Thursday, January 10, 2019

Being with Ruby:

She danced into your life, full of promise, waiting for the thing that mattered most - seeing her friends. She decorated them with praise and scratched the surface of negativity only a little. Usually it was so to lighten our hearts and instill within us with the sound of her laughter. We often saw her with her shining eyes and the excitement she felt. It seemed her light always captured the moment. We all looked at her and chorus like,  mouthed the words: “Ruby is here –Oh the joy of it.”

Our circle of friends was holstered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. We were on the poor side of the tracks, living in rentals that showed signs of wear. We lived each day in drab conditions, often taking walks before the darkness set in the summer to ease our minds from the conditions around us. That’s how we all met. First a couple of us and then over the summer it swelled to five. We soon were fast friends and shared with each other every day experiences. It seemed finding each other added to our wellbeing. Sharing came easy, even sacred, for all of us.

There was Monty Workman with his charitable way of looking at things.  He was on the short side but not overweight, stern in looks with flashes of mischief. Monty had thick eyebrows, sandy colored hair and lots of it. One great quality was his ability to reason things out. It was cold in Winnipeg in the winter, often below zero. He shivered a lot in the cold weather, thus the nickname = SHAKY.

 Pritchard Complete, nicknamed PERIOD, as he kept saying “And that’s final.” He was tall and slender with black hair combed to the tenth degree and pale blue eyes as big as fifty cent pieces. He had a way of walking that showed he was a lot to be reckoned with. One distinctive feature were his big ears that looked more like flaps.  He was instilled with kindness and spoke no ill.

Bingo Jackson was well built with muscles and a stubborn chin to prove his natural strength. He was five foot eight inches tall and had almost dark eyes that seemed to reach out and stare one down. Piercing would be a good word. Finally, that wonderful smile that brought a lot of the sunshine to his face. His Natural name was Bingo and it suited him.

Then there was Gloria. Sweet, thoughtful Gloria with a sharp mind and bulging eyes that bugged out, giving an almost a comical look to her face, accented by her great mop of beautiful blond hair. She combed it to one side, falling on her shoulders. Her natural way of speaking sounded southern-like.

There was an old railroad station that was no longer in use and we would meet there after school. Our ages were about 12 to 14.  Hanging out together was just a way to keep our hearts in tune and our minds busy with day to day happenings. We traded stories and experiences, often finding time to have running comments on things. Gloria was in one of her moods, complaining about her history teacher, who was also our history teacher.  His name was Mr. Whitehead, and he taught several grades. Gloria said he talked and sounded like his voice box had hit a gravel pit. She mocked his sound, attaching great emphasis to the word “history.”

That was Monday. By Tuesday, Ruby zeroed in on the news of the day, talking about the Bennet buggy. It seemed horses were hitched to an old car that became the mode of transportation. Ruby laughed and said Bennet’s buggies saved on a lot of gas. Monty described them to a tee -  one or two horses or oxen pulling an old car that was not running. Bennet was the Prime Minister and was blamed for the great depression, so the Bennet Buggy became the symbol for hard times in the depression.

Some unhappy news came from Bingo. His dad’s brother was laid off, leaving his family crushed and not knowing what to do. Bingo just sat there with his head in his hands, muttering that the money had dried up and several other families were part of the layoff. We all became quiet and soon Bingo began to talk.  The weariness in his voice made us all feel sad so we broke up and went home.

We were in a better mood the following day when Bingo said his Dad’s brother was informed by his factory that the layoffs were set aside because the factory had received a large order. We all cheered and it was a happy occasion. Bingo’s remarks were: “God looks after us when we turn to him.” He went on to say, “we all had very little as a family but what we had we would share.”

The days went by until Ruby said one day that she often dreamed of having a fine new set of clothes from Sears Catalogue instead of the Good Will or the Salvation Army. Gloria piped in with, “I know what you mean. I get clothes my mother has altered and sometimes I feel like I’m wearing the same dresses for longer periods of time.” Shaky laughed and said the only style he knew was early Saint Vincent DePaul or late Salvation Army. He told us: “These pants I got on came with a warning – ‘wear them or else or else’ - what Mom said as I repeated it under my breath.”

Period sighed and told us there were times when he would have appreciated the Good Will store but the depression often made things less affordable and they had only potatoes to eat five times this week already.

Bingo seemed all too quiet. Gloria said,  “Bingo, what are you thinking?” Bingo stood up and said: “I hate this depression. All I ever hear is things will get better.  Boy, I can hardly wait. My dad says he only has part time work and lucky to have that. People are short-tempered when it comes to making due. They say there are fewer things to make do with.”

Shaky jumped up and said:  “My Dad says black Tuesday, the day the stock market crashed, turned into Black Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and the rest of the year.”

“Yeh,” said Gloria. “My Mom said the motto now is “use it up, wear it out or do without.” Ruby said she read a quote from a newspaper. It read:  “Why can’t you give my dad a job?”

Well, that was our life. None of us had a car in the family. Like Gloria said, it was the bus or shanks mare. Which meant walking? We walked everywhere and shoe leather was hard to come by. Period wanted to know what Hoovervilles were. Bingo said they were shelters for people without jobs or money. Tin shacks so to speak. So many people lost their homes because they ran out of money and had lost their jobs. We went back and forth, commenting on everyday things until one afternoon just after school. we heard about a new movie called The Grapes of Wrath. It starred Henry Fonda, John Carradine, and Ward Bond. It was the story of a family from the Midwest forced off their land due to drought conditions. They travelled to California, suffering the misfortunes of the homeless in the great depression. Monty said: “Fat chance we have of seeing that movie. I can’t afford to change my mind.” Period spoke up under his breath, “I couldn’t rub two nickels together, never mind the price of a theater ticket.” Gloria gave voice to a familiar picture of a family sitting alongside of a railroad track.

