Healed by Grace


Pioneer Hall
Pioneer Hall

The searing pain from the gashes on her back was almost unbearable,  while unseen hands continued to lovingly apply ointment and bandages on her wounds.  She lay motionless, face-down, on a hospital bed in Pioneer Hall, wondering who might be tending to her so carefully; and looked up to see that it was Father David Clemons from Grace Episcopal Church.

That was a dream my wife had, after she had been the organist at Grace Church in Wheatland, California for some time.  Pioneer Hall, which is owned by the church, was where services were taking place while the main church building was being renovated.

My wife at the Grace Church organ

In 1992 a trend toward decentralization took place within the Unification Movement. The founder, Reverend Moon, encouraged members to return to their hometown areas and, in connection with that mobilization, also urged them to adopt and serve established Christian churches in their neighborhoods.

When we first came to town we had attended a certain local church where my wife had also helped out with the music. However it had come to our attention through the neighborhood “grapevine” that that particular pastor and his wife had been warning local residents to beware of associating with us. Because of that and other hurtful incidents, which I would love to explain in detail but won’t just yet, my wife was ready to give up on dealing with Christians; she even spoke about wanting to leave Wheatland altogether.

However, her experience while playing piano for the chapel at Beale Air Force Base, her loving acceptance by the mostly African-American congregation at Mt.Olivet Baptist Church in Olivehurst, and her relationship with Father Clemons and Grace Episcopal Church all combined to help heal her heart.

July, 6 009
Inside Mt. Olivet Baptist Church

Since my wife was raised Catholic, she was quite comfortable attending services at Grace. “Catholic Lite” they term it, and she agrees. However, with the exception of attending the occasional service at Faith Lutheran in Marysville, when my grandparents were visiting from Minnesota, and praying or taking a short nap inside many of the unlocked Lutheran churches throughout the Midwest, when I was on MFT*, I had seldom been inside a “mainline” church. But it wasn’t long before my children and I felt at home at Grace.

Well-kept grounds
Well-kept grounds

The church is a quaint building with well-kept grounds on Third St. in Wheatland. It has been a meeting place and refuge for local families since 1874. The sanctuary with its stained-glass windows, high ceiling and beautiful altar can quickly fill a person with a sense of holiness, especially if they enter the church during “quiet time”, which is a fairly new tradition of dedicating a period of prayer and meditation before the official service begins.  http://gracewheatland.org/

There is no band playing contemporary Christian music, but many in the congregation are accomplished singers and the small church often resonates with heavenly music. When I am standing there singing, following along in a hymn book, I often notice that many of the songs were written in the seventeen or eighteen hundreds, and I think of the congregations of the past that would have gathered to sing those same songs, not only in Wheatland, but throughout America.

Come thou fount of every blessing…

Grace Church doesn’t have a full-time priest and nearly every week there is someone different leading the service, which has brought an interesting variety of personalities throughout the years: Father Art, who grew up in Manhattan and was blind for many years until the modern miracle of cornea transplants, with his stories about the trials of working as a hospital chaplain in Sacramento; Dr. Dave, the shrink, with his deeply thoughtful and intellectual sermons combining the practical wisdom of a Jungian analyst with his understanding of spirituality; or Father John who inspired me to visit and write about places of worship when he told the congregation, “It’s not good to be comfortable in church”; and many others.


Father John gives a sermon.
Father John gives a sermon.

Jesus told his disciples, “You can tell by their fruits….” when warning them about false prophets. Good advice, not only for discerning false prophets, but for deciding the type of people to hang out with. The fruits of the congregation at Grace are many, for example, their extensive volunteer hours in the local community. They are involved in just about every good thing from Girl Scouts, tree-planting, Lions Club, Spiritual Needlework, Fire Department, Parents Day, and the Martin Luther King Music Festival, to opening up the fellowship hall weekly for AA meetings. In addition they hold a public pancake supper on “Shrove Tuesday” each year and co-host an annual Memorial Day luncheon.

Grace Cathedral
“Grace Cathedral”

These accomplishments are even more remarkable considering the small size of the Church’s congregation. On a typical Sunday there are fewer than twenty people in attendance. You could call it the little church with a big heart. Some locals affectionately call the tiny building “Grace Cathedral”. In any case, the members of the church certainly have a heart of service to the wider community.

For Lent, Grace church held a study group based on the book, “Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith”,  in which the author, religion expert Diane Bass, counters the accepted wisdom that the mainline church is dying, with her discovery that quite the opposite is true. Many of these churches through their consistent practice of contemplation, service, diversity, and worship are indeed growing, and are helping to fulfill the practical and spiritual needs of the community.


