Intrepid & Lieutenant Carter

id_austin_10_full_2

 

1937 Austin 10 Cambridge. Photo: Courtesy David Marsh, Victoria, Australia (Dave’s Austin 10 Web Site)

(Derek’s Note: William Stephenson was Winston Churchill’s choice to head up his global intelligence gathering operations. He was also the one that recommended William “Wild Bill” Donovan to head the OSS during WW II. He will be Knighted during the war for his efforts. His code name was Intrepid. He is also attributed as being the man Ian Fleming modeled 007 after. Margaret Peggy Carter is better known these days as “Agent Peggy Carter” Captain America’s sweetheart. Margaret Carter started out in the British Army assigned to Bletchley Park and eventually went to Special Operations Executive and thence to MI6. Here she is in transition between Bletchley and SOE and functioning as William Stephenson’s Adjutant.)

 

Chapter three

Intrepid and Lieutenant Carter

Between the families working knowledge of French and Joan’s ancient English dialect, dinner went reasonably well. Janie and Maureen set to making the Maid comfortable. But, bedtime came late into the night as Joan, Jack, Janie, and Maureen sat up listening to the story of how Joan came to be there. The initial shock of being transported to the future seemed to only momentarily disorient the teenager. Which to Jack seemed reasonable considering the things the young lady had gone through already in life. Here was a woman whom God had chosen to lead an army at the age of seventeen who no one would have ever imagined would do so.

“Typical teenager!” Jack thought to himself as he started down the hall to his room. “She no more looks to lead an army than I do! Tomorrow we will head to the college to see what this is all about. But, for now, I need some sleep…”

As the word sleep died in the consciousness, lights from a car swept across the drawn curtains in the unmistakable indication of a car parking in front of the house.

Jack shuffled to the study window and pulled the curtains aside to see who had arrived on his doorstep at 1:30 AM. As there was a full moon above, Jackie saw a woman dressed as a Second Lieutenant in the Army, followed closely behind by a distinguished looking gentleman wearing the kind of wool suit that would cost Jack a year’s wages on fleet street. “They must be lost…” He thought as he turned to greet the couple at the door.

“Hello, might I be of help? You must be desperately lost to be driving around at this time of the night.” Jack half asked and observed.

The young lady stepped up into the light that streamed from the front door and looked Jack in the eyes. “Yes, Mr. Lewis, you can be of immense help. Through some very extraordinary circumstances, we have been led to your doorstep.” The woman turned to allow the gentleman to step into the light. “My name is Margaret Carter, and this gentleman is William Stephenson special envoy to Winston Churchill. May we come in. I am afraid the circumstances require a level of urgency that has resulted in this unfortunate timing.”

Jack stepped aside and mumbled a quick, “Of course…” Jack led the pair into the study as Maureen appeared at the study door and offered them tea. Thoughts of why a member of Churchill’s inner circle would be in his study raising as much alarm in his mind as having a young Joan of Arc sleeping in the guest room. “Things are decidedly becoming more confusing, and less to my liking”, he thought as William Stephenson took his great coat off and settled into the overstuffed chair.

“Thank you, but as much as I would love to have tea, Mrs. Lewis, I am afraid I must decline, thank you though. Mr. Lewis, let me get right to the point of our being in your home at such a late hour. Late last night Mr. Churchill and I were in his quarters at Whitehall discussing…well…discussing important matters. We were in the process of sending Miss Carter here to the signals people with a package when the three of us had a very abrupt visitor…”

Jack smiled and interrupted, “Ah, Fred! That makes me happy that I have shared that unique opportunity with someone else. Especially, two gentlemen, and the lady, of such eminent reputations.”

“Yes, well…Fred…as he so effusively elaborated. Let us know that we had just become players in a situation where you, Mr. Lewis have been designated as the leader. Now you should understand. Both Winston and I are fans of your writing. I am quite fond of your recent book “Out of the Silent Planet”. So we were not altogether surprised by the Angel pointing at you as having the answer. Fred, however, led us to believe that something terrible is about to happen. However, Fred did not – in his abbreviated appearance – elucidate as to that terrible something might be. So, Winston being the man of action that he is decided that I and Miss Carter should come here to attempt to gain an understanding of just what the blazes is going on?” “What the blazes”, said with the force of a man accustomed to control and finding none in the current situation.

Jack looked at both of his guests and shrugged as he answered, “I wish I knew. Fred told me that I was to write the story. He didn’t say which story.” He turned to the typewriter and picked up the book. “He gave me this book. But, the story itself seems to magically appear as the story gets written. So I am afraid that the book itself will be useless as an answer to whatever kind of future it is that Fred has drawn us into.”

Jack stepped over to Mr. Stephenson and holding the book so that Miss Carter could also see. Pointed to the Character list. “So far, Mr. Stephenson, two of the characters have arrived.” Jackie pointed to Miss Carter whose jaw was now opening wide in surprise. “You Miss Carter, and – THE Joan of Arc. And, as you can see there are other characters on the list that – if I am inferring correctly – I have to say, will be nothing short of miraculous if somehow those names become real.”

Margaret Carter gave a short but audible gasp and turned to Stephenson, “Artur!? If that is the Arthur that is intended, then that has implications for current events!”

“Indeed Margaret.” Stephenson shook his head in agreement and looked up at C.S. Lewis. “He shall return at the hour of England’s greatest need! Sounds like something from one of your novels Mr. Lewis. No doubt exactly why Fred…and by extension…Fred’s boss chose you.”

Maureen – who had been standing quietly in the door – said, “We have an extra room for Miss Carter, Mr. Stephenson. If you don’t mind the couch…

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Chapter Two: The Story Writes Itself…

Empty Pages of a book

(Derek’s Notes: This is the second chapter of The Lewis List. The characters begin to arrive.)

 

Chapter Two

The Story Writes Itself

Days passed and the book sat next to C.S. Lewis’s bed…undisturbed and actively ignored. Until one day returning from classes at Magdalen College. Lewis, on his way to change out of his formal clothes, noticed the book was balanced on top of the typewriter in the drawing room, and instead of continuing the path to the bedroom turned into the drawing room and picked the book up. It fell open to the front page and now had writing on the first few pages. The front page exhibited the bold words; TITLE! The next page – in the same font and bolding – CHARACTERS:.

