Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Keeping Up with the Jones's, er ... I mean ... the 'Smithhhs'

Years ago while Andy was home from college, we were all sitting around the living room. Joyce mentioned that our telephone voicemail message needed updating, so Andy grabbed the phone and (after punching in the requisite codes) he began: "Hi! you've reached the W..."

Joyce immediately interrupted, "No, no - don't give our last name!"

Andy deftly changed directions, "... I mean, I mean ... the 'Smithhhs'! Please leave a message after the beep."

I roared with laughter.

This little improvisional play had been captured on voicemail, so we replayed it. It was even funnier the second time. Thence I declared it our official telephone answering message, and it remained so for over a year. Thereafter the voicemail messages we got all began, "That's the funniest answering-machine message I've ever heard! ..." We even had a rash of hang-up calls when (prior to a Bible class) our pastor mentioned, "You really ought to hear the message on Bob and Joyce's answering machine. It's a hoot."

Just last week Joyce and I made a quick run to the store for milk, and (wouldn't you know it) while we were out, Andy and his lovely bride called us from Ohio. Anyway, the next morning, when we finally got around to checking for messages, we heard Andy's happy voice saying: "Hi! You've been reached by the W... I mean, I mean ... the 'Smithhhs'. We'll call back sometime long after the beep."

Having kids who make you laugh is such a special blessing.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Seeing Things

Joyce: Isn't that a pretty Easter egg.

Bob: What?

Joyce: The weather map -- isn't that pretty: the pinks, the blues, the greens. There's even traces of yellow.

Bob: Looks like that Easter egg on the right rolled out into the street and got run over.

Joyce: Yeah, I guess it does kinda.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Mewing of the Night

Nighttime harpies, yowlin' at creation,
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination.
Catty little wenches are sitting on the fences.
{{Musical interlude played on cat gut}}

Such a shrill thing, felines on the sill sing.
Sounds they're shrieking, there'll be no more sleeping.
Leave your dreams behind; let the noise pollute your mind,
Hear all feline kind each making such a fright
And listen to the mewing of the night!

Close your eyes, but surrender any chance of dreams;
Purge your thoughts of the sleep you knew before.
Let the lynx nail the minx - just let him scooooooore -
And you'll hear them as you've never heard before.

Worsely, curs'dly, mewing will oppress you
Hear it, feel it, Satanic'ly posses you.
Open up your eyes; let the cats' unending cries
Start to drive you to the darkness of your plight
The darkness of the mewing of the night.

Let your mind start a journey through a strange, new world
Leave all hope of the sleep you knew before.
Let your thoughts wander where it's wrong to be;
Might as well enjoy insanity.

Slicing, dicing, thoughts of taxidermy.
Gut them, stuff them, strap them to the gurney.
Let the dreams begin, let your darker side give in
To the power that the mewing does incite -
The power of the mewing of the night

Cats alone can make my dreams take flight;
There's no end of mewing of the night.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

To My Foolish Valentine

In Plainview I proffered, "Please, marry me."
In plain view, all ponder, "What did she see?"
We April fools face a puckered pastor,
azaleas bloom ... and then disaster.

Your face so sweet is sudden fretting.
"The ring!" you breath, but I'm not sweating.
"Hey Roy, ya got the ring?" I share.
(The best man's look is worth the fare.)

On droans the preacher, without a clue
of Roy's attempt to call take two.
Swift moves your dad and pulls a fitting
off his hand - ere Roy's shitting.

We hear, "What givest thou in oath,
to prove these vows you here have quoth?"
The washer there so late procured
is passed in trust -- our troth's secured.

With golden band (fit twice your digits)
I snare my wife -- the pastor fidgets.
We laugh; he frets. We kiss; we're wed.
Now at last! It's off to ...
Fort Stewart.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Breaking News

Radio Announcer: Coming up next on the news report: A pet cemetary is facing financial troubles -- what will it mean for the animals buried there?

Me: Um, let me think. That'll mean ... ummm ... they're still dead maybe?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Poor Bill Gates

Bill Gates has apparently decided that the key to lifting the world's poor out of poverty is to shame corporate America into throwing its loose change at charities. (And of course, one has to suspect that Bill Gates's own charitable trust is the best one to funnel those dollars into.)

The author of this article, Bill Easterly, makes the practical case against the kind of "charity" Bill Gates wants to impose on the poor, and he makes a great argument in favor of the kind of capitalism Bill Gates himself has benefited from, so there's no need for me to rehash his insights. Rather, I write to ask a more subjective question: "Are we really all that surprised that Bill Gates (having found his self-aggrandizement futile) now finds his messiahship worthwhile?"

