Saturday, May 16, 2009


I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the many wonderful people who have been influential throughout my life, especially my Father and Mother who both worked so hard to raise our family in spite of the demands put on them.
I am also grateful to those who took the time to be patient with me during the more challenging days of my life, especially those in Christian service who loved the Lord and set examples of love, joy, peace, patience & forgiveness.
I would also like to thank my wife Gale who has stuck by my side throughout our marriage and has given me six wonderful children. She has continued to encourage me when others were not as supportive of my decisions.

Instructions to the reader.

The latest blog is at the end...its just the way i have it set up. Sortive like adding to a story.


You should know that each one of us in this world is truly unique and wonderfully made in the image of God. No one will ever experience the same events in life that you or I have gone through.
Hopefully as you read through these stories of mine you will become encouraged about your own life and thankful that God is in control to an intricate level and that he cares for you as an individual.
Hopefully through this exposure you will not focus on me or judge me, but rather become sensitive to the events in your own personal life to see how God has blessed you and carefully molded you through a series of unusual events.
I have concluded that God truly does have a plan and purpose for each one of us and that it’s our responsibility as his creation to serve him by being obedient to his word.
I’m not sure where to begin but I can reassure you that when ever you begin to put your fingers on the key board to document or reconstruct events in your own life, things will start popping into your mind from many different directions. Some events will be evaluated and considered not worth writing about because they are just everyday happenings.
As you write there will be events that you will recall in such a way that it’s like reliving it all over again and it allows you to release it to the feet of Jesus who can and does mend the broken hearted through forgiveness.


These stories are true events that have taken place in my life. I consider them memorable and worth passing on to my friends and loved ones as well as you who may never know who I am.
These stories have been reconstructed for the purpose of sharing with others for the sake of telling what Christ has meant to me and how life’s everyday events have helped to mold who I am as an adult through the work of Jesus Christ.
If for some reason you have me on a pedestal, look a little higher and give thanks to God for his Mercy and Grace which passes all understanding. You will soon realize that I am merely an individual passing through this earth who desires to serve God with my life and responsibilities that he has entrusted me with.

Through my eyes

I would like to start with my parents because both of them where wonderful God fearing people who raised 6 of us children (Five Boys and one girl).
My youngest brother Nathan (after my parents had five healthy children) was born mentally challenged to the point where he had his own language which we all understood and he was loved by all of us unconditionally. Nathan is a year younger than I and he was always a part of my childhood. His personal needs and inabilities became a way of life that we all accepted even though he never matured mentally to an adult.
Both of my Parents were hard working individuals who never once argued or raised their voices at each other in front of me; even though I’m sure they had their differences to contend with like every normal parent or adult experiences.
My father was one of thirteen children. He told me his real father, Theodore James Cook was a real cowboy although he never recalled meeting him because he was too young to remember.
My Dad became an orphan child at age four and recalled how he would cry for his real Mom (Ohpa Dicy Stowers Cook) after he was taken away from her by the welfare department. He went through several Foster homes until he was officially adopted.
His adopted Dad(Frank Phenicie), was a railroader in Illinois who one day while helping to lay railroad ties was accidentally struck in the head with a a spike maul while securing the steel spikes into the wood railroad ties under the tracks on the Nickel Plate railroad.Bleeding and head wrapped in bandages, he was picked up and carried home on a stretcher to be with his family. He eventually recovered to a point where he was able to do less strenuous work. He wasn't physically fit to work on the section gang after his injury but his new job as a watchman was less demanding but against his will he was forced to relocate from Illinois to Indiana because his seniority would not let him hold a job any closer to home.

According to my Dad, his adopted Mom was a kind hearted heavy set lady who loved and always cared for others. She died of a sudden heart attack while washing dishes at the kitchen sink. She called out to my Dad for help while he was at home in the living room when she slumped to the floor. He came into the kitchen and found her lying on the floor under the white cast iron sink but she couldn’t be revived no matter how much he tried. He was only thirteen when she took her last breath.
My Dad eventually joined the Navy at age 17 and became veteran of WW- 2. He served in the pacific theater on the “U.S.S. Wake Island” as a steamfitter. His ship nearly sank twice as it was hit by the Japanese kamikaze war planes. He told how he could see his own personal foot locker floating out to sea as his compartment was completely destroyed. In his voyages at sea my Dad traveled to Bombay and Calcutta India, and Cape Town South Africa, Morocco, Casablanca, and through the straights of Gibraltar and Spain.
Many times when I would sit at the table with my Dad and discuss things that concerned me about events in this world, he would reassure me not to worry because as he would say, “God cares for us and is still on the throne”. He always told me how “God was faithful and how he always provided and protected him throughout his life”.
One thing that I am confidant about my Dad was that he prayed for me and my family every day of my life.
One time I went up stairs into his bed room and saw him kneeling at the side of his bed praying. When he sensed that someone was in his presents, he quietly stood up and went about his business as though he didn’t want to take any praise for praying so others could see him.
On the floor next to his bed were two well worn spots in the finish on the floor where it actually dipped into the finish of the hardwood oak floor. It was the pattern of my Dads knees from kneeling over the years while he prayed.
While I was a young lad my Dad had became a pastor after attending Moody Bible institute in Chicago Illinois where he also met my Mom.
My Mom was also an example of being determined to serve the Lord and to keep our family in order. She never seemed to wear out even though we as kids put her through every possible test.
In the summer time when I was young we had lots of kids that would come over to play in our back yard. My Mom decided to turn this opportunity into a “good News vacation Bible school” to tell them the good news of Jesus. Many years’ later people would reminisce with her and recall her efforts in evangelism and they were grateful to her for exposing them to the truth about who Jesus was.
I’m not sure how she keep up with our family and all of it’s demands, such as feeding us three times a day, the mounds of laundry, demands of school, a large garden, teaching Sunday School, church events and keeping our home clean will always be a mystery unless you first consider the fact that Christ gave her real purpose and strength to carry on. To this day she has the pure white hair of an angel all of which she rightfully earned.
Together my Mom and Dad had dreams of serving the Lord through full time Christian service. They wanted to be missionaries to Africa or India but those doors never seem to open. Instead my Dad eventually took a position as a pastor at a church in Michigan where they lived in a small log cabin. As time progressed they moved to Bremen Indiana where I was born. Later we moved to Huntington Indiana where the next 16 years were spent on Swan Street which should have been called “liquid Lane” because of all the alcohol abuse and self induced poverty which was common. The night we arrived in Huntington someone had busted out the windows in our house. My Dad notified the police and asked what kind of a neighborhood was Swan Street to which they replied, “It’s what ever you want to make of it”. Little did we know what to expect in the years to follow.
Most of the neighbors worked in factories such as the Majestic Company, Orton Crane and Schact Rubber(which went out of business), Caswell Runyon(which burned to the ground in 1962), the Erie railroad(which went out of business, or the Wabash rail road.
Swan Street and surrounding neighborhoods were areas where you couldn’t help but become street wise because of the way of life and culture in a menial class of society.

