Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Forever A Hillbilly: Scrabble Wars

Forever A Hillbilly: Scrabble Wars: Scrabble Wars and Doctor Deadlift      Early in our married life, Barbara and I were already playing Scrabble. I had played longer, all t...

Scrabble Wars

Scrabble Wars and Doctor Deadlift

     Early in our married life, Barbara and I were already playing Scrabble. I had played longer, all the way through College, and I had the edge. We realized quickly, we were both very competitive about it. Once I beat her pretty good, and she stormed out of the house, announced she was leaving, got in the car, and sprayed gravel all over that house.. Well, I knew Barbara didn't even know how to get out of town yet, much less drive home to Mama. She drove a few laps around town, settled down some, and came home.
    A marriage counselor would not have recommended it, I'm sure, but we both loved the game and just continued on playing. Pretty soon, Barbara was winning her share.
    A year or two later, we had moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas. Late in March, we got a very unusual 17 inch snow fall. We had nothing else to do, so we played Scrabble. She beat me like a rented mule, and I stormed out, into the real storm. I plowed through that snow until I had a pretty good trail around and around that house, just gave out, then I, too, returned home. I'm sure people driving by wondered why I had a trail around the house in that deep snow, while my car would remain snowed in for days. I should have used all that energy to dig the car out, but Scrabble anger is not a sensible anger.
    Jump ahead with me 40 years or so. Barbara, always a word freak and crossword guru, had taken command. After I had lost a very long string of games, the final loss galled me so, I lost it. I was now an old man, and that kind of rage is just not good for an old man. I grabbed the board, flung it far across the room. We didn't play for awhile, because I was digging tiles out of the far corners of that room for some time.
    When I finally found a full set of tiles, old habits were hard to break, and we continued on. I finally accepted the fact that I was going to be the majority loser, and learned to relish my occasional victory. Barbara had learned so many new words, it was hard, but we played so often, I slowly began to learn them too, at a terrible price.
    Finally, one glorious day, the Scrabble Gods just started smiling at me, frowning at Barbara, and I won 7 games in a row. This juicy little tidbit has never been told before,  It is just not a safe thing to talk about. Well, after that 7th loss, Barbara jumped up from the couch, grabbed the board, and just slammed in down, upside down, on the couch. Well, I knew it would take a long time to find all those tiles, and I was fine to rest on my laurels for some time,  and just generally enjoy this current status. But Barbara would have nothing to do with that, dug them all out quickly, and stated she was ready to play. You just don't beat Barbara like a rented mule and walk away from it.
    When Barbara got her magic phone, with internet-GPS-everything, she sought the best players she could find on the internet, and keeps a few games going all the time on Words with Friends.
    When we went to bed, she would kiss me goodnight, I went to sleep, and she would play awhile with a couple of guys/girls until she went to sleep.
    I've never been a jealous type husband, mainly because she never gave me any reason to be.
    Things change Once she put her picture out on the internet to her personal friends, made a mistake somehow, and it went to the whole internet. As anyone can plainly see, Barbara always looks good in a picture. She is an expert poser, from her photography years, and always applies all her skill to her own pictures. Soon, Dr. Deadlift responded. Wanted to play some Scrabble. Said she looked like someone who could give him a good game. I wondered about that. He could tell all that from a picture? By way of introducing himself, he referred her to Facebook to explain his name. Barb called me up to look at it. At 56 or so, he was a world champion weight lifter, and worked in Homeland Security. Well, all that was too much for me. She was taking that picture off anyway, and she cut off Dr. Deadlift when she saw how much it bothered me. I soon came to realize, I was being silly. He never talked about anything except the game, always a perfect gentleman, and he WAS a top tier scrabble player. You either trust someone or you don't, and one of the things we had both always been happy about in our marriage was the fact that we never gave each other that kind of grief. I told her to put him back on, but don't be playing Dr. Deadlift, in the bedroom, after I go to sleep. I never play Barbara any more. With all her internet scrabble, she has left me behind. And Scrabble is just something I cannot tolerate always losing at. The Scrabble Gods just no longer have a role in it. Word to the wise: Don't challenge Barbara unless you are in the top tier. You remember what I told you about that rented mule?

