“The Only One Who Can Help You”

 

A Helping Hand

Perhaps the greatest joy a Christian can experience is leading someone to confess faith in the saving grace of the Lord Jesus. I believe this is not just a good option for a Christian but a command given to all believers by Christ himself when He gave the great commandment at His ascension (Matthew 28:18-20). I love hearing stories of salvation experiences and will ask someone whom I believe is saved to relate their journey of faith. Every story is different just as we are all different, and every story is important because our Savior is the central figure of each story. One of the most unique accounts was part of the testimony of Herb Hodges an evangelist from Memphis, Tennessee.

I had never met Herb prior to hearing him speak to the Kaleo’s at Kids Across America in Branson, Missouri. This camp is an urban sports camp which has been ministering for the past 26 years, and each year as many as 9,000 kids get a one week fun-filled camp experience at no cost to them! One of the primary reasons Cathy and I moved to Branson in 2005 was to be close to our daughter Mary Kay, her husband Dave Janke and their 2 daughters Rebecca and Sara Beth. Dave has been on the staff at Kids Across America since its’ inception in the early 1990’s. This brilliant camp concept was born out of the ministry and hearts of Spike White and his son Joe who were the leaders of Kanakuk Kamps which had operated in Branson over 70 years previous. These camps give kids from ages 6 through 18 the opportunity to have a fantastic camp experience combined with a major emphasis on Christian living. Because inner-city kids could not afford the cost of a week at camp, Kids Across America (KAA) provided them the means and the beautiful camp grounds on Table Rock Lake in Golden, Missouri.

Many of the kids from cities like Kansas City, Dallas, St. Louis and Chicago come to the 3 camps in the Missouri Ozarks having never seen a tree growing in the woods nor experienced the loving environment they find at KAA. From the moment they set foot on the camp grounds they are loved, hugged, encouraged and challenged to be the kind of kids God wants them to be. The total atmosphere is so unreal to most of the first time campers they are speechless but soon understand they are among friends who love Jesus and love them as special expressions of God’s grace. It is not uncommon for the kids to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior before the week is over.

The counselors who accompany the kids from their individual cities and stay with them the entire week are called kaleos (Greek for “called or invited”). During the week kaleos attend talks and training sessions by camp leaders intended to challenge and encourage them in their Christian walk. Guest speakers are invited from various places to add to the total experience. Herb Hodges was a frequent guest speaker, and I happened to be present while he was speaking one morning. Herb gave the following account of his spiritual journey:

“When I was a young man in my late teens living in Memphis I was a rough kid with no thoughts about Jesus Christ, nor any interest whatsoever in living for anything or anyone except myself. I wanted to emulate the people I admired at the time, except I wanted to be bigger, stronger and meaner than the worst of them. I believed a real man spoke roughly and used curse words regularly to enhance his image as being a tough guy, so I cursed often and frequently used the Lord’s name in vain. Anyone in my presence saw and heard what I considered to be a “real man.” One afternoon while swimming in a popular public pool I decided to get out of the pool by climbing out the side of the pool rather than at the steps which everyone else used. As I was looking down while getting out I noticed a hand being extended to assist me. I looked up into the face of someone I had never seen before, and while he was helping me up he said, “Son, the One whose name you use as a curse word is the only One who can help you.” That was all he said, and he turned and walked away. I didn’t make any comment or speak to him and never saw him again. Those words he said to me kept resonating in my thoughts over the next 7 to 10 days, and I couldn’t stop thinking about what he said and what his words might mean to me. About a week or so later I just “happened to walk past a church having a revival meeting” and entered the church out of curiosity. I was strangely moved by what I saw and heard, and when the invitation for salvation was given I responded by giving my life to the Lord Jesus Christ!”

One can never know the eternal impact he has through his life style or the words he might speak or even extending a helping hand to a stranger. The point Herb Hodges made so well that morning at KAA was our responsibility as believers is to sow seeds of God’s loving grace regularly and often wherever we might be. We never know when one tiny seed might fall on the fertile soil prepared by others. It might even happen at a public swimming pool!

