Shifting shadows can mean a lot of things, but the way I take it shows a part of my life. I’m not perfect, no one is. Everyone struggles with something in their life. I struggle with anxiety, and I used to be depressed. Thankfully, my depression has improved considerably this summer.
To me, shifting shadows are the bad thoughts and events that have occurred in my life. It was as if they always hunted me down. I tried to hide, but they always found me. I never wanted to give up, but I felt like I was going to. I had a therapist and when I talked to her, they would hide, but not for long. When I got home; they came after me again. Like a predator hunting its prey, and I was the prey. My thoughts would tear me down and take me deep inside my mind, the one place I didn’t want to be. No one wants to be there.
I tried to escape many times, but those awful thoughts always came back. It was an endless loop. If some didn’t bother me anymore, others would come. It was a constant battle of the mind.
Eventually, it started going away. After I got saved at church, my depression started gradually declining. Eventually I started paying more attention in church, and this past summer everything was going great for me. I gained the will to quit basketball, which lifted an immense weight off of my shoulders. I started hanging out with an old friend again and we both got saved in our church. We are inseparable now. I pray that I never lose her friendship. My sophomore year only started a few weeks ago, but I’m having a fantastic school time so far.
I am making more friends, and my classes aren’t that bad. I am happy in my life right now and I never want it to end. I thank God for His blessings and I thank Him for this beautiful life that I love. Even though I have struggled so much, He has always been here, right beside me through everything. Look at me now. This feels like one of the best years of my life, even when there is some crazy pandemic happening.
I feel like nothing can take this year away from me. I have had so many people help me through this, too. My family and friends have helped more than they could ever understand.
I want to give a small nod to my friend, Hannah. I don’t want to get all mushy here, but she really helped when she started hanging out with me more. She has made a big impact on my life, and I doubt she realizes it. Thank you so much, Hannah.
That is my story of how, no matter what attacks you, God can always help. You just have to go to Him. Do not pull away. He will always be there for you. He always has for me, by lifting those shifting shadows I struggled with.
For as long as I can remember, I have not made friends easily. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the fact that I’m an introvert by nature. But the few friends that I made in my lifetime have been good ones. I consider myself blessed to remain friends with girls whom I went to elementary school. There were five of us and we all met in first grade. Memories of our little gang huddled up at recess, gossiping about the cutest boy in class, or comparing our newest outfits, remain cherished in my heart. To this day, I stay in touch with each of them through social media. If there is one good thing that has come from Facebook, it is finding old friends to reminisce about the good old days.
Many people will walk through our lives. Few will make a lasting impression, even fewer will become a loyal friend. But even more rare is someone who will be the friend that changes your life forever. I believe most of us never find someone so unique. I can proudly say that I did, and her name was Kathy Sue.
An older cousin of mine introduced me to his friend Kathy when I was around 15, and she was 19. We instantly hit it off as friends. She was intrigued about my life in another state, and I was in awe of her for many reasons. Kathy stood a mere 4’10” and was pretty as a doll with crystal blue eyes and long brown hair. Every guy would turn his head when she entered a room. She had a dazzling smile and the personality to match. She was also very intelligent, attended college, and had a good job. She was everything that I hoped to be someday. The maturity difference between us seemed invisible. We got along great and had a lot of fun together.
As I got older, we became closer. Our maturity levels eventually matched up and we were the best of friends. I lived in Virginia, and she in Tennessee. I visited TN several times a year, as that was where I spent my childhood. Kathy would drop everything, take vacation days from work, and spend every moment with me when I visited. She would make me feel like I was having a red carpet rolled out for me. Everything we did, she would let it be my choice because I was her guest. I never had a family member treat me so well, much less a friend. She was the definition of a true friend.
Years went by and I got married and had children. Kathy had bad luck in relationships and remained single. But no matter when I visited Tennessee, she would be there, rolling out that red carpet, now for me and my kids. She never wavered in her friendship, showing love and support to me and my family no matter how different our life paths had become. We still had so much fun when we were together.
Over the years, I nicknamed Kathy Sue “my little angel”. No matter where my life took me, she was always waiting in the wings with a smile and positive attitude, always there to listen, and offer loving words of advice. She had the patience of a saint and a heart of pure gold. She is the only person I have ever known in my 58 years, that never made me feel a negative emotion. Not once!