Scrabble Wars and Dr. Deadlift

Scrabble Wars and Doctor Deadlift

     Early in our married life, Barbara and I were already playing Scrabble. I had played longer, all the way through College, and I had the edge. We realized quickly, we were both very competitive about it. Once I beat her pretty good, and she stormed out of the house, announced she was leaving, got in the car, and sprayed gravel all over that house.. Well, I knew Barbara didn't even know how to get out of town yet, much less drive home to Mama. She drove a few laps around town, settled down some, and came home.
    A marriage counselor would not have recommended it, I'm sure, but we both loved the game and just continued on playing. Pretty soon, Barbara was winning her share.
    A year or two later, we had moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas. Late in March, we got a very unusual 17 inch snow fall. We had nothing else to do, so we played Scrabble. She beat me like a rented mule, and I stormed out, into the real storm. I plowed through that snow until I had a pretty good trail around and around that house, just gave out, then I, too, returned home. I'm sure people driving by wondered why I had a trail around the house in that deep snow, while my car would remain snowed in for days. I should have used all that energy to dig the car out, but Scrabble anger is not a sensible anger.
    Jump ahead with me 40 years or so. Barbara, always a word freak and crossword guru, had taken command. After I had lost a very long string of games, the final loss galled me so, I lost it. I was now an old man, and that kind of rage is just not good for an old man. I grabbed the board, flung it far across the room. We didn't play for awhile, because I was digging tiles out of the far corners of that room for some time.
    When I finally found a full set of tiles, old habits were hard to break, and we continued on. I finally accepted the fact that I was going to be the majority loser, and learned to relish my occasional victory. Barbara had learned so many new words, it was hard, but we played so often, I slowly began to learn them too, at a terrible price.
    Finally, one glorious day, the Scrabble Gods just started smiling at me, frowning at Barbara, and I won 7 games in a row. This juicy little tidbit has never been told before,  It is just not a safe thing to talk about. Well, after that 7th loss, Barbara jumped up from the couch, grabbed the board, and just slammed in down, upside down, on the couch. Well, I knew it would take a long time to find all those tiles, and I was fine to rest on my laurels for some time,  and just generally enjoy this current status. But Barbara would have nothing to do with that, dug them all out quickly, and stated she was ready to play. You just don't beat Barbara like a rented mule and walk away from it.
    When Barbara got her magic phone, with internet-GPS-everything, she sought the best players she could find on the internet, and keeps a few games going all the time on Words with Friends.
    When we went to bed, she would kiss me goodnight, I went to sleep, and she would play awhile with a couple of guys/girls until she went to sleep.
    I've never been a jealous type husband, mainly because she never gave me any reason to be.
    Things change Once she put her picture out on the internet to her personal friends, made a mistake somehow, and it went to the whole internet. As anyone can plainly see, Barbara always looks good in a picture. She is an expert poser, from her photography years, and always applies all her skill to her own pictures. Soon, Dr. Deadlift responded. Wanted to play some Scrabble. Said she looked like someone who could give him a good game. I wondered about that. He could tell all that from a picture? By way of introducing himself, he referred her to Facebook to explain his name. Barb called me up to look at it. At 56 or so, he was a world champion weight lifter, and worked in Homeland Security. Well, all that was too much for me. She was taking that picture off anyway, and she cut off Dr. Deadlift when she saw how much it bothered me. I soon came to realize, I was being silly. He never talked about anything except the game, always a perfect gentleman, and he WAS a top tier scrabble player. You either trust someone or you don't, and one of the things we had both always been happy about in our marriage was the fact that we never gave each other that kind of grief. I told her to put him back on, but don't be playing Dr. Deadlift, in the bedroom, after I go to sleep. I never play Barbara any more. With all her internet scrabble, she has left me behind. And Scrabble is just something I cannot tolerate always losing at. The Scrabble Gods just no longer have a role in it. Word to the wise: Don't challenge Barbara unless you are in the top tier. You remember what I told you about that rented mule?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Forever A Hillbilly: Mount Ida Adventure

Forever A Hillbilly: Mount Ida Adventure:      Some time back, a couple of my preachers, Neal and Scott, let me tag along on their spring fishing/turkey hunting trip. My friend Skee...