"State Street School k-5

At “State Street School” all the teachers were women including the principle. On occasion some of the teachers openly argued and physically fought parents who came to school and stood up for their kids and openly disagreed with the way they were handling their children. The kids who witnessed such horrific events went ballistic by becoming unruly themselves and responded by jumping out of the windows, throwing erasers at each other while the teachers were in the class rooms. Kids would fight and bully each other on the way to and from school. One day as an example; my oldest brother had a run in with some school school punks who thought he’d try out his new leather boots on Dan’ s face. The kid should be thankful that my brother didn’t have a gun. He would have killed him on the spot. Dan was my hero and I always looked up to him even as a kid. He had the confidence, the passion, the drive, the brains and the Ideas. He was always one step ahead of all of us.
Then there was me, who for one was not comfortable with sitting still in a class room setting. I was the one who was willing to take risks, easily distracted, gullible, naïve to reality, a right brain thinker and at the same time believed everyone and everything that I was told except for the Easter bunny and Santa Claus. I was the Tom Sawyer and the Huckleberry Finn all wrapped up in one.
I enjoyed my childhood and was never bored unless I was in school being forced to keep up with the teacher’s demands to learn things that I wasn’t sure of its future value in for my life.
After all, who cares about a noun or an adverb let alone a predicate when there are creeks with crawdads and green “soft shell leather back turtles” to be caught and tree houses to build. I have always thought that if the teacher would simplify things by bringing and in frog or a turtle and let us hold it and write about it , it would have opened up a whole new approach to learning biology, math, science, animal husbandry, and responsibility that I could have personally related to.
The problem was for those boys who were raised by their mothers as “girly boys” who were allowed to play with baby buggies and dolls because their moms wanted a girl, would not have been attracted to the basics of life such as getting dirty, collecting bugs, turtles and frogs, snakes, birds and or building an awesome underground fort.
Evidently I had a lot to learn, so off to school I marched at age five to learn from people at State Street who didn’t know how to teach even though they had a degree in education.
I always thought it was interesting how an individual could go to 12 years of school, four years of College then graduate and get a job teaching in the same school system without ever having to work out in the real world and function in the general society to see how practical education was applied.
From the “get go”, I did not like my first grade teacher or my second grade teacher who was known as “Miss Allen”. She just so happened to be the same person. As they carefully explained it, “There weren’t enough school teachers for each class, so a few of us who were in the second grade had to be in her first grade class learning second grade information because of the abundance of the “baby boomer kids”.
I distinctly recall Ms. Allen had it in for me and our personalities must have clashed from day one. There were those times when Miss Allen actually made me sit under her golden oak desk while she taught the class in front of the black board. She always had a way of making me feel worthless, unwanted and alone and It wasn’t unusual for me to feel rejected and humiliated in front of the other kids as she made sure that I felt like I didn’t rate.
My Mom however, who saw potential in me didn’t buy into the teachers misinformed conclusions and went to bat for me by attending the parent teacher meeting. Ms. Allen would try to sweetly explain how I wasn’t learning as fast as the other children and how she might have to keep me back for just another year if I didn’t progress. My Mom firmly explained to her that it was her responsibility and duty to teach me since she was “the teacher”. Evidently it didn’t set too well with Ms. Allen, because she never once had a word of encouragement for me.
I recall one day someone brought in some chocolate cupcakes to celebrate their birthday. For some reason while eating mine, I scratched my head to relieve an itch. Evidently, in the process of scratching my head, some of the crumbs that were stuck on my fingers tips became lodged in my hair (what ever!!!!!!!! I was only 6 ears old !!!.
When we were finished eating our snack, Miss Allen had us all line up at the class room door to go to the restroom to wash. Then to my surprise her eyes locked on mine and she glared at me and with one motion she snatched out at me and jerked my arm and dragged me over to the classroom across the hall.
She pointed at the crumbs in my hair to the third grade teacher in front of her entire class while they too were all lined up at the door.
She said out loud with a stern voice with her fire engine red lipstick lips “Look what I have to deal with”! I was so humiliated that morning that I learned to despise her. From then on learning from her was an impossible challenge (I had lost all hopes of respect for her for ever).
One of the problems I still have with the public school system to this very day is that your “personal folder” goes with you to be read by the next year’s teacher. If you have an issue with one teacher such as a learning disability or personality conflict, or a tendency to scratch… that information travels with you behind the scenes for ever and ever until you graduate. It’s all about each teacher’s perception and assumption based on what the last word was and not necessarily what the truth is or was.

The Balancing board"

There was a time we all marched off in single file to the gym. When we arrived we had to do what ever the teacher told us to do, such as take off our shoes so they wouldn't scratch the floor!!
We were told to touch your toes, touch the ceiling and wiggle our fingers and run around the gym single file 10 times. Of Course there were those who cheated and cut corners so they would be first in line at the "balancing board".
The balancing board consisted of a well worn dark green 2" x 4" x 12' turned on its side that had two boards nailed under it to hold it up. The balancing board was located up on the stage of the old 1800's brick school house near the thick velvet burgundy curtains that hung on both sides of the stage. Some of the kids would hide in the curtains until they were yelled at by the teacher that no one liked.
We convinced ourselves that if you fell off the "balancing board" we would get wet and the alligators would bite us. Everyone played along just because it was the thing to do.
As little kids this was quite the challenge to make it to the other side as we held out our little arms as far as they would go to help in the balancing act, as we carefully took calculated steps. When we made it to the other side we looked back in awe and we even anticipated that our classmates would show some short of sign of approval such as a heartfelt hand clap or a "yah hooooooo great job!!!!!!!; For those of us who were just common kids no one seemed to care if we made it at all.
However, if you lost your balance and fell off the board the teacher was quick to remind you of your inability to perform which made you feel like a fool and a failure in front of all the other kids in the class. I would relive the event during the day because of its challenge and soon realized that this was serious business and that I too had to make it across in one try.
Many years have come and gone and it dawn on me today that nothing has changed from those moments back in the 2nd grade. We still experience the balancing boards of life such as making it through college, getting through the holidays without going broke or working at a new job, paying our taxes, mortgages, and all the bills that eat us alive every month. Or perhaps dealing with those who manipulate our time as they put us through a little routine as they sit and watch us struggle and they remind us of our failures. Sometimes we even expect a good hardy clap from those around us as we think back and tell our stories of survival.
I have found that when a person is going through the balancing act of life such as tragedies or difficult times it is important to come along beside them and encourage them in the Lord and to help them out in what ever way you can and cheer them on as they attempt to make it to the other side.
As believers in Christ we have been commanded to help the unfortunate and to pray for one another. My perception is not to be too quick to suggest consul or Christian programs when they have immediate needs such as food, clothing or transportation. As we go through the “balancing board experiences of life”, is important because it builds our faith in Christ.
I have also found that if we loose our balance or sense of direction and sometimes fail to meet the expectations of others around us, we can be assured that those burdens can be laid to rest at the feet of Christ and He will never leave us or forsake us. What a wonderful Christ we have as our teacher and friend.

Being stumped

At 8 years old my parents were invited to a church friend’s home for a Sunday diner. They lived on a farm and had pigs and cows that roamed the woods. On the back porch they had a loaded pump BB-Gun lying on the floor which I picked up and took out into the woods. While on a walk through the woods I came upon a herd of pigs.

So as most adventuresome young boys would do, I decided to try out the BB-Gun and I shot a couple of them in the back side to which they began squeal. Then to my surprise they all turned around and started to run towards me, the source of their pain!!

The faster I ran, the faster they ran after me, until I saw a gray rotted stump of a cut down tree in the middle of a clearing and managed to hop on top.

The interesting thing was that these little pigs had a united front and surrounded me on the stump with their front legs propped up at the base of the tree. As I stood there the sun began to go down and it began to get dark in the woods. The hogs remained watching me intently with their wet snouts as they grunted at me.

Fear began to set in as I did not want to be eaten by the swine!!!!. As I looked at them I decided it was time to fight back. I took the end of the barrel and slowly stuck it into one of the nose of the most aggressive hog. As I squeezed the trigger he hog made a loud scream and ran off. Then I shot another and soon they all got the picture and ran off squealing and grunting together leaving me alone. I was then able to hop down off the stump and run back to the farm house just in time to leave for home.

Then one day i came ac cross this article about pigs that i could'nt help but take note of:There was a chemistry professor in a large college who had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab, the professor noticed one young man, an exchange student, who kept rubbing his back and stretching as if his back hurt. The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting Communists in his native country who were trying to overthrow his country's government and install a new Communist regime.

While telling his story, he looked at the professor and asked a strange question: "Do you know how to catch wild pigs?" The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line. The young man said that it was no joke.

"You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and putting corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come everyday to eat the free corn. When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming.

"When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again. You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up with a gate in the last side. The pigs, used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat that free corn again. You then slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd.

"Suddenly the wild pigs have lost their freedom. They run around and around inside the fence, but they are trapped. Soon they go back to eating the free corn. They are so used to it that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity."

The young man then told the professor that this is exactly what he sees happening in America. The government keeps pushing us toward Communism/Socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out in the form of programs such as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tax exemptions, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops (CRP), welfare, subsidized housing, school programs, medicine, drugs, etc. We continually lose our freedoms, just a little at a time.

We should always remember two truths: There is no such thing as a free lunch, and you can never hire someone to provide a service for you cheaper than you can do it yourself. If you see that all of this wonderful government 'help' is a problem confronting the future of freedom in America, you might want to send this on to your friends.

