A Dog Named Paisley

I’ll tell you straight up: this is a sad, bittersweet story. And it may seem strange to talk about the week of Thanksgiving, but please bear with me.

On July 16, 2013, our family adopted a little black Schnauzer from the Abilene Animal Shelter. Our daughter Erin gave her the name “Paisley.” She was supposed to be Erin’s pet, but just a few days after we brought the dog home, Erin went off to church camp for a week, so the animal adopted Kathy as her favorite human.

Because she was a rescue dog, the folks at the shelter couldn’t tell us exactly how old she was, but they guess-timated that she was probably about three. They gave us a certificate to have her spayed. Then we learned that, oh by the way, she has heartworms. So we had to have her treated for that before we could get her “fixed.”

This was a strange little critter. For one thing, she didn’t really like to be petted, and would sometimes snap at you if you tried. She didn’t enjoy playing fetch, and she didn’t “work and play well with others.” The few times we took her on a leash to the Abilene dog park, she mostly kept to herself. It absolutely freaked her out to see anyone running – dog, squirrel, cat, person. Didn’t matter; she would bark loud and long just at the sight of someone running or jogging. So, we mostly stuck with going on walks around the neighborhood, to explore the territory and sniff out the interesting smells, and for her to do her business. And yes, we always carried doggy poop bags, to clean up after her.

Here’s Paisley on Christmas morning a few years ago, wearing her special holiday sweater.

And on spring nights when a thunderstorm rolled through, she would bark furiously at the thunder. She didn’t seem to be afraid of the storm; she just wanted to make some noise of her own. But if I would get up and take her outside and sit on the porch with her in my lap, well, she was content to just listen to the rain and watch the lightning and be quiet. Sometimes I called her, “Paisley, the Weather Dog.”

A few years ago, she got to where she couldn’t control her bladder. It was very embarrassing whenever we would be hosting a home Bible study. Then we learned that she had developed bladder stones, and it wasn’t her fault – she truly couldn’t hold it. The vet surgeon removed a half dozen stones, some as big as ping pong balls, and solved that problem.

Unfortunately, in the last few years, she had developed a heart murmur. The vet said the heartworms had probably damaged her heart and left it in a weakened condition. She got to where she would sometimes wheeze and have a hard time catching her breath. But she still slept with us every night. Some nights, she would jump up on to the bed under her own power, but usually, we had to pick her up and put her up there. Then she would scratch and paw at the covers until she had turned down the bedspread.

Then early last Saturday morning, she jumped down off the bed, and almost immediately, began wheezing badly and coughing. She acted like she wanted to go outside, and she went out and immediately threw up and had diarrhea. She continued to have serious wheezing. I had to go out of town for a memorial service, but Kathy stayed here and took Paisley to the vet. Dr. Kameron listened to her breathe for a long time, and said her heart sounded like “a washing machine.” She speculated that it was probably due to a blood clot, and that we had two options – we could treat it medically, but it might not work, would be very expensive, and would need to be continued from now on.

Option two was – well, you can imagine.

Kathy and I had already discussed this before I left, and we agreed that, while we obviously did not want it to come to that, putting her down would probably be the most humane thing to do. And so that’s what happened. (Special thanks to Dr. Kameron for getting up early Saturday morning and providing compassionate care for our fur baby.)

Paisley was with us for over nine years. She should have died from the heartworms a long time ago. Even if that didn’t kill her, if we hadn’t adopted her, the shelter probably would have euthanized her within a few weeks. Instead, she had a good long life as a member of our family. Like all of us, she had her good points and her bad ones. She was a grouch and a curmudgeon, but then again, sometimes, so am I. At least she was honest about things.

So thanks, Paisley, for loving us, and letting us love you. We’ll miss the way you loved to chase squirrels in the back yard, and the way you tolerated the cat. We’ll miss the sound of your nails clicking on the wooden floor, and the ferocious greeting you would give us whenever we got home in the afternoon. And we’ll miss how excited you would get when we said, “Let’s go for a walk,” or that it was time for bed. We will always cherish our memories of you, and among the blessings that we will celebrate at Thanksgiving this week will be your friendship and companionship. You weren’t perfect, but you were ours.

So long, Puppy.

A Test of Character

In the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, there’s a scene where a lieutenant is talking to Admiral James T. Kirk, after the young officer had just had a disastrous outcome on a simulated mission known as “The Kobayashi Maru.” When she asks the admiral about the right way to solve the problem, he says, “It’s a no-win scenario – there is no ‘right’ solution. It’s a test of character.”

