From the Hills … To Hell … Then to Heaven
By Ray Waugh, Sr
|A book which will doubtless arouse some memories in your own heart. It is a book in which the mind finds rejoicing for having thought, the emotions find unity for running the full extent of human expression and a life is lived fully in the confidence of a wonderful tomorrow.|
The two most wonderful women
in my life and my sons—
MY WIFE—MY MOTHER
Copyright, 1964, by Raymond A. Waugh, Sr.
Printed in the United States of America
Some may question the advisability of a preface for these certain autobiographical excerpts from my life. While I would not preclude any the right to do so, I do not think that such questioning completely negates the advisability in, at least, this instance. On the contrary, it seems there is a particular need for at least a short explanatory preface in connection with a series of autobiographical and human interest excerpts such as those which are here presented under the title, "From the Hills to Hell—Then to Heaven."
In the first place, autobiography of any nature would seem to have its personal aspects into which no others can really enter. Secondly, since most of us are in a very real sense subjective creatures, even those things about which we attempt to be the most objective will have their impossible areas of continuing dispute. Thirdly, time-intervals of moments, days, months, years or decades bring about the partial erasure of some details connected with any experiences, and perhaps on the other hand the intensification of others.
This imbalance dissimilarity and the perpetuation of the varying and ever-changing differences of reflection are elements of the human-complex which cannot be truly understood or even analyzed; even the analysis would be colored by the imbalance dissimilarities and the varying differences. Hence, even the most honest objectivity on the part of either the observers or the participants will be limited somewhat in the ultimate issue or interpretation by the inescapable subjectivity and human limitations on the part of both.
Perhaps, however, we would not be finally amiss in recognizing that beneath the apparent dissonance of attitudes toward any of the experiences to which we shall make reference, there will usually be a fundamental unity. It is this fundamental and persisting unity which will bring forth a real, credible and harmonious response in the hearts of the sincere participants, interested parties and those whose experiences may have been similar.
The decision as to whether I have been wise or foolish in this provision of a preface will, of course, have to be left to the end-determinations of our posterity. It is, nevertheless, in the interest of the factual harmony, happiness and hopefulness that these pages of excerpts from my life have been sent forth. Regardless of how these details are received or rejected, my life certainly would never have been the same without them. In fact, without these blessed experiences and the involvements with a host of wonderful folk, the life of this one, who is not worthy of the least of God's favor or the fellowship of any human, would doubtless have been a pointless and fruitless invasion of mortality and perhaps a totally colorless dirge.
Therefore, with the Apostle Paul of old I must cry, "Both to the Greeks and all other peoples, both to the wise and those not so wise, I am (forever) indebted." And it is this indebtedness and God's continued provision which enables me to hope that these autobiographical excerpts entitled, "From the Hills to Hell—Then to Heaven," might enable you more wonderfully to abound in that trilogy of temporal and eternal blessing to be found in "Faith, Hope and Love."
Raymond A. Waugh, Sr.
San Antonio, Texas
November 3, 1964
I A RE-LIVED MEMORY
There is one place to which my mind can ever return without tiring. In my mind, this place can be designated, "A paradise in the hills." Though I cannot understand fully why the course of my mortality has been such as to keep me so far away for such long periods of time, neither the miles nor the time can dispel from my heart the truth that my experiences in Given, West Virginia, have become in fact some of the most pleasant memories of my life.
Since that wonderful year, 1939, it has been my joy to travel in most every section of these great United States of America and in several foreign countries. Too, God has enabled me to come through the exigencies connected with participation in both World War II and the early months of the Korean conflict. But the memory of Given, West Virginia, is still one of the most precious.
I have actually attempted to enjoy the seemingly impenetrable Precipices and the mountainous walls of the great city of New York; bucked the bruising waves of the cold Atlantic shores; basked on the pearly white sands of Pensacola Beach; swam in the multicolored waters off Korea's rugged slopes; climbed the grasscovered hills of the land of the Japanese; reveled in the sunsets out across Puget Sound's endless inlets and islands; stood on the shifting deck of a great vessel tossing in tumultuous Pacific seas, and later from that same deck in San Francisco's Bay marveled at the massive wonder of the Golden Gate Bridge above me; noted the pounding surf off Southern California's pleasant shores; and rejoiced in the perpetual beauties of Southwestern skies. But never have I found a place to surpass in memory that spot in God's green earth known as Given, West Virginia.
There, where Frog Holler, Wolf Creek, Spruce Holler and Parchment Creek meet, is a little white Church to which my heart has returned innumerable times in these years of provided memory. And at the top of the hill, above and behind that little, white frame church, is a great, overhanging, granite boulder which time has not yet been able to move or to destroy. Across more than a century many of my uncles, cousins, granddads and great-granddads and *lends have climbed to the top of that great granite landmark or clung to its precipitous sides and thereon inscribed their initials or names.
In 1939, I followed my relatives, ancestors and many unknown friends and added my initials to that enduring rock! Then, 23 years later, at the time of the Harrison Reunion in 1962, at the home of my late Aunt Al Wilda, my eldest son, Ray Jr. (15 years of age), and my youngest son, Randy (5 years of age), and I made our ways to this rock of many memories.
There, that wondrous day in the summer of 1962, we refreshed my initials which time had partially obliterated and then added the initials of my two sons. This is a relived memory which I shall doubtless enjoy many times e're my mortal frame finds its place in the dust of earth! And, God willing, each reliving of such a memory will be an experience of joy, great joy!
Perhaps we can here note that it is such inward and sometimes inexplicable pleasantries which can add such satisfying colors to the threads which make up the warp and the woof of our earthly lives. Hence, I can hope, too, that my lads will one day experience a healthy nostalgia in this world which becomes more mechanical and crassly materialistic by the moment. Perhaps they, too, will one day return with lads of their own and continue the simple pleasantry of inscribing, just for memory's sake, the initials of my grandchildren on that great granite promontory on the hill behind the little white Church in "the paradise of the hills," Given, West Virginia.
II GRANDMA GOT THE LAST LAUGH
My Grandmother on my mother's side of the family was a really particular person. She spent all of her married life with my grandpa on a hillside farm in Given, West Virginia. Though she never topped five feet, sue stood real tall with her seven boys, three girls and her many grandchildren, most of whom have exceeded five feet and a half in height. She stood especially tall with her boys for she put most of them through grammar school, high school, and a couple of them through college with turkey and egg money. And to me—just one of her many grandsons—she was just downright great!
Grandma's life was far from easy and far from pleasant as she cooked for a large family over an old fashioned wood stove, slopped the hogs, fed the fowls, milked the cows, churned the butter, and did a dozen other things most modern housewives know nothing about such as smoking the meat, making the sausage, keeping a large garden, and washing over an old tub with nothing but a scrub-board to remove the dirt. But in spite of the many real difficulties of Grandma's life there on that hillside, I never saw her when she was not able to give forth with a real chuckle or a hearty, healthy, country laugh.
This story, however, is about the time Grandma laughed for more than an hour the first night and then many, many times after that.
