Thursday, November 8, 2012

SNAP, CRACKLE, POP

Since the beginning, mankind has tried to destroy by fire that which it didn't like or wasn't comfortable with. From incidents in the Biblical account, to scores of library and book burnings, martyrs burned at the stake, the burning of Joan of Arc, to the witch burnings in Salem, MA in 1692, there was no evil that a good hot fire couldn't deal with.

Music has not escaped this fiery method either. In 1966, following John Lennon's comments that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus", the attack on popular music, especially in the Southern States, reached a fever pitch. Youth groups would gather and hold "record burning parties", where folks were encouraged to bring their worldly music and offer it up on a burning pyre as a public statement of not only their faith, but solidarity with those who took issue with this modern form of music.

Even the Ku Klux Klan got in on the act. In South Carolina, the Klan Grand Dragon, Bob Scoggins, nailed a Beatles record to a large cross and set it on fire. Other Klansmen justified their campaign on the grounds that, not only were the Beatles blasphemous, but they were not really white either. Tens of thousands of records were destroyed by this method in the following years. There were many reports of the sound of demons fleeing the records as they were being burned at these events.

News traveled slowly in the those days and our little town on the Prairies didn't clue in to this form of censorship until sometime in 1969. Many of the staff and students shared the view that rock 'n roll in any form was not only worldly, but evil, and certainly the basis for the destruction of modern day young people. Lots of money was made combating this perceived evil as scores of books were published on this very hot topic. The term sex, drugs and rock 'n roll was bandied about as if it were all one and the same. If you participated in one then certainly you were involved in the others.

Given this background, it was relatively easy for a few zealots to rally the troops and wage a campaign against worldly music. Although not officially endorsed by the school a date and time was set for a record burning event to take place in our town. The location was the field directly behind our house on Prairie Crescent. The appointed evening came and a large fire was started as a small crowd gathered. Many of them joined hands in a circle around the fire and began singing choruses. Pass It On, with the appropriately worded first verse, "It only takes a spark to get a fire going", Kumbayah, Bind Us Together, I Wish We'd All Been Ready and others, echoed across the empty football field and out into the night sky.

Once the fire was raging, people began to come forward and place their music on the altar. Records by the Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Carpenters were fed to the flames. Country, folk and jazz records didn't escape the heat either. Snap, crackle, pop went the fire. It wasn't long until the wails, screams and evil sounding hissing began. Eerie blue, green and red colors rose up out of the flames adding to the already ominous tone of the gathering. From my vantage point in the back yard, peering through the slats in the fence, this was exciting stuff!

The facts are, that this "phenomenon" was nothing more than a function of science. When you heat vinyl and plastics to a certain temperature, they will hiss, scream and wail. They will even turn a rainbow of colors. The exact same thing could be done with any George Beverly Shea, Gaither, classical or spoken word records and you would achieve the same result. I certainly am not denying that some music does contain evil or destructive messages. All forms of music from classical, jazz, country and rock have been participants in that at some time or another.

Folks, we don't need to go looking for evil around every corner or in every record, CD, MP3 or book. There is enough true evil right in front of us. Abuse of all kinds, the horrible treatment of so many of the marginalized and disenfranchised groups in our world. Political and corporate corruption of every kind.  There is enough right there to keep us busy combating evil for a lifetime.

Of course, being the collector I am, (or as my children would call me, a pack rat), I can't help but wonder what valuable albums were burned that day.

Backward masking was another modern development that people made a huge deal out of, going so far as to claim that the devil was actually encrypting hidden, satanic messages into the worldly music of the day. There is a technique called backward masking, but it was purposefully put there by engineers, producers and musicians, either in fun or to embed a message that would be there for those who took the time to look for it. Sometimes the messages were not very uplifting or wholesome.

In 1982, the rock group Petra, themselves no strangers to controversy, purposely embedded into the song Judas Kiss, on their album More Power To Ya, a backward message. Petra and their producer placed the message, "What are you lookin' for the devil for when you oughta be lookin' for the Lord?" . . .  Good advice!

 www.prairieboy.com

© 2013 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

EVERYTHING IS NOT ALWAYS AS IT APPEARS


For a first time visitor to Paris, the list of "must sees" can be quite daunting. There are literally hundreds of attractions to absorb and a person could spend several years just taking it all in. When our family first visited in 1970, there were a number of highlights that we wanted to see. Along with Notre Dame Cathedral, The Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and Château de Versailles, high on our list was a visit to Musée du Louvre. The Louvre, as it is often referred to, exhibits sculptures, objets d'art, paintings, drawings and archaeological finds. It is the world's most visited museum, averaging 15,000 visitors per day, 65 percent of whom are foreign tourists.

In recent years, with the attention that Dan Brown has brought the Louvre with his books Angels and Demons and the DaVinci Code, there has been a renewed interest, with tourists coming from all over the globe to explore the massive museum. Containing more than 380,000 objects and displays and 35,000 works of art in eight curatorial departments, the museum boasts in its collection Leonardo Da Vinci's, Mona Lisa, probably the singly most recognizable painting in history. Works by Vermeer, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Michelangelo and countless others grace the walls along with displays of sculpture, historical artifacts and antiquities.

