Sinking Sand/Solid Rock -An Anthology #8 Carlsbad


 Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico - daveynin/cc/flickr

The first memory I have of Carlsbad is that the church members were at each other’s throats.  Let me change this – the union people were against everyone.  The way I remember it, the “scabs” were sweet-spirited people wanting to make a living, supporting their families.  The potash mines were in the midst of a 73 day labor strike.  The biggest of all the bigshots was the president of the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers’ Union and he was the biggest bigshot in our church; chairman of the church board and Sunday school superintendent.  You can see how this was like oil and water only worse.  The union members of our church would stand on the line going into the mines with baseball bats hitting the buses of some of our church members who were not union members.  I don’t think they were sanctified.  God hep us and bless us – it was awful, just awful.

Daddy was a happy man and a good preacher and Mama played the piano.  She still cooked pinto beans.  I played the church organ.  Pretty soon everybody came together through love, and thank God the strike ended.  Hard feelings were still there a little bit, but Daddy stayed there 8 years so people got over it.

During the seven years I was there before I went to college, more and more I felt the sand sinking around me.  I don’t know why, I just did.  Maybe it was because I was horribly bullied, that is, until I really, really learned to fight back.  No longer was there innocence.  A deep-seated anger started to take over.

As mentioned, we moved a lot and I never established enduring friendships.  No, I’m not complaining – it’s just a fact.  I think never having friends may have contributed to some of the anger building up.  Then there was the tension with the people in the church.  I had no life apart from the church.  One thing after another generated frustration and anger.  Sinking sand.

Shortly after our arrival in Carlsbad, Mama and Daddy were out visiting folks when a knock came on the parsonage door.  I opened the door and two men in suits asked if Daddy was there.  Just about that time Mama and Daddy drove up in the ’49 Plymouth Daddy bought right after we moved to Carlsbad.  I told the men, “Here’s my daddy now.”  They came on in the parsonage as Daddy entered the back door to meet them.  They asked if my mama and I could go out of the room so they could talk to Daddy.

I thought the parsonage was big at the time, but in truth was very small.  I slid on my stomach down the hall so I could hear what the two men in suits were saying.  They talked about one of our members who owned a store and had moved to Carlsbad from back east before the union strike.  Come to find out, according to the men in suits who happen to be FBI agents, he was suspected to be a Communist and that the union, they said, had ties to him, and our leading church member was the president of the union.  These were the days of Joe McCarthy a well-known senator from Wisconsin.  Maybe old Joe had a few things right.

It made no difference to me about stuff like that.  All I knew was that the store owner-Communist had a good-lookin’ redheaded daughter in our church.  For some reason I kinda liked her, but red hair?

Another girl named Marilyn (she wasn’t redheaded) was the first little girl I met when we moved to Carlsbad.  My mama took me to an old ladies round circle missionary society meeting and Marilyn was there. Sixth grade.  She was a pretty little thing.  Problem was she had this faint smell all the time.  Don’t know what it was.  Just kind of a strange, sour smell.  I couldn’t quite get over that smell.  Marilyn was the daughter of that lady who went to the altar all the time – bless her heart.  She had a little brother who was an idiot.  Maybe it was because his mother would stay at the altar for hours on end and just couldn’t quite get over her problems.  Maybe it was because she was having an affair with one of the other church members and couldn’t break loose.  Yes, her husband had been a pastor and yes he passed away.  But you would think she could get it through her head that God loved her and had a wonderful plan for her life.

I think we moved to Carlsbad around November or first part of December, 1949.  I came into the 6th grade midway in the year after kids had already known each other from growing up in Carlsbad.  I was the new kid on the block.  I was a happy 6th grade kid with the maturity of a first grader.  That didn’t go over too well with some of the boys especially when we were playing kickball – no one knew what soccer was back then.

Playing kickball was a perfect time for one of the bullyboys to come up from behind me saying, “I’ve been waiting a long time to do this!”  I was a brand new kid so I didn’t know what he meant and then he hit me upside the head.  Didn’t matter ‘cause I didn’t know what conflict was, or anger, or hate, or fighting.  It didn’t take long for me to find out because I was a new kid and I was much smaller than everyone else with a thing in my nose (I didn’t know what it was – a deviated septum).