If you think the free ride is essential to your way of life, then you will probably ignore this post. Heaven help us when the gate slams shut!


Forts played an important roll in my life as a child; I built them when ever and where ever I could throughout the neighborhood and from the attic to the basement. I’m not sure why I built them but they soon became a place of refuge. It was a place for me to hide and a place to ponder and perhaps to dream. As a family, we lived on the east end of Huntington. My Dad always thought it was rude that everyone referred to our area of town as the “East End” , while every other area was referred to as the “North Side” or “South Side” of Huntington!!

Swan Street started on one end with a city park and the Wabash a Railroad and at the other end, was State Street and the Wabash river which caused the basements to backup with sewage when the floods came in the spring time when the ice thawed.

“The Crawl space fort”

“The Crawl space fort”, the first fort that I recall building was located in my parent’s half basement. There was an area on the north wall of the concrete basement that was dug out in the dirt which was big enough for a former oil tank. That area to me was the perfect area to hide out.
In this dirt crawl space I used discarded metal refrigerator grates to give the illusion of a caged in room to which I would sit on the inside. I would stay in my fort for what seemed to be hours and I would light several candles and watch them all glow. On occasion my brothers and sister would come down and sit with me and be entertained by the creation and imaginations of such a secluded area in our small house.

My brothers had a glass gallon jug of cider that they made which they kept tucked back in the corner. It had a wax paper on top secured with a rubber band to keep out the dirt. They would put sugar and yeast in it to make their own brew. It looked interesting but when it smelt like vinegar none of us had the guts to drink it.

As I would play down in that basement I can’t recall what all I did or what my thoughts were but it was my way of having a place to hide. It was also a place of solitude and a place to be alone.

“The Railroad fort”

“The Railroad fort”, not too far from my parent’s home I made a fort out of old discarded skids and cardboard boxes along the Wabash Railroad tracks. I would go there on my way home from school with a friend of mine named Robert, even though my family did not particularly care for him. Robert and I had a lot of fun because he too was another “Tom sawyer” type and we both enjoyed life to it’s fullest with adventure.

Roberts parent’s house was so filthy and piled with trash inside and out, that mice ran freely in the kitchen and in the living room. They also owned a pet monkey that would bite. Robert had his tonsils in a jar on top of the Television.

One day Robert was excited as he told me that he had just discovered spring of clear drinking water which was seeping out of the hillside along side of the street. He said it tasted sweet but I refused to sample it. Later we found out that it was actually a sewer pipe that had broken. Anyhow, this fort had a cardboard floor to cover the dirt and in the winter I used them to cover the skids to keep out the cold wind.

One day we spotted a railroad bum there and I became too afraid to return for fear of the unknown danger. A couple days later I saw him sleeping on a piece of card board next to a maple tree in the park which was next to our house. I felt sorry for him not having a place to stay. I wanted to do something for him so I made him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and took him my Bible. I knew that Jesus cared for him and He could change his life for the good. He thanked me and assured me that he would read the Bible. As I rode away on my bicycle that morning I felt really proud of being able to tell someone about Jesus.

“The under ground fort”,

“The under ground fort”, which was built on my paper route and I would go there when I had a moment to spare. Because of my wondering nature I would get distracted from delivering news papers and would end up at the fort. The fort was located down by the river on the South end of Swan Street Just across the road from Freeman’s Market store, near a creek that ran off from Lake Clair.
I dug a deep and wide hole and carefully laid logs and branches over the top, and then I covered it with sod and dirt.

To get into the fort, there was a small trench like cutout which became the tunnel into the main area which became totally dark and full of spiders and webs.
Soon my neighborhood friends (Robert, Billy, and Ronnie and some kids I didn’t know) found my hiding spot and we all would meet there and discussed our intentions of making a raft to float down the river.

One time Robert and I got upset with each other down at the underground fort when he said that he was the one who build the fort with his friends and not me. He and I got into a small “turf fight” which consisted of shoving and exchanging a few half hearted punches. He fell down and landed on his back on a stick that was pointing up out of the dirt. He went home crying claiming that I stabbed him with a knife. The word spread throughout the neighborhood that we had a knife fight and that I stabbed him.

As time marched on the rains came and the muddy river began to rise until the fort filled in. The logs slowly lifted and floated on down stream as the mud and sod filled up the spot that I spent so much time and energy that past summer. This became memory that the flooded Wabash River took away from a young boy who had adventure tucked in his veins.

The Tree Fort

“The tree fort”, was one I built in my parent’s back yard at age 11. We had a fairly large “Box Elder” tree next to the stone alley that had two white rocks on the curve that circled the back yard. My Dad placed the rocks there to prevent people from driving on our yard.
The tree was a perfect spot for me to be creative. I pounded railroad spikes all the way up the side of the tree as a way to climb up into the little trap door on the underside of the floor board which allowed me to gain access. The trap door opened on two hinges and it had a metal handle that I bought with paper route money (I’ll discuss paper routes later) that I skimmed from my profits. I figured that if I collected ahead I would have extra money which I did until it caught up with me.
My Mom was pretty keen on how much I should bring home each week but when it wasn’t there she’d insist that I explained the shortages to which I’d give a lame excuse ( I lied).
The tree fort had a white linoleum floor which was as cold as ice and slick in the winter as snow would blow in through the cracks of the walls. The fort had a hole in the roof which I boxed in and made into a look out tower. In the summer it was the fort where neighborhood kids played cowboys and Indians and cops and robbers. In time, the old tree had so many nails in it that it eventually fell over with a thud and died.

The Fort in the woods

The Fort in the woods, happened one Sunday afternoon when I was invited to a friend’s house that I had met a church. Kim Snowden and I were truly best of friends. He had my grandmother’s collie dog which she gave him when she became too old to take care of it. We looked up to each other as we explored the streams and woods of his grandparent’s wooded farm. We had so much fun as young kids do; adventure was the order of the day.
Then we had the bright idea to visit his aunt’s house and scrounge for some rough sawn oak lumber in the barn to build a fort. We couldn’t build it fast enough as we cut the boards with a hand saw and pounded nails as fast as we could sling the hammer. I recall taking a good slice out of the side of my hand as the saw ripped off the flesh. I was so pumped that I didn’t care and didn’t want to quit until it was time to go. I just let it bleed until the blood dried up and then it stopped. It felt good to continue right up until it was the moment to leave and get ready for evening church service. Years later I saw the fort was still there as I drove by and craned my neck to get a quick glance of that one long ago Sunday afternoon.

The Attic Fort, was located on Jefferson St. in our large two story 5 bed room home. The attic had steps were steep and took you straight up into a dim lit open attic that had two light bulbs that hung from an old cloth wrapped cord at each end of the space.

In the summer months it was so hot up there that no one could dare to tolerate, however in the dead of the winter you froze with unforgiving bitter cold temperatures. I could actually see the traffic below through the windows at each end and would feel on top of the world while up there rearranging some of the items which were in the attic. One thing was a three foot steel milk crate that I draped a flag over the top. It sortive resembled a military casket. Then I put Plumes from the front yard flower bed on both sides of it and it became my imaginary viewing area with antique Ball canning jars, 1800’s commode pot and lid, old license plates, photo’s and a variety of unique memorabilia.

Later in life, I got to thinking about “forts” and how they apply to life. A fort allows a child to hide, to look out, and to observe the world from a distance while safe inside the walls of you’re imagination. With a fort you can control your own space, where as the minute you step outside you expose yourself to the world and everyone observes you for who you are.

As an adult I’ve created rooms with collections from my travels throughout the world. These rooms are somewhat my modern day hiding places that I share with everyone. I've built forts for my kids and sat with them as they dream of space ships on count downs or pirates on voyages in their own back yard.

In life we have the “railroad spikes” (strategies) which we have pounded into our daily lives to make it to the top of our successes.

We have created the trap doors to gain access to our own worlds of imagination and observation towers, however the floods come and wash it all away and it all caves in around us and becomes a memory good or bad. Then we become inspired to build yet another one only to find out that we put too much into it and our efforts have killed the structure that held it up and it eventually falls over and dies.