“How do I know?” Lewis thought. But, then something seemed to impel him and he sat in the overstuffed reading chair with his pen in hand and settled the book on his lap. Sitting for a moment in the declining light of the early evening, listening to the sounds of Janie and Maureen preparing tea in the kitchen, raised his pen and then hesitated. “Title? What do I call a book I have no idea how to write? This is so preposterous in so many different ways God.” Jack turned the page and stared at the heading CHARACTERS.

The thought came in like a shot from the enemy trenches. “The savage doctor!”

Jack put pen to the page and wrote; The Savage Doctor. “Well then, right! That sounds correct. But, who ever heard of a savage doctor?”

The second thought followed the first with the same sharp dictation of certitude. “Mr. Holmes! And, his Challenger!”

No sooner the thought echoed on its way out of recognition, the words appeared on the pages of the book. Before, even the pen could contact the paper.

Next, “Tecumseh!”, “Mr. Reeves!”, “Shieldbearer Peggy Carter”, “Maid of Orleans!”,”Artur!”.

As each thought shot through Jack’s mind the words appeared on the page until the page was full.

Quietly put the pen back into his pocket and looked out the window. “The story is writing itself,” Jack whispered into the room. “So what do you need me for God if you are going to write the story for me? Am I a first-year student in need of instruction?” Jack chuckled to himself. “Actually, I suppose from your perspective I still have quite a distance to go to achieve first-year status. Who am I to complain? Here I sit grasping a book well beyond anything I could imagine a man could produce. Watching words appear upon the page as a disembodied voice speaks to my mind. I should be amazed. Instead, I sense a very healthy spirit of skepticism, tinged with an equally insistent curiosity.”

The words still hanging on his tongue, and still gazing out the window, he watched as a huge horse appeared on the street at full gallop with a small child on its back. It was pointed towards the garden and in a bound vaulted the hedges and came to a skidding stop in the midst of the Roses.

Jack pushed himself out of the chair and ran to the door in time to see the child dismounting from the Horse. It was a magnificent black stallion covered with the slather of having been ridden extremely hard. Its eyes were wide with excitement and nervously stomped back and forth in the garden barely resisting the urge to continue its flight. The child – barely standing to the horse’s chest – grabbed the reins and was attempting to quiet its nerves. It was now obvious the child was a female and wearing leather armor of an ancient pedigree. Her hair was cut roughly in the form of an unruly child…or perhaps if she were attempting to look like a man. Which became evidently the purpose as the face of the girl…woman…was pretty and petite. But, then she turned and looked at Jack standing there in his professor’s clothes(minus the robes).

She stepped to the side of the horse still holding the reins and then produced a short sword from her belt. “Qui es-tu?” She said with the force of one accustomed to being promptly answered.

“Mon nom est Jack!” Jack reflexively retreated from the sword and the aggressive approach of the diminutive little warrior. “ The thought erupted, “The Maid!” “Es-tu celui qu’ls appellent la Pucelle d’Orleans?” Jack asked.

“Oui!” Joan of Arc answered. Then sensing no danger, but an overwhelming curiosity, she began to look about the garden. And, now at the two wide-eyed women in aprons standing in the doorway of the house. “Ou’ suis-je?” Joan whispered.

 

 

 

The Lewis List

640px-The_Kilns_1997

Photo By jschroe from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, USA – Lewis’ House, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7304420

(Author’s note: This is the first chapter of a “Fun” Work in Progress (WIP). Thought I would attempt a Mashup Novel. Taking a break from writing on the Grail Fellowship Series)

Rain fell in sheets across the predawn garden and streaked the windows as Clive Staples Lewis watched from his sitting room. The early roses waving in the brisk wind attempting to dodge the drops. Lewis, lost in thought somewhere in Scotland, gently drew on his pipe, enough to keep the coal alive in the bowl. Awake in the sleeping house, ideas demanded his sleepless attention and pointed him towards action. The sound of the teapot whistling drew him back at the speed of interrupted thought to the present.

Tea in cup, Lewis strode into the drawing room where the typewriter sat, and as he set his cup down, there came a knock on the front door. A deep sigh escaped with a puff from the pipe, and a longing look at the cup. “Who could be at the door at this time of the morning? I’ve a mind to ignore their uncivilized approach when most good people should be asleep.”

Opening the door enough to see and not let the rain in, Lewis looked at the figure standing before him. A young man stood in the rain five feet away holding a small oilskin-wrapped package. Tall and muscular, his hair was long and red. His face beamed with expectation and the passion of an Irishman. His eyes burned with the same jovial curiosity that climbed into Lewis’s mind. The rain was falling in torrents now, but the man was dry as if the sun was out. The water seemed to part above the man’s head and refuse to drench him. His cheeks were ruddy and the eyebrows were the same color as his hair, and his smile was brilliant like a lighthouse in the midst of a north sea storm.

Lewis looked behind the man to see what kind of vehicle had transported the man to his doorstep, only to find there was not a car or bicycle to be seen. He looked back at the man, who stepped forward and held his hand out and in a deep Belfast brogue said, “Mr. Lewis, such a pleasure, I have wanted to physically meet you for so long.” He stepped up into Lewis’s face as he extended his hand in response leaning down to within a breaths distance and placing his hand on the door he gently pushed it open, and said, “May I come in out of this bonny weather?” The last word said as he stepped past Lewis, turned and shut the door.

“Hello there!” Lewis exclaimed as his sense of propriety flooded back at the realization that a total stranger had just pushed his way into his privacy. “What business do you have that requires such an early invasion of my privacy sir!”

“Business? Why the answer to your prayers of late. That’s my business, Jackie! And, my name is Aloysius, but you can call me Fred. Much simpler in these days of simplicity. Don’t you think Professor? Like I said, we don’t get out very often. At least not in any physical sense. Let alone to hobnob with our charges. Excited you should be, my good human. Can’t you feel it?” Fred leaned over and sniffed the cup of tea as he settled into the overstuffed chair.