On your first few visits to Grace Episcopal Church in Wheatland, it might be hard to figure out what book you’re supposed to be reading from, or when you’re supposed to stand, sit or kneel. You might wonder why ancient rituals are still being practiced at all. Or like me, you might literally or mentally be crossing your fingers when the Nicene Creed is read; but don’t worry. No one will judge you. Be patient, prayerful, and trusting, and there’s a pretty good chance that you, too, could be “healed by Grace”.


*MFT – Mobile Fundraising Team for the Unification Church.

No More Gotos!

T Goto
Mr. Toru Goto after being held captive for over twelve years.

No more Gotos! No more Gotos! No more Gotos!” I shouted in front of around seventy people as I held up the poster I had made with those words and a picture of a nearly starved Toru Goto of Japan sitting in a wheelchair.

My wife and I and a couple of friends were protesting a TED event taking place at the Wells Fargo Pavilion in downtown Sacramento, California. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), whose slogan is “Ideas Worth Spreading”, holds and supports conferences worldwide. According to their mission statement they “…believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately the world.”

What a beautiful night for a protest...
What a marvelous night for a protest…September 26th 2014

Despite the proclamation on their website that “TED is not a place for partisan slams and one-sided arguments”, it appears that in the area of new religious movements they are in fact one-sided, partisan and extremely bigoted. This is especially apparent in their promotion of former Unification Church member and “deprogramming” advocate Diane Benscoter and her scurrilous presentation, How Cults Rewire the Brain.

Benscoter opens her talk by showing a slide of herself and others as they are getting ready to begin a peace walk and to encourage people to attend a speech to be given by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon. She says, “What I didn’t know though, was most of those people standing there with me were Moonies.”

(Note: The nickname “Moonies” is a term that New York City’s Commission on Human Rights describes as a pejorative that evokes intolerance and hatred…and is no longer used by most major news agencies when commenting about Unification Church members.)

In her book, Shoes of a Servant, Benscoter, when referring to a flyer she had been given before she joined in the march writes: “It read: ‘Walk for World Peace. Please join us for a 3-day walk to hear Reverend Sun Myung Moon speak in Des Moines, Iowa.’ This and the slide of her standing near a huge sign with a picture of Reverend Moon and another sign that reads, “Hear Rev. Moon”, and she still doesn’t know she’s with the “Moonies”? However, in Benscoter’s defense, according to her book, she was often abusing drugs and smoking pot which may explain her tunnel vision.

Benscoter continues: “The top picture is a group of Moonies that have been blessed by their messiah. Their mates were chosen for them. The bottom picture is Hitler youth. This is the leg of a suicide bomber.”

Heil Moon!!!… Heil Hiltler!!!

First of all, it’s a pretty good chance that many, if not most, of those people taking part in the mass wedding ceremony were not members of the Unification Church and in fact consisted of people from many different faiths, and their mates were not chosen for them. Even if they were, so what?

Oh, and that cheer, where everyone’s raising their hands? That’s a customary Korean cheer that’s probably been taking place for centuries. Hitler Youth? Yeah, right!

The Hon. S.Y. Lee, Vice President of South Korea, leads cheers at the close of the UN Day ceremony at Seoul. October 24, 1950
The Hon. S.Y. Lee, Vice President of South Korea, leads cheers at the close of the UN Day ceremony at Seoul. October 24, 1950

However, Benscoter’s comparing me and my church to Hitler Youth, Jim Jones and suicide bombers, and her insulting pseudo-scientific theory about our brains being infected is not what motivated me to protest a TED event. I’ve heard it all before, ad nauseam. But, for an organization as respected as TED to promote and elevate someone associated with forcible incarceration and coerced de-conversion is personal.

Maree Ryan
You can’t keep a good woman down.

In Auckland, New Zealand, August of 1983, my wife was kidnapped by “deprogrammer” goons who came from America and held her against her will while they attempted to harass, harangue, bully and manipulate her into recanting her chosen religion. She, however, did not give up her faith, but escaped from her captors and is now enjoying her life as an outstanding wife, mother, business owner and community activist.

Perhaps the most egregious and downright sinister aspect of TED’s support of “deprogramming” lies in its potential to influence and legitimize the practice in locations where religious freedom is not protected by law and forced de-conversions still take place. For example, it would not be hard to imagine Chinese government officials viewing Benscoter’s presentation for advice on how to attack Falun Gong, a Buddhist religious practice of self-cultivation, founded in China by Li Hongshi. Already the government-controlled press has attempted to depict Falun Gong as a “cult of evil” which engages in mind control. Sound familiar?

Thousands of Falun Gong followers have reportedly been arrested by the Chinese government and have been forced into “reeducation camps” to remove the “wrong thinking” from their minds. (Perhaps Deprogrammer Diane and her fellow henchmen from the now-bankrupt Cult Awareness Network should see if the Chinese government is hiring.)

On the job training for work in China.
On the job training for work in China?