Hardly! After all, this is the same Bill Gates who just a few years ago told Time Magazine: "Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There's a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning."

Please understand, I truly wish Bill Gates all the best -- by which I mean, I wish he'd take the advice of the One to whom he will ultimately give account: Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. (Rev 3:17-18)

"Alas, poor Bill Gates!" I do plead with you: "Apply the salve of humility to your eyes, and look up -- look up and gaze on the One who 'though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.' (2 Corinthians 8:9) Let Him clothe you in His righteousness. (Revelation 19:8)" And finally I beg you, "Spend your few remaining shekels of time procuring the gold that endures."

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Must Read

Any introduction to this seems so inadequate. Just read it.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Trails and Trials

Ivan was born near Handley, Texas (15 miles east of Fort Worth) in 1926. His father and uncles were in the dairy business, with a herd of about three-hundred cows. That's a very large herd when you consider there were no milking machines in those days. Later Ivan's dad moved the family to their own farm in Everman community (15 miles south of Fort Worth), still doing dairy farming. Through the years a brother and three sisters were added to the family. Ivan and the other kids all attended Everman's one school, which had all the grades in one building.

In 1944 Ivan graduated from high school and was drafted into the Army. He was inducted at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. From there he went to Fort Riley, Kansas for basic training in light tanks. He was then deployed to the Philippines, expecting to be part of the greatest invasion force ever assembled - the army that would invade Japan. Instead (thanks to Harry Truman's fortitude) Ivan became a member of the floatilla that sailed out of Luzon on August 25, 1945 and into Yokohama Bay on September 2, 1945 to formally accept the Japanese surrender on the deck of the Battleship Missouri. Ivan has written in his memoirs: "There were many ships in the bay, of all descriptions. We were in full gear, ready for invasion if necessary." On September 8th Ivan and the rest of the First Cavalry Division entered the City of Tokyo and began the occupation. Ivan was stationed there in Japan until late 1946 when he was discharged.

In July 1947 Ivan got a job as a lineman for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, working in the dusty west Texas towns of Sweetwater, Abilene and Big Spring. (More about the dust later.) About that same time, Ivan's uncle was struggling financially and was about to lose his farm and dairy herd, so Ivan's dad and mom moved the family from Everman back to the Handley area, directly across Ederville Road from the Gardner Farm (another dairy operation, which was run by Elmer, his wife and five sons). Despite being over 100 miles away, Ivan made a regular practice of coming home on weekends to help with chores and join his family in attending Harrison Chapel, a little church in Arlington on Harrison Road (now North Davis Street).

The Gardner family went to that same little church. Also attending the church were the Gardner boys' three cousins: Bertha Lee, Luvenia, and Ruth. As Ivan records: "Those weekends and those Sundays at that little old church became even more interesting and exciting." Of course, the reason for coming home on weekends was to help on the farm, and the reason for attending the church was to hear the Word of Truth rightly divided. But Ivan freely confesses that those lovely Gardner cousins were also quite an attraction.

Ivan got acquainted with Ruth and they went out on a date. He writes, "Sometimes things don't click very well with someone; this seemed to be one of those times." Later Ivan got to know Ruth's sister Luvenia and she quickly moved from be an interesting attraction to being a major distraction. Ivan and Luvenia began dating regularly on weekends, but alas, Ivan was stuck in Big Spring while his heart and thoughts were all back in Arlington. It became his usual practice to stay as late on Sunday nights as he could and then spent the rest of the night driving back to Abilene or Big Spring. Ivan writes, "It wasn't the best way to romance a girl but it was better than no romance at all."

One Sunday night as he was saying good-bye his to sweet Luvenia, Ivan confessed, "If I wasn't working in west Texas, I'd ask you to be my wife."

She replied, "I can live in west Texas."

Ivan answered enthusiastically, "Wow, you mean it?"

They were married on June 15, 1948 at Harrison Chapel in Arlington. They loaded her things into Ivan's '41 Mercury and headed off to Big Spring. Ivan records, "I'd rented a little house and we moved in and went to buy groceries. With our limited income we couldn't buy much, but it was a great beginning for us. The first Sunday after we got to Big Spring I had to work. While I was at work and my sweet bride was alone in the little house, we had a dust storm, and not just a little one either. When I got home late that afternoon I could detect a bit more than anxiety in my sweet bride. I found out that night she really didn't care much for west Texas and she was missing her mother. That, and she definitely didn't like dust storms. About two weeks later I got a transfer to Fort Worth and we loaded up our 'vast collection' of possessions and headed back to Arlington."

Last June was their 59th wedding anniversary.

This June will be Ivan's first wedding anniversary without her.