Sunday, July 8, 2007

TCC: The Seventh Crumb, Part II

The date was the 28th of April, 1977. For Sam had turned 18 on the 8th of April.

Yes, most would think that it was all so very sudden; but they would have no idea of just how long I had waited. For according unto my internal clock at the time: a day felt like a thousand years; and I honestly believed that we were ready.

Well, I was half right. For Sam was a great wife from the very beginning. Whereas: I could not do much of anything right.

Alas, the magic appeared to be gone. For almost everything I touched would turn into....fertilizer.

Even though she did not say much: it must have been a nightmare for Sam. For instead of getting a man who would quickly make her life in Gaddis Holler seem like a distant memory: she got a drowning boy who had no idea where the shore was.

An early example of the madness that Sam faced was my decision to join the Army less than a month after we got married. For the only advantage that I gained from my ROTC experience at Mizzou was being able to start-out as an E-2 instead of a E-1.

Oh yes, it was a sad situation. For I believed the recruiter in Monett (around 20 miles north of Cassville) when he assured me that Sam would be allowed to join me on base at Ft. Jackson in Columbia, SC after Basic Training was complete. For Ft. Jackson was where I would also receive my Advanced Individual Training (AIT).

No, what he assured me of was not necessarily a lie. For I really could have had my wife join me on base after Basic was over.

On the other hand: it was in what he failed to mention where the problem was. For it all depended upon the availability of on-base housing; and at the time: none would be available for almost a year.

I also believed the recruiter when he told me that I did not need to specify which unit I would like to join after Basic and AIT was completed since I would surely be granted permission to stay at Ft. Jackson until I completed my degree from the University of South Carolina; and that was not all. For he also assured me that the Army would pay for my bachelor's degree; and would then send me unto any law school that would accept me!!!

Yes, I swallowed the bait: hook, line and sinker. In fact: I even spent some time in serious thought about whether I wanted to attend law school at Duke (in Durham, NC) or at Virginia (in Charlottesville, VA) or at Harvard (in Cambridge, MA).

Much unto my chagrin: those thoughts of law schools went by the wayside when I was ordered to attend a meeting of those in the current training cycle who did not have a pre-approved unit to join after Basic and AIT was done with; and that was also when I no longer wanted to be a soldier. For the choice that I was given to make was between joining the 2nd Infantry Division (in South Korea) or the 82nd Airborne Division (in Ft. Bragg, NC); and neither location would have any on-base housing available for quite some time.

Be assured that I was absolutely terrified. For I felt like a rat in a discarded 4" sewer pipe with traps set at both ends.

Surprisingly: it was my father who came unto my rescue. For he was the one who informed the U.S. Congressman for the 7th District of Missouri about my recruiters assurances; and about 2 weeks later: I found myself stepping-off of an airplane at the Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, MO with an Honorable Discharge in my suitcase.

Sadly: I was more appreciative of Congressman Gene Taylor's efforts on my behalf than those of my father's at the time. For like what was said before: holding grudges comes quite naturally unto my family.

No, I am not at all proud of my appalling behavior back then. Neither am I proud of getting out of the Army after only 6 weeks of being in. In fact: I have felt a deep sense of shame ever since; but at the time: I just could not see the benefit of setting myself up to receive a "Dear Jerry" letter before I even had a chance to experience what it was really like to be married.

On the other hand: there were some bright spots unto my brief stay in the military. For I passed the 2-Mile Run Test with a time of just over 11 minutes (16 minutes was the cut-off, I think); and I placed 2nd in my training company with 51 knees bent-hands behind the head sit-ups in a minute. I was also one of two who qualified for a Military Driver's License out of 70 who applied.

It was, however, that Military Driver's License that got me into some very scary situations. For there was one night (after he was informed of my desire to leave his kind of life behind) that my main Drill Sergeant had me drive him out past where the crickets dared to tread: all the while talking about how much he learned about killing from his Special Forces training; and with that insignia on his sleeves: I had no reason to doubt what he was telling me.