Years ago when I was yet a young man, I spent some three months with Grandma and Grandpa. By then her boys and girls had departed to make homes of their own, and I got to know Grandma as I had never known her before. I learned that I did not have to tell her what I had been doing for she could "read me like a book," especially when I had been into some mischief. When I learned that she was aware of my many unorthodox activities, I became conscious of the fact that I was causing her and Grandpa a great deal of concern. Her children had grown up around the farm and the animals and had learned of the many dangers, as well as how to take care of themselves. But I was a city boy from Columbus, Ohio. Thus, my activities in the country were often head-long and involved in dangers of which I was not even aware.
At that time, however, I did not attempt to analyze Grandma's concern. As I look back, I realize that her concern may have been the result of her knowledge of my ignorance of country life or it may have been simply because of the wildness of many of my experiences. Though I had not been too ready with explanations of my activities, Grandma had learned that I was a pretty wild one.
She learned that I had rolled off a sled and down a steep, snowy hill with a lamb in my arms; she learned that I had been thrown from a sprightly colt in the middle of a creek; she learned that I had ended up on the singletree or tongue between two galloping horses when the sled on which I was standing failed to come up out of Parchment Creek there at the Given Crossing, when the horses, tongue and I continued recklessly on.
But thinking myself to be just a bit smarter than my countrified Grandma, and having an abundance of youthful exuberance which was not to be outdone by the sage wisdom of the aged, I decided there must be some way of putting something over on her. Having heard most of my life how strangers passing through the West Virginia countryside would sleep in barns, I had a real yen for this experience. So, one night when the frost was heavy on the ground and not a breeze was in the air to disturb the crystal-stillness of the coldness of the night, I made my decision.
Since I had already questioned Grandma about sleeping in the barn, I was certain she would not agree willingly to my doing so. Consequently, I told her I was going down to my Aunt Al Wilda's, who lived about a half mile down the creek from my Grandma's, to spend the night. After I had been at Aunt Al Wilda's an hour or so, I told her I was going back to Grandma's. But the moment I stepped off Aunt Al Wilda's porch, I knew the barn would be my next stop.
So intent was I on sleeping in the barn that my lying to them seemed perfectly justified at the moment. In fact, the Scriptural admonition, "Be sure your sins will find you out," would have been a most unwelcome intrusion if I had even had the presence of mind to recall it. My only objective at the moment was to get the last laugh on Grandma by sleeping in the barn.
When I arrived at the old clapboard barn, I walked with a very delicate and cautious ease for I did not want waking chickens, turkeys, cows and horses to divulge my whereabouts or my intentions. The moonlight shining through the cracks provided me sufficient light to make my way to the ladder which led to the haymow. After gathering a few gunny sacks and carefully climbing the ladder, I reached the hay. When I found a particularly heavy stack of hay at one end of the haymow, I dug a hole in the hay, lay the sacks in it, wrapped by mackinaw closely, and wriggled in.
But that hay was just as cold as the night air. With an almost human effort, the hay seemed to resist the encroachment of my legs by pushing up my pants and stinging my legs with its coldness. Thus, it was with some difficulty that I convinced myself I would be warmer later. I finally did, however, and then dozed off for a fitful slumber. Some hours later—it seemed like an eternity—I awakened with the feeling that I was for all practical purposes frozen stiff.
It was with some difficulty that I descended the ladder and went over to the stall of one of the horses to procure a horseblanket which I had noted some days before. Getting the blanket, I returned to my bed, lined the hole with the horse blanket and crawled in again. Again I convinced myself everything would be all right, since the horse blanket should make a difference. Soon, I was slumbering again.
How long I slept this second time, I had no way of knowing. But when I awakened, I was colder than before and literally shaking and shivering from the top of my head to the end of my toes. I knew I had had it! Sleeping in the barn might be all right for passing strangers, but forever after that I would be willing to settle for a bed.
I still, however, had the problem of getting to bed. Between me in my frozen condition and a bed there were approximately 150 yards of rugged ravine terrain which separated the barn and the house. But I had to make a choice or determine to forsake the mortal clay that night; it was that cold! Thus, I began my journey toward the house through air which almost cracked and over ground which literally glistened it was frozen so very hard.
When I arrived at the house, I sneaked in the back way and tried to climb the stairs to Grandma's cold, unheated upstairs quietly; hoping to do so without awaking Grandma. As I pulled back the cover and prepared for the wondrous comfort of two or three quilts and an inviting feather mattress into which I could sink very deeply, I thought I had been successful in getting to bed without awaking anyone. But just at that moment, Grandma's gentle voice broke the stillness, as she called out, "Is that you, Raymond?" It was almost as though she had been expecting me, and lying awake waiting for me. Her psychic insight into my activities literally unnerved me.
So, when Grandma inquired into my activities of the night, I told all! By the time I had finished Grandma was laughing so hard and so long that her bed was literally shaking. And she continued to laugh, I know, for more than an hour for it took me that long to get thawed out to where I could even go to sleep. Eventually, I fell asleep; and such sweet, pleasant, comfortable, appreciative sleep I had never known before.
I awakened somewhere around noon the following day, and Grandma told me the temperature had unexpectedly dropped to zero during the night and that I had come in the house around 4:00 a.m. Then she began laughing again.
Even to this day, I can still hear Grandma Harrison tell about my night in the barn and conclude with her jolly laughter. I had planned to pull a fast-one on Grandma and get the last laugh, but it was Grandma who got the last laugh!
And until Grandma departed this life for the better land, each time my night in the barn was mentioned or told Grandma would begin laughing all over again. I am wondering if perhaps she does not, even yet, rejoicingly laugh as she recalls the night when she got the last laugh on the grandson who loved her so very much?
III CUSSIN' AND A COW
Most people who are reared in the country and are familiar with farm animals have no real idea what the animals look like to city lads. Thus, country folk are most likely to laugh when they see a city lad head for the highest railing when he hears a bristly old boar snort and watches him stir up the earth with his ringed-snout. Likewise few country people can really appreciate the temerity with which most city lads approach their first horned-cow.
Though I had seen cows and did not particularly fear them as animals, the art of milking was something which had escaped me; at least it was an ability which I had never acquired. However, while spending a few days at my Aunt Al Wilda's at Given, I was particularly taken with the desire to milk what seemed to be an extremely gentle, old black cow!
Consequently, one evening, at about the time Aunt Al Wilda or her grandson Bernard usually milked, I grabbed the milk bucket and took off up the hill to the unpainted old barn which was about half way up the hill behind the old General Store.
When I reached the barn, I noted that the old black cow had taken her place in her stall to munch on some hay and to wait expectantly for someone to relieve her of her load of milk. Her apparently gentle nature and quiet demeanor led me to believe most of my troubles regarding milking were behind me. So I boldly searched out a three-legged stool and with what may have appeared to be real confidence set it down at what I thought would be just about the proper distance, set the bucket beneath the "milk spigots" and positioned myself for business.
First of all, I discovered I had to readjust the stool closer, and it took two major moves for me to get the stool properly positioned. Secondly, by this time, my boldness had left me, and it was with a quivering right hand—I just was not about to try to use two hands—that I tremulously took hold of the first teat. I followed through and began squeezing and pulling. The resultant stream of milk was quite inadequate, disappointing, and certainly nothing like those which I had seen some others obtain.
The gentle old black cow seemed to sense my fears and uncertainty. So, she not only did not give forth with the milk I expected, but she also started slapping me across the face with her black bushy tail. This combination of events brought forth some unexpected cussin'! But no one was around except me and that old cow, so I let the unbelievable words roll!