I still couldn’t understand so I adapted by joining the band learning to play the alto horn, trumpet, cornet, French horn and baritone – they all had the same fingering except the French horn was fingered with the left hand.  I started to take piano lessons and do you know how I paid for this?  Mama was the janitor of the church for $2.50 a week.  Even now, I cry thinking about her sweeping and mopping and dusting.  She was a saint!  The lady across the street was a piano teacher so she became my teacher.  She smoked and had a daughter who could play the piano really good.  She was made fun of because she was extra heavy and I was bullied so we kinda went together.  Playing the piano, she helped me win a singing contest travelling to Roswell to the only TV station in that part of New Mexico.  She played the piano and I sang Nat King Cole’s song, Too Young.  It was popular back then. 

“They try to tell us we’re too young,

Too young to really be in love.”

Da-da-da-da-da …


I didn’t win the whole State of New Mexico, but they made a little record of me singing.  I had a real high voice since my voice hadn’t changed yet.  Didn’t matter.  I was getting used to losing.  I was getting used to being bullied, too.  Always, always, walking down the hall at school, someone would find it necessary to push or shove me into the lockers, knock me down or push me around in the rest room.  Sinking sand!  You gotta remember I was only 4 ft. 11 inches tall and weighed 98 pounds when I graduated from high school, so you know I was really, really little from the 6th grade to the 12th grade! [Get your yard stick out and measure about 4 feet and see how tall that is.]

My music teacher had an evergreen tree out back with some tall grass around it.  Their daughter and I had an idea that we could burn the grasses around it.  Didn’t work.  When the tree began to burn, we tried – tried – to put it out with the hose.  Sorry Charlie!  Our intention was good, but stupidity took control.  Sinking sand.  She got in trouble, but I didn’t because I never told my folks.

To this very day, I think of another girl who lived directly across the street from us, DoraMae.  Their house was so small you would think it was a shack.  It was!  She didn’t have a mother, only her dad and he worked in the mines.  I always wondered how she felt with no Mother.  And too, I wondered why they moved to Carlsbad from Mattoon, Illinois.  She had rotten teeth and always turned red when someone talked to her.  I always felt so sorry for her.  She seemed terribly sad and I wondered if her dad was taking advantage of her because she had to do everything; cook, clean, wash clothes, everything.  From time to time she asked Mama if she could wash clothes at our house.

DoraMae always sat on their rotten front steps (such as they were) and stared out at whatever was there.  Lonely.   I always gravitated to the downtrodden, the lonely, the hurting; maybe because that’s the way I felt way down deep inside.  She started going to our church on the corner of 10th and Fox.  I hope it helped and that she found hope and peace.                                    

I didn’t have any girlfriends who would admit I was their boyfriend because I had this thing in my nose and besides I was half everyone’s size.  Sinking sand.  Once again, I learned the art of adapting.  If there had been gangs I probably would have joined.  Come to think of it, there was a Mexican gang called the Pachucos and they tattooed little crosses on their hand between the thumb and forefinger.  I didn’t even think to join them because they were “wetbacks.”  Almost everyone in Southeastern New Mexico was a cowboy.  That was ok and down my alley.  Cowboys didn’t know what gangs were.

The Negroes didn’t start to school with us until about 1952.  They brought the Negroes in because we had a good coach and the Carlsbad Cavemen were fantastic and we needed to be state champs.  On the east side of New Mexico, high school football and basketball teams were really good; Carlsbad (Yea! Cavemen!), Hobbs, Artesia, Roswell, Portales and Clovis.  The Cavemen even played against Odessa, Texas (“Friday Night Lights”) for scrimmage and so people could go out and cheer.  The Negro guys were big and strong and played football and basketball really good.

Sports didn’t matter to me.  In fact, sports made me sad; maybe angry.  Sinking sand.   Daddy and Mama always tried to do the right thing and they learned from the higher up’s that all sports were baaaaadd.  Sinful.  Probably as bad as a woman wearing lipstick and gold.  I was halfway good on the alto horn and pretty good on the French horn – alto for marching and French for orchestra.  So what?  I had to get a letter from my folks to be excused from marching in the band at games because it was sinful.  Sinking a little more.

