In my ’80s

Friday, March 30, 2018

Did you read Warren’s response to yesterday’s blog about faith, hope and love?

Here, I do not believe “faith” should be included…am not sure it holds any value-anywhere…why is it viewed as a positive characteristic? Otherwise, “hope” and “love” seems to be a “chicken or the egg” deal. I usually think that love is most fundamental to our well-being but hopelessness is (also) a most debilitating state of being. I cherish 🙂 your thoughts in this regard.

In retrospect, I wish I would have written an introduction to the blog. Something like this:

We who are in our 80’s are made aware every day of the disconnects, not only with adolescents and teenagers, but also with twenty somethings and the productive thirties. I feel the disconnect with my children in the forties and fifties. And while I’m at it, I should mention the sixties and seventies.

I am not able to use two thumbs in pecking out a message on my oh-so-frustrating iPhone. Crossword puzzles that feature pop culture figures leave me searching for another word hobby. I can’t even understand the math exercises for fourth graders.

All of which prompt me to ask what, if anything, connects an infant with a child with an adolescent with a teenager with a twenty something with … an 80 year old? I’m talking about a b-i-g stretch, a stretch capable of not breaking. Something that has the immortal and eternal capability of enduring.

The Apostle Paul suggested three things. William Shakespeare settled on one. Warren, I think, will admit two. I’d rally to the news that there is a fourth.

You may check back to see how I responded to Warren. And then post or email me your response.

 

In my ’80s

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Love

Paul the Apostle, writing to friends in Corinth.

Faith, hope and love — these three endure.
But the greatest of these is love.

— — —

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

In my ’80s

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

I shall continue to make selections from my growing file of memories to share here in m blog. Today’s selection — 1964.

Syracuse, NY      The phone call surprises us. President Paul Mininger of Goshen College is on the phone. Might he and his wife Mary come to visit us? Of course I accept and then surprise Joy that we will have guests in our small and sparsely furnished World War II quonset hut. The Miningers are close by and can arrive in 15 minutes. The visit is surprisingly relaxed. And then a bigger surprise: President Mininger invites us to visit Goshen College at their expense. We have not thought of teaching at a Mennonite college. To tell the truth, the Mennonite Church no longer has much appeal to us. We think it over and decide that a paid vacation may possibly give me a boost in the dissertation project.

 

Goshen, IN      A remarkably pleasant visit that shows us a professional yet cordial faculty leads me to agree to teach at Goshen for three years. Surely Syracuse University’s bulletin board will have just as many good job offerings three years from now.

 

Syracuse, NY      The dissertation at the professional typist, my work is finished excepting for the defense of the dissertation which date Dr. Root and I will decide. We stay on for President Lyndon Johnson’s visit at the dedication of the spiffy and modernist S.I.Neuhouse School of Communication building on campus. Then move from Syracuse via Lancaster to Goshen.

 

Goshen, IN The memory has many parts to it.

— We move from a city in upper New York State to a small midwestern town of perhaps 15,000, a former intersection of several rail lines but ostensibly rural.
— Goshen is the county seat with a small hospital (Joy is pregnant).
— We sub-rent the first floor of a large house on Eighth Street, close to the college. My brother Hal comes to live with us. He occupies what seems to be a study off the living room.
— The faculty welcome is warm. Indeed the climate is as friendly, perhaps more so than the Journalism School’s at SU. I also note the on-going scholarship (including a considerable number of book publications) by the faculty. Most impressive is the Dean, Carl Kreider.
— It feels like the dean and not a department has hired me. He is the one who defines my departmental home and course load. Because there is no communication department, I am placed in the English department with S.A.Yoder, John Fisher, Mary Bender (part time in English), Vernon Schertz, Vic Vogt and another newcomer Wilbur Birky who will share an office with me on third floor of the Ad Building.
— My salary will be less than $5,000 which isn’t much but we begin with no graduate school debt thanks to Joy’s work at General Electric and my assistantships and fellowships.
— Quite remarkably the move from Syracuse University to Goshen College has been not only problem-free but comfortable.

———

Had I chosen to teach at the University of Maryland (I considered applying), I would teach communication courses such as Theory, History, Ethics, Persuasion, Public Relations, Journalism, Research Methods, etc. However in opting to teach at a liberal arts school, I new the teaching load would be quite different. Dean Kreider sets up the first semester: Freshman English, Expository Writing, Journalism, and supervision of the campus newspaper and yearbook. Of those courses, I hold memories of Journalism because of the students who made an impression on me.

———

Dean Kreider in his office asks me to chair a committee to revamp Freshman English. He says he’s been wanting to do it for a long time and now he thinks he has the team to do it. While I am totally flattered I find it curious that the dean has played so central a role in my initiation to Goshen College. Did he and the president hire me without the consent of any department? Is he on his own reconstructing Freshman English? I don’t look for trouble and yet I can’t help but encounter only grace and helpfulness from the English department.

———

A committee made up of English faculty meets for a day in the Elkhart YWCA to make a new 4 + 4 Freshman English course. It’s a good day of work: we decide to switch from a grammar approach to a literature approach, using selections from world literature. Students would then write thesis essays based upon the literature. A solid conjoint weekly lecture would be given to all of the students, then there would be smaller discussion sections. [Composition and World Literature proved to be a solid course for ten years … until the college’s general education curriculum was changed.]

———

I don’t remember how the caller identifies himself that October day. I take the call in my office. “Do you plan to vote in the national election?” Yes. “For whom will you vote?” Lyndon Johnson. I am not suspicious since I studied polling in graduate school. But I am shocked when the next day’s Goshen News identifies by name 13 Goshen College professors who plan to vote the Democratic ticket.

———

Thanks to the revamping of Freshman English, I too must take my turn in giving a mass lecture to all of the course enrollees. The team collaborates very well; my assignment is Dante’s Inferno which I have never read. How hard I work not only to understand the book, but also to make it understandable.

———

Never ever in my life of driving tractors, trucks and cars am I as careful as this morning in our VW. The distance is short, less than a mile from hospital to our house on 8th Street. In the car with Joy and me is our new-born baby, Courtney Pierre.

———

Professor Olive Wyse, with a quizzical smile, says to me on campus, “When I came here, it wasn’t until my fifth or sixth year that I felt free to talk in faculty meeting. And you — in your first year!”

———

Joy’s mother is ailing, so she decides to spend a long Christmas vacation in Pennsylvania. I don’t remember how she and the baby travel there. I am to follow in a week after grades are turned in. Bummer — a 14-inch snow closes Elkhart County. I must remain in Indiana for five days more.

In my ’80s

Monday, March 26, 2018

Some people say they don’t have memories of childhood. Not many before the age of ten. For reasons I know not, the cells of my brain hold many early memories. I’ve come upon an enjoyable pastime — writing down memories.

