It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Xulon Press (December 31, 2008)
***Special thanks to Tracy McCarter of The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***
The youngest of three children, Terry Miller was born in the small town of Thurmont, Maryland, in 1939. Thurmont is nestled in the Catoctin Mountains and epitomized the culture of small town America in the 1940s and 1950s. In his new book, The Mountain Beyond, Terry shares the story of his childhood.
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: Xulon Press (December 31, 2008)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
There were three children in our family. My sister, Dottie, the oldest, was born March 15, 1933. Next came my brother, Franklin (Frank), on August 7, 1935. I was the youngest, born on August 25, 1939.
This was a difficult period for making a living without major struggles. It was an era when many births were taking place in the home rather than in a hospital. My birth was different because I was born in an honest-to-goodness hospital in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, some 20-odd miles from our home in Thurmont, Maryland. This always puzzled me because there was a hospital five miles closer. Travel was kept to a minimum due to post affects of the Great Depression, so why go the extra miles to birth a child? It was not until I was nearly 60 years old that I learned the answer to why I had the distinction of being born in a Pennsylvania hospital.
My Aunt Rachel came from a large family and was a great resource of family events and history. She was rather short and a bit on the pudgy side. There was a quietly pleasant side to her personality that invited you to like her instantly when you first met. Family and others mostly saw her as a true “friend” with no hidden agenda, very wise and a blessing to be with.
In my adult years during a visit home, I was talking with this sage of wit, wisdom and love; so I asked her, “Why was I born in the hospital in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, rather than the one in Frederick, Maryland?” I had held this question in my heart for lo these many years, feeling it must have been some great family secret. After all, this was the age when family secrets abounded and we “just didn’t talk about certain family things.” That’s why this question had been harbored in the depths of my psyche for so many years. Aunt Rachel, who was ever-so-loving and kind towards my feelings, responded with, “It was a less-expensive hospital!”
There it was! The lifelong family secret was finally out for me, and the whole world, to know. My curiosity satisfied, I moved on to other events that shaped my life by discussing them with my dear aunt, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me begin with the hills, mountains, and yes, even the valleys that formed and influenced my life.
It is easier to go down a hill than up, but the view is from the top.
There are growth stages in all of our lives that take us step-by-step to a higher plateau – a mountain, if you will. Each comes with a climbing experience to get to the top of the mountain and then try to make sense of the view seen by looking beyond. There are also hills to climb and obstacles to overcome, and valleys to navigate along the way.
Memories are scarce until I reached age 5 or 6. After that, events that are more clear began to form my being. Experiences become part of the development of us as people. I remember one that helped form my lifelong Christian faith.
It occurred when we lived in one of our many rental locations. The house was a very large, two-story older home that was nestled among a small forest of trees. The house could barely be seen from the main road that ran in front of the entrance. Quite a bit of property surrounded the house – perfect for a rabbit pen.
A large, white rabbit, which I named “Hoppy,” made its home with us, actually me, as the primary caretaker. We made a pen out of wood with a wire screen covering the top so escape for the rabbit was virtually impossible. One day, I took Hoppy out of the pen to play with him. My young, active mind soon changed to other interests, none of which included putting my rabbit back into the pen. My mind came back to the rabbit as I passed by his pen and discovered it was empty!
“Help! Help!” I cried. The sound of my voice obviously created enough alarm to lure my parents outside.
“What is it Eddie?” my mother exclaimed. “What happened? Are you hurt?”
I just sobbed, unable to speak a word of explanation. This seemed to go on for hours. Fortunately, I was able to regain my voice and explain.
“Hoppy is gone! What will we do?”
My father replied, “Well, we just have to search for him.”
Parents always have the logical answers, or so it seems. My parents, sister Dottie, and brother Frank, all went about looking with the expectation of finding the rabbit.
After what seemed like hours or days, we turned up nothing. All hope of finding my little furry friend was fast disappearing. Finally we gave up. My father’s wisdom reappeared with the parting comment, “Well, I’m sure he’ll turn up in due time.”
There it was, the final anticipation that he would come home! However, I didn’t buy it! Off to my room I went – dejected and devoid of all hope. The tears came quickly in the quiet walls of my room. Emotion, especially tears, was an expression of feelings that were not allowed in our household. As a matter of fact, this era did not support the outward showing of emotion, period! It was the philosophy that, “Grown men don’t cry!” Why not?