Dr. John

“Howdy Folks” – The Song

El Dorado High School
1950’s

Howdy folks, how do you do?  El Dorado High is greeting you!

We have come to chase your blues away,  Help us cheer and help us say;

Fight ’em Wildcats, do your stuff,  Make ’em say that they have had enough.

Let ’em know the Wildcats never bluff, El Dorado fight, fight, fight!

 

This was the Fight Song in 1957  when I was a senior at El Dorado High School. I have no idea who wrote the song or how long it was sung as the fight song,  but it was certainly there the 3 years I was in high school. I suspect it had been sung for decades before when cheer leaders, pom-pom squads and fight songs became popular on junior high and high school campuses.

Everyone in school knew the words perfectly and sang the fight song every time there was a pep rally for an approaching football or basketball game. It was simply part of the Wildcat musical repertoire along with the El Dorado High School Loyalty Song whose words will be in a later post. Two of my best friends in high school, who were both athletes  and along with me had the privilege of singing the “Howdy Folks” song well up into and through our freshman year in college.

Jim Weedman and Larry Mosley both played football for the Wildcats while I was on the varsity basketball team. We all attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, but none of us were accomplished enough athletes to continue with college sports. We were however; fraternity members together, having pledged into Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE). Jim and I pledged our first semester in 1957 while Larry did not pledge until the fall of 1958.

Pledges in our fraternity at the time had to withstand almost a year of hazing practices before being voted into a full membership status. I suppose one reason for the pledge year was to weed out any undesirable pledges and remove them before granting full status and privileges as an SAE member. Another reason for the pledge system was to get them to do the work needed in and around the fraternity house without having to pay for outside labor. There were certainly times during the pledge year I felt like an unpaid slave, but that was simply part of the price everyone paid in joining a fraternity. The real benefit I gained from fraternity membership was in making life-long friendships with some outstanding men.

The only meal everyone in our fraternity had together was lunch, and it was a time for good food, fraternal friendship and some good fun mostly at the expense of the pledge class. During the course of the 45-60 minute meal time the pledges were called upon to stand and recite various things depending on the whim of the members at the time. Some pledges were asked to give the names and hometowns of everyone seated at his 8 to 10 place table; others were asked to sing the U of A Alma Mater. Still others had to recite all the founding members of SAE from the University of Alabama in the 1840’s. It was designed to bring as much embarrassment as possible to the pledges and as much laughter as possible to the jeering members. It was a hazing which was not physically painful, but one which each member had to endure during his pledge year.

For Jim Weedman and me it became a fairly regular occurrence when one noon we were asked to sing the El Dorado Fight Song for the first time. None of the members had ever heard the words of the “Howdy Folks” song before, and we became an instant hit when we sang it that day. As I recall they even clapped for us when we finished, which I don’t think had ever happened before! From that initial musical rendering Jim and I were asked at least once every 2 weeks to stand and entertain the brothers with our singing talents. I think some were even disappointed we were able to sing on key because many of the other pledges who would sing various songs were so off-key it added to the entertainment value. Jim and I sang so often we were able to add a little harmony.

The following year when Larry became a pledge and it became known he was from El Dorado, he was immediately requested to sing “Howdy Folks.” There may have been some urging from Jim and me because we knew Larry would definitely sing off-key, and he would get quite a few jeers from the fickle crowd. He didn’t disappoint in his (dis)ability to sing and every time he was requested to sing one could not tell which key he was using! It was all in good fun, and after several months the requests for the song stopped.

When Jim and I left Fayetteville in 1960 to enter medical school in Little Rock I lost contact with the fraternity and finally severed all communication ties in the 1970’s. I disagreed strongly with some of the stated goals and the direction of fraternities in general and SAE in particular. I don’t know if any other men from El Dorado pledged into the SAE fraternity at the University of Arkansas, but I am quite confident if they did and the fraternity had the same policy of noon-time hazing, the “Howdy Folks” song remained near the top in requested tunes. I still occasionally sing the song privately for old times sake!