The compilation is not an autobiography. Nor is it a coherent journalistic report. Think of memories as bits and pieces of a large mosaic.

Today I will share memories of when I was three and four — 1941. I can identify the date more or less by contemporary events. At that time and until I am ten years old, we live in a small house along Colebrook Road, northeast of Landisville, about seven miles from the city of Lancaster.

——

Harrisburg, PA     Papa takes us way above Harrisburg to the big dream highway with four lanes. He pays to drive on it. [The Pennsylvania Turnpike]

East Petersburg, PA     Grandma Good’s tea. Grandma Good’s junket. Grandma Good’s victrola. Grandma Good’s blocks. Grandma Good’s stereoscope. Grandma Good’s sandbox. Grandma Good’s telephone number 2981. Ours is 2703.

Along Colebrook Road     The weekly bath in the galvanized tub in the sitting room by the stove. A knock on the door. Harold Housman, the teenaged neighbor here to talk with Papa. Mama comes and whispers to turn my back. Why? “So that he doesn’t see your dinky.”

Along Colebrook Road     The beacon rushes across the sky but Papa says the airport light turns slowly.

Along Colebook Road     Mama takes us to Gramma Good’s so we don’t get in the way. When she brings us home, the old barn where Papa parks our car is down, altogether down. Now the house looks bare without the barn in front of it. Papa says he will make a new driveway. He will sell the barberries to Root’s Nursery and make a large lawn.

Memory Mosaic

Tuesday, March 20, 2017

A note to readers. Yesterday I completed first draft of 100 memories, then re-ordered them more or less by time. This project of trying to record memories is an experiment. I’m searching for the universal in memory. If you are interested, there is a way to help me. Skim the collection. Identify which ones you think bespeak the universal. Then send me an email  jdanielhess@sbcglobal.net    Thanks much.

Along Colebrook Road
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1940

One of my earliest memories: I was taking the weekly bath in the galvanized tub in the sitting room by the stove. A knock on the door revealed Harold Housman, a teenager mentored by Daddy. As he stepped into the room, Mama came and whispered that I should turn my back to him. Later, after he left I asked her why she wanted me to turn my back. “So that he wouldn’t see your dinky.”

 

Along Colebrook Road
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1940

Winter mornings we’d run down the steps and curl up on Mother’s lap. She’d sit on the oven gate of the old Monarch range.

 

Pennsylvania. 1941

Our family takes short drives on Sunday afternoon. Perhaps to Manheim. Millersville. Over beyond Spooky Nook and around the Erisman Mennonite Church community. Now Daddy says we are going a long way to see “The Dream Highway.” All I know — it’s up above Harrisburg, you have to pay to drive on it, and it’s a road that you can’t get on and off anywhere you wish. Daddy finds the highway, pays the man at the booth and together in our 1937 Chevy we drive on this four-lane wonder. We go to the first exit, get off, and return on the other side of the road. The Pennsylvania Tollroad.

East Petersburg. 1941

Grandma Good’s tea. Grandma Good’s junket. Grandma Good’s victrola. Grandma Good’s blocks. Grandma Good’s stereoscope. Grandma Good’s sandbox. Grandma Good’s glider.

 

Along Colebrook Road
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1942

The beacon light swept the sky at what I thought was a thousand miles away. One day Papa drove us to the airport five miles away to see the slowly revolving light.

 

Along Colebrook Road
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1942

Upon resurfacing the Landisville Road, the county supervisors extend the macadam about 100 foot onto Colebrook Road. Thus when we drive to Jake Snyder’s corner, the car leaves the dusty noisy dirt road for smooth pavement even before we arrive at the stop sign.

 

East Petersburg, PA. 1943

Gramma Good’s glider on the porch made just the right kind of squeak. Not snarly, not wimpish, but just like a friend who is there.

 

Lancaster, PA 1943

On the road from Lincoln Highway to Strasburg (to Grandpa and Grandma Hess) there is a rise and fall in the road that tickles my tommy.

 

Lancaster, PA. 1943

Going to Lancaster was a journey of a thousand sights, often on a Conestoga bus. Going to Lancaster followed an itinerary: Hagers, Garvins, Penny’s but not Watt and Shand that, Mother said, was expensive. Going to Lancaster meant a soft pretzel, purchased on the street.

 

Along Colebrook Road
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1943

Police from everywhere rushed to our area and began to walk through the fields. A UFO had been spotted. When they knocked on Housman’s door, Harold said he was flying a large kite for the night and then took them out to see it.

 

Along Colebrook Road
Manheim Route 1, PA.. 1944

Road walkers — also called tramps, hobos and bums — came to our house to ask for food. Depression-era holdovers, the men seemed to follow the railroad. Reading Railroad crossed Colebrook Road just a quarter mile from our house. I now wouldn’t be surprised if the walkers told each other which homemakers would give them food.

One of the men — yes, we came to recognize the returns — told us children that long ago elephants raced on a track in the field just by our house. We knew he was making up the story, but Mother told us never to laugh or mock him because he could be “an angel unaware.”

To be sure, Mother always prepared food, gave it to the road walker and directed him to eat on the porch.

 

Along Colebrook Road
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1945

The long tractor trailer brown bus stops just yards past our house. A guard stepsped out to calculate whether the bus could make the turn into Housman’s lane. He decided no, so other guards got out and then the German prisoners.
These men were contracted through the government to harvest potatoes.

I was in the house watching this strange scene, men walking in single file in the long lane. Then I heard a sniffle. I looked over to the next window where Mother too was watching. She was crying.

Daddy told us about the people he was meeting and about the war in Europe. After the second day, he took us along to work because the men wanted to see us. Not only see us, but hold us. They showed us picture of their children. I knew that Daddy and Mother loved these prisoners.

 

Along Colebrook Road
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1945

We saw the dark smoke billowing up beyond Landisville. Daddy said we could go along to find the fire. It was the large Greider barn between Salunga and Silver Spring that we passed en route to Uncle Daniel and Aunt Evelyn. Never had we seen such a fearful spectacle. We hoped all of the animals escaped the blaze.

Feelings changed several weeks later. Our outdoor toilet was destroyed by a strong wind. That was our only “service station” so Daddy immediately drove to J.C.Snavely to buy lumber. He came back flummoxed because he was denied lumber since all available boards were needed for the new barn. (This was World War II rationing.)

How did the news of our family disaster spread so quickly in our community? Jake Snyder offered us a small hut-like structure. Men dug a hole by our shed. Somebody’s truck transported Snyder’s hut that was set over the hole which eventually became a luxurious two-seater, far more elegant than the one that blew away.

