Category Archives: Uncategorized

What Do Mennonites Do After High School?

This is a report of a study on people who graduated from Lancaster Mennonite High School in 1953. Although people pursued many different paths, the data show amazing persistence of Mennonite identity over the years.

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Results of Lancaster Mennonite High School
Alumni Survey

James Hurd and Barbara Breneman Hurd [Barbara is a 1953 graduate]

 This survey was created to find out what has happened to the Lancaster Mennonite High School (LMH) class of 1953, especially their education, church and Anabaptist commitments, and experiences of their children. The results are a testimony to the grace of God and the power of LMH.

Graduates from the year 1953 met in Lititz, Pennsylvania this June to celebrate the 65th anniversary of their graduation. Thirty-five people of this class attended, plus 14 of their spouses.

We were interested in understanding how “useful” an LMH education is, and how to measure its impact over the years. What did people do after graduation? What vocations did they pursue?  How many alumni attend an Anabaptist/Mennonite church today, and how many still identify as Anabaptist? How many sent their children to LMH or to an Anabaptist school?

Forty-two surveys were returned, including surveys from LMH’ers and from their spouses. We refer to all these as “respondents.” Fifteen of the respondents were males; 27 were females. Thirty-five of these were graduates of LMH.

General

Of all respondents, 20 had lived primarily in Lancaster County (55%), ten in a different Pennsylvania county, six in a different state, and three had lived outside of the U.S.

Of those who listed their primary vocation, eight females listed parenting/homemaker (no males listed this), seven people listed a blue-collar-type job (e.g., trucking, market), 19 listed a white-collar-type job (e.g., teacher, salesman), and three listed a church-related vocation (pastor, missionary).

Who did these LMH’ers marry? Overall, 14 out of the 35 graduates (40%; ten females and four males) chose an LMH spouse .

Education

Nine LMH’ers (26%) reported they’d received an advanced degree beyond high school.

Eighteen LMH’ers (51%) reported that at least one of their children had attended LMH! In the 14 cases where both parents were LMH’ers, 10 of the parents (71%) had at least one child who attended LMH.

Anabaptist loyalty

Who is still Anabaptist? Twenty-six LMH’ers reported that they were presently attending an Anabaptist/Mennonite church (76%). Four reported attending an “Evangelical” church, and four reported attending an “other Christian church.” Twenty-seven reported that they still considered themselves Anabaptist/Mennonite (77%). Five considered themselves “Evangelical,” and three, “other Christian.”

Twenty out of 30 LMH’ers (67%) reported that today, at least one of their children identifies as Anabaptist/Mennonite. But of the 14 graduates who married fellow LMH’ers, 11 had children that today identify as Anabaptist/Mennonite (79%).

 Discussion

This survey showed that LMH trained people well for work in many roles—most graduates worked for years in white- or blue-collar roles.

Graduates demonstrated a high loyalty, both to LMH and to Mennonite/Anabaptist church and belief. Forty percent of the LMH’ers had married fellow LMH’ers. Most of the respondents are now in Anabaptist churches, and most have children identifying with Anabaptist/Mennonite churches.

This study has some limitations. We could not survey 1953 graduates who failed to attend—on balance, those who attended were probably more loyal to LMH and to the Anabaptist movement than those who did not. If respondents had written in some answers rather than merely ticking boxes, more data would have been revealed. For instance, it is not clear which individuals are widowed or never-married. And where people did not answer questions about their children, they may have merely chosen to not answer, or, more likely, they have no children.

Future studies should include:

1.      More marriage data—married, divorced, widowed, or never-married.
2.      Focus groups or short narratives about the Mennonite/Anabaptist experience of the alumni, to give a deeper picture of graduates’ life experiences.

This survey reveals the amazing journeys of the members of the LMH class of 1953. It provides testimony to the power of an LMH education, to the graduates’ influence down through the years, and to the continuing vibrancy of the Anabaptist/ Mennonite experience.

 

WINGSPREAD E-zine for June, 2018

“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”
June, 2018                                                                                                       James Hurd    

Contents

  • New blog article: Your Body Knows What’s Good for You
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Book of the month
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Puzzlers
  • E-zine subscription information

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New blog article: Your Body Knows What’s Good for You

Like most people, I have two desires¾to satisfy my food cravings and to live a heathy, long life.

When I was a teenager, I was skinny, so I didn’t worry about getting fat—I just fed my body what it craved. Every weekday, before I left the Orange Daily News to deliver my newspapers, I would walk next door to the jewelers and put a dime in his pop machine to buy my bottle of Coke. Then, biking to my paper route, I would stop at the gas station and buy a Heath candy bar. One time I bought a quarter pound of fudge, took a chaste bite, and then ate the whooole thing in ten minutes. [Foolish, but it was totally worth it].