There was also another night when I was assigned as the driver for the Non-Commissioned Officer of the Day (NCOD) after being kept awake for over 3 days that had the potential to become problematic. For I fell asleep at my post, which was a desk in front of the door unto where the NCOD was sleeping; and I awoke unto someone asking me if I was asleep.

My answer was, of course: NO DRILL SERGEANT; and thankfully that was all there was unto it. For the person who asked me such a silly question was a Major.

Oh yeah, I was just reminded of a couple of other things about my time at Ft. Jackson that are worth mentioning. For I had the great honor and privilege of meeting the Command Sergeant Major of the Army at the time while I was down there; and I also "found" Jesus "again" out there on that dusty road with my main Drill Sergeant.

Skeptical? Well, how could I have survived such an encounter without Him?

Yes, it was a reunion of sorts. For at the tender age of 7: I went forward to announce my acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ as being my own personal Savior at the First (Southern) Baptist Church of Shell Knob; and I was subsequently baptized in Table Rock Lake around a hundred yards (I think) from our house near the Central Crossing Bridge.

Just as a side-note: I used to joke about Terry being a better Christian than me. For I was baptized in the fairly warm waters of the lake during the month of September. Whereas: Terry was baptized in the 38 degree waters of Roaring River during the month of March.

Perhaps it was not that much of a joke. For after attending church on an extremely regular basis for almost 19 years: I rarely attended services after I left for Mizzou.

No, my stellar attendance record was not just the result of my parents dragging me to church kicking and screaming. For it was another place where I really shined; and I thoroughly enjoyed the attention.

Yes, it could be said that I was very religious for the most part; and that served me well at Ft. Jackson: be assured. For what I felt down there was all too painfully familiar unto me. For I had "heard" His call unto the ministry before.

No, I cannot remember just how many times I had felt like I was being called to serve; and I do not have a good reason for why I was always so reluctant to answer those calls. For I had read the Bible completely through 5 times before I graduated high school; and I had been teaching Sunday School classes for years.

I suppose that it was mostly about personal financial gains. For I knew of Oral Roberts back then; but I had no idea just how much money there really was out there for a charismatic minister to gather unto himself (all in the name of the Lord, of course).

My circumstances at Ft. Jackson were different, however. For I could not see where I was in any position to bargain.

Nonetheless: is it not funny how a change of scenery can often change the way we look at our circumstances? Maybe not for all; but it has worked like that for me occasionally.

One of those occasions occurred when I stepped-off of that airplane in St. Louis. For instead of being engulfed in a dark cloud full of doom and gloom: I could see the sun shining ever so brightly.

Subsequently: I felt like I really did have some options to explore; and I wound-up enrolling for the 1977 Fall Semester at Southwest Baptist in Bolivar, MO (around 75 miles northeast of Cassville). For I had heard that preachers with appropriate degrees made more money than those without any papers.

Alas, such are the plans of the foolish. For I only lasted about 3 months in Bolivar; and my very supportive wife had to suffer through another failure of mine.

One good thing did come out of the summer/fall of 1977 for us. For Vicki Lynn was conceived; and on the 18th of May, 1978: our daughter was born at St. John's Hospital in Springfield, MO.

No, the birth of our daughter was not as joyous of an occasion as it should have been. For Sam's doctor did not show-up until it was time to cut the umbilical cord; and this resulted in her having to endure a "natural" child-birth. For the nurses in attendance said that they were not allowed to administer any drugs until the doctor told them to; and what made a bad situation even worse was that Vicki weighed-in at 10 pounds 4 ounces!!!

Yes, Sam suffered greatly from fourth degree lacerations; and St. John's did not do much to make it feel all better. For after I thought I had met the most sadistic somebody to ever work in a hospital: another nurse would then come in and make the other one look like the epitome of kindness.