Dr. John

A Divine Legal Appointment

When a physician gets a phone call from a lawyer’s office it can strike fear in his heart. There is often an overriding anxiety of a medical malpractice suit lurking somewhere in his mind whether he will admit it or not. Even the wording of the allegations in a malpractice document such as, “–did willingly and knowingly commit  the error of —” are painful and distressing for a conscientious doctor. Just the mention of certain lawyers’ names evoke the same fearful response. Such was not the case when I received a phone call at my office one Monday afternoon from the El Dorado attorney Dennis Shackleford. I made an appointment to be in his office on the following Thursday afternoon.

Dennis, who was a personal friend was well-known in Arkansas for his outstanding legal defense work in medical malpractice cases. He occasionally asked me to review a case for him regarding allegations made against a physician from another part of the state but never against a local doctor. In addition to the generous monetary benefit I received from such a review I really enjoyed the legal discussions with Dennis, because I always learned something new from him. At one point during my training years I considered law school in addition to my medical training and had an abiding interest in the law. Pop used to tell me in a half-kidding way, “If you have a degree in law in addition to a medical degree you can write your own ticket working for a big insurance company!” I liked the part of “writing your own ticket”, but was not enthused about the “big insurance company” part!

Before my discussions began with Dennis he would frequently ask about our son John who was in law school during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.When John graduated from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville in 1992 he began searching for just the right professional fit to begin his practice. He and his wife Gina enjoyed their 3 years living in Northwest Arkansas; had many friends and a great church in the First Baptist Church of Springdale (now Cross Church). Initially their preference of location was to remain in the area, but available positions at the time for a new and inexperienced lawyer were scarce. Gina had a good job working as an accountant for J B Hunt Trucking, which supported them financially, and to supplement her income John got a job in the produce section of Harp’s Grocery. He also worked for a short time at George’s Chicken in general maintenance. Cathy and I were greatly concerned for our lawyer son doing such non-legal work and were very diligent in those days to pray for John’s employment.

This particular afternoon when Dennis asked about John’s status I told him John had graduated but was having difficulty finding the right fit for employment. By this time John had taken and passed the Arkansas Bar examination, so he was ready to start his legal career. Dennis said, “I’ve got a good suggestion for him. Judge Harry Barnes from Camden has been just appointed by President Bill Clinton as Federal Judge for the Western District of Arkansas, and he is just waiting for confirmation from the United States Senate. Federal Judges always hire legal clerks to assist them, and those clerkships are highly sought by young, aspiring lawyers. Why don’t you give Harry a call to see if he would consider hiring John as his clerk? I doubt he has hired anyone yet.” I was acquainted with Judge Barnes because about a year previous another attorney friend Worth Camp invited Cathy and me to join him and his wife Janice along with Harry and Mary Barnes for an evening meal. Cathy and I really enjoyed our time that evening with the Camp’s and Barnes’.

I went back to my office and called the number Dennis gave me and Judge Barnes immediately answered which I considered miraculous. I identified myself and the judge remembered our previous dinner meeting. I told him about my conversation with Dennis and wanted to know if he had already hired a clerk which he hadn’t. I told him about John, and he said he would love to interview him because he had “a stack of applications” from all over the country but liked giving preference to local people in his hiring practices. “When can John be here for an interview,” he asked. I said, “I think he can come down from Fayetteville tomorrow afternoon.” “I look forward to meeting him,” the judge said as we concluded the call.

John was excited to meet and interview with Judge Barnes the following afternoon, and they immediately clicked. At the end of the interview Judge Barnes told John if he was confirmed by the Senate then John would be his law clerk. How excited we all were with this sudden and unexpected blessing! Both Cathy and I firmly believe Judge Barnes saw the outstanding character qualities in John and made the best choice for his first law clerk.

The 2 years John spent clerking in Judge Barnes office were the perfect beginning for him. He not only learned the many intricacies of jurisprudence from an outstanding judge but  was able to meet and know a large number of attorneys in the Western District of Arkansas. The law department at Murphy Oil Company, whose national headquarters are in El Dorado saw the great potential in John and hired him as an Associate Attorney in 1995. He has since risen in the corporate ranks of Murphy Oil, and when the corporation split to form Murphy USA in 2013 John became Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Murphy USA.