Even today, I favor ice cream and chocolate over leafy vegetables, carrots, peas, or green beans. My wife, the voice of reason, fights a long-term battle against my cravings….

To read more, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2018/06/23/your-body-knows-whats-good-for-you/

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

 Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month:  Narrative. You want lots of this in your piece. It’s that part of your piece that moves it along—it’s what is happening. Narrative is distinct from description, reflection, explanation, backstory, etc.

Question of the Month: How long should your novel be?

Answer to last month’s question: How do you write internal dialogue? There are three ways: 1. Use quote marks, as in any other quote. 2. Use italics. 3. Use neither. Example: John thought, When should I tell him the naked truth?
I prefer the third way because it is less jarring. But your reader must know that it’s internal dialogue.

 Book of the month: Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning. Beacon Press, 2006. Frankl’s dark, psychological narration of his life in a Nazi death camp and how a few survivors found meaning enough to fight to survive.

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

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

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

Puzzlers (answers next month)

  1. Johnny’s mother had three children. The first child was named April. The second child was named May.  What was the third child’s name?
  2. There is a clerk at the butcher shop who is five feet ten inches tall and he wears size 13 sneakers.  What does he weigh?
  3. Before Mt. Everest was discovered, what was the highest mountain in the world?
  4. How much dirt is there in a hole that measures two feet by three feet by four feet?
  5. What word in the English Language is always spelled incorrectly?

 

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.

Your Body Knows What’s Good for You

Like most people, I have two desires—to satisfy my food cravings and to live a healthy, long life.

When I was a teenager, I was skinny, so I didn’t worry about getting fat—I just fed my body what it craved. Every weekday before I left the Orange Daily News to deliver my newspapers, I would walk next door to the jewelers and put a dime in his pop machine to buy my bottle of Coke. Then, biking to my paper route, I would stop at the gas station and buy a Heath candy bar. Another time I bought a quarter pound of fudge, took a chaste bite, and then ate the whooole thing in ten minutes. [Stupid, but it was totally worth it].

Even today, I favor the ice cream and chocolate food groups over leafy vegetables, carrots, or peas. My wife, the voice of reason, fights a long-term battle against my cravings. She cooks wonderful, healthy meals, but I still major on desserts. She says, “I give up! Eat what you want. But don’t expect me to take care of you when you get sick.” (Empty threat.) She’s already picked out my tombstone epitaph—“I tried to tell him, but he wouldn’t listen.”

Despite all I’ve learned about nutrition, despite the scientific evidence, despite my wife’s rational suggestions, I still eat junk food.

There’s a reason I eat this way—I’m an expert at self-deception (SD). I tell myself: “I eat better than my friends,” “I’ll eat better next week,” “I know a guy who ate junk food and lived into his 90s,” or, “Just this one time; I’ll take just one piece.”

Do I believe these lies? Well, it’s complicated. The best explanation is that I believe the lie now. (Why spoil a great experience!) And just after eating, I can repent and believe the voice of reason. This allows me to enjoy my junk food and still preserve my self-respect—to see myself as a rational, disciplined person who will make good (future) decisions. But of course, that’s a lie also, and my fake resolve doesn’t motivate me to change my behavior.

Why do we do this? SD is always motivatedyou have reasons to deceive yourself. You self-deceive because you want something. What you want is to have your cake and eat it too, so you act on one conviction that contradicts a more important conviction. You want to satisfy an immediate desire or give yourself permission to violate a moral code.

SD works because of our compartmentalized brains. Each of us has a “reptile” brain (hippocampus)—older, simpler, and associated with instinctual behavior, such as “fight” or “flight.” In addition we have a new brain (“neocortex”) that is rational and deliberating, the part of our brain that says, “Wait a minute—will this serve your long-term interest?” We can call the hippocampus “Junior,” and the neocortex “Mother.” Junior does what Junior wants to do; Mother does what she plans to do. SD occurs when we let Junior win over Mother.

But why worry about a little innocent SD?

Because it’s not innocent. The stories above show how SD can be dangerous to your health. SD promotes lazy, habitual eating that may lead to addiction. SD represents a divided care for yourself, and works against a healthy, integrated personhood. Most seriously, it tempts you to “self-divinize”— to substitute your own flawed judgment for God’s.

What to do about SD? How combat the voice of Junior and listen to Mother’s voice?

First, I need to continually remind myself to focus on the long term, to remember that I’m constantly investing for the future, and to focus on behaviors that will enhance that future.

Second, it helps if I can find an accountability partner—a brave, faithful friend who will hold me accountable, who will constantly tell me the truth and call me out when I’m self-deceiving.

Third, I can reward myself when I’ve made a good decision. Like Mother used to say, “If you eat your carrots and broccoli you’ll enjoy your dessert more.”