“Feel it?” Lewis said as he shuffled over to his cup and leaned against the typewriter table. “I’m sorry Fred, I have no idea what you’re rambling on about. But, I think that you should tell me right now exactly why you are here, as your beginning to make absolutely complete nonsense about hob-nobbing and charging about and such. Especially at this unconventional time of the morning, that I normally reserve for myself for my writing. So if you don’t mind, I would appreciate your immediate getting to the point.”

Fred looked up at the perplexed Professor Lewis and smiled his electric torch smile, and held out the package. “There is a matter of utmost importance, been assigned to yourself, Professor. Your prayers for this world, the colors, the stories, the history of people and creatures have arrived in the halls of Heaven. Your love for Him has resulted in this. Just remember one thing, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, to search out a matter is the glory of Kings”. The story has to be written and your imagination is not your own…as you so well understand. Remember, His heart is for you and ultimately for the world. It’s why He came and why He died. But, it’s always been about the heart of man. In this case, Professor your heart and imagination have been chosen to finish the story. And, with that, I will beg your leave my young charge.”

With a blink of brilliant light Fred disappeared, leaving the package in Lewis’s hands.

C.S.Lewis stood as still as a gravestone. Slowly he reached down, picked up the tea and placed the pipe on the pipe holder. He didn’t move again until the tea was gone. Thought after thought cascading through the mind and heart of a man confronted with a first-hand encounter with the extraordinary intrusion of the supernatural into the comfortable but mundane reality of life. Minutes passed before he opened the package. The reluctance to proceed due to an attempt to hang on to the moment of time spent in the presence of what – or who – was obviously one of God’s angels.

Quietly Lewis found his penknife and cut through the string that tied the package, and unwrapped the oilskin. There next to the now empty teacup sat a red leather notebook. Embroidered with Celtic Cable work and embossed with a quite stylized Clive Staples Lewis across the front. The book was ten inches high by eight inches wide and at least five inches deep. A good sized book this was and Lewis expected a heft to it. But, as he picked up the book it was as light as a feather.

Opening the book Lewis saw the pages were empty. Each was luxurious to the touch as silk and yet as thick as lamb parchment. He held the open book under the light of the lamp to look closer at the composition of the tome. The workmanship was beyond the current science of bookmaking. No indication was found of the binding of the leather – or whatever that was – to the pages. Each page was supple and yet unyielding. They seemed to give off a faint luminescence. But, when placed next to his hand there was no light shining on the skin.

Lewis straightened up and looked at the ceiling. “A mystery is what you bring me, Lord? The presence of an angel and now a mystery to lay on top of it? And, what – may I ask – am I supposed to do with such a book as this? And, what story?” The silence settled on the last words of the question. And, then the sunrise exploded through the window and bounced around the room and settled on the book causing the pages to shine with a brilliance of burnished bronze, causing Lewis to set the book down on the tea table as if it were a hot iron.

Fred’s soft disembodied voice drifted into the room from far far away. “Only you can write the story, Jackie. Only you can find the characters. Only you can write the destiny. The story will lead you to Him. You are His cypher. Do not fear, you were created for this.”

At the last word, Lewis’s last thought was interrupted by his brother Warnie. “Who are you talking to Clive? I heard voices and came down here to see what the commotion was.”

Lewis turned to see his brother standing in the doorway still in his bedclothes.

“Well, how do I explain something like this? Or, is this just best left to the secret worlds of creation?” Jackie asked himself…

 

Omnipotence…

The Bubble Nebula

Who exists beyond the edge of the expanding universe?

Jesus!

Who is waiting in the infinite space between spaces?

Jesus!

Who hears the thoughts you have yet to think?

Jesus!

Who ignited the Life Spark with a song from His Heart?

Jesus!

Who formed Human History and captured its years in a disposable bottle?

Jesus!

And, when Science finally finds the answer to existence…

Jesus will be standing there!

 

 

 

 

 

Dead Men Walking…

Handfull of Dirt

We are all dead men walking. We are the new creation, dead to this world and alive to Christ. This understanding is crucial for the war we are in. The following clip illustrates exactly what I mean. 

Lt. Spiers scene from Band of Brothers

Lt. Spiers has a different reason for saying what he told Private Blythe…hopelessness. For the believer though, that is exactly how we are supposed to live. Like we are already dead. Because hopelessness only applies to those who live in this world. If you have been redeemed? Then you are not of this world, but Christ’s, and hopelessness has no hold on you. Rather, give up hope that this world can give you any kind of fulfillment. 
I recommend the sermon Kris Vallotton preached a few years ago on his book Spirit Wars. He does a fantastic job of describing how dead we are to this world. So if we are dead to this world and alive to the promises Jesus gave us? How should we live? How should we fight the war against evil? Fear should have no place in our lives as fear has no effect upon us, other than what you give it. If you believe the lies, then you allow fear to have a place in your heart.   
 
When you were baptized. You became a completely new species of human. Your body may fail you, and we are subject to all the same crud – day in and day out – as anyone else. However, we ARE dead to this world as our lives are seated in heaven. And, yes, it’s a matter of perspective. (in some ways we are the original “Dead Men Walking”) But, that perspective is what keeps me “Daring Great Things”.
I dare, with the understanding that my reward is just on the other side of eternity. I mean, what can they do? Kill me?
I love my kids and absolutely adore my new grandchild Autumn. But, my tribe is waiting. All the Hastings that came before that are before the throne are watching me. Cheering me and the other Hastings still here in this world to attempt great things!
I have always wondered how the disciples went from fearful men cowering in their homes from the Romans to world changers. But, now I understand. Their perspective was from Heaven to Earth. They were convinced that that perspective was the true reality of their lives and that they were already there in Heaven. They were Dead Men Walking! Nothing to LOSE, and everything to GAIN!

 

 

 

 

Act Your Age!

hourglass

Recently I had an interesting conversation with a good friend who is helping me edit some of my stories. We are working on a children’s story I wrote in the 1990’s. She complimented my ability to write for children. I responded with the following;

“I like writing for kids. Probably, because I never really grew up. If there is anyone you know that resembles a modern day Peter Pan (emotionally anyway) it is probably me.
 