We never know the impact of a phone call or a meeting until looking back we see where God has directed. His promise is made real when we trust Him with all of our heart and don’t lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5,6). Cathy and I will always believe the appointment that afternoon with Dennis Shackleford was ordained by God.

Dr. John

 

Experiencing One of the Pains of Crucifixion

The Wrist Nail of Crucifixion

As Christ believers and followers it is important we understand as fully as possible the price He paid for our salvation and redemption. It is a simple statement to make, “Christ died for my sins,” but the depth of the cost escapes many. In about a  week all Christians will celebrate the holiday we call Easter, and for us the two most important days of the Easter weekend are Good Friday, symbolizing the day He was crucified, and Resurrection Day the following Sunday signifying the day He rose from the dead. Because He now lives all who believe and profess faith in the Lord Jesus have been redeemed, and one day our bodies will also be resurrected from the grave, and we will forever be in His presence. (I Thess. 4:17)

Not much is written in Christian literature about the methods and process of crucifixion which our Savior suffered, but I think it is important to understand a portion of the sufferings He endured for our sake. Crucifixion was not devised by the Romans but was used extensively by them for punishment and execution during the first century, and is arguably the most painful and horrific death sentence ever carried out. Tens of thousands were crucified by the Romans, and the guards responsible for carrying out the process became very skilled in their duties.

The prisoner was required to carry the cross-piece (patibulum) from the place of imprisonment to the site of execution. The cross-piece typically weighed between 75 and 125 pounds. The carrying of the cross-piece was made more difficult, because immediately preceeding the prisoner had been scourged or beaten with a whip called the cat of nine tails. This whip was made up of 9 leather thongs with balls of metal and sheep bones attached to each thong which would rip and tear the skin, soft tissue and even the bones of the back and legs. The extent of the beating depended on the disposition of the ones doing the scourging. Most would try to stop just short of causing death.

At the site of crucifixion the prisoner was stripped of his clothing, usually left naked and humiliated while being thrown on his back. His wrists were nailed to the cross-piece while his feet were nailed to the vertical part of the cross. Most pictures of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ show the nails driven through the palms, but this was not the case, because nails driven into the palms would have torn through the soft tissue of the hand due to the continuing weight of the victim. The nails which were 5-7 inches in length and about 3/8 inch in width were driven through the wrist between the radius and ulnar bones. At this position the nail was in constant touch with the median nerve or completely severed the nerve. The pain of this alone was excruciating (meaning derived from the pain of the cross). The irritation of the nerve sent continuing electric shock waves into the hand and out all 5 fingers. This is only one of many horrific pains suffered by the one suspended on a cross. It took our Savior 6 hours of enduring such humiliation and pain before He gave up the ghost. (Matt. 27:50).

Recently I had open heart surgery for a triple coronary artery by-pass and had a number of uncomfortable experiences during the prolonged pre-op and post-op periods. As a surgeon and one who has personally had multiple other operations, I was well-aware of most if not all types of pain which patients experience. There was one in particular of which I was not aware which was sudden, shocking and immediately reminded me of a tiny bit of what our Savior endured.

Prior to every open heart procedure a routine blood test done as a baseline study is an arterial blood gas. The blood specimen is obtained by an arterial puncture usually of the radial artery at the wrist. This was done on me the afternoon before I was to be admitted to the hospital. The phlebotomist (technician who draws blood) introduced herself and proceeded to accomplish the draw. Having been told I was a physician may have made her nervous, because her first attempt at the radial artery stick was not successful. While I held pressure on the puncture site at the wrist she felt for my pulse on the inner aspect of the arm at the elbow which on me is easily felt and bounding. She inserted the needle in the artery and got a blood flow, but then advanced the needle too far going through the artery and stabbing the ulnar nerve which lies just beneath the artery. I have never experienced such a sudden and explosive shock as the pain shot into my hand and the fingers. It felt as if blood had shot out the end of each finger. When I jerked back my arm reflexively she removed the needle from the site, and mercifully called for a more senior and experienced technician who completed the task on my opposite wrist.