It is not easy to put into words the battle which took place that evening, and of course, it certainly is not possible to print the language which that old black cow's resistance brought forth.
In any event, that old black cow was seemingly determined that a city-slicker had met his milking waterlog. And I was just as equally determined that the cow had met her's. Therefore, while she swished her tail and occasionally threw her head back and slobbered on me and doubtless in the bucket as well. I continued to squeeze and pull. When I had gotten some three or four inches of milk in the pail, this old black cow began a rhythmic kicking up of her hind legs. I was still determined that I would succeed in my venture, but by then my confidence had somewhat flown, and I was teetering on two legs of that three-legged stool as I squeezed and pulled and cussed.
That old black cow, however, seemed just as determined that I had met my milking waterlog! And with one fell-sweep she brought her right leg up under her with such great force that I fell backwards off my stool and the milk pail ended upside down somewhere on my stomach. I was a milking, milky mess, and that old cow still had a couple of pails or more left that I had not even been able to get through those most difficult "spigots."
Very simply, the old black cow had won the battle.
My milking days were over! I had never tried it before and I have never tried it again.
Perhaps the next time I try milking some gentle old black cow—if I should ever foolishly do so—I shall either maturely request the presence, advice and assistance of some expert or I shall get me one of those mechanical affairs that I can attach to the teats and then move away while the milk pours into the container.
IV RENEWED RESPECT FOR A MARE
As a lad on the outskirts of the city of Columbus, Ohio, my experiences with horses were extremely limited. We might almost say that except for one particular experience, they were practically non-existent.
There was this one experience, however, which I shall never forget. One of our neighbors had a western pony which had been thoroughly broken to where it was ridden by most everyone acquainted with them without fear. It was nevertheless a fast horse and occasionally raced at the County Fairs. Since I had never had the pleasure of riding anyone's horse, I was particularly delighted when one of the boys asked me to climb on behind him, behind the saddle. I did so and held on to the saddle rings.
The trip began at a gentle, normal gait, but it was not long until the horse had been encouraged to gallop. Of course I began bouncing; the faster the horse ran, the higher I bounced. Being a fairly bull-headed youngster, I was not going to have anyone calling me "sissy" or "chicken." Therefore, I hung on for dear life and continued to bounce.
This continued until that pony negotiated a rather high ditch. Somehow or other, just at that moment I lost my grip on those rings, flattened out in the air and hit the side of the ditch face-first. That was both a humiliating and an excruciating experience; my face was a muddy, bloody mess!
A few years later, when I was visiting my Granddad, there in Given, I mustered-up sufficient courage to try riding again. I went out to my Granddad's barn and saddled his youngest, most sprightly horse. I had never seen anything out of the way from the horse, and I knew that all of Granddad's boys, as well as some of the neighbor boys, had ridden him.
Though I had never done so before, I had no real trouble saddling the horse. I had no particular trouble getting the bridle properly installed on that horse's head. Neither did I have any trouble mounting or starting my ride down the road toward the General Store at Given. The horse responded to my "clucks" and gentle pulls on the reins almost as though I had already mastered the art of riding.
However, when I approached the place that Wolf Creek emptied into Parchment Creek, I could see that the water was running just a little higher than usual. The horse evidently noted this too, for I experienced just a bit of trouble in getting him to start across. Eventually, though, my "soothing voice" and gentle nudges in the ribs accomplished the purpose.
As we approached the middle of the stream, I could see that the horse was getting real skittish; for what reason, I did not know and have never learned. In any event, that horse must have seen a snake, stepped on something sharp or I unconsciously—in my momentary uncertainty—yanked on the reins, for he jumped straight up and turned around all at the same time. I was left sitting high and dry one moment, but the following moment I was without a horse in the middle of a somewhat flooded stream. And after the shock of it all, I was "picking myself up" out of that creek soaked to the skin and most unhappy with the whole situation.
Though I know it is supposed to happen only in the movies and though it may try your credulity a bit, I want you to know, that horse was waiting for his strange rider just out of the water on the road back to the barn. Very cautiously, then, I climbed aboard and rode back to the barn.
A few weeks later some special religious meetings were being held at the old Fairview Church which was a few miles from my Granddad's on the way toward Fairplain. Though I was still a bit fearful of trying to ride the horse at night, I did get-up enough courage to try Granddad's old, black, gentle, swayback mare! Her back was so wide and so like a rocking chair that I felt I would be perfectly safe with only a sheepskin on her back. Though I put a bridle on her, I left the halter rope also so she would be able to munch grass while I was in church. We, the old black mare and I, had an uneventful trip to the church. And to this day, I do not recall one single thing that was said or done at that church that night, primarily, I suppose, because my interests were feminine rather than Godly or spiritual.
After I left the church that night, however, I was really amazed by the intense darkness which surrounded me. (In the city, of course, we never really get a totally dark night because of the many lights which reflect on the clouds.) In a real sense, then the darkness of that West Virginia night shocked me. It was intensely dark; there was no moon, and the stars were hidden from view by dark, lowering clouds. It was so dark that I could not even see the road from where I was sitting on the horse's back. Thus, I decided reluctantly to depend on the old black mare's good sense of direction to get me back to Granddad's. I let the bridle drop on her neck and simply held on to the halter rope to steady myself.
At first the old black mare simply walked; much too slowly, I thought. So, I nudged her with my heels, as I had seen some do in the movies, and she moved a little faster. Before too long I repeated my nudging. After a time—because of my desire to get back to Granddad's, I suppose—I nudged her again, and then again. By this time the old black mare was really moving and I was really rocking.
Then the thought came to my mind, "Suppose she is not galloping? Suppose she is just jumping up and down, getting ready to throw me ? The memories of my other equestrian experiences came before my mind's eye; the more I thought about the situation the more frightened I became. In those extremely tense minutes—totally unreasonable though it may seem —I decided, while sitting in that rapidly rocking horse, that I was not going to be thrown again. I made up my mind that I was going to stay at least one jump ahead of at least one "dumb animal" and get off before I was thrown off. So, I took a good, firm grip on the halter rope—totally unthinking as to what would happen to me if that horse should be galloping— jumped and "hollered," "Whoa," all at the same time!
I feel certain that no other mortal will ever be able to really appreciate the surprise I got! When I hit the dirt on all fours, I discovered that old, black gentle swayback mare had responded faithfully to my nudging and was going at a full gallop. But at my command, "Whoa," she had stopped "dead in her tracks", not one foot was I dragged! Beside my not even getting a scratch out of the experience, I have never been able to understand her stopping apart from the possibility that she was the more sensible of the two of us that night.
Though I was thoroughly shaken up and certainly chagrined beyond expression, I learned something that night. I learned, as I had never know the truth. before, that animals are not always dumb, and certainly that they are not always "the dumb ones"! I climbed back on that old, black, gentle, swayback mare and never again doubted her ability to get me to granddad's or anywhere else.
From that day forward, that old, black, swayback mare and I were the best of friends.
Though I now live in the state of Texas where riding is second nature to many, I want all of you to know that my real respect and appreciation for "dumb animals" began on that pitch-dark night on that dusty road from Fairview Church to Given where I learned particular respect for a particular black mare.