The Father, leaning against a rolled up tent and the two boys playing in the dirt. The older one being about 8 years old and wearing a short sleeve shirt and overalls with suspenders. The mother, having her head in her hands leaning up against a bag filled with some basic use items. They looked hungry and unwashed and down in the dumps. Bingo finally spoke up, describing three men leaning against the porch of a grocery store and gas station. Pretty soon a car rolled in with a family of seven with frying pans and buckets and other basic tools like a shovel,  etc. tied to the back of the car with rope. The father, having used his last two dollars for gas, commented that they were heading west to find work. He said their farm had been a victim of the drought and the wind had blown hard enough to make a dust bowl that covered his farm. He went on to say they were on their last leg and did not see things getting better. There were two girls about six years old wearing dirty blouses and raggedy hair and starred longingly at the soft drink sign.

Gloria remembered seeing an older lady leaning up against a makeshift home, arms folded with a face about as sad as one can get. Gloria heard a noise and as she looked up, there was a girl using make shift crutches on a wood sidewalk.

Ruby as usual, sighed and said: “And we think we’ve got it bad. Our clothes are worn but not full of holes. We get two meals a day plus occasionally a candy bar. Sure I would like to see The Grapes of Wrath movie but at least were not living it.”  Then she added, “What we can do to help?”

Shaky suddenly said in a loud voice: “Let’s earn enough money to buy some theatre tickets and have a Saturday movie.” Ruby said, “It’s good for you, Shaky,” but was interrupted by Monty saying, “How are we going to do that? Our folks are about as poor as a church mouse.”  Gloria said, “My Mom says where there’s a will there is a way.” Bingo said, “You know guys, we can do it. Folks here can spare something. Let’s give it a try.” We all just stood there for a moment then unanimously said: Where do we start.? Gloria said, “Let’s meet tomorrow. I’ll put together a plan. Period, you talk to the theatre owner and tell him what we are going to do. Shaky, you go with him. Find out the number of people the theater can hold, what the cost will be and anything else we need to know. Monty, you figure out if we can get other kids to help.

Ruby said she could canvass the merchants and basically see how far they would go to help. “Bingo, find out what you can about the kids in our neighborhood and how many there would be to see a movie or two.”

 “Ok,” Goria said,  “Let’s meet tomorrow again and compare notes.” Shaky yelled: “Let’s be like the three musketeers -- “All for one and one for all.” We yelled our support for each other and separated.

Well we all showed up the next day and the news was both good and better,  meaning the community would be behind it.

Gloria outlined her plan. Since it was the month of May she thought June would be a good time to have the movie. “Period,” Gloria said, “What did you find out?”  “Well, "he said, "the theater holds 90 people and the theater owner said there would be two movies and a newsreel. The cost would be 25 cents a ticket.  He also would include a candy bar. That’s his way of contributing. One thing the theater owner required was money up front.” “What about you, Ruby, What did you find out from the merchants?” Ruby said the merchants were receptive to the idea and need to have the event well organized. Bingo said: There are about 70 to 80 kids in the neighborhood. I found out by talking to the Principal of the school and help from some friends of mine who canvassed the area homes and the numbers backed up what the Principal told me.”

Gloria asked Monty and Ruby to get started with the merchants and try to have enough merchants to pay for 10 tickets each.  She reminded them to get a receipt book to give to the merchants for their contribution.

Gloria said:  “We are off to a good start. Let’s meet again in two days and take inventory.

The time for another meeting came and the results were good. All 90 tickets were sold. Gloria said she had taken the liberty of talking to the theater owner and they had decided on a date for the movie - June 15 - and the theater would open at 10 am and the movie would start at 10:30 am.

Gloria asked Bingo and Monty to keep an eye on the kids lining up to make sure there would be no rough housing.  Tickets would be handed out at 10am.

Well, the money was delivered to the theater owner and the movies were ready. Adventures of Robin Hood and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Nothing could have been more special than all those kids having a great time eating their chocolate bars and watching the movies.

Once the weekend was over, we met at the old railroad station, excited about the success of our movie adventure. The merchants were praised by the community. The kids loved it. The theater owner said everyone was well behaved and our parents were pleased with the one for all and all for one guys. We sat there, feeling the glow of satisfaction. Ruby spoke for all of us when she said. “I’m happy for the short run and looking forward to our next adventure.” We all agreed with Shaky calling out: “You guys are great!” To which Period replied, “You’re just saying that because it’s true.”
Digby --

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Finding Nancy

It was late afternoon and the sun in Norfolk county Oregon spread out in a long flat line.  Mathew adjusted his glasses and thought there was not a better site in these parts. He prolonged the moment and then turned his mind to the coming days.

He was slated to be in Wash town for the opening of the First National Bank.  Being asked was a step up in the business community.  He had worked tirelessly to get ahead. His business was successful and his crown of enjoying the rise was about to bear fruit. He had built many a home for others.  Commercial sites were high on his accomplishment with industrial buildings a new adventure.  He gained his experience in building from his Father with a gift for figures and had become known for his ability to produce, deliver on time and under budget.  He let his thoughts drift as he had a good fortune and a promise of more to come. He somehow felt uneasy as something was missing.  He was not yet married.   Mathew had dated enough, enjoying the company of many ladies, but always there was something lacking. Not with them, for they were fine, just that he could not put his finger on it but he was sure it was out there somewhere.