In the scripture we find that Adam and Eve decided to hide in the Garden of Eden because they had sinned. But God knew all along where they were and yet it was their way of running from Shame.

Perhaps at Ten years old, I too may have become aware of my own sins. Then I found it natural to find or build hiding places to avoid being exposed.

I Believe that being alone for a season is a good thing for each of us. It’s a time of quietness and solitude which allows one to think and to ponder who we are and what life is all about and it’s a time to reflect and to pray and to come closer to God.

I’m not sure if there will be forts in heaven. But Jesus said “I go to prepare a place for you, so that where I am, there ye may be also”. Jesus is a truly a fortress. He’s is a hiding place in the time of storm even though our outside is cold and exposed. He has a way of allowing us the comforts of inner peace and happiness and a place to hide and to be alone.”

2 Samuel 22:2
And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer;

Psalm 18:2
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

Psalm 31:3
For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me.

Psalm 71:3
Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: thou hast given commandment to save me; for thou art my rock and my fortress.

Psalm 91:2
I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Psalm 144:2
My goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust; who subdued my people under me.)

We crawled under the train

Living on Swan Street meant that you lived on “the other side of the tracks”. Many times we had to wait for the Wabash Railroad train to move on so we could get to school on time. Then there where times that the train had over 100 box cars, coal cars and chemical cars and the train would slow down and come to a complete stop. It would shut off its engine until the Erie Lackawanna train crossed over at the junction near the Majestic Furnace Company.

We knew we were going to be “tardy”, so we would have to stand there and wait and freeze our butts off even if it was below zero. Most of the kids had not choice but to wait. However my brothers and I decided that if we went under the center of the box cars we could get to school on time.

We knew that the train would sit there for awhile and when the engineer was ready he’d blow his whistle before he started the engine. Then with one big yank the engine pull the box cars and you could hear each unit yank on the next one until the entire train began to roll.

Being “Swan Street wise” was helpful because we felt safe enough to make our move and slip under the center of the huge steel box cars, on many occasions.
One day on the way home the Cross watchman from school spotted us going under and promptly reported us to the principle. We were called in for the main course verbal chew out and for dessert we got a paddling.

Even though we’d occasionally walk on the rails and pickup stuff or see a decomposing animal that didn’t make it. We could always see the train coming and then hop off the tracks at the last minute. It was really no place for kids to play, but I guess they had our interest in mind because at our age of 10 or 11 anything could have happened.

I recall one of our neighbors who lost her life to the train. She was drunk one afternoon and tried to beat the train to get home. The second her car made contact with the train engine it ripped her car apart and promptly drug the twisted steel down the tracks for about a half a mile before it came to a full stop. In the process she lost her life through decapitation.

I distinctively remember her because she would scream at the top of her lungs at her kids every day in the summer and tell them to “get out of the _# # # #@$ $ @ * *!!!! refrigerator or to get out of the _# # # #@$ $ @ * *!!!! peanut butter”!!

All day she’d smoke, watch soaps on TV on the modern 1960’s orange couch and drink as she had one nasty mouth and bad attitude for a frazzled skinny boned mom.

Another older lady at the end of the street with white hair had only one arm (which was always exposed) as a result of another train accident.

She lived in a little faded light blue trailer next to a junk dealer named Dale Reed, where we would take our scrap aluminum metal and he’d give us 15 cents and we’d think we were rich.

I found that Living near the railroad tracks was a good place to learn a few common sense street lessons real fast. Playing on the rails you learn the impact of reality and you soon realize that the mass of steel really doesn't care about your name and Ignoring warning signs only puts you in a position of failure or one step closer to standing before your maker.

The old Mans Hat

One day as I walked down the sidewalk on the way home from grade school I saw an old man sitting on a metal folding chair next to a tree watching all of us school kids as we passed by his used furniture & junk store. Thinking that I’d be cool in front of my friends I flipped off his hat as I ran by him. He yelled out at me, as he picked his hat up off of the brick sidewalk.

That night however, we as a family all sat around the super table eating and then one of my older brothers began to inform my Dad what happened on the way home from school. What I didn’t realize was that my brothers were right behind me and witnessed the entire episode. I tried to deny it by saying that I accidentally bumped into the old man.

I can’t remember for sure what happened after that but I do recall that I went back the next day to meet with the man and I had to apologize to him. My Dad didn’t seem to believe my story and he always had a way of figuring me out. My Dad knew the old man and he knew all of my brothers because they had delivered news papers to him.

I eventually figured it out that many times as we deal with real life situations such as these we make quick decisions to do dumb things. There was no reason for me to knock off the old mans hat, but I guess I wanted some approval from my friends, or to lie about it because of fear of getting into trouble. This was an example of how pride came along and took me for a ride. Trying to lie out of it was like being picked up for speeding into a dead end street. The more you lie the more of a trap you get into. My wise Dad knew that I lied and the old man? Well he was happy to see that justice was served after I offered an embarrassing apology.

He pulled the fire alarm!!

It is true that bad company corrupts good morals and on this one day I found out that I was no exception to the rule.
As I was walking home from school one afternoon, I said to Robert my friend, “I wonder what would happen if someone pulled the fire alarm on the telephone pole”? Just like that Robert went over and said, I don’t know, let’s find out”! So he yanked on the lever which broke the piece of glass and the alarm was activated!!!

Just like that we started running as fast as our feet would carry us and soon we began to hear the fire trucks screaming towards us. Then I stopped and said to Robert, “we shouldn’t run away from the fire alarm box, we need to walk slowly towards it because someone will see us and report us”.

So together we agreed to go back to where the trucks were going. By this time the crowd had gathered around the alarm box the firemen concluded that it was a false alarm and so they packed it up and went back to the fire station.

All went well until the next day when Robert and I were promptly called into the principles office and we were both questioned by the Principal Mr. Dean and then spanked with a wooden paddle. Evidently Robert had told some of his buddy friends what had happened and the word spread like wild fire. It really didn’t matter that I personally didn’t pull the alarm but it did matter to the principal that I was in the company of the perpetrator.

Making Faces

In the sixth grade the teacher Mrs. Aide’s Husband was a circuit court judge for the city and every once in a while when someone got out of hand in her class she would hold court much like her husband.
On one occasion, I heard a noise behind me and I promptly turned around to see what was going on. The kid right behind me (Marty) held up his hand in class room and said, ”Mark Phenicie is making faces at me”!! Then everyone in the class laughed out loud and I knew I was in big trouble!!
I never liked Marty because his mannerisms were effeminate. He even lived in a pink house that had a fence around the front yard and Mark and Marty were not allowed outside the fenced area. His twin brother Mark, were the teacher’s pets from as far back as I could remember, I couldn’t figure out what the attraction was.

Well, the teacher immediately called me up to the front of the class and asked in front of everyone if I was making faces to which I said “no”. So she announced that: “court was in session and anyone who witnessed it was to hold up their hands”. The entire class raised their hands, even the kids in the front row of the class held up their hands and they couldn’t have possibly seen me. It was at that point I knew that it was just not my day!! Either I was going crazy or they all wanted to see some action.

For punishment she took a poll and the result was that I had to make faces for the entire class and if I stopped I would get a paddled. So I smiled and twisted my face a couple of different ways and then I quit. Wham!! Went the paddle!!

Man, this was so wrong and stupid at the same time! So each time I stopped she hit me with the paddle again Wham!!!, Wham!!! and again Wham!!! until I started up with the faces. This went on several times until she finally gave up and told me to sit down and shut up and pay attention.
Sometimes I’ve wondered how these types of injustices get settled when in the scripture God tells us that “vengeance is mine says the Lord, I will repay those who harm you”.
It should be noted however that later in life this same kid who falsely accused me of making faces at him grew up and actually became a school teacher himself in the same system and was later convicted on several counts of child molestation to which he went to prison.

The Old Brown House

There was once an old two story brown house which so happened to be directly across the street from ours, it was the constant center of attention in our neighborhood. Because of the influx of tenets in the home, there were no hard feelings when someone abruptly left and moved on down the road. The tenets would typically come from Kentucky & Arkansas and would get jobs in the neighborhood factories.