V COUNTRY WISDOM FOR ETERNITY
The name, the Reverend George Loar, will doubtless bring many gracious memories to many hearts and minds of many folk in the hills of West Virginia and Maryland.
Brother George Loar had been reared in the mining country up around Fairmont, West Virginia. His life had, at one time, been buried, so to speak, in the coal business; that is, he knew from actual experience how dark the earth was on the inside. But somehow in the wonder of the Will of God which is beyond that of mortal man, the love of God reached into the blackness of the coal pits and a young man was made a living witness of the Light of Life, even Jesus.
Before Brother Loar had actually made up his mind to accept the call to preach, however, he had progressed quite well in the coal business. He had become one of the white-collar workers and could have remained in his position to much financial profit. The tug of the Eternal at his heart, however, was strong and he chose the material insecurity of the ministry, though the mines in those days were providing him with an exceptional income and a high degree of financial security.
Then, within the wonder of God's Will, Brother Loar was holding a revival meeting at the little White Church in Given, West Virginia, in 1939. While he was there, I was in the process of completing my extended 3-month vacation among many of my kinfolk in that area.
Since I had been and was still such a sinner and unworthy character, the very presence of Brother Loar and his good wife at my Granddad and Grandma Harrison's was a real difficulty for me. Brother and Sister Loar had such a gracious, quiet manner that my brusk ways seemed to stick out like "sore thumbs" even in my own self-centered eyes. And rather than be eternally reminded of my sinfulness, I left Granddad's and went over to stay a few days with my uncle Dallas and aunt Gay at Fairplain.
But I could not get away from the impressions that had been made. During the day, as I helped my uncle Dallas around the farm, I was much my old self. But, when darkness came and I was alone in my room with no one to talk to and no one to talk to me, the life which I had been living would be impressed upon me as a most inadequate and unsatisfactory one. I really did not know God, except perhaps as that universal, impersonal power who seemingly kept things rolling along.
At this time I never dreamed that Brother Loar's life would ever mean anything to me or that the ministry of a "country preacher" could ever touch the mind and heart of a city boy who had already seen too much of life. In fact, I suppose if anyone would even have suggested such I doubtless would really have laughed. The most distant thing from my mind was the possibility of an effectual impress by the wisdom of a "country preacher."
There was, however, a certain little lady up one of those West Virginia hollers whom I had seen a few times. Since she was already engaged to be marmired, I did not anticipate that I would be privileged to date her but I did want to converse with her. Though I would not have gone to Church in order to hear the "country preacher," I knew that Church would be the only place where I would be able to talk to this certain young lady. Therefore, after the meeting had been going a few days, and I was quite certain that the young lady would be attending. I made my way across the five miles of hills from Fairplain to Given. Each night after the meetings I would either stay with my aunt Al Wilda or trudge back across the hills to Fairplain. I still was not about to sleep in the same house as that preacher.
One night while I was sitting quietly there in that little White Church at Given, the preacher's wife unexpectedly walked up beside me and said, "Raymond, wouldn't you like to be saved?" That was a real shock to me! My mind was not really in the meeting. My purpose in being in Church was to enable me to fellowship—even if only momentarily—with that certain lovely lady. As you may imagine, the question caused many eyes to be focused in my direction. Hence, as a means of getting out of an attention-getting situation which I was not enjoying, I blurted out, "Yes, but there is not much use to wish for I am on my way to Hell!" This reply was of course a real shock to the preacher's wife and ended the conversation, at least momentarily.
Though I continued to attend the meetings for the above indicated reason, my spiritual tastes did not seem to improve. Rather, my heart seemed more and more unresponsive. And, in what few reflective moments I had, I personally became more and more convinced that there was more truth than fiction in my statement and that my doom was sealed forever.
Then, one Sunday morning, during the meeting, Brother Loar was standing on the porch of the old Given Church when I walked up. Brother Loar very casually stepped aside and for the first time, himself, inquired, "Do you really want to be saved, Raymond?" I evaded the question by answering, in part, I don't believe that even God would forgive me!" I turned sharply to go in the Church, and Brother Loar, in parting and with wisdom which must have been from heaven, said, "Would your mother forgive you?" I was stopped in my tracks—and with a quickened conscience replied, "She already has a thousand times!"
From that moment Hell did not seem so finally certain as it had for some years. I had been faced with the possibility that the God of the universe was Person equally as wonderful as my mother. Brother George Loar, the "country preacher" had broken through my shell of sham and self-importance; both conviction and hope bloomed anew in my sinful, guilty heart. Even then, however, I was not about to let anyone know my feelings.
A few evenings later, after I had gone to bed on the old straw tick in my aunt Al Wilda's west bedroom, I began to think on these things. In addition to the things which I had heard the preacher discuss, I remembered also some of the Bible verses I had learned as a child in the (next reference to this church) on Zollinger Road, in what is now Arlington, Ohio.
There in the quietness of that bedroom, I faced the realities of time and eternity, my sinfulness and God's righteousness, my great need and God's Provision. And without any commotion, without any verbal outbursts without even getting out of bed to get on my knees, I came to understand that God had a Son —a real live Son—who had died for me and that this same Son was now resurrected and in heaven. When I grasped the import of these truths, I simply believed them. In so doing, I trusted Jesus Christ as the One who was able to save me. In that crucial, never to-be-forgotten, eternal moment a sweet peace such as I had never before known was mine. Comforted as I had never been and the recipient of peace which I had never known, I went to sleep without even the slightest fearfulness as to what my destiny would be even if I should never awaken again to mortal experiences.
I awoke the next morning realizing that my night had not been filled with phantasies or delusions. I awoke realizing that I faced a new day as a young man such as I had never been before; sorry for every heartache I had ever caused my mother; grieved because of every unkindness I had shown my fellowmen; and hurting away down deep inside each time an unkind word would enter my mind. Impossible though it seemed even then to my natural mind, I had become a new creation in Christ Jesus; I had been reborn; I had been born from above.
Even with all of this consciousness of my past and present sinfulness there was a freedom of spirit such as I had never known. The sun came up with a new glory! The songs of the birds had a lilting cheer in them which I had never noted before! The clouds overhead had never been so beautiful! The stars the following evening were brighter than I had ever seen them! The cries of the whippoorwill's did not seem lonesome anymore! I had never had a consciousness, appreciation, and love for others such as was mine.
Today—some 25 years, two wars, a college, a couple of Bible Schools, a couple of universities, a seminary, several employers and a world of experiences in this land and in others—my salvation and consciousness of God's reality and presence is just as real. Even today, I still know that the "country preacher," the Reverend George Loar, had a wisdom which was good for eternity, as well as time.
The God of whom I had learned as a child, of whom I had read occasionally in the Bible, of whom my mother had told me and of whom Brother Loar had told me has, in truth, saved me, forgiven me and kept me. Too, this God to whom Brother Loar had introduced me has also enabled me to enter His Service.
Thus, the truth which Brother George Loar brought to my attention there on the porch of tile little White Church in Given, West Virginia, has been carried East and West, North and South throughout this land and to others. Because Brother Loar had time to give a city boy some country wisdom for eternity, the message of Jesus as Savior and Lord is reaching into the homes and lives of hundreds each and every day by means of radio, correspondence and regular religious publications through me—one of the most unworthy creatures in all of God's universe.