His mother often understood more than others and asked the same questions. “Do you want to talk about it? What’s bothering you? You can’t go on this way!”  He explained to his mother there was something missing in his life and let it go at that. He never could bring himself to say much but it welled up in him so he gritted his teeth and went on. Several years went by and he was still growing and producing but with less enjoyment - still searching but for what. One day while he was away from town he came across a group of people who were having a picnic. They seemed happy and asked him to join with them.  Mathew wasn’t the least bit interested, yet he hesitated and then agreed.  He had to admit the rest of the evening was pleasant as the Baptist group awakened something within him.

He said goodbye and thanked them for a great evening and heard a lot of “God bless you and keep you safe.” He left with a peculiar feeling as something stirred in him.  Mathew had never been interested in church or religion but had to admit with this encounter there was a keen sense of feeling.  He hung on to the moment and found some satisfaction with people of such willingness to share what they had.

He never attended their church but after that experience he was more willing to appreciate people of faith. So often he found himself donating to different churches and usually to something specific they were doing. He became friends with Father Mabry from the Catholic Church and spent time with him and once attended mass, finding an appreciation for his keen intellect and kindness.

It seems after that he was exposed to several different faiths.  He was careful not to get tied to any group but was leaning toward the Seven Day Adventists. He liked their willingness  to  watch out for each other but the Saturday service wasn’t high on his list. He thought one must admit to looking over the women members and found them to be rather special.  Although they were keen on their religion, he felt no pressure to join but did have an appreciation for their faith.

While he was mulling things over he was at the local Diner one morning when he suddenly remembered he had an appointment at his office at 11:00 AM.  He quickly paid his bill and rushed around the corner, only to run into a lady. She went flying and he was pretty embarrassed.  Before he could say anything, she started to get up and said: “The least you could do is to help me up.”  He started to apologize when she laughed and said,  “Did someone steal your watch or do you run everywhere you go.”

He was red-faced by then but managed to say, “Are you hurt?”  She said:  “Just my dignity and a spot I don’t care to mention.”  She then started to laugh and said, sticking out her hand: “I’m Nancy battered but my real name is Nancy Weatherly.”  He couldn’t help it and started to laugh and so did she. They began to talk.  Mathew found out she was visiting her friend who lived a short distance away and had stopped for a bite to eat before she drove the last thirty miles.  He took a chance and asked her if she would mind if he could see her again. She hesitated, and he said, “By the way, I’m Mathew Young.   “I could introduce you to several people who know me here and take you to my office and introduce you to my secretary. What do you think?”  She replied, “You have already knocked me down and I got up.  Perhaps I can take another chance.” They both laughed and headed for his office. He introduced her to his secretary, Mary.   Mary said his client was waiting in his office. Jack was an old friend of Mathew who explained to him that he had just met Nancy and would he mind concluding our business. His friend replied, “Nancy is it?  I suppose I’m going to be brushed aside for a girl.”  He laughed and said we could catch up later.  Mathew introduced Jack to Nancy and they had a few pleasantries with Jack concluding:  “Glad to have met you, Nancy. Mathew is a little clumsy so I imagine he tripped over your foot or something like that.”  He then winked at Mathew and started to laugh on his way out.

Nancy said:  “Do you meet many girls with that routine?”  Mathew said:   “Honest to God, Nancy, you’re the first one.”  Nancy decided to hang around with Mathew for a while and used his phone to call her friend to say she would be a little late.

He watched her as she made the call and for the first time got a measure of her.  She was about five foot eight with a smile that drew you in plus a pleasant voice, big blue eyes, and naturally curly hair. Nancy had an attractive figure and a way of talking straight at you. She had an accent that suggested she wasn’t from the United States. Mathew asked her if she would care to see some of the buildings and houses he had built and she readily agreed. Being curious, Mathew commented to Nancy that she had an English accent.  In the course of their conversation she had mentioned she was born in Washington State and was visiting Oregon to see a close friend. She went on to explain she had just completed an 18 month mission to England and had picked up a bit of an accent. Mathew was surprised and said: “Mission?  What kind of a mission?”

She explained she was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly known as Mormons.  She had been home three months, and then spoke at length about her mission.  Nancy explained she went on her mission when she was 21 years old and now, having completed her mission, was 23 years old.  She went on to explain she was about to head to Brigham Young University to complete her education.  Mathew looked at her and just off of the top of his head said: “I’m impressed that you have such faith in your religion. I would like to learn more.” She then quietly said:  “I would like to help in any way I can, Mathew, but there are two and a half hours travel time between us. Will you be able to find the time it takes to learn more?” He assured her he would make time and then the conversation turned to him. She was amazed that at age 29 he had accomplished so much also. His contracting company was started after he completed a degree in business and now he told her about his relationship with religion and said almost with a whisper he was anxious to learn about this religion of hers.

So it began, and their visits came more frequent as their relationship eased into something more than friendship. Mathew was a quick learner and spent a lot of his time researching the religion.  In a quick fashion, he had a handle on the truth as he worked with Nancy and the missionaries and set a date for baptism. Nancy was elated.   Finally a month after Mathews baptism, he called her and said he was coming up for the week end and wanted to meet Nancy’s parents.  He asked Nancy if he could meet with her ahead of time, to which she agreed. He picked her up at her parents’ home and then, after a brief hello, they left to a nearby park. Sitting there, Mathew looked at Nancy and asked her if she was comfortable with him. She seemed surprised and even more surprised when he said:  “I now have a religion and it completes part of me and the other part is you.  I never knew I would grow to love someone the way I love you. Your being has engulfed mine and I scarcely can breathe at times for the sure love I have for you.”   He then took a ring and asked her to marry him. Their glistening eyes met at that moment as she put her arms around him and said, “You are the dearest thing to me also. I am filled up with love for you and yes, I will marry you.”  After a moment Nancy said:  “I am so happy Mathew. Now, let’s go tell Mom and dad, then let’s phone your parents and tell them we will be up to see them in the next day or two.  One other thing, Mathew, is this.  This is the second time you have knocked me over and what a punch, but this time I knew it was coming!”