I actually see no point in giving up my childhood. I can function as an adult…have been forced to. But, I refuse to cross that line that society draws in the sand that says, “Act your age”.
 
Sorry I will go to my grave before I cross that line”
 
So, what does it mean to “act your age”?
 
Everyone hears that at some point in their lives. Mostly, when you are a little person. Parents have a tendency to use that one on their children – the reasoning behind that escapes me. I think it has to do with the parent’s perception that the child is not behaving correctly. The more I think about it, I realize how silly it is to make that statement. Did the parent have a manual somewhere that laid out the correct behavioral characteristics of a 13 year old boy or girl? No, that statement comes from a spirit of annoyance with a child as they behave in an immature way. Which we all understand is “Normal” for a child.
 
So how do we deal with this when that phrase is applied to a grown man or woman? Often, it is not spoken out loud. It is implied through relationship and I will leave that question for different blog.
 
Now there is a bit of wisdom in learning to live as an adult.  1st Corinthians 13:11 nails the need for living as a mature adult succinctly.
 
“11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
 
But, then Jesus tells us in Matthew 18: 3 to maintain a “Childlike Spirit”
 
“3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
 
So there is the contrast. Grow up, but do not lose that child like spirit. I have to say that the verse about childlikeness of Matthew 18 seems to be speaking more to maintaining a spirit of humility than one of a childlike nature. Still the sense that Jesus wants us to maintain that sense of humility points to His desire that we remain teachable. Open to His instruction and direction. Children – for the most part – know that they don’t know everything. The curiosity of a child can be cultivated and nurtured to reveal the destiny that God has built into them. I believe that Our Father wants us to maintain that kind of sensitivity, hunger, understanding. When it comes to life, becoming an adult does not mean that you now know all the answers. This comes down to the core of our identity – who do we think we are.
 
Back to the phrase “act your age”. Let’s take a different angle to this. What age? Here are a few that I thought of. Perhaps, you can add to this list.
 
  • Perceived Age
  • Emotional Age (Soul age?)
  • Intellectual Age
  • Chronological Age
  • Observed Age (what others think)
  • Eternal Age

Which one do you identify with. Perceived age? That is the one where when you look in the mirror.  What do you see? Do you still see the 19 year old? Or, is that 60 year old staring back at you the real you? How about emotional age? I started this off with my defiant attitude towards aging. I said, emotionally I feel young and I refuse to let go of that. Chronological age? Again, is there a “How to Book” out there that can tell me exactly how I am supposed to act as a 60 year old Financial Planner? Observed age? To be very honest with you, I don’t give a flying fernertenburger if anyone thinks I’m acting my age. Then it comes to Eternal age.

 
Eternal age. This is what you have when you become the bride of the Christ. We now have been born again into an eternal kingdom. Someday we will sluff off this cocoon and become like HIM. What does that understanding do for your concept of your personal identity? So now how does this argument work when you throw that monkey wrench in the works. If you have eternal life? How the Heck does one act their eternal age? You act like a Child of The Creator of All Things! You are heir to eternity! (HINT: Read your Bible! There actually is a manual for learning to act your Eternal Age) 
 
 But, what if you are not a Child of God?
 
If you have not become a Christ Follower. It is not too late. Reach out to Him and ask Him to give you the Eternal Age. Make Him your King. Surrender your baskets of woe, pain, grief, frustration, and the trappings of a world gone weird and He will change you. He will forgive your sins and make you into a new creation. Then you will have the Eternal Age.
 
 

A Facebook Story

Ludlow

The Amazing Utility of Facebook

Night in the Mojave requires layering. This becomes extremely important when movement stops. Inserting with the always excellent assistance from the Nightstalkers south of ludlow, a tiny way-station along I-40 in the Mojave Desert. The Stalkers left us in the low foothills along Bagdad Chase road and we walked towards the lights. Zero Dark Thirty looks like this no matter where you are. Cold, lonely, and usually filled with things to stumble over in the dark. Thank goodness for night vision.
NSA intercepted telephone communications which placed nameless faceless terrorists approaching Ludlow from the east. The scenario of Jihadi’s inserting along the U.S. Mexico border – anticipated for years – was now so commonplace Special Activities Division and SoCom assigned a team permanently to the southwest region. So here we are, humping into an afterthought of a place to live to intercept professional “haters” somewhere far from civilization. The thought being that out here, there would be minimal collateral damage.
My name is Captain Terry Gentry, on loan from Seal Team Four. our SOG connection, Master Gunny Devin O’Kirk walked next to me listening to the Commando Solo ELINT Aircraft keeping us updated on the progress the targets were making traveling west on I-40. Quietly pacing measured steps behind Gunny O’Kirk was Sergeant Enrique Llona Falconi. Enrique scared Terry sometimes, but was Devin’s favorite. Born of Ecuadorian ex-patriots living in Fresno California, Enrique served as their point man and navigator. Enrique’s favorite movie was the Adam Sandler version of the classic film Mr. Deeds. Everyone on the team felt that it was spookily appropriate that his favorite character was John Turturro’s character Emilio Lopez. After all he could recite almost all of his lines. But, by far his best imitation was his ability to sneak up on you like Emilio did in the movie. One moment you were alone, the next, there was Enrique, smiling at you saying, “I fear you are underestimating the sneakiness, sir!” It was unanimous that Enrique be point man.
Corporal Sammy Samson – Comms Tech – carrying the team’s iPad and signals jamming equipment, and Staff Sergeant Haliburton James – Burt – team sniper filling in behind made up the rest of the team. Burt standing a full six foot seven, cradling his Socom PSR with TrackingPoint scope, reminded Terry of a very mean Blake Griffin. Sammy didn’t remind Terry of anyone. Sammy was the ghost of the group. Urban ops especially. Sammy looked so generic, Terry swore he could stand in a store window and mimic a manikin and spend all day without being discovered.
Tonight promised to be an interesting exercise in communications cooperation between SOAR, NSA, and the team. As controversial as the news was making it, the communications intercepts value had proven themselves at an increasing rate the more illegal immigrants infiltrated into the desert southwest. Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Southern California were rapidly becoming one gigantic – and deadly – hide and seek playground. So the intercepts rivaled gold in value…in Terry’s opinion. So tonight the relay looked like this; NSA relaying to the Solo, then downlinking to Samson and Gunny O’Kirk. The trick would be getting into Ludlow before the bad guys.

