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FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: This life story begins in 1973 (kind of) – part 3

Realism to Romanticism

My oldest big brother Tim – five years older than I – had a best friend named Brian Light with whom he went to school.

I have often written about Brian in that he is one of those gentlemen who makes an early impression on you because of the way he knows how to carry himself.

Brian has a great deal to carry around, too, since he resides in a full six-feet-two frame. He seemed even bigger back then.

Brian’s brother-in-law Red Williams was a bricklayer and one of the few bricklayers in our LaGrange hometown, still, in my mind, a cozy little Southern town even though it is shouting distance south of Atlanta.

Tim had worked with Brian for a summer or two on that bricklaying job, so somewhere in the cloudy but excited mind of a sixteen-year-old came the idea of trying to get a job doing that kind of work, doing a man’s job, doing physical work with your hands out in the hot sun, doing a job where when you come home your hands are raw and bleeding and your back is aching and every ounce of energy you had in that sixteen-year-old body has ebbed out like helpless water in a leaky boat.

I guess that a leaky boat describes that sixteen-year-old young man pretty well.

Red – or Brian, I am not sure how it all went down – gave me the job over the phone. There would be no job interview. The job interview basically was this: Are you tough enough to make it through the first day out in the hot Georgia sun, or will you let the sun and the tough men and the “gettin’ hollered at all day long” and the work so physical that you have to crawl into the door at night – would you let all of that lead you back to that shoe store where the biggest problem is having to handle people’s smelly feet all day?

To my knowledge – and I never thought of this until now – I have never quit a job, except to take a better one, or, at least, what I thought was a better one. I have never walked away from a job like, “See you later, adios, enjoyed you but ya’ll be good.”

That held true through the summer of 1973, even though I am sure – and very sure – that I thought of quitting a hundred times, which would have been once a day at least every day that I worked that summer.

But something kept me around, and I have to believe it was something the Lord put into me that I had very little to do with.

There are just some of those things that you have no way of explaining – I mean, there are things about you that you do not know why you are the way you are.

But at some point you realize it and give in to it and quit trying to change it. It’s kind of funny, I guess.

I hope I am around one day when you have one of those epiphanies and I can hear my grandchildren and my students tell how they came to know why they are the way they are and can do nothing about it. I’ll grab a glass of sweet tea and sit back to listen to that one.

Life is funny sometimes, as I said. Just keep living, you’ll see.

I have taken too long to get to the point of today’s story where I want to leave you “cliffhanging,” but there were a couple of things about the summer of 1973 that would change me forever, and that is not including the tragic things that formed the backdrop for everything in my life from that summer until even now, the winter of 2023.

One of those things is the one thing that would – and will, I guess – turn this story from a story of Realism to one of “Romanticism.”

Yes, there can be a rose blooming in the most unusual places, and this little rose popped up right in the middle of a hot desert – or, in this case, a rugged and grueling bricklaying job.

The other thing – not a thing at all, but a person – who would change my life was a big fella, a big, mean, ornery big fella with a mouthful of missing teeth and an attitude problem that wouldn’t quit.

Friends, when we come back, I’ll introduce you to this gentleman, who was no gentleman at all, not by a long shot.

We’ll just call him Doocy.

Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a full-time writer and preacher of the gospel. In addition to his evangelistic travels, he works and writes for the Church of Christ of Red Oak at Uhl Road and Ovilla. Their worship times are 10 a.m. Sundays and 7:30 pm. Wednesdays. Email or call or text (972) 824-5197.

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