Friday, January 5, 2018


Joyously, that was her name. She exclaimed that her father said she was such a happy child and although others called her Joy, not her dad.  He said emphatically: “Joyously” and with a sense of pride. She was Joyously to him as she filled up his life since his wife died giving birth. He explained as if talking to someone that he had been father, mother and friend to Joyously and now she was suddenly grown up with a list of friends a yard long.  The hope of life was welling up in her.

I met her quite by accident when I went to a fourth of July celebration in a small city. She was responsible for the fair they were holding and she was as a busy as a bee on a bonnet of flowers. I came into the picture quite by accident.  I had been sent by my company to deliver a new collapsible stage and help with the installation and tear down. Since Joyously was the fair director we worked closely to see that all was in readiness. From the start she was full of sunshine. Her education was impressive for she knew a lot about everything and spoke as if she had been born to lead.

The fair was soon over and through our association I found out she was 25 years old with a degree in Business administration and was CEO of a small company called “Bend in the River Manufacturing.”  I came to find out she was a movie buff and took the name from a movie called Bend in the River with Jimmie Stewart. I found enough about her that I knew I wanted to see her again. I lived in Seattle so that meant I had a couple of hours of travel. I brushed that aside if I wanted to see her again. She was so popular that I wondered why she wasn’t married. I had a business degree but didn’t have nearly the list of accomplishments as Joyously.

 As you can guess, I was intimidated by her accomplishments but her warm personality kept me at ease. I reached for the phone, called her office, and reached her secretary. It took a few minutes as the secretary asked my name to which I replied: “Sam Corker.” The secretary said, “One moment, Sir, I will tell her who is on the line. Sir, Miss Russel will be right with you.” A minute later Joyously said, “Hello Sam, so nice to hear from you. How can I help you?”

 I broke out in a cold sweat, realizing what I was about to say. I took a deep breath and   began talking about having enjoyed her company over the weekend and told her I would like to see her again. There was a pause and then she said, “That would be alright.” We worked out a time; I would pick her up at her  home.  Then I asked if she liked Roger Whitaker, to which she replied, “Very much so.” I had purchased two tickets sometime back for a live performance in Seattle. Well, I got off the phone, visibly shaken, but in a very happy way. It was summer and we would have a two hour drive since the performance was at 7 PM, we needed to leave by 5PM that Saturday.

I picked her up and we had a conversation which can be best said to be pleasing. It began with a few words: “Hi Sam, I’m looking forward to being with you.”

We traded stories about our youth and just got to know each other. On the way home I commented that Roger Whitaker sure has a pleasant voice and his concert left me wanting more. She replied she felt the same way and said, “I can’t remember enjoying a concert more than tonight.”

So that is how it all it all started and it wasn’t long before we were getting as thick as thieves. I had a happy personality and I played the piano by ear.  Often I would play for her and we would both sing a song called “I’ll be seeing you.” One time while we visited I looked over at her as I played a medley of songs and, before I knew it I just blurted out: “I know you as good as if we were best pals since birth. I know you with your deep blue eyes and funny nose. I know you with your entire five foot eight beautiful figure and your velvet voice and a laugh that makes me laugh at myself and seal your lips with a kiss and  saying I love you doesn’t seem to be enough but the only other way I can say it is: “Do you love me enough to marry me?” Joyously looked up at me with her happy face and said, “I have waited a long time for you and your wonderful smile and patient way of approaching things. Yes, I’ll marry you any day of the week and twice on Sunday.” That’s all I needed and kept talking until she told me: “Be still and kiss me.”

We were married six months later.  By then I had met her dad, Martin, who was filled with happy thoughts for his daughter and welcomed me like a long lost friend, making me feel so special. He had never remarried, saying he was a one woman man. My family was also as happy for me and welcomed Joyously with such enthusiasm. I had two sisters and my parents. I could not have been happier.

 Time passed and we had two children, Todd and Helen, who was, and you guessed it, another little Joyously. They were seven and five now, clapping and shouting when their mom said, “Let’s give dad a birthday present. What shall we get him? Several presents were picked out but the one that melted my heart was this: the two of them each drew a picture with this wording on the drawing. “Dad, mom loves you and we love you but we love you best and mom loves you most.”  By then, I was working with Joyously full time and liking the arrangement, completely at ease with my wife being the CEO and I one of her assistants.

I could stop right here and cry out about our complete love and family but then things changed.

A drunk driver in a late model pickup hit my wife’s car head on when he was driving 70 miles an hour in a thirty mile Zone.  I was told it was over quickly for the kids but Joyously whispered to a passenger going by who saw the whole thing: “Tell Sam we love him” and then died.

I got there an hour later when it was all over. My brain exploded with pain and my grief knew no bounds. I couldn’t move for the weight of it all. I sank to my knees, buried my head in my hands, and cried out in anguish. There was not enough room in the universe to squelch my loss nor was there any relief from the pain of separation. Later I was told that I had cried out: “There is no place to hide my grief, the quick sand has taken over, and I am sinking rapidly.”

The funeral was held and I was numb with it all. Joyously’s dad, Martin, was in no better shape. Mom and dad sat quietly weeping. The chapel was filled and hundreds waited outside. I can’t remember what was said; only that it was a large gathering.