Driving all night from Texas is not an easy task. But, driving at night can make it easier. Less traffic and cooler temperatures. Jim Thibodeau and his daughter Wendy O’Neil – a little road weary – anticipating stopping for sleep in Barstow, pulled into Ludlow looking for gas. The map showed both a Chevron and the Ludlow 76. Hopefully, one of them would be open at close to 1AM. The Advocare convention still fresh in their minds, had occupied much of the conversation since leaving Texas. Jim’s weight loss fired up the enthusiasm in his retired years as well as his daughters incredible energy propelling the entire trip.
Jim faced a little bit of a dilemma with his weight loss. Really it came down to realistic priorities. This thought always caused Jim to chuckle. Jim looked in the rearview mirror to see a thinning mirror image of Santa Claus. A graduate of the International School of Santa’s, his Santa pictures reflected the spirit of Norman Rockwell’s picture of the Jolly One. Never was there a better Santa. But, now health dictated weight loss and daughter Wendy turned dad onto Advocare. The weight fell off quickly and Jim became a disciple.
Wendy, a devoted follower of Jesus and missionary to Ireland, formed the other half of her husband Erin and together they had built a joyful family. Erin and Wendy, both dark haired and handsome young adults looked Irish and had the name to prove it. Their love for the island tinged all of their thoughts of eventually returning to pick up their ministry work. But, this week was father daughter. Wendy, very tired from a days worth of driving urgently looked forward to the gas station’s restroom. It would be her turn to drive the rest of the way into Barstow – hopefully they could find a room.
“There’s the Gas Station Wendy.” Jim sighed with his own sense of relief coming through. “You go while I fill up. Then I will go. You want anything from the Mini-Mart?”
“No Dad, I just want to get going? We still have some of the Gorp if I get hungry I will munch on that.” Wendy yawned.
“Ok.” Jim yawned back. “You sure you don’t want some coffee or something?”
Wendy just stretched, pushing her hands against the ceiling of the car. “Nah, I’m good. I just gotta use the restroom really bad.”
Jim just smiled and pulled into the station, the only car at the pumps.
Wendy, quickly sprinted to the restroom as Jim ran the credit card through the card reader and began to pump gas.

“Weasle One, target leaving I-40.” Squawked the voice in Gunny O’Kirk’s ear piece. “Looks like they are heading for the Chevron Station there on the corner.”
“Roger Stryper One.” Devin replied. “We can see them coming down Cucero. We are in position. There is one other vehicle in the station. Looks like a man and a woman. Is this a go. Potential collateral damage situation here.”
“Wait one Weasle.” came the answer.
The team, hidden in the trees and in the outbuildings across the street at the closed Ludlow Cafe, watched as the target van pulled up to the pumps next to the other vehicle. Terry glanced over at Devin as if to convey his nervousness with the situation.
“Weasle One, Stryper One. Over” The anticipated answer came through the cold desert air. “Prosecute, take down. Capture if you can. But, do not take chances. Targets are considered armed with AK’s and RPG’s.”
Terry and Devin, just motioned go to the team. Shadows separated themselves from the desert flora and converged on the gas station. Terry tapped Burt on the shoulder and the PSR coughed a suppressed bolt of metallic phlegm, into the engine block of the van, disabling it. Gunny O’Kirk sprinted from the back of the Cafe across the street, him M-4 leading the way. Samson and Enrique, advanced from the eastern corner of the intersection from their hide in a stand of trees. Speed and extreme surprising violence would be the key to this take down.

Standing in the cold night air helped clear Jim’s foggy mind. Even here under the lights of the gas station, “I can see so many stars! So amazing what God has made. Just think, there are more stars out there than there are grains of sand in the ocean! If that doesn’t blow your mind nothing will.”
The nozzle on the hose of the pump Jim had ended up with didn’t have a clip to hold the nozzle. So Jim had to stand there holding the nozzle as it filled the tank. The annoyance not enough to interrupt the rapture of the stars Jim held onto. But, standing there he noticed classic white dodge van pull in across the pump island from him. It was being driven by hispanic farm workers, it seemed. But, then Jim noticed the men beginning to file out of the van. They looked different. They looked middle eastern.
BANG!
Jim heard an extremely loud noise come from the van. As if someone had hit the van with a sledgehammer. Things began to move in slow motion from that point. Jim noticed the guns coming out of the van. Those were AK-47’s. He had seen enough movies to recognize their distinctive shape. Standing there holding onto the nozzle Jim saw three of the men drop immediately, blood spurting from multiple gunshot wounds. But, there was no noise. Until, one of the middle easterners managed to get his gun firing. That was when Jim noticed the men running from across the street. Obviously, American special forces warriors, they were firing as they advanced. The difference between the middle easterner firing his AK randomly in desperation and the fast and silent professionalism of the operators readily apparent as Jim’s mind took the entire scene in.
Then one of the middle easterners ran around the front of the van and firing to east towards the two operators maneuvering past a row of short ornamental trees, was backing down towards Jim. And, Jim could see that the operators were not firing, because of Jim standing there.
So Jim took the nozzle out of the car’s fuel intake and smashed the middle easterner in the head gas spewing all over the side of the car and over the now unconscious jihadi. And, as quick as it started the fight was over. Out of six jihadi’s, four died, one was wounded by a carefully placed round from Gunny O’Kirk and the last concussed by Jim “Santa Claus” Thibodeau was alive and being carried to a Black Hawk Helicopter in the middle of the intersection.