I like that answer.

The idea of good character – what it means, how it reveals itself – is something that I’ve thought about a lot. Someone has said, “Character is who you are when no one is watching.” Character, or the lack thereof, is demonstrated by how we behave in our unguarded moments. It rises to the top during times of crisis and shows itself in ways large and small in our everyday actions.

And it has nothing to do with politics or religion. I’m sorry to say that many of our national leaders – as well as a lot of ministers that I have known personally over the years – show themselves to be sniveling cowards who will absolutely collapse like a house of cards during difficult times and sell their souls for the sake of trying to gain power or hold on to popularity. And others rise above the chaos and tumult to show unbreakable, unshakeable, strong character – “tested and approved,” as the scriptures say. Telling the truth, doing the right thing, standing up and speaking out on behalf of the marginalized, the downtrodden, the forgotten. Where are the people who will speak up for them?

I was doing some reading about this the other day, and I ran across an interesting column online somewhere; unfortunately, I did not write down the author’s name, and I haven’t been able to find it again. But I think this writer really catches the essence of what it means to be a person of good character through some unusual questions, and I wanted to pass it along to you. Now, as I say, this self-test is a little different, but if you ask yourself these questions and are honest about your answers, it may reveal something about your character.

1. How do you treat wait staff in restaurants and others who work in the hospitality industry?

Three of our four kids have or still are working in coffee shops, restaurants, bars, etc. The horror stories they tell about how they have been treated are absolutely shameful. And the worst perpetrators always seem to be the good, church-going folk with all the “I love Jesus” and “Follow me to church” bumper stickers on their cars, but who curse at the drive-through staff and are so unbelievably abusive and rude. A restaurant manager once told my son that it was almost impossible to staff the Sunday lunch schedule, because nobody wanted to work the after-church shift. They were rude and demanding, and absolutely terrible tippers. But they were perfectly happy to leave a tract about grace on the table, instead of an actual tip. Character is seen in how we treat the people who are serving us.

2. How do you relate to children?

Jesus told his followers, “Allow the little children to come to me and don’t forbid them, because the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.” This shocked to the disciples, because children are powerless. They can’t feed themselves. They can’t take care of themselves. They are dependent on their parents for everything. Kind of like us and God, actually. People of good character are those who will put an arm around a little shoulder and tell a kid, “You matter to me. You can do this. I believe in you.”

3. How do you relate to animals?

Proverbs 12:10 says, “Good people take care of their animals but the wicked are cruel to theirs.” How we care for critters reveals a lot about our relative levels of selfishness versus character. That’s especially true for animals that we don’t own and don’t plan to have for lunch. It’s true that God feeds the sparrows. But sometimes, we get to help.

4. How do you deal with shopping carts?

Okay, I grant you, this is a very strange question, but think about it – how do you handle shopping carts in the parking lot? I mean, there’s no penalty for not bringing the cart back to the door or not putting it in the cart corral, and there’s no bonus for returning the cart. The only reason for doing it, is because you care about someone else. You don’t want the cart that you just used to be in someone else’s way while they’re trying to park, or you don’t want the kid who’s gathering up all the abandoned carts to have to walk an extra mile to retrieve them. What we do with our shopping carts after we’re done with them is a real gauge of how concerned we are for and about other people.

And that’s a proper test of character.

Stories for Veteran’s Day

One of the things that I have always appreciated about living in Haskell has been the opportunity – really, the great blessing – of being able to meet and visit with veterans of so many of our nation’s wars over the years. What an amazing archive of experience!

Over the years, I have known men from Haskell, Rule, Rochester, and the entire county, who have shared with me stories of their days in the service. I have been blessed to know guys who were on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day – June 6, 1944. I have known guys who flew 25+ combat missions over occupied Europe in a B-17, and other guys who were with the 101st Airborne, trapped at Bastogne and surrounded by the enemy during the Battle of the Bulge. I have also known veterans who were part of Patton’s forces that broke through the German lines and turned back that counter-offensive.

I have known guys from the Pacific Theater as well – men who were survivors of the Bataan Death March early in the war, and other guys who were with the Marines who stormed the beaches of Iwo Jima, including one who was with the troops who raised the FIRST flag on Mt. Suribachi. That flag was not large enough to be seen from the Navy ships off the coast, so the Marines raised another larger flag, and it is the picture of that second flag-raising that became so famous.