The house was referred to as “the old brown house” and it was always in need of repair. It was in a constant run down condition with tall un-mowed grass and weeds and had windows that were totally busted out. The only thing our house had in common with there’s was It had a “burn barrel” . Their barrel would smolder all day with the constant foul smell of burning raw garbage and clothes and if you watched long enough you would see a large rat or two scampering around the base of the rubbish on the ground looking for some food.

Ironically many of the neighbors became instant friends with who ever moved in to the old brown house and it was almost like long lost friends and relatives were reunited at last.

The House had a simulated brick asphalt siding which was ripped in some spots and you could see the bare gray boards and studs with no insulation underneath.

The Landlord so happened to be a tall white haired lanky lady who was approx 80 years old. She was a mystery to everyone as she would quietly work to maintain her house. She had several of these rental properties throughout the city limits and would rent to the hillbillies or white trash which basically qualified her as a slum lord. She minded her own business and lead a quite life as she would make the necessary repair’s all by herself.

One Saturday morning I personally saw her casually walking across the top of the ridge of the house slinging a bundle of shingles down as she roofed the entire house with a hammer and nails all by herself. She didn’t seem to have a fear of heights as she would walk across the ridge as though she belonged up there. She drove an old faded black Buick which functioned as her utility car. She’d pull ladders off the roof of the car, paint cans out of the trunk and concrete blocks out of the back seats.

In our neighborhood common names used were Peanut, Libby Sue, “Bang Bang”, Mildred, Ronnie, Billy, Don, Daryl, Bernie, and Linda, junior, Candice, Dick, Robert and the list goes on. Most of these people were hillbillies, white trash and common factory folks who drank and played together and pimped their daughters at the local bars on market street such as the “Tip top café”, “The Erie Smoke house”, “The Bell Café”.
on Friday nights most of the bars were hopping with dance bands or jute boxes blaring and loaded with factory workers lined up for a drink at the counter like animals at a drinking hole in the middle of nowhere.
It was a common scene early in the morning to see or hear a drunken Dad coming down the street with a loud car muffler trying to make his way home. When he got near the old brown house he’d get out and would pass out on the busted concrete front sloped steps of the old house. Then the mom would come out and smack him with a broom and curse at him for “spending all the money at the bar”!!!

I recall one cold winter night about 3: AM, the Dad at the old brown house was so drunk he tripped and fell into the snow face down and laid there until someone in the house came out and drug him in the front door. There were times when they’d make it home and sit in the car with the engine running, radio blaring until someone would come out and shut it off or it would run out of gas or stall.

As a typical pattern, Mondays the kids would skip school, Tuesdays the truant officer would show up to ask why they weren’t in school. Wednesdays the Salvation Army would arrive with arm loads of clothes because the renters claimed they didn’t have any clothes to ware.

I recall one boy name Bernie, who lived in the brown house that was my age. He sat next to me in school which was in the back of the class. There were several silver painted cast iron radiators behind us along the wall and they would clank and generate enormous heat to the point that it would put you to sleep. However Bernie stank so bad from not taking a bath that his odor was like smelling ammonia which kept my eyes wide open.

One time which I’ll never forget was a hot summer evening and a lot of emotions were flying around between the “tenets” and our family. They’d call us names and throw stuff at our house such as pop bottles or trash. Linda the oldest daughter came over and spit into my brother Nathan’s face and called him a “retard”.
Naturally this did not set well with my brother Dan who became enraged and grabbed a chrome sweeper wand from the broom closet and chased her down. There was a horrific scuffle and scream as Dan beat her face in with the wand until she got away. He had bloodied her face, and challenged her blaring foul mouth, screaming, clinched fisted, hatred filled fat body.
Then they called the police on us and the neighborhood turned into screaming red lights turning and squad cars slamming on their brakes as they lined our curb and theirs.

After the dust settled the police left and the tenets reassured us that they’d “get us back and kick our butt’s”.

Later in the fall Linda chased me down the back alley, tripped me and commenced to rub my face in snow. She was much bigger than me and I got the idea that she somehow didn’t like me either. Snow actually burns when rubbed in your face to which I’ll never forget that sensation.

Another time we heard a crash and they came over and busted out the head lights of my Dads car with pop bottles. I can’t recall what happened but the Hillbillies just had to make their point when ever they could.

They took everything

One Sunday afternoon after church we arrived at home via the back alley and my mom gasp and began to cry…. The neighbors had stolen her entire garden!!!! They took it all. Every plant was gone and not even a trail was left except for a couple of bean plants through Jessie Smiths back yard could be seen. Jessie was our neighbor next to us. He allowed the neighborhood kids to hang out in his house and they would yell at us through his bathroom window. His house had gray simulated asphalt brick siding and there were two cherry tree’s in the back yard which he allowed us to eat from in the summer.

Another Sunday after church we found all of our bikes stripped down to the frames and lying next to the garage as they had stolen the tires, handle bars and seats. We never did find who did it, because “they did it”.

Then one day the hillbillies moved out and we had been away at a thanksgiving dinner at my Grandmothers house. We all had paper routes so we had to come home early. We brought our cousins with us and took a tour of the old brown house that was left wide open. The first thing I recalled was the stench of urine in every room. While on the tour I took a sledge hammer and busted he toilet and tub into pieces, the banisters on the steps were busted out and the kitchen sink destroyed by the time we all left. We casually left “The old Brown House” with a feeling of winning the battle …. It was a year before anyone ever moved back in. Eventually the house was torn down.

The Oil drum that cried for help!!

Late one summer night when I was laying in bed with the windows open for ventilation, the neighborhood was quite even the neighborhood dogs were asleep. Suddenly I heard a dull “boom!!!”, and then someone cried out in a deep voice, “Hey Mooooooooark” !!!". Then my brothers laughed and told me that it was our neighbor Dick, who lived 7 houses down the street on the same side who was a known alcoholic.

In the summer time, Dick would get so smashed on hard liquor that he would stagger outside and aimlessly wonder around his yard until he got to the north side of their painted green house. Then he would lean against the fuel oil tank and pound repeatedly on the side of the tank like it was a drum with his fist and call out for his son Mark to come home. Mark was usually inside the house.

Dick also had a dark brown, long haired dog on a chain leash that would bark his fool head off at anyone who walked past the back of their house. One day when I was walking along the alley in back of the property I spotted a small red turtle in his yard that someone had painted its back bright red. I walked over into the grass and picked it up and took it home.

Evidently while the dog was barking at me, Dick saw me in his yard. Later that night, he came to our house drunk and reported to my Dad that he thought I stole his dog house which came up missing. Obviously he must’ve been hallucinating because I was just a little kid who didn’t have the capability to move anything of that size.

I do recall that when the turtle wouldn’t come out of its shell I sat it down on our side walk and decided to tap on its back with a ball peen hammer to see if I could encourage it to come out. I accidentally cracked its shell which eventually caused it to die. It was my first turtle, and at the time I was too young and ignorant to understand that it was their nature to hide in their shells when they sensed danger.

Dick would quietly pace around his yard like a bored animal in a cage. If my memory serves me right he was only about 35-45 years old when he went blind from alcohol poisoning.

Being that my Dad was a pastor and had a heart for the lost, he would occasionally take the time to talk to him in the evenings about the Lord as they would sit together on our front porch ledge.

His wife was a believer in Christ and would also pray for his salvation and a change in his life. Later on I was told that Dick finally turned his life over to Christ and became serious about his condition and position before the Lord; eventually he regained his vision to the point where he could navigate without help.

I couldn’t help but equate Dick’s situation to the little turtle that someone had painted bright red. No matter where the turtle went in the neighborhood he was marked and could not take off the red paint unless someone took the time to remove it. Everyone knew that Dick was a marked alcoholic man that everyone noticed as he would cry out to his son for help in the middle of the night.

For many years if anyone would approach him he would withdraw and hide much like the little turtle that sensed danger. What he didn’t realize was they were trying to befriend him and come to his rescue because they cared. What I have observed about God is, He has a way of allowing us our freedom to go until all of our earthly options are depleted.

Sometimes the physical damages of our sins are so devastating that we become as helpless invalids only to realize that we have finally reached the end of our rope and that we need to look to God for help. When we examine the destructive lifestyle that we have pursued, we soon realize that we are broken and we have to become dead to our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ who forgives and heals.

