipe at the woodstove, his bare rear end peeking out through the undone flap. He refilled his pipe, lit it from the stove, sucked on it, then turned toward the boys without smiling…..

 To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2019/07/12/alex-and-shawn-leave-lancaster-county/

 (*Request: After reading the article, please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

 Subscribe free to this E-zine: 

Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to the 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.

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.

Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month:  Logline: A one or two-sentence summary of abook.

Book of the month: Summer of the Danes by Ellis Peters, 1991. Benedictine monk Brother Cadfael is pleased to join a mission of church diplomacy to Wales. Travelling in the safety of the Prince of Gwynedd, they face unexpected dangers when Danish longships beach at Anglesey. They seek to protect a young Welsh woman from harm. Set in 1144.

 Watch for my upcoming novel: Atheist in the Institute. A young graduate travels east to train for mission aviation at Torrey Bible Institute, Chicago. One problem—his childhood faith is dwindling away. After failing to qualify for the flight program, he declares himself an atheist.

Presently in the “edits” stage. Target publication date: Spring, 2020.

scrooge grammar

Every author’s nightmare

July puzzler: 

I King 7:23 says that Solomon’s brass basin is described as 10 cubits in diameter and 30 cubits around. The skeptic argues that this proves the Bible contains an error, since, mathematically, circumference equals pi x diameter. Therefore, a 10-cubit diameter demands a 31.4 cubit circumference. How might the biblical literalist explain this apparent biblical error?

 Answer to June’s puzzler: 

Recall that the contest was a kite flying contest. The first person to be able to get his kite to land on the other side of Niagara Falls, won.

After one little kid was successful, the  engineers then took that kite string and attached to it a rope that was slightly heavier than the kite string. They pulled that rope across and they attached successively stronger ropes, until they finally had one strong enough to pull, what? The first cable of the bridge spanning the gorge!

 

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 order it 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

Alex and Shawn leave Lancaster County

The Saturday after that wonderful farm Thanksgiving Day of 1959, Alex drove Shawn around Lancaster County.

“Let’s stop and buy some venison,” he suggested. The Oldsmobile’s tires crunched on the crushed limestone farm lane as they pulled up to a house and found Ruth Hostetler standing in the kitchen doorway.

“Where’s Seth?” Alex asked.

“He’s still sleepin’.”

“Oh, don’t bother him; we want some venison but we can come back later.”

“That’s all right. Chust come and sit here in the livin’ room and I’ll go up and get ‘im.” They sat down, enveloped by the smell of the hot woodstove with its black chimney.

After about ten minutes Seth walked down the stairs in his long underwear. Ignoring the boys, he leaned over to tap out his pipe at the woodstove, his bare rear end peeking out through the undone flap. He refilled his pipe, lit it from the stove, sucked on it, then turned toward the boys without smiling.

Alex inhaled the sweet tobacco smell, then introduced Shawn. “This is my friend Shawn from the Bible Institute, Seth. We were hoping to buy a couple pound of venison.”

Seth looked to be in his mid-seventies, balding, a long gray scraggly beard, no mustache. Said he’d lived here on this farm all his life. Other than asking Shawn where he was from, he seemed un-curious about him.

Shawn had a hundred questions but didn’t know if he should ask them. Alex had cautioned him, “Don’t ask about doctrine; Amish people don’t talk theology.”

After Seth sat down on a stool across from them, Shawn asked, “Do you use candles at night?”

“No, not usually. Some Amish use kerosene lamps, but in Lancaster County we use propane.” He pointed to a lantern atop a long metal pipe that disappeared into a small wood cabinet. When Seth lit it, it whooshed up a propane-smelling ball of flame. “It gives all the light youse need at night.”

Seth handled English well, but his speech betrayed it as his second language. He said saeys instead of says; pungin for pumpkin, fortnight to refer to a two-week period. He referred to his wife as “she,” never using her name.

After leaving Seth’s, they drove back to the farm to present the meat to Alex’s mom, then walked in the cold November day out to the barn to help with the milking.

The Monday after Thanksgiving, Shawn and Alex left Lancaster County headed back toward Chicago. They overnighted in Ohio with one of Alex’s Mennonite uncles, then continued west. The snow had turned into a cold misty rain when they pulled into an Indiana truck stop for food. The parking lot smelled of diesel exhaust. The place was populated mostly by truck drivers—-solitary,  untethered men, bleary-eyed from long hours over the road.

They sat down at the lunch counter next to an old trucker who looked like a character from a Marlboro ad. “Bud” had two days growth and a black bill cap that read “True Outlaw Country.”

“Where’re you guys goin’?” Bud asked, putting down his egg sandwich.

