Who I Am

Several Airmen were assigned to a communication class designed teach us how to process our feelings as we continued in our careers. One of the main assignments the Chaplain had us complete was righting a brief statement titled, “Who I am.” It was a free-form assignment as long as we developed 10 sentences about how we saw ourselves. I chose to create a free-verse poem:

I am my father’s son,
I am my mother’s child.
A Person,
Unnoticed by some,
Seen by many.
Like a curving path,
Straight as an arrow.
The same as everyone,
A little different.
Forever changing.

After being asked to get-up and read it aloud, a guy came up to me and asked, “Are you Tommy Darby, the sprinter?”

I didn’t recognize him immediately. He, like me was shaved bald and wearing the same green-weenie uniform as everyone else. As soon as I answered that I was, he smiled and introduced himself.

It was Jerry Ballard.  He and I went to Del Norte High together. We had even been team members on the cross country team.  We made plans to get a beer on our next weekend-liberty. But it never happened as we never had the same liberty schedule.

While I don’t know whatever became of Jerry, I owe him a beer for making this kid feel like he wasn’t all that far from home.

Erin Go Braless

St. Paddy’s Day has come and gone, thankfully. I tend to stay home anymore because I no longer drink or party as I did when I was younger.

In fact I have been known to attend AA and Al-Anon meetings the last few years just to help myself stay away from excessive drink. I still likes me Killian’s Red at times and the wagons a hard seat to sit.

Therefore I try never to lecture others about it. But that is another story for another time.

What I want to share is the fact that I have a number of friends who still make the party scene and tend to get blasted especially on holidays where drinking is socially acceptable. St. Patrick’s Day is chief among these.

Thi·s is the tale of one of these many friends whom I have given permission to call me anytime, day or night should she need a ride home. For the sake of her privacy I will change her God-given Irish name to another God-given Irish name — Erin.

Erin went out around 2000 hours on March 17th and proceeded to get lit up with the rest of the crowds in downtown Reno. She called me around 0200 hours the following morning (March 18th) saying she had enough and was broke.

She was so broke in fact that she couldn’t afford a taxi and would I please come and get her. I told her I would be there in less than half an hour.

She was at the Club Cal-Neva, so it was not all that difficult for me to find the place. However exactly where she was inside the casino I was not all the certain about. That is until I went up stairs.

It didn’t take me long to find her or the two women beating the crud out of her as everyone else stood around watching, including an aged security officer.

Usually I don’t like to mix it up when it comes to women brawlers. I prefer to let the law handle it. Yet I couldn’t allow this to stand as they had Erin at a complete disadvantage.

You see, they had her blouse ripped off her and she wasn’t wearing any under garments. It was suddenly obvious to me that it was difficult for her defend her dignity and herself in a fight, not to mention two against one.

I stepped in and tossed one of the women aside and found myself confronted by a nasty drunk who swore I was picking on a defenseless lady. My friends — ladies do not act the way this woman was acting.

Eventually this drunk found himself under attack by this ‘defenseless lady ‘ therefore clearing the way for me to take care of the other woman beating on Erin. I was not as lucky with her as I had been with the first of the two.

She rushed me head long as I tried to help Erin up. I was able to side step the attack and she bounced head first off the side of a one-armed bandit. This knocked her senseless for the moment.

Still no one was lending a hand to help protect Erin’s privacy and I could not find even the slightest shred of her blouse anywhere. It was only a few seconds of searching that caused me to conclude that some sicko decided to keep it as either a souvenir or else to make certain he had the best opportunity at a peep show.

I finally pulled off my sweat shirt and gave it to her.

The following day — which was actually March 19th — Erin came over to the house to apologize for getting me into the situation I got caught up in. She feels bad because she knows my back is so bad.

I told her not to worry about it and that there was nothing to apologize for, because these things happen. Erin also thanked me for rescuing her four times that morning.

I asked her how I did that.

She said that I stopped the fight. I covered her up when she was half-nude. I gave her a ride home. And finally she said she wants to quit drinking.

That’s when I pointed out that I didn’t have anything to do with the fourth one. I told her that was all her own doing. I told her she is rescuing herself.

After all it was a decision she made all by herself.

Rules of the Road

It was somewhere along the State Route 215 near San Bernardino, that I learned what makes Californians different from the rest of the nation. It’s in their approach to driving and a highway patrol officer pointed this out to me.

The 215 at that point is a stretch of three-lane freeway. I was in the center lane doing 70 miles per hour.

In the back of my truck, I had a rotor tiller strapped down. It was about 2: 30 in the afternoon.

On either side of me, traffic was whizzing by at a faster pace than the posted speed limit. However I was doing the posted limit therefore, I felt I was okay.

Suddenly and without warning, I saw the unmistakable sight of a black and white unit pull in behind my truck. Seconds later his lights came on, beckoning me to pull to the side of the roadway, which I did.

This nice youthful officer approached me, asking for my driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance. I had that all available for him before he got to the truck’s window.

He inspected them and handed them back to me, saying, “Mr. Darby, do you know how fast you were going?”

I politely answered, “Yes, 70 miles an hour, the posted speed limit.”