Someday I hope to see my ole neighbor Dick in heaven to tell him that I didn’t take his dog house but his little turtle was instrumental in telling others about the Lord Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who took the time on Calvary to go to the cross to take the burden of sin off of our backs. Although we are broken in our sin only he can heal the wounds and set us free.

School Buses and Us!!

Down the alley from our house was this mechanic who’s name was Dean. He was a school bus mechanic contracted by the city maintain all the buses in town. He had at least 20 of them lined up in a row every day and it became somewhat of a playground for us kids. Then one day my brothers found that the doors could be pried opened and we all helped ourselves to the first aid kits with all the bandages and tourniquets and emergency gear such as flares.

Naturally it wasn’t long before my parents picked up on it and we had to take it all back and apologize. Dean was level headed about it and was forgiving and brushed it off like it was no big deal

Illegal dumping

One summer day while on my paper route, I was peddling my bike along the back roads of Huntington. I had one customer that was about a half a mile past the Texaco and Marathon Gas stations on the corner Broadway and State Street. There was a new bridge there that crossed over the Wabash River.

On this one occasion I decided to go a little further out into the countryside past my customer’s house, which was out of the way to checkout some new territory. As I peddled my bike I spotted a pile of colorful red bags of unusual rubbish next to a tree off the road about 40 feet.

Being that I was easily distracted by such a find, I rode up to the pile, got off of my bike and started to look through it not realizing how dangerous it could be. The truth was that I had stumbled onto an illegal dump site all from the Huntington Hospital which contained medical supplies such as used needles and syringes, surgical scissors, specimen glass slides and other non- descript items of trash. Then I carefully scooped up some of the interesting items and took them home for play.

Although this site was captivating to say the least to a young kid of 10 or 11, some fool hearted person had deliberately taken it upon themselves to ignore all the disposal rules and regulations for the sake of a quick buck. They deliberately trashed up the countryside which could have put an entire community at risk. This dump site could have been a source of spreading an unusual cocktail of viruses or diseases such as Hepatitis, or Tuberculosis, or fill in the blank as it could have contaminated or caused a sudden death.

Fortunately nothing happened to me but my parents questioned me about what I brought home. They made me get rid of all of it, as they warned me to stay away from such places.

I have found that there are many forms of illegal dumping, one of which is gossip. When people have entrusted each other with important information, it needs to be carefully gathered up to the listening ear and properly disposed of by taking it to God in prayer or by keeping it in confidence until something constructive can be done.

However, when people are irresponsible and intentionally take it upon themselves to ignore all the rules of God for the sake of personal gain, they put individuals as well as entire communities at risk by being the source of spreading a cocktail of confidential information.

Then there are those who are adventuresome and come upon such dump sites (violators) and are exposed to all of the fascinating pieces of information. Then they gather up some of it and take it home to play with only to be the new source of spreading the contamination to innocent bystanders who may not know what they to are about to be exposed to.

Fortunately there are those who are mature and can spot the danger of what has been brought home to play with, and gentle reprimand and warning to stay away can be diplomatically administered. God has labeled gossip as a sin and therefore it needs to be avoided at all cost because of the damage it can cause to others.

The bird that should have died

An elderly couple who were customers on my paper route had a canary and decided to give it to our family for my younger brother Nathan. They knew that he was mentally handicapped and wanted to be compassionate towards him.

The canary was enjoyed by everyone and it brought a lot of joy into the house as it would whistle to its hearts content.

As the winter months arrived the bird became cold and died and lay lifeless on the newspaper at the bottom of the cage. There were tears throughout the family because we all loved the bird and it had become part of the sounds of our family in our home.

My Parents were sympathetic but told me it was time to wrap it up and put it out in the burn barrel because the ground was frozen and would be too hard to dig and bury.

On my way to the burn barrel I decided to get a shovel and clear off some snow in the garden area and try my hand at digging a hole. As my shovel hit the dirt it made a thud and wouldn’t make a dent. Eventually I got a chisel and hammer from the garage and I slowly made a hole big enough to bury the bird wrapped in toilet paper and buried it in a mayonnaise jar.

As summer time arrived I remembered that I had buried the bird and began to think about it once again. The more I thought about it the more it became a renewed interest to the point where I decided to go and dig it up and look at it. I figured it would still be just as had left it, all wrapped up and clean but, well, perhaps I could hold it and then rebury it some place else near the house.

It took a little while to locate it and then my stick hit the jar and I dug it up. As I cleaned off the dirt on outside of the jar to look in, I notice that there was brown liquid in the jar and that the bird had turned to fluid, feathers and water. Still I had to go one step further and I had to open the jar to see it closer.

I carefully unscrewed the lid knowing that it wasn’t going to be pleasant and the wind caught my nose and almost made me gag to death with the smell of rot. I then realized that it was truly dead and that I needed to rebury it. It was no longer the pretty bird that I had once known that would whistle the day away.

Sin is like the dead bird. Sometimes we think about the lure of the fun of the world and the attraction that it once was. We know that through Christ we buried it because we were dead to it. But then one day we decide to dig it up, revisit the same sin and check it out to see if it was really that bad. Sure enough we find out that it was worse than ever before.

The Gas tank exploded in his face!!!

Ronnie Martin was a good friend of mine. He and his brother Billy were good friends to have. They lived behind our house just across the alley where we freely crossed into each others yards and houses to play as we would explore the neighborhood together. Then one day Ronnie had gone to the junk yard about a block away from our house which consisted of neighbors who would park their discarded cars until they rusted into the ground.

There were several of these old abandoned cars that littered the hill side that lead down to the run off creek from Lake Clair, near Baldwin hill. Ronnie evidently was checking out the cars as we often did. We would open up the doors, climb inside and pretend to drive them as we would jerk the steering wheel back and forth and make engine noises with our mouths to dramatize our play. We could barely reach the gas peddle. We’d open the glove boxes and snoop around as we played like we were driving. One time I opened a glove box only to discover a bumble bee’s nest. I got stung in the face as I clawed my way out of the car and ran home looking for sympathy. My eyes were puffed up until they closed and I got lots of attention from everyone that saw me.

Ronnie however one day decided that he wanted to know if there was gas in the tank of an old 1950 Pontiac.
So he lit a match and took off the gas cap. Then he carefully held it next to the hole to look down inside the tube when to his surprise the gas tank exploded in his face and caught the car on fire.
Ronnie was by himself and I’m not sure how he got away but he showed up at home with third degree burns over his entire face and chest.

Several days went by and he came home from the Huntington hospital and I was given the “ok” to go over to see him. As i walked in Ronnie lay motionless on the sofa in his parent’s living room, his face was charred and his face was covered with Vaseline as he struggled with the pain to talk. He seemed happy to see me even though i couldn't stay for long because he needed his rest. So for the summer Ronnie watched TV as his face healed the best it could even though it seemed as though he would wear the scars for life.

Trash Can diplomacy

As a kid in school there were those who always had to show who was the boss and would push their way around the crowds just to be in charge of “what ever”.
Doug was one of those kids that was big for his age and would come up to you and knock your books out of your hands, then as you went to pick them up he would shove you to the ground and kick you in the ribs. He made his point no matter where you met him, he just didn’t like you.

One time he saw me on the paper route and would chase after me and put a certain fear in me and I never trusted him.
One day I noticed that he had a friend that tagged along and together they would terrorize me by throwing rocks at me or knocking me off of my bike.

This hillbilly behavior continued until one day on the way home from school I spotted his friend who was alone and was starting to approach me as he made it known that he too wanted a piece of the action. As he approached my blood pressure began to increase as I clinched my fist in defense of my own space and honor.

I recall it was a cold damp foggy winter day and there was snow melting into puddles. The sidewalks had ashes from the coal furnaces sprinkled on them to provide some friction to keep you from falling down. Then as he shoved me I stood my ground and wrestled him into the wet ground below us. I was so upset with him and the adrenaline began to kick in and pump through my veins. As we fought I could see that my efforts were beginning to pay off. So I beat with my fist until I saw a trash can and lid next to the spot where he and I were making life difficult and settling our differences.
Then I grabbed the galvanized lid off the can by the handle and used it as I smashed him over and over again!! His coat and shirt where dripping wet when we called it quits and he cried as he ran all the way home. His Mom later on stopped me on the paper route and asked why I beat him up and ripped his shirt.

