Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Friday, May 8, 2015


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©

When the famous Hoosier poet, James Whitcomb Riley, for whom the children’s hospital in Indianapolis is named, was a little boy, an orphan girl, age 12, came to live with his family. She was basically a maid, but at least she had a place to live. Little James and his brothers and sisters loved her, especially since she told them ghost and goblin stories, about “things that go bump in the night.” Her name was Allie. Later Riley wrote a famous poem about her: “Little orphan Allie’s come to our house to stay…” But when the newspaper printed it, the type setter grabbed the “n” instead of “l”. She became Little Orphan Annie. So she has remained.

Gil Hodge grew up in Petersburg, IN, 13 miles up IN Hwy 57 from my home town of Oakland City. He attended Oakland City College for a while, but his baseball skills were too great to be ignored. He signed a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. The secretary who typed up the contract let a little finger drag, and his name on the contract got an s. Gil could crush a baseball, but he was far too gentlemanly to point out a mistake to a woman. He is the only Hodges in his family. Everyone else remained a Hodge. They didn’t have contracts with the Dodgers. Gil is not in The Hall of Fame despite a career worthy of the Hall. Perhaps the HOF is too cheap to pay for the extra s on his plaque. If he ever does get to the Hall, it will be as Hodges, not Hodge. [1]

I wonder about Allie. When she was grown up, when she said to the other women as they worked in the church kitchen, “You know, Mr. Riley, the famous poet, wrote about me,” Did they roll their eyes and say, “Oh, yeah,” but then think to themselves, “He never wrote a word about anybody named Allie.”

Too often we become and keep on being the wrong person because someone else makes a mistake and misnames us. You can drag around another’s mistake for a long time. It may even keep you out of some hall of fame. If someone misnames you, it’s okay to say, “No, you made a mistake. That’s not who I am.”

John Robert McFarland

1] One boy from the area did make it to the Hall, Oakland City’s Edd Roush, the Reds’ center fielder, who played from 1913 to 1931. I wrote his biography for Scribners’ American Lives. His twin brother, Fred, was one of my coaches when I was a kid playing church league ball, which was our version of Little League.

The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]

I tweet as yooper1721.

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