Wendy opened the door from the restroom to see her father standing with a group of soldiers who seemed to be clapping him on the back like old friends.
“Dad, what’s going on?” Wendy asked.
Jim just turned to his daughter and smiled.
“It’s a guy thing Wendy. Just a guy thing.”
The Team looked at the puzzled look on Wendy’s face and laughed. The tension of another successful operation draining off with the implausible ending to the night.
Jim and Wendy talked well into the night.

The Swasey Drive Fire of 1973

Firefighting

 

 

August 1973 was my third season of fighting fire in the mountains, foothills, and grasslands of Northern California. The California Division of Forestry – as it was known in the seventies – hired lots of high school graduates and college students for the summer fire season. It was what I called a “Primo” summer job and paid well enough to cover most of my costs for college. At the same time, however, it was a difficult job. Beyond the normal understanding that fire fighting is dangerous, the physical demands required substantial endurance conditioning. Each summer after the final semester, my job at CDF Fire Station Fawn Lodge would be waiting for me. But, after nine months of studying – and partying – it took a couple of weeks to get my conditioning back, so I could survive the brutal physical demands of fighting fire in triple digit temperature. 

 

Fawn Lodge sits in a natural bowl in the surrounding mountains of eastern trinity county. It is planted right on highway 299 on the road from Eureka and Redding. For a self-proclaimed wild man who liked to party hard, it was the perfect station.  Situated far enough from headquarters in Redding, Fawn Lodge – and Trinity County mostly – enjoyed a certain amount of isolation. Life slowed down once the conditioning came back and the CDF routine settled in. Still, each summer had its “white knuckle” moments and the summer of 1973, our trucks saw plenty of action.

 

June and July of 1973 came and went with relative ease.  But, by the final week of July and the first two weeks of August, fire conditions reached extreme levels. And, the second week of August –the week of the Swasey Drive fire – turned into a tiring series of sleepless nights and days of sequential fires.

 

In the middle of Wednesday night the larger of our two trucks deployed to a reserve position at headquarters in Redding. A rash of grass and brush fires occupied the Redding trucks requiring us to fill the standby slot. The trip down Buckhorn Summit snakes down towards Whiskeytown lake and normally I would have enjoyed the ride. But, after two and a half seasons of driving on mountain roads on the back of a fire truck, the trip to Redding at o’ dark thirty in the morning barely registered. My sleep interrupted, I determined to not miss any and buckling my self in with both seat belts to the thin foam seat pad, I wedged myself between the bulkheads of the truck and slept like a baby.

 

We never made it to headquarters. Headquarters diverted us to a fire south of Anderson California to help mop up a 500 acre brush fire. The sleep on the back of the truck was the last sleep I would get for the next 3 days.

 

Time passed quickly with us hopping from fire to fire, stopping only long enough to pump water and fuel into the truck, or to eat. Three days passed with little sleep, and when we did sleep it consisted of quick naps on the back of the truck or on tarp on the burnt out ground. Most of our activities consisted mopping up contained fires or watching for flare ups. Making sure that a fire stayed “Put-Out”. Although the night could be peaceful and allowed for a measure of rest at times, the requirement to remain alert eliminated any actual slumber. Night time on a fire forms a kind of alien landscape smelling of burnt grass. A surreal landscape only punctuated by the creeping movement of our truck patrolling the perimeter looking for smoldering embers.

 

The morning of the third day the fire incidents slowed down long enough for us to come into headquarters for showers and sleep. It was lunchtime, we all longed for the joy of a hot meal without the smell of smoke. We almost made it when the alarm on the radio sounded within view of the headquarters building, dashing our hopes of rest.  

 

A major wind-driven forest fire ignited to the south of highway 299 west of Redding in foothills covered with heat dried grasses, stands of manzanita, Live Oak, Valley Oak and Digger Pines.  With winds pushing 20 to 30 miles per hour the fire escalated from a small grass fire to a major fast-moving forest fire jumping from tree to tree. It burnt southwest into an area dotted with expensive homes, small ranches and an elementary school. The dry conditions of the long Northern California summer had created the perfect conditions for an explosive fire. The growth of the fire quickly escalated its status to that of a potential disaster. Fire fighting resources began moving towards the fire with a measured professional urgency. Trucks from all over the county and inmates from the California Department of Corrections raced to the fire. By the time headquarters diverted us, the complexity and speed of the fire caused the decision makers to overlook the fact that our truck had not been replenished with fuel or water since the day before. To be fair, our own sense of immediacy short circuited any practical common sense understanding that our truck would be useless in its current condition. Thus, our exhausted crew and empty truck – sirens on, adrenaline pumping, sleep forgotten – responded as trained.

 

Our Captain Bob Schepe – a consummate professional firefighter – recognized the serious nature of the situation in the level of excitement in the voices of the dispatchers, and by the number and speed of resources being allocated. That excitement contagiously raised the level of excitement in the truck. Driving through the heart of a city sirens blasting is a unique experience. The – “This is what I always wanted to do-ness” – that every boy experiences the first time a bright red fire truck screams past, kicked in for me every time we used the lights and sirens. But, Captain Bob’s stress coping mechanism was chain-smoking and Captain Bob was furiously coping. Each nervous drag creating our own smoke trail down highway 299 on the way to the fire.

 

We arrived on scene and the on scene commander positioned our truck – another asset on the chessboard – in a long line of fire trucks on Lower Springs Road which intersected with Swasey Drive about half a mile ahead. Captain Bob told me to drive. Then, grabbing the backfire torch began backfiring the south side of Lower Springs road, one of the other firefighters following behind with the hose mopping up the fire closest to the road. The dangerously low-level of water in the tank still not evident as we approached the main body of the fire.

 

It never occurred to me what kind of problem one hundred and ten in the shade, the heat from a raging fire, and chain-smoking could create for the human physiology. But, Captain Bob found they are ingredients capable of stopping a strong man in his tracks. Captain Bob swinging the backfire torch made it about a quarter of a mile to the intersection of Lower Springs Road and Swasey Drive before falling unconscious in the road. It would be determined later he had experienced a heat stroke. Before I had time to react a CDF Helicopter descended and carried Captain Bob away to the hospital. This left me temporarily…and apprehensively…in command of the truck. But, within a few minutes an Engineer from another truck jumped on board and took command.