 Time passed and I had kept my wife’s company together. I had thrown myself into my work but God had taken a distant path in my life. Martin had become my closest friend and we were there for each other. Believe me, there were times when we both just sat staring into the blue. We had both lost a wife and family.  Martin one time looked me in the eye and said: “A man can only stand so much punishment.” During one of those times there was a knock on the door when my wife’s dad was visiting with me. Two missionaries from the Mormon Church had dropped by.  I told them I was not interested in a God who left such misery in his wake. They looked puzzled and one of them asked what had happened. I said I did not want to talk about it. Then I changed my mind and told them I had lost my family in a car accident.  One of the Elders had tears in his eyes when he said:  “What if you could see them again in the next life? Would that make a difference?”

I looked at them skeptically and said, “How could it be true?” I stopped them there and they quickly introduced themselves as Elder Borden and Elder White. They explained their mission and ask if I would allow them to explain more. Martin looked at me and said, “Let them in.”

 The Elders explained that they would first talk about where we came from, why we are here, and where we go after we leave this probation. The pre-existence was explained and how we have earthly bodies when we come to this earth. We all die and our earthly bodies are buried and become the way of the earth. But what of the spirit which returns unto God who gave it? Martin sat back in his chair and remarked, “That explains it.” “Explains what?” I asked.

“Why I have not lost my child; I have found her.” Martin went on to say, “I know enough about the New Testament that when Jesus returned, the Apostles were frightened and supposed they had seen a spirit but Christ corrected them saying: “Handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”  Not being familiar with the Bible, I asked the Elders: “Does that mean that He looks like he did on earth?”  “Yes,” they said, “but he has a spirit body.”

 Much was talked about and explained. Elder White explained an unembodied spirit is one that has not yet taken itself a body. An embodied spirit is one dwelling in the flesh. A disembodied spirit is one that has passed through this this stage of existence and has laid its body down in the grave to be finally taken up and again, uniting spirit and body. Those of the righteous never to be separated again. “Whoa” I said. “Do I understand correctly we lived with God before we came here?” “Yes,” Elder White said. “The word of the Lord to Jeremiah; “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Jeremiah had proven himself in the pre-existence. Yet he still had freedom of choice. What followed led to many discussions while the Elders explained to us how our faith would insure in us the knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God and man can return to the Father.

The Elders visited us each Saturday for a month. Martin could hardly wait. In time, Salvation for the dead was explained to us.  Martin and I sat there, stunned by what we had heard and now believed. I looked at the Elders and said: “You have told me that I will see my beloved family again.” Martin joined in and said: “I can scarce believe my ears!” He grabbed the Elders and shook their hands, then turned and hugged me. Elder Borden suggested we have a prayer and asked me to give it. I hesitated, then, with the Elders’ assurance they would help if it was needed, I began:
“Heavenly Father, we have come to ask Thee for Thy blessing as Martin and I set a date for baptism. We are overjoyed that we will see our loved ones again. We are so pleased that Thou sent the Elders to us. Their special spirit has kindled our faith and brought us to tears, knowing we will soon be members of Thy church.  Please let Joyously, Helen, and Todd know we miss them and we will now begin to really heal knowing they’re with you. We love Thee and ask Thy blessings to be with us. Father, somehow this cock-eyed world has righted itself. Martin has his daughter back and I will see Joyously, Helen, and Todd once more. All Heaven has landed on us and we are able to lift the load and see so clearly that eternity is not just a slogan but a measure of Thy love.  Amen.”

Monday, December 11, 2017


It was late in the year and the sun was setting earlier and the chill was in the air and I felt no reason to move from my comfortable spot next to a warm wood stove. Then came the call from our neighbor there was as family stranded on the road and the Father had walked to the nearest house which was about a half mile away.  We had older folks next to us so they had called for us to help out. Charlie was a mechanic and I could help out so we got into our pickup which already had a tool box and tools plus a flash light and went to see what we could do. Our cabin was far enough off the road but at night you could see the lights from the main road. Apparently they were travelling north to Fort St John and their car had quit on them. The timing was unfortunate as the traffic was sparse and they had pulled over and had sat for a time trying to get someone’s attention, the cold was settling in and the Father had decided he had better go for help.  There were five of them: A ten year old son and two twin girls. Charlie looked over the situation and decided he could not fix the car as the parts he needed were not available until morning. The generator had failed and the battery had lost its power.

The Father, whose name was John Russel, and he introduced his wife Mary, his son Benjamin and twin daughters Rose and Maple. We discussed what best to do and we made the suggestion they come home with us and we would put them up for the night. They were at first hesitant but we soon convinced them it was best and had them bring their suitcases with them. We all piled into the back of the truck and headed for the cabin. Charlie drove and John and Mary sat in the front and I got in the back of the truck with the twins and Benjamin.

We were soon at the cabin and one could hear the generator running and we explained that’s because we had no running water; just an outhouse and a wood stove.

The cabin was three bedrooms. We put John and Mary in one room, the twins in another and Benjamin could sleep on the floor with his sisters. Charlie and I took the other room and laid our sleeping bags out and the extra one for Benjamin. Once we settled in I made some hot chocolate. The cabin was warm and the talk turned to the reason they were on the road. John was a brand inspector and had been offered a job with the BC government and would be headquartered in Fort St. John. He wanted to check out the area and just generally get a feel for the people and conditions. He understood the weather would be colder than southern Alberta and generally the living conditions would be a little more rugged. His family chimed in, “That’s for sure.” It seemed the twins were reluctant to leave their friends but Benjamin liked the challenge as he smiled at his dad and added, “It’s a chance to learn to homestead and Mom hasn’t baked bread or other dishes on a wood stove.” The twins groaned and Mary looked at John and said, “It would probably be good for all of us.”