 

Along Colebrook Road
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1946

Along with Sunday School verses, I learn at an early age Ben Franklin’s “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

 

Landisville, PA. 1947

An early Bible verse memorization: “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain; and when he was set, his disciples came unto him; And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth … .” Matthew 5:1-5

 

Along Colebrook Road
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1947

Ben Stauffer looked rigidly forward, as though his head wasn’t on a swivel. Unlike the neighbors who’d hunk and wave when they passed our little house on Colebrook Road, Ben’s gaze remained fixed toward Sporting Hill. One day upon returning home from school on the bus, we came upon many cars and people at Jake Snyder’s corner. As we neared, we saw Ben’s banged up car in the field. At the stop sign he had apparently not looked to the left and right for traffic and drove through without stopping. He was dead.

 

Landisville, PA. 1947?

Very occasionally, a blind man with a service dog, stepped into our church at the beginning of the service. I distinctly remember several details. He did not wear a plain coat. He would not walk down the side aisle, but took the middle aisle about five rows, then sit at the end of the bench. The dog lay down. At the end of the meeting men would shake his hand, but none would give him the holy kiss.

 

East Petersburg, PA. 1947

Grandpa Good was as quiet as his brothers and sisters, most of whom lived east of us in the Franconia Mennonite Conference. By quiet I mean that he didn’t talk. When the boisterous uncles and aunt and cousins got together at Christmas and Easter, he sat in the living room with the others but spoke not a word. But one time he took me along to an auction. There, as the auctioneer chanted, Grandpa nudged me, “Want to bid?” Me? I was a little kid but his question was more than enough to raise my hand when a little goblet was held high. The auctioneer said, “Well, I see you are following your Grandpa.” I wish I still had that piece of glasswork.

 

Along Colebrook Road
Manheim Route 1, PA 1947

I have clear memory of some of our wall hangings.

—“The Straight and Narrow Way” — a depiction of the path to heaven on the right side and the wide road to the flames on the left.
—A picture of a biggie and two men: “It sorta does a fella good to sit and talk a spell. To see of friends are getting on and if the folk are well …”
—Calendars from every large and small business our family dwelt with.

 

Mount Pleasant, PA. 1947

Laurelville Mennonite camp doesn’t smell like a farm, because it’s in a big forest.

 

Landisville, PA. 1948

I think her name was Adeline. She never smiled, wore long black dresses, sat alone in church. She was my teacher in Summer Bible School where I thought her voice was soft and kind. We share birthdays.

 

Landisville, PA. 1948

I never got to ask Daddy a most perplexing question. At Landisville Mennonite Church there was a large parking lot in front of the church toward the Church of God, a large parking lot behind the church toward the Landisville Camp Meeting Grounds, and a large parking lot to the east of the church, along the cemetery fence. Daddy always, always as in every time, stopped to let Mother and Erma out of the car at the front of the church, then he drove to the side and parked along the cemetery fence at the vary same spot where he had parked the week before. Always the same spot.

 

Landisville, PA. 1948

Which brings up another church curiosity that wasn’t worth mentioning when I was ten years old because I just took it for granted. From our house along Colebrook Road, if you ran a straight line for five miles in all directions, you would have included Landisville Mennonite Church, Salunga Mennonite Church, Mt. Joy Mennonite Church, Chestnut Hill Mennonite Church, Rohrerstown Mennonite Church, East Petersburg Mennonite Church, Hernley Mennonite Church, Manheim Mennonite Church and Erisman Mennonite Church. There were also three Brethren churches, but they, as I was led to think, weren’t “plain.”

 

Landisville, PA. 1948

Seventh grade teacher Miss Kaylor came to school on the E-town bus and after school went home of the E-town bus. She was kind of big and loud, quite unconventional although I didn’t know that word at the time. One of her classroom pleasures was singing. Why did she so often open the windows when we sang? Anyway, one of her favorites I still remember word for word.

There is a tavern in the town, in the town,

And there my true love sits him down, sits him down

And drinks his wine mid laughter free
But never, never thinks of me.

Fare ye well for I must leave you
Do not let the parting grieve you
And remember that the best of friends must part, must part
Adieu, adieu, kind friend, adieu, adieu
,
I can no longer stay with you, stay with you

I’ll hang my harp on the weeping willow tree

And may the world be well with thee.

 

Quarryville, PA. 1948

Daddy studied the Bn Farmall. He said nothing and stayed, so we hoped ourselves almost sick. About an hour later as the auction line approached the tractors, my brother hadn’t the nerve to watch. He ran behind other equipment. Finally the auctioneer stood by the Bn and began his chanting. I stood on the seat of another tractor to see and hear. “Sold, eleven fifty to … Mervin Hess.” I then saw my brother and waved.

 

On the farm
Manheim Route 1, PA 1949

When the old doorless Ford stopped its skid, Ruth Gehman lay under the truck with only her head showing. At the time I thought I was showing her a perfect circular skid on the wet meadow grass. Now she lay there, talking nonsense words.

 

Landisville, 1949

The truck, on passing the stopped bus, threw Jackie back almost against us. The truck slammed the brakes, the bus driver jumped out, and Harold and I, upon seeing Jackie’s stunned bloody face, started running in our long, long lane to tell Mother and Daddy. Later that night I/we were taken to the hospital to see the comatose body, its head heavily wrapped. (I assume that Jackie’s parents and ours thought that we boys might be quieted to see that he was alive and being cared for.)

In fifth grade the next day I was called to the hallway where two police officers asked me to tell what happened.

Jackie survived, but with a severe head injury. The event was one of several used in Harrisburg very shortly thereafter when “School Bus Stop” was under discussion.

 

On the farm
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1949

The Pennsy train sliding in from Chicago whistles at Landisville.

 

On the farm
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1949

In the huge garden — 100 pound of peas for example. “Boys, if you are good helpers this summer, we’ll see to it that you go to a Labor Day doubleheader in Philadelphia.”

 

East Petersburg, PA. 1950

“How much do you make per hour?” I ask Gramma Good. She iss at work on a huge quilt stretched out in the sitting room. Often I see her there, quilting by the hour, the day, the month, the year. She looks at me. “Ach Daniel!”

 

Manheim, PA. 1950?

Johnny begged to carry the watermelon to the picnic table. Aunt Anna finally gave in. Quite overweight and possibly unbalanced, he slipped, the precious watermelon breaking into a thousand pieces. Aunt Anna scolded her nephew unmercifully. He went behind he house to cry, his nose awash in tears, watermelon juice and snot.

 

On the farm
Manheim, PA. 1950

My brother Mervin wasn’t afraid to climb, so I held the flashlight while he got himself up onto the rafters and over to the barn’s end. My job was to blind the pigeons. His job was to catch them. What “we” caught went to Root’s auction with the proceeds equally divided. He got taken!

 

On the farm
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1950

Often I look to the northern horizon line, Lebanon mountains, and wonder of the world beyond.

 

Lancaster, PA 1951

What was so very remarkable, what was thrilling beyond words, what occupied my mind and lifted my heart as I proceeded into my first year of high school is not only that I adored a girl in my class, but also and even more important, she liked me. Me!

