The Big One that Did Not Get Away

Image (18) (1) Image (17) Image (16) (1)by Ruth Tervol

It is an amazing event to find oneself in the middle of a dream, but here I was in the middle of my lifelong dream. My husband and I had landed in Anchorage, Alaska the evening before and driven out to the Kenai River where we stayed at a bed and breakfast for a few short hours of sleep before getting up at 4:30 AM.  We needed to be at the river by 5:30 AM to get instructions and board the river boat.

So here we were standing beside the Kenai River with seven other people, six novice fishermen and a guide, waiting to board the boat.  We were soon on board and headed upstream as a gray mist hovered over the river in the early, not quite light, Alaskan dawn. The misty air, heavy-laden with the smell of fish and pine, gave me a heady sensation.  The thick pine forest appeared to surround us as we looked upstream to where the trees and water converged. A lone eagle glided over the trees above us, and shore birds silently pecked the sand at the river’s edge. A moose, with a rack that looked to be at least eight feet wide, stepped into the water, and effortlessly swam across the current.

A mother duck and her young flock were trying to get to the other side of the river. The babies could not fly so the mother was showing them how to cross the river going against the current.  Their wings were flapping and their feet were paddling as fast as they could move them to cross a river that was a quarter of a mile wide and flowing downstream at four miles an hour. The eagle, which had been gliding above us, suddenly dropped to the river, snagged a fish about a foot long, flew above us and disappeared into the trees.

Amid all this tranquility, the river sent a pulse through me. With electrifying anticipation I baited my hook, and waited for the guide’s direction to put it in the water. I wondered silently if the mother duck would ever get her family safely to the other side of the river as I heard the guide say, “Ruth, drop your hook in the water and pull off twenty lengths of line.” A length was from your reel to as far as your arm could reach. As I began to pull off the twenty pulls of line, my mind leaped to landing a king salmon.  Would I really be able to bring one of those beautiful creatures into the boat and watch someone club it? At that moment frenzied excitement burst forth from everyone in the boat as a king salmon seized my bait and headed downstream.

All around me people began to shout and yell, “Fish on! Pull up! – Fish on! Pull up!”

My conscious mind did not understand what they were saying; however, I suddenly realized they were shouting instructions to me. My ears heard the words and my brain finally connected so I jerked up hard on the pole to set the hook, and cranked on the reel. As my pole bent, my stomach churned and convulsed, threatening to release my breakfast. I swallowed hard to keep my breakfast where it was supposed to be. The fish on my hook had its own inner turmoil and headed downstream.  It darted from one side of the river to the other. My pole jerked from one side of the boat to the other as the fish changed directions, hoping to dislodge the hook.

Amid the shouts from my fellow fishermen, I heard the guide’s voice say “Crank, crank!” as he yelled into my ear. “Pull up on the pole, pull up and hold it steady!” OH! I guess he is talking to me. I cranked the reel and pulled up on the pole, every muscle tight and straining. My arms, being pulled from the sockets, throbbed with pain. My legs, taunt and unbending, ached as I struggled to keep my pole up and the line tight.

“Strange,” I thought, “what happened to the other fisherman?” I looked up to see their boats quiet, as they reeled in their lines and watched the fight between the fish and me. At that moment the guide grabbed the end of my pole and slammed it hard on my belly button. “Hold the end of the pole right there.”

Just as I firmly anchored the pole on my navel that sparkling silver fish, at least a yard long, weighing 50+ pounds, jumped from the water and danced on its tail.  It bounced three times on its tail, flipped over and slipped gracefully back into the river. I thought, “How beautiful! Could I watch it die?”

“Keep the line tight!” the guide shouted.