Mother’s Day 1999, I took a trip to TN and spent most of my long weekend with Kathy. We celebrated my upcoming birthday and had a wonderful time. We laughed, had long talks catching up on each other’s lives, stayed out till way past our bedtimes, and soaked in as much friendship as we could. The last night we visited, I remember Kathy saying to me she didn’t want to say goodbye. That she didn’t want me to leave, and that it would be too long before she could see me again. I too felt sad and wished that I could take my precious friend back to Virginia with me. We promised to write each other letters, as we had been doing for over 20 years. Little did I realize, that would be the last time I would see my angelic friend.
Two weeks later, after running errands all day, I returned home and found my oldest daughter Robin waiting for me. She had a strange look on her face and I immediately knew something was wrong. She told me to call her dad, that it was very important. She also said, don’t listen to the answering machine. What in the world was going on? She wouldn’t tell me, just kept saying “call dad”. When I called my husband at work, he told me to sit down. He began explaining that someone had left a message on our home answering machine and my friend Kathy was killed that morning in a head on collision on her way to work (the same route she had taken every morning for over 10 years).
It couldn’t be true. I kept asking him, are you sure it’s “My Kathy”? Unfortunately, there was no mistake.
I will always be grateful for that last trip to visit my dear Kathy. I remember her often with great fondness and gratitude. When I think of Kathy Sue, I can’t help but think of how special it was that God picked me to be her friend. She was a priceless gem, and it was an honor to have known her.
It’s been 21 years since my friend Kathy left this earth. I still think of her often, as she was a once in a lifetime kind of friend. I know I will never find another friend like her. They are much too rare. I believe the two of us will be reunited some day and the thought of that makes me smile.
If you happen to have a friend as special to you as my Kathy was to me, my hopes are you appreciate them and never take them for granted. Let them know often how important they are to you. It really is true that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. . . . JoAnn
by Larry Fields
(based on true events, mostly)
“Hey Heck! What do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?”
“Don’t reckon Santa will be a-comin’ to our house this year Tommy Joe”, Heck answered. “But iffen he does, I’m just a wantin’ me a bullwhip . . . and that’s all I want! What about you, Tommy Joe?”
My name is Tommy Joe Hall, and that’s part of a conversation I remember having with my best buddy the last day of school before the Christmas holidays in 1955.
My answer to Heck Hadley that day was a lie. I told him I only wanted a bicycle, when in actuality I wanted the exact same thing he did . . . a genuine Lash LaRue bullwhip….
This is the story of why I answered the way I did, and why I still say today, fifty years later, the Christmas of ’55 was my favorite Christmas.
Heck Hadley and I lived in a coal mining camp in rural Southwest Virginia. We were both ten, and our daddies were employed as coal miners by Bull Creek Mining Company. Several hundred people lived in the camp, in side-by-side, spittin’ image houses.
Heck had a knack for discovering fun things to do. Just walking to Bull Creek Elementary School each day was a wonderful adventure. Things like smoking out a hornet’s nest and catching a crawdad, or even swinging across Bull Creek on a grapevine, made the two-mile trip fly by. And we had fun with each other’s names….
I was always saying—”Aw Heck! Heck”. One day at school Heck yelled:
“Get out of the hall, Tommy Joe Hall!” 😂
I will say that school was hard for Heck. He was always getting in trouble for not paying attention or dropping a marble on the floor. In his defense, he was such a good marble shooter he couldn’t help but drop marbles. He could go outside for recess with two marbles in his pocket, and twenty minutes later when the bell rang, he’d come in with two hundred marbles bulging his pockets out.
But with class work, it was kinda like Heck got things backwards, and the teacher just thought he wasn’t trying (since he couldn’t even read or write).
Heck didn’t’ know what to think when the teacher, Mr. Wilkens, told him he would never get out of the Fifth Grade. I thought that was a mean thing to say.
One fine Saturday in late September, Heck and I caught the passenger bus to Grundy, a booming mining town about ten miles away.
Arriving in Grundy, the first place we visited was the Ben Franklin 5 & 10 cents store. Heck wanted candy and some caps for his cap shooter, and after purchasing those items, we went over and looked in the western comic books section. We looked at several before settling on one we knew we didn’t’ have . . . a Buck Jones.
Back on the crowded streets, we hurried to get a closer look at the posters describing the movies at Grundy’s’ three theaters (Lynwood, Morgan, and Alamo). Two of the theaters had Double-Feature westerns starting at noon . . . but the other theater, the Morgan, was the one that caught our eye. The Morgan was having a live show at noon featuring a western star named Lash LaRue. The marquee announced him as “KING OF THE BULLWHIPS”.
Heck and I agreed that we had heard of him, but we were pretty sure we hadn’t’ seen any of his movies. Right away, that was where we wanted to go. Just one thing was holding us back . . . the one- dollar admission price. Quickly checking, we determined that we had 50 cents between us. Ordinarily, that would be enough for the 10¢ admission to any of the theaters, plus enough to buy popcorn and soda, and the 10¢ bus fare back home to Bull Creek.