In an effort to take in as much of the Louvre as humanly possible in one day, that particular July morning found our family up bright and early and down at the museum when the doors opened. We were accompanied by Dad and Mom's college friends, Rusty and Norma Young. The Youngs were the most gracious of hosts and drove us to Paris from their home in the French city of Lyon.

As we stood in line along with thousands of people, we observed what seemed to be a homeless man sitting on a bucket. Dark glasses covered his eyes. Wearing his tattered trench coat, rumpled fedora and thread bare shoes, he held in his filthy blackened hands a small wicker basket. A few coins lay on the bottom giving us the impression that his efforts were not being very well rewarded, at least on that particular morning. Both Dad and Mom, seeing the need, began to dig around for a few coins that they could place into the basket. Just as they were about to toss in the coins, Rusty stepped in front of them, motioning them to wait. Gathering us all into a huddle, he told us a story, which we could hardly believe.

As Rusty explained, it turned out that the poor homeless fellow was neither poor nor homeless. In fact he lived in a beautiful chateau on the outskirts of Paris, in an upscale neighborhood. Early every morning, before the crowds began to gather, he would have his driver drop him off in front of the Museum. Dressed in normal business attire, the only odd thing to the casual observer would have been that he was carrying a 5 gallon metal bucket. Ducking in to a public restroom, the man would get his "costume" and his wicker basket out of the bucket. Putting his good clothes into the bucket, he would blacken his hands and face, don his sunglasses and hat and venture out into the highest traffic area in the square.

Evidently this fellow had been paying close attention in Business 101 when the lecture was given on location, location, location. With thousands of people streaming by on a daily basis, his chances of getting donations were very high. What no one knew was that there was a slot in the top of the bucket and as the day progressed, he would continually transfer his "winnings" from the basket into the bucket, leaving only a few coins to give the appearance of his meager takings. At the end of his "work" day, he would disappear back into the restroom, change out of his costume and reappear on the street to await the long black limousine. This would all be repeated the next day, and the next.

Rusty informed us that this had been going on for years and had obviously proven extremely profitable. A sharp eyed reporter had started putting the pieces together and had written an article for the city paper, bringing the story to light. Because of the tremendous turnover of visitors, very few would ever encounter this man more than once in a trip to Paris. As he wasn't actually doing anything technically illegal, his scam carried on. As W.C. Fields said, "A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money" In this case, he was right!

I have often reflected on this experience. Should we stop giving to the man or woman on the street corner?  Should we walk on by pretending they don't exist? Of course not. 99% of these folks really need our help. And at the end of the day, it is not our position to judge. We do what our hearts know to be right. We are called to be compassionate. Will we get fooled on occassion? Absolutely!

That day I learned an important lesson, one that I have not always remembered and that is; Everything is not always as it appears.


 www.prairieboy.com

© 2012 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Saturday, October 6, 2012

THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKIN'


Everyone loves a bargain and my Mother was no exception. On a limited income of pastor and teacher, Mom kept us well fed and clothed. We didn't have what some would consider luxury items, but then again we had no idea what we were missing. Dad's salary, basically volunteer, put us well below the poverty line, but we were happy.

There were some sharp-eyed bargain hunters at Prairie that continually shopped for good deals. This was long before reality shows such as Bargain Hunters, American Pickers, etc. Come to think of it the whole shootin' shebang at Prairie would have made an incredible reality show!

On one of the purchasing departments forays into Calgary, they stumbled on an entire shoe and boot shop that was going out of business. Purchasing the whole lot, it was packed up and transported out to the campus. There the contents were set up in a couple of large rooms. Boots and shoes of every color, size and description were to be sold at a fraction of the retail cost. Mom was in line bright and early the day of the sale. She purchased some shoes for herself, Dad and us boys. She also found what we determined to be the "Deal of the Day".

The deal of the day was a pair of rubber boots, rain boots or gum boots as we called them. These were no ordinary gum boots. Oh, no, these were special. They were made to look like cowboy boots. Red rubber piping around the top complemented red toes and heels. They even came complete with little rubber spurs and a horse on each side. We thought we had died and gone to cowboy heaven. We wore those little boots around even when there was not a hint of rain in the forecast. I remember walking around in the summer wearing only cutoffs and my special boots. We thought we were the height of fashion, stopping just short of wearing them to bed. We made lassos out of nylon rope and pretended our bikes were horses. This was big stuff.

As it turned out, my Mother was not the only one at the sale that day. Our neighbor, Mrs. Imbach was also there stocking up for her family. The Imbach's had a large family and the two youngest boys, Alan and Mark were a few years older than us. We looked up to these guys as heroes. They were good looking, musical jocks that seemed to be able to play any sport well and always had a plethora of girls at their beck and call. They would also take time to throw and catch a baseball with us, toss a football or help fix a wayward bicycle chain. What wasn't there to like?

I think we would all agree to the need for rules and guidelines in the running of any educational institute. I honestly don't think anyone started out to write an encyclopedia of rules, but as every year went on, more and more rules got added. Then there were rules about the rules and so on and so on.

