4 12 2011

ImageThe item you’re seeing is one of my most prized possessions. I keep it in a spot where I look at it often and remember a time, and a man, without him in my life I wouldn’t be here to tell you his story, one of my heroes.  This is a toolbox that is over 100 years old and it was given to me by a neighbor when I was a child.  Ward was his name and he owned the house next to the one we bought back in Fremont when we moved there from West Virginia.  He and his wife, Florence had no children and I used to go over and visit them often.Florence would sit and talk to me, but often Ward would make himself scarce; which was okay because I could usually track him down.  I knew he liked me from the gentle way he’d speak to me and all the wonderful gifts he bestowed on me (such as the tool box), but it was usually given with the words, “Now Johnny, why don’t you take this home and play with it!”  I guess I wore ole Ward down some with my visits for you see, back then, I could be quite the pest. (For any of you who knew me back then and just yelled “Amen,” I heard that!)

Now the house we lived in was an old rundown 3-unit apartment house that my Aunt Pearl was able to buy for a good price, but it needed a lot of work.  It didn’t have a furnace like most houses.  Many of the rooms were equipped with open flame gas stoves. The stoves were fed by a gas line that started outside and ran into and through the house inside pipes that were connected along the floorboard.  Most of the gas pipes were rotted and had to be replaced, which was done by my Aunt Pearl and her husband Price.  The cold weather set in and it was time to light the stoves.  I remember sitting by the one in our dining room, just watching the flickering of the flames; it was almost hypnotic gazing at the fiery dance before me.  But then, I remember feeling very sleepy.  I wanted to stand up, but for some reason I couldn’t so I laid my head down on the floor.  Pearl was resting on a couch nearby.  I tried to call to her, but the words wouldn’t come.  Suddenly, there was a loud crash!  I maneuvered my head around to see Price lying on the floor.  Being a man of about 300 pounds; when he passed out, he hit the floor with a bang.  As most of you have already figured out when the lines were open and the stoves lit there was a leak allowing the house to fill quickly with gas.  I can’t tell you much more 1st hand of what happened after that.  All I was aware of was floating through the house and then lying under a tree in our front yard until being placed on a gurney and into the back of an ambulance.  As I’m told,Pearl was able to gather enough strength and wits about her to get out of the house, falling several times, until she got up the steps and onto the porch of Ward and Florence’s house.  When Ward realized what was happening he told Florence to call for help and then it was “Jim Dandy to the rescue, Jack!”  Years after Ward had passed away, Florence told me she had never seen him move so fast.  He then ran into the house, scooped me up, took me outside and placed me under the tree.  He went back in and was doing everything he could to drag Price out, which was quite a task seeing he was twice as big as Ward.  Luckily some other neighbor men showed up and were able to get him outside.

Well, it’s obvious I survived as well as Pearl and Price also, but that’s kind of trivial, in a manner of speaking, as compared to my hero Ward. You see I forgot to mention he was well up in years at the time of this accident and could only get around with the aid of a cane.  “Ward, what on earth were you thinking when you ran over there like that,” his Florence would ask him the next day.  These are the words I’m told he said. “You know how Johnny gets on my nerves so easily especially with that singing he’s always doing” (it was very loud and off key!); “The thought came that I was never going to hear that singing again; and that was more than I could bear.  I wasn’t about to let that happen.”  I didn’t find out until years later of Ward’s heroic act that rescued me that day, performing a feat that could have easily brought him harm, or worse.

There’s an old saying that goes “God places the heaviest burden on those who can carry its weight.”  A small framed, weak, elderly man for an instance, became a man of strength and valor, out of concern, caring, and love that I didn’t know existed.

I wonder at times how often God puts earthy angels, heroes, in our path that we don’t realize how much we mean to them and how they would be willing to sacrifice it all for us.  I met someone else like that years ago who cares for me and you to even a higher sacrifice of love.  His story goes like this: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

I’m told my tool box might be worth a considerable amount of money, but the memory that it brings of someone who was willing to sacrifice it all for me, no matter how crazy I made them with my singing; well, I think you know the word I’m thinking of; starts with a P! ;0)




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