When I copied and pasted the URL for Benscoter’s TED presentation and performed a Google search, many of the results that came up had Chinese characters and other foreign languages in their headings. So it appears that TED ideas are indeed spreading globally, no matter how bigoted and jaundiced.

I also checked out some of the websites and blogs promoting Benscoter’s hate speech and her book; and I kept seeing words like: harrowing, disturbing, appalling and evil, when describing her time in the Unification Church when her “…mind was lost to mind controlling manipulators in a powerful cult.”* However, after reading her book and many of the blog posts, I just couldn’t seem to find anything that even came close to be terribly appalling, disturbing or evil. However I did find one post that highlighted, “She fasted and prayed for Nixon”. Now that’s scary.

If someone really wants to read about a harrowing and evil experience, I suggest they read Toru Goto’s testimony about his imprisonment and torture at the hands of relatives and “deprogrammers” for over twelve years in Japan.


When I decided to protest the TED event in Sacramento I had no intention of speaking in front of that crowd. I simply wanted to hand out some fliers and display my placard, and also to get some ideas for future protests. As I walked with my wife towards the Well Fargo Pavilion, I held her hand tightly and looked at the image of an emaciated Mr. Goto taped to my poster. I remembered English statesman, Edmund Burke’s quote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I also thought back to the time over thirty years ago to when I had no idea where my wife was, except that she was being held against her will and that people like Diane Benscoter were trying to force her to think and act in the way they deemed appropriate. I guess I was just moved by the spirit when I walked into the pavilion courtyard.

No more Gotos! No more Gotos! No more Gotos!” I shouted, and then declared that TED supports forced kidnapping and de-conversion. “Stop the hate speech!

As I started to give out fliers, much to my surprise nearly everyone, especially the younger people, took them. However, my wife and friends and I were promptly escorted out of the courtyard by security. Again to my surprise, several young people followed us to find out what we were protesting and to get more information. All of them were sympathetic and supportive of our cause.

Tell us more.
Tell us more.

So TED, how about letting my wife, Mr. Goto, or someone else who survived incarceration and forced faith-breaking attempts, tell their side of the story?

*Quoted from Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus Stanford University on the back of Benscoter’s book, “The Shoes of a Servant”.





Forgive Them

Imitation of Christ
My copy of “The Imitation of Christ”.

Reverend Moon’s teachings opened my heart to Jesus and I eventually decided to become a full-time member of the Unification Church. Now that I was a religious nut, I figured it was about time I learned more about Christ. So I started with the basics. I found a children’s Bible at one of our church centers and began reading it. I also kept a New Testament in my shirt pocket that I would often consult. Furthermore, I started studying “The Imitation of Christ” (a Christian devotional book composed by Thomas Kempis in the early 1400’s), and was especially moved by the chapter, “Few love the cross of Christ” where I read the following passage:

“Jesus always has many who love His Heavenly kingdom, but few who bear His cross…Many love Him as long as they encounter no hardship; many praise and bless Him as long as they receive some comfort from Him.”

Suffering Jesus
Our Holy song book.     http://unification.org/ucbooks/HolySongs/022.htm

In addition, a song “Suffering Jesus” from the Unification Church’s Holy Song book touched me. I began to pray and ask Jesus to show me his heart,  something I almost regretted when I walked into a large night club in Northern Wisconsin with a case of brandy snifters filled with wax and made into candles. I asked some of the patrons if they would be interested in purchasing some of my fine product.

“It’s a Moonie! It’s a Moonie!” someone in the crowd of about thirty people yelled. Somebody tried to yank the box of candles from me and the box ripped and brandy glasses crashed to the floor. A couple of burly guys grabbed hold of me and started parading me around the night club as people spat and poured their beer on me. That’s when I remembered praying to know the heart of Jesus. “Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” I thought. I felt no animosity, no hatred toward those people. However, I told Jesus that was about all I could handle after I was thrown out the door and onto the ground while the owner of the night club kicked me and what was left of my candles.

Drop kick

After my beating was over I stood up and walked to the edge of a forest near the nightclub and hid while keeping an eye out for the van that would come to pick me up. While waiting alone on that crisp, star-studded, pine-scented night, I started humming a church song, “Grace of the Holy Garden”, and then began to softly sing the words of the chorus:

“Glorious the song ringing in my heart for my Father above; gratefully I give offering to Him, triumph and glorious love…”


Amazing grace

Long and lost. (4) by FrannyFotographyâ„¢, on Flickr
A diary

“……kill myself…..”  I’m not sure what I would have done with that book if I hadn’t noticed those words. I probably would have thrown it in the garbage.