I knew a guy who was on the island of Saipan during the war. We held one end of a runway, but the Japanese still had the other end of it. He told me the story of how a Marine lieutenant was looking for a way to secure the entire runway, so our planes could use it. Since any approach the far end would mean being under withering enemy fire, my friend was recruited to drive a bulldozer and raise the blade. Then using that dozer blade as a shield and under continuous assault, my friend drove down to the far end of runway and gave cover to the Marines who took the other end of the runway and secured the base.

Where do we get such men?

There was a veteran from here who was in the first wave of troops to hit Utah Beach on D-Day. He told me that the Germans were extremely precise with their mortar fire, and able to drop explosive rounds exactly where they want to on the beach, resulting in terrible American casualties. But, he said, he and the men with him noticed that the Germans were “walking” their mortar rounds back and forth across the beach in a very methodical fashion, so that, by watching where the shells landed and timing their runs across at the right moments, they were able to get inland and take out the enemy positions.

And in so doing, the Allies were able to put 150,000 men ashore in the first 24 hours on the five beaches of D-Day, on their way to destroy Fascism and rescue a continent.

It’s worth remembering that Veterans Day was originally known as “Armistice Day.” It was the day that World War I ended – at the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. That war is personal to me, because my grandfather was a “dough-boy” who fought in France and received a wound in his left shoulder from a German shell that landed behind him. He carried that scar with him for the rest of his life. Grandpa liked to work in the yard with his shirt off, and I can remember as a child, walking behind him and seeing that scar on his shoulder. He would come over to our house for supper and tell my brothers and me stories from the war. Not to glorify the violence or exalt in the killing, but to celebrate the courage of those who were there.

Here’s my grandpa, Stanley Garison (left) with another “dough-boy” during World War I.

And I remember at Grandpa’s funeral – he died on my birthday in 1980, at the age of 81 – the Purple Heart medal that he received because of that wound was pinned to his jacket lapel. The family had agreed that the medal should go to his oldest son, my uncle, who was a career Air Force man. Standing at the casket, my uncle was too overcome with emotion to unpin the decoration, so I removed it from Grandpa’s jacket and gave it to him. I felt very honored to handle, even in that small way, such a treasured piece of our family history.

America has been very blessed over the years that so many have answered the call – men and women who have been willing to “pay any price, bear any burden.” Haskell County is fortunate to be home to so many who have served when and where they were needed. Let us extend to all of them our gratitude for their sacrifice. So to all veterans – thank you for your service. And God bless America.

Do You Know Jack?

C.S. Lewis was one of the greatest Christian thinkers and authors of the twentieth century, and he is, by far, my favorite author. His writings, both fiction and non-fiction, have shaped my thinking and helped me become who I am today.

Christian author and thinker, C.S. “Jack” Lewis:
November 29, 1898 – November 22, 1963.

Clive Staples Lewis was born November 29, 1898, in Belfast, Ireland. As a small boy, he took the nickname “Jack” after a family pet, and so he was “Jack” to his friends for the rest of his life. His mother died while he was still young, and her death was a factor in him renouncing his Christian faith. He later wrote that he considered himself an atheist, although he also said that he was angry at God for NOT existing. He served with British troops in World War I and was wounded in a friendly fire accident that killed two friends. Eventually, he returned to faith, in part with the help of his friend and fellow author, J.R.R. Tolkien, and he would go on to hold prestigious academic positions at both Oxford and Cambridge. He passed away on November 22, 1963 – yes, the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated. (British author Aldous Huxley [Brave New World] also died that same day.)

If you haven’t read much of Lewis and are looking for a good place to start, I would recommend A Year with C.S. Lewis. It’s a collection of 366 brief readings of his material, gleaned from some of his best works, and arranged in a convenient, daily schedule. Spend a few minutes every morning for a year with Jack, and you will be amazed at how much better your clarity of thought will become.

Since this month is the anniversary of both his birth and death, I thought I would present five of his quotations that have really resonated with me over the years. Do you have a favorite Lewis quote? Please email me at haskellstarnews@gmail.com.

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is openedThe Great Divorce

…Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. Mere Christianity

We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. The Problem of Pain

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. The Weight of Glory

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. Mere Christianity

The Most Neglected Fruit of the Spirit

About a year ago, I wrote an article about the lost art of being kind to others. Since then, it seems that kindness has become even more rare. There is a large (and apparently growing) branch of Christianity that has decided that being considerate of other people is too “woke” for them to be bothered by trying to live it out.

