Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


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

Paul Michael Dickey died yesterday, June 30, 2015. He was my oldest friend. I have friends who have lived more years, but he is the friend I have known the longest, from my first day of school in 5th grade in Oakland City, IN, when my family moved from Indianapolis to a little hard-scrabble farm a few miles out of town. That was in March of 1947, over 68 years ago.

I was keenly aware of our poverty. Dad was blind, we were on welfare, had no running water in the house, no car, an outhouse, nothing “store-bought.” It was embarrassing to me to ride into town, where my new classmates could see me, on the high seat of our old horse-drawn Double Cola delivery wagon, when Dad and I would go to the mill to have feed ground. All my classmates were accepting of the new kid, though, exceptionally kind, none more so than Mike.

He was the one who invited me to his house to play and lunch. Even at ten, I started hitch-hiking into town, which usually meant walking, but Mike and his father would drive out into the country to give me a ride.

The continuing invitations to his house had as much to do, I think, with Mike’s mother as with Mike. I think she saw me as an ally in civilizing him. He was not mean at all, but if something looked like fun to him, he did it. If it turned out badly, he laughed, which was his response to almost everything, up until the day he died, good or bad, not because he was uncaring, but because he took life as it came. If something looked like fun to me, I preferred to examine all the options first, making sure no calamity would befall, before doing it. Mothers prefer that their sons check the calamity quotient first, so Mrs. Dicky made sure Mike spent time with me.   

Since Mike lived in Phoenix, for the last 20 years of so, we have seen each other in person only every 5 years, when our school class has its reunions. He and Terri already had their tickets purchased to come to our 60 year reunion on July 25.

I had decided not to go to our 55 year reunion. It was over 700 miles for us to drive, and I was feeling puny then. Mike said, “Hey, the ranks are growing thinner. We have to see each other any time we can.” He was right. We went. As always, whenever there were no class gatherings, he and I stood outside our motel, so he could smoke his pipe, and had long conversations about events long past, and the ways those events, and the people in them, had shaped our lives.

Our ranks will be much thinner, and much poorer, when the class of 1955 gathers in the fire house in Oakland City on July 25 this year. But we’ll tell the same stories we always tell, even better than ever. Most of them this year will be about Mike. Miss Grace Robb, one of our teachers, said that the members of our class were more emotionally involved with one another than any class she had ever seen. I think a lot of that was due to Mike. Everyone thought he was their best friend. He made us feel like we belonged to one another. We do.

John Robert McFarland

The picture is of the Pine Mountain ski jump in Iron Mountain, MI, the highest man-made ski jump in the world. I started this blog several years ago, when we followed the grandchildren to the “place of winter,” Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP]. I put that in the sub-title, Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter, where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] The grandchildren, though, are grown up, so in May, 2015 we moved “home,” to Bloomington, IN, where we met and married. It’s not a “place of winter,” but we are still in winter years of the life cycle, so I am still trying to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ in winter. I have a picture that is more appropriate now for Indiana, boys playing basketball in winter snow, but I have not yet figured out how to replace the ski jump picture with the basketball picture.

I tweet as yooper1721.