By Dan Bodine
Europeans with their euro crisis over the debt mess are either headed off the cliff or into a brick wall, the word on the street is. Greeks are flailing about aimlessly in bloody austerity waters and more than likely will exit the strained euro currency next month, rumors have it.
Reading this stuff over the weekend reminded me of a time once when I got into a pickle testing God, and my good friend Bess Horton got me out of it. Never doubted angels after that.
Gawd, I’ve missed that woman at times! The conversations we had! A fellow co-worker and fellow commuter from Arlington back in my Dallas’ Texas Instruments days, Bess literally saved my life once. Which I then turned around and lost again, in a way. But at least it wasn’t from starving and being stupid.
I was the last passenger to be dropped off in the car pool after we’d returned to Arlington from working the night shift once, a Friday. And for whatever reason she instead steered me to her kitchen table and served me a big breakfast. Food!
Remember it well; I was beginning my 6th day without a meal. SIXTH DAY, mind you. Oh, oh, oh! It was the Summer I Tested God, folks! (Hee, hee. You ever been that stupid? Of course, yes, we all have! ‘Fess up! Humans get stupid in their wounded pride sometimes!)
It was the months I dropped from 152 pounds down to 127. And if it had not been for this one woman, in my passive stubbornness, I’d continued right off that cliff to death, too. Probably. Better than flying directly to hell when I died — to burn for an eternity. Duh. A heady background in religious fundamentalism can hold simple logic hostage sometimes. But those were the conditions of my test–I’d await The Sign. Turned out Bess was it.
The summer of ’65 was critical, yes. Having encountered a slew of personal and financial problems just a few years out of high school, I was at the end of a rope. Only God could save me. Thus that summer was a temporary holding pattern, awaiting that sign.
In May I’d finished the semester at UTA attending only a couple of courses, I think. The others, yep, I’d failed. Had long stopped attending classes. Wasn’t enough time in my life for them. And work. And my running around, too. Hee, hee. Put me in a precarious position.
Remember the Vietnam War? If I didn’t get my badass back in school and really sparkle that coming fall session, Uncle Sam intended to draft me and send me over there — where everyone knew bullets awaited them. Thus I was at a crossroad, such as the Europeans are now with the euro, where I had to do something or my goose was cooked. What was it to be?
The dean called me into his office at the end of May when he noticed I’d scratched the other two courses. And energized me, yes. He asked me point blank, What are you thinking, son?
With the stare the needle in my brain connecting the direction compass in my heart became fixed on “getting back” — to a fork in the road in my personal life where apparently I’d messed up big time.
I needed to correct a mistake, the thought was — and instinct, considering my fundamentalist Baptist background. Redemption, I needed. Before “getting on with it” in life. Ain’t that the Pride of the Great Male Ego? Bite that snake that bit you, Jethro!
It took me several seconds to answer the dean, yes. Squirmed in my seat. But the answer came, a cloud moving into my mind at first, and then in a few seconds, the image. Back there, it was.
That fork where I’d gotten off into academic bad luck was a couple hundred miles or so away on Hwy 6 at College Station—Texas A&M University. Before going off to college there, my freshman year, I’d always been an honor student in school. Thus what I needed to do was obvious. That was the snake I needed to go back and bite. Prove myself there.
I need to get on back to Texas A&M this fall, I suddenly told the dean. I’ll get my act back together and bring up the grades there.
Transfer to A&M? You’re on academic probation, son.
I can remember that paper he had in a hand, waving it in the air before me.
You are now. With this! You can’t transfer to a school like A&M on academic probation!
Caught, I was. Having floated nonchalantly without commitment all this time between make-believe and reality, suddenly I felt someone kick out the flimsy stick I used that kept reality at bay.
And the fear carried me all the way up to heaven in a mere instant.
Do something! my nostrils screamed.
Uh…There’s summer school! I shot out. I’ll make A’s this summer and that’ll do it, won’t it? Lift me from probation?”
It took him a few seconds to answer. Fixed me with those cold, serious eyes. He was determined I understood the situation.
You’re working full-time in Dallas, son. You mean to tell me you’re going to carry a full load this summer and make all A’s, too?!
Yes sir! I can do it, sir! I can do it!
And he dropped the paper back down on the desk.
That’ll allow you to transfer, he said, a slight victory lap buried in the tone.
He put the paper back into a folder. Case closed.
And I made the A’s. Thanks in large part to Bess keeping me alive that one time.
Week after week that summer I’d unnerved the women in the carpool, to and from work, by studying my school books — quietly retreating from any conversations. Obsessed, I was. It was the only way I could do it.
The problem with the time with the food was that Ti shut down, plant-wide, two weeks each year then first of August. If you had vacation pay coming, you took it. Otherwise, you went a month without pay.
I’d ended up May behind on my bills, too. Part of my pact with God made in the dean’s office—in those frantic seconds scared to death — was that I’d catch up on debts, and save back some, too, to help with the fall expenses. I’d known instinctively dad would pick up the lion’s share at A&M.
Thus I’d miscounted the situation. Couldn’t cut on bills or saving either. Without a sign. The issue of my eating was the only thing left on the table.
And I was too proud to ask anyone for anything! Free doughnuts Ti furnished on the night-shift coffee breaks were the only thing I was living on. No doubt Bess — God bless her! — noticed it.
Her breakfast that morning carried me over for a few days more until we got paid. A life saver?
Married and with two grown sons herself, undoubtedly she’d sensed something stupid going on. And stepped in. God’s angel.
I made it back to A&M, for what was to’ve been my redemption, yes. But after three weeks, alcohol and a terrible car crash got in the way. And I was forced to withdraw from school, wasting more of dad’s money.
And in another three or four months, recovered from what had been a concussion and broken ribs, returned to my Arlington classes. And was back at Ti riding back and forth with Bess and the other girls again.
What are you thinking, son? the dean had asked.
If he’d only known what would result from that!
A couple of years later I dropped out of school again, to enter a 4-year hitch in the Navy; and then returned using the G.I. Bill to complete my education.
The question of thinking is being asked over and over by millions now in Europe. And it sure reminds me of my panic attack.
Money is being pulled out of banks louder than H. Ross Perot’s great sucking noises two decades ago, before President Clinton was elected — which in turn touched off one of the best economic periods in America’s recent history.
The tryst with the euro was to be the next evolution in the human mind—uniting a motley crew of parsimonious nation-states together into one large economic super state–that would then someday have the potential “to rule the earth.” Put a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. Progress, we’re talking. Progress!
Someone on the steering committee overlooked greed and avarice. In the handling of financial wizardry instruments, when a one-world economy was being stitched together, something went awry.
Maybe it was simply a bite bitten off bigger than someone’s payday calendar could cover.
Pride, always stubborn, can make us do stupid things. The ol’ philosophers had it right — it always goes just before the fall.
Testing God in the summer of ’65 was one of my stupidest.
Thank God an angel heard The Call.
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