There was one rule that forbade the wearing of cowboy boots indoors. A strange rule indeed until you understand the why. The "why" was to help preserve the floors. We didn't have the luxury in Alberta of having hardwoods like oak, maple and ash like many parts of Canada and the US. Most of the floors were made of a soft pine, cut and milled at Prairie's own lumber mill, miles from campus, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The floors were varnished and would quite easily wear or dent. The sharp heel of a ladies shoe or cowboy boot delivered with a purposeful walk could actually damage the floor. It wasn't that the administration didn't like cowboys or had something in for those who wore cowboy boots, it was simply a practical rule. What had its genesis as a simple rule began to take on a life of its own and was added to and interpreted in many ways. Some felt that cowboy boots signaled rebellion and “bad attitude”, right up there with the sin of boys sporting duck-tails as part of their hair fashion.

Mark and Alan showed up at school wearing their newly acquired red and black rubber "cowboy" boots. The Principal at the time, whom I will call Mr. Fischmann, took one look at the offending footwear and deemed that particular offense to fit under Rule 10, subsection C, which covered the wearing of cowboy boots. He confiscated the contraband and made the boys return home, walking only in their stocking feet. This, my friends, is legalism run amok. The Principal was so intent on following what to his thinking was the letter of the law, he missed the entire point of the rule in the first place.

I am thankful every day that I was raised in a "legalism free" home, but I have certainly been exposed to its tentacles for many years and can smell its putrid stench from a mile away.

If you find yourself in the abyss of legalism or slowly sinking into the mire, may I encourage you to pause, take a time out and consider the why. I can assure you that I have never seen much good come from legalism and the collateral damage that it causes is deep and hurtful. Instead, let's all try and practice mercy, peace, tolerance, love and understanding.

I love that saying about never judging a person until you have walked a mile in their shoes . . . or boots . . . or maybe even stocking feet.








Dave and I in our rubber cowboy boots

 www.prairieboy.com

© 2012 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012

BE SURE YOUR GIN WILL FIND YOU OUT!

Back before the incredible feat of modern engineering known as the Chunnel was built to cross the infamous English Channel, there were several other ways to travel from Britain to France. You could swim, hire a private yacht, fly or take the ferry. The latter fit into our budget and skill level and so we took the train from London to Folkstone, England where we boarded the ship. After a delightful tour of Europe we retraced our steps, boarding the boat in Calais, France for the trip back across the channel.

As we set sail on the thirty mile journey, we noticed a large immigrant family of at least three generations, gathering just ahead of us. As more and more members arrived they were each laden down with cigarettes and liquor, all purchased from the duty free store on board the ferry. As we watched, the men began distributing the contraband into the families luggage, preparing for their arrival at customs. In their final act of brazenness they were placing bottles of whiskey and gin underneath the mattress and pillow of a baby's cot.

A young mother was holding a beautiful, round faced baby girl in her arms. Then as if by magic, the little child was suddenly asleep. The mother placed the baby back into the cot, pulling the blankets up and around her shoulders. Their secret was safe . . . so they thought!

As the white cliffs of Dover began to come into view, people started to push and crowd toward the exits. We lost sight of the family as we started to make our way to the front of the boat. With a sharp thud, the ship docked and passengers clambered to get off. As we walked down the ramp and through the customs area we spotted, over on the side, this same extended family. By that time, the baby was out of the bed and so were the bottles! They had attracted the attention of the authorities who had probably seen this act a time or two before and knew what to look for. As the officials began to go through each and every suitcase, purse and satchel, more and more of the smuggled goods began to appear. I don't know if they were planning on starting a shop in the new country, but if so, they were well on their way to having an ample inventory.

I wondered at the time if the family was familiar with the verse that goes something like this  . . . "Be sure your gin will find you out"?

Thank you to my Mother for the title of this story.

www.prairieboy.com

© 2013 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

BORN IN A BARN

Coming Soon . . . !

I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW


When you're six years old and sitting in the largest religious auditorium in Canada, you feel like you are but a tiny flea on the backside of a horse. Back in the day the Prairie Tabernacle was a cavernous edifice that sat 4500 people. With its curved ceiling the architecture was the perfect distraction for bored students trying to stay awake through some pretty long services.

A real student of the Tabernacle could tell you how many beams there were, how many purlins between the beams and how many boards were between the purlins. The really bright ones could tell you how many hanging fluorescent fixtures were in the building.

Dad pastored a small church 5 miles out of town, so our family didn't attend the Tabernacle very often, so it was always an adventure any time we were able to go to the "big church".  We would be there for special occasions and conferences. During many of these conferences and meetings, Dad played a part in the services and would sit up on the platform. It was a very rare occasion when he was actually able to sit with us as a family.

On the last Sunday night of fall conference, one October, Dad didn't have any platform responsibilities and decided that my brother and I should accompany him to the evening meeting while Mom stayed home and prepared for guests that were coming over later after the service.

When listening to any preacher or speaker, my Father always takes meticulous notes. It didn't matter if it was the worst presentation or delivery on the planet, Dad still took notes. As soon as I could print my name, he encouraged me to do the same. Somehow it didn't seem nearly as much fun as drawing or sketching. Every once in a very blue moon, I would actually convince Dad to join in the fun and do a little drawing himself. Imagine my delight when he made a couple of sketches for me during that meeting.