You know what?  I got tired of being bullied!  And I got tired of sinking sand!  One day I was out on the Pecos River (such as it was) trying to be accepted as one of the kids.  My folks had no idea I was there.  A big kid – bully – pushed me down in the water and I thought I was going to drown.  When I got out on dry ground, spitting and coughing water, I screamed and yelled, calling him dirty names using as many cuss words as I knew.  I was probably a little over 4 feet tall and he was between 5 and 6 feet tall.  He came out of the water cussing and I thought he was going to beat me up.  Instead, something happened inside of me and I blindedly swung my left fist – I’m left-handed.  He wasn’t expecting a left hand.  It caught him on his right cheek bone knocking him down flat on his back.  He was surprised and I was in shock.  He started to get up and I ran like a jackrabbit.  When I saw him at school, the side of his face was purple, yellow and green with a blood-red eye.  I was scared out of my wits, but he didn’t bother me.

My daddy always told me to never start a fight, but if someone starts a fight with me, finish it quickly!  I had never been in a fight before.  From that point on a different kind of quicksand appeared around me and destructive changes began to enter my heart and mind.  A certain liberating anger consumed my mind.  That’s when I started training for Golden Gloves Boxing.  I went all the way to state in the 112 (and below) division, then lost.  I’m not quite sure why boxing was OK, but football and basketball were not.  Maybe it was because of Joe Louis, Ezzard Charles and Rocky Marciano.

My uncle Rube and Aunt Leona lived in Carlsbad and he was a cop.  He wasn’t a beer drinker, but he made sure all us kids got whatever we needed, especially Schlitz.  I thought sinking sand was fun for a while, but it seemed that I had to hide everything.  I lied my way here and there hoping my folks wouldn’t find out.   What a shame.  That child-like innocence started to fade away.

In physical education the teacher taught dancing.  We had sock-hops. [“ooooooo MarshallHall, what would Jesus think?” A quote from my aunt Leona] I didn’t tell Mama and Daddy, but I did it because I didn’t want kids to make fun of me for bringing in an excuse from my folks for religious reasons.  They already made fun of me when I brought a written excuse for football and basketball games.  I lived in mortal fear that someone would see me dancing and tell my daddy.  Sinking a little more.

As a preacher’s kid (PK) I was supposed to set the standard for the other kids, so early on I was taught “what will other people think.”  “Whatwillotherpeoplethink?”   I lived right on the edge between getting a whipping and acting out.  While the other kids went to get saved again on Sunday nights, I sat in the back of the church either carving my initials on the pew or making fun reading songs in the song book adding “between the sheets,” like “amazing grace between the sheets.”  You guessed it, Sunday nights were for getting saved again and again and again.  Could never figure that out.

This may come as a surprise, but I think I had somewhat of a girlfriend who was a cheerleader with me in junior high school – about the seventh, eighth or ninth grades.  I could only be a cheerleader when school was going on, never after school during games, it was sinful.  When both of us got into high school we tried out for cheerleader, she made it, I quit ‘cause I couldn’t go to games and I was only 4½ feet tall.  She fell in love with a football player and I was out in the cold.

Years later I decided to drive through Carlsbad.  I think I may have been 27 years of age.  Driving down the main drag, Canal Street, I turned left by what was the old J.C. Penney store, then right on Canyon Street and pulled my car over to the curb.  Parking near the drugstore I thought I would walk around and breathe the toxic air of my high school days.  A big ol’ dirty brown Chevy pulled up behind me – muddy, beat up with a broken muffler, noisy, puffing smoke, and out jumps about 49 kids yelling and running everywhere.  Then the driver got out …whoopee!  It was my former cheerleading “girlfriend” wearing a mumu; Lucretia was her name.  The reason was obvious why she was wearing a mumu.  She didn’t recognize me.  I took a deep breath and said, “Thank you, Jesus!”

After I hit that bully down there on the Pecos River you would think I would have a little confidence, wouldn’t you?  Well, I did, but in a destructive way.  I developed a kind of deep anger that said, “I’m mad as hell and I ain’t agonna take it anymore!”  Know what I mean?  Actually, it was a lashing out comprised of rage and insecurity.  Boiling and boiling the memories of kids making fun of that thing in my nose, of ol’ Sister Horn, of whupping’s, of bullying’s, of not being allowed to go to football games, of losing my happiness, all exacerbated by more conflict with bigger kids who wanted to see what I had in me.  I sneaked off and smoked real cigarettes (not cedar bark with Sears & Roebuck catalogue paper) and drank beer.  I really, really liked Schlitz.  Still, it all amounted to sinking sand; it seemed as though there was no one who could rescue me.