Is “mean-spirited-ness” a real word? Probably not, but it ought to be, because that seems to be the guiding principle that so many are living by these days. Far too many of our political leaders are engaged in vilifying others to score cheap points with their “base.” It has become all about winning and gaining political power, to the extent that showing concern for others – demonstrating kindness and compassion – is now considered “weak” or “unmasculine” or somehow wrong.

Jesus told us – very plainly – that it was how we demonstrated love to one another, that would be the hallmark to tell the world that we were His disciples (John 13:35). The Apostle Paul said in Galatians 6:10, “Therefore, let us be kind to everyone, especially those in the household of faith.” And earlier in that same letter, when the apostle was listing the nine qualities of the Fruit of the Spirit, he listed “kindness” as one of those things. Don’t take my word for it; you can look it up – Galatians 5:22-23.

This call to kindness isn’t limited to the New Testament. Hundreds of years before Jesus lived, the prophet Micah said, “Practice justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”

Thinking about Paul’s list of the Fruit of the Spirit helps me realize this is not necessarily a new problem. The nine characteristics that he mentions – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – have never been easy. Yet many church-goers today seem perfectly content to simply ignore these qualities of true Christian maturity and behavior, while they’re engaged in the very kind of legalism and judgmental attitudes that Jesus so often condemned.

Kindness means being willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of others. One of the most famous stories that Jesus ever told was the Parable of the Good Samaritan. To really “get” that story, you have to understand how much the good, religious people of Jesus’ day HATED the Samaritans. The Samaritans were the bad guys. They were the ones who robbed and cheated others. They were the villains. Yet when Jesus was asked to explain what does love for neighbors really look like, it was not the religious leaders in the story who showed kindness to the wounded traveler – it was the Samaritan.

In other words, Jesus was saying, look around you. Who needs to see some kindness? Then He commands, “Go and do that.” It seems to me that He went out of His way to tell us that we should be kind to others, and not merely to those we already know or love, and especially not only to those who are able to pay us back. He told us specifically to invite to dinner those who COULDN’T pay us back. He calls us to set an example of kindness and grace to everyone.

The problem with showing kindness is that, by its very nature, it doesn’t call attention to itself; it’s more concerned with serving others than in tooting its own horn. And in our self-promoting, selfie-obsessed culture, most of us simply don’t think of how to serve others. We’re too busy, or they’re too different. Maybe they don’t look like us; maybe they don’t talk like us. Maybe they have made some mistakes or are living a lifestyle that we don’t agree with. But they are still neighbors, created in the image of God, and still in need of kindness.

Caring about others – putting the needs of others first – is a learned behavior, and contrary to human nature. It’s an act of discipleship that follows in the self-sacrificing steps of our Lord. Maybe that’s why it’s so rare. But it’s how we show kindness to the helpless, to the weak, to the marginalized, and the disenfranchised, that really counts. Jesus is still looking for disciples who will walk as He walked, and live as He lived. That includes showing kindness to all. Especially those who don’t deserve it.

Horror Movies x5

Do you like scary movies?

Personally, horror films are not among my favorites. I mean, sure, if that’s your thing, then you certainly have plenty of classics to watch. And there is no shortage of different kinds of horror movies, from intense psychological thrillers to films that shower you with buckets of blood. As for myself, I prefer movies that tell a good story, over those whose only purpose is to try and scare me, but if that’s what you like, knock yourself out.

There are some movies, though, that I think do a good job of combining a well-told story as well as being scary or creepy. There are lots of famous horror movies – Frankenstein, Psycho, The Exorcist, Jaws, Carrie, just to name a few – but there are plenty of other films that are often just as scary, but perhaps not as well-known as other, more familiar horror films. So, in case you’re looking for a different classic movie to watch as we approach Halloween, here are some lesser known, but scary movies that I have enjoyed over the years. SERIOUS CAUTION: many of these movies are definitely NOT for the whole family – watch at your own discretion. But, if you want to expand your experience of movies that go bump in the night, here are a few for your consideration, in order of their release date.