After having seen the silver beauty that had swallowed my bait, I really began concentrating on the instructions from the guide, thinking that maybe it would jump off my line so it would not have to die. However, I forgot my aching arms and churning stomach, and pressed the butt end of the pole harder into my belly button holding it firm. At the same time I cranked the reel with my right hand to bring MY FISH, as I had quickly come to think of it, close to the boat. As I cranked the reel, the line shortened. With the shorter line the fish swam near the boat, and the guide made a scoop with the net and missed. I thought, “Oh good it swam away. No, no! It was still on my line. I heard the guide say, “Keep your line tight, you do not want this one to get away. It is a beauty.”

“Oh Lord,” I breathed, “What do I do now? This is your creature, but you have given it to us for food. Will I be able to eat and enjoy this fish? The next moment it sprang from the water, and leaped into the air, the boat swerved, and the fish landed in the back of the boat. The guide quickly threw his net over the fish so that it could not flip back into the water. I stood there in the boat thinking, “What now? Lord, did you just give me this fish to eat?” All around us, fishermen in other boats began to yell and clap, praising my catch.

At that moment the guide grabbed his club and hit ‘my fish.’ I had no time to shout “NO, don’t do that!” I looked at my fish lying in the boat and felt empathy for the fish and my part in its death. It had taken 50 minutes from the time the fish took my hook until it was in the boat. It had been a tough struggle between the fish and me. However, I was actually saddened by the death of the fish. I asked the Lord and the fish for forgiveness for taking its life, but knew that I would certainly enjoy every mouthful of that wonderful salmon the Lord had given me.

I remembered that Jesus said to His disciples, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore… Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” (JOHN 21:10-12)  Yes, I would really enjoy this fish.

The salmon weighed in at 64 pounds. It was the biggest catch of the day, and my fishing was done before 6:30 AM as you can only catch one fish per day on the Kenai River. I was happy to read my book the rest of the day. The next morning I woke up with a very black and blue circle around my navel, but ready to head out to the river for another day of fishing. I did catch another fish that day, just not nearly as big.

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Married to Destiny

Tacoma never won many beauty contests. My first memory of the place involves a nasty stench. The Tacoma Aroma wafted through my family’s car as we drove past the port with it’s smokestacks spewing the stench of I don’t know what. The smell rolled out from any number of smelters. It probably damaged my growing lungs.

TacomaSONY DSC oozed with factories and shipping lanes ever since the Europeans came to the area. The EPA targeted Commencement Bay and surrounding ares as Super Fund Sites, meaning they needed extra dollars to clean up the mess we’ve made here in past decades.

Later I remember the shootings on the Hill Top and the fear of going downtown at all. Even today, I’ll get glimpses of those old days with tightness in my chest as I wonder if someone might shoot me for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gangs still roam here, and I see the sadness of poverty on the streets in the people bent over, blankets held over their heads.

But over the past few years I have found a strange emotion filling me whenever I drive into the city on my morning commute or to go to the zoo with my children. It feels like looking at a loved one with all of her wrinkles and flaws and not caring one whit about them. It feels like being married to someone and, even though he sometimes drives me crazy by putting things in the wrong place or telling the same story for the hundred millionth time, loving the very essence of his being. I didn’t ever expect to feel this way about a place. And certainly not about Tacoma. But I do.

Growing up I couldn’t wait to leave my home. I longed for adventure in other cities and countries. I went on a mission trip to Ciudad Juarez, lived in San Francisco for a summer, worked in Germany in a hotel and taught English for a time in China. I loved to travel and still feel the thrill of the airport even with all of its lines and security. But every time I go, I think of what I am missing at home. A part of me feels empty and sad without my ‘place.’

Maybe this has to do with all the people I’ve loved in Tacoma even in the city’s dark times.

My father grew up in Tacoma on Ash Street off of 19th and Sprague. I can’t see a place in Tacoma without thinking of something I did with him or some story he told me like playing hookey when he was 10 and having the News Tribune take his picture at Hoodlum Lake – a place I lived across the street from as an adult. Here’s the picture of him and his friends on their raft. The newspaper photographer caught them, and the boys got in trouble for skipping school.

