Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Volkswagen memories

Our kids grumbled when we finally traded in the old VW bug.  It was a favorite in our family for several years.  It is a lot of fun to whip through traffic with those four on the floor.  I forget what year was our beetle, but earlier, when driving my father's bug, I had the fun of learning how to kick in the extra tank when I ran out of gas.  They had no gas gauge, and when the engine began to sputter you had to reach your foot down and find the lever to kick 90 degrees to open the extra tank.  Then it would work as good as new.  Actually it was not an extra tank, but the final quart or so of the regular tank.  But that was how you were informed that you needed to fill up with gas.  It was all so simple then.

There was a time when we lost the clutch, and it required a little finesse to discern, from the whine of the engine, just when I could shift from low to second gear.  But it was something you could do with a bug that you wouldn't think of doing in another car.

They make "bugs" today, but they are only remotely similar to the automobile I'm talking about.  The vintage Volkswagen bug had an air cooled engine with four horizontal cylinders mounted in the rear.  Hitler had determined to manufacture a car that could be afforded by the common people, hence it's name "people's wagon".  But the project was detoured by WWII.  And when they made the bus model, hippies took to the hills with them.

We bought ours from an ad in the newspaper, thinking it was a good buy from a private party, but later found it had a dark secret.  When we submitted the car for the inspection station to check it out, we discovered there was an original owner's manual in the pocket on the door.  In it were recorded dates for maintenance that showed more mileage than the odometer showed.  We thought we were victims of odometer roll back, but the plot was thicker than that.  An "expert" at the inspection station showed us where this car had been pieced together from two separate automobiles.  We had the front of a model that was less traveled than the rear half.  It was so professionally done that there were no outer marks for anyone to detect.

You might think we would have returned the car and demanded our money back, but in fact we already had fallen in love with this bug, and only called for a restraining order against the shop for what they had done.  Pieced together or not, this was already a favorite of all the drivers in the Keller family.  It was this favorite that transported all eight of us from Modesto to the San Francisco bay area for a holiday get together with Barbara's brother and his family.  But I told that story in an earlier blog post.

When we moved from Wilmington, DE to Modesto, CA, instead of selling the bug, we had a friend drive it out west for us.

Once when our Bobby was late for church, he drove the VW only to have it catch fire a couple blocks from home.  When he opened the engine compartment, flames licked out, and a quick thinking neighbor tossed a shovel full of dirt into our engine to snuff the flames.  Fortunately, the insurance adjuster experienced the same thing and authorized the money to rebuild the tubing and wiring.

But most of the time it was an economical, fun and dependable piece of cute transportation.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

People watching

Some people just suggest a story to my mind, I can't help it.  The other day I saw a well seasoned old duffer with a rumpled suit in the middle of the day.  It was in the parking lot of the Hometown Buffet, so I know he wasn't involved in a formal affair.  But the story this visual gave me was that of a veteran gangster.  I could swear he was carrying a piece somewhere in that rumbled suit.  Of course it was a dark suit.  And his face displayed a great deal of dangerous experience, confirmed by his thinning hair.  He and his moll found an old four door sedan and climbed in to drive away.  They may have been sweet old grandparents, looking forward to visiting the kiddies.  But that is not what my fertile imagination suggested to me.

Then, while we were waiting for a traffic signal, what should appear in front of the car but a woman, carrying a 2 year old boy who was stiff as a board.  His shirt was raised enough to expose his pudgy belly and its button.  There was that distinctive defiant expression that every parent knows so well.  His arms were outstretched, and she was carrying him like one would tote a pile of firewood, cradled in the arms.  About 10 feet behind them came a male figure, pushing an empty stroller.  It really doesn't take a fertile imagination to read that story.

Actually it is amazing how many times I have seen a little one, riding the hip of a distraught mother who was pushing a stroller.  Often this picture includes several bags of groceries in the stroller, or all the discarded clothing of mother, child and walking sibling.  Perhaps mom finds it easier to tote the tot than to lug all the accompanying baggage.  I might offer to carry the little one, but it is never acceptable to allow a stranger to touch your children.  So my kind intentions must remain just that.

Recently I spoke to a young lady who was sporting the most unnatural orange hair imaginable.  It was casual conversation, not on the subject of hair.  She was actually a very attractive young lady, and she was well spoken and respectful.  Her hair told me that she was an ignorant party broad, but when we spoke, she came across more like a sweet sister.  It is true that you cannot tell a book by it's cover.  But why would you choose a loud, ugly cover for a nice book?