 

On the farm
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1952

Strange! In the middle of the week, my parents are changing from work clothes to visiting clothes. Where are you going, I ask. No answer. So unusual this. I persist. Mother looks at me, then goes to get the Intelligencer Journal. She holds up the front page. On it is a picture of L—— S ——. He, a gardener like my parents, goes to street market, as do my parents. He is arrested for entering the empty house of one of his clients, takes out her under clothing and hangs them on a tree in the back yard. I stop, surprised. “He is our friend. We want to visit him.”

 

On the farm
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1952

Daddy was awakened by the barking of Lassie. Then no sound until five or so minutes later when Lassie again barked even more frantically. Daddy got up. Aha — the steers got out through a broken fence. Lassie pushed them back toward the fence, ran to the house to bark us awake, then returned to push back the steers again. Lassie was that kind of dog.

 

Lancaster, PA 1952

Four of us sophomore boys tried singing together. Nevin Kraybill sang high tenor, I was second tenor, Paul Gehman baritone and Harold Stauffer bass. We didn’t sound too bad, so we practiced and practiced some more. By the time we graduated high school, we had song in many occasions including a Christian Men’s Fellowship, weddings, a funeral or two if I remember correctly, on WLAN, Summer Bible Schools, Sunday evening church services but no regular Lancaster Mennonite Conference congregations since special music was forbidden. Often we practiced on Sunday afternoon at Harold’s place, out in one of the green houses where a ping pong table kept our practices to a minimum. Later — actually at Harold’s funeral ten years ago — I said that the quartet singing turned our hormones into harmonies.

 

Lancaster, PA. 1952

Television was forbidden in Lancaster Conference Mennonite churches and schools, including Lancaster Mennonite School where I attended. Similarly, radios were out. But when school let out one October afternoon in 1952, I rushed to the parking lot to hear on a car radio Bobby Thomson’s home run over the left field wall that gave the New York Giants the national league pennant.

 

Lancaster, PA. 1953

A town friend, far more cultured than I, invites me to go along to McCaskey High School to hear Beethoven’s Fifth. Beethoven is not a familiar name. Nor do I know the significance of a fifth. We sing hymns and Gospel songs. On our record player we hear The Oakridge Boys. I know not what to expect … and am quickly puzzled that the song on stage with all the musical instruments goes on and on. No verses like a hymn. I leave at the end of the long concert, totally unimpressed.

 

Salunga, PA. 1953

Most of the time I filled shelves or carried groceries from store to car. While doing those chores I watched the sales routine: the rural shopper called for an item and then the clerk would go get it. “Pretzels,” and he (or she) would fill a bag. “Cheese,” and clerk would go to the huge round of cheese and cut off a hunk. When they finally asked me to clerk, I was given only one instruction, and that in a whisper. “When they ask for Kotex, always put it in a paper bag before you bring it to the register.”

 

On the farm
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1954

A soft wind gently tilted the wheat stalks, sending waves across the 40-acre field.

 

Landisville, PA. 1954

“…these favors and blessing we ask in Jesus’ na … .” Oops, Deacon Christy Charles (there was only one Deacon Christy Charles in all of Christendom) got so caught up in an idea instead of giving the usual after-the-sermon “testimony” from the bench that he gave the wrong coda. The correct one: “I wish God’s blessing on the message and the messenger.”

 

Harrisonburg, VA. 1956

I awake, lift my head off the desk. The empty biology class room! Everyone is gone. Class has apparently ended, students have left. How could that happen? In biology, taught by a straight-faced, straight-coated professor who seems to need special effort to smile. Several days later I receive a photo someone took of me, sound asleep in biology.

 

Mt. Joy, PA. 1956

“That was a nice evening A——, but let’s not have another date.” “Really? OK? I know you’ll be back.”

 

Harrisonburg, VA. 1957

I enjoyed interacting with numerous women in college, which included what we then called dates. Thus I was at first surprised and then peeved when Professor J. Otis Yoder opined in class that he opposed what he called “casual dating.” He went on: “If you want a friend, go get a dog.”

 

Harrisonburg, VA. 1957

He told us and we had no reason to disbelieve him. He was walking back to the dorm after dark when foreign student W—— opened his third floor window. “Look out J—— for I am about to piss.”

 

Lancaster, PA. 1957

I am driving the sweet corn picker on a southern slope on a very hot afternoon. I dry out. Then on one of the rounds I see the elderly owner of the field coming with a bag. Bless his heart. I open the bag to see two hard-boiled eggs.

 

Aristook County, ME. 1957

A plane took us to a lake near a cabin deep in the Maine forest and would return in five days. It was bear country we were told and sure enough, on the very first day when we four guys took a hike, a bear roared so near that we crashed through undergrowth and high speeded past trees — that is, three of us did. Linford didn’t run because he knew the sound of two limbs scraping.

 

Lancaster, PA. 1958

We were to sing at a wedding. The other three guys were taking their steadies along. I felt out of it. My sister Erma spoke up, “Why don’t you ask Joy Glick to go with you?”

 

Harrisonburg VA. 1958

Did I lie? I told three mission boards that we were a Gospel team. I didn’t tell them much more, that really we were four college guys who didn’t want to go home for Christmas vacation and wanted someone to pay for a time in the Caribbean. I didn’t tell them we had never given a program … anywhere. But two of the three mission boards bought my line.

We quickly try to make a quartet, but one guy has the kind of trouble keeping a tune that would discourage any attempt at harmony. So we co-opt a high tenor, appoint the monotone as preacher and off we go — to Cuba where the Mennonite churches are at the moment in Castro territory; to Honduras where a Mennonite church hugs the coast (La Trajillo) and inland, accessible only by air (Tocoa) and finally to British Honduras (now Belize) because of engine trouble.

There actually are photos to prove I’m not lying.

 

Lancaster, PA 1959

Mother-in-law Lillian is self-taught and self-effacing. At a family dinner in the basement of the house, she once more urges people to clean up the potatoes. I decide to tease her: “Lillian, when we finally clean out those potatoes you will say, ‘Oh, I should have made more potatoes!’” She reaches in front of her plate, picks up a hard-boiled egg and throws it at me.

 

Elkhart, IN. 1959

After our wedding we moved to Elkhart to join the Mennonite Voluntary Service office. Concurrently we decided to attend the nearby Prairie Street Mennonite Church. Its pastor asked us for our respective letters of transfer. Joy’s pastor responded immediately. My pastor sent a letter but said he could not recommend me because I had stopped wearing the regulation (“plain” collarless) coat, which meant I was in violation of the order.