“Back to school in Chicago,” Alex said. “Torrey Bible Institute. We’re just stopped here for gas and food.”

Bud’s smile widened. “Well, watch out for them lounge lizards. They’re jailbait.”

“Lounge lizards?” Shawn asked, in-between bites of his muffin.

“Short skirted, big-breasted lounge lizards. Them skags hang around truck stops and chase truckers who got them new sleeper cabs. But they’ll pick up anybody.” Bud saw himself as the seasoned sage as he passed valuable counsel to two naïve teenagers.

“Okay; we’ll be careful,” Shawn promised, as he noticed a well-endowed young woman walking through the restaurant. He thought himself bulletproof against sexual temptation. Foolish boy. They paid and drove away.

It was now evening, the rain had stopped, and Alex was driving. They had the windows cracked and inhaled the crisp winter air. It was 1959, the cold war was at its height, and talk turned to the draft. Shawn said, “The U.S. has 2,000 military advisers in Asia, and Russia’s building a hydrogen bomb. What do the Mennonite boys do about the draft?”

“Well, they classified me 1-A,” Alex explained, “so I talked to my bishop and he wrote my draft board. They reclassified me 1-O, Conscientious Objector, because I was in the Mennonite church. Mennonites don’t join the army.”

“Wow! They classified me 1-A in September, right after I started TBI. I talked to Dean Winters and he sent a letter, so they re-classified me 4-D, ministerial student. But if I leave TBI, they’ll probably draft me and send me to Vietnam or something….”

Alex pulled away from the signal light. “Vietnam? Where’s Vietnam?”

Wingspread Ezine for June, 2019

“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”


June, 2019                                                              James Hurd    

Contents

  • New story: “Working on Campus”
  • New novel: Atheist in the Institute
  • Puzzler
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Wingspread subscription information

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

New story: Working on Campus

One day at Torrey Bible Institute, Shawn McIntosh and Darrell Reardon were walking in a cold rain, pushing a dolly with a big desk on it across the quad toward Hargreaves Hall. Cloistered Hargreaves Hall stood as a mysterious, gated nunnery, making the coeds there more remote and exciting.  Rather than buzzing in through the double doors and stomping with wet feet through the lobby, they took the freight elevator. They rolled the table onto the platform and descended into the tunnel system with its moist wheezing steam pipes.

After checking in with the front desk, they elevatored up to the eighth floor. Darrell told Shawn, “No guys enter these halls unless they’re cleaning or maintenance.”

They pushed the dolly out onto the floor and Darrell yelled, “Man on the floor!”

They heard a muffled voice, “Grab ‘im!” Then giggles….

To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2019/06/21/working-on-campus/

 (*Request: After reading the article, please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

 

Watch for my upcoming novel

Tentative title: Atheist in the Institute. A young Californian travels east, loses his best girl, loses his dream career, and is beginning to lose his faith. Then grace happens. Progress: Beta version sent out for reading today! Target publication date: Fall, 2019.

 

New puzzler (from Car Talk)

Some engineers were contemplating building a suspension bridge across the gorge at Niagara Falls. So, you’ve got a raging river below, and you’ve got to get cables for the suspension bridge from one side to the other. But, there was no way to get the cables across, because there was no boat that could fight that current.

The engineers and builders figured out how to do it, and they staged a contest on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The contest was open to the public, and the purpose was to help get these massive cables across the gorge.

The contest was won by a young boy. And shortly after the contest was completed, they were able to run the cables from one side of the gorge to the other.

What was the contest?

(Answer in the next Ezine)

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 order it 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, and @hurdjp on Twitter

 Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to the 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.

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.

Working on Campus

One day at Torrey Bible Institute, Shawn McIntosh and Darrell Reardon were walking in a cold rain, pushing a dolly with a big desk on it across the quad toward Hargreaves Hall. Cloistered Hargreaves Hall stood as a mysterious, gated nunnery, making the coeds there more remote and exciting.  Rather than buzzing in through the double doors and stomping with wet feet through the lobby, they took the freight elevator. They rolled the table onto the platform and descended into the tunnel system with its moist wheezing steam pipes.

They elevatored up to check in with the front desk, then continued up to the eighth floor. Darrell told Shawn, “No guys enter these halls unless they’re cleaning or maintenance.”

They pushed the dolly out onto the floor and Darrell yelled, “Man on the floor!”

They heard a muffled voice, “Grab ‘im!” Then giggles.

A girl in her bathrobe walked past them down the hall, self-conscious with her hair askew and unmade-up face. What if a girl walked out partially clad? thought Shawn.