It had fallen between the counter and refrigerator; it was someone’s diary. When I moved the refrigerator in the recently-vacated house to work on it (part of my job at Beale Air Force Base military housing), I picked it up. The diary fell open to where a page was wrinkled, perhaps by the dampness of the unknown writer’s tears. Much of the content was smudged, but the words, “kill myself”, clearly stood out. My heart sank as I struggled to read the tear-stained page. The author of the diary wanted to kill herself because her husband was in their bedroom looking at pornography and pleasuring himself. She believed that her husband loved the images on his computer more than he loved her. How sad, I thought. I closed the book, put it in my service truck and later arranged for it to be given to a chaplain.

Licensed marriage and family therapist Kevin B. Skinner, Ph.D., author of Treating Pornography Addiction: The Essential Tools for Recovery, wrote in the December 12, 2011 issue of Psychology Today:

“My heart hurts for individuals caught in the web of pornography. When you see grown men crying in your office because they can’t quit and when they tell you that porn is costing them everything, you quickly realize that pornography is not just a leisurely activity. Then, when you meet a woman who feels rejected, not good enough, and unloved by her partner because of porn, you want to change something about the way things are being done.”

Treat porn


On September 19th, 2014,  my wife and I attended a presentation given by former pornography producer, Donny Pauling, at Saint Isidore’s Catholic Church in Yuba City, California. Pauling, who travels the world, sharing his testimony about how he was transformed from porno-promoter to porno-opponent, tells a heartfelt story of experiencing God and finding the strength to abandon the allure of riches for a higher calling.

Pauling began his talk with some disturbing statistics which showed how pornography is adversely affecting marriages, intimacy, and our young people. To hear that 56% of the divorces in America are primarily related to pornography addictions was especially alarming. (More statistics concerning the destructive effects of pornography can be found on Pauling’s website: www.donnyPauling.net.)

Pauling credits XXXChurch, a ministry dedicated to liberating men and women from the sex trade and porn addiction, for helping him to walk away from the industry. www.XXXChurch.com

Brothel Booth! by KalebColeman, on Flickr
XXXChurch booth

Screams of agony until they get the scene right, young women curled up in  fetal positions sucking their thumbs after their performances, genital warts, herpes, surgeries required to repair sexual organs and men acting “gay for pay” are just some of the ugly truths of the sex industry that are normally hidden from the public, according to Pauling.

 Pauling has contacted many of his former employees to apologize for getting them involved in the porn industry. Many have accepted his apologies, but many haven’t. He pointed out, “You know, I recruited over five hundred girls to work for me and not one has ever called to thank me for getting them involved in the sex trade.”

However, he has been contacted by several women pleading and begging him to help get their sexually explicit images off the internet.

One of those women, who only worked two days in the porn business, had to give up her life-long dream of becoming a police officer. She was kicked out of the police academy after her pornographic images were discovered during a background check.

A father anonymously receiving an envelope containing incriminating images of his daughter; a member of the military worried that her career could be over if her past activity were to be discovered; a newly-engaged woman whose fiancé took back his marriage proposal after her secret history was brought to his attention; these and many other tragic stories were shared by Pauling that Friday evening.

Donny Pauling at St. Isidore’s

As I sat in the pew with my wife, in this (unfortunately) sparsely-attended event, I wondered what it must have been like to hear the testimony of John Newton, the former slave-trader who wrote the hymn, “Amazing Grace”, after he became an Anglican priest.

In 1778, many years after giving up the slave trade, Newton published the popular pamphlet, “Thoughts Upon the Slave Trade”, in which he wrote:

“It will always be a subject of humiliating reflection to me, that I was once an active instrument in a business at which my heart now shudders.”

John Newton and Donny Pauling are truly brave and honorable men. If more brave and honorable men would simply refuse to consume pornography, could we then put an end to this soul-destroying industry once and for all?

newton 2 by mcfa0773, on Flickr
A stained-glass image of John Newton in his parish church at Olney, England.



A Diary
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  FrannyFotographyâ„¢ 
XXXChurch Booth
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  KalebColeman 

John Newton
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  mcfa0773 


Minnesota Memories (1 of 4)

1. Wild Rice

Barn and Canoe
By the lake

(This post was written as part of a series. Start  here and continue to link 2 of 4, etc. to read.)

Johnny took the small canoe that was leaning against the barn and placed it on the ground. He had his choice of three different canoes, but he liked the smallest one. It was faster and more maneuverable than the others, which were built especially for carrying cargo such as the wild rice that Johnny and his brothers used to harvest.

Johnny wouldn’t be harvesting much wild rice anymore. Gone were the days when he and his older brothers Chet and Morrie and their friend Cliff would spend weeks at a time canoeing the lakes and rivers of Northern Minnesota, searching for that wild grain prized for its dark color and nut-like flavor.

His brother Chet even had an article about their wild-rice adventures published in a major newspaper.

But there just wasn’t much money in it now that the government was controlling the harvest, and requiring people to get wild rice harvesting permits.