The Most Dangerous Game (1932) – Joel McCrae, Fay Wray. Joel McCrae and Fay Wray are passengers on a luxury yacht who are shipwrecked – deliberately, it turns out – by a wealthy psychotic killer, who enjoys “hunting” people for sport. It’s not a very long movie – only 78 minutes – but it has been recognized as one of the most “heart-pounding” of films. Movie trivia – King Kong was being filmed at the same time, and many of the jungle sets – and co-star Fay Wray – appeared in both movies. I remember reading the excellent, original short story by Richard Connell as a freshman at Orangefield High School, so thank you, Mr. Wernig.

Gaslight (1944) – Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman. Ten years after her aunt’s murder, Ingrid Bergman returns to the London home where it happened with her newlywed husband, Charles Boyer. But then she begins to notice strange goings-on as her silky-smooth husband tries to convince her that she’s only imagining it. Or is she?

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) – Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter. Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) returns to his small-town practice to find several of his patients complaining that loved ones are being somehow replaced. Initially, he is very skeptical, but begins to suspect that his patients are not imagining things. This is a really excellent movie that has been remade several times, most notably in 1978 with Donald Sutherland and Veronica Cartwright.

Don’t Look Now (1973) –Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland. STRONG CAUTION. A loving couple is grieving the accidental drowning of their young daughter, who was wearing a red raincoat when she died. They go to Venice, Italy, to throw themselves into their work and try and move past the tragedy. Along the way they meet two very strange sisters who claim to “hear” messages from the dead little girl in the spirit world. And who is this little one they keep seeing in a red raincoat?

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1982), starring Jason Robards and Jonathan Pryce, is one of my favorite “lesser-known” scary movies.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (1982) – Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce. Jason Robards plays a small-town librarian. Life is good until a mysterious carnival, led by Jonathan Pryce, arrives and people start disappearing. Based on a tale by Ray Bradbury, this story is all about how the devil destroys people by granting their fondest wish.

Bonus: Duel (1973) – Dennis Weaver. Here’s a little bonus: This is an excellent, made-for-TV picture, directed by a then-unknown young fellow named Stephen Spielberg. Dennis Weaver plays a traveling salesman who accidentally crosses paths with an anonymous truck driver, who spends the rest of the movie chasing him down and trying to kill him. An incredibly suspenseful movie.

Do you have a favorite horror movie? Drop me an email to haskellstarnews@gmail.com, and let’s talk about it. And until then, save me some popcorn.

Battling Against Fear

It seems that everywhere we look these days, every television program, every elected official, every news broadcast, even every sermon we hear, is all about being afraid. We are told to fear other people, fear other ideas, fear what is different, fear the known and fear the unknown, fear the future.

Be afraid of crime. Be afraid of immigrants. Be afraid of inflation. Be afraid.

We are a nation drowning in a sea of fear.

This is not the first time we have had to face this. In his 1933 Inaugural Address, incoming President Franklin Roosevelt – at the height of the Great Depression – said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” During the 1950s – a time of extreme fear and suspicion – newsman Edward R. Murrow (a personal hero of mine) said,

We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our own history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular…. There is no way for a citizen of the Republic to abdicate his responsibility.

As a lover of God and a follower of Jesus, I am especially moved by how many times the Bible tells us, “Do not fear.” By some counts, the phrase appears 365 times in the scriptures; that’s enough for one a day for an entire year! It’s clear from these verses that while fear may be common and understandable, it doesn’t have to rule our lives. Consider –

  • God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim. 1:7)
  • Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isa. 41:10)
  • He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, … (Psa. 91:1-5)
  • The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psa. 27:1)

It’s natural and normal – even healthy – to have a certain level of fear about the unknown, about new situations, or unfamiliar circumstances, but we cannot let that fear paralyze us into inaction, nor should we just retreat into the past and lash out against “the other.” When we are making a decision about something, we need to evaluate that choice, consider the pros and cons, seek the counsel of wise friends, and pray – but we must not let fear make the choice for us.

Meanwhile, there are things we can do to overcome fear –

Turn off the TV news. That may seem like a strange thing for a news guy to say, but so much of the national media is just mental poison, designed to hype up fear and hatred, and along the way, sell you whatever junk they’re peddling. Choose not to participate.

Focus on the positive. Computer programmers used to have a saying: Garbage in, garbage out. That applies to our heads and our hearts, as well. If all we’re feeding on is more and more fear, then it will dominate our thoughts and our feelings. Let’s do something different and fill our minds with things that are positive, encouraging, and uplifting. Read a book, listen to some good music, take a walk, reach out to an old friend.