After work one afternoon in March, Shawn walked with Alex Byler to Chicago’s “L” and rode it out to the end of the line. Then they hitchhiked out to Naperville Airport just as the afternoon sun was nearing the horizon.

They each took a lesson in a J3 cub, an aircraft that has no electrical system, no navigation lights, and hence cannot fly after dark. FAA regs specified they must be on the ground one hour after sunset. So sometimes they only got in a half-hour of flying. But Shawn was thrilled. He loved the feel of the control stick in his hand, sitting behind the instructor in his canvas sling-seat. He worked hard to keep the stick still and not overcontrol.

Working at TBI on the maintenance crew took Shawn all over campus. Once he and Darrell delivered a small cherry dining room table to Dean Darla Dickenson’s apartment across LaSalle Street where she lived in a second-floor walkup. As they pushed the table through her front door, Shawn noticed the crown molding around the plastered ceiling, and the crystal chandelier. “Wow! It’s really compact, but neatly furnished,” he said as he closed the door behind him. “Old furniture, lots of polished wood.” He straightened up. The very space braced him, drew him to a higher standard.

Like Dickenson, the whole place screamed discipline—clean, sparse, organized, and classically beautiful, like an art museum. A Chippendale straight-back chair sat at a dark maplewood writing desk that held a typewriter. She only had a couple of chairs; probably didn’t entertain much. One overstuffed chair. A small kitchen adjoined the living room. Above the sink, lace curtains partially covered an opaque blind pulled half-way down. They sat the small round table down on the plush carpet at one end of the living room.

On a wide shelf next to her typewriter, a cloth concealed something bulky and angular. “I wonder what this is, Darrell?” He hesitated, then he pulled up a corner of the cloth, revealing a small TV!  No student was supposed to have a TV in their dorm room, and staff were discouraged from having them. Darrell smiled. Maybe Dickenson is human after all, Shawn thought. The discrete TV was the only visible concession to sensual pleasures.

Dickenson struck fear on campus, even among the men’s deans. She could negotiate, cajole, persuade; she could make grown men cry. I guess a Bible institute needs a few people like that, Shawn thought. But some of the students whispered that her shadow poisoned the ground she walked on.

The next afternoon Shawn hand-trucked a filing cabinet up to the President’s office. He punched the button on the Cromwell Hall elevator with its brass panel overhead reading, “Otis Traction Elevator.” Moses, the operator, opened the scissor grating and steel doors. When he reached the twelfth floor, Moses jiggled his lever up and down to level the car, then opened the doors.

Shawn pushed the cabinet down the hall, and knocked at the door with a brass plaque—–“R. Albert Clearson, President.” Shawn wondered why so many of these men used a single initial for their first name.

“Come in,” Dr. Clearson said. Shawn trundled the cabinet into the office with its dark wood trim, wainscoting and subdued sconce lighting that glowed amber on the thick carpeting.

Shawn had never met the president; he’d only heard his chapel sermons—stentorian, expository, authoritative, doctrinal, and most of all, Fundamentalist. Here he sat rotund in the rarified atmosphere of his lofty perch, working at his typewriter amidst a sea of books, many of them open, with his little desk lamp illuminating a note pad. He wore a dark blue suit, white shirt, a navy tie anchored with a little silver cross, black shoes and socks. About 60 years old, Shawn thought, with thick, graying hair. He looked like an updated version of Ebenezer Scrooge, but more pleasant.

“Excuse me, Dr. Clearson; I’m delivering your file cabinet.”

“Thank you.” Clearson stopped typing, took off his reading glasses and squinted. “Just put it in the corner there. What is your name? Your major here?”

“Shawn McIntosh. I’m pre-flight, hoping to go to flight camp next year.”

“Good; are you from the Midwest?”

“No; California.” He carefully maneuvered the filing cabinet into place, wondering what Dr. Clearson thought of profane, ungodly California.

“Well, welcome,” Clearson said. “I hope TBI serves you well as you prepare for Christian service.”

Shawn was in awe, feeling like he was meeting God’s older brother, a person different from himself, removed, a warrior of many spiritual victories, knowledgeable of arcane theologies, champion in biblical debates. He imagined President Clearson had no doubts, that he could answer any question about God, and Shawn had many questions. He also feared that some of Clearson’s best answers would not satisfy his heart and mind.

“I hope so sir.” He exited flustered, trailing the hand truck behind him.