Canoe and Minnesota wild rice by esagor, on Flickr
Wild rice on Minnesota lake.

Johnny thought about selling the larger canoes. Maybe some tourist from the Twin Cities would buy them once summer arrived. His dog Skippy jumped into the canoe as Johnny was dragging it to the edge of the lake. Just as he was about to launch, his mother called out.

“Johnny, here’s a list of some things I’d like you to get at the store in town. Just have them charge it to my account,” she said, bringing him a scrap of paper.

“Sure Mom, no problem. I should be back before dark.”

Johnny hoped he wouldn’t forget to do that errand for his mother. He had a lot on his mind that day. He looked at his mother as she walked away and thought about how Alfred, her husband and Johnny’s dad, didn’t have much longer to live. Alfred had purchased their small farm after retiring from his job as a street-car operator in Duluth. However, a year after retirement, he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and wasn’t expected to live much longer. Johnny moved to the farm after purchasing it from his parents. He was a bit surprised that the Farmers Home Administration approved the loan since he didn’t know much about farming. He’d just have to make a go of it.

His Dad’s upcoming death troubled Johnny. He’d seen death close-up on the battle ship U.S.S. New Mexico. Men right in front of him were killed when Japanese gunfire hit their ship. One time he even saw a man’s head blown off. That man ran around the deck like the chickens Johnny used to butcher at home. It was bad enough to watch chickens run around the barn yard with their heads chopped off, but to see a fellow human being running around without a head was nearly too much to handle. Johnny tried hard to keep that image out of his mind.

Battleship USS New Mexico (BB-40) by Konabish ~ Greg Bishop, on Flickr
USS New Mexico

But his dad’s approaching death was different. Every day he would fade away a little more, ounce by ounce; he looked to weigh only about eighty pounds now. Johnny always wondered, whenever he was gone from the farm, if he’d come back to find his father dead. Please don’t let it happen today, he prayed as he pulled the canoe to the shoreline.    (To be continued.)


Wild rice on Minnesota lake by Eli Sangor.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  esagor  


USS New Mexico by Greg Bishop

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Konabish ~ Greg Bishop

Minnesota Memories (2 of 4)

 Time to settle down

20080204 Minn 005 by richmanwisco, on Flickr
Ice fishing in Minnesota

(This post was written as part of a series. Start at Minnesota Memories 1 of 4  and continue to link 2 of 4, etc. to read.)

Johnny launched the canoe for what would probably be his last trip of the season, as ice was starting to form on the lake. Soon it would be frozen over, winter would arrive, and people from town would be out on the lake setting up their shacks for ice fishing.

That’s how Johnny first met Maxine, his girlfriend. She had come to the lake with her parents to do some ice fishing. Johnny had never seen Maxine in town, and found out that ever since she had caught tuberculosis while studying nursing, she had been confined to a TB sanitarium in Minneapolis. She would occasionally come home for visits, and that’s when she met Johnny.

They were a striking couple: Johnny, the tall and handsome former high school basketball star and ex-Marine who kept in shape by working hard on the farm, running a trap line, and paddling canoes; and Maxine the high school valedictorian, a petite pretty girl with dark brown hair. She had always been thin, yet shapely; but the tuberculosis had taken its toll on her body and there wasn’t much of her.   Maxine was out of the sanitarium now, her health was improving and she had a part-time job at the Bigfork movie theatre. That’s where she would be today; he would catch her between the mid-day matinee and the evening showing.

Ice on Pond by andyarthur, on Flickr
Ice on pond

Johnny pushed off, hopped into the canoe, sat down and started to paddle off. The thin ice cracked and parted as the canoe moved forward. It made him think of when he was a merchant marine on a ship delivering much-needed supplies to the Russian port of Archangel in the White Sea, the winter of 1943.

The Russians had carved a path through the frozen port with their icebreakers, so that the ship Johnny was on could have its cargo unloaded. That job was handled by prisoners of the Red Army who were so like the “walking dead” that, to ease their hunger, they would break into the cans of food they were unloading. Johnny often wondered how these desperate men opened the cans without knives or can-openers. Did they somehow open the cans with their teeth?

Johnny spent nearly four months stuck in that port. It was too dangerous to leave because the Germans were attacking ships in the North Sea. As they waited for an armed escort to protect their ship on its way to England, the ship, now loaded with lumber, sat ice-bound and motionless in that frozen sea.

One day Johnny threw a large garbage can of food scraps and frozen potatoes out onto the ice surrounding the ship. Quickly a large crowd gathered to fight over the garbage.

But that was a different place and time. The war was over now and Johnny had had quite enough excitement in his life. It was time to settle down. (To be continued.)