Mount Ida Adventure

     Some time back, a couple of my preachers, Neal and Scott, let me tag along on their spring fishing/turkey hunting trip. My friend Skeet was with us. "Skeet" is short for "Skeeter," which is short for "Mosquito," I guess.   
     The last time I tagged along, we were floating the last 17 miles of the Buffalo River. My partner and I didn't actually turn our boat over, we just took so much water in over the front in a rapids that it just sank part way. But we never abandoned ship, we were still paddling for the bank when we were chest deep in water. Neal, watching from above, shouted, "Hey! They made it!" then later, "But they sure look awfully short!" Using the term rapids sounds better, but with two preachers witnessing, I have to admit, it was more of a big riffle. A really big, wild riffle. I was glad to get to go along. I needed to redeem myself.
     This trip, Neal had gotten a really good deal on a very nice cabin on a branch of the upper Ouachita River near Mt. Ida.
     Skeet is a really old man, two full months older than me. Skeet and I got there early in the afternoon and fished and sat around, catching lots of sunfish, while we watched  what we felt like were three turkeys playing around up river. We had trouble conviencing Neal of that though, since he felt like finding three turkeys that easily was just too simple. We also saw a lot of deer. Neal and Scott got there in the middle of the night, because Neal felt he should help wife Teresa get the kids to bed at home first.
     When they arrived, with two canoes in tow, we got to figuring out who was going to sleep where. Neal and Scott had bunk beds in their room, and the other room had a double bed. Trying to be helpful, I said, "I don't have any problem at all sleeping with Skeet. Sounds good!" As a kid growing up in Wing, we kids often slept three to a bed. But Skeet, an only child, eyed me hard when I said that, and, deciding I was too agreeable, finally grabbed a couple of quilts, and headed for the couch. So, I had a big bed and a room to myself. Those things just seem to work themselves out better if one is agreeable enough.
     Sometime in the middled of the night, I had to go to the bathroom. Quick. Standard fare for us old men. Once stood up, the two minute warning sounds. I like to think that being old was not totally responsible for what happened next, because sometimes, my sleeping pill can make me a little crazy in the middle of the night.
     I totally have my path to the bathroom at home memorized, right down to the last detail, and no light is needed. Can't wake Barbara up. This night, I seemed to think I was still at home. I knew right where the bathroom door was, and it was just where I remembered it, except the bathroom had shrunk, and clothes were hanging everywhere. Well, I didn't have time to move all those clothes, so I headed  to the door into the rest of the house. Right where I remembered it. But now, someone had removed the doorknob, it seemed, and it was now shaped more like a window. I was beginning to get in a rush, and I ran back to my light stand to turn on my light. But, I felt all up and down that light, and the switch was gone! Time to move now, and I ran back to the first door, determined to search through all those clothes until I found that commode. Had to be here somewhere! No luck. As I headed back to that door that felt more like a window, The two minutes were up. Time for the last resort. I screamed for Barbara, maybe she could get her light on. No answer. Then, a tiny light of reality started to flicker on, and I found my light switch to my lamp way down on the cord. By then it was really getting ugly, so I will spare you the rest of the details, except to say that I had to convience Skeet the next morning  why I already had clothes washed, and hanging out to dry, at daylight. "Just forgot to bring extra underwear," I said.
     While Neal and Scott scouted for turkeys the next morning, Skeet and I fished some and sat a lot. We had to rest up for the big float trip. When the guys got back at lunch, they cooked up a meal. I had already eaten my meal, a peanut butter sandwich and three or four packages of  peanut butter and crackers. I like to keep it simple, out in the woods.
    We left Skeet's little red truck (Skeet only drives red automobiles, he has three or four of them. Red is the natural color of a truck, he says) at a bridge on the main Ouachita River. Neal led us to a spot upriver that would make for a four mile float, Neal says, and we launched our canoes. Neal and Scott, with pretty little seats (with a comfortable backrest) in their canoe, paddled a little, and fished a lot. Skeet and I, old men with no backrests in our canoe, (We forgot to bring them) fished a little and paddled a lot, so we were soon far ahead. Let's get this four miles in before our old backs give out, we decided, and we paddled on, fishing occasionally. Catching Smallmouth bass was the main goal, and we did finally catch one, along with a largemouth bass and lots of perch and goggle eyes. We paddled past a dead Smallmouth bass floating in the water, and I closed my fingers on it's tail momentarily. We had now caught two Smallmouth. Two Smallmouths sounded a lot better that one, which could be considered and accident. We just kept paddling on, and after we had gone six miles, Skeet and I figured, no truck showed, and our old backs were worn out. Then we put our rods away, and paddled on, now just trying to survive this thing with a little dignity, and strained our eyes to see that pretty little red truck.
     Helping a couple of other fishermen who had swamped their boat gather up their gear took our minds off our backs awhile, and we finally spotted our little red truck.
     We cooked up a mess of steaks, and our tired backs were forgotten by the time that meal was over. Neal said he sure got hot in his top bunk last night, and I told him he was welcome to share my double bed, but he didn't think that over very long, since I feel sure he had heard all the screaming for Barbara I had done the night before, and wished to not risk being mistaken for Barbara in the middle of the night. He allowed as to how he would just stick with his hot top bunk.
     The hunters were long gone the next morning when Skeet and I got up. When they got back, no turkeys were in hand this time. As we ate lunch, I thought it was a shame I didn't bring a gun. I could probably have picked off one of those turkeys up river from my lawn chair.