The officer responded, “Yes sir, you were, but in the center lane.”

By this time he could see I was confused. He went on to explain that the posted speed is for the right lane, the center lane is for those vehicles traveling 75 miles an hour or faster and that the far left lane is for the 80 plus crowd.

“Oh,” was my only comment to this.

“I pulled you over,” the officer finally stated, “because you were going too slow for the flow of traffic.”

He let me off with jus’ a warning.

Fish in a Barrel

awardfree1Adam and I used to get into trouble sometimes jus’ for fun. But nothing prepared us for the day we rolled our younger sister Deirdre down Mrs. Damm’s hill.

Deirdre was nine years younger than me and six years younger than Adam. Yet she was as every bit as rough and tumble as either of us.

This certain day, the three of us had discovered a metal oil drum in the lower pasture. We decided it would be great fun to ride around in it.

But after a couple of rolls in it each, we decided to run home and get all the pillows we could find.

We collected seven pillows. Three came from each of our beds; two from Mom and Dad’s bedroom; and two were the new ones Mom had bought for the living room.

We stuffed all seven pillows into the barrel. Riding around in the barrel became more fun and much softer with the addition of the pillows.

That’s when we figured out that it was too much work pushing that barrel around. So we decided to go to the highest hill we could get to and that was Mrs. Damm’s hill.

Deirdre was the first to go down the hill. Adam and I laughed so hard that we fell on the ground when she crawled out of the pillow packed barrel, walking like she was drunk, finally falling on her back, sprawled out under the hot afternoon sun.

Next was Adam’s turn to take a ride in the barrel, so the we pushed it back up the hill. Adam climbed in and made certain that the pillows were packed in around him.

Then Deirdre and I pushed the barrel over the edge of the hill. Adam screamed all the way down.

Near the bottom of the hill, the barrel hit a small rock. The barrel bounced into the air and when it landed, it spit Adam out like he was a shot from cannon.

He rolled about twenty feet before he came to a stop. Adam got up , smiling as he tried to walk.

He tried to walk over to the barrel but fell down instead, crawling the rest of the way. My sister and I laughed all the way down the hill.

I could hardly wait to take my turn.

After getting the barrel back up the hill again, I carefully loaded himself in and away I went. I let out a scream as the barrel picked up speed.

When the barrel stopped rolling, I got out and started to walk. I also walked like a drunk man.

The only problem, we agreed was the rough bumps at the bottom of the hill. So it was decided that we’d roll the barrel off the other side of the hill.

Once they got back up the hill, Deirdre got in the barrel and situated the pillows around her. We rolled her as hard as we could over the side of the hill, then ran after her.

But the barrel never made it to the bottom of the hill as it became wedged between two large rocks.

At first it seemed funny, but as time wore on the funniness of the situation waned. Neither Adam or I could get Deirdre unstuck.

Finally, I sent Adam to fetch Mom. Once Mom saw the situation she knew that she was going to be unable to get the barrel unstuck.

She needed Pa and John Popper, his tractor. Mom sent me to get him.

By the time I returned with Pa, panic had set in for Deirdre. She was crying and she said was thirsty and could barely breathe.

Pa hooked up the chain to John Popper and then to the barrel. The chain was used in calving but it also proved to be useful for pulling small children out of bad situations.

Needless to say Deirdre got out fine. There was also some hide tanning in the wood shed later that afternoon.

The three of us didn’t get whippings for getting stuck because Mom and Dad knew that accidents happen. We got the strap because we took all the pillows in the house without asking.

Standing By

“10-4, Theresa you could walk out to Whalers Rock right now,” I said over the radio.

“I copy you, Tom,” she replied back. “Keep an eye on the situation.”

“That’s affirmed,” I answered back.

Graveyard shift was not half over and I was hoping for a quiet night as I drove along Crescent City’s Pebble Beach Drive. This was not my usual patrol, however I volunteered to fill in and cover the northern end of the county during the first watch.

The brightness of the moon reflected well from the Pacific Ocean at Pebble Beach. As a kid, I remembered when we used to go down to the beach and collect agates.

In high school, it was a favorite place to take the cross-country runners and the track and field sprints; long open beaches of gray volcanic sand. At the North end of Pebble Beach stood a monolithic rock; Half out of the water and about two hundred yards from shore, it was known as Whaler’s Rock.

Local legend had it that the first white seafarers had used it to spot whales from shore. The native Tolowa Indians had used it as a source of food gathering for hundreds of years before that.

It was still home to a rookery of gulls and seals.

The tide had retreated into the sea. I had never seen a tide go out that far before, so I immediately called dispatch and spoke to Theresa by radio.

And as instructed I planned to keep a eye on the situation, not that there was much I could do about it anyway. The tide was still severely withdrawn and I needed to head out towards Lake Earl on my continued patrol.

As I made my turn onto El Dorado, I saw the cows in the field across the road herded up and running. I stopped and whipped my cruisers heavy spotlight on them.

They continued to run. I thought it was strange to see these normally complacent animals stampeding in their field, especially at this early hour.

My first thought was that a pack of dogs had joined together and were chasing them. I continued to shine his spotlight over them and found nothing.