VI A SMILE OF WISDOM
As a young Christian there in Given, West Virginia, the last thing in the world I wanted to do was give the impression that I had not really been changed. I had known a few hypocrite in my life and the furthest thing from my mind was a desire to Join their motely, godless crowd. Besides my own personal rejoicing in my new-found faith in Christ Jesus, I wanted people to be able to see that I was in truth not the same old sinner. And I believe that some of the change was obvious.
But not many days had passed until I was to learn that I was just a saved sinner. Those who remember me and my traveling among the hills will recall that most of my walking was done in an old pair of gum boots. Thus, the day that I decided to help Granddad and followed him barefooted was an unusual day.
As I recall, we had pulled down some hay for the horses and cows in the barn, thrown some hay over into over into the milking lot, cast a few ears of corn into the pig pen and listened to the jubilant snorting, and fed and watered the chickens. The last thing to be done was care for the turkeys in the clapboard turkey house in the little valley between the barn and the house and just down below the house. Granddad was just a little ahead of me, moving at his usual rapid pace and humming some little tune. I was following him somewhat carelessly swinging both my arms and kicking my feet in the soft dirt.
Then it happened!
For one split second, one fraction of a moment I looked off toward the house on the hill as I rounded the corner of the turkey house! As I did so, the big toe on my right foot came into bruising contact with an immovable, supporting square of sandstone which had seen many winters come and go with no appreciable deterioration!
The nail was torn back, the blood squirted and an oath issued audibly from my lips! And perhaps for the first time in my life consciousness of my sinfulness toward God was so real that I bit my lip.
My mind was stricken with a pang of brutal conscience and my heart was broken; the new Christian was still a sinner! Though I had not yet learned that all Christians are just saved sinners, Granddad's reaction was one of wise assurance. He calmly turned looked at me and comfortingly smiled. Not one word of criticism passed his lips.
At that moment I learned how much wisdom can be packed into one fleeting smile, even on a weather-beaten face of one's Granddad. Granddad simply smiled; a smile of knowing wisdom, yet a smile of assurance which calmly informed me that my shortcomings were common to men.
In the many years which have intervened and in my many other crucial moments of human failure, Granddad's smile has persisted as one with an endless message of wisdom. And, though Granddad has been gone for many years, the memory of his smile is ever-present to remind me that there is no need for an outlook of hopeless futility just because I am "only a sinner saved by grace." On the contrary, because of Granddads smile of wisdom, I can rejoice anew each day that I am "a sinner saved by God's grace" for I can thereby know that I am on my way to that land of the blessed where Granddad is.
VII FROM THE HILLS TO HELL
The title given this chapter is not an attempt at sensationalism. Neither is it a bizarre play on words. It is in truth a statement of fact, as shall be seen very shortly.
While yet rejoicing in the wonder of my newfound faith and life there at Given, West Virginia, I remembered a special New Testament which I had obtained many years before. So I wrote my mother, Mrs. Hattie Harrison Waugh, in Columbus, Ohio, to send it to me.
This was not just any New Testament, though its contents, of course, were the same as those of any New Testament. In the first place, it was my only New Testament and in the second place it was most special because of the manner in which I had obtained it several years prior to my experiences in West Virginia. While I was yet a lad of some 12 years and attending the (then, The Marble Cliff M.E. Church), a tall, saintly, white-haired old gentleman from Akron, Ohio, came for a speaking engagement. While there he made the arrangements with the minister, the late Rev. E. Stacy Matheny (author of American Patriotic Devotions, Chaplain of World War I, and for many years the Chaplain of the Ohio State Senate), to give a New Testament to each boy and girl who would learn the Ten Commandments.
Since I had never had anything quite so beautiful as the Pilgrim New Testament, I immediately set to work to memorize the Ten Commandments. When the crucial, examination Sunday rolled around, I was one of the first on the front bench and, though terribly frightened, arose and repeated the Ten Commandments before the whole congregation. It was not too many weeks, however, until the newness had worn off and I had put my beautiful New Testament aside.
Eleven years later—after I had believed the Gospel and taken Jesus as my Savior there at Given, West Virginia—I became concerned to know what was inside that Pilgrim New Testament. So immediately upon receiving it in the mail there at Given, I began to read. I read it and then read it again! Like a thirsty man on the desert trying to swallow more water, my heart cried out for more and more of the Word of God, the Biblical Water of Life. Though my spiritual insight and intellectual abilities were sometimes at such odds that my mind could not take hold of all the wonder in the Word of God, I continued to drink as deeply and as frequently as it was mortally possible.
In just a few weeks I departed from the beautiful hills of West Virginia, but I did not lose my love for the Savior or His Holy Word. In just a few months that Pilgrim New Testament was literally worn out or worn too much to be of any use. It was then that my precious Mother and Sister made me a gift of another Bible containing the same Holy Word of God. but this time my reading was considerably enlarged because of the inclusion of the Old Testament. And during the years which have followed I have had many occasions to test the Word of God in very-real life situations.
In fact, it can now be said that, in very practical moments of reality, I have read God's Word while swinging in my bunk deep in the rancid atmosphere of the hold of a ship as it tossed; a seemingly helpless cork before nature's uncontrollable wrath. Too, I have pondered the Scriptures while clinging to the icy prow of a ship which was cutting through tumultuous Arctic seas.
I have also read God's Holy truths while standing on the star-flooded deck of a great vessel which was riding effortlessly on the ceaseless but imperceptible swells of a seemingly bottomless, tropical sea. I have read the pages of God's Word as a golden ball of glory appeared to drift out of sight at the farthest extremity of a glassy, azure sea broken only by the silvery wings of flying fish and the knife-like dorsals of cruising sharks. Too, I have contemplated the absolute truthfulness of and abounded in the confidence to be found in God's blessed truths as my plane sped effortlessly on jetted wings through and above the verdant earth's brilliantly-lighted cloud canopy.
Thankfully, the Savior whom I met there in the hills of West Virginia has provided that I might read those pages of Holy Writ in the midst of hills enshrouded by the smoke of battle and pock-marked with the ravages of human devices. In the hell of the enemy's closeness, I have suffered the literal palsy of fright, but the Word of God was immediately effectual in affecting a renewed composure, as well as new confidence and peace.
Beyond understanding though it may be, God has seen to it that I should look into the faces of my buddies whose bodies had been decimated and whose eyes had been glazed by the inerasable horror of the hell of humanity's inhumanity to man. Yet, even in those moments, by His Holy Word, I was able to know with inviolable certainty that the promises of God bore a comforting reality untouched by the holocaust of war! Somehow, within the Holy Will of God, I have been enabled to face the specter of violent death in the midst of a hell of human design with undying, victorious faith in the Son of God and a never-ceasing confidence in His Holy Word.
Through faith in the Savior and because of the confidence in the Word of God which I gained there in the hills of West Virginia, and subsequently, I have actually been able to shout for joy in the very midst of the earthly hell of human destruction and in the literal prospect that mortal experiences might well be concluded for me before the rising of another sun. Truly, in the midst of an almost insufferable hell brought upon men by human destruction, this Word of God which I had learned to love became "a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."