 

As we turned onto Swasey Drive the full extent of what we were facing became evident – our truck was first in line. There laid out in front of our truck shimmering in the heat roared the largest fire I had ever seen. For a moment it seemed like I was a spectator watching a disaster movie. The road sloped up a gentle hill for perhaps a mile partially hidden by the swirling smoke permeating the air. The fire – for the moment – contained to the east side of the road had jumped from the brush to the tops of the digger pines and was racing towards the giant steel towers of the power lines flowing downhill from Whiskeytown Dam. Overhead, fire suppression air-tankers positioned themselves to drop their loads, while hundreds of inmates shuffled along the side of the road strung out in a long weary line, carrying brush hooks, pulaski’s, and shovels ready to keep the fire from jumping over Swasey Drive. to the west.

 

Our improvised leader responding to the orders of the on scene commander on the radio pulled out of line and gunned the truck up the road. Directed to race ahead of the fire to catch spotfires jumping the road, we raced past the inmates to our right and the fire – now well over a hundred feet high – to our left. The fire, moving faster than the inmates could walk, was escaping the boundaries of the road. 

 

Our truck raced past the head of the fire. The wind now driving it forward faster than a man could run. The sight of the fire only a number of yards from our truck raised the adrenaline – and fear – level on our truck to the maximum. So much so that when we pulled up to the spot fires on the right side of the road – spreading quickly in a rapidly growing circle of burning dry grass – my fingers fumbled to get the fire pump started. The engineer took over and directed me to take the hard-line from the hose reel and attack the spot fire. Jumping the barbed wire fence I ran towards the growing grass fire. Hearing the pump light off I opened the nozzle…no water. The urgency of the day had finally caught up with our truck. And, now the consequences of that urgency were upon us.

 

I looked up from the now useless hose – a desperate question on my face – to see the engineer pointing at the approaching fire on the other side of the road. He was backlit by a fifty foot wall of roaring raging fire! Fear began screaming in my ears sounding like a locomotive racing through a tunnel at full speed. The fire caught up with us faster than we could react. Smoke from the fire shut out the sun creating an eerie noisy and choking twilight in the middle of the day. It pounced on us like a supernatural carnivorous being.

 

“Get back on the Truck!” Screamed the engineer. “Get back here or we are all going to die!” He was attempting to reel the hose back to the truck. 

 

As we jumped back over the barbed wire fence I realized that my uniform shirt was catching fire from the sparks falling from the superheated air. Grabbing the hand hold to climb into the back compartment I noticed the paint on the truck beginning to bubble. Breathing became painful.

 

Once on board, the engineer accelerated through the fire and smoke in a desperate dash to life, dragging the hose behinds us the nozzle bouncing on the road adding its own sparks to those falling from the sky.

 

Within a few minutes we managed to drive to a safe zone, in a temporary fire camp. I sat in the back of the truck watching the activity around me moving in slow motion for what seemed like a long time. An EMT brought us a number of water bottles – I poured one over my head – and checked us out. He told me I was in shock and took me to a tented area to rest.

 

I was given a week off to rest up after that ordeal and during that week decided that there were safer ways to pay for college and resigned the following day.

 

 

 

 

 

The Payback

Image

The Payback

by Derek Hastings

My name is Zachary Tankersly. I’m a habitual practical joker. My wife tells me it’s one of my bad habits and I really need to stop devising and playing practical jokes. However, she still laughs when a particularly well planned scheme comes to its intended conclusion. Still, I know she’s right, because, sometimes the consequences take on an unintended life – an unexpected trajectory – of their own.

Today, however, practical joking is the furthest thing from my mind. I’m standing in the crowd of hopeful workers at the Baltimore Docks hoping and praying to hear my name called for a day’s work. Two years into what the newspapers are calling a depression, finding work mostly means daily frustration and a continual gnawing hunger.

Desperate men standing in the cold dirty air each as hungry as I are crowding the dock…it’s the same every day. Some appear to be almost dead from malnutrition rather than alive. They present a dilemma for the shipping companies and labor unions. If they sign these men to work, will they finish the day? Will they give a full day’s work without dying? I know some of the men waiting for work, having grown up in the same neighborhoods. There, two rows ahead, I spot Jeremy Brooks, the neighborhood bully. The one person I spent the most time figuring out how to avoid on the way to and from school. Bully took on a new shade of black with Jeremy. Forming a phalanx around him stood his current cadre of drinking buddies everyone of them, crude, brutal, and amoral wharf-rats. Off to my left – unsuccessfully trying not to be noticed – stands Tyree Henderson, a gloriously black human being.

Tyree’s father and my father, Gene Tankersly, worked together for years. My father drove a garbage truck for the City of Baltimore. Tyree’s father, Samson Henderson, managed the Can-Handlers for my father’s truck. So Tyree and I grew up around each other. Tyree went to a different school and church than I did, but, on weekends our fathers, and our families, would gather to barbeque and listen to the Orioles game on the radio.

Tyree has a special place in my heart, firmly cemented one cold October afternoon. After high school let out, I had arranged an elaborate prank to catch Tyree unawares. Tyree was difficult to fool. He was strong as two grown men by the time we were seniors in high school, and as difficult to surprise as a wild fox. Not much got past Tyree. So it had become my special challenge to catch Tyree in a glorious prank – and live to tell the story. Unfortunately, Jeremy Brooks fell into the trap. Instead of a good-humored Tyree responding with surprise and laughter, Jeremy’s legendary temper exploded. The first person Jeremy saw was my horrified face. All I could see was a pain-filled future as I prepared myself for the beating of my life.

Frantically looking around, all of my senses were heightened, straining to find the quickest escape route away from the situation. I was trapped with my back to the brick wall of the alley where I had positioned myself to view my masterpiece of a prank. Slowly I sidled out of the alley eyes focused on Jeremy – and by now his gang of bully wannabe’s – and began to back down the street. Jeremy’s face blazed bright red with the embarrassment of being caught in one of the “cockroaches” tricks, the need for revenge written all over his face. But, for some reason Jeremy just stood and glared at me. Then silently Jeremy and his gang backed away and disappeared into the alley I had just vacated.