 

Hesston, KS. 1959

VSer: “Mister Hess, I must talk with you.”
VS administrator: “Sure I’ll make that possible during my visit.”
VSer: “I mean right now.”
VS ad: (Oh no, here is the first big case I must deal with. Alcohol? Theft?) “So what is on your mind?”
VSer: “We can’t talk here. Let’s go behind the garage.”
VS ad: (As they walk toward the garage: masturbation? fornication? )
VSer: “Mr. Hess, do you know where I come from?”
VS ad: “No I don’t. Colorado somewhere?”
VSer: “Southeast Colorado. When I want to walk under the big sky, I walk under the big sky. When I want to sit under a tree, I sit under a tree. Mr. Hess, you have to transfer me. I can’t stand this city life.”

 

Syracuse, NY. 1961

As we were warned, Dr. George Bird saunters into the gloomy room at the last minute, sits down, looks at us over the top of his glasses. “Next week you will bring a ten-page research paper on [a library resource/research procedure], with a title page and a bibliography. Class is dismissed.”

In seven days, only about three fourths of the class turn in a paper. I do, but spend about 45 hours on it. “Next week you will bring a ten-page research paper on so and so, with a title page and a bibliography. Class is dismissed.”

The only change in the third week is the marked returns on the papers handed in the week before. Same assignment. “Class is dismissed.”

Clearly I can’t keep this up for two semesters — one entire year of graduate studies. Three other courses require their own share of homework. At a moment of despair, I am met by a Ph.D. candidate. How is Bird coming along, he asks. I tell him of my exhaustion and fear. “May I give you a suggestion?” Of course. “Take 24 hours off each week, totally away from homework.” Crazy idea, yet this chap has completed the course. He comes to me two weeks later for a how’s-it-going update. I admit my surprise at the helpfulness of his suggestion but still feel overwhelmed. “May I give you another suggestion? Extend that 24 hours to 36.”

My wife and I leave our university quonset hut each Friday evening or early Saturday morning, find a camp site in northern New York and return to Syracuse Sunday night. I finish the Bird papers on time. The final one requires 16 hours.

 

Kitchener, ON. 1962

Under no circumstances, Orie Miller said, could the three-part biographical sketch be published in Christian Living magazine. I had asked him to wait for three weeks before responding, but his clipped message came by return mail. There were numerous errors, he said, some of which may be have been his responsibility.

I was disappointed, of course, but puzzled.

Then several week later I got a curious letter. Apparently Paul Erb, church statesman and journalist, talked with Miller who agreed to reconsider, dependent upon my meeting him yet again — this time in Kitchener, Ontariocoinciding with Mennonite World Conference. Why Kitchener? What errors?

I drove to Kitchener, hearing on the radio that Marilyn Monroe had committed suicide. The trip felt heavy. With me were my notes, the biographical sketch and pen and tablet.

In Kitchener I met Miller for breakfast, then went with him to a committee meeting of an important organization which today is known by Mennonite Economic Development Associates. He was quietly active in the meeting. We went to lunch where we observed the frail Harold Bender, a colleague of Miller’s. Another meeting in the afternoon. Dinner. A meeting in the evening.

Orie Miller then thanked me for coming and said the material could be printed. But at no time did we talk about the biographical sketch. To this day I don’t know why I was called to Kitchener. Nor do I know what errors he referred to.

 

Goshen, IN. 1964

I don’t remember how the caller identified himself that October day. I took the call in my office. “Do you plan to vote in the national election?” Yes. “For whom will you vote?” Lyndon Johnson. I was not suspicious since I had studied polling in a graduate school class. But I was shocked when the next day’s Goshen News identified by name 13 Goshen College professors who planned to vote the Democratic ticket.

 

Goshen, IN. 1964

Never ever in my life of driving vehicles was I as careful as that morning in our car. The distance was short, less than a mile from hospital to our house on 8th Street. In the car with Joy and me was our new-born baby, Courtney Pierre.

 

Goshen, IN. 1964

Professor Olive Wyse, a matronly yet knowingly smile, says to me on campus, “When I came here, it wasn’t until my fifth or sixth year that I felt free to talk in faculty meeting. And you — in your first year!”

 

Goshen, IN. 1965

As usual, on the first day of class, I spent time getting acquainted with students. And as usual I asked them where they were from. When it was Rachel’s turn she didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know where she was from and quite embarrassed about it. Her parents grew up in two different sections of the United States, she lived in several (primarily two) African nations, and resided in several different places during missionary furlough. That was the last time I asked the question in the form I had used before.

 

Goshen, 1965

Guy F. Herberger walks across campus like he is following an Iowa plow. When talking at moments of intensity he pulls down on his chin, seeming to let out a high-level cackle that is more scorn than comedy. They say this is his way in the classroom, in church and in Washington.

 

Goshen, IN. 1966

I am in the garage at our house on 6th Street when a student stops on his bicycle to protest the grade for his semester’s work. Here is my very first encounter with a disappointed, disgruntled student. I try to explain but he leaves yelling “Even if I make a million dollars, I will never give a cent to Goshen College!”

 

Goshen, IN. 1967

I am furious. I feel defeated and embarrassed. I feel betrayed. Goshen College expelled four smart, ahead-of-their-time students for printing an underground newspaper. On Monday morning following the Friday expulsion I g0 to the president’s office without appointment, stand there and tell him what I think of the decision and of him. It is a long tirade that accuses him of a disconnect with what is going on in the youth revolution. It is a harsh critique of his heavy handed way of making the decision. I yell, I know I do. Do I swear? He listens and when I finish he says rather softly, “Is there anything else?”

 

Costa Rica. 1968

The simple roads, most of them gravel, all of them contour followers, made for slow but enjoyable travel from San Jose to locations where students lived. On an early trip to San Isidro, after the usual stop for hot cocoa at the very top of the mountain range, we re-loaded and began the long descent. All of a sudden the driver yelled something that my Spanish could not yet understand. The men jumped out of the bus, ran to the roadside for stones and limbs to throw in front of the wheels. The bus was stopped. Only then I learned that the brakes had failed.

 

Costa Rica. 1968

After a day of talking with students and their hosts and project supervisors, I take the last bus to San Jose — a long ride that seems darker by the strong rain. But I am weary and bounce along in mindlessness. Not until the bus stops in the middle of no-where and soaked people get onto the bus, happily receiving and giving greetings to other riders do I catch the warmth and support of the rural Costa Rican community. I enjoy the remainder of the trip home.

 

Costa Rica. 1969

Just weeks after we arrive in Costa Rica Volcano Arenal blows out its side, sending deadly heat and gas toward Tilaran. Mennonite that I am, I g0 to social services to offer our first student group as clean-up volunteers. The response is totally affirmative. When? They need to get organized. I check back in October. Not ready yet but soon. November. Thanks so much for calling. Sorry we aren’t yet ready. By then it is too late for the first student group so I schedule the second group, immediately upon their arrival in January. We would clean up destroyed houses.