I really didn’t have a prepared answer for her accept for the fact that: “if he ever attacked me again I’d do the same thing all over”. After that I never saw him again. But as for Doug he too left me alone even though the glares and stares continued when ever I saw him.
Years later I saw him on the street after I had graduated from Marine Corps Boot camp, I couldn’t help but laugh at him because I knew I had finally gained the upper hand.

In the scripture It says to “resist the devil and he will flee from you, and to draw nigh unto God and he will draw nigh to you”.

I can’t help but realize that we are approached daily by Satan, he wants us to fail and he wants a piece of the action. He wants to smear us in the face of God. However we too can win these battles when we see Satan tempting us as he approaches. We can stand firm as he pushes us and fights with us. However with the full armor of God we can resist his aggression. Once we see how the Power of God is with us we too can gain in confidence and fight the good fight knowing that defending ourselves against the wilds of the devil will cause him to flee.

Once a Marine always a Marine

January the 19th 1971 was a day I’ll will never forget as I made my way to the third floor of the Huntington Indiana court house to meet with the Marine Corps Recruiter.

I had it in my head for the past two and a half years after my brother Dan, a scout sniper in the Marine Corps was wounded in Vietnam at age 20 on Dec 7th 1968 during the Meade River Operation, this is what I wanted to do and there was nothing that was going to stop me. I was now 18, and on this day and I decided to step forward and enlist in one of the finest Military organizations in the world, The United States Marine Corps. It was one of the best decisions I had ever made.

I felt right about my decision and without any reservations I took the pen from the recruiter and signed up for three years of service. I felt that two years was like sticking your toes in the water, but enlisting for three years was like jumping in with confidence.

The recruiter himself could have tried to discourage me but I still would have joined. I had signed up on a 180 day delay program which allowed me to complete my High School obligation and to graduate.

I remember walking home to tell my Mom the news of what I just did. As I entered the house she was standing in the dining room and without hesitation I told her what I had done. The room became silent and she gently placed both of her hands on the maple drop leaf table and she slowly lowered her head as tears began to flow down her cheeks.

I know I had bewildered and perhaps disappointed my Mom but it was an obstacle that every parent eventually has to work through as time marches on even though I meant no harm to her.

July 18th, High school graduation was over and I was now in San Diego, California standing on the famous yellow foot prints at MCRD as a Marine Corps Drill instructor was bearing down on us while we were getting all of our hair shaved off. Shortly afterwards we stripped off all of our “contaminated civilian clothes” and sent them home to our parents.

As new recruits from all across America we made our way through those sacred doors and began the next nine weeks of grueling challenges to undue our civilian’s ways and mindsets and to be reprogrammed as a disciplined “leatherneck”, “jar head” fighting machine. The Corps! OOOOOOOORah!!!

I could go through all minuscule details of my experience in The Marine Corps boot camp but only a few fun moments stick out as humor such as;

Private Caneberry

While in boot camp the drill instructor told me to guard his office until the platoon got back from the mess hall. So while he was away I spotted a card file on his desk and opened it and looked under the letter P for Phenicie. Sure enough there was a 3x5 card in there with my name on it. So I read the comments which said I would graduate and that I would make a good Marine but needs to be more aggressive. Wow, both good news and a little need for improvement news!

A week or so went by and like everything else It’s not every day that opportunities stand out to a point where you instinctively react to what is before you, but the drill instructor blurted out a command that we had five minutes to “clean the head and get on the road for chow”.
We all ran in the rest room and began the clean up process of the sinks, urinals, and toilets, mirrors and floors.

My job was the sinks and mirrors, so I grabbed the cleaning gear and started the process. Then all the sudden I spotted this nerd of a guy leaning over “My sink”, close to “My mirror” popping his zits!!! As I approached him I told him to get away from the sink and mirror because we only had a limited amount of time to get outside. He refused, I shoved him, he coward and said, “leave me alone” as he raised his hands to defend himself. So I punched him in the face as hard as I could and with one blow he fell to the floor and banged his shaved head on the tile and was out cold!!!

Just then some one yelled, “Sir Private Phenicie just killed Private Canebury”. I had never seen someone out cold and my heart began to race.

The Drill instructor leaped into crowd and knelt down beside “the Prive”. Then he slowly looked up to me and said, “Well private are you ready to go to jail”? I just about went into shock. Then the drill instructor slapped the little pimple face and said “Caneberry, get up”!!!!!

Then to my surprise Caneberry inhaled with a scratchy snore like drawl and began to breathe once again. As he got up, there was a print of the tile floor on the back of his shaved head that remained there for about two weeks. The Drill instructor screamed, “get on the road for chow”. From then on I had acquired a new elevated respect.

“Yehth Thur”

When ever you leave an isolated world such as Huntington Indiana, and expose yourself to a world of diversity that you can’t help but be ah struck by some of the humor and weird stuff that comes across your path.

As an example one Recruit in our platoon, “Private Olivera” had a speech impediment and could not say the words “yes sir”, instead he would say “Yehth Thur!!”. On top of that he was bone skinny and had ears that were extra big and stuck out extra far from his shaved jar head.
Olivera and I got along pretty good and were no threat to each other. However, one very hot day our platoon was out on the Parade deck marching. It was so hot that as you marched the asphalt would pop like “bubble rap”, our drill Instructor was obviously aggravated at our performance.

All the sudden he gave the command “Hippity Hop, Mob Stop!!!!!!!!!! , Left face”. For the next few minutes he chewed us out as spit flew out of his mouth, then he’d yell, “is that clear?”, to which we all screamed “yes sir”!!!!!! Then he’d scream, I can’t hear you”, to which we’d scream louder “sir, yes sir”.

It was at this point I had heard “Private Olivera ” scream “Yehth Thur!!”. So for humor sake, I had it in my mind that the next time the Drill instructor yelled ,“is that clear”, I would mimic the same as Olivera’s “Yehth Thur!!”!!!

As I was listening intently for the right moment, it finally arrived and I thought I heard him say “Is that clear”? So I screamed at the top of my lungs “Yehth Thur!!”. The problem was no one else yelled.

Evidently I was imagining and anticipating the command to the point where I prematurely responded. Then like in a slow motion movie he was standing in front of me as all eyes were full of fire as he focused on me.
I was caught and for the next hour I had to “get off the parade deck and do push ups with my rife, then stand up and put my rifle above my head over by the steel Quonset huts”!!!!!!.

Down, out and up I went until I thought “man this is soooooooo dumb”. So I took the M-14 rifle by the barrel and pointed the rifle butt in the air to the left as the drill instructor marched the troops to the left, then to the right as he marched them to the right. I was having a little fun and taking a calculated chance until someone smacked me in the back of the head. As I turned to see who it was, I was staring in the face of a tall Black drill instructor who questioned, “where in the #@#@##@ is your drill instructor puke!!!!!!!.”

All the sudden things got real nasty when he went out to the parade deck and said something to my drill instructor. It was like a bomb exploded and all the sudden all the Marine recruits were marching towards me and didn’t stop until they were all running in place in the sand pit. There I joined them and for the next three hours all 80 of us did every thing from making it rain with sand, push ups sit ups, scream, and dig holes.
Being that I am a visual person I saw it all and every once in a while some money or valuable such a finger nail clipper would drop out of somebody’s pocket. I’d pick it up and stick it in mine. It was my way of diverting the pain and dealing with the punishment. In the end everyone was so filthy and wore out and yet no one said a word.