I hadn’t given my name yet and Charlie, knowing I was little bashful, said: “Tipper is his full name and of course we call him Tip.”  I smiled and noticed Rose smiling back. It was time to go to bed so we said our good nights and Charlie set the alarm for 7AM seeing it was a Friday Night. The following morning came quickly and we soon got busy loading the wood stove and preparing breakfast: Eggs, bacon, toast and hot chocolate. The guests had stirred earlier and made use of the outhouse. Maple made a wry remark saying I’m sure glad the wind wasn’t blowing. We all laughed and I said: “We had a fire in the bathroom last fall but thank goodness it didn’t reach the house.” Benjamin had a good laugh at that and Charlie interrupted saying John and I best get to town and pick up the parts we need. He suggested we all relax until he got back. It was a 45 minute trip to town and probably an hour and a half to replace the generator. He told me to take my car and take the battery out of John’s car and charge it. Benjamin volunteered to come with me and we set out to complete the task. We hooked the charger to power at the cabin and set the charger on high. It was ready an hour later and we returned to hook it back up.

We no sooner got done when John and Charlie drove up. He had the parts and I didn’t take long to get them installed. Charlie started up the vehicle, John grinned, got in and started for the cabin. Charlie jumped in the truck and followed. We followed and soon we were helping the Russel’s get their suitcases loaded. John wanted to pay Charlie for his time but Charlie would not hear of it. We said our good byes and they left. I thought it was a nice interruption.  Charlie agreed and said he wouldn’t mind seeing Maple again. I grinned and Charlie said, “What?” I laughed and said, “The twins were noticeable, right?”

It was Saturday night and we were looking at our assignment at church. Charlie was 1st counselor and I was second in the Branch Presidency. We were Mormons and held our meetings in a rented hall in Dawson Creek.  Our area encompassed Fort Saint John and Taylor flats. The Branch President was away that week so we were house sitting until he got back and Charlie was taking care of the meetings. I was assigned to speak and there were about twenty members there. We were about to start Sacrament meeting when in walked the Russel’s. We were caught flatfooted. Charlie got to welcome them and we soon were introducing them. When the meeting was over John suggested we go out to eat and it would be his treat. We were sure being Sabbath breakers would be OK. I winked at Rose and said, “What a welcome surprise to find out you were LDS for it sure was nice to know we had been on our best behavior.” John and Mary smiled and Mary said: “It could not be a better day. John has accepted the job. We have found a rental in Fort St John and we will be moving in as soon as possible. The Branch is big enough to be workable and we are sure we will be ok here.”

Rose was sitting next to me at dinner and I said to her folks, “We could come and help in the evening or a Saturday whatever works for you to help with the moving.” Mary said that was great and thought this coming Saturday at noon would work. She wrote down the address and handed it to Charlie. I leaned over and said to Rose. “Are you happy about this move? She said she was now and my heart skipped a beat. I leaned over to Rose and said quietly: “It’s great that you’re staying and how happy that makes me.” She looked at me for a moment and said, “It pleases me also.” So it was that Charlie and I began to see the twins; but none of us were aware of the trials to come. Our relationship with the twins was progressing. They were twenty years old and Charlie and I were twenty four. His birthday in January and mine in August. Charlie talked about Maple and said she was so sure of herself. He liked the way she took hold of life and her ability to be at ease with him. He said he was so eager to see her and was finding himself happier than he could remember.

Rose, on the other hand, was positive in her approach to people also. She was a little withdrawn but in a sweet and caring way. She was slow to anger and was generally happy. Charlie and I liked the twins just the way they were and proof of it was we both were sure we could change some to accommodate these two great gals. Several weeks went by and we had had several dates and now we had broken off in pairs. The following news came three days later. Mary and Benjamin had been in a car accident. They were T-boned by a drunk driver and their injuries were quiet severe. Benjamin had a broken leg and arm plus a gash in his left side.

Mary was in critical condition. She had a severe head injury - two broken ribs and a black eye. Charlie and I arrived at the hospital that evening and were greeted by John and the twins. I was asked, along with Charlie, to give Mary and Benjamin a blessing and we agreed. Mary was unconscious and I needed time to take a deep breath and say a silent prayer so I asked for a minute.

I was to seal the anointing and give the blessing. “Mary Russel, having the authority of the holy Melchizedek priesthood, we bless you with the spirit of the Holy Ghost to be your comforter. You will suffer from your injuries but have the promise of recovery. You will regain a sound mind in time and your family’s prayers and faith will be a shelter of protection for you and them. Mary, while you are unconscious we promise you that you will be aware of the Lord’s presence and He will hold you close and bring the healing balm that is so needed. All will be well and you will awake and be chosen of the Lord.

In the name of Jesus’ Christ. Amen”

I anointed Benjamin and Charlie sealed the anointment and pronounced a blessing.

“Brother Benjamin Russel, by the authority of the Holy Melchizedek priesthood,  I seal this anointing and bless you with the knowledge that your Savior is here and is watching over you. Your time on earth is extended and always remember to thank your heavenly Father for His gift of life at this time. You will recover and be granted insight as you follow the Savior.

