The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

A Flood of Memories

By jd wetterling

Memories came flooding back as we crossed the Mississippi River earlier this week. I was home, that is, the community I called home for the first 18 years of my life, though there was precious little to call home there anymore beyond some invisible roots, a brother and aunt and uncle who live there.

We camped the first two nights at Nauvoo (IL) State Park on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River after traveling up one of the prettiest highways in heartland America-the Great River Road (US 96) on the east side of the river.

Rarely is it as placid as it is in this sunset picture, and that prompted a 50-year-old memory of another time when the river was this calm.

It was a full-moon night in the late fifties and three of us teenaged boys floated down that river on our backs looking up at the moon.

The fourth friend floated beside us in an open boat, with the outboard motor off, to bring us back upriver when we tired of the fun. (That river is moving much faster than it looks in the picture.) The other two guys who were in the water with me are no longer in this world. One died in a rice paddy in Vietnam, the other died too soon of natural causes. We know not the day nor the hour.

My hometown water tower brought back another memory. Forty years ago I buzzed that tower in a USAF F-100 in an "unofficial fly-by," then pulled into a vertical climb doing aileron rolls until I poked into the clouds, just before I ran out of airspeed.

It's every fighter pilot's dream to buzz his hometown. To this day, when I visit, someone will remind me of that day and what they saw, which, after all these years, bears little relation to reality.

We parked our RV in my brother's front yard-no problems with zoning regulations in this town, population 900.

It's actually grown a bit, though few businesses remain, since I was a kid growing up on a farm south of town.

In one of our morning walks around the village, Karen and I walked by what is left of the high school football field. Friday night football, when I played quarterback and my younger brother played halfback, was the most important thing in my young life.

High school football is still the highlight of the fall social season in the small towns of America, and the players are still revered and bragged about like the gladiators of old Rome.

I lived for the glory of Friday nights and the cheers of the crowd (my Mom could cheer louder than anybody on either side of the field) and the honking of the horns of cars parked around the field when the home team scored a touchdown.

We scored lots of touchdowns and won the vast majority of our games. These days, with so many school consolidations, only the crickets and cicadas can be heard there on a Friday night.

The lights have been removed from the poles around the field and the bleachers and one set of goalposts are gone, but the grass is still mowed as a play area for middle-schoolers.

Multitudes of unforgettable gridiron moments came to the surface of my grey matter like it was all just yesterday. How quickly this life passes!

The bottom line of all those wonderful memories? That crazy adolescent fun, all that Friday night glory, that showing off with the taxpayers' machinery is just worthless vanity, utterly insignificant compared to the glory, the joy, the bliss beyond words that awaits our gracious God's elect in the life to come.

But, as it is written,

"What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)