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FRONT-PORCH GOSPEL: This life story begins in 1973 (kind of) – part 31

Beauties and Beasts (and it’s easy to differentiate!)

“Cheyenne,” I said, with a look of amazement, “when Corrina took me up upstairs and showed me her room and her view westward from her upstairs window... well, that was like the intro to the beauties portion of this beauty’s and beast’s saga. The dark-haired beauty and I stood there in our own little world, everything peaceful as a river, if only for a few moments, but…”

I paused and added a chuckle, “But don’t forget that just outside the elegant two-story house on top of this Alabama hill, beasts were lurkin’.”

Oh, I wasn’t worried about the beasts at that moment, I told him, not in that moment when I guess I would’ve sealed time in a bottle with ol’ Jim Croce if I could’ve. We two stood looking out at those tall pines stretching out to the west, her window facing right toward the setting sun where I would be headed before too many months passed.

What I remember most was kind of a stunning beauty in that moment – not the physical part of it, but something in her inner being. There was a gentleness and a kindness that the Lord gives a good soul, a joy of life that is hard to describe. It was a great deal like the spirit of a lady I knew across that Georgia line who was fighting for her life.

“Cheyenne,” I said, “the comparison of those two ladies make up one of the most amazin’ juxtapositions I’ve ever seen.” 

I hesitated before continuing, to make sure he understood “juxtaposition.” I could tell he wasn’t sure, so I digressed for a moment to explain. I told him I wouldn’t have known that word at his age, either, that it wasn’t until I took British Literature with Mrs. Norma Johnson in junior college that I learned it. Mrs. Johnson was kind of a gruff woman, but she was probably the best English teacher I ever had, and that’s saying a great deal in that every reader of this saga knows all too well that Mrs. Love had a great influence on me back in those high school years.

I think that of everything that Mrs. Johnson taught, her biggest thrill was a point in the “Canterbury Tales.” When she got to telling about the cook in that old British caravan-traveling tale, she would just go on and on with how good of a cook the cook was, better than you would ever hope to find, so good nobody even compared.

“But …” Mrs. Johnson would pause and get a wretched look on her face, then say, “It was just too bad that he had a really bad, festered, runny, nasty sore on his shin.”

She would go on to add detail about how the puss would run down his shin, just an awful sight – then, with a happy voice, say, “But he was a good cook, none better.”

The class would laugh when it finally got the gist of the juxtaposition and tied in that the reason the cook was so good was that he had a secret ingredient …

At that, Cheyenne stopped me, “Okay, okay, Popman,” he said with a laugh, “I get it. That’s T.M.I. times two. You can get back to the story now, if it’s all the same.”

“Well,” I began again, “the juxtaposition in this case was the story of two dark-haired ladies runnin’ paralell, both of whom had an innocence that is hard to come by. Lookin’ back, I think I have judged every lady I’ve ever met, at least subconsciously, by those two, especially, of course, the lady back home with her life, day by day, windin’ down a little more. But this young lady’s innocence was powerful, too, because she was such a little ray of sunshine amidst all the dark clouds that were gatherin’ over us.”

As I think about it all even now, many years later, I would go on, I do not think in the past fifty years I have seen an innocence that would compare, speaking here of the young lady from Rock Mills. It makes you wish you could go back to sixteen again, just for a moment, to that time when life was a beautiful blend of oranges and purples and pinks, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

I noticed at certain points as we spun this ancient yarn that Cheyenne would listen so closely that you could tell he was taking himself back to that moment vicariously. The more I told him, the more I could tell that the story was becoming a part of him, as if it was forging a path through a wilderness in his mind that would show him the way years down the road when he would come to the dark-cloud periods of his own life.

“I don’t know how long we were up in the room,” I said, getting back to the story of standing up in Corrina’s room, looking out to the west over what looked like miles and miles of pine trees stretching all the way to the Pacific, “and I don’t think I heard anythin’ going on outside. If my mind had been tuned in to anything except the glow of the dark-haired girl and the smell of sweet perfume and the simple joy that you realized at that moment was about as real as anything you’d ever seen, I would have heard the guys climbin’ down from the scaffold, gatherin’ their bricklayin’ tools, and makin’ their way to the truck in a 4:01 rush.

“I still didn’t hear them when Corrina and I walked back downstairs and she continued showin’ me around – ‘Here’s the kitchen, right there will be the dining room,’ and so on. By that time, we had gotten back near the front door, and suddenly I heard Red’s red truck crank up.”

Re-telling all of this right now, I realize that so far we – you and I – have been blessed to only see, talk about, and witness the vast beauties in the plot, especially that beauty that goes much more than skin deep. But where there’s beauty, I guess there must be some beasts around, too. We won’t have to look far to find them.

There was a bunch of them piling into an old red truck at that moment, ready to make an absolute, tee-total spectacle of themselves and then think it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen. Pitiful.

No need to tell you who was going to end up with red brick dust all over his smooth-as-a-baby’s-rear-end face.


Coach Steven Bowen, a long-time Red Oak teacher and coach, now enjoys his time as a writer and preacher of the gospel. And, after a ten-year hiatus, he’s also returned to work with students at Ferris High School as well.

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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