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As I grew up, we visited my grandparents’ home in North Tacoma, taking the Union Avenue exit off of Highway 16 for as long as I can remember. What’s not to love about a city where I played in a house with a candy dish full of M&M’s, a basement with slide-worthy stairs, a laundry chute and a toy chest?

For 17 years I have worked at Bates Technical College in Tacoma. Most of those years I worked downtown next to the city jail, county courthouse and local food bank. I’ve certainly learned more about Tacoma’s wrinkles from my morning commute and from the night classes I’ve taught in the neighborhood. But I’ve also met students at this school that live in my memory and colleagues that sometimes feel closer than family. One teacher held my hand just before my son was born and brought me the baby shower gifts I had missed at work because my oldest decided to be born early.

And while I’ve been busy living my life, Tacoma has been busy reinventing itself. Museums sprouted downtown and the LeMay museum grew up next to the Tacoma Dome. The Sounder brought commuters and everywhere I look, art springs up. Even on the sides of old houses like this:

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Many of the old smokestacks came down. They’ve cleaned up the arsenic in the soil of Ruston and places like the Children’s Museum make Tacoma an attraction rather than repelling visitors. Even the stench is gone. It lives the memories of we middle aged locals, but no one holds their noses while passing on I-5 any more.

It surprises me to feel this love of place. I always saw myself as a wanderer but maybe that wasn’t true. I spent years thinking I needed to travel to find myself. Instead, when I sunk my roots in the earth of my home, I found myself.

I still want to travel. My soul loved all the places I’ve been and longs for more. But I don’t want to leave this home with all of her wrinkles and crazy stories, either. I count myself lucky to live here, to have students from all over the world and to travel now and then, knowing The City of Destiny waits for me when I get back. And sometimes, like last June, I go to the car museum at night, and I see her beauty reflecting my love back.

Destiny

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Our Old Barn

by Ruth Tervol

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She stood looking all skinny and meowing as if she had something to tell me. The search was on to find the old “Ma” cat’s new kittens.  As soon as I would find her kittens, she picked them up one at a time and moved them to a new secret place. What fun it was to find them over and over again! We had many cats in the barn to keep the mouse population down, but the old “Ma” cat was my favorite.

My brothers and I spent countless hours in the old barn on our farm. In the barn the sweet aroma of hay, straw, animals, and the scent of fresh manure were always present. There were other smells like wheat, oats, dust and carbolic salve[1] which were part of the barn fragrances. However, it seemed that I could always smell each one separately.

Dad told us to stay out of the grain bins and leave the salve on the shelf, but I always had to grab a handful of wheat to eat, and take a whiff of the carbolic salve. It would clear my head from dust and hay, keeping my nose from running.

Many days I would slip in the side door of the barn to “work” with Dad’s tools. The 30-foot tool bench sat just inside the door along the west side of the barn. There I could hammer and saw any piece of wood that happen to lie under the bench. I never put together any useful item, but enjoyed the sawing and hammering. It was always a delight to see the nail all the way into the wood.

I loved to climb up in the hayloft and lie in the hay watching the dust particles float in sunbeams; some particles were as big as a pencil eraser and some as small as the tip of a pin. They floated down peeking through the cracks in the siding. I always felt itchy after rolling around in the loose hay and then climbing up on the bales of hay on the other side. Sometimes I would move the bales around to build a ‘hay house’ to hide in, ignoring the itchy skin.

When we threw the loose hay out of the mow to the barn floor, it made the floor slippery so I could slide around on it like I was skating.

It was fun to throw the hay out of the haymow to the barn floor for the animals each afternoon. Then we climbed down from the haymow and pitched the hay in the stanchions[2], for the cows to feed on while they were being milked. It was always tempting, when the pile of hay on the barn floor was high, to jump out of the haymow to land on that pile some twenty feet below. Only one time did I miss the pile of hay, and land on the barn floor hard enough to sprain my ankle. I had to crawl to the house where Mother wrapped my ankle and propped my leg up. It was a couple of days before I could walk on it again.