I couldn’t go to games, but I could fight.  No one could quite prepare for that left hand.  The one thing that really made me feel good deep inside was when the Robinson kid came up from behind me and claimed that I had taken his ball point pen, which I didn’t.  The Robinson kid’s dad was a dentist in town, I think, and Daddy belonged to some kind of a service club with him.  I forgot the kid’s first name, but he grabbed me by the shoulder from behind.  I don’t know what or how, it was an auto-reaction; I turned and hit him in my favorite spot, his right cheek.  I missed and hit him in the mouth and out flew blood and teeth.  His daddy told my daddy and I thought for sure I was gonna get another whipping with the razor strop.  For the first time, I felt like Daddy was proud of me. I guess Daddy knew I had a problem.  Still, I was sinking and sinking fast; on the edge.

Oh there were a few fun times.  Some of the kids liked to go out into the hills surrounding Carlsbad exploring the many caverns deep under the ground [Carlsbad is known for the Caverns].  We went all over that whole area just having fun.  Always, always, I had to lie to go anywhere.  It became a pattern of behavior to lie.  My folks were the most wonderful people in the world, but for some reason I could never tell them anything.  Kids just didn’t do that back in those days.  So I sank more and more.

Travelling with the school band to Chihuahua, Mexico was fun and an experience of a lifetime.  We went there because President Eisenhower had a program called “People to People” and we were chosen to represent the USA.  We got kicked out of Mexico because most of us got drunk, and getting drunk was a no-no.  They called all the parents into the school auditorium and told on us.  I didn’t get a whipping this time.  What you may not realize is that my daddy was born in 1898 and kids back in those days were whipped, not spanked – “spare the rod, spoil the child.”  But by that time, I guess my folks were just worn out trying to straighten me out.

As a teenager in Carlsbad I had fun sometimes, but I was never happy.  I was engaged in activities, but I was not happy.  Being molested as a 5 or 6 year old started boiling inside and I had no idea what was wrong with me.  I wet the bed until I was 14 years old.  The inner rage finally caught up with me.  Psychologists could probably analyze this as a fight or flight syndrome.  Maybe Dr. Lanny (Snodgrass) could tell me.

Can I just say something here parenthetically?  Throughout my life I have been able to detect this rage in others akin to having the hair stand up on the back of my neck when in danger as when a wild animal or a mean dog comes close.  I don’t care if that person professes to be as holy moly as the queen of Scotland, I can sense it.  Some may act super sweet and nice, but be careful, don’t mess with them.  Some were sweetly vicious.  Sweet on the outside, but “Ima gonna eat you alive” on the inside.  See, I had that inner rage, developed over most of my young life and I could recognize it in others. The old-timers in the church preached about “that root of bitterness,” “the old nature,” “original sin.”  Have you seen some church people act like an angry, disturbed or just plain mean person?    I have.  I detected it through intuition or telepathic precognition or mental telepathy or something way out there.  Arrogance?  I know it when I see it.  Not genuine?  Yes, I can detect this, too.  This inner enlightenment was a blessing and a curse all my adult life.  At first I questioned these strange feelings.  Soon, I came to accept them when time after time they were proven correct; instance after instance.

For the life of me, even as a little guy, I couldn’t fathom other bad kids.  As a teen, that same kind of anger dug its claws into my heart as I was made fun of and bullied.  Like sinking in sand, I cried out, but I didn’t know how to ask for help.  While in junior high school, I took my canteen and went wandering around in the desert hills outside of Carlsbad.  Soon the water was gone in the intense summer heat of the desert.  It seemed as though I was lost.  I started to hallucinate.  Stumbling around I climbed to the highest hill nearby looking for town, or someone to help.  I saw nothing but more desert; no water, thirsty beyond anything I had ever known.  Fortunately I remembered some things I learned in Scouting.  I took my knife and cut into a cactus.  Although the water was somewhat slimy, it sustained me until I could find my way home.