I come from a long line of artistic Scots on my Dad's side. My Grandfather, James Rendall was a very talented artist with one his specialties being that of constructing ships in a bottle. He would carve the tiny ships, fabricate the rigging, paint it and the water, before final assembly and corking. My Aunt Margaret attended Art College after High School and is a gifted painter. Uncle Gavin is a wonderful watercolor artist and has been teaching art classes in his retirement years. One of my second cousins, Edwin Rendall operates a fine art gallery in Westray, called the Wheeling Steen Gallery. Visit his website here: http://www.wheeling-steen.co.uk  Art flows through Dad's DNA and he has a lot of artistic talent. He is a natural at drawing horses and ships.

That evening, Dad, who was quite proud of my ability to read, leaned over and whispered to me during one of the songs. "Stevie, can you tell me what the motto up at the front says?" Of course I could! After all I was a champion reader of the entire collection of Dick and Jane books in the school's library. I stood tall on the bench and, peering at the front of the church, prepared to take on the challenge. I cast my gaze across the entire front of the auditorium. I didn't immediately see any sign, so squinting, I tried again. Nothing. I finally turned to Dad and said, "What motto?" I could see the lightbulb go on in his head. Houston, we have a problem! Looking back at me, he said, "Son, I think you might need glasses". And with this exhaustive scientific experiment concluded, I was dispatched to the optometrist the following Monday. There I joined the bespectacled ranks and became familiar with the nicknames of "four eyes", "specs" and "googly eyes". I would have much preferred the moniker of "studious" or even "serious looking", but for some unknown reason those never seemed to come my way.

We have all heard the saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees. Evidently, I couldn't see either the forest or the trees! The motto in question was gigantic and positioned about 80 feet from where we sat. Approximately 24 feet in length with lettering about a foot tall, the sign read:  

IS THERE A SOUL WHO DIED, WHO DIED BECAUSE OF ME, FOREVER SHUT AWAY FROM HEAVEN AND FROM THEE, BECAUSE I TIGHTLY CLUTCHED MY LITTLE EARTHLY STORE, NOR SENT THY MESSENGER UNTO SOME DISTANT SHORE?

The motto had been placed at the front to emphasize not only the missional goals of the school but also to reinforce the importance of sacrificial giving, a concept that staff and students were to become very familiar with during their tenure at PBI.

How many times as we journey through life do we need some glasses? Lenses that lend some much needed perspective; or maybe for some of us, a brand new prescription? Specs that give renewed focus, vision and clarity of judgement. Since that day in 1967, I have been trying to see as clearly as I can with the help of some glasses and a good optometrist.

Check out Uncle Gavin's website at: http://thirstybrushes.com


                                  Canada Geese at Ashburnham © Gavin Rendall

 www.prairieboy.com

© 2013 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved. 




PET CEMETERY

It was a blustery Sunday in early June. I had just turned 10, finishing the fourth grade, (I hoped) and all was well in the world . . . at least in my world . . . or so I thought. As the school year was winding down, I was looking forward to a two month vacation to Britain and Europe with my parents and my brother Dave. The lilacs had finished blooming and were beginning to turn brown. Gardens were in full growth in the neighborhood. The days were long, the nights short and it felt good to be alive.

That Sunday my brother and I took our usual places in the back seat of the red Ford Falcon and off we went to church. As we passed the Three Hills hospital on our way east out of town, I spied what appeared to be a dead rabbit in the center of the road. Its coat not fully turned from the snowy white of winter, it lay lifeless on the black asphalt. I pointed the roadkill out to the family, Dad avoided the carcass and we continued on our way.

Pets played a very important role in our home when I was growing up. Both of our parents realized the importance of animals and went above and beyond the call of duty to indulge our whims for various creatures. I have often quoted the saying, "watch how a person treats an animal and I will know a lot about their character". While I realize that there are exceptions, this has proven itself to be true many times in my observation. Neither Mom nor Dad grew up with pets and Mom was not a big fan of most of them, even on a good day! At any given time, we had turtles, fish of every description - goldfish, guppies, sword tails, angel fish, cats, dogs and rabbits. We even tried to keep minnows alive that we had caught in Pine Lake. This doesn't count the creatures we brought home like salamanders, butterflies, bees, beetles and anything else that moved that we could stuff into a box or jar.

As we were leaving the parking lot after church, Dad pulled the car over to the side of the road."Boys", he said. "I have some very sad news to tell you." Dave and I sat in the back of the car wondering what on earth could be so life shattering that Dad needed to tell us right then and there. He continued, "You know that dead animal we saw this morning on the way out of town?" "You mean the rabbit?" I said. Dad paused, "I don't think that was a rabbit," he said. "I am quite sure that is Blue Eyes." We sat there in shock. Blue Eyes was our very favorite Siamese cat. Ever the optimist, I declared, "I don't think so." I knew that the rabbit coats were still changing from white to the brown of summer and thought for sure that's what it was.

Mom chimed in, "We really hope it isn't, boys, but Dad and I felt we should tell you before we went home. He didn't pull over and check this morning, because he didn't want you to be upset all through church." We were speechless . . . Dad slowly pulled the car back out on the road and we continued back to town. That five miles was stone silent. They seemed to take forever. As we approached the spot on the road, Dad pulled over and got out of the car. He walked over to the carcass lying on the road and lifted it up. He was right, it was Blue Eyes. Dad gently placed the lifeless little body into the trunk. Opening the car door, he told us how sorry he was for our loss.