WINGSPREAD E-zine for April, 2019

“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”
April, 2019                                                                                          James Hurd    

Contents

  • New story: “The Snow Sermon”
  • Writer’s Corner (New contest, upcoming new novel)
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Wingspread E-zine subscription information

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

*New story:

 The Snow Sermon

                               Grow old along with me!
                               The best is yet to be,
                               The last of life, for which the first was made:
                               Our times are in His hand
                               Who saith “A whole I planned,
                               Youth shows but half; trust God: See all, nor be afraid!”
                                      —from Robert Browning, “Rabbi Ben Ezra”

“Barbara, the snow’s late this year.”

She looks up from her pie crust work. “Yes, it’s only five days ’til Thanksgiving.”

But today, the wind chills. Gazing out the window I’m surprised by the fine flakes falling here in Minnesota, hundreds of miles away from my California childhood.

Our first snow is inevitable but still a surprise. We turned the clocks back just two weeks ago (“spring ahead; fall back”), but today, less than a month from winter solstice, the sun appears tardily over the far end of the pond. It will rise in its low southern arc and set early.

We are the shrouded ones, billeted in carpentered cocoons….

 To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2019/04/04/the-snow-sermon/

*This story is excerpted from my book Wingspread: A Memoir of Faith and Flying. 2016

 (*Request: After reading the article, please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

 

 Writers’ Corner

A contest for you:  Send in your best palindrome (that is, a phrase spelled the same backwards and forward. E.g., “Madam, I’m Adam.”) It can be borrowed, or original. I’ll choose the one I like the best and publish it in this E-zine. If you send in a palindrome, I’ll send you one of my unpublished stories. Deadline: May 15, 2019. Send to: hurd@usfamily.net.   Have fun!

Word of the Month:  Trust. The writer must trust her reader, allow her reader to fill in the picture. Don’t over-describe. Suggest, hint. Let the reader’s imagination do the rest.

Author of the month: Charles Dickens. (1812-1870). Oliver Twist (1839), The Old Curiosity Shop (1841). A Christmas Carol (1843), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Dickens paints well the tragedy and poverty of the Industrial Revolution in England. Memorable characters.

Book of the month: Bleak House by Charles Dickens, 1853. Vintage Dickens—several sub-plots, amazing character development, and descriptions of early 19th century London. How an interminable law case in Chancery Hall (Jarndyce vs. Jarndyce) wreaks havoc and ruin on many people. Only recommended for the long-suffering reader.

 Watch for my upcoming novel: Atheist in the Institute. A young Californian loses his girlfriend, travels east to Torrey Bible Institute, Chicago, but fails to reach his dream job. Oh¾he’s also losing his faith, and soon declares himself an atheist. Spoiler alert—it does not work out well. Presently in the “edits” stage. Target publication date: Fall, 2019.

 Answer to last month’s puzzler: Which is the only planet in our solar system that circles the sun on its sideUranus. It is tilted 98o. Jupiter is tilted 3o, Earth, 23o.

 

LEXIPHILIA – WHO ON EARTH DREAMS THESE UP? A lexophile, of course!
(A lexophile is a lover of words, especially in word games, puzzles, anagrams, etc.)

I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.

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

Venison for dinner again? Oh deer!

I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.

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

Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.

If you don’t pay your exorcist you can get repossessed.

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

I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

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

When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.

 

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 order it 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

 Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to the 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.

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 Snow Sermon

 

                               Grow old along with me!
                               The best is yet to be,
                               The last of life, for which the first was made:
                               Our times are in His hand
                               Who saith “A whole I planned,
                               Youth shows but half; trust God: See all, nor be afraid!”
                                      —from Robert Browning, “Rabbi Ben Ezra”

“Barbara, the snow’s late this year.”

She looks up from her pie crust work. “Yes, it’s only five days ’til Thanksgiving.”

But today, the wind chills. Gazing out the window I’m surprised by the fine flakes falling here in Minnesota, hundreds of miles away from my California childhood.

Our first snow is inevitable but still a surprise. We turned the clocks back just two weeks ago (“spring ahead; fall back”), but today, less than a month from winter solstice, the sun appears tardily over the far end of the pond. It will rise in its low southern arc and set early.

We are the shrouded ones, billeted in carpentered cocoons. I belong to a bookish breed. We inhabit an indoor world full of the smell of classroom chalk, students to-ing and fro-ing in the halls, and all this experience seasoned with specialty coffee and good conversation. Even at home, my fingers rest on computer keys, pretending that the seasons never change.

The seasons never changed in the California of my childhood with its palms, eucalyptus, magnolia and orange trees. But today the Minnesota sun hangs low on the horizon and the spruce branches slowly whiten. The harbinger snow warns, “Nothing is forever.” Almost for the first time, I realize that what is true for the seasons is also true for my own life.

Last summer, here at 45 degrees north latitude, the sun rose straight out our east window and brought slow-motion dawns and leisurely dusks. Now the luminous light of late afternoon dims, along with my mood.