Vote your values. We all know there is an election coming up, so here’s an idea: Don’t vote for a party. Listen to the candidates, and if all they’re offering is more fear and suspicion, then tell them “NO.” Instead, vote for whoever is offering the best ideas for how to move forward.

Let us not be dominated by fear, doubt, or suspicion. Let us overcome with faith, hope, and love.

007 x 7: Sixty Years of Bond. James Bond.

One of the longest running and most successful franchises in movie history got its start sixty years ago this past week. For the first time, audiences heard a character introduce himself with the now-classic line, “Bond. James Bond.” It was October 5, 1962, in London, at the World Premiere of Dr. No, starring Sean Connery as Bond. It was also the first time we learned about a “vodka martini. Shaken, not stirred.”

Author Ian Fleming served with Britain’s Naval Intelligence Division during World War II, where he learned the business of spycraft. He was in charge of “Operation: Goldeneye,” a British plan to prevent Spain from entering the war on the side of the Axis. (He would later give his estate in Jamaica that same colorful name, and it was used again for one of the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies.) Fleming was also involved with “Operation: Mincemeat,” a British counter-intelligence plan to mislead the Germans about Allied intentions in the Mediterranean. THAT operation has been well-documented in two different movies – 1956’s The Man Who Never Was, starring Clifton Webb and Gloria Grahame, and 2021’s Operation: Mincemeat, with Colin Firth and Charles Cholmondeley.

There have been 27 different Bond movies, if you count the two “unauthorized” films – 1967’s Casino Royale, a comedy spoof version starring David Niven as the retired Sir James Bond, trying to help his bumbling nephew (played by Peter Sellers) with his first mission; and 1983’s Never Say Never Again, with Sean Connery and Kim Basinger, in a remake of 1965’s Thunderball. The most recent, of course, was last year’s No Time to Die.

Who has been the best Bond? You can always count on fans of the series for a lively discussion about that. Six different actors have played Bond, if you DON’T count David Niven in the comedy version of Casino Royale – Sean Connery (6 or 7), George Lazenby (1), Roger Moore (7), Timothy Dalton (2), Pierce Brosnan (4), and Daniel Craig (5). Deciding on who was “best” depends on what parts of the character you enjoy watching. Sean Connery was tough but sophisticated. George Lazenby was probably the actor closest to Fleming’s character from the novels, but he didn’t connect well with audiences. Roger Moore brought a real smart-aleck flair to the part. Dalton and Brosnan each have their fans, and a LOT of younger Bond devotees really like Daniel Craig.

Do you have a “favorite” James Bond? Top row, from left – Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore; bottom row, from left – Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig.

What makes a “good” Bond movie? It’s a male fantasy world, to be sure: a combination of beautiful women, fast cars, cool gadgets, beautiful women, instant justice, snappy dialogue, beautiful women, exotic locations, and tongue-in-cheek humor. And of course, beautiful women. Also, don’t forget about the music – for some of these movies, the main title song went on to become a major pop music hit. (Maybe we’ll do a future column for favorite Bond songs.)

Instead of the usual five titles that I generally pick for these articles, here are my favorite seven Bond movies, in keeping with the character’s “License to Kill,” 007. In order of their release:

From Russia with Love (1963) – 007 is ordered to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that has been stolen by the terrorist organization, SPECTRE. Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Lotte Lenya, and Daniela Bianchi.

Goldfinger (1964) – Bond must stop a madman intent on ruining the US (and world) economy by contaminating the gold reserves at Fort Knox. Sean Connery, Gert Fröbe, Honor Blackman.

For Your Eyes Only (1981) – James must find a sunken British vessel and prevent a piece of stolen, top-secret equipment, from falling into enemy hands. Roger Moore, Carol Bouquet, Topol.

Octopussy (1983) – A rogue Soviet general wants to start World War III by exploding a nuclear weapon on an American base in West Germany. Bond has to stop him. Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jordan.

Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) – A media mogul tries to start a war between Great Britain and China, so he can broadcast the carnage. Pierce Brosnan, Jonathan Pryce, Michelle Yeoh.

Casino Royale (2006) – After earning his 00 status, Bond is sent on his first mission, to defeat a renegade banker in a high-stakes game of poker. Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Jeffrey Wright, Mads Mikkelson.

Skyfall (2012) – Bond’s loyalty to M is tested when her past comes back to haunt her, with devastating consequences. Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem.

Do you have a favorite Bond movie, actor, or song? Drop an email to me at haskellstarnews@gmail.com and we can talk about it. We have all the time in the world.