Years later when reading Matthew 5:6, that experience in the desert vividly brought to life the words of Jesus: “Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.”  One day Jesus went to the village water well and a lower class woman was there.  In the culture of the day a Jew would not be caught talking to a Samaritan woman, but Jesus asked her for a drink.  She must have been shocked and embarrassed because Jesus saw it on her face.  He said something like “if you only knew what God has waiting for you, you would ask me and I would give you a kind of water that will last for a lifetime.”  They kind of talked back and forth because she just couldn’t get past her culture and training.  Too many questions!   Then Jesus clarified by saying people get thirsty again and again after drinking water from this well. “But the water I give them becomes a perpetual spring again inside of them giving them eternal life.”  Oh Boy!  This really set her off because she brought up everything from here to yon: (1) give me the water and I won’t have to make this trip all the time; (2) I don’t have a husband and what does that matter anyway? (3) I’ve had five husbands and the one now, oh well; (4) what about the Jews; (5) is Jerusalem the only place to worship? (6) I have ancestors who taught me this and that.  Jesus knew exactly what to say.  No, he didn’t argue or debate.  He simply said that the time is coming when all these questions will be like water running off a duck’s back.  “In fact, it’s not where we worship that counts, but how we worship – is our worship spiritual and real?  Do we have the Holy Spirit’s help? For God is Spirit, and we must have his help to worship as we should.  The Father wants this kind of worship from us.” (John 4:21-24)  She said she knew all this, but only after the Messiah arrived, then everything would be OK.  And Jesus put it right down in front of her: “I AM THE MESSIAH!”  (John 4:26)  There’s no misunderstanding there!

There were some tough kids who let it be known that they were going to run away from home.  I said I would go, too.  I hungered to be relieved and free from the hurts and anger inside.  It didn’t have anything to do with Mama and Daddy because our home was happy.  It had to do with that sinking feeling!  Anyway, the word got out and Daddy caught me before we left.  Those other boys were arrested in Kilgore, Texas and thrown in jail.  That near-runaway experience did nothing for my shredded heart.  The sinking sands of insecurity, immaturity, inferiority and rejection caused me to take Daddy’s long rifle Springfield 22 and hold it to my mouth.  I was too small to reach the trigger – never thought about using my toe.  I guess something stopped me.  It didn’t happen.  I guess you know ‘cause I’m writing this.

There was a drug store right across from high school and the new owner needed a soda jerk so I applied, such as it was.  I was to cook hamburgers, make sandwiches, dip ice cream cones and make sure the kids didn’t mess up the jukebox.  I got the job.  Do you remember the Happy Days TV show from a half century ago?  Well, that was what it was like.  There were no McDonalds or Burger Kings.  Good news!  Shortly thereafter, someone put in an A & W Root Beer place.  Up to that time there were no franchises in Carlsbad and the only other one that came our way, eventually, was Dairy Queen.

A guy named Cecil was a member of our church and he taught the junior high Sunday school class.  He’s the guy who caught us smoking cigars when we went on a class outing.  Anyway, he was assistant manager of J.C. Penney Company.  He hired me to work as a window dresser and interior designer.  Other high school kids would pass the window along the street while I was dressing the models and point their fingers at me.  Before long I decided to put up sheets over the window so no one could see me.  Cecil taught me good.  Then came along Safeway, then the local funeral home for some more experience.  My big brother, MartinLuther, had worked there.  WOW!  Talk about a variety of experiences!

Our family gathered from time to time at the parsonage and Mama cooked the best food, pinto beans and all, including fresh onions and cornbread with sweet milk.  MartinLuther and Joy (Edward and Joana), NanthaLee and Lloyd (Elaine and Ronnie), and Howard (daughter Glenna) and one of his many wives (Jean) all lived in Carlsbad at the same time for a while.  Howard had brought his gypsy wife home from San Diego; at least we thought she was his wife.  She had a pest of a little boy and he was always getting into things.