If we were taking the bales of hay down, we used the big hay fork as each bale weighted about 90 pounds. The hay fork hung from the center of the barn on a heavy rope that was 5” around. The peak of the barn to the barn floor was about three stories high. The heavy rope went through a pulley at the top of the barn then the big fork was attached on the end of it. We would put the fork, which was like a big claw, around a bale of hay, lift the bale with the rope, swing it over to edge of the mow, and lower it to the floor to be used for feed. I sometimes would grab the rope swinging way out across the barn floor, pretending to be Tarzan.

One day when my two younger brothers and I were playing in the barn with a friend, my brothers and their friend decided it would be fun to ride to the top of the barn on the hay fork.  My brother, Richard, sat on top of the four-pronged hay fork while his friend, Larry, pulled him up to the top. Then Larry had a ride up to the top of the barn, after which they put my little brother, John, on the fork and began to hoist him up.  I was frightened to see my little brother on the hay fork, and ran to the house telling Mother what was happening in the barn. She did not seem concerned as we spent many hours in the barn.

Richard and Larry pulled on the rope until John was in the very top of the barn. Then they tied the rope off so it would stay there. I could hear John screaming. Richard and Larry thought it was funny to hear John scream. Not realizing John’s hand was caught in the pulley, they fastened the rope to keep it from swinging, and left John there in the top of the barn while they went off to the pond to swim. John managed to loosen the rope on the pulley to free his hand, and climbed down the rope to the barn floor. Dad came in from the field just as John got to the barn floor. John was crying as he told Dad what had taken place.

Dad was so angry with Richard and Larry he stormed over to the mill pond where they were swimming. “!!!%$#&@##!” Dad yelled. “You two get out of that water and get over here.” He told Richard that he had to clean the trenches[3] every day for the next two weeks, and if Larry was any kind of friend he would come and help. Other than being sore for a couple of days, John’s hand was fine. However, Dad fastened the rope pulley so we could no longer pull it up and down and I could no longer play ‘Tarzan.’  We did not have any further injuries from the hay fork.

Twice a day we would go to the field where the cows were grazing and head them toward the barn. When the lead cow started walking up the lane, all of the other cows fell in line behind. It was a ‘cow parade’ each time they headed for the barn with the same cow leading the herd.  The cows were then brought into the barn, put in stanchions, fed, and had their udders washed. They were ready to be milked.

In the spring, summer and fall all of the windows and doors would be open, and sometimes we had a fan on for more airflow. Always the radio was playing soft western music, as that was Dad’s favorite music. The cold winter days were really my favorite time to milk cows.  I would place my milk pail between my legs, put my head against the cow, and snuggle up against her as I put my cold hands on the cow’s teats to begin. My hands were always warm before I had my first cow half milked, and the cold seemed to dissipate while I milked.

Sometimes it was necessary to wean a calf off from the mother so we had more milk to sell.  Dad would keep the calf in the barn, and let me feed the calf from a special pail with a nipple coming off one side of the pail, or a special bottle with nipple just for calves.  Dad filled the pail half full of milk and let me hold it while the calf drank. Those little ones, with their innocent faces and trusting eyes, were pretty strong. They would bunt the pail making it hard to hanging on to the pail while they drank. When the calf finished sucking the milk out of the pail, I would often let it suck on my finger. What pressure! It felt like the blood would come right through the end of my finger. A calf never bit us, but it felt like it with the suction they had.

The barn, which is on the farm in Southern Michigan, where we grew up, stood for many happy hours during our growing years. Today when I see the barn many of those treasured memories come flooding back. Our parents owned the farm with the barn for 57 years. It is no longer in our family, but stands as a beacon along the road when we pass to remind us of our childhood.