Winterland by Alexander Kozlov, on Flickr
Frozen port. Arkhangelsk, Russia



Ice fishing in Minnesota
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  richmanwisco 

Ice on pond
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  andyarthur 

Frozen port
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Alexander Kozlov 

Minnesota Memories (3 of 4)

 Bigfork, Minnesota

loons in the mist by Steve took it, on Flickr
Loony loons

(This post was written as part of a series. Start at Minnesota Memories 1 of 4  and continue to link 2 of 4, etc. to read.)

As he paddled away, Johnny glanced up at the farmhouse and then out to the lake. A loon was making its usual strange noises, earning its moniker, “crazy as a loon”.

The trip into Bigfork wouldn’t take too long. It was only about two miles. He paddled around the peninsula they called Piney Point as it was covered with virgin pine trees that were never cut down for their lumber. This was quite surprising, since the trees stood so near to the lake. It would have taken little effort to harvest them and float them down the Rice River to the saw mill in Bigfork. Johnny had heard that the pines still stood because the peninsula used to be a burial ground for Chippewa Indians who had inhabited the area. Johnny would often walk through those woods looking for Indian artifacts, but without much luck.

He paddled past the point, and into the slow-flowing Rice River that would take him into Bigfork. Although this would be his last canoe trip of the season, once the river froze over he could ice skate from his farm into town, but that mode of transportation wouldn’t last long once snow starting piling up on the frozen river.

As he entered the river, he saw a small otter dive underwater. Skippy barked loudly and wagged her tail profusely.

Skippy guides the way.
Skippy guides the way.

“Settle down, girl. We’re not going after that one,” Johnny said softly as he paddled near where the otter had plunged beneath the surface.

Skippy had always been valuable to Johnny, especially when he used to have a trap line to catch animals for their fur. Skippy would run up to wherever a trap was set, and bark near the trap until Johnny either would pick up the dead animal, or if the trap was empty, he’d set and re-bait it. Without Skippy’s help, the traps would be a lot harder to find. Skippy made the trapping more efficient, plus Johnny enjoyed the companionship.

However Johnny didn’t have the heart to trap anymore, ever since he’d found a leg of a fox, stuck in a trap, where the fox had chewed it off to save itself. The bloody trail of a three-legged animal leading away from the trap had made Johnny sick that day. He unchained the trap from the tree, and went to pick up the others. His trapping days were over.

In the past, he might have made a note about the location of the otter, and set a trap to catch it, but now Johnny was glad he wouldn’t be back for the otter. He even hoped no one else would try and trap it. Besides, the fur looked just fine on the otter. He’d miss the extra money the furs would bring in, but he’d sleep better at night.

Downtown Bigfork

Once he got into Bigfork, Johnny pulled the canoe to shore under the pedestrian bridge that linked the downtown area with the high school, and then secured it with a rope to a small bush.

“You’ll have to stay here Skippy. I’ll be right back. Sit! Stay!”
(To be continued.)


Loons in the Mist by Steve Wall
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License by  Steve took it 

Minnesota Memories (4 of 4)

I Do

p-60-a-002 by NeenahHistory, on Flickr
Cooking on a wood-burning stove.

(This post was written as part of a series. Start at Minnesota Memories 1 of 4  and continue to link 2 of 4, etc. to read.)

Johnny took the grocery list out of his shirt pocket. He knew there wouldn’t be much on the list as they were already well stocked for the winter season. His mother was a great cook. She had worked as a camp cook for lumberjacks before she married, and afterward, she cooked for her seven kids. It was no exaggeration when Johnny told people his mother spent half of her life in front of a cook stove.

For the long winter, Johnny’s mother had canned wild blueberries, choke cherries, tomatoes, cucumbers, wild strawberries and rhubarb. The root-cellar was filled with potatoes, squash, and wild rice. Fresh eggs would come from the chickens, milk and butter from the cows, fresh fish from the lake, and Johnny would kill some deer to supply meat.

Hunting season would start soon, but a lot of the locals didn’t pay attention to it. As long as you used the game to feed your family, the game warden usually left you alone.

Johnny’s neighbor, Claus Olson, always kept deer hanging in his barn during deer season. And all those deer weren’t there to put food on the Olsons’ table.

Claus had extra deer for the so-called hunters that came from the Twin Cities to get drunk, and luckily for the real hunters, spent all their time in camp drinking. About all they hunted for was a can-opener for their beer cans. So that they wouldn’t go home empty-handed, they would buy deer from Claus for $100 each, which was no small sum for those days.

Deer Hunt by Prairie Home Images, on Flickr
Minnesota deer hunters.

Johnny looked at the shopping list: sugar, baking powder, salt, and some blackberry brandy.

At the Piggly Wiggly grocery store Johnny picked up the requested supplies, plus some bones for Skippy.

“Are you ready for the winter?” the store manager asked as Johnny approached the cash register.

“I don’t know if I’m ever really ready for winter,” Johnny responded, “maybe as ready as I’ll ever be.”