I reluctantly relinquish the long, languid days of summer, but I want to grasp fall forever—her wild rains and winds, her stratospheric flocks of geese, and her small, furry creatures that scuttle across our narrow strip of pond-side prairie. Last week, the colder winds encouraged the top-branch leaves to redden, turn brown, then relax their grip. They fell to the lawn, rendering their last sweet smell of decay where they clustered downwind of the tree in a burnt-red and yellow oval. I smelled the still-unfrozen leaves and wondered, Where was I when these fell? These days are precious, and we all face the south sun. I didn’t notice fall’s warning—the browning tips of the tall red-top grasses, the drooping prairie flowers. But first snow means that fall is fading.

I step out the door onto virgin snow that overwhelms the green stems of cut grass. No animal tracks blemish the pristine whiteness—only my footprints.

The crystalline flakes arrive mute, indiscriminate, taking their time to land, more comfortable on the skin than fall’s stinging raindrops. I pull my coat around my chin and think, I need a hat and gloves.

Our marigolds glow deep maroon in the lambent light. Their tendrils still climb the iron shepherd’s crook, but with looser grip. The hostas along the house that shot out long exuberant spears now wilt, their energy spent. In the garden, the bottoms of the tomato stalks are turning brown. The broccoli survives first frost, then fades. Even the deer shun the dying plants.

I lie down spread-eagle on the lawn and stare up into the falling flakes. A light wind blows the snow slantwise through the maple’s witch-finger branches. I cannot feel it as it whitens my hair and clothes, but I taste it and smell its freshness. The snow stifles all sound except the distant cry of geese. I’m glad to be alive today, to see, to taste, to experience heaven’s bright herald of winter.

Pleasure Creek pond lies still, but somehow it senses the weather’s shift, anticipates the icy patina that will soon obscure her face. The geese swim carelessly, agnostic about their future, congregating with cocked heads, assaying the season. Snow sifts down into the bordering, browning prairie grass, whitening the tiny husk of each shriveled prairie flower. Milkweed pods burst open and spew their filaments.

The seasons teach me the cycle.

Hopeful spring says, “Start, take heart, scatter abroad, be reckless and wild.”

Ebullient summer says, “Work, sweat, thrive; strive while you’re alive.”

Savory fall says, “Gather, rejoice, revel in the harvest.”

But winter’s annunciatory flakes say, “Get ready! Check the snow shovels. Drain the garden hoses. Secure the patio furniture. The weather is changing. Treasure what you have. Embrace your now.”

I realize for the first time that I’m in the early winter of my life. I have a new appreciation for Woody Allen’s words—”I don’t want to achieve immortality by my work; I want to achieve immortality by not dying.”

My branches are still sturdy, but they feel more the winter’s winds. Some of my life-leaves have fallen. More and more, conversations drift to health matters. I’m learning new words—mitral valve, atrial fibrillation, gout, LDL, neuropathy.

The snow carries a severe mercy and an unexpected grace—”I make all things new. I erase, cover the dirt of your past. I shroud sorrows and heal wounds. I redeem. Savor me. I’ll blanket you with bitter white, but I’m preparing you for glorious spring. Trust what you cannot see. Weeping lasts for a time, but joy comes in the morning.”

Can I be thankful for winter’s snows? There’s a light at eventide that illumines winter’s day, that shines softer, deeper, more faithfully. As Gerard Manley Hopkins writes, “And though the last lights off the black West went. Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward springs…”

Winter enforces a pause—”Cease, withdraw, retract. Listen, read, pray. You can hear God better in your quiet.”

I must let winter do its silent work. The first snowfall helps me focus, makes me grateful for what I have. Like an unexpected hospital stay, it sharpens my joys, helps me to value life more, helps me to see how precious it is.

I’m so thankful now, in the early winter of my life. I wish to pay attention, to read the seasons, to prepare well for my own winter and beyond. Before I return to my fireside, I say, “First snow, I welcome you. Teach me well the wisdom of winter.”

WINGSPREAD E-zine for February, 2019


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”
February, 2019                                                                                               James Hurd    

Contents

  • New story: Corralito: A Life Hangs in the Balance
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Puzzlers
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Wingspread subscription information

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

New story: Corralito: A Life Hangs in the Balance

It’s a late, cloudy afternoon in 1968, and I’m circling over Corralito now, checking for animals on the strip, and wondering if the injured Tzeltal man is still alive. A tiny radio transmitter provided the means to call out for the airplane. The tiny strip lies tucked in below a terraced cornfield, so the approach follows the contour of the low hill. At the last minute the airstrip appears in the windshield, and soon the cut grass feels good under the wheels. I taxi the Cessna 180 over to where an injured young man lies inert on a stretcher, his tumid stomach bulging below his shirt.