Our arrival surprises tiny Tilaran. No project has been in the planning. Nada. The students are service-hungry and impatient. I look around town for something they might do. The school remains closed. Might we clean up your school, I ask the mayor. Oh yes, of yes, thank you, thank you. I get keys to open the gate. Monday morning early the students are ready to go. Mops? Buckets? Rags? I send someone to the little hardware. Ladders? The little hardware has no ladders, so I return to the mayor. Ladders please? He slowly gets up, tells me to follow him. He goes across the plaza, then down behind several houses and/or wooden shops and comes to a little shack filled with you name it. He lifts out a poor ladder with several rungs broken. I look at it and gain courage to ask, “Might you have another ladder.” The mayor pauses. “You can thank your God that Tilaran has one ladder.”

 

Costa Rica. 1969

Returning from San Isidro to San Jose with our second group of Goshen students, we top the mountain range. There to the west is the Pacific Ocean and a setting sun. Spectacular. The bus driver stops, we all get out, and one of the students begins to sing “Oh Lord My God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the world They hands have made … .”

 

Guatemala. 1969

As we assembled at the bus, we heard a loud North American demanding, not bargaining, but demanding of a small, quiet Guatemalan that she lower her price for the elegant weaving. She could not lower her price further, but his loud scolding intimidated her. In fear she relinquished the work of her hands.

 

Goshen, IN. 1972

Students wanted to dunk the new president in the fountain. I told them of his back problems so they agreed to let me ask Lawrence Burkholder whether he’d “consent” and how he thought they might do it safely. It worked and he got wet.

 

Goshen, IN. 1972

A student comes to the office to tell me that he is dropping out. “I have lost a reason for being here. I have no motivation.” I wish him well.

Strangely, he shows up the next week, seemingly a different person. He explains that after talking with me, he packed up and headed toward home. About ten miles from campus he was first upon a nasty fatal car crash. He himself heard a little cry and climbed into one of the upside-down cars to retrieve a baby.

“I have found a purpose for being in college.”

 

Spain. 1973

In Spanish I asked the farmer, “Where are the cave houses? We read about them, drove here from Alicante to see them, but where…?” The farmer was watering his cows. He raised his hand and asked us to wait a bit. He walked up the lane — oh there it was, against the side of the hill. He soon returned and welcomed us into his own cave house where his wife gave to each of us a large glass of warm fresh milk. When his wife learned that we were from America, she asked, “Do you live close to Argentina?”

 

Spain. 1974

How frustrated I am here in Spain. No matter how much I try, I can’t find a legal way to drive our Fiat beyond six months of our one-year Sabbatical. I think of another approach and go to an important official. There I encounter a long line of men waiting to talk with one agent. The line moves very slowly. As I near, I can see and hear that the beleaguered agent talks with three or four inquirers at a time. That seems the Spanish way to do it. Finally I am in the front and say with confidence, “I am an American and …” He cuts me off. “I am a Czechoslovakian.” He turns away.

 

Spain, 1974

Her territory lies in the half-block zone where buses stop. Dirty leather moccasins, black dress, and soiled bandana emphasize the severity of her face. She squints to left and to right, like an animal wanting out, but she stays, holding the lottery tickets up as though they were a bouquet of flowers. We have seen her there at 9 in the morning and 9 at night, calling, calling, with only the word “de Espana.” Once we saw her make a sale — to a man even older than she.

 

Goshen, IN. 1975

“Prof saves family” said the headline. Ha Ha. In bed we heard a crash and a call, I looked out and saw the flames. But at the phone I panicked, unable to dial. I was paralyzed. Joy was there by the phone and took over. What happened next is not in my memory excepting that it was our ladder that I climbed to bring them one by one from a narrow second floor shelf. I must have lifted the ladder off the hooks behind the garage, ran across the lawn, jumped a hedge and placed the ladder against the roof. By the time the ladder truck arrived, I was back at the house coughing out smoke..

 

Costa Rica. 1977

“How are you and the rooster getting along?” I asked John, a Goshen College students living in rural Costa Rica. He had come to the unit house I didn’t know why; a letter from him earlier indicated he had trouble sleeping because of a rooster. Well, he came to town because his family told him to leave for a while. What happened? Early one morning when the rooster started crowing, John climbed out of the simple house’s open window and killed the rooster. When in an hour his family learned of his action, they were aghast. The rooster was the neighbor’s prized fighting cock, valued at that time for $100. They asked John to leave so that they themselves could make up a story to protect him from the neighbor’s retaliation.

 

Goshen, IN. 1980

“Please send him over when he gets home. I won’t hurt him.” She looks old and weary. Sylvester doesn’t come, not until 4 o’clock the next morning. “Mithter Heth, I’m thorry.” I go out on the porch, sit down with Sylvester on the steps. I tell him that there are many better ways to attract girls than throwing eggs at their houses. Be courteous to them. Have nice conversations with them. “Can I clean up the houth?” No, Sylvester, I will clean it. But I want you and the other boys to show up here Monday morning before breakfast. I’ll let you work it off.

On Monday morning four boys stand at the door. I take them and my son out for bacon and eggs. Then we head to our out-of-town garden where we hoe corn and beans, and talk of this and that but not eggs. When finished we return to town. “Mithter Heth, tell me when I can help again.”

 

Goshen, IN. 1981

Most certainly I was not qualified to introduce films and film study to Goshen College. But neither was any other professor. However because my academic trajectory led into media studies, I needed to pay attention to films. One of my first initiatives was the sponsoring of a film series. I preferred to show a wide variety of types rather than films of a kind. And this included foreign films.

I selected to show Gunter Grass’ “The Tin Drum,” a key text in European magic realism as a novel, and as a film the 1979 Palme d’Or and the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Having seen the film in a theater I suggested to the college relations office that they not give community publicity to this showing.

Most unfortunately the film was announced in the South Bend newspaper. A Mennonite couple from a rural church came. I was unaware of their presence, nor of their early departure. But the next morning college relations called to say that I must phone this couple immediately. Which I did. “How can you justify such vulgarity … how can you… how can you?”

I knew that I needed more training to be a helpful yet astute introducer of film study to Goshen College.

 

Chicago, IL 1984

Our children, delighted by their grandpa and grandma’s visit. Ecstatic to see a Chicago Cubs ball game with them. (And also aware how different their plain Mennonite grandparents looked in Wrigley Field.) Late in the game a Cubbie hit a home run, rousing a huge cheer from the crowd. From Grandma too. So enthusiastic she was that her false teeth were propelled three rows down from us. Ingrid, at the end of the row, had the honors: she went down three rows and gingerly asked, “Could you please give me the teeth?” She walked them back to our row, gave the teeth to Grandma who quickly slipped them again into her mouth.

 

Goshen, IN 1985

The only convocation from 33 years on campus that I remember: Mary Schertz said that every time we propose an ultimate, we are constructing an idol.