Yes, I went "From the Hills to Hell." But because of the faith which God had given me there in the hills of West Virginia I was able to bear all of the trials with joy and continued thanksgiving.
A COUNTRY TOMBSTONE
Many, many years ago, William O'Connor Waugh, the son of my Granddad, Samuel Gilbert Arthur Waugh, from over on the Brotherton Creek began to love a young, beautiful, Christian lady from Given, West Virginia. This young lady's name was Miss Hattie Alice Harrison. Hattie Alice Harrison discovered that she, too, loved William O'Connor Waugh. After a time they were united in marriage and went to live near the Marble Cliff Quarries, just outside of Columbus, Ohio.
Father on a Harley with his father, William O'Connor in Ohio
Then on September 20, 1915, there was born to this union a little one whom a neighbor girl by the name of Edna Correll named "Raymond Arthur."
In less than two years, however, the daddy of little Raymond Waugh lay dead in his casket. William O'Connor Waugh had become the head electrician at the Quarry. One day as he came down from a pole —evidently shocked or dazed, so the engineer of the switch engine later suggested—William O'Connor Waugh failed to step out of the way of the engine and wave to the engineer, as was his custom. Thus, his body was removed and returned to a hill over near the Brotherton Creek, west of Given, for burial. My uncle Russell of Given helped to transfer the body from the boxcar in Ripley, West Virginia, to its final resting place via horse-drawn wagon on a rainy, dreary day in 1917.
Many times, as a young lad, I would grieve that I could not remember and had not known my daddy even though there is a picture or two which show him holding me. Often I found it hard to believe—in my childish mind—that God could really love me as much as He did the neighborhood boys and girls who still had their daddies.
My concern, of course, was totally selfish! It never dawned upon me to wonder or even care particularly in those days whether my daddy had gone to Heaven or to Hell. Consequently, I had never discussed his youth, religion or character with anyone. I just grieved because God had so mistreated me. However, after I had come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ there at Given, West Virginia—though I was Just as human as ever—much of my selfishness was gone. One of the first things I wanted to do was visit my daddy s grave. Too, I had a great desire to know whether my daddy had gone to Heaven or to Hell.
Therefore, one drippy, dark morning in 1939, I pulled on my gum boots there on the old back porch of my Granddad Harrison's and started on my way to find my daddy's grave I crossed the road down from where Granddad's barn used to be, went up the holler behind my great uncle Grat Parson's house, passed by my great uncle Oke Parson's, and then went by the old home place at the head of the holler where my great uncle, Levi Parsons, had reared such a fine family. From there I "topped" the hill, left the holler and went on across the hills. After several hours of searching and tramping, the directions I had received paid off. While a bright late winter sun began to peak through the clouds, I located the old, grown-up, weedy Brotherton Cemetery which I had never seen before.
I found my daddy's grave! And even as I write about it here in the office some 25 years later, my tears flow unashamedly. It was a solemn moment! One of the most solemn moments in all of my mortal life was spent there in the Brotherton Cemetery.
Oh, I knew that my daddy was not there beneath the sod. I knew that the skin worms and time had utterly destroyed every particle of his fleshy form in the years which had intervened. I knew that the years had taken their toll between that rainy day that my Uncle Russell and others had carried my daddy to the top of that forlorn hill and that moment when I arrived. I knew that that little grave marker which bore the name, "William O'Connor Waugh," was not the final assurance that my daddy was yet bound by the earthly elements. But my heart was overcome with unabating grief that I did not know whether my daddy was in Heaven or in Hell! All of the tears that I should have shed across the years, in loving God and loving the daddy whom God had given me and then taken away, came rushing forth as I kneeled in front of that Country Tombstone.
How long I was there, how many tears were shed, and how much grief mingled with thanksgiving was mine, only God in Heaven knows. After a time, the answer came—my heart found peace. God enabled me to know that my daddy had been in heaven all of those years! God, thereby, enabled me to know that I would one day see my daddy in Heaven for now I, too, was on my way there!
In the days and weeks which followed, I made periodic inquiries from those who had known my daddy in bygone years around Lone Oak, Given, Parchment, Fairview, Fairplain and Ripley. I learned that my daddy had been a lad wtih a good mind, and that as a youngster he had been even more mischievous than most. But I learned also that he had taken time in his busy life as a laborer and then as a teacher to make a real profession of faith in Christ Jesus in the old Lone Oak Church. Too, I learned that he had followed his Savior in the beauteous, symbolic waters of baptism in a West Virginia creek.
When I returned to Columbus, I had a real interest in the personal effects which my daddy had left and which my gracious, wonderful, Christian mother had kept for me all of those years. Though I had learned that my daddy was far from being the saint that most of us would like to be, I found that in quiet moments he had learned to love, read and intelligently mark God's Holy Word, the Bible.
Thus, some 22 years after my daddy had been laid beneath the sod of that lonesome West Virginia hills, some of the things he had done both in the hills of West Virginia and in Ohio—caused the heart of his son who could never remember having seen him to rejoice.
Perhaps we daddies of today should be zealous to see that we leave behind us testimonies and works which will effectually follow us. Our youngsters will not be able to get much of an impression from an epitaph chiseled on the granite or marble in some city or country grave yard. But ours can truly be an eternal memory for the good if we will but leave living testimonies; evidences of our love for God, His people and His Holy Word!
IX A CITY BOY GETS SMART
I realize that most country folk will doubtless think the title of this chapter to be somewhat presumptuous. In fact, I imagine that many country folks are of the opinion that it is not really possible for a city boy to get smart.
Though vocational agriculture classes are made available to many city lads who have dreams of one day being farmers or ranchers, many country folk just never believe that city-bred lads can ever become anything other than dude-farmers or ranchers. They may in some instances, at least, be just about right.
Though my dearly-loved and remembered Granddad could pick up a handful of earth and sort of gloat over it or revel in it, I have never been able to get the "feel" or develop a similar appreciation. Oh, don't get me wrong—I have really tried! When I was just a lad in South Perry Grammar School in Columbus, Ohio, I developed a bad case of pleurisy because of some exertions during an important track-meet. While I was recuperating from this illness, our family doctor would sit at my side and tell me about his hobby of raising flowers in Hilliards, Ohio.
Somehow, there was a degree of inspiration in that kindly old man's attention and conversation which lasted. Thus, the next year when I was scheduled to begin high-school, I chose to go to a Country School at Hilliards, Ohio, rather than North High School in Columbus. My only interest in attending Hilliards High School at that time was in order that I might take Vocational Agriculture and become a real farmer— or, at least, a raiser of flowers!
I shall never forget the humiliation of that first day in that Vocational Agriculture class. The teacher passed around a questionnaire, and I filled it out. One of the questions pertained to the amount of land I would have available to raise certain grain and farm animals. I honestly and with complete innocency placed "One Acre" in the blank; totally unaware of the requirements. Later in the morning the teacher came back to my desk and as kindly as he could, but with a wry smile which was readily picked up by the other lads in the class, told me that I did not have enough land to qualify for the Agriculture Course.