Siamese cats have gotten a bad reputation in certain circles and in come cases, rightly so. They can be territorial and temperamental and have been known to attack on occasion. They can also be extremely smart and loyal. Ours was the latter. We boys bonded with Blue Eyes. He could open the door of our bedroom at night by getting one paw underneath, and shaking it until it opened. He would then jump up on one of our beds. We received Blue Eyes as a small kitten from Doctor Paulsen, the local optometrist. At the same time, my friend Stan Kirk and his family acquired male and female kittens that they named Ahab and Jezebel. Our name was not nearly as creative, but Blue Eyes was intelligent and affectionate and we loved our cat. He even had his 15 minutes of fame, starring with my brother Dave on the cover of the school's magazine, Young Pilot. Not quite Rolling Stone, but it was a start!



This was the first time that either of us had dealt with any serious loss. For those of you who have loved a pet and lost it, you know exactly what I'm talking about. We did lose two box turtles when I was about 5 and Dave, 3. Dad brought them home and we decided the was no better thing to do than to hold a turtle race. Taking them outside and placing them on the same line on the sidewalk, we waited for the action to begin. On your marks, get set, go!  . . . nothing. The turtles didn't move an inch. In fact they didn't even stick their heads out for a look around the neighborhood. We were so disappointed. Then, all of a sudden one of them poked its head out of the shell and slowly began to inch forward. We got so excited we began jumping up and down, screaming and laughing. Unfortunately for the turtles, neither of us were very good dancers even then and our clumsy steps resulted in our little shoes making contact with the turtles and they came to a sad demise. But our beautiful Siamese cat? That was something altogether different.

Over lunch, we decided that the dignified thing to do was to give our beloved Blue Eyes a proper burial. The four of us gathered out in the ditch, about 60 feet from our front yard at 102 Prairie Crescent.  By now Dad had put the body in a cardboard box. He dug a hole, put the small casket in and covered it over with dirt. Dave and I cut some beautiful pink peonies from one of Mom's favorite bushes, and placed them on the little mound of dirt. We put a small stake on the grave with a little placard that simply said, "BLUE EYES".We stood in that grassy ditch in the wind and rain, we boys in our little yellow raincoats, Mom holding her blue umbrella, trying to come to terms with our grief.

I took my place in class that Monday morning a little worse for the wear. After the events of Sunday, I hadn't slept very well.  Just before class started, a boy who sat in front of me made a very loud proclamation. "Yesterday when we were driving out of town, a cat ran out in front of our car. My Dad hates cats, so he sped up and hit it. He killed the cat!" This was all said triumphantly, almost like someone was announcing a battle victory. I couldn't believe my ears. A light bulb went on in my head as I had never realized that there were adults who held such disdain for animals. Choking back tears, I sat at my desk in stunned silence. I didn't have the emotional fortitude or the words to say anything to this boy. So I said nothing. Not at recess. Not even after school. Actually, not ever.

I ran home at lunch and blurted out the whole story. I had found the murderer of our cat. I wanted Dad to do something. While both Dad and Mom were extremely sympathetic towards us, Dad wisely counseled that there was very little he could do. The man could very easily say it was an accident and there was no way of proving his son's rendition of the story. Dad said if the man did do it on purpose, we would both need to work at forgiving him and suggested maybe we could pray that in the future he would be kinder to animals. (I am still working on the forgiveness part!)

Enjoy your pets. Appreciate them. Be kind. Care for them. If you don't have a pet, consider it . . .

Maybe don't start with a turtle.

www.prairieboy.com

© 2012 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.



My brother Dave with Blue Eyes our favorite Siamese cat.

THE COMPANY YOU KEEP

The story goes that in England there was a very famous banker who would take the 6:30 a.m. train into work each and every day. He would arrive at the bank promptly at 7:30 in time to say a hearty "good morning" to the night watchman as he was ending his shift and getting ready to return home. One day as the banker entered the bank and gave his usual greeting to the night watchman, the fellow asked if he might have a word. The banker graciously answered, "Of course", and ushered him into his office. Sitting down the night watchman said, "Last night I had a dream. I dreamt that you took your usual 6:30 train and there was a terrible accident and many people were injured and killed. May I suggest, sir, that tomorrow you take the 6:45 train?" The banker thanked the night watchman and sent him on his way. The next day, the banker thought about what he had been told and decided that it really wouldn't make much of a difference if he was 15 minutes late for work. So, just to be on the safe side, he took the 6:45 train. Sure enough, the 6:30 train was in a terrible accident and many were killed and injured. Arriving at the bank, he called the night watchman into his office and fired him. Why did he do this?