[1] Carbolic salve is a a salve which contains carbolic acid  mixed with an oil base and is used on cows udders to smooth dry chapped skin and other minor scratches and cuts. It has a strong odor of menthol.

[2] Stanchions are a pair of upright bars, which the cow would put their head in.  After the cow’s head was in between the bars, we would fasten them closer together so the cow was confined in the stall.

[3] Trenches are a long foot wide ditch lined with concrete at the back of the manger. Each time a cow would pee or poo the mess went into the trench and had to be shoveled.  Then the trench was washed after each milking.

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Rebeginning in the Center

by Karrie Zylstra Myton

In the beginning I felt guilty about God. I’m not sure how much of this came from the church and how much from our wider culture in the United States, but I heard many messages about keeping God at the center of my life.

So I tried to stay connected to God. I did. My friends and enemies in school pegged me as a ‘good girl’ and they were right. But what should I do to be good, I wondered?  I tried flushing toilets in the bathroom when the other girls had forgotten, hoping that a teacher would notice my efforts. I also worked for years to get the good grade so the teachers would like me. Living this way felt bad like playing my clarinet out of tune. The sounds of my efforts to be good from guilt grated on my nerves and ears. I believe it irritated those around me, too.

So I went on my way, doing things for God in church and then living the rest of my life mostly on my own. If I wanted something like a job or a family, I worked to find it on my own. All the while I felt disconnected and out of tune, but that disconnection felt better than a whiny guilt-driven effort.

One day I started to realize I had dreams that were so big, so far reaching, so deeply personal for me that I needed help to see them happen. These were creative dreams. My dreams of having a second child. My dreams of writing in a way that meant something to me and to the people who read what I wrote.

I tried the old ways with these dreams. I tried helping myself as the saying goes about those God helps. But it didn’t work. I either moved in directions that felt discordant, or I felt crushed by how impossibly difficult and complex my dreams were.

How could I entice my body to have a baby if it didn’t do it on its own? I saw doctors full of stories about how to fill me with drugs or read books of Chinese medicine filled with ways to eat correctly and stay avoid cold foods. None of this felt in tune with Divine plans. And none of this worked.

How could I tackle that creative process of putting words on paper? The writers’ how-to books are full of advice about platforms, plot lines and the pressure to succeed as a writer. The weight of my dreams crushed me when I tried to do them on my own.

Instead, I gradually began to rest in the Divine, trusting that I would know the steps as they fell in front of me. Trusting, even, that if these dreams didn’t come to be, another wonderful thing might unfold in front of me because I connected with the Divine instead of pushing through on my own.

This sort of trust and connection isn’t discordant. It doesn’t feel like the Divine is forcing me to do something I don’t want to do. It feels like the dreams of my heart are a part of the Divine plan. It feels like being centered as my martial arts teacher once described or as Rob Bell describes in his video Rhythm about a spirituality that is ‘in tune.’ The music from this video speaks to me louder than what Bell says and stays with me for hours afterward.

My band teacher had a machine once that measured sound waves. He could hold it up to show us how out of tune we were with all of the lines squiggling and dancing around each other. When we were in tune, the lines matched up. No amount of guilt would change those dancing lines. In fact, the process worked better if we relaxed and the band teacher stopped fussing at us.

I’m no longer flushing toilets expecting a reward. I’m no longer trying to get a good grade. I’m living closer to the song and in tune more often. More often the lines are matching up. It’s a rebeginning that works for me, my dreams and, I pray, for those around me.

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Lost Train

by Martha Grover

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Her faded blond hair, streaked with gray, hung down past her shoulders. She smiled at me and said, “Hello,” in a voice that spoke of years of smoking, “do you bargain?” She glanced over to where a chunky, curly-haired man in his twenties knelt before a toy train display. He lifted a caboose to eye-level, smiled and put it back in the box.