Finally, I can listen more to the voice of the Spirit, that voice that knows me most intimately, cares most deeply about me. I can base my choices, not on my desires of the moment, but rather on God’s highest, best purpose for me. My body thinks it knows what’s good for me, but the Spirit knows even better.

WINGSPREAD E-zine for April, 2018


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”
April, 2018                                                                          Hurd    

Contents

  • New blog article: “Fortress in the City”
  • Writer’s Corner
  • This month’s story
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Selected quotes
  • E-zine subscription information

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New blog article: “Fortress in the City”

Shawn stepped off the train, plunged into Chicago schoolboy-confident and felt something he’d never felt before—-hot, dripping humidity. His shirt stuck to his skin as he clutched all his worldly possessions (a suitcase and a duffle bag) and waded through a sea of people—parents herding their children, red caps hustling luggage, boys selling The Chicago Tribune. He remembered what his grandfather had said the first time he’d arrived in New York’s Grand Central Station—-“I saw lots of people I didn’t know.”

After a ten-minute Checker cab ride down LaSalle Street, Shawn stood inside CBI’s stone arch, feeling the granite-walled coolness. The train journey had ended, but his adventures at Chicago Bible Institute had just begun….

To read more on the blog, click here:   https://jimhurd.com/2018/04/20/fortress-in-the-city/

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

Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month:  Description-splitting: Splitting up your long descriptions of persons and places, and spreading them throughout your story. That way your reader won’t skip over them.

Question of the Month: How to write your character’s internal dialogue?

Last month’s question: How do you refer to future events if you’re writing in past tense? You, the “omniscient narrator” know the future. So, you could write: “He could not know, but he was talking face to face with she who would be the Queen of England.” Note the use of would when referring to future events.

Tip of the Month: Even in a novel, you must be true to widely-known facts. If a person is walking the streets of Chicago in 2018, she will not see Meigs Field Airport (demolished five years ago).

 Book of the month: Charles Dickens, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. As he narrates an amazing tale, Dickens takes on a journey through 18th century England—through the streets and through the minds of his characters.

This month’s story

A husband hurried down to the sheriff’s department to report that his wife was missing.

Husband: My wife is missing. She went shopping yesterday and has not come home.

Sergeant: What is her height?

Husband: Gee, I’m not sure, maybe a little over five-feet tall.

Sergeant: Weight?

Husband: Don’t know. Not slim, not really fat.

Sergeant: Color of eyes?

Husband: Never noticed.

Sergeant: Color of hair?

Husband: Changes a couple times a year. Maybe, dark brown.

Sergeant: What was she wearing?

Husband: Could have been a skirt or shorts. I don’t remember exactly.

Sergeant: What kind of car did she go in?

Husband: She went in my truck.

Sergeant: What kind of truck was it?

Husband: Brand new 2016 Ford F150 King Ranch 4X4 with eco-boost 5.0L V8 engine special ordered with manual transmission. It has a custom matching white cover for the bed. Custom leather seats and “Bubba” floor mats. Trailering package with gold hitch. DVD with navigation, 21-channel CB radio, six cup holders, and four power outlets. Added special alloy wheels and off-road Michelins. Wife put a small scratch on the driver’s door. At this point the husband started choking up.

Sergeant: Don’t worry buddy. We’ll find your truck.

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Yep. Some men are capable of a great love…

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

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

Selected Quotes

  • A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator, the smaller the fraction.
    Leo Tolstoy
  • Like its politicians and its wars, society gets the teenagers it deserves.
    J.B. Priestley

 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 put in the subject line: “unsubscribe.” (I won’t feel bad, promise!) Thanks.

 

Fortress in the City

At 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, exactly one hour late, the Santa Fe Chief pulled into the opulent LaSalle Street Station. Built in 1903, it was used in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie North by Northwest (1959).

Shawn stepped off the train and plunged into Chicago schoolboy-confident, and felt something he’d never felt before—-hot, dripping humidity. His shirt stuck to his skin as he clutched all his worldly possessions (a suitcase and a duffle bag) and waded into a sea of people—parents herding their children, red caps hustling luggage, boys selling The Chicago Tribune. He remembered what his grandfather had said the first time he’d arrived in New York’s Grand Central Station—-“I saw lots of people I didn’t know.”

After a ten-minute Checker cab ride down LaSalle Street, Shawn stood inside CBI’s stone arch, feeling the granite-walled coolness. The train journey had ended, but the adventures at Chicago Bible Institute had just begun.

CBI stood on Chicago’s near north side—-a Fundamentalist citadel of right doctrine and right lifestyle, a solicitous crone who seemed to whisper: “Distrust the world. Seize the old certainties. You bloom best in the old soil.” Gated and ghettoed, the school formed a fortress against Chicago’s secular, sensual, consumerist metropolis. Here, Shawn knew he was shielded from the dangers of the world. (But, confident as he was, he could not know that his greatest temptations would arise not from without, but from within.)