Men were supposed to be strong, masculine, and reserved. Showing other emotions diminished that role. Tears were not to be shown. Hugs and saying “I love you” were rarely seen, nor were they acceptable. Those emotions were not part of the “strong man image” that was to be portrayed. Unfortunately this absence of expression in adulthood became a major flaw in my relationships with others. It took years of failed relationships for me to change once I recognized that expressing emotion was an acceptable method for showing how I really felt.
Meanwhile, back to the situation at hand. In the privacy of my room, the tears fell like a river out of control. When they subsided, and my breath was an occasional gasp, I had an idea: What if I prayed? I had heard people pray in church. I never had seen anyone offer a prayer outside of those surroundings, especially not in our household, unless it was the routine saying of grace before a meal. But now, I just felt it was the right thing to do. So, I prayed – in my bedroom – just me and God talking.
My prayer went something like this: “Lord, you know I miss little Hoppy. What am I to do? He just ran off somewhere while I was playing. I didn’t mean to neglect him. I just got busy doing other things and forgot to put him back in the pen. Please just bring him back to me. Thanks! Amen!”
Well, that was that – a simple prayer and simple faith! There was no bargaining – no promise such as, “Lord, IF you will do such and such, I promise I’ll do this or that.”
I walked down the stairs, went outside, and what do you think I saw? Of course! It was Hoppy. Now you can say what you will, but I fully believe it was an answer to my prayer. Does that mean God hears and answers prayer every time we pray?
* * * * *
God can, will, and does answer prayer, but in His timing – not necessarily ours – nor necessarily in the manner we prefer!
* * * * *
Memories evade me for the most part during the very early stages of my life. I have often wondered why, but the answers just don’t come. There are events that have become difficult, if not impossible, to retrieve. One thing I do remember is that we moved, which became an all-too-often process. “For Rent” always left me with a feeling of sadness, because it meant we—mostly I—didn’t really belong anywhere.
We only stayed in places that were “temporary.” Nearly all my friends lived in homes that their parents were purchasing, but we never had that privilege. That thought always left me empty, feeling very lonely because I just never felt I “fit in” with other families who had a real home. Perhaps I too felt temporary. Right or wrong, that’s how I felt.
* * * * *
Feelings are not right or wrong – they are just that – feelings.
* * * * *
One of our earlier rental homes was on the edge of town, but I was too young to retain any memories from there. The second was where Hoppy was lost, then found. The next move took us to a three-story apartment building owned by our family doctor, Avery Turner, who lived across the street in a large home he shared with his wife and her many cats. He also had his office in the front part of the house.
The apartment building sat at the top of the hill on North Church Street. It was about a block from the town square and across from the Lutheran church I attended until I joined the United States Air Force.
We lived on the two top levels. The rooms were very large. Large is a relative term. To a small boy, everything seems large. In retrospect, they were probably normal size. At any rate, there was a porch running along the back of the building with stairs leading from the top third floor to the bottom landing, which was part of the backyard. One winter, those stairs possessed a major danger for me.
It was a very cold, icy day. I was on the top porch looking down where Dottie was waiting with a wagon. She beckoned me, “Eddie, come on down and I’ll take you for a ride in the wagon.” I took a step to descend the stairs. Suddenly my feet slipped out from under me as I gave way to the ice. Down I came hitting each step with my body, then my head, totally unable to stop the fall until I landed at the bottom. Tears were streaming down my face. Dottie picked me up. “Are you okay?” she asked. “I think so,” I replied. She checked me to make sure nothing was broken (it wasn’t) and placed me in the wagon. Dottie said in a calm, assuring voice, “You’ll be fine once we take a ride in the wagon. It will surely make you feel much better.”
Isn’t it amazing how the approach Dottie used to calm me was all the reassurance I needed that everything was going to be okay? I believed her. I trusted her!
* * * * *
You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment unless you trust enough.
Dr. Frank Crane, (1861 – 1928)
Presbyterian minister, speaker, and popular columnist
* * * * *
Another incident that helped form my character at an early age involved being truthful! It didn’t start out that way though. One day my brother Frank said, “Let’s go down in the backyard and see what we can find.”
“Sure,” I replied. I always did what my older brother said to do. After all, he was my older brother and he knew what was fun or best for me—or so I thought! Off we went to explore unknown areas. We came upon an old chicken coop.
“I wonder what’s in there?” Frank asked. “Let’s go see,” I replied. Digging through the rubble, we came upon an old radio. Further examination revealed some glass tubes, which were used to receive signals from various radio stations.