My brother, MartinLuther, was preparing to take us hunting the next day and had a Browning 30-06 rifle I was to use.  We were all in the kitchen and MartinLuther was showing me how to use it.  Unfortunately, he mistakenly left a shell in it.  That little pest of a kid – Jean’s kid – kept looking down the barrel and everybody kept pulling him away and yelling at him to get away.  Nevertheless, he kept it up.  Then he ran over in front of the gun again.  Howard yanked him away and a split second later the gun went off and blew a big hole into the kitchen sink, through the cabinet, out the wall of the house and wound up in the concrete retaining wall by the church.   The sound was deafening!  All of us were in godawful shock!  No one moved or said anything for at least a full sixty seconds.  Absolute shock … and blood drained from all our faces.  We just stood there, no one moving.  By the grace of God our whole family was protected from a devastating life change.

A few weeks later I went with a bunch of kids up into the hills way high up to where there was a spring with cool water coming up out of the ground.  The water ran down over green moss on and on.  Being the explorer I was, the water enticed me to find out where it went.  As I ran over the water it felt so cool on my feet in the hot New Mexico sun.  What I didn’t realize was that the water ran over a 200 foot cliff below.  I started to slide on my feet, then falling on my side I grasped for anything, anything that could hold me.  The slick green moss provided no place to hold.  I could sense that I was going faster and faster.  Screaming – no avail!  A small rise in the rock and after that no stopping.  Something – Some One – put a stop to the slide.  As I looked over the edge 200 feet below, I knew – I. just. knew!   I suspect you could remember times when God intervened in your life, as well.

Actually, I learned something from that experience.  Sometimes, but not always, God protects us from our own stupidity and sins.  God always forgives our sins, but in many if not most cases the consequences of our sins and stupidity will bring suffering for years to come.

Driving from Alamogordo over to Artesia and then on to Carlsbad was one of those times when stupidity raised its ugly head.  Just so you’ll know, stupidity was no stranger to me, in fact I still do a few stupid things.  Maybe this is because I do stuff before I think.  A couple of friends and I had been laying hardwood floors in the church at Alamogordo.  Going through the mountains toward Artesia in my 1954 Chevrolet provided a perfect place for me to slide around the corners.  The only problem was it was sprinkling and the highway was a little slick.  Yep, you guessed it … too fast and two circles to the left, crashing into the side of the mountain, one to the right and over a 35 foot embankment, not quite straight down.  Then, and theeennn, a cable caught the right rear tire housing … and there we dangled over the edge!  Three scared teenagers, white as a sheet … we dare not move a muscle!

Would you believe, a guy with a tow truck saw the whole thing!  He pulled up, attached the line to my car and after about an hour, we were on our way again – with the side of my car looking like it had been through World War 2 and awfully out of alignment that by the time we reached Artesia we couldn’t drive anymore; oil draining, all the rubber off the left front tire.  Daddy had to come rescue us.  It wasn’t a pretty picture.

Enough of that! Life isn’t all bad, because when you have a praying Mom and Dad you can count on intervention from the angels of God through His Holy Spirit doing as much as He will do, although He gave us free will.  Even when it seems that life is like someone stomping on your head, “he looks beyond our faults and sees our need.” 

“I shall forever lift mine eyes to Calvary,

To view the cross, where Jesus died for me.

How marvelous, His grace that caught my falling soul.

He looked beyond my faults and saw my need.”

Dottie Rambo

Thank God for church camp.  Daddy bought a brand new 1956 aqua green and white Plymouth, four doors, one of those newfangled ones that had buttons for gear-shifts.  WOW!  All you had to do was push a button that said D and it would go forward.  Daddy, Mama and I packed it all up and headed for church camp outside Capitan, New Mexico.  By this time I was 17 years old, just graduated from high school, didn’t know where I was going to college, the maturity of a 12 year old and lost as a goose.  Who cared at that point, it didn’t matter because Daddy let me drive the car out of Carlsbad, north through Artesia, into Roswell turning left on 380, past Ruidoso and on to the camp located between Ruidoso and Capitan.  Mount Baldy was on our left and Mama kept saying, “MarshallHall, you watch the road, don’t look up there.”   I guess Daddy was resigned to think if I did something stupid, oh-well; it wouldn’t be the first time.  The camp was before we got to Capitan way high in the mountains.  This was great.