Then there is the decrepit old man who walks with a little stoop.  His grey locks are getting very sparse, and he tends to wobble or shuffle as he conveys himself along.  I used to feel sorry for him, but now I find that this poor old guy is me.  Soon after we moved into our present home I sprawled on the steps.  The guy next door came over to help me up, and that's how we met.  When our relationship is strong enough I intend to tell him that the first day we met I fell for him.  Okay, maybe it's not that funny.  Last month at the local nursery I fell on my knee, and I have only recently felt I am recovered from that.

How well I remember what the Lord told Samuel, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tent Camping

Fond memories flood my mind when I see a tent.  When I was about 9 or 10 my parents took the family to Mammoth Lakes, tent camping for a whole week.  I think at least once we stayed for two weeks.  Mom learned to be a very good fisher, and she had to learn to live with grungy.  We camped at June Lake when it was still raw tent camping only.  Somehow beans tasted better with camp ashes in them, and the only fish I would eat were fresh trout, caught while camping.  I had a pup tent, and warm sleeping bag.  Before setting up the tent I would gather a large pile of pine needles to form a mattress of sorts under the tent floor.  As a teenager I thought this was the lap of luxury.  At Twin Lakes a sympathetic neighbor camper taught me how to catch large local trout.  Yes, those were great times.

Naturally, after I was married, I expected to try camping with my family.  Oops!  It just wasn't the same.  The only reason my wife consented to the idea was because we were too poor to afford any other method of "getting away from it all".  She didn't share my fondness of being grungy for days on end.  It wasn't fun for her to wash dishes in a pan with water heated over a camp fire.  Nor did she appreciate the gigantic stag beetle just above her head.  She remembers it as 6 foot long.

On one occasion we almost lost our youngest who was choking on a plum pit out there in the middle of nowhere.  When I was unable to dislodge the pit, I paced the ground as he turned blue.  "Well, that's not going to do much good!" said my counterpart parent.  (It is absolutely amazing how in crisis times she has been so level headed.  Only one of her many virtues.)  So I picked up my blue son, turned him upside down, (thinking I would either succeed or break his back) and whacked his back like a hockey player.  Out popped the pit, and I don't even remember him crying.  Okay, so that was another negative camping experience.

Perhaps just as memorable when the word "camping" is dropped in casual conversation, was the time we were out for a drive to see York Town when a fierce storm sent a tree branch through out tent roof, and 2 inches of rain were dumped on us.  When we returned to our campsite, needless to say, everything was wet.  We quit a little early that year, and we soon arrived on the stoop of my brother in law for an unscheduled visit.  In fact I think that was the last time we ever took the family camping.

I wasn't cured of the pleasant memories, however.  When the kids were gone I coaxed my good wife into trying it once again.  I bribed her with gourmet meals that I volunteered to prepare.  We ate steak and succulent Cornish game hens and potatoes baked in foil and corn on the cob that we bought from a farmer on the road to the camp ground.  We had a 3 inch foam mattress that covered all the floor of our pup tent.  She found it barely tolerable.  But there comes a time when getting down to the ground is a project the likes of which must be compared to climbing into a casket from which you were not expecting to emerge.  And when it is that time in life when you visit the rest room at least once during the night--and when that rest room is 50 feet or more from our "casket", then tent camping becomes a memory exclusively.

Several years we camped in Sequoia National Park.  This place became a haven for me.  I can remember one year as we passed the gate and entered the park, I could feel relaxation come over my body.  Okay, being a minister can be a stressful calling, but this relief was something I felt as soon as I drove along the tree shaded macadam.  Sequoias compel me to look up.  It is like entering a quiet, majestic cathedral.  I know those redwood giants have been waiting for me the whole year, and now they are welcoming me home.

There is a slice of one of the largest trees that have been felled, mounted at the ranger station.  It has dates highlighted with pointers indicating certain growth rings on this cross section.  I see Julius Caesar's year, and here is Jesus Christ's birth year shown on another ring.  Wow!  These trees talk to me.  They tell me that my Savior really was here in time and space.  Even if our calendars didn't point to Christ, these growth rings do.  This tree tells me that it was not long ago because she was already a thousand years old when Jesus was born.   I see a living tree, estimated to be about the same age, and it has green needles.  It is alive!  In a strange way she brings me closer to Christ.  The Sequoias make me worship, not only because they are such wonderful examples of God's wise and wonderful creation, but also because they condense history and bring me closer to Jesus Christ's time on earth.  There is a day and hour that Christ died for my sins.  And there is a day and hour that He is coming back to collect all His trophies of grace.