Thursday, March 20, 2008
The Preacher’s Corner
My 1961 Buick LeSabre wasn’t worth fixing
Parking places are harder than ever to come by down at the university (Ole Miss). I am told that this is because many of the students now have two cars on campus. The boys all have pick-up trucks for general riding around, and then a “nice car” for dates! Well, my parents gave me a “nice car” when I went off to college, too. But it is my first car that causes me to smile as I write this morning.
Soon after I got my license Daddy presented me with a very interesting “antique.” It was a tan 1961 Buick LeSabre, whose odometer had turned over twice. It also had a hole in the radiator which Daddy said would cost more to fix than the car was otherwise worth. With a little trial and error I figured out that this car would make about 10 miles between refills in the summer, and since water was free, I soon learned where every garden hose in Cleveland was located, and off we went!
That fall I was in charge of taking the photos to illustrate the ad pages in the Cleveland High School annual. You’ll see my old Buick as the centerpiece of almost every outdoor shot. Yes, even I could get the cheerleaders to go riding with me!
My old car forms the backdrop for one of the most delightful tales of my adolescence. Every year our youth group at church would spend its first session in the fall planning out the calendar. First, we would undertake a study of “other religions.”
This meant visiting the evening services of the Methodist and Baptist churches, with a visit to the Jewish temple sometime in the future. (The enterprise always broke down, however.) Then we invited the minister to come and explain the mysteries of predestination. (We were Presbyterians, you see.)
Finally (and we lived for this), we asked for a panel of parents to assemble and address any question we had the courage to write down on tiny slips of paper. It was devilish torment, and the occasion always drew the biggest crowd of the season.
The question during the year that I remember (I did not submit it!) was, “How far can a Christian go on a date?” The double entendre was scandalous for that day and time. But Mrs. Miriam Ferriss (wife of Delta State’s legendary baseball coach David “Boo‚” Ferriss, fielded it without batting an eye. Surely thinking of my old car, “Greenville,” she said, eyes sparkling. “Yes, Greenville is far enough for a Christian to go!”
That answer prepared me for a similar query when I was campus minister for the Presbyterians at Ole Miss, and asked with all the seriousness of Nicodemus who secretly sought out the Lord Jesus by night -- “Mr. Milton, how much can you drink and still be a Christian?” Assuming he did not mean water, I said, “Well, if you went on a camping trip to the west, would you put out your bedroll at the very edge of the Grand Canyon?” (Whether because of that answer or not, my young questioner has matured into a highly esteemed member of the local gentry in Oxford.)
David Walt, my jovial high school friend who used to pump gas at his father’s station (yes, they actually put it in the tank for you then), grew up to be an M.D., and is now doing battle with cancer. The price per gallon then was 35 cents, and will soon be ten times the price. Time marches on, and we do not always like the changes it brings. But the lessons of those early days stay with us and help us center ourselves amid all the manifold changes of life. So I am thankful for it all and would not change a thing.
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