    As I headed home, just as I was coming into Caddo Valley, a big turkey gobbler flew right over my car. If I had only had my bow and arrow, I could probably have jumped out and bagged him right there. Next time, I'll have to bring it along, and help those young turkey hunters out a little. It never hurts to have a couple of woods wise old men along, passing a bit of our vast storehouse of wilderness lore on down to the next generation. It's just the natural way with things.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Forever A Hillbilly: A Bath in God's Love

Forever A Hillbilly: A Bath in God's Love: By Pat Gillum The word Kairos refers to a type of time. There is chronological time, as what our clock keeps, and there is Kairos time. ...

A Bath in God's Love

By Pat Gillum


The word Kairos refers to a type of time. There is chronological time, as what our clock keeps, and there is Kairos time. If the doctor tells a woman that the baby is due to be born on February 23, that’s Chronological time. If, however, severe and regular pains begin on February 15 at midnight, this might prompt her to wake up the husband, tell him it is time. He may tell her, “No. it’s not due yet. Eight more days. Go back to sleep.” He’s dealing in Chronological time. Yet she knows better. She is dealing with Kairos time. God’s perfect time.
     Kairos is also a prison ministry. It was started in the early 1940’s. For a time, it moved very slowly. Two priests requested the opportunity to spend the last day and night with a condemned man who was to be executed the next morning. The prisoner agreed. “Sure. Why not.” The men talked for a long time that day, yet the prisoner was unmoved. The talks continued into the night.
     After midnight, things changed. The man cried. He became more and more emotional, as his time was growing near.   Eventually, he asked the priests what he could do to help right all the wrong he had done in his sordid life. This discussion continued for some time. Toward daylight, one priest approached the condemned man. “You are going to be seeing Jesus this morning. Will you ask him to bless our Kairos mission?”
     The condemned man agreed. Kairos soon grew quickly.
     From it’s humble beginning, Kairos has now grown into a world wide organization, with more than 18,000 volunteers having only a handful of paid staff. Today, Kairos operates in eight countries.
     I joined the Kairos group operating at Pine Bluff Prison five years ago. We go into prison for four days, twice each year. While it is difficult to recruit new Kairos men, almost all who stay the course for a year never seem to quit. They stay the course, and will die a Kairos man. My Kairos is made up of men from many different Christian denominations, and they come from all over Arkansas.
     A man is allowed to lead a Kairos Weekend only once in a lifetime. Lest he become prideful. Many of the men in my Kairos have already led. Last spring, nobody stepped forward to lead our August weekend, and it was cancelled.
     I am not a leader. I’m a great follower, always have been.  The Kairos leader should be a skilled computer person, which I am not. And, it requires a major commitment in time. I was not ready to step forward. But God decided otherwise, and I agreed to lead Weekend 43 in February 2016.
     Recruiting the team came first. The experienced men were easy to recruit. Since we had missed one weekend, everyone was ready. But, for Kairos to continue, we also needed new blood. My goal was seven new men. Initially, I though it would happen. I had at least seven really good prospects. But, as the training commenced, that number dropped, for one reason or another. When we walked into Pine Bluff Prison six months later, only two new men remained, with 28 experienced men.