Don’t’ get me wrong. Money was never a problem when Heck was around, and we had a whole hour to earn the money . . . as announced by eleven loud bongs on the courthouse clock.
As it turned out, Heck didn’t’ need an hour. Heck was a masterful shoe-shine boy. Not only did he give the best shine in town, but also his whistling entertained bystanders royally.
Four shines at a 25¢ a customer, with one man giving a dollar tip, and Heck had earned the money we needed for the show, and we didn’t’ even move from our spot in front of the Grundy Drug Store. My contribution was holding on to the funds.
“Give me a quick one son”” said a man in black wearing a black cowboy hat, I’ve got a show at twelve over at the Morgan Theater.””
“Say, you must be Lash LaRue mister” Heck said, as both of us looked on, kind of starstruck. “That’s me” said the man in black. (Years later Johnny Cash would introduce Lash LaRue as the original man in black.)
“How would you boys like to make a quick buck?” he asked, as Heck popped his rag and whistled the “Chattanooga Shoe -Shine Boy” song.
We nodded, knowing we didn’t need the money right then, but from the looks of things we were going to see his show for free anyway.
As it turned out, we not only saw it, but we were also co-starring. Lash LaRue marched us right into the Morgan Theatre and right up on stage where he told us what he wanted us to do.
What a show! We both agreed later that we had discovered a new number one cowboy hero that day. With bullwhips, guns, strength, and magic, Lash Larue kept the packed audience in the Morgan Theater on the edge of their seats for nearly two hours.
The show opened with a movie clip that showed Lash LaRue getting shot. A split-second later, the house lights came on and Lash LaRue jumped out from behind the screen, his guns blazing! It scared me and Heck and everybody else half to death.
My hands trembled as Lash had me stand on one side of the stage with a piece of paper held between my hands. Lash stood on the other side with a bullwhip at least 15 feet long.
“R-R-R-R-ip!” . . . and the paper I was holding pulled apart like it was cut with a pair of scissors. The audience cheered and Lash asked me to hold just one half of the remaining paper. I closed my eyes when he brought the whip down. When I heard the sound, I opened them . . . and he’d done it again.
Since I’d felt the wind the last time, I refused to hold the smaller piece. Then Heck volunteered and held it ’til the paper got so small you could hardly see it. Finally, even Heck wouldn’t hold it.
“He could shore whup a young’un!” yelled a snaggle-toothed woman, suddenly standing up in the first row.
About that time, a man came running up out of the audience, grabbed Lash’s gun belt from the stage and started running up the aisle.
Lash’s whip sounded like a thunderbolt as the tip popped in the air above the head of the running man!
And then the cracker end of the whip descended around the man’s neck like he’d lassoed him….
When Lash pulled tight, the man’s tongue shot out, causing the audience to roar with laughter.
Lash continued pulling and soon the man was right up on stage, looking embarrassed and whipped. It may have been part of the show, but the sheriff came up and escorted the man out the door.
Lash LaRue was quite a showman with the whip, even catching coins out of the air and jerking the fire out of a man’s cigarette, leaving the cigarette still dangling in the man’s mouth.
Then Lash asked Heck to whistle . . . and did he ever . . . bowing to a standing ovation.
After the show, Lash gave us our dollar and an autographed picture of himself sitting on his horse, Black Diamond. A big bullwhip was curled around Lash’s shoulder. A picture to treasure forever!
Everyone wanted to shake our hand on the way out. I was surprised to see that Mom and Dad had been in the audience. Mom invited Heck to stop by our house for her Saturday night special; hamburgers, and home-made fries. Sooo Good!
Heck and I made a good number of whips in the days following the big show . . . but none of them were worth a plug nickel. We had fun, but to be honest, sticks and old shoestrings don’t make much of a whip.
Shortly after the big show, tragedy struck the Hadley household. Late one October night, Heck’s dad was working the hoot-owl(midnight) shift at the coal mine when he was pinned in a roof-fall. Luckily, his life was spared, but my dad said it was doubtful if he’d ever walk again.
Heck became the breadwinner at the Hadley place, doing all sorts of jobs, including shining shoes on Saturdays. Unfortunately, since Heck had to miss a lot of school, we rarely saw each other during November and December of that year (1955).
On the rare occasion I saw Heck, he wasn’t his old jolly self . . . and neither was I . . . without Heck to keep me company.