On the other hand: the problem may have been all with my way of looking at things. For I had not received any sort of medical training, except for some advanced first-aid classes while in the Boy Scouts. Therefore: it would not be all that unreasonable to think that I must not have any idea what "Do No Harm" really means.

Nonetheless: one look at Vicki's full head of very dark brown hair (3-4" long) made it all worthwhile; and there was something about holding her in my arms that made time stand still. For she was such a good baby.

Then: complications arose. For it was discovered that Vicki's hips had been dislocated during her birth; and she would have to stay in a double-brace for awhile in order to insure that they would stay in their proper place as she grew-up.
Yes, the news was devastating; but it wound-up being just another brush with disaster. For Vicki came out of the brace with a clean bill of health; and in what seemed like no time at all: she was walking and running all over the place with youthful abandon.

As expected: Sam was a wonderful mother. For she had already had a lot of experience in that area from helping to raise her younger siblings.

What was not expected was how much I was able to help her. For Sam already knew about me being thoroughly domesticated by my parents; but what she did not know was that my extensive "home-training" also included changing diapers and feeding babies.

Neither did I. For I was too young to be of any help unto my parents with that sort of stuff while Terry was a baby; but it all came quite naturally unto me. That is: except for always being afraid of sticking Vicki with a diaper pin.

Speaking of my parents: the birth of their first grandchild smoothed a lot of ruffled feathers; and Sam had a lot to do with that. For she made it crystal clear that they were more than welcome to spend time with Vicki whenever they wanted to; and that touched them deeply.

Yes, some things were most definitely looking-up. Others were not. For I was of a lot of help in a lot of areas; but in the area of providing for my family: I was generally a miserable failure.

No, it was not for lack of trying. For I never went more than 8 days without a dependable source of income; but I would not stay anywhere long enough to maintain a reasonable level of financial stability.

Oh what a foolish boy was I. For my inability to hold a job for longer than just a few weeks came from thinking that I was too good to do this or that.

On the other hand: having 30 some jobs in the first 4 years of our marriage allowed me to gain knowledge about an awful lot of things. For I worked as a machine shop worker, welding inspector, precision flange lay-out designer, cattle rancher, pork producer, cab driver, advertising sales representative, saw-miller, hay hauler, brush cutter, convenience store attendant, truck stop attendant, tire repairer, mobile home sales manager, chicken plant worker, electrical motor factory worker and inspector, fishing fly-tier, feed mill worker, and pastor of a Southern Baptist Church.

Yes, I kept my promise unto the Lord by becoming a permanently-licensed minister through the sponsorship of the First (Southern) Baptist Church of Cassville in 1978 (I think); and I even saw some success in the 2 years that I served as the pastor of the Twin Valley (Southern) Baptist Church, which was located at the top of the hill going down into Gaddis Holler in sight of Lohmar Tower (Forest Fire Watch Tower seasonally-manned by the MO Forestry Department). For the average Sunday morning attendance rose from 5 unto 35; and this was in the middle of a Pentecostal stronghold!!!

No, I did not accept ordination. For I felt unworthy of such a charge; and it did not appear to be a hindrance. For as a permanently-licensed minister: I could legally perform marriage ceremonies; and business was fairly good for a period of time.

All in all: I resided over 14 ceremonies. For I was willing to marry people whom other ministers would not touch.

No, it was not that I had little respect for the institution of marriage. Neither was it an act of rebellion. For I just did not consider myself as being qualified to pass judgment upon the intentions of others.

Anyway: one of the marriage ceremonies that I performed involved 2 couples, with the youngest of them being 70 years old, who wanted to be married in the sunshine at the Monett City Park. Another one was held at the mouth of Rockhouse Cave.

Speaking of Rockhouse Cave: Darrel Greenstreet lived a mile or so down the road unto the east from it. In fact: he was the one who introduced me unto Larry Tyler and his blushing bride.

Now, to say that Darrel was an interesting character would be quite an understatement. For his I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient) had to be over 200; and he was well-versed in a number of subjects: including religion and philosophy.