If there were dogs chasing them, then the mother cows would have developed a more aggressive defensive posture. Yet they were far out pacing their calves.

Slipping my cruiser out of park and into drive, I continued down El Dorado.

“Think I’ll 10-7 at the C-H-P,” I thought.

The California Highway Patrol’s Sub-Station lay jus’ over the freeway over pass next to Highway 101. I could use their restroom and get a cup of coffee while there, then head out towards Fort Dick and the remainder of the patrol.

Slowing my cruiser down to about twenty miles an hour I scoped out the high school parking lot. I saw absolutely nothing.

I did the same at as I passed the track and the district’s administration building.

It was about this time that I first noticed the power lines wiggling back and forth. I stopped and watched them swing.

Suddenly the power poles violently swayed back and forth. The street lamps moved from one direction into the other and trees slapped into one another, making a loud brushing sound.

My mind screamed, “Earthquake.”

I was helpless to do anything about it, trapped in my cruiser heading east, so slapped the gearshift into park and stomped on the emergency brake.

All around me, I could hear glass breaking and see flashes of bright white lights as power lines snapped in two and sparkled away madly. I laid down in the front seat believing that at any time a power pole would come crashing down on me.

The vehicle shook and bounced violently, then I felt it shifting sideways as it started leaning. My imagination ran wild, thinking that perhaps a large hole had opened up beneath me and I was being swallowed up.

Jus’ then the cruiser came to rest, driver’s side down, and the quaking stopped. In the distance I heard several dogs barking and the Tsunami warning sounding.

Everything appeared dark and that added to the general confusion in his head. I was standing on the driver side door hugging the bench seat of the cruiser.

The cruiser’s engine was still running and I suddenly became aware of the radio check that Theresa was calling out for. She called me a second time as I fumbled to find the microphone, which had been tossed from the clip it normally rested on.

I answered her after the third call, hearing and feeling the stress in her voice. She was calm and still professional, yet I had grown up with Theresa and he knew the subtle tones variations of her voice.

“You okay, Tom?” she asked.

“10-4,” I responsed.

“What is your location?” she continued.

“I’m on El Dorado near the school district buildings,” I answered.

“10-4,” Theresa said, “stand-by for further information.”

“Uh, that’s affirmative;” I said back then added, “Could you send a tow truck out here. My cruiser’s on its side and I am standing by — inside.”

There was a long silence on the radio. Every officer on duty and those recalled for emergency duty had heard his call out.

“Are you hurt or anything?” Theresa asked.

“Nope,” I responded to her questioning, “jus’ embarrassed is all.”

“10-4, Tom,” she answered.

About that time I heard a car pull up. Someone climbed onto the cruiser and opened the passenger door.

It was my former partner, Dale. He was laughing.

My cruiser was the only vehicular casualty for the law enforcement community. However the front windows at the sheriff station did shatter during the quake and several prisoners escaped through a gap in the wall of one of the cell blocks.

They were honest and turned themselves in after taking a couple of hours of freedom to check on the welfare of their families.

Finding Your Real Joy

For years the Lord had granted me time enough to work quietly on my degree, to study and write and study even more. And now when I was laid up I could not be bothered to spend anytime with him in prayer or in his word.

I felt ashamed of myself. The first thing I knew had to do was to get up off the floor and get my Bible.

It hurt terribly to roll over. I was lying on my back, knees bent, holding a mirror so that I could see the television. Once I was up, though I hobbled to the back room and got my Bible and laid down there.

I opened it up and just started reading. The second thing l had to do was pray. I prayed for Jesus to forgive me for wasting his time. I also thanked him for the backache.

I feel it was appropriate to thank him because I needed to have my eyes opened to what I was not doing. I did not blame my backache on him, claiming he gave it to me.

No! Instead, I accepted responsibility for my backache and made it mine!

Many times I find myself in a situation that I don’t want to be in and all I can do is complain and blame. That’s right, I complain and blame. I figure most people do the same thing. I decided to turn over a new leaf and instead of complaining and blaming; I’ll thank the Lord for the opportunity to live in the moment that I find myself in.

I may not understand why I am in that situation or what I am supposed to do to get out of it, but I’ll say thank you anyway. As of yet, I have not found ‘happiness’ promised to us in the Bible.

However, I do find the word ‘joy’ mentioned time and again  and that is given freely because the Lord wants us to have great joy in our lives. All we have to do is ask for it, but first we must accept responsibility f or  the circumstances we find ourselves in and treat them as a blessing because we are endowed with free will.

So here ‘s a simple 5-step plan to get in touch with the Lord and your joy:

l. Turn off the noise and clutter in your busy life, the television, the radio , the internal voice that you use to rationalize your activities.

2. Discipline yourself physically to pick up your Bible, the word of God, and read it daily so that it’s in your hearts and mind.

3. Pray daily to Jesus with all of your heart.

4.Attend church and fellowship on a regular basis, sharing in the Lord’s word.

5. Teach yourself to listen with your heart to what the Lord is saying to you. It is really that simple.

Listen for him to speak to you through prayer and the Bible. Remember to serve God through both the good times and the bad and you’ll find real joy.