“No, I’m sorry, we don’t bargain. Prices are set. All items are donated and all proceeds go to our youth missions. So your money’s going for a good cause,” I told her.

“I know,” she said nodding. “I love this church. You helped us out when we were homeless. At times we lived out of our car. We had no money, nothing, but you gave us money for gas, food. We had lost everything, everything.”

She looked me in the eye, “But this church helped us survive.” She turned her head and looked in the man’s direction. He was carefully fitting the railway track pieces together that had come apart. She looked back at me, “He lost everything when he was four years old. All his toys. I would love to get him that train, but I don’t have $50.”

The joy I had felt all morning fled. My ever-present smile disappeared. I wanted her to have that train, but we had definite rules to follow for the rummage sale, and bargaining was a clear no-no. I smiled, “At three, everything is half-price,” I told her. “Hopefully, it will still be here.”

She nodded a faint smile back at me. Then she began to tell me her story. Customers were milling around, but Rose, who was in charge, and other volunteers were there, so I gave her the only thing I had to offer, my listening ear. It was a story like others I’ve read about, even like a few people I’ve known. A story of hard luck, tenaciousness and survival.

Meanwhile, another couple had stopped to check out the train. They were looking at the packaging, numbers stamped on the cars, using a jeweler’s loupe, their cell phones and taking notes. My storyteller had not let them go unnoticed. “They look like collectors.”

I agreed. Her son had moved away to a stack of comic books.

The new couple brought the train box to me. The woman asked, “If we buy this train, plus the other box of extras, can we get a special price?

“I’m sorry, the prices are set for now. At three, they’re 50 percent off.”

She didn’t smile. She turned and walked to where the man waited beside the rest of the train. They seemed to confer and then began putting the pieces in the box. The track was dismantled and stacked neatly on top. They took it to the cashier and counted out $50.

I watched with the woman beside me. She was quiet.

Rose, who was unaware of our other potential buyer, smiled broadly at the couple, and after they disappeared, announced loudly, “We just made fifty dollars!” Cheers all around.

I touched the woman on the shoulder and walked over to where the young man was still looking at the comic books and said, “I’m sorry about the train.”

He looked up, “It’s OK.”

Later, I told this story to a friend who asked, “Why didn’t you buy it for her?”

“Oh, I never thought of it,” I said. “It cost $50.”

She said, “Oh, well then.”

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Sacramento Valley Angels

by Karrie Zylstra Myton

Sacramento Vally

In 1993 my sister Mary and I borrowed my mother’s Honda Civic to drive to San Francisco. I had a friend I wanted to visit, so we went on a grand adventure together. We drove the 16 hours, laughed, and got stiff in the car for all of those hours. But one hour in particular stands out in our minds and changed my life for the better.

Many miles south of our home we came to Redding, California. I remember noticing the police in that city drove Camaros.  They reminded me more of sharks in the water than police cars usually do. Everyone slowed and held their breaths around them. Mary and I drove on and continued chatting.

I can’t remember what we talked about. I do know that we forgot all about filling the tank with gas. We hadn’t been on many road trips, and it didn’t occur to us that if we kept driving, we would need to fill up the tank. About an hour south of Redding, the car slowed, and we managed to drift ourselves to the side of the freeway where the semis began to pass us. The drafts from the big rigs shook our tiny car. The sensation of being stranded  sank in each time they passed without stopping.

We raised the hood of the Civic, hoping it might signal someone to stop for us. No one did. For the better part of an hour we sat bored and unsure of what to do. The road wasn’t deserted. Those giant semis, cars and other trucks zipped along at 70 miles an hour but the Camaro cops were all apparently in Redding. No one pulled over to help.

I grew restless trying to think of what I could do to fix our problem. There was a farm road alongside the freeway I could easily get to but no gas station or town in sight. In the Sacramento Valley I could see a long stretch with no trees or significant hills to hide places where we could find help. I was grateful, at least, that the valley wasn’t as hot as it could be – in the spring it was only around 70 degrees. I thought about leaving the Civic and walking with my sister, but I couldn’t risk someone wrecking my mother’s car. I thought about leaving my sister with the car, but that felt even worse than risking the car’s safety.