“Say hello to your mom and dad for me. I miss seeing them in the store,” the manager commented as Johnny headed for the door.

“I’ll do that.”

Johnny walked out of the store and to the movie theater, which wasn’t very far, since Bigfork only had five hundred residents. Maxine was inside stocking the snack bar when he walked in.

“You almost done?” Johnny queried.

“Yeah, sure. I just have to be back in a couple of hours. ‘Mighty Max’ is showing, and we’ll probably be pretty busy. What’s up?”

“Oh, I just thought you might want to go down by the river. I canoed in, and Skippy’s down by the canoe waiting. I bought her some bones and I’d like to feed them to her.”

“Sounds good to me. Let’s go.”

As they walked down to the canoe, Skippy started barking and wagging her tail, but still didn’t move from her position. Johnny and Maxine sat down on the river bank. He opened the bag of groceries and pulled out the bones and threw them near Skippy.

“Go get ‘em!” Johnny shouted, and Skippy bolted toward her treats.

Johnny and Maxine held each other tightly, to warm themselves, as they sat on the river bank watching Skippy enjoying her cow bones. The river gently flowed past, moving the reeds and making that special sound that rivers make, soothing and almost hypnotic. They sat in near silence as Johnny picked up pebbles and threw them in the river. Plop. Plop. The sound of the pebbles hitting the water echoed underneath the foot-bridge.

“You’re quieter today than usual,” Maxine commented as she snuggled closer to Johnny.

“Yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot about something pretty important. Maxine, will you marry me?”

I do
I do



Cooking on a wood-burning stove.
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  NeenahHistory 
Minnesota deer hunters
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Prairie Home Images

“There’s a Moonie in Town”

drawing 001
“Betty, call the shopkeepers and townspeople. Warn them there’s a Moonie in town!”

Reprinted from: http://www.tparents.org/library/unification/books/40years/40-4-38.htm  (Sort of)

“Betty, call the shopkeepers and the townspeople. Warn them that there’s a Moonie in town.” Such was the response when I asked the hardware store owner, in a small northern Wisconsin town, if he would like to make a donation for a butterfly pin to help our church.

“Come here, young man. I’ve got something to show you,” the shopkeeper said as he walked into his office. “Look!”

On his office walls, instead of the usual hardware store office decor of stuffed deer heads, dead fish and calendars of scantily clad women hawking pipe wrenches and the like, were hundreds of sensational articles about my church, the Unification Church. I thought, man, doesn’t this guy have anything better to do?

“What do you think?” he asked.

I wanted to tell him, “I think you’re a religious bigot!” but thought better of it. I glanced at a few of the articles but knew I wouldn’t find anything new since I had already read most of them. My aunt from Duluth always kept my parents highly informed about how terrible my church was by clipping out derogatory articles and mailing them to California. I got to read them on my visits home.

Downtown Crandon, Wisconsin by jimmywayne, on Flickr
Small Town Wisconsin

I told the shopkeeper goodbye, wished him a good day and walked outside. I looked down the street and thought, today is going to be an interesting day. I then proceeded to go shop to shop, which of course was futile since every shopkeeper had been “warned” about me. Having finished the shops in record time (having someone yell “no” at you when you open the door doesn’t take very long), I started to go house to house. Although many of the residents had been alerted about me, I was still able to gain some success. However, it was soon to become more difficult.

One gentleman, perhaps a relative of the hardware store owner, believed it was his personal responsibility to make sure that no one in this town was going to give me any money. He went with me to every house to let the residents know why they shouldn’t give. Luckily I was able to outrun my persecutor,  an overweight middle-aged man, and was able to knock on a few doors without his presence. However, after he decided to drive around in his car, he was able to keep up with me again. So I decided to try another part of town.

Near downtown I was passing a small gas station when a frail elderly lady asked me to come inside. She asked me what all the commotion was about. (Meanwhile, I noticed that my antagonist was driving around trying to find me, but couldn’t see me inside the gas station.) I briefly explained what I was doing. She said, “People in this town are mean. You seem like a nice young man. I’ll buy some of your butterfly pins.” She gave me ten dollars.

My cherished I.D. Badge

I then left the station, ran to the other side of town, and started to go house to house unmolested… at least for a while, until I reached a newer subdivision. They’d been waiting for me! “Red alert! Red alert! Moonie on the block!” about six kids on their bicycles shouted as I started going around the neighborhood. Surprisingly, people still bought. Perhaps they felt sorry for me.

Around 7:00 p.m. a police officer pulled up and said the townspeople had had a special meeting to decide what they should do about me. The officer stated that he knew I had every right to raise funds for my church, but for my own safety, he suggested I stop.

Since I was almost done with the town, I agreed. “You know,” I said, “I get an idea how Jesus must have felt when he got kicked out of towns.”

