Down Under in Monterey

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Lord, please bless Mama, Daddy, Lynn, Doug, Mike, Lori, Randy, Rex dog, and Tom cat. AMEN.

Mom only had a few rules for us to learn and observe, but the first was to learn and say our prayers each night. Even after being punished for some juvenile offense, we always said our prayers before we got into bed. If there was any question, Mom would ask, “Did you say your prayers”? Being the oldest kid, I was often told to monitor the little kids’ prayers and then tuck them in.

As a teenager I was typical. I challenged or questioned everything that was not my idea. We were members at the Victory Baptist Church and that included a backward splash at the Baptismal pool. I learned some hymns, took up the offering, did my part in the Christmas pageant and mowed grass. My fits of rebellion never exempted my nightly prayers because it was Mom’s rule that had become a necessary habit.

I was drafted in December 1967 and bussed to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Prior to leaving home, Mom whispered in my ear, please remember to say your prayers, soldier. The US Army gave me some real things to pray about as they taught me to shoot an M14 rifle, throw hand grenades and fight. We were formed into a big circle, issued football helmets, groin protectors, gloves, and a stick. The exercise was called Pugil Sticks, and it was intended to reinforce bayonet training. The stick was about five feet long, and each end was padded with a wad of cotton about the size of a football. It resembled a Q-tip. It was a good workout, but the only way to leave the Pugil Stick arena was to win and walk out or lose and get dragged out. As I waited my turn to be pulverized, I prayed.

As I carried my duffle bag to the airplane, Mom hugged me and again whispered, don’t forget your prayers, soldier son. I had a good Army job flying helicopters for 25 years, and there were plenty of reasons to pray. The Huey was not bullet proof, and there were tail rotor failures, hydraulic failures, engine failures, and sometimes the rotor blades just popped off.

When the proper time arrived, we retired and moved out of the Tidewater, Virginia fast lane to a place closer to heaven. My rationale was that being 3,500 feet closer to heaven, prayers should get there quicker and be answered sooner. Funny how our prayer requests change. I no longer pray for protection from a pugil stick or a tail rotor failure. Now the weed eater, chain saw, and the zero-turn mower on the mountain side all cause prayers.

There are very special events that cause concerns and prayers for relief, such as a BLIZZARD and frozen pipes under a two-story house. One such event happened on February 21, 2015 (a Saturday) – a day that will linger forever in my memory. It was a combination of pugil stick and tail rotor failure rolled into one event. The best way to learn who your real friends are is to get snake-bitten and ask for volunteers to slurp out the poison. The next best way is to call people during a blizzard and ask them to crawl under a 108-year-old house to find and thaw frozen pipes. There were four of us, and one was only 4 feet tall and in the 5th grade. He did the least complaining. From 8 am until 3:30 pm we heated, sawed, glued, hammered, yelled, shivered, and, yes, even prayed. Finally, our mission was accomplished.

One of the gang of four was a former member of the US Marine Corps. He volunteered to lay in the snow and take orders from the walkie talkie. His primary function was to respond quickly when the walkie talkie barked either TURN it OFF! or TURN it ON!

Thawing the pipes was only half of the fun because once the ice turned to water all of the splits became “showers,” and the noise they made sounded like “LET US SPRAY”! The plumber got soaked to his socks, the rest of us were dusty, dirty, muddy, and exhausted by 3:30 pm. It was not fun, and I dare anyone to suggest that it was! The snow continued all that night.

I can give assurance that during my seven decades of prayers, I never asked to be a LANDLORD, and I do not suggest or recommend it to the rest of you. Houses are like boats, the two happiest days are the day you bought it, followed by the day you sell it….July 24, 2015, thank you LORD.