Puzzled I turned around. There stood Tyree, his father, and his two older brothers.

“I see your pranksterism almost got the better of you this time” Samson smoothly chastised. “Perhaps now you will think twice about your constant scheming. I hate to think what those boys would have done to you if we had not come along when we did Zach. I think it would be a very good idea for you to come along with us the rest of the way to your house.” Mr. Henderson had that way about him. You never argued. And, given the circumstances at that moment, arguing was out of the question. My gratitude towards Tyree and his family was stamped upon my soul that afternoon.

Now I stand watching my friend – both of us grown and with families to feed – worrying and fretting about feeding his wife and kids. The odds of being chosen are less than ten percent with the number of jobs available compared to the number of men standing here on the docks. The odds far worse for a black man on the Irish controlled docks. Tyree is actually the only black man to consistently show up expecting to be chosen. I think it has to do with his pride. It’s Tyree’s way of saying, “I’m the problem that’s never going away! So you best be picking me and get it over with!” Sometimes I visualize Tyree being chosen, and then turning them down, just to make a point. Standing there dancing in place— like everyone else— to stay warm, I realized that that would be a great prank for Tyree to pull over the shipping company.

Still, I know his need for work has become more a matter of survival. There is a new Tyree in the family. Food equals life for the newborn now. Acts of defiance will not feed a family.

So I began praying a desperate prayer, “Jesus, pick Tyree! Convict their hearts to pick Tyree, Lord. The man is stronger than any three of us standing here right now! How can they not see this? How can you, Lord, let this injustice go on!”

My indignation over the unfairness of the situation causing my prayer to take the form of a challenge to The God I had heard could do miracles. Over the shuffling and grumbling of the crowd a quiet voice began speaking, “Ok, challenge accepted. I will use your prayer…and I will use you! Listen and believe!”

Not a second went by, before I heard a different voice calling my name. The Boss-Man was calling my name!

Realizing what The Lord had meant about using me, I push forward and grabbing my work chit, I turn to find Tyree. He is turning to leave. Head down, dejected, Tyree begins to shuffle slowly away from the Dock Yard. Running to him I grab his arm and pull him down to my level whispering, “You once saved my bacon when I least deserved it or expected it. Now I get to pay you back!” Shoving the chit into Tyree’s hand, and ignoring the look of shock on the big man’s face, I turn to go before he can refuse me. But, Tyree snags my collar in his grappling hook hands and starts to mumble something about not being able to accept the chit. About how I needed it as much as he did. Looking him right in the eyes I threaten him, “You take that chit! Or, I promise I will make your life miserable with the pranks I will foist on you!!”

The threat birthed a smile on the strong man I knew and he laughed at me, “I’d like to see you try…but, it’s a deal white boy!” Reaching out Tyree shakes my hand and gets in the line of workers heading through the gate. None of the other workers in line daring to challenge the big black man.

That was Tyree’s first day of continual work. He proved himself so capable that he earned a permanent position on the docks and eventually Tyree leveraged me onto his crew. We both stayed employed throughout the remainder of the depression. Sometimes it pays to challenge The Creator of the Universe.

Angel at the Bus

HISTORICAL PABT PHOTOS AND CONSTRUCTION

I wrote this a number of years ago for a book on angels by Jerry Orthner, “Angels: Friends in High Places”

January 5, 1980, dawned cold and cloudy, snow gently falling on the empty street. Only a few days earlier I had publicly acknowledged Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. And today I was to catch a city bus that would take me to the Port Authority in New York City and on to coast guard training in Yorktown. Nancy and I moved slowly, trying not to think of the four months we would be apart.

Finally, with my duffel bag, a carry-on and my new Bible in the car, we headed for the bus station. About five minutes before the bus was scheduled to arrive, I realized I had left my uniform hat back at the house. Nancy jumped in the car and drove back to get it, leaving me to wait for the bus. By the time she returned, I had missed the bus that would have allowed me to make connections in New York.

I finally boarded the next “86” and arrived at the Port Authority precisely at 10:30. I jumped off in a panic, my mind swimming with images of showing up late for Officer Candidate School.

Once inside, I found the ticket area, got in line and bought my ticket. My bus, they said, was leaving from Gate 36. I ran the full length of the building before I saw a sign that indicated that Gate 36 was downstairs and all the way back at the other end.

I glanced down at my watch. It was 10:45 and there were no people waiting in line! I crashed into the metal door with all the weight of my body and luggage. There sat the bus, engine idling.

Is this the bus to Baltimore?” I asked breathlessly as the driver opened the door.

Yes, it is,” he replied.

The man climbed down from his seat and proceeded to the cargo compartment to stow my bag. He was a big man, over six feet tall with broad shoulders, a big smile and white hair. As I turned to climb into the bus, he asked, “What’s that book you have there?”

It’s my new Bible,” I replied. “I just bought it last weekend.”

The driver smiled.

Read Psalm 91:11 and you will see why I waited for you.”

What?” I exclaimed, exhausted from the excitement.

Read Psalm 91:11 and you will see why I waited for you.”

I climbed on board, found a seat on the let side about halfway back near the window and opened my Bible. “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.”

I looked up. The driver was watching me in the large rearview mirror.

Beautiful, isn’t it?” he said as our eyes met.

Sometime later, in Baltimore, I watched as the bus pulled out of the station and stopped at a traffic signal a short distance down the road. The driver turned, locked eyes with me and, with another big smile, waved. Amazed, I waved back.

When I finally reached the motel, I called Nancy and told her about the incident on the bus.

Maybe the man was your guardian angel,” she suggested.

As first such a thing was difficult to believe, but when I thought about it, I realized that I had not pre-purchased my tickets and no one knew I was coming. Although I arrived almost fifteen minutes past the departure time, the driver said he had specifically waited just for me! And, what’s more, he had waited because God had commanded His angel to guard me along my way.

Throughout the years I have held on to this memory as a very personal and special gift from my Heavenly Father. I believe the Lord sent His angel to establish in my heart whose child I had become.