Frank enthusiastically exclaimed, “Let’s pretend they are hand grenades and throw them on the ground.”
“Great idea!” I replied, with equal enthusiasm.
What fun we had playing war games and destroying our “enemies” with the blast of exploding hand grenades. We were the Audie Murphy’s of our day. Our victories, however, were short lived. Pretty soon we were aware of burns that appeared on my chest. I tried to hide my “wounds” and went into the house afraid to tell of my pain and agony. I didn’t play the wounded hero very long. My mother soon realized all was not well with her youngest son.
She asked us, “What’s wrong with you two boys?”
“Nuthin’,” we said. This was a standard answer from two boys who knew what the answer should be but lacked the willingness to tell the truth.
“Don’t give me that!” she said, which was a standard answer from a mother who knows her boys are not being truthful. How do parents know so much?
“Well, I somehow got burned,” I replied.
“Burned? How in the world did that happen?” Parents can ask the most absurd questions!
“I don’t know,” said Frank. He was the older and smarter one, so I let him answer. After all, an absurd question deserves an absurd answer!
“Let me see,” mother suggested as she looked at my burned chest. “Oh dear! That looks terrible!” Her exam revealed big ugly blisters, mostly on my chest.
“We must go see Dr. Turner,” she exclaimed.
We walked across the street to Dr. Turner’s office. No appointments were needed in those days. He turned in his squeaky swivel chair, leaned back and said, “What seems to be the problem here?” My mother told him what she found, pulled up my shirt, and pointed to the blisters on my chest.
Dr. Turner asked, “What were you boys playing with?”
I thought to myself, “There’s another brilliant question from an adult!”
“Well, nuthin’ has caused you some significant blisters that look to me like silver nitrate burns. They come from radio tubes.”
“How did he know that?” I secretly asked myself.
“Gosh, I don’t know how that could be,” I innocently replied.
“Where have you been playing?” Dr. Turner asked.
“Down in the backyard,” I replied.
“And what were you doing?”
Okay, it was time to tell all, so I began: “Frank and I went into the chicken coop and found an old radio. We took the tubes out of the radio and were playing war. The tubes were our hand grenades and we used them to kill our enemies.”
Dr. Turner leaned back again in his swivel chair creaking with each movement. “Well, Eddie, that explains the burns. When the tubes exploded they sprayed the silver nitrate onto your chest and that’s what caused this. You are a casualty of your own war! Let’s see how we can repair the damage.”
He proceeded to put some salve on my “war wounds” and wrapped white gauze around my chest and back to protect the blisters from becoming infected. I didn’t get any ribbons or medals for my battles, but I did get a good tongue lashing from my mother!
As the youngest child of our family, I often was protected by my sister Dottie. Many times I can remember being picked up from a fall and comforted by her. Often the cause of a fall or being the recipient of an injury was created by something my brother did just for the heck of it! There didn’t have to be a reason, he just did lots of mean stuff to me growing up. Sounds like a typical lament from the youngest child, doesn’t it?
For instance, when we were living at Dr. Turner’s apartment, there was a large tree in the backyard. We had nailed pieces of wood to the tree so we could climb to heights not otherwise attainable. The system worked quite well and we could climb the homemade ladder to reach our secret tree house. Actually, it wasn’t a house; it was a limb that we pretended to be a tree house.
One day, my brother Frank called me out to the backyard to play. Naive as I was, I ran to join him. Aren’t most younger brothers excited when an older brother extends an invitation to play? My young mind couldn’t begin to comprehend an evil thought behind my big brother wanting to spend time with me.
The invitation to me was to climb our homemade ladder to the make-believe tree house and Frank would follow. Little did I know that the last step of the ladder had been loosened by Frank so that when I grabbed hold of it – well, I think you get the picture. I did grab hold and down I came! As I made the unexpected descent, my foot got caught in the fork of the tree and my head crashed against the tree trunk. That’s the last thing I remember.
Frank apparently panicked, not out of fear of how badly I might be hurt, but of the consequences of his action. My mother came out to see if I had in fact been killed or injured for life. Luckily, I was only knocked out for a brief period and there were no life-threatening injuries. Not luckily for Frank. He received his due punishment, although I’m not exactly sure what it was. Knowing my father’s Irish temper, Frank probably was whacked repeatedly on his body.
These were some of the difficult times. One thing was certain: it was mostly a much simpler time of life.