A Tzeltal man talks to me in broken Spanish—-“Capitán, Mario was feeding stalks into the trapiche (sugar cane press) when the horse bar caught him and squeezed him against the press.” As we lay the injured man in the airplane, I notice that he’s a young man, and so probably has a good chance of pulling through. Antonio, his brother, stands by, mute….

 To read more, click here:   https://wordpress.com/post/jimhurd.com/1298

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 Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month:  Inciting incident. Les Edgerton says the inciting incident is the event, usually in the first few pages, that sets the stage for the “story-worthy problem” that is worked out in the rest of the book.

Example: Jane has just discovered a dark secret about her fiancé that may cause her to bow out of the marriage.

 

  Book of the month: Washington: A Life. Les Chernow. 2011. A thick book! The tale of how George Washington, in war and in peace, because the “Father of Our Country.”

 

Watch for my upcoming novel: A young Californian travels east to train for mission aviation at Torrey Bible Institute, Chicago. One problem—he’s losing his faith, and after reaching campus, declares himself an atheist. Presently in the “edits” stage. Target publication date: Fall, 2019.

 

Puzzler: Which is the only planet in our solar system that circles the sun on its side?

Answer to last month’s puzzler: A lawyer in London has a brother in New York who is also a lawyer. But the brother in New York does not have a brother in London. Why not?    The lawyer in London is his sister.

 

 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 order it 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

Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to the 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.

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Corralito: A life hangs in the balance

It’s a late, cloudy afternoon in 1968, and I’m circling over Corralito now, checking for animals on the strip, and wondering if the injured Tzeltal man is still alive. A tiny radio transmitter provided the means to call out for the airplane. The tiny strip lies tucked in below a terraced cornfield, so the approach follows the contour of the low hill. At the last minute the airstrip appears in the windshield, and soon the cut grass feels good under the wheels. I taxi the Cessna 180 over to where an injured young man lies inert on a stretcher, his tumid stomach bulging below his shirt.

A Tzeltal man talks to me in broken Spanish—-“Capitán, Mario was feeding stalks into the trapiche (sugar cane press) when the horse bar caught him and squeezed him against the press.” As we lay the injured man in the airplane, I notice that he’s a young man, and so probably has a good chance of pulling through. Antonio, his brother, stands by, mute.

We depart Corralito for San Cristóbal, the capital of Chiapas State, Mexico, our home base. But last night a squally Norther has blown across the region and draped its soggy rainclouds across the mountains. I probe the entrails of the storm, testing one cloud-clogged pass after another. Finally, I see a bit of light where the Comitán highway snakes between two high peaks. I high-jump the mountain pass and drop quickly into the San Cristóbal bowl. We’re in the clear now, but I look up to see a solid wall of clouds plugging the path ahead! I bank steeply in the cramped head of the valley, pulling on flaps to decrease turning radius and reverse course. The cliffs are so close it feels like the wing is buried halfway into the mountainside. We level out, but at best angle of climb the 180 just barely clears the pass.  I’m thinking we’ll need to divert to Tuxtla, about one-half hour away, but at the last minute we find a small hole in the clouds, slide over the lip of the San Cristóbal bowl, and drop down toward the landing strip.

We land in the late afternoon light. Chuck, the chief pilot, helps me load Mario into our old Chevy van to drive him to the small hospital for X-rays. The doctor tells us, “His interior organs are damaged and his only hope is to go to Tuxtla.”

We can’t fly at night; we must drive him down. So again we load him into the van, and soon we’re on our way up out of the bowl and down the winding mountain road. Antonio must feel helpless in the hands of strangers struggling to save his brother’s life. I sit in the back next to the patient feeling his heaving chest, listening to his labored breathing.

The brother asks me, “Will we get there in time?”

“We’ll try our best,” I tell him.

Then Mario’s breathing gets shallower, interrupted. He starts foaming at the mouth—his lungs must be filling with fluid! I tell Chuck to drive faster. His breath is getting fainter and fainter. Then his breathing stops. “Chuck; he’s not breathing!” I yell.

Chuck stops the car and comes around to examine the man. I suggest we give him artificial respiration. But Chuck says, “He’s gone, Jim.”

Antonio begs us to continue on to Tuxtla, but Chuck tells him, “There’s nothing we can do; it’s too late. We’ll have to go back to San Cristóbal. If there’s still a little bit of life in him when we arrive, we’ll see the doctor again.” I watch Antonio and wonder if he’s understanding anything, since he speaks little Spanish.