In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen”

Charlie and I hung around the hospital until visiting hours were over. The immediate family could stay. Rose hugged me and said “I’m glad you’re here.” Charlie was comforting Maple and gave her a hug. We visited every night for a week and Mary had not opened her eyes. The following day she looked up and called John’s name. He had tears in his eyes while saying, “I’m here Mary”. She reached for his hand and said, “Benjamin is he ok?” The conversation continued as Mary cleared away the fuzz and was current with what happened. The doctor was called and ushered John and the twins out of the room while he examined Mary. Pretty soon the doctor came out and said she will have quite a bruise for a while but she will be Ok. Later when Charlie and I were on the scene, we learned that the twins had erupted in tears. The week had taken its toll on their emotions and now that their mother was OK, the strain of almost losing her was almost two much. They had hugged the doctor and he was so happy for them. Rose looked over and signaled for me to come with her. We went out to the waiting room and she said: “You were there all the way for us. It will be another week before the doctor releases mom and Benjamin but I want you to know you have become very special to me.” Then she put her arms around me, kissed me, then put her head on my shoulder and cried quietly. We went back and talked to Benjamin who was delighted with the news of his mother but could not move round. His leg was in a cast, his arm was in a cast, and the gash in his side was taped and healing.

Maple and Charlie came over holding hands and John interrupted, saying: “Why don’t you kids take a break and go out and eat.” John said he would stay and be with Mary and Benjamin. We found a restaurant nearby and once seated the conversation turned to the accident. Charlie had learned that the drunk who caused the accident was in custody and had insurance. He was a young man with no record but had been driving under the influence. The hospital bills would be handled by his insurance plus other costs. We talked about other things but ended up with Maple saying she was going to take the sacrament with more reverence and thought. There was full agreement.

Rose and I had little chance to be alone as all of our time was concentrated on the well-being of Mary and Benjamin. Over time Benjamin and Mary fully recovered and meanwhile Charlie and I continued to see the twins. Finally one evening when Rose and I were alone I was acting differently and Rose said, “Tip, what is happening.” I looked at her, swallowed hard and said: “You know I like being with you right?” She nodded and said, “You also know I have steady job with the government.” She nodded again. “Well, do you remember the times when I hung around a bit longer?” She nodded again and I said, “You know last night I hugged you extra tight and kissed you quickly and left?” This time she said. “Why are you telling me this?” I looked at her for a moment and said, “Because I am in love with you and I want you for my wife and have this engagement ring.” I took a deep breath for a moment and the next thing I knew she was in my arms saying, “I thought you would never get around to it.” I was about to say something when she whispered in my ear, “You big dope. I gave you enough hints.” Then she excitedly pulled me to her and said: “I am so happy and don’t you dare leave early.” It was a sound struggling from my throat and I said: “Rose, tell me once again that you love me for I’m about to throw my hat off and holler but I’m afraid your folks will come out to see what the trouble is.” Rose said. “I’ll holler with  you. I can hardly wait to tell them.” So, we shouted and were soon telling her folks the news. I was welcomed into the family and an exchange of good wishes interrupted for Charlie and Maple were bursting through the door with their equally good news. We all stood there and it was Charlie that said: “Well, if that don’t beat all.” We all laughed and said, “Benjamin, where are you?” A voice came from upstairs saying: “I knew it all along.”

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


You are the best of me and I of you;
You bring the light of love and its review;
I see you watching me and I stare right through;
And ask myself could this be true;
It happens again and find myself in love.

Look what I have found; look what I can see;
The hope of life has come to me.

It's shyly done and words are shifted;
I am listening carefully and I am lifted;
Come closer and talk to me and let us see
How much closer we could really be.

Look what I have found; look what I can see;
The hope of life has come to me.

Oh the love I have for you is coming through;
I speak and say, "I love you"
And you ask me to say it again;
What happens now is ours to feel;
The tightest bond and kiss to seal.

Look what I have found; look what I can see;
The hope of life has come to me.

The declaration of our love rings true;
Life has more meaning and at last it's here;
Our special love which brings a tear;
I shake with joy and say, "Come here."
You are in my arms so quickly, dear.

Look what I have found; look what I can see;
The hope of love has come to me.

At last I know I am favored and wanted and blessed;
My thoughts won't let me rest;
At last I can see eternity because you needed me.

Look what I have found; look what I can see;
The hope of love has come to me.


Feeling Christ

True love that comes with knowing Christ;
True love that sets our souls on their eternal journey;
The pain and joy of discovery with the sword of regret;
Being a sinner understood, overcome and put in its place;
The awakening leading to feeling the hope, discovering the way.

The beginning of acceptance and the path of learning;
The struggle for excellence that leads to following Christ.

I am longing to say, "Show me the way."
I see you as best I can and pray,
Knowing I have so far to go with my soul;
Each step marking and allowing me to know
The one who loves me so.

I am rescued and the tears I have are more than my own;
They come from hearts feeling as I feel;
They come from having received more than I have given;\
They come when I have suffered most and felt thy hand;
They are so soothing and leave me in tears;
They come when my knees buckle and yet I am lifted up.

I am longing to go home and feel I have done my best;
The journey has made me want to do more and then rest;
Soon it will be morning and a new day will begin;
I have never know such joy and I gaze past my limitations;
I cry out and see more than before and love holds me close.

I look around and see I have been on a road less traveled;
Oh Lord my God, you have whispered and I have heard;
I will find you through the promptings and deliver myself up;
For I have been looking at the heavens and seeing you;
We know each other and the helping hands testify;
We see you in each other and love brings it home;
The ones who love you so.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Joey & Claire

1947 was a watershed year.  World War II was over. The healing was beginning and construction of much needed housing had begun.  Joey was a ten year old boy and his newest friend was an eight year old girl named Claire. The government was pushing ahead with a form of manufactured housing.  Hundreds of homes were being built with 3 bedrooms or two bedrooms. The designs were basic. The floor plans altered only to have the basic rooms shifted some but square feet remaining the same.  In other words, it was a cookie cutter approach. It was this setting that brought together the returning vets and others who were getting their footing after a terrible war.  Because the homes were close quarters, neighbors were friendlier and friendships were formed.  Well, Joey and Claire lived two doors away from each other and it seemed Claire was the sister Joey never had. Thinking of Claire as his sister to Joey just seemed so natural. Joey had friends who were of his own age but none more important to Joey than Claire. She had moved in almost the same week that Joey’s folks moved into the area. Things were going well. Joey found Claire to be so full of life. She was an only child and not the least bit spoiled. She was generous and willing to give up things for the good of others.