Jesus before Pontius Pilate by Nick in exsilio, on Flickr
Jesus before Pontius Pilate

“Yeah, and I know what it must have been like for Pontius Pilate,” replied the officer. I walked over to the post office where I was to be picked up in about an hour, sat down, and started to reflect about the day. I thought about the elderly lady who had asked me into her gas station; I thought about the policeman; I thought about the various people who gave me a donation while someone was screaming at them not to. In particular, I thought about an elderly couple living in a small shack down a dirt road,  who were reading their Bibles when I knocked on their door. They offered me some lemonade, said they were glad I came by, and gave me $5.00.

Around 8:00pm the fundraising van picked me up. I counted up. I had made exactly 100 dollars, which was my goal for the day. Someone asked me about my day. “Well, when I walked into a hardware store……..”

MFT Mates
MFT Mates



Downtown Crandon, WI – Picture by Jimmy Emmerson

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  jimmywayne 

Jesus before Pontius Pilate – Photo by Nick Thompson

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Nick in exsilio 

Road School

Road school Hwy 70
Heading North on Hwy 70 leaving Marysville.

Vagabonds go on the road for different reasons: adventure, economic hardship, to search for truth or to heal a broken heart.

A journalist wrote a book about his experiences hopping freight trains throughout America. While interviewing some of the drifters he found on the trains and in hobo camps he would often see wounds that had been stitched or dressed professionally, and he would ask who had provided the medical care. “Oh, that was Doc,” he would often hear. Intrigued, he went looking for Doc, and found him.

Doc was a medical doctor who one day hopped a freight train as it pulled away from the train yard near his once-successful medical practice. His wife had left him, and he was fed up with the trappings of modern life. Doc, who had been drifting for several years, wasn’t sure when and if he’d ever go back to “civilized” life. For now he enjoyed wandering and serving those around him.

1980's Las Vegas
**1980s Las Vegas

I decided to become a wayfarer in the winter of 1977 as I sat upon a grassy knoll near the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and stared at the casinos, those monuments to excess and greed, as they beckoned with their garish lights. A few months earlier, when I was about to leave Lake Tahoe and come to Vegas, some friends had invited me out to a cocktail lounge in Tahoe where a band was playing. A member of the band had just learned a new song which they played for us. As I recalled the words,

Las Vegas ain’t no place for a poor boy like me…

I couldn’t shake the feeling that perhaps it was an omen.

Leaving Vegas was no easy decision. I was doing well in my classes at the University and I had made a lot of effort to be there: studying while my roommates were skiing or partying; working and saving my money; even moving to Tahoe so I could gain Nevada State residency. But something was calling me. I could hear a still, small voice whispering to me, urging me to leave this place, “to seek and find”.

I decided to leave once the semester was over. I would head back to Linda for a few months, take a few classes at Yuba College to at least get my Associate’s Degree, sell my beloved old panel truck and other possessions, and prepare to hit the road.

And that’s pretty much what happened. I moved back into a  trailer that I had parked on my parents’ property in Linda while I finished attending Yuba College. Inside that trailer on a wall next to where I slept on a piece of plywood, I had taped a quotation by Henry David Thoreau:

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

I lived in an old trailer similar to this one.
*I lived in an old trailer similar to this one.

In preparation for my journey, after selling most of my possessions and purchasing a sleeping bag, backpack and other items, I made a replica of a hand with an over-sized thumb out of stiff cardboard and painted it fluorescent pink. I then attached that hand to a collapsible automotive antenna I had purchased at the wrecking yard, and attached the antenna to my backpack. I anticipated that passing motorists would see the big hand on my backpack as I walked down the road and would know I was hitching a ride. (During my travels many people did tell me it was the bright pink cardboard hand that inspired them to stop and pick me up.)

Road school 017
Free pink cardboard thumb available to adventurer. Please hurry. Wife’s worried I might take off.

As the spring of 1978 was coming to an end, I had someone give me a ride to Highway 70 near Marysville High School and drop me off. Leaning my backpack against a traffic sign, I allowed the cardboard hand to solicit rides for me while I sat down to read one of the several spiritually inclined books I had purchased. Before very long someone stopped to pick me up and once again, I was leaving Linda.

I eventually spent over eight years on the road, either on my own, or as a member of The Unification Church’s mobile fundraising team (MFT).

Road School is a collection of some of those stories of life on the road. Some may think that I shouldn’t have listened to that sound of a different drummer but personally, I’m glad I did.


* Old Trailer photo by Laura Gilmore. https://flic.kr/p/jyyRqg —–CC-BY-2.0

**Las Vegas Strip-1980 by Allen https://flic.kr/p/64M1NT   —–CC-BY-2.0




Stories about growing up in Linda, California, my life in the Unification Church and..other stuff..

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