Burnt Veal

After returning from the rifle range on one Hot day, our platoon marched off to the mess hall as everyone was tired and a bit on edge. So like every one else this good ole Indiana boy made my way through the mess line to get some grub. Just then a Black Marine slammed a piece of burnt veal on my stainless steel plate and said to me, "There honky is a piece of your ASS"!!!!
So I yelled back at him and said, "doesn’t Look like white ASS to me.. It looks more like Black ASS!!!
Then like lightning striking a transformer on a telephone pole, I saw four black servers coming around the food table after me with knives and steel plates. Just as fast I quickly jumped out of line and to my surprise a drill instructor stood in front of me and grabbed me and told me sit across from him to eat.
As the offended backed off and watched from a distance I couldn’t help but wonder what was in store for me.
As soon as I was done the drill instructor told me to go out and stand on the parade deck and keep my mouth shut. Soon every one emptied out of the mess hall and got into platoon formation. Soon we marched to the barracks as the drill instructor shouted out his commands. When we arrived at the barracks I herd, "platoon halt, left face". As we stood there the drill instructor proceeded to say, "we seem to have a private PHENICIE who is a racist!!! In my defense I yelled back, "Sir that's a lie!!! He yelled back, "shut up"!!
So from then on I was dubbed as a racist but I also gained a certain respect for talking back at the drill instructor which is something you never do. It wasn’t long before I graduated from basic training that I participated in several barracks fights from Marines who couldn't let it rest.
I loved the part where everyone was fighting as mop handles and buckets were used to beat the crap out of each other. The drill instructor appeared in the squad bay and blew the whistle and the entire barracks was full of Drill instructors.
No one got in trouble. Well I guess it was obvious that we had learned how to fight! Love ya all!! Black or White we were all young and dumb and itching to fight! Come on Man, it doesn’t matter what color you are, just learning how to kill the enemy!!! And if it makes you feel better I love veal but not Burnt!!!

Black Eyes

It was announced that we were headed for the range to observe how to fire mortars.

When we as a platoon arrived at the top of the hill side there were several telephone poles in a row lying on the gravel ground for us to sit on. In front of us was a valley which you could see for miles to which the Marine Corps had place several tanks trucks and jeeps for targets for us to observe.

Then the instructors proceeded to show us the accuracy and power of a mortar. It was quite the blast and they were good at carefully hitting the targets and blowing them apart.

As I sat there on the log the Marine recruit to my left nudged me and handed me a comic book. I thought, “oh my gosh”! I haven’t seen one of theses in years, and besides, as a kid my parents never allow me to buy them or have them. So I took it and carefully placed it behind my guide book for Marines because I was afraid to pass it on to any one else. I knew this stuff was forbidden in boot camp but as I sat there it wasn’t to long before the curiosity over took me and I carefully flipped through the pages to see what the big deal was. Well, as I turned the pages there suddenly appeared a shadow and two shinny black boots in font of me.

Then a hand reached down and slowly removed the book from me as I searched my head for an excuse to respond to his, “WHAT HAVE WE HERE PRIVATE PHENICIE”??? ……Get up Private!!!!!! ……

Then he called for the platoon guide to, “GET OVER HERE”


With that he tore it up into small pieces and placed a pile of shredded pages on the gravel and down we went into the pushup position. The lime stones of the road began to cut into our fist immediately (Man did it ever hurt!)!!! Then I decided to rest on one side more than the other and it cut in even more so.

As we both tried to endure the pain of the sharp limestone rocks cutting into our fist, the Platoon guide whispered to me, “you’re going to pay for this Phenicie”. For once I didn’t know what to say or think but I knew I was in deep trouble and had no way out.

Then the Drill instructor (after we began to squirm) told us to, “GET UP”! As we both stood there look’n naughty, he proceeded to tell the platoon guide to, “Take Private Phenicie behind that shed (as he pointed) and teach him lesson about reading comic books in book camp”!!!

So off we went, and soon we disappeared from the visual of the rest of the platoon, then guide said to me, “You Know I’m going to have to hit you”, and if you want to fight back you can”.

I said, “Yep”.

Then he ask “Where do you want it, in the stomach, arms, shoulder”?

I said, “in the face”(I figured if he hits me in the face it’s all bone and besides if he has the guts to dish it out, I had the guts to take it, and besides if he hit me in the face it would be hard to hide the abuse from the officers).

It didn’t take long before I went back and sat down. Both eyes grew shut and turned black and blue and I got the stares from the rest of the platoon but I had to maintain my composure like it was no big deal.

I had my picture taken for the Marine Corps boot camp year book for Platoon 2078 a week or so later, and it was clear that something must’ve had happened to “Private Phenicie”.

M-60/ 0331

M-60/ 0331

In the fall of 1971 after graduating from Marine Corps recruit depot (MCRD) boot camp in Sand Diego California, I climbed aboard a green cattle bus with my green duffle bag along with 80 other jar heads all dressed in green fatigues. The diesel engine roared and we all sat quietly on green wood benches that lined the sides of the bus. The base quickly disappeared in the dust behind us as we were being sloshed back and forth for over an hour as we traveled up to Camp Pendleton to be trained as M-60 Machine gunners.

Several weeks had pasted and I finally completed the Infantry Training Regiment (ITR) and Basic Infantry Training School (BITS). I was now ready to put my new found skill of becoming a 0331/ Machine gunner into action. I was ready to be shipped off to Viet Nam where the invading North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the Chinese Communist (Chicoms) would be soon tasting the impact of a full metal jacket 7.62 NATO bandolier of rounds being pumped into their rice feed opium bodies with high cheek bone faces with slight overbite teeth by yours truly.

I knew that I was ready, and willing, all I needed was the orders in my hands go.

In the school one of the requirements was to run 300 miles during the course of the training. Every night I would go out and stomp the pavement on the parade deck in my black spit shined boots and run the obstacle course until the sun went down. I finally racked up 300 miles and I weighed in at 155 lbs and not the 225 Lbs that I am currently known to carry.

In the Marines you learned to run every where you went. You name it we ran to it. I recall one evening after I had completed my run. I found myself catching my breath and at the same time admiring the vast beauty of the sky above me which boasted of millions of tiny bright stars, Just stars and no moon. I couldn’t help but realize that God was the author and creator of this vast display of beauty. I was just a dot who needed to place my life in his hands. I found myself talking to Him out loud as I stood there by myself. I told God that that no matter how far away I might stray from Him, I wanted Him to pull me back to do His will in my life even if it made me miserable. All I wanted was His protection and guidance.

MSG Battalion

The very next day while sitting out on the bleachers in the hot sun with our platoon, our Gunnery Sergeant began to read off a small list of names. We were told that a legal officer wanted to talk to us individually. With my stomach pushing at my throat I began to review my past to see if something might have triggered such a request. Could it be that the 100 round bandolier of M-60 rounds that I took on the sly and shipped back to my friend in Indiana and somehow became exposed in the U. S. Postal system?

The gunny proceeded to tell us that we were selected for an elite assignment and that very few Marines could qualify and with a 30-35% attrition rate it is the highest drop out rate of any Marine Corps school.

Being that I admired the Marine Corps Officers, I knew I had to be attentive and on my best behavior. As I entered into the small waiting area with carpet on the floors I was joined by a handful of other Marines.

One Marine that stuck out in my mind was this slothful four eyed guy from Canada who slacked back in his chair and fell asleep while waiting for his turn to be interviewed. I didn’t bother to wake him up because if he didn’t care why should I. I concluded that the more that losers expose themselves, the greater chance I’d have getting ahead. When the Officer (a Colonel) called me in I realized the importance of the moment. I wasn’t going to miss out like I knew the other Marine had opted to do, buy being indifferent and slothful during this rare privileged opportunity.

The interview went very well as he asked me questions concerning national security, loyalty to the nation, family matters, and personal obligations and goals. A few days went by and I had orders to fly to Henderson hall barracks in Arlington Virginia which backed up to the Arlington cemetery. The school was a stones throw away from the Pentagon and just around the corner from the Marine Corps Memorial and tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
At 18 years old this was big stuff to me since I had never been exposed to the Diplomatic Corps of Washington D.C.

Henderson Hall was a barracks that was built back in the 40’s. It was the Head Quarters of the Marine Security Guard Battalion (MSG). There were so many cockroaches that had infested the building that it was just common knowledge that there were too many to fight so we lived with them. These roaches ranged from a half inch to three inches. If you squished one of the big ones you had to clean it up.

Everyday at Henderson hall was a calculated preparation for equipping us for becoming Embassy Guards. The training included time being spent at the State Department, weapons familiarization and qualification in Quantico Virginia, twice a daily physical fitness training, foreign espionage awareness and spy techniques, and a wide variety of specialty courses to prepare us for the world of secrecy and diplomacy. The transition of being trained for combat for 6 months and then the next day finding myself rubbing shoulders with the diplomats of our nation was somewhat fascinating and a challenge. I loved it and looked forward to my first assignment.