When I walked out of the examining room my chief nurse told me he had never seen a technician miss an arterial puncture, so I felt I had set some kind of new unbreakable record by having 2 misses on me! I quickly recovered from the shock, but I will never forget the experience, because I was immediately reminded of what Jesus Christ did for me. The nerve pain he felt was not just for an instant but continuously for 6 hours. And this was a just small part of what He endured. Only God would do such a thing for a sinner such as me! I can’t even fathom such courage and such love, but I bless and praise His holy name!!

Dr. John

 

 

“When You Cross the Bridge at Memphis –“

Memphis Bridge

In the early 1980’s I was invited to speak at the First Baptist Church in Camden, Arkansas which is a 20 minute drive from El Dorado. The occasion was Laymen’s Sunday and the pastor, Dr. Francis Chesson asked that I challenge the church, particularly the men to be more involved in the work of the church. I was scheduled to speak to a Men’s Bible Class at 9:30 AM and preach the morning service to the entire church at 11 AM. I was honored to have been chosen as the speaker, and learned I had been recommended as layman’s speaker by Dr. Herman Sandford, a Professor of English at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. Dr. Sandford and I had become very good friends during the time he was Interim Pastor Of East Main Baptist Church in El Dorado approximately 2 years previous. Dr. Sandford was well-known by the people at First Baptist Camden, because he also served their church as Interim Pastor just prior to Dr. Chesson being called. Dr. Chesson’s previous pastorate was in Florence, South Carolina. I wasn’t aware Dr. Sandford would be there that morning to introduce me to the congregation until I arrived in the auditorium about 10 minutes before the scheduled worship service.

When it was time for Dr. Sandford’s introduction he took a few moments to thank the congregation again for being so gracious and kind to him and his wife Juanita during their time with them. He then told a story he claimed Dr. Chesson had related to him about his calling to the church in Camden. Here is Dr. Chesson’s alleged account;

“As I was praying one evening following my meeting with members of the Search Committee from First Baptist Camden I asked the Lord if I might ask Him a very serious question.” “What is your question Francis?” the Lord asked. “Lord, I feel the sense of a call to Camden and First Baptist Church.” After a brief pause the Lord said,  “Where is Camden?” Francis responded, “Lord it is in South Arkansas about 20 miles from El Dorado, and I believe it is your will for my wife and me to leave Florence and move to Camden. My question for you Lord is, will you go with me?” After a bit longer pause the Lord said, “Francis I will go with you as far as Memphis, but when you cross the bridge into Arkansas you’ll be on your own!”

When Dr. Sandford finished the story the congregation broke into uproarious laughter while Dr. Chesson seemed a bit embarrassed. I think he was more serious than the mischievous Dr. Sandford, but he joined in the laughter. After I was introduced I didn’t know quite how to open my remarks except to say how thrilled I was to have been invited by Dr. Chesson, and by all indications I could discern, his ministry was being greatly blessed by God. Of course the account of his prayer was simply a funny story with absolutely no truth to it whatsoever. Among many other promises of our God He tells us to ask and it will be given you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened for you. (Matt.7:7). He also promises He will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb.13: 5b, 6), and the Bible also assures us it is impossible to flee from the presence of the Lord (Ps.139: 7-12).

Since that wonderful morning with the brothers and sisters in Christ in First Baptist Camden I have never crossed the bridge at Memphis and not remembered the tale told on Dr. Francis Chesson. I am reminded to also thank God for His abiding presence wherever I am (even South Arkansas!)

Dr. John

The Hidden Leg

Artificial Leg

Artificial Leg

 

During my years of surgical training at Charity Hospital in New Orleans I was either the operating surgeon or first assistant on many lower limb amputations. A large percentage of the patient population of the largest teaching hospital in the country (at the time) were disadvantaged elderly, and a very large percentage of that group had peripheral vascular disease related to diabetes. I became skilled at amputations, both above and below the knee since those procedures were life-saving for the patients, and not because I sought to do them or even enjoyed that type of operation.

When I began my private practice of general surgery in El Dorado, Arkansas in the early 1970’s I discovered the orthopedic surgeons in town seldom if ever did limb amputations, so the procedure was done by the general surgeons when needed. An additional skill I learned in private practice involved the fitting and maintenance of the prosthetic device (artificial limb).