This riddle and many others were some of the delightful morsels shared by J. Sidlow Baxter, the famous British preacher, when he was in our home for a meal. I count it a great privilege to have been included, along with my brother, at many meals and coffee times with guests in my parents home. Stuart Briscoe, Ivor Powell, Don Richardson, Dr. Helen Roseveare, Dr. Stephen Olford, J. Edwin Orr and countless others are some of the people that I remember who were invited over to enjoy one of Mom's home cooked meals or fine desserts. Mom took a lot of pride, not only in the meal, but in the whole presentation. Her china was a Scottish pattern, Brigadoon, with a beautiful purple thistle pattern. This large set of china is now in the proud possession of our daughter Christy, and it brings me great joy to recognize that Mom's legacy of hospitality lives on in our daughter.

Our home was always a beehive of activity. Mom and Dad entertained constantly. It was not unusual for my Dad to show up at meal time with someone in tow that he had just met. Mom would rise to the occasion and set another plate . . . or two . . . or three . . . . From members of the church, to students, visiting preachers, missionaries, politicians and dignitaries, all were made to feel welcome in our home. A guest book was kept and it's amazing to look back through those hundreds of names and realize the impact of my parents' hospitality.

In those years Prairie had a large board of advisors made up of some of Canada's brightest business, legal and accounting minds. This board met twice a year and was always invited to our home for a meal. I have a distinct memory, that when I was about 6 years old, Frank Reimer (one of the founders of Reimer Express) handed my brother and me each a five dollar bill. He very emphatically encouraged us to get down to the bank the following Monday and start a savings account. I should have listened!

For many years, until Mom's health made it impossible, Dad would invite 15 of his students for dessert every Friday night. Over the years, hundreds and hundreds of students came to our home to see their professor outside the classroom and visit with him in a more informal setting. Mom would prepare one of her famous desserts for the occasion. Baked Alaska, rhubarb custard pie with ice cream or fancy parfaits were the order of the day.

There are a couple of life lessons, learned from observing my parents' hospitality for which I will be forever grateful. The first lesson is that they treated everyone the same. From child to student, business executive to staff member, preacher, teacher, to the odd millionaire and even billionaire, (not that millionaires and billionaires are odd, but . . . ) all were respected and honored. This sent a huge message to us as children about the value of every single person. The second is that most of the time they included us in these meals and coffee hours. Mom and Dad did not buy the axiom, "Children should be seen and not heard", but instead encouraged us to interact with these folks. Of course we needed to be respectful and wait our turn to speak (which was sometimes pretty hard, especially for me) but the experiences were rich in that they taught us a lot about different cultures, viewpoints and various styles of communicating. I believe we received an entire education just from these experiences alone.

Today, as cell phones, facebook, email, texting and twitter seem to have become the main forms of communication, human interactions seems few and far between. In this fast paced world we live in, where communication can be so very impersonal, why not consider inviting a human over for some real genuine "facetime"? As we approach summer, what a perfect time to invite that neighbor, co-worker or friend over to your home for a barbecue or pancake breakfast. Get to know something about them–their heart, their family, their interests and what they are passionate about. You could even text them the invitation!

O yes . . . the nightwatchman . . . remember he said, "Last night I had a dream . . ."?

The bank manager fired him for sleeping on the job.

www.prairieboy.com

© 2012 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

THE MASTERS CADILLAC

Soon after the last snow and ice had melted on the little piece of tundra we called home, the last puck had been shot, our skates hung up and our equipment packed away, it was time for ball season. We never really put away our sticks as they were needed year round for ball hockey, street hockey, hockey in the yard, sidewalk hockey, floor hockey in the gym and anywhere else we could find to play. The fuzzy faces of the crocuses began to spring up from the rich soil, their hues of lavender and gold bringing much needed beauty to the prairies. The cry of the meadowlark echoed in the distance.

Jumping on our bikes, we rode a couple of short blocks to the baseball diamond. Not wanting to miss one second of the action, we would take our seats right in the centre of the bleachers. The jocks would hit the ball over the fence, the crafty would bunt and steal bases and the pitchers dazzled us with their curve balls and speed. The catchers and basemen would wow us with their gymnastics . . . but the real star of the show was Mr. Giger.

Edd Giger was the umpire. With his black baseball hat turned backwards and a wire mask covering his face, he stood directly behind the catcher, barely able to see over his head. He held a large, purple chest protector in one hand and a bright, shiny, stainless steel counter in the other. A small straw broom for cleaning off home base found a home in his back pocket, only making an appearance for a vigorous brushing of the plate whenever he deemed it necessary. Edd made his calls with great resolve and purpose. No negotiating, no waffling, no second chances, no mercy! Argue with him and you were gone. It was his way or the highway.

His yelp of steeeeeeeeeeek, came off sounding somewhere between steak, steek and strike, but everyone within a mile radius knew what the call had been. If the batter struck out, Edd would point his stubby thumb heavenward and with a loud roar proclaim, "Batter, you're outta here!". The entertainment value was very high and better yet, it was free. The games were always highly competitive and spirited. Faculty, staff and students all played to win and we witnessed some pretty crazy behavior from "esteemed" faculty and staff. One would never have guessed they could have acted this way from observation in their jobs or classrooms. I have always maintained that true character comes out on the sports field. The standard taunts of, "We want a pitcher, not a belly itcher", and, "You swing like a rusty gate", filled the evening air, adding to the tension. If there was a particularly high strung individual up to bat, we would gather as many of our friends as we could and yell in unison, "Swing, batter, swing", just slightly before the ball crossed the plate. It often worked to really get the guy riled up and throw his timing off.