I decided to push the undersized car with my sister in it to get us where we needed to go. It also occurred to me that someone might take pity on us.

Fortunately, someone did. Pushing a car on a hot sunny day down an interstate is not something I recommend.

When the car full of migrant workers in a massive LTD pulled over though, I had a moment’s flash of fear. What if they hurt us? An older man and a younger man got out with the younger speaking enough English to ask us the problem. They nodded and stepped back to their giant car. I know every seat in that vehicle was full when it left us. At least 8 men had packed themselves into it when they pulled back onto the freeway. I hoped they were going to get us gas, but they didn’t tell us what they had in mind.

A half hour later we saw their car returning on the other side of the freeway with a large grassy median stretching between us. I remember wondering how far they would have to drive past us to get off the freeway to turn back around. They didn’t mess with that. My mouth opened as they drove their boat of a car over the meridian and made their way back over to us. It had ever even crossed my mind that someone could drive over a median.

Only two men returned – the older man and the younger with more English. They brought us a gas can and talked with us about their work in Lynden, near Bellingham where I lived at the time. They then led us to the gas station many miles away and far off the freeway. We tried to pay them but they would not accept our money. They only told us to help someone else someday. I hope I have since then. Stopping on the freeway is not something I feel I can do, but the other day I did call 911 when I saw a car slam into a jersey barrier on 705.

Where ever they are, those roadside angels, I thank them for helping two young and foolish girls, and I think of them whenever I am able to help someone else.

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Angels Passing with a Truck Driver

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by Ruth Tervol

It seemed like the rain would never stop as I heard a knock on my front door. I went to see who could possibly be out in the downpour.  It was my neighbor. She was finishing her teaching degree at UPS, but this day she needed to go into Seattle for a class at Seattle U. She told me that the class would not be over until after 4:00 P.M. which meant she would be home before 5:00 P.M., and wondered if I could check and make sure that the kids got home from school. Also, would I be able to make sure they were doing well until their Dad got home at 4:30? He was teaching drivers’ ed after school.

“Of course” I told her, “I’ll be home today, and I’ll be praying for you,” as she rushed out to leave for Seattle.

At 2:30 P.M my youngest son Ricky and I walked over to their house to tell the kids they could come to our house until their dad came home, or they could stay home and do their homework. Their youngest son came to our house and the boys busied themselves outside while her girls stayed home to watch their daily ‘soap’ and work on their homework.

4:30 came and shortly thereafter I heard their dad’s car come down the drive.  I called out to the boys and told them that Andy’s dad was home.   So now I could quit worrying. Right! There was a nagging feeling as I prepared dinner and fed my family, so I continued to lift up sentence prayers for Ann’s safety – Andy stayed for dinner and did not seem the least bit concerned that his mother was not home yet.

The rains continued and I continued to pray since Ann had driven their little MG because it was cheaper to drive than their ‘big car,’ which also made it harder to see on the freeway. It was 9:00 P.M. before we heard her car come down the drive and into their garage.

“Thank you Lord,” I breathed and readied myself for bed. The rains continued most of the night.

The next morning, before heading out to work, I went over to see if Ann was going to go to school today.

“I don’t have a class until this afternoon, but come in and let me tell you about my day yesterday. Were you praying for me yesterday?” she asked.  I confirmed that I had been praying for her from the time her class was finished.

“Well,” she said, “The car broke down just south of Seattle on the freeway. It just stopped and would not start no matter what I did.  So I stood there with my umbrella wondering what to do now (this was before cell phones) when a big truck stopped. The driver got out and asked me if I needed help. I told him that the car just would not start.”