He walked through the arch inhaling the spirit of CBI’s founder—-the 19th-century shoe-salesman-turned-preacher who said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.” Shawn expected, and was certainly going to attempt. It was 1959, he was 18 years old, and all things seemed possible. He was a bit uncertain about the depth of his Fundamentalist faith, though. Was he here for a Christian education or mainly for aviation training?

On this first day, Shawn walked into a world of rules. No alcohol, ever. No short hair on women; no long hair or facial hair on men. Good table manners, collar shirts, no jeans, shined shoes. Women could wear only a touch of makeup, no short hair, no facial jewelry, no pants. Especially, they must wear their dresses or skirts at least down to the knees. American middle-class lifestyle codes, but CBI elevated them to tests of biblical fidelity and signs of Christian commitment. Shawn took all of this completely for granted—it was the world of his childhood.

He climbed the stone steps into Cromwell Hall’s lobby, tossed his spent chewing gum into a wastebasket and presented himself to the woman at the information desk.

“Hello—-I’m here for the flight camp.”

Her brow furrowed, but she said, “Welcome! Please allow me to check.” She made a couple of calls and then, “Oh… flight camp isn’t here; you’re supposed to be out at the airport.”

“Oh, I didn’t know. How do I get out there?”

“I think we’ll overnight you here, and tomorrow morning the airport van can run you out.” Shawn waited a bit and then, “This is Ma Gamble, one of our dorm mothers—she’ll take you up to your room.”

Ma Gamble wore her gray hair wound in a tight bun at the nape of her neck. As Norbert Hall’s dorm mother, she supervised student residential life, along with their morals—-it was the fifties, and colleges still practiced in loco parentis. Shawn liked her immediately. A woman in her sixties, she quizzed Shawn about his train trip. In many ways she reminded him of his grandmother; he wanted to hug her.

To Shawn, reared in progressive California, Norbert Hall seemed an ancient, dirty, pile of bricks, bleak, without grace, looming above him. They elevatored up to the fifth floor. No other students were living here now. Walking along the hall, he noticed only one common bathroom.

Ma Gamble led Shawn into a high-ceilinged room—-plastered walls, heavy, dark wood trim, and a corner sink with a mirror. “Breakfast in the dining hall is at 8:00!” Then she walked out and left Shawn alone.

Shawn noticed the bunk beds, two study desks, and a globed ceiling light. Hooks to hang his clothing on. CBI prohibited anything electric in the rooms—-coffee pot, hot plate, heaters—-although he later learned that some guys bootlegged them in. He’d never been in such an old building with no telephones or TV, and rusty gas light sconces still protruding from the walls.

The floor squeaked in the empty hall as he walked down to the bathroom to brush his teeth. He thought, everyone I know is 2000 miles away, in California.

The unscreened window stood open, welcoming in the hot, moist air. He leaned out to peer into the courtyard far below where some students sat on cast-iron railings along the basement stairwells. One student yelled something unintelligible up at him. He saw huge piles of coal mounded up in a corner of the small parking lot, waiting for winter’s cold. The Institute was crammed into a single city block, bounded by LaSalle, Wells, Chicago, and Chestnut streets. In its center lay the quad, an accidental space bereft of grace, hemmed in between multi-story buildings, paved over with not a spear of grass. To the east he saw Cromwell Hall (administrative and classrooms); to the southwest the women’s dorm, and to the west a driveway ran out onto Wells Street. Shawn read his Bible a bit, then went to bed early, tossing and turning on sweaty sheets, too excited to sleep.

 

The next day, the Sabbath sun navigated the hazy Chicago air and flooded in his window. Shawn couldn’t wait to get out to the airport. He walked down to the dining room for breakfast and soon boarded the van to ride out to CBI’s Maple Valley Airport. His stomach churned—flight camp! One single chance to make it into CBI’s aviation program. His whole future would be decided in just two weeks.

WINGSPREAD E-zine for March, 2018

“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”

March, 2018                                                           James Hurd    

Contents

  • New blog article: “Here Come the Mexicans”
  • Articles and books
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Book and Film reviews
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Quotable quotes
  • E-zine subscription information

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

New blog article: “Here Come the Mexicans”

When I arrived at Orange Intermediate School, I met Mexicans. They were Catholic, not Protestant, and they wore different clothing. They all spoke at least some English; the girls usually more than the boys.

The boys didn’t want to be there; the girls did. It was 1952, and all the girls wore dresses. We used to eyeball the girls’ legs as they climbed the outside steel stairs up to the second-floor classrooms. I remember Suzie—short, waddly, conversational, a friend of everybody—who would act as mediator between us and some of the girls we liked.

In social studies class, when Al Lopez wasn’t on task, Mr. Hardesty would playfully throw erasers at him. One day Al was absent, and Mr. Hardesty told us, “You know, Al has an IQ of about 70.” We believed him. I guess he wanted us to be friendlier to Al. It never occurred to me to ask Al if he was legal or not….

