Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Monday, October 17, 2016


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

On the way to church yesterday, Helen and I crossed Greenbriar Ave., which made me think of the Greenbrier van that ate my comb.

As I thought about it, I could not remember: was the Greenbrier made by Chevrolet or some different car maker? So I fired up the Google machine to find out. Yes, it was a Chevy, one of those long passenger vans.

That’s the way we old people think, “firing up the Google machine,” even if we don’t talk like that, for fear they’ll put us in “the home," because we grew up and spent most of our lives in a mechanical age, before everything was electronic, digital, computerized.

The Greenbrier was definitely not electronic. It wasn’t even very mechanical. It was a denizen of DePauw University, in Greencastle, IN, and Sam Kirk, the chaplain at DePauw, and I, the campus minister at Indiana State U and Rose Polytechnic in Terre Haute, were taking a Greenbrier load of students to a Methodist Student Movement conference in Cleveland.

Not very fast, though, because the transmission stopped working. We pulled off at a rest stop. A student crawled under the Greenbrier and found that a little link, like a cotter pin, had gone missing, so that the drive train was disconnected. The gear shift could not get its messages through to the back axle. We looked through everything in the van to find a replacement for that little link. The only thing that fit was a tooth from my comb.

I didn’t really need a comb. I still had hair, but this was 1965, when all guys, except violinists, had crewcuts. But I carried a lot of stuff in my pockets, just in case. Like an extra handkerchief. I started carrying it in high school, because the girls I dated cried a lot. So I had a comb. It’s a good thing, too, because those comb teeth weren’t very strong, and every few miles, the linkage would come undone again. We would pull over, and that poor boy would crawl under the van and break off another tooth from my comb and insert it into the cotter pin hole. It’s a good thing I didn’t play the violin.

Teenage grandson Joe said a couple of years ago, “I wish I lived in an age when a guy could fix his own stuff.”

I’m sorry he did not get that chance, because it was a good age. I used to rotate the tires on my cars, and lubricate them, and change the transmission fluid and engine oil and filters and fan belts. I even removed the engine and ground the valves, with my father, on a 1950 Chevy. It was cheaper, and it was satisfying.

I think the change from machine to computer is producing and requiring a spiritual change we have not even begun to recognize or understand. I think the task for each of us is to connect those two, and I hope I still have a few teeth left in my comb.


My latest novel is VETS, about four homeless Iraqistan veterans accused of murdering a VA doctor. It is available from your local independent book store, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BOKO, Books-A-Million, Black Opal Books, and almost any place else that sells books. $12.99 for paperback, and $3.99 for ebook. Free if you can get your library to buy one.

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