Subsequently, I learned that many "farmers" in other lands live on an acre or less, in many instances, and provide the foodstuffs for their families. Too, some time later the requirements were so altered that a lad with but a corner lot could qualify for a Vocational Agriculture program of studies. Thus, time and an awareness that the early requirements of my High School were premature and unrealistic healed my initial humiliation. And just a few years later I happily graduated after satisfactorily completing all the requirements for my academic course.
In the years which have followed, I have planted a few "gardens" and tried to get my bare feet acclimated to the "feel" of the good earth. Too, on many occasions, I have attempted to mimic my Granddad's love for the soil. But there still remains something unfriendly about a handful of dirt or a splash of mud which I have never been able to overcome, though I gladly recognize that my life actually depends upon the fruitage of God's Good Earth and though I have tramped many a long mile in the mud and the dust.
Therefore, when I say that "A City Boy Gets Smart," I do not mean to imply that I have more learning than my country cousins, aunts and uncles or that I have at last attained a "country-appreciation" for the soil. I only mean to infer that at least one city-lad who had the desire to be a farmer and never made it had sense enough and the good fortune to marry a country-girl from East Texas.
Now, though I may say in print that "I fell on the 'single-tree' between two galloping horses," my country-bred wife can take me aside and explain that I actually "fell across the double-tree onto the tongue between two galloping horses." Though I may never be "comfortable" with loam, sand or clay under my fingernails or toenails, my mule-plowing, cottonpicking, corn-hoeing" wife from that East Texas Country can revel in a handful of dirt as fully as my Granddad ever did. And, through the influence of my wife, my boys already love to feel the squishing of the good earth between their fingers.
I shall doubtless never go all of the places some will, and I question seriously whether I shall ever become anything even close to a dude-farmer. But I certainly can rejoice that God gave me sufficient good sense to love a country-girl who once was just about as much at home behind the plow as some of my West Virginia relatives. And it is with the presumption that I can draw on my wife's good, country sense that I can say, "A City Boy Gets Smart."
X GIVE ME LIBERTY
"Liberty" is a word which provides a multitude of Impressions in the minds of our overspread world of humans. On the one hand there are those who would used their liberty as a means of injuring or enslaving men or depleting them of honestly gained material benefits; some in Communist countries suppose their enslavement is freedom; others are satisfied with a liberty which enables them to obtain three meals a day; and still others are desirous of a liberty which will enable them to show a real and effectual altruistic attitude toward their fellowmen.
In the day when Patrick Henry raised his voice in the cry, "Give me liberty or give me death," there were doubtless several concepts or thought patterns involved. First, we know, of course, that he was desirous of the basic freedom which is essential if we are to live personal lives to the benefit of those about us and also indulge in the satisfactions of self-improvement. Secondly, we can know that his cry was designed to point out the need for freedom from social and economic enslavement. Even further, perhaps, the cry of Patrick Henry brought into the foreground of human thinking the great need for religious freedom.
Not many of us, however, can really ever think of ourselves as being as free as Patrick Henry wanted to be. In our day we are limited greatly in many directions by many thought-to-be essential governmental regulations with which our American forefathers were not acquainted. Today most of us city-dwellers are limited in many ways; that is, we are fenced-in by inner loops and outer loops which encircle our cities; our travels are limited, for the most part, by ribbons of concrete specifically designed for our modern vehicles; our new of the wonders of nature surrounding us is hmited by our neighbors' houses, the commercial buildings of our cities, the concrete beneath us and the wild scream of the jets above us.
Even more than that, our personal lives consist in many instances of innumerable limitations. We are too often enslaved to the ringing of an alarm clock, routine meals, "required" social connections and memberships, and specified routes to and from the jobs to which we are bound most of every year. We are even enslaved during our moments of leisure by the door through which we must pass or the clock we shall have to punch on the first day back on the job. Even in our most relaxed moments we cannot get away from the reality that our freedom is just "liberty" within a prescribed time-limitation.
Most of us are so much a part of the "patterns" of mortal existence that we get into the habit of assuming our time is our own. In reality, however, we are literally imprisoned by the circumstances of the society which provides us all of our "opportunities." Even the fruits of our labors or our salaries which we think of as our own to do with as we please, for the most part, really belong to someone else before we ever get them. And, while we might cringed even at the thought of having to forsake our "space-age advantages" in order to return to "the good old days," our mortality will doubtless be more healthily mature if we recognize the realities of our existence rather than "paranoically" (day dreaming) assuming ourselves to be the benefactorees of freedoms never experienced by others.
Though Patrick Henry's life was certainly limited by duties which became his privileged obligations, many of the imprisoning aspects of our modern society were unknown to him. In his day, one did not have to drive 25 or 50 miles or walk a half of a day in order to reach some unspoiled spot of good earth. In those decades of long ago, one did not have to cross the country in order to find a quiet place of unsullied beauty; a place untainted by the rushing, racing world of moving feet and turning wheels. Neither did one have to look toward space in Patrick Henry's day in order to find new worlds to conquer.
In Patrick Henry's day one could leave the village square and be upon the greensward of the countryside after but a few steps. Patrick Henry's life was not limited to the traveling spaces afforded by ribbons of concrete and macadam or impervious walks of steel and stone. Neither were Patrick Henry's views of God s creation hindered by rising walls of steel, stone, cement and brick.
Patrick Henry's personality was not joltingly disturbed each morning by the raucous ringing of a heartless alarm clock or the blaring of some pop-tune on a radio supposedly designed to awaken one quietly to the tune of some soothing, modern music. Patrick Henry's day was not interrupted by the scheduled catching of a bus or the scheduled jostling with traffic over endless city streets prior to a necessarily-prompt arrival at the place of business. The truth is, the lives of those in Patrick Henry's day were made up of days weeks, months and years—not minutes and seconds and a continuous resort to furtive watch-watching.
Today, we may still speak of 'liberty," but I fear that there is a great deal less, connotatively, in our conception of "liberty" than there was in that of Patrick Henry's. We talk about "liberty" and yet we live lives which are an endless stream of imprisoning walls of circumstances, social requirements, cultural involvements and, in many instances, endless rounds of limiting religious practices and liturgies.
Thankfully, however, because of Patrick Henry and other men like him who loved liberty more than they loved life itself, it is our privilege to choose to limit ourselves within the framework of our society and within the limitations of our individual and national aspirations. Because of the courage and the selflessness of a host of our progenitors in this land of the "free," we are today free to live lives of our own choosing to the fullest advantage of our enlarging and modern technological advance. Too, we are free to surround ourselves by the marvels of engineering genius and even free to follow limiting—yet almost endlessly-extending—ribbons of concrete and asphalt combinations to points of our own choosing. Though we may too often forget, even our privilege and opportunity to search out our own choice-shangrila via the seemingly-limitless skyways above us is antecedently dependent upon the dedicated, altruistic men in our history who agreed with Patrick Henry in his cry, "Give me liberty. . ."
We need to realize, therefore, that it is because of our liberty which has been won by faithful, brave and selfless ones and which has been maintained only at the cost of unnumbered lives that we are really free to continue our everyday, imprisoned lives. Even more, however, because of Patrick Henry and many others who have given their all, we are even free on occasion to return to the hills of our choice and abound—if for only a moment—in the wonder of a world and a life almost untouched by the buzzing activities of industry, the scheduled activities of commerce, the booming activities of an awakened science and the racing of our hurried civilization harried by stresses, strains and endless crises seeking its measured successes and recreations. Reflectively and retrospectively, I can personally know that the attention to duty and unwavering loyalty which men such as Patrick Henry gave actually made it possible for me to rejoice and abound in freedom even in the wonder of the West Virginia Hills.