Read more here:   https://jimhurd.com/2018/03/28/here-come-the-mexicans/

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

 Publishing News: “Retirement Surprise” came out in the Spring, 2018 issue of Christian Living in the Mature Years magazine. The article was a “surprise” to Barbara also, since she hadn’t signed off on me publishing it! (She figures prominently in the piece.) Here is the blogged text version: https://jimhurd.com/2015/11/23/retirement-surprises/

Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month:  Description-splitting: Splitting up your long descriptions of persons and places, and spreading them throughout your story. That way your reader won’t skip over them.

Question of the Month: How do you refer to future events in your writing?

Last month’s question: Flashbacks: Don’t do a flashback before the reader is grounded in the main time period of your story. (Wait until at least 1/10 of the way into the story). Be sure to signal the time to the reader, so they don’t get lost.

 Tip of the Month: Keep your story moving. Eliminate, or at least break up, long descriptions and backstories. Take Elmore Leonard’s advice: find all the parts your readers will skip over—and eliminate them.

 Book of the month: It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so I recommend Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization. 1995. The story of the Irish in the Middle Ages, Christian and pre-Christian. The Christian Irish were educators, monks, missionaries, and librarians, guarding vast repositories of books from the chaos of the unruly hordes.

You might also read: Paddy’s Lament, Ireland 1846-1847: Prelude to Hatred. Thomas Gallagher, 1982. The tragic story of how the English oppressed the Irish and the devastation caused by the great potato famine.

Movie of the month: I Can Only Imagine. 2018. Christian Indie Movie. The story of a troubled boy, Bart Millard, who grew up in an abusive home. He turned to music for consolation, founded the band MercyMe, and in the bargain, found Christian faith and redemption.

 

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

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

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

Selected Quotes 

  • 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?
  • I stayed up all night to see where the sun went; then it dawned on me.
  • Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.
  • Today, this girl said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I’d swear I’ve never met herbivore.
  • I know a guy who’s addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.

 

 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.

Here Come the Mexicans

When I arrived at Orange Intermediate School, I met Mexicans. They were Catholic, not Protestant, and they wore different clothing. They all spoke at least some English; the girls usually more than the boys.

The boys didn’t want to be there; the girls did. It was 1952, and all the girls wore dresses. We used to eyeball the girls’ legs as they climbed the outside steel stairs up to the second-floor classrooms. I remember Suzie—short, waddly, conversational, a friend of everybody—who would act as mediator between us and some of the girls we liked.

In social studies class, when Al Lopez wasn’t on task, Mr. Hardesty would playfully throw erasers at him. One day Al was absent, and Mr. Hardesty told us, “You know, Al has an IQ of about 70.” We believed him. I guess he wanted us to be friendlier to Al. It never occurred to me to ask Al if he was legal or not.

Al was thin, stood about 5’8”, had dark brown skin, and long, gelled, slicked-back jet-black hair. He and I competed for the forward position on the Orange Intermediate basketball team. He was a ferocious dribbler, elbowing and penetrating the defense, but I was a better shot. I won the spot, but later, Al eclipsed me. One day when I called him a “brain” (a common middle school epithet), he cursed me out in Spanish and almost hit me. After that I tried to avoid him.

 

My first day at intermediate school, “Creech,” a kid that seemed about seven feet tall, pinned a sign to my back that said, “I am the scum of the earth.” He told me, “Keep that on all day, kid, or I’ll beat you up this afternoon.” I kept it on. Orange Intermediate was so much bigger than my Center Street elementary because several other elementary schools fed into it, including Cypress Street and Kilefer, where the Mexicans went to school.

The playground, a vast macadam tarmac, stretched from the chain link fence along Sycamore Street to the bicycle stands and woodshop to the south, and from the school buildings on the east side to the dirt running track on the west side. We played softball here after lunch, but some of the guys dominated the games, so a few of us changed to playing handball against the back of the school building, an act which resulted in Mr. Elmore taking us to the woodshop for a paddling.

They told us we couldn’t leave the playground during the school day, but across Sycamore Street was a tiny Mexican take-out. I found a breach in the chain link fence where I could sneak over and buy a couple of tamales for lunch.

During breaks, we would stand around on the playground in clumps, talking. The Anglo boys wore jeans with the red Levi tag, or khaki pants with a little cloth buckle in the back. I could afford neither; I just wore generic pants. The Mexican boys stood in separate clumps. Most of their families were poor. They settled here because Orange County needed their fathers to pick oranges. They wore generic jeans, or just dark slacks. I was more fearful of the eighth-grade Anglos like Creech than I was of the Mexicans. You could sort of avoid the Mexicans.

