I was in my office the other evening when my buddy Don Kelley stopped by to chat for a couple minutes. Don’s a member of a couple of tractor clubs that meet regularly in our offices, and usually when he comes in for one of his meetings, he peeks in to say hi.
His visits are welcome because they always come with a friendly smile and something nice to say.
Don is well into his 80s now and appears to be in quite good shape for his age. In fact, he told me the other day that he recently started visiting the local YMCA to do some extended walking. Good for him. I’ll consider myself lucky to make it to a rocking chair at his age.
Don’s about three decades my senior, but our relationship goes back quite a way. When I was youngster, my dad preached on a fairly regular basis for a time at the Mt. Zion Church of Christ, down in southern Highland County near where Don lives, and where he grew up attending services.
We were talking about the old church building a bit and Don told me it dates back to 1895. We talked about the time my family insulated the building and a brother and I took turns riding our little minibike around it, in between taking turns dumping insulation bags into the hopper.
We did not, however, talk about the Sunday morning my Dad arrived at Mt. Zion only to find he didn’t have his Bible. Still, he taught a Sunday school class, gave the Sunday sermon, then headed toward home. On the way back, there was his Bible, lying in the middle of SR 73 near the Hillsboro city limits. There were tires tracks across it and it had been run over a few times, but not a single page was torn.
Turns out Dad left the Bible on top of our car and it must have stayed there for a few blocks before it fell off. It was still there more than two hours later.
I did not tell Don about the times I remember eating big Sunday dinners at his parents’ home, how I remember his mother coaxing us to take second and third helpings, how a friend of mine who happened to be with us one Sunday got in trouble at the Kelleys, or about a particularly soft patch of grass I remember in his parents’ front yard.
I don’t know why such things stick in my head, but they do.
Anyway, Don was telling me that according to what he reads in these columns, I certainly had an interesting childhood. And he is completely correct (although he can tell an ornery youthful tale or two on himself, too). I was blessed with parents who gave their children a solid moral background, but showed them the fun side of life, too.
Like when I was really young, before the Mt. Zion days, my Mom used to take me and my siblings on weekly daytime summer outings. Most usually it was to Rocky Fork Lake to do some swimming, but there were other trips, too, and I always looked forward to those excursions.
One time we went to Fort Hill. I don’t remember if we made it to the top of the hill, but I remember that we got lost. So lost that to a young kid it seemed like it took half a day to find our way back to where we parked. I specifically remember leading the way at one point when a small snake darted directly across my shoe.
There was another time we were on our way back from one of the outings to Rocky Fork. We had some neighbor friends with us and were having a good ole time when brother Brent started screaming and jumping up and down. And it went on for a bit.
Turns out a sweat bee somehow got in his trunks and started stinging him. And as you know, unlike honey bees, sweat bees do not stop after one sting. Brent was just a little guy and he got stung several times that day.
It’s kind of like the time when were little and leaving a basketball game at Lynchburg-Clay High School. We had this new Ford Mercury with these new-fangled automatic windows and for some reason Brent was sticking his head out the driver’s side front window while he was seated in the back. Dad could see him and started rolling up the window, nearly strangling Brent in the process. He let out a couple screams that day, too.
Is it bad to admit that when I remember both instances a big smile crosses my face?
Yes sir, Don, you are right. We certainly had a lively childhood.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.