We head back, drive into town, and rouse the doctor in the middle of the night to ask for a death certificate. But we can’t quickly get a permit to fly the body, so we’ll have to do it secretly. We drive into our darkened hangar and carefully lay the man in the plane. Before rigor mortis sets in, his forlorn brother works to arrange the limp limbs in Tzeltal fashion.

It’s the first time I’ve seen someone die. That night I vomit, and lie sleepless all night.

The next morning at first light, Chuck takes off to fly the body back to Corralito. My eye follows him as he climbs out over the valley—a tiny dot silhouetted against the dark mountains. I know something of grace in my life; I now pray grace for the dear, waiting family who will never again speak with their beloved Mario.

I trust that we can continue our work here in Chiapas State, and that our flight service can help lighten the load for many of these Chiapanecos.

WINGSPREAD E-zine for January, 2019


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”
January, 2019                                                                                                 James Hurd

Contents

  • New story: Flying the Bright Red Line
  • Writer’s Corner
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Puzzlers
  • E-zine subscription information

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

New story: Flying the Bright Red Line

When I walk into Dirk Van Dam’s office and sit down, he tells me, “Jim, I want you to work on cross-country a bit and then we’ll ride again.” In other words, I’ve failed the cross-country stage check. I taste the bitter fruit of failure. I’ll have only one more chance before they cull me, wash me out.

I need to practice for Van Dam’s recheck, so the next week I lay the Chicago sectional aeronautical chart on the ready room table and draw a bright red line from our little grass airport, Moody-Wood Dale, to Dixon. It should take 50 minutes to fly to Dixon, but with the forecast headwind, I add five more minutes. To check my groundspeed, I draw little cross-hatches for checkpoints every twenty miles or so—a road, railroad, or other good landmark.

Just after takeoff I try to follow the red line on the chart. The northwest wind will blow me south, so I steer five degrees north of course….

 To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2019/01/21/flying-the-bright-red-line/

(*Request: After reading the article, please leave a comment on the website. Thanks.)

 

WRITER’S CORNER

Word of the Month:  Story-worthy problem. Without a problem, you ain’t got a story. A story must start with trouble that threatens the protagonist’s wellbeing, his future, his very identity. (After Les Edgerton, Hooked)

 

Book of the month: Hooked: Grab readers at page one. Les Edgerton, 2007. Edgerton’s simple thesis—“Hook ‘em!”  If your reader doesn’t read the first sentence, paragraph, page, first chapter, you’ve lost ‘em. Highly recommended.

Author of the Month: Ron Chernow. A scrupulous researcher, he tells you way more than you care to know about people, but tells it in a compelling way. Washington: A Life, 2010. Alexander Hamilton, 2004, John D. Rockefeller 1998.

Watch for my upcoming novel: A young Californian travels east to train for mission aviation at Torrey Bible Institute. One problem—he’s losing his faith, and upon reaching campus, declares himself an atheist. Target publication date: Fall, 2019.

 

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 order it 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/

NEW PUZZLER:   A lawyer in London has a brother in New York who is also a lawyer. But the brother in New York does not have a brother in London. Why not?

Answers to last month’s puzzler: Two fathers and two sons go hunting. They shoot three ducks and each one gets one. How is that possible? Answer: One of the hunters was a son and also a father¾grandpa, son, and grandson.

 

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

Subscribe free to this E-zine   Click here https://jimhurd.com/home/  to subscribe to the WINGSPREAD  E-magazine, sent direct to your email inbox, every month. You will receive a free article for subscribing. Please share the e-zine, blog, or stories with interested friends, “Like” it on Facebook, retweet on Twitter, etc.

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 the Bright Red Line

When I walk into Dirk Van Dam’s office and sit down, he tells me, “Jim, I want you to work on cross-country a bit and then we’ll ride again.” In other words, I’ve flunked the cross-country flight check. I taste the bitter fruit of failure. I’ll have only one more chance before they cull me, wash me out.

I need to practice for Van Dam’s recheck, so the next week I lay out the Chicago sectional chart on the ready room table and draw a bright red line from our little grass airport, Moody-Wood Dale, to Dixon. It should be a 50-minute flight, but with the forecast headwind, I add five more minutes. To check my groundspeed, I draw little cross-hatches every twenty miles or so at prominent landmarks.

I takeoff and try to follow the red line drawn on the chart. The northwest wind will try to blow me south , so I correct five degrees to the north. I identify landmarks and write down passing times—-railroads, major roads and rivers, high tension wires, tall radio towers, tiny towns with their water towers. All these help me stay on the red line. Airports work best as checkpoints, because you can fix your location precisely, and they’re good to spot in case of an emergency.