As Christmas approached, I thought a lot about Heck, and my lie to him about only wanting a bicycle for Christmas. The lie to Heck was a Hallmark event in my life. There, in that moment when Heck asked me what I wanted for Christmas.
For the first time in my life, I valued another person’s wishes above my own. IF THERE WAS JUST ONE BULLWHIP IN SANTA’S BAG, I WANTED HECK TO HAVE IT.
On Christmas morning I couldn’t believe my eyes when I hurried to the tree and saw a beautiful black bicycle. But what really caught my eye was the genuine Lash LaRue bullwhip coiled around the handlebars and seat. Lash’s name was carved right in the handle. I was jumping up and down happy when I saw it.
Being so excited I couldn’t eat, or even watch for a minute what dad said was the first television in the Bull Creek mining camp. I hopped on my bicycle, quickly christened it Black Diamond, after Lash LaRue’s horse, and letting out the reins on Black Diamond, and leaning out over her neck, I arrived at Heck’s house in record time.
If any boy had been a good boy, it was Heck. I knew in my heart that Santa had delivered Heck a whip just like mine and a whole lot more.
But no, that didn’t happen. I was just readying myself to ‘hello’ to everyone in the house when Heck stepped out on his porch . . . looking like a little whipped pup. 😞
“Santa d-didn’t come to o-our h-house”, Heck said, choking back tears.
I didn’t hesitate for a second. “What the Heck, Heck, Santa left your present at my house” I said, sailing the coiled whip through the air into his outstretched hands.
Heck didn’t return to school in January 1956, and when mom told me his family had moved to Montana, I cried for two days.
I looked up Montana on the map and vowed I would visit there some day.
That day came this past October. My wife Mary Jane, and I, were touring the West . . . when the big sky country of Montana beckoned.
It was surprisingly easy. I asked a guy at a truck stop, near Helena, Montana, if he knew Heck Hadley.
“Everybody knows Heck Hadley, he has a 5,000-acre ranch for troubled kids just south of here” the man said. “Several thousand kids have graduated from his ‘Hope and Help’ ranch. Just follow the signs, mister.”
Twenty minutes later, we were parked in front of the gate at the “H&H” ranch. “Look at the bullwhip!” Mary Jane said excitedly, as she pointed to the sign above the gate.
I looked . . . It was the same genuine leather Lash LaRue bullwhip that Santa had left for Heck Hadley at the Bull Creek mining camp.
Just then, a black horse cantered up to the gate. Mary Jane touched the power window, and I was pretty sure I recognized the rider because he was whistling.
Merry Christmas from the H&H Ranch and Ol’ Corn.
It is indeed more blessed to give than receive…… Larry
How often do you hear the words “I love you”?
If you are in a romantic relationship, you probably hear those words daily. Young love, or what feels like young love, seems to bring out, “I love you” with ease. It’s when we are most expressive. It’s timely and fitting for the romance at the moment.
If you have been married for many years, you may rarely hear I love you. Lol, the well-known “honeymoon stage” has long since passed and has been filled with kids, bills, and a lot of hard work. It’s not that the love is gone, there just doesn’t seem to be a reason to speak it verbally anymore. After all, you made a lifelong commitment to your spouse, and you are still there. So, you love them. Why say it? Naturally, I am making light of a quandary many couples fall into.
If you are a single parent, hearing “I love you” from a significant other may be just a memory. You may however draw energy from those three brief words each time they cross your child’s lips. A child can quickly soften the stress from a long, hard day by saying I love you at bedtime.
But what if you live alone and there’s no one to utter those precious words? I have lived alone for many years and my children are grown with families of their own. There is no “significant other” in my life, so I have gotten used to going days, or even weeks, without hearing someone’s voice say, ever so sweetly, “I love you”. When I hear those words, they mean a lot more to me now and I no longer take them for granted.
I know the importance of saying those words better now. When I tell one of my grandchildren, “I love you”, I want those words to stay in their hearts forever. I know they will need to hold on to that love in tough times. I want them to always know that love is there for them, no matter what. Just as I did with my children.
Yes, there are many ways to show love and they are just as important as saying it. But this missive is about verbalizing the actual words. There is something to be said for someone opening up their heart, letting go of their inhibitions, and speaking words of affirmation. To hear the words out loud has a healing affect, whether it be on a child, a friend, a parent, a spouse, or a partner. Hearing “I love” you can open a door to forgiveness, feelings of self-worth, and relieve many anxieties in life.
So, how long has it been since you told someone you love them? Never underestimate the power of saying it and never miss an opportunity to do so. I believe this quote expresses it perfectly: “Time is like a river. You cannot touch the same water twice, because the flow that has passed will never pass again.”… unknown