He was also a Marine Corps Vietnam Vet; and this contributed greatly unto an evening that I do not believe that I will ever forget. For while we were walking back unto his house to get his tractor to pull my pick-up truck (not the same one that I had in high school) out of a snow-bank: Darrel told me that the most valuable thing that he learned in Vietnam was how to hate.

In response: I informed him that I also knew how to hate. Unto which: he retorted that I was sorely mistaken; and then he proceeded to make his point by asking me what I would do if my worst enemy was drowning in full view of his wife and 4 small children, who were begging me to save him, which could be accomplished by simply reaching down and pulling him out of the water.

Talk about being surreal: the surrounding landscape was blanketed with a foot of pure white snow. A very bright full moon was shining down, which made it look much more like day than night; and there I was with this fairly small man (around 5'8", I think), with a foot-long beard and a pipe full of tobacco, jumping about 3 feet off the ground while screaming: "I would stomp on his head", after hearing me admit that I would seek to save my worst enemy, even if only for the sake of his family.

If I remember right: I wet myself; and that gave us both a laugh. A little later on: Darrel asked me another question; and the mood turned decidedly more somber. For what he asked was about why a loving God would let a bus-load of little children die in an accident if He could do anything about it.

I was absolutely stumped; but I had to say something. For I was, after all, the pastor of a church.

Therefore: I fell back on a patented response that is often given when faced with an inexplicable question. This was, of course: "Well, I am sure that He has His reasons".

Is it not brilliant? For it neither concedes that God cannot really do much; nor denies that He is indeed full of lovingkindness. It also alludes unto His mysterious ways; and that should be enough for anyone with a semblance of reason unto themselves.

That is: except for Darrel; and this really haunted me. For I felt like such a failure; but before I could devote more time unto the salvation of his soul: I had much more pressing matters to attend unto.

Yes, life had been going on; and things had been going from bad to worse. For we were drowning in debt; and the only lifeboat in sight at the time was bankruptcy.

The year was 1981; and we initially tried to file under Chaper 13 Bankruptcy Protection. For that would allow Sam and I to keep what we had; and pay far less per month for it.

The lawyer that we hired to handle our case was corrupt, however. For he did not disclose unto us that he was on retainer for a number of our creditors; and by the time "they" got through with us: we were required to pay over $400 per month MORE!!!

So: that left us with only one option; and that was to re-file under Chapter 7, which constitutes a liquidation of assets. For if we could not afford to make our payments before: we certainly could not do so after we got ambushed.

1981 was also the year when Terry graduated from Cassville High School; and soon after that: our father died. For he had been given only a few weeks to live in November of 1980 because of the kind of cancer that had ravaged his lungs (14 years after quitting smoking); but he was granted his wish to stay alive long enough to see Terry's diploma.

Yes, my father and I had put a lot of our past problems behind us by the fall of 1980. In fact: I would often drive him to and from his appointments at the VA Hospitals in Fayetteville, AR and Kansas City, MO; but when he wanted me around the most: I was off with Sam on a float trip down the Buffalo River in Arkansas, which was where my mother had spent most of her earliest years.

No, I was not there when my father passed away in that state hospital in Mt. Vernon, MO (around 40 miles north of Cassville and around 8 miles south of Miller). For I just could not face that look of deep disappointment upon his face while he lay on his death-bed.

Hence: another thing about my past that I am deeply ashamed of. For I was simply too gutless to be there for my family when I could have been of some comfort unto them.

As with 1977: one good thing did come out of 1981 for Sam and I. For Amanda Marie was conceived in that year; and on the 21st of May, 1982: our second daughter was born at the Cox Medical Center on the northside of Springfield, MO.
Thankfully: Amanda's birth was nothing like Vicki's. For she "only" weighted 8 pounds flat; and Sam was given all sorts of good drugs because of her doctor being there when he should have been.

Nonetheless: I would have still liked to have had some "good" drugs of my own. For unlike before: I was allowed in the delivery room this time.