Months had gone by and Joey noticed Claire was not herself.  She finally told him that she had a form of cancer which was life threatening.   Joey had the typical reaction.  Surprise followed by disbelief and then determination to fight back. So it was that the painful journey of cancer started to take hold.  Joey was visiting Claire regularly with an eye toward being of help. Claire began to tell him of her dream of being a ballet dancer and the newest gift of ballet shoes from her parents. The doctors and medical people did what they could for her but she was losing the battle in spite of treatments.  She had come home to finish her life within the walls of her home.   All that could be done for her was done as it would be until that final day came. Claire was now having difficulty getting around.  Joey kept thinking of things to help her when he was walking home from school. He could take ballet lessons and report back to Claire after each lesson. He soon was registered at the cost of $1.50 for each lesson.  Once a week it was required to attend and take part.  The money would come from his paper route where he earned $10.00 a month.

Each week Joey came back and told Claire all about it. She was so thrilled and pestered him with questions about what he had learned.  Joey had a good sense of humor and was a bit of a comic, so when he talked about his big feet and how they got in the way, he gave a demonstration of posturing and grace that had Claire in stitches. She was struggling with her cancer and that meant Joey had to work out a routine each time to make Claire laugh and also to give her the details that she longed to know.

The ballet instructors knew something was up for Joey did not fit the bill for a student of ballet. He behaved himself but had the rest of the students in hysterics with his awareness as he went about making the movements that were part of his classes. Time after time he bumbled along in his classes looking so foolish but struggling on to report back to Claire. Here is how he described one class:  “I took my position, which was standing still with one foot just barely touching the floor and the other turned   slightly to balance with my left-hand raised and the right hand moving with a flourish which capsized the whole movement to the floor.”

Claire laughed hard when he displayed the antics of position and proper style that one had to learn. 

To make the proper movement  Joey had one hand on his hip, leg arched, head tipped back, his eyes focused to turn on a dime, but in his case a quarter. Then Joey added that his performance will go down in history – way down.

The program continued with Joey’s ballet lessons and Claire’s excitement keeping them both staring into another world.  Claire wanted to live the dream of dancing and performing and Joey’s concern was to make her happy in his own way.  Joey found out putting the body in unnatural positions was necessary for body work and is also designed to warm up the body and stretch muscles to prepare for strains and muscles being exercised to avoid injury. He thought he would tell Claire about the rigors of staying fit as he made fun of his attempts to use the wooden bar along the studio wall.

The word had spread by now and the dancing instructors understood.  The mothers in the neighborhood understood and the school leaders understood. Claire was failing and chose to stay at home during her trial. Joey was feeling the pain in his heart and the absence of Claire in his life.  So when Claire said to him on a particular hard day for both of them:   “Joey, is Heaven close?  I mean, is it close enough that I can watch you grow up and tell God that you’re my brother?  Would He understand and allow me to be part of you and love you as much as you love me?” Joey sat back with tears in his eyes and said:  “God could do anything but it’s a lot easier when He has somebody like you to work with.”   Then it happened.   She leaned forward and said:   “I won’t be here tomorrow.”  That did it as Claire kissed him.  Joey wept like only a child can and then said his good-bye. Claire, through  eyes full of tears, said with some difficulty:  “Brother Joey, I love you.” 

Joey did not want tomorrow to come but it did.   Claire’s folks called Joey’s parents and to tell them Claire died after a few hours when Joey said goodbye.

Joey’s heart was melted and he found himself rushing into his mother’s arms.  She held him tight as his father said, “Joey,  you were a wonderful brother to Claire and we are so proud of you. You spent your paper money to make Claire happy. You suffered ridicule when practicing Ballet. You made Claire happy in her last days and God will not forget what you did, son.”

The funeral was held and the ballet class was also there. The school let everyone who wanted to go to the funeral attend.  People from the community were there and it seemed the angels were singing as  there was a feeling that hushed us all.  Joey thought he could hear Claire saying:  “I’m up here Joey! Just look up. I’m OK.”

Claire’s family placed a pair of ballet slippers on a homemade stand with the inscription “For Claire our ballerina.” Joey looked around and said in a hushed tone:  “Claire, I’ll miss you when the ballet lessons end and my visits don’t take place.  I will find you again when spring comes as your golden hair shines in the sunlight and you smile ever so shyly.”  Joey looked away from Claire’s grave, searching his mind and heart.  His heart was weighed down as though the ache he felt would never go away.  His mind thought of Claire, who was an only child, and her folks feeling the loss as they looked totally devastated.  He then remembered what Claire had said:  “Heaven has room for me Joey.  I know it and God won’t forget me.”  Joey smiled and then closed his eyes, whispering:  “Good bye for now, Claire.”   He felt his mother’s embrace and the tears just flowed.  Joey knew in his very being he would see Claire again.  Joey visited Claire’s grave for few years and noticed the ballet shoes were still there, somewhat weathered but undisturbed which spoke volumes for peoples’ respect. He took careful note of that and in future years would remember to tell Claire she was even more special.