“He looked at the car and shook his head. Then he turned to me and said, ‘Jump in my truck and I’ll take you to a phone. By the way, my name is Dave.’

“He was a big fellow, over 6 foot tall.  At 5’ 2” I needed help getting into that truck. He  held out his hand. It was a stupid thing to do, but I just took his hand and climbed in out of the rain. He put a note on the window for the state patrol so they would not tow it.  The truck roared to life with me inside. We got off the freeway and drove around a neighborhood until he stopped in a driveway and said, ‘Let’s get out and go inside.’

“’Whose house is this?’ I asked.

“’Mine,’ he stated. ‘You can call whoever you need to, and I’ll call my friend who is a mechanic for those little foreign jobs.  Before I call him, though, I need a shower and something to eat. It has been a long hard day.’ I stood there shaking as he unlocked the door, and in we went with my legs hardly holding me. He did not seem to notice that I could hardly stand because of the shaking.  No one else was there. ‘The phone is in there,’ he said.  ‘I’ll be in the shower.’

“I did not feel really scared, just a little scared, but he seemed nice, and his house was clean and orderly. I called home, but the phone was busy. I was hanging up after the second try when he came out of the bathroom drying his hair. He had all of his clothes on!  That, I thought, was like a miracle.

“He picked up the phone and dialed. When someone answered, he said, ‘No, no, I am trying to help a damsel in distress. Her little foreign job, an MG, is broken down on the freeway just south of the Boeing Field exit. Can you go with me back to see if we can get it started? O.K. thanks, I have to get something to eat first, then we will pick you up.’

“He turned to me and said, ‘Did you get a hold of your family?’

“‘NO.’

“‘Well try again. You may not see them for a while.’

“Now I was frightened as I began to dial again. Still busy! The girls must have been on the phone.

“‘Do you know your way around a kitchen?’ I heard him ask, ‘Why don’t you fix us some eggs while I get some tools together. I’ll take six eggs, I’m starving.’

“My hands shook as I took out a pan and begin to cook his eggs while he busied himself out in the garage. As I put bread in the toaster, I remembered you would be praying for me, Ruth, until I came home. With that thought, I took a deep breath and fixed Dave’s food.

“Dave came in, scarfed down his eggs, and said, ‘Let’s go.’ We picked up his friend, George, who was big as Dave, and headed back to my car.  George worked on the car for half an hour and got it running, then told me to drive it straight home without shutting it off.

“George looked at me and said, ‘The angels in heaven must have been looking out for you today to send Dave to your rescue. He is the best.’

“When I asked them if I could pay them for what they had done, they said, ‘No, Just keep the car running until you get home, and do not let anyone else give you a ride.’

“As I started down the freeway towards home, I thought this could have been a terrible disaster, and I told myself that Ruth must have been praying.

“When I arrived home at 9:00 P.M., Clarence  (her husband) wanted to know where I had been. When I told him my story, he was so angry because I had climbed into a truck with a stranger. I thought he might have a heart attack. He told me that I must have lost my mind while I was in class today.

“‘Do you realize what could have happened?’ he asked.  ‘The kids and I might have had to plan your funeral today.’ he said.”

As Ann finished her story, I looked at her and said, “That was really crazy you know! It could have ended very differently like Clarence said.”

“Yes,” she said, “but you were praying, right?”

“Of course, I was praying. I told you I would.  It was raining and you had your little car. As I prayed, I felt the need to pray for your safety, and I asked God to station his angels around you and keep you safe. I kept praying until I heard your car drive in last night. The car sounded O.K. so I thought you must be safe and I went to sleep.”

The Lord often brings someone to my mind to lift up in prayer; however, it is not often that I find out what they needed specifically, or if the prayers were answered. So I always feel like celebrating when prayers are answered so precisely. The joy just bubbles up within my soul.

That morning as I got in my own car and headed for work the words of a song filled my heart and soul as I sang, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.  Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth…”

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