Yes, I truly believed that I could handle it. For I had assisted with the births of calves, pigs, and even rabbits; but I quickly discovered that I was not at all prepared for Amanda coming out blue with a bunch of really icky-looking stuff smeared all over her.

No, I did not faint; and I began to feel so much better after being told that Amanda would not have to endure what Vicki did after her birth. For everything about Amanda was right where it was supposed to be.

The subsequent hospital stay was also a lot better this time; and it included care for another procedure: to boot. For Sam had her tubes tied after Amanda was born.

Finally: a legitimate reason to celebrate. For the birth of Amanda really was a joyous occasion; and what made it even better was that we had thought that we had lost her during the 6th month of Sam's pregnancy.

Talk about being scared: I was absolutely terrified (again). For blood started gushing-out of Sam; and by the time I got her unto the hospital in Springfield: at least a half of an inch of blood covered the floor beneath her feet.

Since I had called her doctor before we left home: he was waiting for us at the hospital; and after a preliminary examination: he confirmed our fears by telling us that Sam had indeed suffered a miscarriage. He then directed a nurse to do a sonogram on her, which is standard procedure before performing a DNC, which cleans out the womb; and there Amanda was.

No, I did not see her at first. For my attention was focused upon another image in the picture; but after she was pointed-out unto me: it became clear that Amanda was very much still alive.

I have often joked that Amanda must have been literally "hanging-on for dear life"
as all of that blood rushed past her; but then there was also the matter of that image of a man's face in that sonogram picture of her while she was still in the womb to consider. For was it the face of Jesus, or a guardian angel, or just a figment of my fertile imagination???

It was enough to drive a Southern Baptist preacher to drink; and I felt like it was only right for me to do that very thing: despite no longer being active as a Southern Baptist preacher. For there is nothing like being in a drunken stupor to mellow a person out.

Yes, common sense would dictate that the last thing that I should have been doing was getting drunk. For there were plenty of examples of that kind of conduct leading unto disaster; but since I only got wild on the weekends: I saw no reason for concern.

Besides: Sam really enjoyed going-out on the weekends to dance and forget about what a mess I had made of her life for a few hours; and after we got hooked-up with some others from the Cassville area: the fun did not have to end when the band called-it a night. For we then started to observe the universal tradition of eating breakfast before going home; and this was usually good for a few more laughs.

Alas, good times have a habit of coming unto an end; and such was the fate of our merry band. For after Pulaskiville had to close for awhile: there was not another place to go within a reasonable distance to travel.

No, we did not stay home for long. For we hooked-up with another group; and this one was even more fun. For instead of going dancing: we would go rambling through the backwoods in 4-wheel drive and off-road vehicles while consuming massive quantities of beer and other adult beverages.

Well, maybe for some; but not for most in our group. For a case of beer was often consumed by each of the fellas; and rare was the day when anyone got too much out of control.

Yes, I am quit sure that most of us would have qualified for a MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) Top Ten Most Wanted List if such a thing existed back then; but none of us would have really cared. For we were charter members of DAMM (Drunks Against Mad Mothers) in our area; and since we did not get into any trouble to speak of: we thought that we were all doing just fine.

Some better than others. For I lost my family unto one of the members of our group.

No, I could not really blame her. For with all things considered: I was miserable failure as a good husband.

Nonetheless: the timing of our break-up really messed with my head. For I had been working at the same job for about 3 years; and in comparison unto what it was like the first 4 years of our marriage: we were doing fairly good.

Perhaps the "7 Year Itch" syndrome also effects women? For Sam and I had been married 7 years and 7 days when the end came.

On the other hand: maybe where we lived at the time had something to do with it? For it was called the "Heartbreak Hotel" by those who knew about the history of the house. For no couple, who actually lived there, had ever left the place still a couple: including the original owners. For the husband (I think) died while they lived there; and I truly wanted to join him after it became all too painfully clear unto me that life as I wanted to know it was over on the 5th of May, 1984.

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