 

Goshen, IN. 1986

Faculty members huddled in groups around coffee. Then I saw her enter the lobby, but leave abruptly, showing distress. I decided to find out if something was wrong. Outside when she became aware of my following, she tried to run. I caught up with her and I hugged a cistern of emotional tears from her. “Thank you. Now I am OK.”

 

Thailand. 1987

In one camp lived 158,000 refugees, mainly from Cambodia. I stopped to see a handing of a live chicken to men who had lost a leg to land mines. At another small camp I met a family grieving the suicide of a teen-age son. He killed himself after learning that TB blips on his lungs would keep his family from emigrating.

 

Costa Rica. 1988

One morning in Ar0njuez, there is a knock on the door. Knocks are common later in the day, but not mornings. I open to see a huge pile of shit and behind it a woe-begotten man. As I am about to shout him away, he says in Spanish, “Give me newspaper so that I can clean this up?”

 

Goshen, IN. 1990

The man from the van was reaching in through the window and hitting Stanley Shenk in the face and head. I quickly memorized the van’s license. When I came abreast Stanley’s car, the man stopped hitting and returned to his van. Stanley pulled away. At my office I called the police. Then I called Stanley. “Well, he was driving ever so slowly on 8th Street and I wanted to get a move on. So I passed him, but then slowed down, really slow, to show him how it feels to be held back. That’s all I did.”

About an hour later the police called to tell me that the chap in the van had just lost his father and when the driver nearly stopped him on the street, he exploded with emotion. The police did not tell me their response to Stanley.

 

Chapel Hill, NC. 1992

Having just arrived in Chapel Hill for a year-long Sabbatical, I checked a map at the bus stop. “Are you finding what you are looking for?” asked a polite woman. Her accent revealed her but how .…? You from here, I asked. “The western part of the state.” Did you grow up there? “No Alabama.” Were you born in Alabama? “No, up north.” Which state? “Pennsylvania.” Hmm. Which city? “Lancaster.” Did you go to McCaskey High School. “No I went to a church school out of town.” What was the name of the school? “Lancaster Mennonite School.”

 

Lebanon, PA. 1994

“Daddy, I want you to know that we accept you even though you think differently from us about homosexuality. We recognize that you are being consistent with everything you have learned.” He nods but says nothing.

He is in Philhaven Hospital, supposedly crushed by news that a grandson will soon be marrying another man. I go to the administration, telling them of this stressor. They appoint as Daddy’s chaplain a man with a homosexual son. Then, two days later the hospital calls us children together to say that more than mental stress is at issue. Daddy’s physical body is in crisis.

He dies about six weeks later. But in his bed, Daddy calls for his grandson and says, “I don’t understand homosexuality. But I love you.” Then he calls for the partner and says the same. The two men join the family at the funeral.

 

Goshen, IN. 1995

Everyone else had turned in the blue-book final essay. She lingered. I had not set a time limit, so I marked time by beginning to check the books. She slowly rose, brought her blue-book to my desk. “Professor Hess, you know that I didn’t do very well in this class. Please don’t blame yourself. I am now struggling to recover from abuse.”

 

England, 1996

The others were checking out the town; I decided to walk up to the moor. Near the top after crossing over several fences I came to a large flock of sheep. My path led directly through the grassland. The sheep, all of them, scores of them, stopped their grazing and looked directly at me, so directly that I supposed they knew more about me than I did of them. Forever after that moment, I’ve wondered what sheep know.

 

Indianapolis IN. 1996

On my first interview pitching my services to a $100 million organization, I am unable to figure out why they are advertising for a consultant. About ten people around the table mention their own dreams for the company, but those words are too general to reveal an agenda. Then they ask of my expertise and manner of working, my priorities and style. The CEO then asks someone to give me a tour of the plant while they confer. Back in the room with the CEO, he says the company wishes to retain me. “ And we would like for you to tell us within two weeks whether we should fire Beth.”

 

Wichita, KS. 1998

A significant coming together of educators from the (Old) Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church — I was there with Rich Gerig to tell of the work of The Gideon Project sponsored by the Mennonite Board of Education. We would divide the presentation; he noted which parts he would do and I jotted down mine. My part came first and honest to goodness cross my heart and right hand up to God (as we used to say as kids) I got so wrapped up in my speech that I completely forgot that we were sharing the dais. I did the whole thing! When I finally sat down, Gerig looked at me like a pirate ready to throw the renegade overboard!

 

Goshen IN. 1998

At age 80 am I flexible? Can I accommodate something new and different? Dear Cleo was hunched in her living room chair. She struggled each time to get out she braced herself each time to get in. I decided to surprise her with an $800 chair that, with the push of a button, could lift a sitter up almost to standing position and could do the reverse. I proudly brought it to the house. “I won’t use it. No, I won’t try it. Take it away.”

 

Indianapolis, IN. 1999

“Fore! Fore! ForeFore!” Technically I am on the golf course. Really, I am across the creek and in a ditch behind trees.

The ball nips my ear and hitting my shoulder slams me to the ground. The foursome runs to me, but by the time they arrive, I am again living. And remembering that Mr. Lynch, my eighth grade teacher, was hit on the head by a golf ball and died in the parking lot.

 

Alberta, Canada. 2000?

I took a slow, silent walk on the perimeter of Ike and Millie’s rural woodland in hopes of seeing wildlife. Moving almost on tip-toe, like aboriginals would have done. I returned to the house to learn that a moose ventured to the edge of the garden. It must have tip-toed.

 

Indianapolis, IN. 2001

Would I be the adult mentor to Henry, the 13 year old? I have had an enjoyable experience with Eric, so I say yes. Henry is sent by his mother to our church Sunday mornings, to another church Sunday afternoons. She is desperate for handouts. On my first occasion with Henry, he says, “Can you buy me shoes for school. This are all I have.” They are canvas rags. Later I go into his house, and there climb over clothes and boxes and junk in order to get to Henry’s room. Such poverty that I have never seen in Costa Rica. Sadly I discover that any relationship on my part is seen by the mother not as mentoring but as a means to money.

 

Colorado, 2005

A bear in the thicket just down from my apartment? I grab my camera and walk quickly on the little road by the thicket and stop dead in my tracks by a loud bugle call. Not a bear, surely. I go a bit further and see to the right of the path at least 20 elk. And up ahead where the lane meet the road, fifty elk or more. What is going on? Stupidly, having no fear, I walk further down the lane, the elk to the right and a bear supposedly on the left.

Surely enough, a bear.

A bear who can count and must have counted to 80 or more and decides he is outnumbered. He turns, climbs the mountain in retreat.

Later I learn: an elk was in a long birthing. The bear smelled it and came for a kill. The elk called May-Day and her kind came to her rescue.

 

Indianapolis, IN 2005

The information department of Mennonite Mission Network asked me to learn what I could from interviewing people who were consistently substantial givers to the church. The department found 18 names, I don’t know how, that I then used for my research. My eventual report listed three consistent findings.