I stray three or four miles to the right, then overcorrect back left, zigzagging across the invisible red line. And sometimes my checkpoint times are off by two or three minutes.

I’ve never landed at Dixon. The chart says it sits at 785 feet above sea level, and the east-west runway is 3900 feet long. No control tower, so I fly across it at 2500 feet to check the windsock and look for other aircraft. The windsock indicates a landing to the west. I smell the plane’s burnt exhaust. I descend, then line up with the narrow, gravel runway, approaching with a lowered right wing against the northwesterly wind, plopping down on the strip and rolling to a stop. I get out briefly to feel the cool breeze.

The flight back to Moody-Wood Dale goes well. But will I be ready for Van Dam?

The next week, Leo, my fight instructor, tells me, “Plan a flight to Joliet; we’ll leave in thirty minutes.” Under the whining ready room fan, I draw a straight red line across the chart to Joliet, then check the weather—good visibility, but low overcast.

Leo Lance, faintly smelling of cologne, climbs into the Cessna 150 cockpit beside me. The tiny plane creaks as we taxi over the rough sod toward the runway.

After takeoff I circle, then get on the red-lined course. I tell Leo, “I can’t climb because of this low overcast, so it’s hard to see very far ahead.”

“Yeah,” he says, “Just try to identify everything you pass on the ground.”

I look down at the map, out through the windshield, down at the map again, my sweaty left finger pressed against the red line. After about ten minutes I look down at a railroad track diverging from our heading, and several small towns.

Leo says, “Can you find those towns on the chart?”

“Here’s the railroad track, but I’m not sure which towns those are.”

“Just hold the heading you planned on and soon you’ll see something you recognize.”

We cross a major road at an angle. Is that the Interstate or just some other divided highway? I identify a small airport and determine we’ve drifted about three miles left of the red line. Is there that much wind or did I just choose the wrong heading?

I make a ten-degree correction to the right, but five minutes later we’re right of course, so I correct back left five degrees.

Then we pass a town off to our left. Is that Bolingbrook? If so, we’re about three minutes slower than I calculated. Did I allow enough extra time for takeoff and climb? Headwind? Maybe it’s not Bolingbrook….

Mr. Lance reads the entrails of the squally dark clouds ahead. “We won’t land at Joliet,” Leo says. Let’s turn around and navigate back to Wood Dale.”

We turn around and head back home. After we land Leo sits closed-lipped. I’m surprised when he sends me back to Van Dam for a recheck.

The day of the recheck arrives, with visibility only five miles. Weak light leaks through the haze. I’m worried. Van Dam says, “I want you to plan a flight to Des Moines. We won’t actually fly there, but we’ll start out on that route.” So I check weather, draw a long red line on the chart, and plan a heading to compensate for a forecast ten-knot wind from the south. We walk out into the breeze.

Mr. Van Dam (no one calls him Dirk) folds his 6’4” frame into the tiny Cessna 150 alongside me. With his tightly-curled, grey-flecked hair and sharply-chiseled face, he’s as serious as the county morgue. We call him the Great Stone Face behind his back. He holds the power to wash me out of the program.

We hurtle down the grass airstrip and bounce into the air. Van Dam watches, but doesn’t talk. After we find the red line, he says, “Let’s try some instrument flying.”

The plastic instrument hood forces me to fly by instruments, only. “Just keep the VOR needle centered,” he says. Simple enough. The VOR allows me to follow an electronic signal to the VOR station. After about ten minutes he takes the hood off and says, “Okay; where are we?”

I realize I’ve lost track of where we are on the chart! I stare down through the haze at the roads, tiny towns, and cow-flecked fields rolling backward under our wings. Have I gone farther than I think? I try to estimate how many miles we’ve flown since I put the hood on. Has the wind blown me off course? I wipe my sweaty hands on my pants and peer out the windshield at a small circle of landscape surrounded by haze. Nothing seems familiar, nothing I can correlate with the chart.

Then, a miracle. Looming out of the haze just ahead, I see the two high-tension transmission lines crossing. I put my finger on the chart and point to the thin, black lines crossing. “We’re right here.” Mr. Van Dam nods and says nothing.

We land, then walk back to the admin building in silence so dense you could top it with whipped cream. But his silence is good. I’ve passed the cross-country stage check!

Exiting out into the bright, hazy sun, I sit with the other guys on the lawn chairs along the flight line. I bite into my sandwich, smelling the bread, and the freshly-cut grass, and listening to Paul Harvey on the radio. On this fall day in 1961, I somehow feel clean, blessed that I remain a member of this coterie of brothers. And thankful.