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by Philip Gulley

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    Jay, a friend of mine, once observed that the only thing it takes to make an insane asylum is an empty room and the right people. He said this during a church meeting, which caused the rest of us to wonder what he was implying.

    I’ve always prided myself on my robust mental health. Thirty-four years old and no breakdown, at least not yet. My wife said I came close once. That was the autumn Saturday we went to Nashville — a small town three counties down where God went overboard with fall leaves. Being a place of beauty in a plain-Jane state, Nashville recieves more visitors than Disneyland. Still, it’s good to go there at least once a year, if only to be reminded why we don’t live in Los Angeles.

    I suspect it was the car exhaust fumes that disrupted my thought processes and compelled me to take a shortcut to Nashville. We ended up temporarily misplaced in a little town called Pumpkin Center. It had a gas/grocery/video/Elvis memorabilia store. I went inside to ask directions. This, despite my father’s clear teaching never to ask directions from anyone with three first names.

    So I asked Billy Bob Clyde how to get to Nashville. “Well, you go over to Cecil Hopper’s place and turn right, then you take a left at the Skeeter Hodge’s farm, then go straight ahead ‘til you reach Nashville.”

    Now I know why older folks stick compasses on their dashboards.

    We finally made it to Nashville. Simply climbed a tree and looked for the smog. Got there in time to buy some ice cream and a genuine rubber tomahawk for our then two-year-old, who has sinced scalped two cats and Chihuahua.

    I saw my grandpa the next day and told him about our trip. He’s in the Fellowship of Compass Carriers. Always knows right where he is and right where he’s headed.

    I used to laugh at him and call him Columbus. “Hey, Columbus, how’s life on the Ninja, the Pinto, and the Ave Maria?” He’d give me a blank stare. My grandpa may not know his history, but he never gets lost.

I spend a lot of time roaming the back roads, never certain what I think about things most folks are clear on.
    Truth be told, I sometimes envy folks like my grandpa, folks who have a sixth sense concerning the life-path they need to take. As for me, I spend a lot of time roaming the back roads, never certain what I think about things most folks are clear on.

    My grandpa eyeballs his compass, and down the road he goes. No situational ethics for him, by golly. Right is right, wrong is wrong, and let the chips fall where they may. I’m more of a on-the-one-hand-this-but-on-the-other-hand-that kind of guy.

    This can cause problems when you’re a minister. Folks expect me to know right where I stand, especially in church meetings. I don’t know what this presumes about ministers, but I’m not encouraged.

    I’ll tell you where I stand. I stand for integrity and for erring on the side of grace and for reading to your children. Oh, yeah, and for staying home on Saturdays in the fall.

 
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      From the book Home Town Tales, by Philip Gulley. © 1999 by Multnomah Pub., used by permission.

      Title: ""
      Author: Philip Gulley
      Publication Date: August 8, 2002


 
A Taste of Home
 
 
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