Saved From Burning Building [Part one]

Until I was six, my family lived in an old two story house with a tin roof. The upstairs was more like the loaf of a barn than a house but it was spacious. So big in fact that mother had a close line up stairs but that is another story. We also had a wood heater upstairs just as we did down stairs. All the boys slept upstairs and Mother, Daddy and the three girls slept down stairs. It was a cold January night and we had a fire in both heaters. Daddy and the girls had gone to my aunt Cora’s for a visit. My oldest two siblings were out and I don’t remember where. This left my brother John [age 13], Mother and myself. It wasn’t late, probably around 6:00 PM but I had already gone to sleep on the couch. The next thing I knew, I was being carried by my 13 year old brother. He carried me outside and put me down and told me not to move. He went back in to help mother who was trying to put out the fire that had started from the upstairs heater but there was no use, in minutes the flames were soaring through the roof into the cool dark January night. Neighbor started pouring in from all directions. It was cold and I was in my fruit of the looms, no pajamas. I doubt anyone in the family having pajamas but I know I didn’t. The men were bringing out furniture and they brought out our old wooden box that mother used to store clothes in and so I got in the box just to keep warm. The box and I were at a safe distance and the fire kept me from freezing. In all the trauma, they forgot all about me. Mother went into shock and eventually was carried to the hospital. My baby sister and sister two years older were with Daddy. Our neighbors found me and put me in their pick up truck with the motor running and the heat on. I had also found some all clothes that I was using as a blanket. I was there for awhile and had a good view of the fire. There was no hope is saving the house are most of the contents. Most of Daddy’s WWII relics were destroyed along with Mother’s pictures and keep sakes. Everything went up in flames and in just a few short horrifying minutes, it was all gone.

burning house.jpg

We didn’t have all that much but it was upsetting to Mother and although Daddy never let it show, I am sure that he was upset as well. Every thing was so confused and Mother went into shock but the neighbors took charge. Everything that needed to be done was done. James Newby, one of our close family friends and neighbors told Daddy not to worry about me. I had been warming in his truck for more than an hour. He said “Jack can go home with us and he can stay with us as long as he needs to”. Daddy had his hands full and he agreed so off I went. I don’t know whether it began that night or not, but the Newby’s basically adopted me. I stayed with them several days before our family got settled in my Grandmother’s house.

We lived in my grandmothers house that winter but neighbors and friend came together and helped daddy build the house back. I don’t think any one charged him for labor and I am sure that some helped with the material. We were in the new house by the next Winter. We moved it without any of the house being finished. It was framed, blacked in, had a roof and a chimney. We lived in the basement for a good while. There were no steps to the second floor nor the third for the first few weeks. My brother and I would climb a ladder to the attic that had only a tongue and groove pine floor. We had no electric blankets. My brother did find an old radio that he and I listened to. We had to sleep under so many quilts that you couldn’t turn your toes up. Looking back, I don’t know how Daddy did it. He would work all day and then come home at night and work on that house. This went on for years.

We all pitched in and finished Mother’s closets in the 1980’s. Some of her closets did not even have doors. Mother and Daddy loved that old house. It was home to me for many, many years.

Now for the rest of the story. The Newby’s not only took care of me the night of the fire and the week after, they gave me a job when I was in the 7th grade. I was in hog heaven. I rode the back of a four-row John Deere planter. At the end of the day, I was covered in dust but I loved every minute. A man couldn’t have a better boss than Jimmy Newby. They helped me through high school and college. At times, they created jobs just to help me through school. I love tractors and they owed big powerful tractors. 

Jerry and I attended high school and college together. From college, I went straight to Seminary where I graduated in May of 1974. Needless to say, the life of a rural pastor in those days [1970’s] was not very lucurtive but this family never stopped supporting me. I think the Christmas Cards started coming in 1976 and they never stopped. Had it not been for them, I would have had more than one blue Christmas. In those days, we lived 82 miles from home and Hannah loved the golden arches. Hey, I love the golden arches and because of their love and generosity, we got to stop on the way home every year. It is not a big deal today, but in those days, it was huge.

Hallmark Movies, A Christmas Tradition

My wife and I have established a Christmas Tradition. On Sunday nights, we watch the Hallmark Christmas movie that she has taped from the night before or from Sunday night. You have to understand how this tradition got started.

Our taste, my wife and I, is totally different:

  • She likes the NFL–I’d rather watch paint dry.
  • She loves Golf–I’d rather watch grass grow.
  • She likes the YOUNG AND RUTHLESS–I’d rather have a root canal.
  • She likes Wheel of Fortune–I’d rather be water boarded.
  • She watches the Morning Show {religiously} with Kathy Lee and Michael Strahand. [The black guy with the space between his teeth. He is a very smart man and I suppose the females would say he is good looking. He is no Jason Bowling but who is?]–I’d rather hear be on the computer.
  • She watches Island Hunters-I’d rather have a spend the night party with my nine grandkids. [She found an Island last night for 4 million. We ought to buy it and put all these Muslims on it]

I could go on and on but you get the point: we do not like the same programs. We are married and we intend to stay together so we agree to watch certain things together but it is a short list. The HALLMARK Christmas movies is on the list.

Earlier tonight, we watched THE BRIDGE. Don’t waste your time. It is about a heathen woman who believes in works and refuses to go to church with her sweet husband, even on Christmas Eve. She is a goody-two-shoes who thinks her works will get her into heaven. Her faith is in herself and her husband. He wants her faith to be in something bigger.

