Thursday, July 12, 2018

In the big inning, God created baseball


 I covered the College World Series three times in my sportswriting career, and on one of those trips to Omaha I found the following curiosity printed in the local newspaper.
 It was dated 1950 and attributed to a Memphis newspaperman named George Sisler, not to be confused with the Hall of Fame ballplayer by the same name.
 Sisler pasted random passages from the King James Bible to construct a game story. I particularly liked the prophetic part about pitching around Aaron (Hank Aaron would have been just 16 when this was written), the apocalyptic double play, and the byline at the end.
 The game, by the way, was a walk-off: Philistines 3, Israel 1.


The people gathered Ex 32:1
to see the battle, 1 Sam 17:28 
and the people sat down to eat and drink Ex 32:6 
sweet water James 3:11  
and parched corn. Josh 5:11
Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside, 1 Sam 4:13  
and he stretched himself 1 Ki 17:21 
that he may see good. Ps 34:12

So the people shouted: Josh 6:20
Where are the nine? Luke 17:17
Let the young men now arise and play before us. 2 Sam 2:14

The first came out Gen 25:25 
and went into the field Num 22:23 
and they stood every man in his place. Judg 7:21

And Peter called Mark 14:72 
whether it be good or bad, Lev 27:12 
as one mocketh another Job 13:9 
with loud voices: Luke 23:23 
His watchmen are blind. Isa 56:10 
And he stooped to 1 Sam 24:8 
make clean the platter. Luke 11:39

And the trumpeters sounded: 2 Chr 29:28
Kohath shall pitch. Num 3:29 
And Samson went and caught. Judg 15:4

David was up 2 Sam 24:11 
on the left side Ez 1:10 
and he struck it into the pan 1 Sam 2:14
foul.  Matt 16:3
The second was offered. Judg 6:28 
He striketh.. Job 34:26 
On the third Gen 22:4 
he struck 1 Sam 2:14 
him out. Gen 22:11

So the Levite went in. Judg 17:10 
He stood, and measured the earth; he beheld and drove Hab 3:6 
for an homer. Hos 3:2 
And all the people shouted with a great shout. Josh 6:20

And Noah went in Gen 7:7 
and did fly 2 Sam 22:11 
into the field. Num 22:23 
And Jothan ran away Judg 9:21 
and looking back Luke 9:62 
gathered it. Isa 62:9

And Aaron went in Ex 5:1 
and worketh it Isa 44:12 
two and two. Gen 7:9 
And Samson said: Judg 15:3 
Strike it! Ex 12:7 
And Aaron spake: Ex 4:30 
Be not one of them that strike. Prov 22:26 
And the man refused to smite. 1 Ki 20:35 
And Aaron took NUM 16:47 
and he walked. 1 KINGS 15:3

Amon sacrificed 2 CHR 33:22 
and Aaron ran Num 16:47 
into the second Heb 9:7 
and overran, 2 Sam 18:23 
and with the bag Mic 6:11 
afar off, Gen 22:4 
a good man out. Matt 12:35

Now Jeremiah came in and went out Jer 37:4 
being caused to fly. Dan 9:21 
And the men of Israel retired. Judg 20:39

Then the Philistines went up. Judg 15:9 
And Joseph was captain Gen 39:1 
of the Philistines. Judg 3:31 
And Absalom pitched. 2 Sam 17:26

Then Joseph commanded to fill their sacks. Gen 42:25 
Shimei came forth, 2 Sam 16:5 
stood, and walked. Acts 3:8 
The pitcher Ecc 12:6 
looked this way and that way. Ex 2:12 
He stretched out Hos 7:5 
and threw. Acts 22:23 
And Archers hit. 1 Sam 31:3 
And it came to pass on the second, Luke 6:1 
Joab caught 1 Ki 2:28 
the line Job 38:5 
and threw 2 Sam 16:13 
at the first. Gen 13:4 
Therefore, David ran and stood upon 1 Sam 17:51 
the first, Gen 13:4 
put forth his hand and caught Ex 4:4 
the toss. Jer 5:22  
This is the second death. Rev 20:14

Then Joseph could not restrain himself, and he cried: Gen 45:1 
Goodness, if thou continue in Rom 11:22 
going down, Gen 15:12 
our bones are dried, and our hope is lost Ezek 37:11 
and my garments Isa 63:3 
and job. Ex 14:20.