 

Segregation was illegal in the schools, but the town was still pretty segregated. Some of my Mexican friends lived in homes humbler than my own, and I noticed that many of them wore gold pendants of the Virgin Mary. In elementary school, they had attended Holy Family Catholic school on Glassell Street and we watched them walking home in their blue and white uniforms. I wondered, how did they afford to pay for private school? Or did the school let them go free? I think now that this excellent early schooling helped them survive and thrive in an Anglo culture. The Catholic kids always seemed to be ahead of us in their reading books.

We called the guys Pachucos (as in El Pachuco zoot suits), chongos (referring to a male hair bun), or chingos (sexual meaning), but at the time I didn’t know the meaning of any of these labels. Or we would just call them Mexicans. The word Chicano (roughly, American-born but of Mexican heritage) hadn’t come along yet. Playground Spanish

 We all knew some Spanish words (hombre, grande), and several bastardized words—savvy (from sabe; “to know”), calaboose (from calabozo; “jail”), sankero (from zanjero; “irrigation specialist”). And I learned a few dirty words —hijo de chingada, carajo, and the exquisite pendejo (referring to the intimate parts of a bull cow). Mexican cuss words were better than any we had in English.

We would stereotype the Mexicans—some of the stereotypes were true. Young Mexican men were known for driving bulky cars, like Buicks or Oldsmobiles, perpetually primer-spotted and lowered to three inches off the pavement. They would drive around the Orange plaza circle at about two miles an hour. They were often bare-chested to show off their crucifix necklaces, and you could just see their eyes above the top of the door sill.

I don’t remember any Anglo-Mexican fights when I was in middle school. But Cesar would give us Monday reports on the weekend fights up where he lived in El Modena. El Modena was once a separate town, but later incorporated into Orange. It had a Catholic, Spanish-speaking church, but no intermediate school, so they came down to ours. He talked about the gangs locked in mortal combat, lashing each other with chains and bashing each other with clubs. But we never saw any wounds or read any newspaper reports. Cesar had a great imagination. We listened, transfixed.
The bracero program brought Mexicans like Cesar’s family in from Mexico and put them in barbed-wire camps. The men would ride out to our family’s orange orchard sitting on wooden benches inside canvas-covered trucks. They cooked their burritos over little campfires they built in the orange grove. As a five-year-old, I learned my first Spanish words from these men, and also learned the hard way not to repeat any of them to my mother.

Many of the Mexicans stayed, and in the 1950s most lived west and north of the packing house. The Santiago Orange Growers Association organized in 1893, and its packing house, located at Cypress and Palm Streets, was built during WWI. At its peak, the facility packed over 800,000 boxes of oranges in a single season.

In the 1940s Orange County had 75,000 acres of Valencia orange groves, 5,000 growers, 51 packing houses, and tens of thousands of Mexican pickers and packing house workers.

 

Up through the 1940s, Mexicans in Orange County routinely suffered discrimination. “White space” was marked out in parks, hotels, dance halls, stores, and even barbershops. Defense attorney Joel Ogle argued for segregated schools, invoking Plessy v. Ferguson, an 1896 Supreme Court decision that legalized “separate but equal” schools. The “equal” part was a farce; school districts shunted Mexicans to their own segregated schools and emphasized more manual, agricultural skills, rather than more academic subjects. Unless they had whiter skin, their kids could not go to the white schools; they had to go to the colonia school, an inferior school on undesirable land.

On March 2, 1945, five Mexican American families filed a class action suit against the Westminster, Garden Grove, El Modena and Santa Ana school districts. Orange wasn’t included because their schools were already integrated. Finally, the school districts relented and gave Mexicans equal access to all schools. So I always went to school with Mexicans.

*    *    *

When we went to high school, Al Lopez continued playing basketball, but sort of disappeared after a year or so. The summer after I graduated I accidently met Al—in the Santa Ana jail. Our church had made up a team for jail visiting, and we were singing and speaking to a group of faceless men. One of them called me over and said, “Hey, this guy here knows you.” There was Al. He explained he was in for driving without a license. Today, I lament I didn’t pay his $30 bail.

I didn’t realize it until years later that my besetting sin was pride—against all available evidence, I thought I was better than other people. That included the Mexicans, and Al.

In 2009 I returned for my 50th Orange High School reunion. Al wasn’t there. My friend Cesar told me he had died many years before. Peace to his memory. Al, please forgive me for not treating you like a real person.

 

 

WINGSPREAD E-zine for January, 2018


“Spreading your wings in a perplexing world”
January, 2018                                                                                                   James Hurd      

 

Contents

  • New blog article: “The Pilot Tells Himself Lies”
  • Novel news
  • Writer’s Corner
  • Book and Film reviews
  • How to purchase Wingspread: Of Faith and Flying
  • Quotable quotes
  • E-zine subscription information

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

New blog article: “The Pilot Tells Himself Lies”

My bush-flying days produced vivid examples of self-deception.