One afternoon I admitted a patient from my office named Alvin who had classic symptoms of acute, severe gall bladder disease, and because of his gender and physical findings I knew he needed an immediate operation. He had been tolerating his gall bladder symptoms for several weeks thinking he had a “bad case of indigestion.”  Throughout my years of experience in surgery I observed men in general delayed seeking treatment, and when they did come for an evaluation their condition was more severe than a woman of comparable age and health status.

Alvin was a Deputy Sheriff of Bradley County and lived in Warren, Arkansas which is about 50 miles from El Dorado. Another important part of his past history involved an injury to his right leg sustained by a gun shot wound years before while doing security work in South America. The injury was so severe his leg could not be saved, and  he had a below the knee amputation of his leg. He had successfully worn a prosthesis (artificial leg) for approximately 10 years..

The gall bladder operation done that same afternoon was difficult because of his size and the severity of the infection, but he was a very strong man and tolerated the procedure much better than I thought. When I visited him in his room later in the evening he was sitting up in bed with his glasses on reading the local newspaper! He even said his right side “felt much better” despite having a long incision with multiple staples in his skin. Laparoscopic surgery was not done in those days, and gall bladder surgery was generally much more painful with a longer incision and a longer recovery period. I told him I would see him again in the morning and was confident he would continue to improve rapidly. I noted his prosthetic leg had been removed prior to the operation and was propped against the wall and behind a curtain which partially concealed its’ presence.

The following morning I was making rounds to visit my hospitalized patients and in particular the post-operative patients. With his chart in hand I was walking to the end of the hall where Alvin’s room was located when I saw the door opened quickly, and a man who worked in housekeeping came bursting out of the room and running down the hall. Thinking perhaps Alvin had fallen out of bed or had some severe event such as a heart attack, I began running to his room. As I pushed the door open widely I saw Alvin sitting up in bed holding his right side and laughing as heartily as his painful side would permit. “What in the world just happened Alvin?” Between laughs he said, “The man from housekeeping knocked on my door, and when I gave him permission to enter he asked if he could clean my room to which I consented. He started sweeping first and when he swept the broom into the curtain against the wall he accidentally bumped my artificial leg, and it fell out into the middle of the room with a loud thud! The housekeeper’s eyes widened not recognizing this was an artificial leg and he turned and ran. He was scared to death!”

Later that morning I spoke with the housekeeper and asked him why he was so scared when he saw the leg fall out in the room. He said he didn’t know if it was “alive or dead.” I told him in a joking fashion for him not to worry because Dr. Duzan (the pathologist) kept the legs removed that day in that room before taking them to the basement, and they were not alive. I don’t think he believed me, but occasionally when I would see him working I would ask if any more legs had gotten after him. It took him awhile before he could laugh about the incident with the hidden leg.

Dr. John

 

Water-Skiing On Calion Lake

Ski Boat

ski jump

Calion Lake is well-known to South Arkansans but is little known to folks outside of the area. Perhaps the reason is because the lake is relatively small and there is not much room for anything but fishing. Over the past 40-50 years bass fishing which attracts many fishermen has not been very good in the lake so Calion Lake is not on the radar of the serious bass fisherman. The lake is only 10 miles north of El Dorado, and because it is so convenient to the locals it is the recreational spot for many. At different seasons bream fishing is very good,and I have heard from some that white perch fishing is also good.

During the years I was a teen and always looking for something new and exciting Calion Lake presented an option. Water skiing didn’t sound too exciting because there were lots of stumps in the water and the lake was not wide nor long enough to ski for very long stretches without having to turn around. Also at the time none of my good buddies had one of those sleek and speedy ski boats so it seemed skiing on Calion or any lake was not an option

My closest friend was Eric Richardson and the two of us spent many hours during the summer months camping, hunting in the woods and fishing on the Ouachita River with its’ sloughs and tributaries. Many times I had no idea where we were, but I depended on Eric and his knowledge and expertise to keep us from getting lost or in serious trouble. GPS technology had not been developed so knowledge of the rivers, lakes and large tracts of land were very important.