Now, in memory, Given, West Virginia, can live on as a very real garden spot on God's good earth where men can still choose the hill from which they will watch a sunset; a choice haven where men can still have the feathered creatures of the wild awaken them from their nights of undisturbed slumber; a beauty spot in one of our choice states of these United States where one can yet sit in quietness beside a babbling brook and watch the creatures of the waterworld or roam the woods and catch the glimmer of dashing squirrels and the flashes of color of birds flitting from branch to branch.
Though physically circumscribed in the work-a-day world of living, obligation and duty, because of God-given men such as Patrick Henry, I am free to make those mental or actual journeys to the top of "Thirteen Hill" and gaze at the resplendent beauties of nature's finest dress in all directions; free to return in memory or in actuality to the musty coolness of Spruce Holler and drink again at the moss-covered pool of cold, clear water beneath that over-hanging, rocky cliff; and especially free to recall to mind those mornings when—with the dew heavy on the grass and the bushes—the sun, as a mighty giant with scientific know-how, would dispel the shadows of night and turn the earth at Given into a seemingly limitless sea of radiantly-luminous, sparkling diamonds.
Yes, the price of liberty has been and perhaps always will be high. But every penny and every life which liberty has cost or will ever cost will issue in a wealth of good for mankind and an incomprehensibly wonderful profusion of memories. We are, of course, deeply and historically indebted to all who have provided this heritage or who have had even the smallest part in the total provision of this heritage.
Even more, however, we are debtors to assure even the generations yet unborn freedom at least equal to that which we have known. Very clearly, if our children are to know liberty we must be equally as alert and equally as willing as Patrick Henry and others of his day to put our lives, affections and earthly possessions into realities of that sacrificial cry, "Give me liberty or give me death."
XI THESE THINGS REMAIN
Many years ago the wisest, most humble, most gracious and the most truly humanitarian and sacrificial One who ever walked upon the earth was approached by His followers. It was the desire of these followers that the Master should particularly note the sturdinous and the beauty of the Temple in Jerusalem; truly, one of the world's formost show-places in those days. His followers were obviously impressed by the capital city of their nation and especially by its architecturally-well-designed Temple buildings. The story goes thus:
And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple; and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, see ye not all these things ? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
We, today, are often like those faithful and earnest disciples of old; that is, we are proud of our streets, our sports arenas our historical memorials, our beautiful buildings and our extensive businesses. Whenever our friends from distant points arrive for a time of visiting and sight-seeing, we always are certain to show them the beauties of our fair cities and especially the more obvious architectural attractions.
If our visiting friends are art enthusiasts, we city-dwellers invariably make it a point to see that they visit the more ornate of our theaters, museums, art galleries and show places which bear particular, landscaped relation to the "lay of the land" or are surrounded by some esthetic aura. If our visiting *lends are civic-minded souls, we gloat over our particular form of city government and its efficient council of local leaders, the values of our many civic minded clubs, the extent of our several youth programs, the overall importance of the numerous fraternal organizations, the efficiency of our city operation and the harmony there is in our civic and business relationships. Or if our friends have particular academic or religious interests, we invariably attempt to let them see how really progressive we are by taking them on tours through a few of our newest high schools and by bringing attention to the scientific excellence of our local colleges. And, regardless of the interests of our visitors, we take it upon ourselves to demonstrate the extent of our religious intelligence, advance and tolerance by pointing to the multitude of great church plants and denominational enterprises.
Somehow the truth of the words spoken some 1900 years ago just never seem real or applicable to our day or to the artificial nature of our modern societies. But Henry Drummond, a well-known writer of the last century, gave evidence of a much better discernment and was apparently nearer the truth than we, when he penned:
The wisdom of the ancients, where is it? It is wholly gone. A schoolboy today knows more than Sir Isaac Newton knew . . . You put yesterday's newspaper in the fire. Its knowledge has vanished away . . . Look how the coach has been superseded by the use of steam. Look how electricity has superseded that, and swept a hundred almost new inventions into oblivion . . . At every workshop you will see in the back yard, a heap of old iron, a few wheels, a few levers, a few cranks, broken and eaten with rust . . . All the boasted science and philosophy of this day will be old . . . And in every branch of science it is the same.
In the midst of the deterioration and destruction of all the wonders of human construction, however, some things remain. Though the architectural wonders of Jerusalem were leveled both by men and by time, the Judean Hills yet remain. Though the streets of the city of Jerusalem have been for some two millenniums in a state of total disrepair, the flowing Jordan continues as of old to wend its way among the eternal Palestinian hills and pour itself at last into the Dead Sea.
So has it been in much more recent history. The buildings in which our forefathers lived are no more. The architectural accomplishments which once graced the villages and the towns of our struggling progenitors in the Age of America's infancy have long since been removed by time and mortal device. Though we may boast during our lives concerning the wonders of our cities, we can know that in just a few tomorrow's even the most durable of our structures shall have suffered a similar demise; either time or human device will dispose of even our most wonderful engineering achievements because of their native weaknesses or obsolescence.
But even after time and human ingenuity have done their worst, the wonderful hills in the out-of-the way places such as Given, West Virginia, will still be there. Perhaps we shall not be too far amiss in specifying the matter thus:
The pages of our truly indescribable mortality turn much too quickly it seems,
And we learn that the best of our fleshy moments and years are but diaphanous dreams.
All too soon we must see the end of our earthly ways with all of their thrills and frills,
But long after time has closed her doors there will yet remain—"The Eternal Hills."
When our cities' present magnificent structures of concrete, steel, wood and stone are but memories in the waning minds of a few centenarians and when our finest houses of business and domicile have been turned into piles of rubble by the wrecking crews or into dust by inexorable time, the hills will still be there. Though men may bulldoze a few of the peaks for purposes of their own design, actually the hills will still be there. Though cities in all parts of our land and in others have waxed and waned, arisen and fallen, progressed and deteriorated, the hills and the creeks around Given, West Virginia, have remained.
Fifty years ago, 100 years ago, 150 years ago and even 250 years ago and more my great, great great, and even great great great granddad's, uncle's, aunt's and grandma's were traveling the incomparable hills of West Virginia. These were the same hills which were made to ring with my youthful voice, and to echo and re-echo, in a much later day, to the voices of my own lads. And if there yet remains 200 years of time —though I and all that I shall have ever done will long since have been utterly forgotten—my great great great grandchildren may still be able to rejoice in the wonder of the seeming deathlessness of the West Virginia Hills.
Yes, these things remain. The West Virginia Hills are, as I have noted in my poem, truly "The Eternal Hills." Because I am so much more mortal than "The Eternal Hills," I must expect the end of this journey of life which has led, in a very real sense, from the hills to hell. But because of God's wonderful grace and through the faith which He provides, I can rejoice in the midst of every earthly blessing, take advantage of every God-given opportunity and look forward expectantly to arrive very soon in Heaven that glorious Land of Eternal Day.
Copyright, 1964, by Raymond A. Waugh, Sr.
Printed in the United States of America