Thursday, April 26, 2012

Trilogy, part III

Trilogy Part III

This is the third of three stories that I remember from high school, as told in church or Christian functions. I don’t know why they have stuck with me- perhaps it is because they resonate with my soul in a certain way. One can tell that they are old-time church stories, but they each have validity for their place in illustrating important truths. Thus, let us examine them, and whoever has ears to hear, let them discern with understanding. 

The Boy and the Boat

Once upon a time there was a young boy. He would go to the park each weekend to play and watch the birds at the lake, and hang out doing young boy things. One weekend he saw a toy boat on the lake. How its sails billowed in the wind as it sailed along the shoreline, canting off to one side as it was propelled along! Strings kept the sails in place, and it worked exactly as a large scale boat would. 

The little boy got excited and decided he wanted a toy boat. So he went to the library to learn how to make them. He studied hard and learned about the resins needed to make the boats waterproof. He learned about pulleys, rudders and how to weight the boat properly so it would stay upright. He learned about how to use steam to curve the wood so it would make a smooth side.

Finally, equipped with this knowledge, he went to a craft store and bought balsa wood meant to construct doll houses. Flat planks, square beams, string, pulleys, resin, paint and a pillowcase soon were in his bag. You see, he was an industrious boy and saved the quarters he made each week from completing household chores and cutting the neighbors lawn. Each day he would run home from school to work on his project. 

After a lot of care, effort, and work, he finally finished his little boat, and took it to the park to sail it in the lake. He got a long stick to maneuver the boat, for you see this was back in the days before powered boats with remote control were available. He placed the boat in the water on the shoreline as the breeze caused the sails to billow. Off it went down the shore with a small wake of foam streaming along its bow! How merrily the boy chased after it, skipping and laughing. But then, something unexpected occurred. 

The wind shifted, and as it did, the boat turned out away from shore. He reached out with the stick, but it was too late. The little boy watched, crestfallen, almost in disbelief, as his boat was taken out to the middle of the lake. He waited, but the sky began to darken, and he would be late for dinner. So, sadly, he trudged home. He thought about his little boat and determined to look for it at the lake on the way to school the next day. 

He passed by the lake early the next morning, looking to and fro, but with no sign of the little boat either on the lake or the shoreline. With a broken heart, he went to school that day, the air sucked out of him. He visited the lake in the park every chance he got whenever he had some free time, but it never did reappear.

Several months went by, and the little boy eventually passed by the crafts shop where he had bought the materials he used to make the boat. And there in the front window was his boat! His boat! He ran into the store and up to the gray-haired bespectacled man behind the register.

“I’m sorry young man, but that boat was sold to us and we are now the rightful owners,” the shop owner explained. ”If you want it, you will have to purchase it.”

“How much is it?” he asked.

“Twenty five dollars,” the shop owner replied. It was for the young boy, a princely sum. His little brows drew together and he knew what he must do. He ran all the way home and went to get his piggy bank, bursting it open on the back steps of his house. Gathering all he had, he ran, pockets sagging and pants jingling all the way back. 

He gave all he had to the shopkeeper. After some counting, he turned back to the little boy. “This is enough,” he told the boy as he handed over the boat and a receipt. 

The little boy cradled his boat with tears of joy, as he said to it, “I made you, then I bought you. I made you, then I bought you.”

Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Tribute to Mr. Thomas Barry

A Tribute to Mr. Thomas Barry

Many years ago, I had the privilege of attending a physical science class under a man who greatly inspired me. It was 1976, and I was a freshman at Ridgeview High. That man was Thomas Barry.

Mr. Barry was not cut from the same mold as other teachers. He called our hands "meathooks" and had a sly, dry sense of humor. He also had a voice very similar to the star of the Get Smart series, Don Adams. "Now children," he would chide us, knowing that it rubbed against our sense of teenage grown-upness, "get out your number TYEW pencils and get ready to take a pop quiz." This mispronunciation of the number two with the voice cracking is one of many things I have adapted into my own classes from my teachers at Ridgeview.

During those days, I was, let’s face it, at times... a mildly annoying student. I would challenge poor Mr. Barry in class, questioning his authority with my witty repartee.

"Your homework tonight is to complete page 93 in your workbook."

"Is it due tomorrow?" He would stop class and just look at me.


"The Physical Science Workbook?"

"Houtchens!!!!" He would just roll his eyes and shake his head, calling me by my last name. Unfortunately for me, I am now having to deal with a student this year who is *exactly* like I was back then, but that's another story, hehe. =)

Another time Mr. Barry was running a static experiment with a Van deGraff generator. These were the days when long hair was in for guys, and I sported stylish over the collar straight hair. Mr. Barry said he needed a guinea pig for the experiment and I was chosen to be the "expendable one." I was asked to stand on "the platform" and place my hand on the machine as it revved up. As he was discussing the actions of the electrons running through my body, my hair stood up in a silly way and I reached out with a pointed finger.

"Houtchens, don't do that." He shifted slightly away from me. Suddenly I found myself in an unusual position. Like a mad comic book villain on a teenage ego trip, I discovered that I HAD THE POWER. Magneto would have loved me. I persisted for just a moment, when to my shock, (sorry) a giant spark jumped out from my extended index finger and hit Mr. Barry on the ear. "OWW! HOUTCHENS!!!!"

These incidents are relevant in that at the time I was walking home from school each day, along Trimble Road until it cuts through a path in the woods. Mr. Barry would tear out of work in his sky blue Volkswagen Beetle around that time and often he passed me along the road, waving as he passed. One day, it was raining heavily and I walked home knowing I would be soaked by the time I arrived. Mr. Barry must have spotted me and seen an opportunity for sweet, sweet revenge. You see, the sides of the road were bordered at the time by long pieces of concrete, or perhaps it was granite. In any event, it caused the water to build up along the sides. He passed me by getting a little too close to the curb, sending a massive splash of cold water and mud all over me. I truly deserved it, but I did not mind. To his credit, he must have felt sorry for me because he pulled over down the street and offered me a ride home.

Mr. Barry ran the Science Club and took us teens on a night trip to Fernbank for a chance to look through their actual observatory at the planet Saturn. It was amazing- from Earth it resembled any other star, but through the telescope it looked like a painting, the rings and clouds on the planet clearly visible and awe-inspiring. He even invited our little club to his house for a little year end party one afternoon with snacks and soda.

Mr. Barry only taught at Ridgeview for 2 years, and yet- his presence there at least for me- was profound. As I learned later, it can be difficult to be a teacher. The behind the scenes work as well as the difficulty of dealing with classroom management issues is *extremely* stressful.

I have been unable to reach him, but in his retirement, I wish him peace, relaxation, and contentment. Wherever you are, Mr. Barry, God bless you richly. Thank you for putting up with me and thank you for your contribution to my life.


armchair coach

amateur historian