I am an incurable romantic but the romantic plot is just not right. The guy breaks up with his life time sweet heart who I find attractive and falls in love with a twiggy. The girl is so skinny, if she wore a hat, she would look like an 8 penny nail. Listen, I am an old man and I want to see at least one attractive woman per movie. The old heifer that refuses to go to church is no longer pretty to me.


By the way, the setting goes back and forth between Seattle, Washington and Franklin, Tennessee where the two lovers are attending Belmont College known for its conservatory in music. I like both cities but if I had pick one, it would be Franklin. Twiggy’s father, living in Seattle, is a control freak who cares more about himself than he does his daughters happiness. I don’t like the guy.

I am not finished but close: it is what I call a slow starter and I wanted to go to my computer after the first commercial break which June FF through but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. This is important to her and I am a sensitive husband. The movie just didn’t get any better until the last 20 minutes or so: suddenly I was hooked but there was not enough time for it to end right.

I am telling June–

  • This is not going to end right and I don’t like it.
  • This old heifer is not going to church, she is full of herself.
  • The controlling father is ruining his daughter’s [Twiggy] life. He lies, he manipulates and has her promised to a nerd. How be it, the boy in Franklin is a musician but I will take a musician over a nerd any day. Actually, I would prefer a guy with a good job who loves to work.
  • It gets down to the two minutes mark and the young lovers [miles a part] are talking on the phone: Control Freak has driven a wedge between them and they don’t understand what is going on. So you have two ‘pitiful’ lovers separated by a lying, conniving, compulsive control freak.
  • There is less than a minute and I telling June…It’s not ending right. The good man ask his unbelieving wife to go with him to the Christmas Eve service and she gives him this speech about how much she adores him and she does not need church or God, he is her object of worship. What is this hussy smoking.
  • THEN IT HAPPENS–scrolling across our 55 incher is the caption…TO BE CONTINUED ON CHRISTMAS 2016.

a payback is hell

Are you kidding me? Our composite age is 135 years. The first thing June said was, “We may be dead by Christmas of 2016.” Listen folks this is no way to treat Senior Adults. I’m going to see if Hallmark has a Facebook page: look out if they do- As Yosemite Sam would say, “I ‘ma goner blast them.”

I told June, I will not remember the first part if I have to wait a year to see the second part. What are these people thinking. Matter of fact, I will forget the entire movie in a few months. I’m telling you, it is crazy: it is not the way you treat Senior Adults, it’s just not right. I’d just as soon watch a movie with a sad ending as to watch one that has no ending.

I know what is going to happen: the stubborn and unsubmissive wife {Metaphorically, the heifer} is going to go to church with her beloved husband. Daddy Control Freak is going to wake up and realize that he can not control his daughter’s life without destroying her happiness. The two lovers will end up under the mistletoe in a full embrace but dog gone it, I wanted to see it on screen. I hate teasers!

Changing Times

Tis the season to reflect and I’ve been doing just that lately. I began my first pastorate at age 20. The little church [then] was about 20 miles from home so someone invited me to lunch each Sunday to keep me from having to drive back and forth. I would visit on Sunday evenings are play ball with the young folks, then preach again at night and head home. Later, when June and I were in Seminary and I pastored a little church in central Mississippi, we had a place to go every week and now and again on Sunday night. We always got invited by someone. Our church mom, Mrs. Belle Sessums would hang around and if no one else invited us, she would say, “You kids come with me.” She knew how to fry a chicken and she made the best homemade rolls.
Double Bubble LightsWe graduated Seminary in May of 74, we then moved to Cherokee in August. Believe it or not, we continued to get a lot of invites but not every Sunday but times began to change while we were there and our family was growing which made it harder to fed my bunch. We came to Danville in April of 79 and we ate in homes for a couple of months because we were not living on the field but the tradition began to die. We probably got invited into homes for a meal 4-6 times a year and now all those cooks are either promoted or retired from the kitchen. I can’t remember the last time June and I were invited to a home for a meal. It is just one of those church traditions that has died: I mean it is dead in the water but it is not the only one.
We use to love Christmas at Danville because all the Sunday School classes would invite us to their Christmas parties. One of my fondest memories was the Joe Eaton class  inviting June and I to their Christmas party at All Steak in Cullman. This was probably middle 80’s and I had never heard of All Steak. It was Jimmie Stephenson’s idea and I liked it. I think Hugh may have fussed a little but we had a ball. June and I tried to develop a taste for coffee while we were in Seminary but it did not take but that night Jimmie talked me into ordering a cup of coffee to go with my orange rolls and I have been drinking coffee since that night. Folks, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I never saw a ticket in those days. Lewis Screws, John Tanner, Jimmie Stephenson and Joe Eaton thought it was a sin to make the preacher pay. I miss this generation. There is no one to replace them. So getting invited to Christmas parties doesn’t happen anymore and it is not that we have a house full of kids, I think that we are just too old and no one does this kind of thing anymore. What inspired this story was that one class {June’s} was planning a Christmas party and I was looking forward to it. Not for a free meal, we always pay these days and we should: the LORD has blessed us. I was just excited about a Christmas party but they canceled it and it broke my heart.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not want to go back but I do miss some of the traditions of the old days. I think I’ll try to talk my class into a party!