San Cristobal de Las Casas (southern Mexico) lies in a bowl, circled by towering peaks. All the watershed eventually courses down a huge, natural sinkhole at one end of the bowl. From San Cristobal we would fly the Mission Aviation Fellowship plane out to little airstrips all across southern Mexico.

One day, I’m stuffing a missionary family and their belongings into the Cessna 180. They’re traveling from Yaxoquintelá (a jungle training camp for missionaries) back to San Cristobal. But a norther has blown in and clouds lie like damp cotton over the mountains and down the valleys.

As we near San Cristobal, we’re flying at about 8,000 feet altitude in a mountain valley just below a cloud layer, following the Comitan road. The road winds through a narrow pass and then plunges down into the bowl. The afternoon light fades as I eye the narrow pass, blurred by the falling rain….

Read more here:   https://jimhurd.com/2018/01/23/the-pilot-tells-himself-lies/

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

 Novel News: The new novel is complete except for revising, editing and publishing. Which is to say, I have all the words, but it’s only about 5% complete….

Writers’ Corner

Word of the Month:  Contexting. Readers need to stay oriented. What, where, when? Don’t lose them between scenes, or between time periods. Only William Faulkner has permission to completely ignore context (e.g., as in Absalom, Absalom).

Question of the Month: How do you handle flashbacks in your writing without losing the reader?

Last month’s quiz: You can write dates as follows: 5 February 2016.

 Tip of the Month: Make sure each of your paragraphs say only one thing. You may need to move sentences from one paragraph to another to accomplish this.

 Movie of the month: The Crown. (The first two seasons are now available on Netflix.) The drama of Queen Elizabeth II, from her ascension to the throne, through WWII and beyond. Powerful acting, dramatization. Her interaction with Parliament, prime ministers, and her husband, Prince Philip. A central conflict: balancing the demands of marriage and family against the demands of the monarchy.

Book of the month: Juan the Chamula. An Ethnological Recreation of the Life of a Mexican Indian. Ricardo Pozas. 1962. The amazing fictional (but true-to-life) story of a poor Tzeltal Indian’s life in southern Mexico. Intimate details of his family, marriage, his work for the Ladinos, time in the military. At the same time as he rises to leadership in his small Chamulan community, he sinks into the morass of alcoholism.

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

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

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

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

 Quotable quotes

If two heads of state are unable to agree, they send their young people to kill other young people who they don’t know, for reasons they don’t understand, in places they’ve never heard of.                                                               Ferencz

Busyness is the earwax against the voice of God.

Bitterness is a poison that you take, hoping that the other person will die.

Pride has two evil step-sisters—jealousy and low self-esteem—and two cousins, anger and bitterness.                                                                  James Hurd

The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.
Albert Einstein

I like my home haircuts for three reasons:
They’re faster.
They’re cheaper
I can hug my Barbara
 

Lost words at the Last Supper: “If you guys wanna get into the picture, you’re gonna have to come over to this side of the table.”

Studies show that one out of four adults have some mental challenges. Check with three of your friends. If they’re OK, it’s you.

 

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.

The Pilot Tells Himself Lies

My bush-flying days produced vivid examples of self-deception.

San Cristobal de Las Casas (southern Mexico) lies in a bowl, circled by towering peaks. All the watershed eventually courses down a huge, natural sinkhole at one end of the bowl. From San Cristobal we would fly the Mission Aviation Fellowship plane out to little airstrips all across southern Mexico.

One day, I’m stuffing a missionary family and their belongings into the Cessna 180. They’re traveling from Yaxoquintelá (a jungle training camp for missionaries) back to San Cristobal. But a norther has blown in and clouds lie like damp cotton over the mountains and down the valleys.

As we near San Cristobal, we’re flying at about 8,000 feet altitude in a mountain valley just below a cloud layer, following the Comitan road. The road winds through a narrow pass and then plunges down into the bowl. The afternoon light fades as I eye the narrow pass, blurred by the falling rain.

We could turn around now and head to nearby Tuxla Gutierrez, a large town beyond the mountains with good weather and a large, lighted airport. But I’m wondering if I could possibly stay clear of clouds and sneak through the pass. At this point I know a few things: I know that I’m a good pilot, better than average. But I also know that transiting the cloudy pass is a high-risk operation, especially not knowing the weather conditions at the airport. We could divert and land at Tuxla, but we’d have to find overnight lodging. Not an appealing option.

So, I tell myself a lie—it’s safe enough; I can do it. I tell my passengers, “We’ll try to get through the pass.” We skim over the road, high-jump the pass, and plummet into the bowl.

The San Cristobal airstrip is now only three minutes away, but I see no opening ahead; just a wall of clouds! It would be deadly trying to fly through the clouds with mountains all around, so I must turn around and thread back through the pass. But we’re in a narrow canyon well below the bowl rim, and is the Comitan pass still open behind us? We make a steep left bank—I pull on flaps to shorten the turn.