And Abram went up. Gen 13:1 
And Abram drove Gen 15:11 
into the air. Acts 22:23 
Judah came in Gen 38:8 
under it. Dan 4:14 
And through the idleness of hands Ecc 10:18 
the fly Is 7:18 
droppeth through, Ecc 10:18 
giving him a double. Deut 21:17

Abraham took the wood and Gen 22:6 
caught hold of 2 Sam 18:9 
an hard Matt 25:24 
and high Rev 21:12  
delivery Is 26:17 
and smote it Judg 7:13  
that thou mayest go home. Judg 19:9

Thus and thus Judg 18:4 
Israel fought Josh 10:42 
and the Philistines fought 1 Sam 4:10 
until the ninth. Lev 25:22 
For each, one Num 7:3 
in the first, Gen 8:13 
and seven times Lev 25:8 
after that they Ecc 9:3 
gathereth eggs.  Is 10:14

In the ninth Lev 23:32 
Israel went out 1 Ki 20:21 
in a row, 1 Ki 7:3 
and none came in. Josh 6:1 
He sent divers sorts of flies among them, Ps 78:45 
and they caught every one. 2 Sam 2:16

The first man 1 Cor 15:45 
for the Philistines 1 Sam 28:15 
drew the third, Rev 12:4 
and the fourth Ex 28:20 
came unto the outside. Judg 7:19 
He walketh. Job 22:14 
The pitcher Ecc 12:6 
climbed up 1 Sam 14:13 
and pitched. Gen 12:8 
And Moses put it upon a pole Num 21:9 
for an homer. Hos 3:2

And there was a very sore battle that day; and Abner was beaten, and the men of Israel. 2 Sam 2:17

And behold, the man clothed with linen, which had the inkhorn by his side, reported the matter, Ez 9:11 
and wrote it in a book. 1 Sam 10:25

Saturday, January 13, 2018

If my life was an airline, this would be my route map

     I recently came across a neat website called Great Circle Mapper that makes it easy to display customized airline routes. I decided to enter all the flights I've ever taken (anyone surprised that I keep track of such things?) so I could visualize all the places I've been privileged to go.
     This tilted globe shows the result. It's my version of the Bible maps of Paul's missionary journeys—only without any shipwrecks.
     The green routes span my newspaper career, mostly in Greenville. I wore a leisure suit on my first flight, at age 20, when my benevolent editor/great uncle Slim Hembree sent me to Omaha to cover the College World Series for the Anderson Independent. I have to thank Tony Rice for getting me to Phoenix, and Rick Barnes for the junket to Puerto Rico.
     The yellow routes are flights I've made since joining Samaritan's Purse in 1999. Thirteen years ago this week, I departed on a 22,664-mile round-the-world trip to report on our tsunami relief work in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. We flew east via London and the Maldives to Sri Lanka, and after we continued over to Indonesia, the most direct way home was to keep flying east via Taipei and Los Angeles. (On a 40-minute hop from Kuala Lumpur to Medan, we crossed a time zone and landed earlier than we took off.)
     The flight over the North Pole was from New York to Beijing to report on the 2008 earthquake in China. That yellow dot in the Sahara Desert is Timbuktu, where I had the privilege of helping to hand out Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts. Most recently was an eight-leg 20,094-mile round trip to Bangladesh to visit medical projects among the Rohingya refugees.  
     Here is the flat-earth view that includes the other side of the globe:
     Great Circle Mapper says I've flown 383,000 miles to 88 airports in 33 countries. If you figure 500 miles per hour, that's more than a month of my life spent jammed into airplane seats.
     (On the other hand, I've probably driven close to a million miles. At 50mph, that would be over two years behind the wheels of the Mustangs, Spitfire, Bobcat, Hyundai, Lumina, Windstar, Saturn, Tribute, and Accord.)
     These maps only show the places with airport codes like ATL, JFK, and 34NC (the helipad atop Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte). Some of the places I've flown don't have codes, including several dirt strips in Africa and a float-plane landing at Dick Proennecke's cabin in Alaska.
SILLY JET! What else can you do with Great Circle Mapper? Well, the navigators of a Boeing 787 used an 18-hour test flight to draw a self-portrait. Click here!