Although Eric did not have a ski boat like a few of our wealthier friends he had a very nice flat bottom aluminum boat with a 18 hp Evinrude with which we safely and quickly navigated the waterways. We had considered giving a try at water-skiing behind his boat but had never acted on it until one beautiful Saturday morning when the weather was perfect. The closest lake for excellent skiing was D’Arbonne Lake in Farmerville, Louisiana, but it was at least an hours drive away, and Calion seemed like a very good option for our initial skiing adventure. We had heard most if not all of the stumps in the middle of the lake had been removed which made if safer and easier to maneuver in tight turns. In addition we heard a ski jump had been added in the middle of the lake for the real adventuresome skier, but that option was completely off the table for us. There was a story which circulated regarding the ski jump which Frank Thibault Jr. had attempted going over while skiing bare-foot. Frank who was a year younger than us was well-known for some of his antics, and the story didn’t surprise us. I never checked with Frank to verify the story, but we believed it to be true.

Eric’s next door neighbor, Jimmy Moody was with us that morning, and although he was a bit reluctant at first, he was in complete agreement with our plan. Jimmy had friends with nicer ski rigs so he was a more accomplished skier than either Eric or me. In those teen years we were each skinny and didn’t believe our individual weights were too great to prevent the relatively small motor from pulling us behind the boat. When we arrived at Calion we launched the boat with ease. Neither Eric nor I had any experience skiing with a single ski, and although I remember Jimmy knew how to ski with a single, we believed the motor was not powerful enough to pull an even skinny skier on a single.

I remember only one or two other boats with skiers that morning, but we still were going to be cautious and conservative because of the small size of Calion. There would certainly be no attempts at going over the ski jump! None of the three of us were as brave as Frank Thibault, and skiing bare-foot was totally out of the question.

Jimmy went first since he was the “expert,” and with Eric driving the boat and me as spotter Jimmy was successfully pulled up on the skis. What great fun it was that morning with the wind in our faces, the sun on our backs and flying along at about 10-15 mph! Despite our small size the speed generated at full throttle was barely enough to keep us up on skis. No matter–we were successfully skiing despite the fact we looked the part of three rednecks skiing behind a fishing boat!

I was next and was able to get upright on the my first attempt. I made a couple of rounds on the lake, even though I was pretty sure Eric was making more turns than necessary trying to get me to fall. Eric was mischievous enough to do that. When it came Eric’s turn to ski I was the appointed driver. I had previous experience with the boat and motor from many of our fishing and camping outings.

I got Eric up on skis on the first attempt and things were going smoothly as I made a couple of good turns, and Eric stayed up. What happened next is a little blurred, but here is my recollection. The motor began to sputter while losing power and speed. As we slowed Eric sank into the water about 12-15 feet behind the boat. With Jimmy in the front I began pulling on the rope crank to restart the engine while Eric remained in his position behind the boat. I assume a spark from the ignition and a little spilled fuel in the bottom of the boat were the culprits, but a rather large fire ignited in the floor of the boat very near the large gas can! Jimmy would have no part of a possible rescue attempt, so he dove in the water swimming as fast as possible to get some separation before the expected explosion. I figured since I was now captain of the ship I had to at least try to save the boat. There was a lot of screaming and shouting while Eric used the ski rope to pull the boat closer. Without climbing into the boat he was able to reach the gas connect from the motor to the gas can and we moved the gas can as far away from the flame as possible. We were able to extinguish the fire with water from the lake while stability and more calmness was restored. Jimmy was staying afloat about 10 feet from the boat and swam back with the fire now put out out. A near-by boat of skiers was watching this scene and came over pull us back to shore. We were glad we had a boat left to pull.

We never blamed Jimmy for abandoning the boat when he saw the flames; in fact I was about ready to dive into the water with him when Eric came to the rescue. I believe his fear of losing his boat and motor gave him the extra motivation to attempt the rescue. We were all glad he did. The boat and motor survived to run once again but were never used for skiing to my knowledge. Besides within a year or so we had all gained weight!

Dr. John