I pulled off the asphalt and started up the winding dirt road into the camp.  It was a little bit rainy. We were early – we always were.  Being early for everything was in our DNA, although no one knew what DNA was back in those days.  As I pulled carefully up the kind-of rocky, gravelly road, a little old lady [maybe 50 years old] the wife of the camp maintenance man, was standing in the road crying and waving her hands.  To the left was a wrecked up tractor, one of those kind that had a blade on the back and a shovel on the front.  Her husband was there with his head caught between the forks of a tree.  He probably bounced around on the tractor, going too fast, up and over as on a trampoline.  Gone.  Dead.

That campground had a number of awful things happen; a cabin fell on Dr. Gunstream and killed him, a small fire during youth camp that brought all of us out into the cold night passing bucket after bucket of water along to splash on the burning cabins (I think 3 in all), and then the biggest forest fire in New Mexico history in 2012 totally destroyed the whole campground, about 150 acres of beautiful forest land.  I would imagine that over 200 or more structures were totally destroyed, burned to the ground.  All told the fire consumed about 200,000 acres of New Mexico forest, 300 square miles.  You can read about it in the news.  Mercy!

A lot of good things happened, too.  We played during the day, but they had church services at night.  The singing was great.  Listening to the evangelistic playing of the piano by pastors’ wives was wonderfully uplifting.  When the preacher asked if anyone wanted to come forward and pray, my daddy came back to me, crying, and asked if I would go forward.  I shook my head “no.”  Just as he turned to leave, deep down in my heart something, Some One, spoke to me.  I said to myself, “It’s time.”  There and then on July 4, 1956 for the first time in my life I made a conscious decision and sure enough, “He looked beyond my faults and saw my need.”  No words can explain the overpowering relief and joy of knowing the indwelling Christ, His presence and His forgiveness.

“­­­Shackled by a heavy burden,
‘neath a load of guilt and shame;
Then the 
hand of Jesus touched me,
And now I am no longer the 
“He touched me, O, He touched me,
And O, the joy that floods my soul.
Something happened, and now I know,
He touched me and made me whole.”

Bill Gaither

No more shifting sand.  No more sinking sand.  Solid Rock!  But boy-o-boy, another battle began … on a spiritual level!

This new battle was and has been fierce, and peculiarly rigorous; fear, insecurity, uncertainty, stupidity, guilt, sin, rejection, distrust and, of course, Satan with his constant roadblocks, deceits and accusations.  At first, I thought I would never be stupid again.  Didn’t work that way.  Battles with victory after victory, loss after loss.

What I could never get straight was that belief and forgiveness come before behavior, not after!  Couldn’t get this through my thick head.  Honest, I always thought I had to quit being stupid and behave first, then God would be happy with me and I would go to heaven.  No way!  What happens is that you believe and trust first [be sorry, ask forgiveness, repent], then you are born into the family of God through Jesus.  You’re like a little baby just learning to walk.  You can read about it in Romans 4.  It may take a while to quit being stupid!

“I’m not on an ego trip

I’m nothing on my own

I make mistakes, I often slip,

Just common flesh and bones.

But I’ll prove someday just why I say

I’m of a special kind

For when He was on the cross

I was on His mind. 

“The look of love was on His face

Thorns were on His head

The blood was on His scarlet robe

Stained a crimson red.

Though His eyes were on the crowd that day

He looked ahead in time,

For when He was on the cross

I was on His mind. 

“He knew me, yet He loved me.

He whose glory makes the heavens shine.

So unworthy of such mercy

Yet when He was on the cross

I was on his mind.”

Mike Payne/Ronnie Hinson

By that time our church was called First Church of the Nazarene because the union guys wanted their own church so they convinced the DS to let them start their own little church.  That was alright I guess because someone said that the Baptists grow from splits and divisions and if the Baps can do it so can the little fish.  One preacher said that church growth in those days was like hearing two cats fighting late at night.  Screeching and scratching, it sounds like a real fight, then a couple of months later a whole new litter of kittens are born.  I could never understand this. 

It seemed that Carlsbad could be the makings of a long term, stable home life making friends, and then it was time for me to go to college, so instead of the University of New Mexico (into which I couldn’t have been accepted even if I had wanted to – my high school grades were horrible, just horrible), I went to a church college which I thought was going to be like a celestial church camp.  It wasn’t!  So that’s how I was dropped off on Route 66.   A new chapter began.



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