I don't always fly to Darfur, but when I do, it's in the cockpit of a DC-3 built for World War II.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Orval and Buddy: Inseparable to the end

Orval's driveway has this view of Balsam Gap
     Orval Banks and his dog Buddy lived for many years in a cabin atop Chambers Mountain, where Orval manned the fire tower for the state of North Carolina, while Buddy specialized in search-and-rescue missions. I met them in June when I hiked up their steep two-mile-long driveway.
     Orval knew his days on the mountaintop were running short. Cancer had sapped his strength, and the state had decided to close the tower. His son over in Hendersonville was preparing a place for them to live. When I visited, Orval was working on a crate for Buddy to ride down in the back of his pickup truck. It wouldn't be long until they had to leave.
     Orval welcomed me to climb the rickety lookout tower and was sorry he was no longer strong enough to go up there. From his front porch, he fondly pointed out the mile-high mountains that encircled us: the Pisgahs, Balsams, the Lyn Lowry cross, the Great Smokies, Crabtree Bald, the Roans, Mount Mitchell, and others; as well as the landmarks at our feet: Maggie Valley, Waynesville, Lake Junaluska, and Asheville.
     The photo I've posted here is the view from his driveway looking southwest through Balsam Gap toward Georgia. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of the three of us, but I'm not much for selfies, I doubt that Orval would have wanted to pose, and Buddy didn't want me to get too close.

     One of the commands Orval taught Buddy was "show me," and the last thing Buddy did was show Orval the way out of this world. Orval was already on his deathbed on Tuesday when Buddy suddenly became sick. The family took him to the vet, but there was nothing they could do, and at 8 o'clock Tuesday night, Buddy went to sleep for the last time. Orval’s grandson lovingly told Buddy that when he got to heaven, "Stay!" and wait for Orval.
     Buddy didn't have to wait for long. Just two hours later, Orval followed him. They had an amazing life together, and they were inseparable to the end.

     The family sent out a message saying: 
     It was meant to be, Orval followed Buddy around for years. Only fitting that he follows him now. I truly believe that neither one of them wanted to leave without the other. Buddy will also be cremated and his ashes will be spread with Orval's.
     I believe that Orval's Heaven will be endless mountain ridges and valleys. And that he will spend his time crossing each of them, with a pack of dogs in front of him and Buddy leading the way. Orval will be able to breathe again and his body will work again. And all along the way he will find the people he has been searching for, along with friends and family, who have gone before and will follow in the future. And Dad's face will be lit with God's light as he chases the setting sun.
     And for any of you who have been on searches with my Dad and followed him through the woods, there is bound to be occasionally one of the gnarliest briar thickets and Dad will go straight through the middle of it.
     For more about Orval Banks and his gift for communicating with dogs, check out this 2011 story in the Smoky Mountain News.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The pun is mightier than the sword

     We're having a headline party over at my other blog, The Stoneman Gazette.
     Feel free to drop in. Bring your own pun. (Because the pun is mightier than the sword.)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Riddler on the roof: When did N.C. stand tallest?

When Frenchman Andre Michaux stood here in 1794 and declared Grandfather Mountain "the highest mountain of all North America," he overlooked the obvious: The blue ridge on the distant horizon to the right is Mount Mitchell, which was actually the highest peak in the United States for 56 years.
     Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings writes a blog called Maphead where he posed this question: Before Alaska became a state, where was America's highest mountain?
     It's really more of a riddle than a question. Because for most of our nation's history, no one was sure.

     The answer is California, which owned America's rooftop from the day it became the 31st state in 1850 until 1959 when Alaska became the 49th. Yet Jennings points out that well into the 20th century, atlases mistakenly listed Washington's Mount Ranier as the nation's highest mountain.
     In fact, California was 75 years old before surveyors verified that Mount Whitney was the highest point in the Lower 48. (Even then, there may have been a 10-foot error because the engineer was in such a hurry to get home to his fiancĂ©.) 
     Early topographic maps that used 100-foot contours show a virtual three-state tie among California's Whitney (14,495 feet above sea level in the 1925 survey), Colorado's Mount Elbert (14,431), and Washington's Rainier (14,408). All three have inched up in the latest satellite surveys: Whitney 14,505, Elbert 14,433, and Rainier 14,410.
     Before California, which state stood tallest? Texas had the highest peak in the nation* for five years after it became the 28th state in 1845, though I doubt that anyone knew it. (*I'm not counting the Louisiana Territory, which included Mount Elbert.)
     And before that? The whole country assumed New Hampshire's Mount Washington was highest until this news broke Nov. 3, 1835 in the Raleigh Register and North Carolina Gazette (back in the days before headlines were invented):