For a while Edd was also commissioner of the league which meant he not only enforced the rules - he made up a few of his own! He was in charge of where the back fence would be placed marking the boundary for home runs. The home run fence was, in reality, a red snow fence and was quite easily moved. One spring Edd made a deal with the players. Hit 3 home runs over the fence and he would invite you over to his house on Saturday morning for a big breakfast of bacon, eggs, fresh rolls and all the trimmings. To a summer worker living in the dorm, this sounded like heaven on earth. My uncle, Jerry McMahan, was one of those players who took up the challenge. After the 5th breakfast at the Giger house, Edd took him aside and in his gruff, direct way, said, "McMahan, quit hitting the ball over the fence or I'll have to move it back!"

Edd Giger was a short, barrel chested, powerhouse of a man. At 5 feet 6 inches, he lived like he was 6 foot 6. Born on October 2, 1910 in Bakersfield, California, Edd never knew his father who, interestingly, was called Add. While growing up, Edd helped cook in his Mother's diner. She married and divorced multiple times, adding little to the stability of their home. Quitting school in the eighth grade, Edd regretted his limited education the rest of his days. Seizing an opportunity to make something of his life and remove himself from the tough situation he was in, he joined the United States Army Air Corp at a very young age. He actually fudged a few dates in order to be accepted.

In 1940 he eloped with the love of his life, Francis Chester and on April 7th, they were married in Reno, Nevada. To this union was born a daughter, Helen and for this little family the world was about to change. Entering World War II in 1941, the United States was fully engaged by the time Edd was called up and assigned to service in New Guinea with the United States Air Force.

While Edd was away at war, Francis responded to an evangelist at the church and was converted.  She tried to encourage Edd to do the same and attend with her, but he would have none of it. Church was for woman, children and sissies. Edd had an explosive temper and a mouth to go with it. Francis decided that actions would speak louder than words and so she walked the talk instead of preaching. One Sunday night, Francis asked Edd to go to church with her.  He went and was converted that evening. This decision was to have a profound impact on his life and the life of his family.  Edd's first prayer was for a son. Jerry was born a year later.

Edd rejoined the US Air Force and was assigned to Okinawa where he served for 4 years, returning only after Frances became very ill. Settling in Sacramento, CA, he was stationed at Mather Air Force Base. There his heart for the hurting and the spiritual well being of others began to take shape. He was involved in the rescue mission in downtown Sacramento. This experience had a profound effect on the lives of his children.

One evening in 1959 at Arcade Baptist Church, a traveling team from Prairie Bible Institute sang and spoke. At this meeting the Giger's learned of the staffing needs at the school in the far away Canadian north. They were moved to respond to the call and that summer the family moved to Prairie. By now there were 5 children on the scene; Helen, Jerry, Jim, John and Ruth. The transition to Canada was not always an easy one and there were many adjustments that had to be made.

Edd's first post at PBI was as a physical education teacher. When he took over, the fun and games stopped. He conducted classes like they were military training exercises. Circuit training routines, obstacle courses and long jogs are the stuff of legends. While in the gym, each student was assigned their own exercise mat and two heavy wooden bowling pins. All of the calisthenics were performed with these pins for added exercise. What set Edd apart from most gym teachers is that he actually participated in every activity with every class all day long. He would not ask a student to do something he was not fully prepared to do himself. The result of this is that he was in incredible physical shape and more than one student tried to convince him to try out for Mr. Universe.

Edd's next position was in the Dining Hall as a chef. There again he brought his military bearing to the operation, learning to stretch meager food budgets to their maximum potential, often feeding close to a thousand mouths per meal.

The Gigers had an outstanding garden! Produce of every kind filled their garden plot. Carrots, corn, peas, beans, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, squash and lettuce were some of the bounty they would harvest. For a time, Francis was supervisor of the peeling room and for years they brought home huge bags of peelings and egg shells from the kitchen, composting them and tilling it into the soil. This made for incredibly rich earth and the output from this small plot of land was truly outstanding.

Another thing that set Edd apart was his car. This was no ordinary car. Oh no! It was a 1959 silver Cadillac. You car lovers will know that this vehicle was a giant boat of a machine with lots of chrome and enormous fins in the back. It wasn't a car you saw everyday in our little neighborhood of Prairie Crescent. Actually, this was a car you hardly ever saw, let alone in our town. Edd loved that car and in good weather could be seen outside giving it a thorough wax and polish. The Gigers were very generous with the use of their Cadillac, often taking our whole family to church, if the weather was too bad for the red Ford Falcon. Edd took some hassle from those who thought his car was too ostentatious and was a waste of the Lord's money. Whispers around the campus turned the man and the car into a larger than life legend. Later, when Edd sold the Cadillac and bought a Toyota, folks breathed a sigh of relief that he had finally come to his senses . . . even though the Toyota cost considerably more than the Cadillac!

In the '70's, the Gigers began to attend the little church in the country where my Dad pastored. They were very supportive of both my parents and were active in the life of the church. Francis was a loyal friend to my Mom and a huge support to her during her illness with MS. Edd would often pray in the service and on occasion would get some of his words twisted around. We had a family in our church with the last name of Bethune and at one point George Bethune was very sick. Edd prayed that God would heal George Buffoon. On another occasion, he thanked the Lord for the bountiful crop of bikinis they had harvested that fall. Of course, he meant zucchinis, but there were a few giggles in the congregation that night.