Each unit (individual or couple) learned to give from their parents.
Each unit carefully planned their giving ahead of time rather than succumb to random requests and impulsive responses.
Each unit was joyous in their generous giving.

 

Puerto Varas, Chile. 2007

Just this: the town and hotel on the south side of the lake; a clear sky yielding to dusk; to the north beyond the lake and mountain peaks, a full moon rising.

 

Indianapolis, IN. 2011

I hop on the bus, holding a piece of the peanut brittle my brother Hal just gave to me. “Peanut brittle!” exclaims the Indigo driver. I give him a piece, and then see 25 customers hidden in coats, iPhones or bags. “My brother just gave me peanut brittle. You want a piece?” So I move through the bus. About two thirds of the riders help themselves. A half dozen pieces are left.

 

Indianapolis, IN. 2014

I was stood up at Starbucks, but lingered, fiddling with my camera. At the table a gentleman seemed to be waiting too. Finally I asked, “Are you too looking for someone who isn’t showing?” And those were the words that ushered Rudy Schouten and me into a warm friendship.

 

Knoxville, TN. 2014

A dirty suitcase. I stopped at a launder0mat not far from the entrance to Smoky Mountain National Park. I looked at the machine, read the instructions and still didn’t know how to begin. An elderly woman was at work. “Could you please show me how to …?” “Sir, next door is a coffee shop. Go get something to drink and stay there until I call you.” My clothes were washed, smoothed, hung on hangers. No charge. She gasped when I gave her a generous tip.

 

Spain. 2017

The second day on El Camino, a heavy clouded rain closes me off from everything else in the world as I climb the Pyrenees. Then I hear a voice but can’t see its source. I walk on. The voice becomes louder. Fifty steps more I see the outline — an old stoop-shouldered shepherd calling his dogs which he has sent to round up the sheep on the steep hillside.

 

Spain, 2017

She sleeps the first night at the albergue I use. At the dinner table she says nothing other than her name and home (Japan). On the cold rainy trip over the Pyrenees we pass each other several times, a nod or “Buen Camino.” At three or four subsequent albergues that we share, she is present but alone, often sitting apart and writing. On the next occasion of meeting, I join her at a table and write in my notebook too. No talking. Not until Castrojueves do I begin a conversation. Then I invite her to tea. I tell her that I will be remaining in Costrojueves to rest a sore leg. I bid her adieu. Later as I am falling asleep, I see a person come to my bedside. It is she. “Thank you for being my friend.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memory Mosaic

Monday, March 19, 2018

81
Costa Rica. 1977

“How are you and the rooster getting along?” I asked John, a Goshen College students living in rural Costa Rica. He had come to the unit house I didn’t know why; a letter from him earlier indicated he had trouble sleeping because of a rooster. Well, he came to town because his family told him to leave for a while. What happened? Early one morning when the rooster started crowing, John climbed out of the simple house’s open window and killed the rooster. When in an hour his family learned of his action, they were aghast. The rooster was the neighbor’s prized fighting cock, valued at that time for $100. They asked John to leave so that they themselves could make up a story to protect him from the neighbor’s retaliation.

 

82
East Petersburg. 1941

Grandma Good’s tea. Grandma Good’s junket. Grandma Good’s victrola. Grandma Good’s blocks. Grandma Good’s stereoscope. Grandma Good’s sandbox. Grandma Good’s glider.

 

83
Goshen, IN. 1967

I am furious. I feel defeated and embarrassed. I feel betrayed. Goshen College expelled four smart, ahead-of-their-time students for printing an underground newspaper. On Monday morning following the Friday expulsion I go to the president’s office without appointment, stand there and tell him what I think of the decision and of him. It is a long tirade that accuses him of a disconnect with what is going on in the youth revolution. It is a harsh critique of his heavy handed way of making the decision. I yell, I know I do. Do I swear? He listens and when I finish he says rather softly, “Is there anything else?”

 

84
Goshen, IN. 1972

A student comes to the office to tell me that he is dropping out. “I have lost a reason for being here. I have no motivation.” I wish him well.

Strangely, he shows up the next week, seemingly a different person. He explains that after talking with me, he packed up and headed toward home. About ten miles from campus he was first upon a nasty fatal car crash. He himself heard a little cry and climbed into one of the upside-down cars to retrieve a baby.

“I have found a purpose for being in college.”

 

85
Along Colebrook Road
Manheim Route 1, PA. 1942

Upon resurfacing the Landisville Road, the county supervisors extend the macadam about 100 foot onto Colebrook Road. Thus when we drive to Jake Snyder’s corner, the car leaves the dusty noisy dirt road for smooth pavement even before we arrive at the stop sign.

 

86
Spain, 1974

Her territory lies in the half-block zone where buses stop. Dirty leather moccasins, black dress, and soiled bandana emphasize the severity of her face. She squints to left and to right, like an animal wanting out, but she stays, holding the lottery tickets up as though they were a bouquet of flowers. We have seen her there at 9 in the morning and 9 at night, calling, calling, with only the word “de Espana.” Once we saw her make a sale — to a man even older than she.

 

 

87
Goshen, 1965

Guy F. Herberger walks across campus like he is following an Iowa plow. When talking at moments of intensity he pulls down on his chin, seeming to let out a high-level cackle that is more scorn than comedy. They say this is his way in the classroom, in church and in Washington.

 

88
Indianapolis, IN. 2011

I hop on the bus, holding a piece of the peanut brittle my brother Hal just gave to me. “Peanut brittle!” exclaims the Indigo driver. I give him a piece, and then see 25 customers hidden in coats, iPhones or bags. “My brother just gave me peanut brittle. You want a piece?” So I move through the bus. About two thirds of the riders help themselves. A half dozen pieces are left.

 

89
Spain, 2017

She sleeps the first night at the albergue I use. At the dinner table she says nothing other than her name and home (Japan). On the cold rainy trip over the Pyrenees we pass each other several times, a nod or “Buen Camino.” At three or four subsequent albergues that we share, she is present but alone, often sitting apart and writing. On the next occasion of meeting, I join her at a table and write in my notebook too. No talking. Not until Castrojueves do I begin a conversation. Then I invite her to tea. I tell her that I will be remaining in Costrojueves to rest a sore leg. I bid her adieu. Later as I am falling asleep, I see a person come to my bedside. It is she. “Thank you for being my friend.”

 

90

On my first interview pitching my services to a $100 million organization, I am unable to figure out why they are advertising for a consultant. About ten people around the table mention their own dreams for the company, but those words are too general to reveal an agenda. Then they ask of my expertise and manner of working, my priorities and style. The CEO then asks someone to give me a tour of the plant while they confer. Back in the room with the CEO, he says the company wishes to retain me. “ And we would like for you to tell us within two weeks whether we should fire Beth.”