     The editor's note (above right) promoted a lengthy front-page article written by Dr. Elisha Mitchell, a professor of geology at the University of North Carolina. (If this link asks you to subscribe to newspapers.com, email me and I will send you a copy.)
     Dr. Mitchell surveyed several mountains in western North Carolina before concluding than an unnamed peak in the Black Mountains was the highest. He measured it at 6,476 feet above sea level, which underestimated Mount Mitchell's actual height of 6,684. Still, that surpassed Mount Washington, which then was believed to be 6,234 feet and is now listed at 6,288. 
     Dr. Mitchell's barometric measurements were generally shorter than the summit elevations we know today. He measured Grandfather Mountain at 5,556 feet (it is now known to be 5,946), the Roan at 6,039 (Roan High Knob is 6,285 and Roan High Bluff 6,267), and Table Rock at 3,421 (rather than 3,920).
Following Dr. Mitchell's footsteps
     He came closer on Yeates Knob (5,895 then, 5,920 now), which is important because Yeates is one of the viewpoints he used to triangulate Mount Mitchell and other peaks in the Black Mountains. (Yeates is now known unfortunately as Big Butt.)
     Dr. Mitchell was aware of other high mountains further west in North Carolina, including the Great Smoky Mountains (where Clingman's Dome rises to 6,643 feet, just 41 less than Mount Mitchell) and the Great Balsams (where Richland Balsam reaches 6,411 and the Blue Ridge Parkway crests at 6,047). His newspaper article said that the Unikee Mountains (the Cherokee name he used for the Smokies) "appear to the eye to be lower than the Black."
     Grandfather, on the other hand, appears to the eye to be even higher than it actually is, because of the way it towers almost a mile above the North Carolina Piedmont. When French botanist Andre Michaux climbed Grandfather on August 30, 1794, he broke into song and wrote exuberantly in his journal, "Reached the summit of the highest mountain of all North America, and, with my companion and guide, sang the Marseillaise and shouted, 'Long live America and the Republic of France! Long live liberty!'"
     From that hyperbole, we can assume the skies were relatively clear and Michaux had a view to the horizon. If so, he overlooked the obvious: Just 36 miles to the southwest, Mount Mitchell stood over 700 feet higher.
Lying here "in the hope of a blessed resurrection,"
Dr. Mitchell has a head start on Heaven.
     Through his 1835 trip and subsequent research, Dr. Mitchell was the first to prove conclusively that North Carolina had the highest ground in the 24 states that existed at the time. This had been the case since we became the 12th state back in 1789. 
     In 1857 (when there were 31 states, including California), Dr. Mitchell returned to the Black Mountains to verify his measurements and settle a dispute with one of his former students, Thomas Clingman, who insisted that his professor had not reached North Carolina's highest peak.
     On June 27, 1857, hiking after dark on the way down the west side of the Blacks, Dr. Mitchell slipped over a small waterfall and fell to his death. The following year, his body was laid to rest on top of North Carolina's highest mountain, and in 1882 the peak that had been known as Black Dome was renamed in his memory as Mount Mitchell.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Anderson's Dr. Anne welcomed 10,509 of us

     Dr. Anne Young of Anderson, S.C., delivered 10,509 babies in her 71-year medical career.
     In the pre-dawn hours 62 years ago today, I became one of them.
     Reminiscing with my mama about the blessed event, she reminded me that I arrived later than expected (setting a lifelong pattern), that Daddy delayed checking into the hospital until after midnight (to avoid an extra day's charges) and that Grandmama Essie was so overwhelmed that she told everyone I was 21 feet (rather than inches).
     When I was born, Dr. Anne was 62 years oldthe same age I am today. When she retired in 1983, she was 91the same age as my mom today.
     On the occasion of Dr. Anne's final delivery, my friend Deb Richardson-Moore did a wonderful job putting her life into perspective: "A girl who will graduate from high school in the 21st century delivered by a woman pioneer of the 19th century."
     If you can't read the clipping below, try this link.