We scrape up against the mountain wall. But now I’m looking at the Comitan pass above me. Can we climb enough? I raise the nose to reach best angle of climb. The 230 h.p. Continental engine is doing her best. We near the pass, still above us.

We slenderly squeak out, flying so low over the road that the white line looks like a sidewalk. Clearing the pass, we circle the rim of the bowl clockwise, find a crack in the clouds, and descend to land in San Cristobal just at dusk.

 

Later that evening I sit at home pondering the flight. It’s amazing how your judgment clarifies when you’re sitting in your easy chair. Call it cockpit judgment vs. armchair judgment. I reflect on the irony. When I made a bad decision and forged ahead through the pass, my passengers praised me for my amazing piloting skills. And I felt elated that I’d accomplished the mission. However, if I had made a good decision and diverted to Tuxla, my passengers might have grumbled, and I would have felt like a failure!

My San Cristobal passengers didn’t know I’d made a foolish decision—to continue through a rainy mountain pass in the lambent light of dusk. But I knew it, and I felt guilty. I reminded myself of certain fatality statistics in similar circumstances.

I repented, and vowed never to do that again. But of course I did do similar things again, all with sturdy (flawed) rationales. This is classic self-deception, built on the lie that I can beat the odds. But in truth, the exceptional pilot would have put prudence and passenger safety over convenience. A sage once said that there are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots. I felt the hand of God that day, once again being gracious in spite of my flawed rationales.

WINGSPREAD E-zine for November, 2017


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

 

Contents

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

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

New blog article: Learning to Love Manure Day

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

During high school Ron and I worked for Marv. Ron was a bit smaller than I was, but one of the most confident kids I knew, funny and smart.

I would drive my pea soup green 1953 Ford to work. When I had it painted, Marv and Ron mocked its gleaming metallic gold paint—“Hey, Ronnie! Jim’s car’s all dirty. That sick cat must’ve crapped all over it.” And later when my ears reddened at their sexual jokes, they ate me like a baby marshmallow rabbit….

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

 

New novel: I’m working on a new novel about how a devout California boy became an atheist while at Bible Institute. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t work out real well…)  Estimated publication: summer, 2018.

 

Writers’ Corner

Writer of the Month: Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861). Victorian English poet. Two of her poems: “How Do I Love Thee?” (Sonnet 43, 1845) and “Aurora Leigh” (1856).

Word of the Month:  Chronology. Make certain your reader doesn’t get lost in time. Give them time slugs, or at least little signals of when something takes place, especially if you’re jumping around in time.

Quiz of the Month:

How do you write a date in your story (e.g., the second day of April)?

Last month’s quiz: Where does the reader’s mind naturally place emphasis? Answer: The reader places emphasis on the last word or phrase of a sentence, paragraph, or chapter. Examples:
Weak: Linda broke her leg when she fell down.
Better: When she fell down, Linda broke her leg.

 Tip of the Month: The shorter the sentence or paragraph, the longer a reader will linger over it. Put your powerful punches in short sentences.

 More “How to write good”

  1. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  2. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  3. They were too close to the door to close
  4. The buck does funny things when the does are present.
  5. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer

 Book Reviews
Margaret Craven, I Heard the Owl Call My Name. Dell, 1973. The haunting tale of a dying young priest who is assigned to a tiny Kwakiutl Indian village in British Colombia, his struggles, courage, and ultimate triumph. I’m using this book this spring in my Introduction to Anthropology course at Bethel University.

 

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

Epitaphs:

In a Georgia cemetery:

“I told you I was sick!”

 

In a Ribbesford, England cemetery:

Anna Wallace

The children of Israel wanted bread

And the Lord sent them manna,

Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife,

And the Devil sent him Anna.

 

Playing with names in a Ruidoso, New Mexico cemetery:

Here lies

Johnny Yeast

Pardon me

For not rising.

 

A Vermont widow wrote this epitaph, which sounds more like a want ad:

Sacred to the memory of

my husband John Barnes

who died January 3, 1803

His comely young widow, aged 23, has

many qualifications of a good wife, and

yearns to be comforted.

 

Someone who wanted anonymity in Stowe, Vermont:

I was somebody.

Who, is no business

Of yours.

 

On Margaret Daniels grave at Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia:

She always said her feet were killing her

but nobody believed her.

 

Oops! Harry Edsel Smith of Albany, New York:

Born 1903–Died 1942

Looked up the elevator shaft to see if

the car was on the way down. It was.

 

In a Thurmont, Maryland cemetery:

Here lies an Atheist

All dressed up

And no place to go.

 

Finally, written on the tombstone my wife picked out for me:

I tried to tell him, but he wouldn’t listen.

*    *    *

 

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.