     The training came next. For five Saturdays leading up to the event, we met at my church, Fellowship Church of Arkadelphia. Training is not the best word here, for I had little to teach these men that they did not know. Conditioning ourselves to become one tight unit, leaving denominational differences at the prison door and, maybe, training up a leader, may be more applicable. We worked toward leaving all our denominational  differences at the door, and worked toward common ground, our love for Jesus Christ. We worked toward becoming humble, vulnerable. Toward allowing us to let God use our bodies to model unconditional love and total forgiveness which is available only through God, and reflect God’s love on the Men in White. We worked toward making the entire weekend a bath in the love of Jesus Christ for our 24 men in white.
    Two weeks out, I went to Pine Bluff for a job I was not looking forward to. Picking 24 participants from the hundreds of applications. There are many reasons to want to be involved other than spiritual. Really good food, all the cookies anybody would ever want to eat, three days off work. Following prison guidelines, I did not meet the men before choosing, I simply looked at their records. Keeping a racial balance. Old men and young men. Their rating, from 1A, trusted men, to 4C, the other end of the scale. Represent each dorm equally. Then, a lot of praying. In the end, there were twice as many 4C’s as 1A’s picked. Three Muslims. We do not look for the easy men to work with, but the leaders. Good and bad. Men who, once turned, could influence a lot of others during their stay.   On the way home, I had to cry. I had just given 24 men a great boost toward a more spiritual, and much better, life with Jesus in a very dark place, while rejecting dozens of others. Without even meeting them, or really knowing them. But I prayed to God about them, and God knows them well.
     One week out, I went to Pine Bluff Prison again, to meet with the selected 24, along with 16 alternates. Telling the alternates they were on our list, and would receive a certificate, but they were not invited to the party was not easy. However, knowing they would be first on our list six months later for Weekend 44 helped. The 24 who were picked were elated. To the best of my ability, I started thinking in terms of their bath in God’s love that day. And, I again had to cry for the alternates on the way home.
      Our last training day ended with a ceremony to officially make us Kairos Priests for the duration of The Weekend, and the Foot Washing Ceremony. More often, we simply wash hands. But I was the leader, and feet were what I wanted. We were ready. We could hardly wait.
     We use a Church in Pine Bluff for our home base. Our first job was to bag up 1000 bags of cookies. Every Kairos man brings 50 dozen cookies, mostly donated by our Outside Team, church members and others who furnish agape and prayer for the duration. Every person inside those walls would receive 2 bags of cookies, delivered by Kairos men to their bunks; Cookie Runs. Each man with a laundry hamper filled with bagged cookies. New men seem to always be involved in the Cookie Runs. If God has not removed every last shred of fear from these men, this is where it will show up. But I’ve never seen it happen. A Kairos man cannot function with fear in his eyes. He can never reach these men. He might as well go home.
     Thursday afternoon we went in. The Bath in God’s Love was about to start. My job was now distilled down to making speeches. Speeches until my throat was sore. Yet, joyful speeches.
     I wish I could tell you more. Take you along every step of the way. But I can’t. I cannot risk spoiling the surprises for hundreds of other Men in White at Pine Bluff Prison who may yet experience a wonderful Kairos Weekend. Wonderful for the Men in White, and wonderful for free world Kairos men as well.

     Last week, on Sunday morning, I was back in my usual place in Fellowship church, on or near the back row. The pastor was giving a great sermon. At one point, the word Muslim was mentioned, and a thought hit me hard. I sat there sobbing. I had just, at that moment, been struck by a realization. Though every one of our 24 men had hugged me and the other Kairos men long and hard at the end of our closing ceremony, I had no idea who the Muslims, the A1’s, or the C4’s were. At that point, they were all just 24 men who badly needed someone, or something more in their life, and many had found it. They had just experienced a Bath in God’s Love.