Every couple of months, the church would hold a Sunday Evening Talent Night. This was an opportunity for people who were talented, or thought they were, to share their gifts with the Bethel congregation. Soloists, duets, family groups and instrumentalists would perform. Someone might recite a poem. This is exactly what Edd Giger would do. The piece he would recite was called, The Touch Of The Masters Hand.

As tears streamed down Edd's face, he would stand on the platform at the front of the church and relate the story of the auctioneer who was trying to sell an old violin that was battered and scarred. No one paid any attention to the old instrument. The auctioneer felt he was wasting his time trying to even sell it. The picture changed significantly when an older man stepped out of the crowd and picked up the violin. Wiping off the dust he began to play beautiful, sweet music. Edd knew first hand the redemptive power of the gospel in his own life and the difference it had made in the life of his family.

Children often have a sixth sense about adults and we knew that under that gruff exterior beat a tender heart. We realized that this tough military man who drove the silver Cadillac, had been truly touched by the Master.


The Touch of the Master's Hand

The Touch of the Master's Hand
'Twas battered and scarred,
And the auctioneer thought it
hardly worth his while
To waste his time on the old violin,
but he held it up with a smile.

"What am I bid, good people", he cried,
"Who starts the bidding for me?"
"One dollar, one dollar, Do I hear two?"
"Two dollars, who makes it three?"
"Three dollars once, three dollars twice, going for three,"

But, No,
From the room far back a gray bearded man
Came forward and picked up the bow,
Then wiping the dust from the old violin
And tightening up the strings,
He played a melody, pure and sweet
As sweet as the angel sings.

The music ceased and the auctioneer
With a voice that was quiet and low,
Said "What now am I bid for this old violin?"
As he held it aloft with its' bow.

"One thousand, one thousand, Do I hear two?"
"Two thousand, Who makes it three?"
"Three thousand once, three thousand twice,
Going and gone", said he.

The audience cheered,
But some of them cried,
"We just don't understand."
"What changed its' worth?"
Swift came the reply.
"The Touch of the Masters Hand."

And many a man with life out of tune
All battered with bourbon and gin
Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd
Much like that old violin

A mess of pottage, a glass of wine,
A game and he travels on.
He is going once, he is going twice,
He is going and almost gone.

But the Master comes,
And the foolish crowd never can quite understand,
The worth of a soul and the change that is wrought
By the Touch of the Masters' Hand.

Myra Brooks Welch




www.prairieboy.com

© 2013 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.



Saturday, February 18, 2012

SEMPER PARATUS


SEMPER PARATUS - or as the Boy Scouts would say, "BE PREPARED"

I am often emailed or asked about what a person should do before going into a studio to record. Outside of hiring a competent producer (who would probably advise most of these items anyway), I have put together this small list of things I feel are important to optimizing your recording experience.

With some of these very basic ideas you will be able to save yourself considerable amounts of money, time and stress.

Clearly know what it is that are you trying to achieve - radio, sales, pop, art, niche market, family memory, etc.? This will help you focus on your goal and what is important for the project.

PRE-PRODUCTION

Is there a DEMO already made? If so, are you happy with it? Are there things that you would change?


1. SONG SELECTION - variety is good - is there a theme? As has been said before, "THE SONG IS KING" and it can and does define entire careers.

2. TEMPO - 1 or 2 BPM either way can make all the difference in the feel or the "groove" of the song. Go to the effort to record a rough demo at various tempos and study the differences.

3. TIME SIGNATURE - some variation is good and yes, there is a difference in feel between 3/4 and 6/8.

4. KEY or KEY CHANGE? - The key of a song is paramount in delivering the song for its best emotional effect. A 1/2 step either way can make a HUGE difference in how a song resonates with the listener. Are there key changes and if so, do they work, and are they in the right place? Again, here is where a demo trying various options will stand you in good stead.

5. LYRICS - if applicable having a lyric sheet to write and make notes on is imperative.

6. CHORD CHART / MAP / ARRANGEMENT- are there existing charts, sheet music, etc.? If so, is it the Nashville number system? The more work you can do on the arrangements before you get to the studio, the more money and time you will save and the smoother things will go.

7. TUNING - is the piano/guitar in tune? - if not, that will throw everything else out!

8. SCRATCH TRACK - does the project need a scratch track? If so, make sure it is in time and in tune or you will build on a shaky foundation.

9. GENERAL DIRECTION - Style, Notes, Production ideas, etc., all help to focus the project.

10. LEARN FROM OTHERS - examples of pieces that you like the feel or arrangement of, players, etc., are always helpful in letting the engineer or producer know what it is you like. Not that you are setting out to be a copycat, but it helps define a direction for the project.

BONUS TIP: For all of you singers - being well rested and well hydrated are two of the keys to you taking your game to another level.

The better prepared you are, the smoother your project will be and the end result will be worth the extra time and effort. ~ SEMPER PARATUS !

www.prairieboy.com

© 2012 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.