My Favorite Month

I love October! It’s absolutely my favorite month of the year, for several reasons. It means the holiday season of Thanksgiving and Christmas is not far away, with great family times and all the familiar sights and sounds of that festive time of year. And as an added bonus, my birthday falls this month, so that’s a little extra.

October in North Carolina brings out the best in Fall Foilage.

I really enjoy the changing seasons. Now granted, in our part of the world, the weather doesn’t really “feel” like four distinct seasons. As most of us know, in Texas, it feels like we only have two seasons – summer and not-summer. But still, the days will finally begin to cool off a little and the nights have at least the hint of a chill in the air. Summer is not completely over – we’ve all seen triple-digit heat in October – but sooner or later, the cool will arrive. I’m ready to make a big pot of chili and enjoy. Or maybe head to the back porch and fire up the chiminea. Anyone for s’mores?

I think the changing seasons have a lot to teach us about God, His grace, and His many blessings. There’s a familiarity about it that is very comforting: summer always follows spring; autumn always follows summer. And yet, no two autumns are ever exactly the same. Some years, we have an early freeze, and some years, it’s very wet. So in some ways, they’re the same, but in other ways, each is unique. I like that.

Here’s something else: as I have often expressed, I love baseball! October means that the MLB post-season is here, and the World Series is not far off. There’s a reason they call it “The Fall Classic.” I have been a Texas Rangers fan, through and through, for 45 years now, but since the boys in Arlington rarely make the playoffs, I usually pick a team to root for through the post-season and into the Series. As has been often said, big players make big plays in big games. I’m ready to see if there will be a “Cinderella” team this year, or if one of the familiar squads will bring home the trophy. (But please, please, PLEASE, anybody EXCEPT the Yankees!)

Another point: This month is a reminder that each day is a precious gift, and we shouldn’t waste even one. The Bible points out that the number of our days is established by God before we are even born. If autumn is here, that means winter is not far away. If there are things we need to do to get our homes or vehicles ready for cold weather, now would be a good time.

Even as the trees are shedding old leaves and dropping their dead stuff, remember that sometimes, we need to do the same. If there are things in our personal lives that we need to let go of – past regrets, self-condemnation, old grudges – NOW is a good time for that, too. Let bygones be bygones and forgive. Remember, we forgive, not because others deserve it, but because WE do. As long as we’re holding onto that pain, we’re giving the offender the power to keep hurting us. When we forgive, their power over us is destroyed. So forgive. And forgive yourself, as well.

We should remember that autumn in Texas doesn’t last long; winter will soon be here. We need to appreciate the blessings that God gives us while they last. As C.S. Lewis once observed, “The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and pose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bath or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”

In other words, enjoy the blessings that God gives, but realize they are never permanent. And Happy October.

A Visit to the Hospital

I went out to Haskell Memorial Hospital the other day. I didn’t go as a patient or to receive treatment of some kind, although I have done that before. And thankfully, I wasn’t going to see a sick or injured loved one, although I have certainly done that plenty of times as well. No, this time I went at the invitation of senior hospital management, to take a “behind-the-scenes” tour of the facility and to visit with some key staff members about what working at the eighty-plus-year-old institution is like, and what some of the rewards and challenges are that come from working at the community hospital.

Haskell Memorial Hospital was originally opened in 1939, with funding from a local bond election and a federal PWA grant.

First, a little background. In 1936, Haskell County Commissioners applied for a federal grant from the Public Works Administration to help fund a county hospital. While that paperwork was still working its way through the government red tape, county voters approved a $60,000 bond issue. That was on July 7, 1937 – a remarkable demonstration of vision and forward-thinking community spirit, considering that the country was still in the middle of the Great Depression.

Ground was broken for the new facility on March 9, 1938. Then finally, on June 22, 1938, the county was notified that the grant application had been approved. Construction on the expanded plans continued with a new budget of approximately $100,000, and the hospital opened on October 23, 1939. It was described in the Haskell Free Press as “one of the most modern and up-to-date hospitals in West Texas.” Ex­tensions and new wings were opened in 1952, 1972, and 2015. Unfortunately, the facility is now considered “landlocked,” and cannot be expanded further.

(By the way – were you born at Haskell Memorial? We’re trying to find the oldest person still living in the county who was born at this hospital. If you or someone you know arrived in the old maternity ward in 1939 or 1940, please email or call me ­– haskellstarnews@gmail.com, or 940-864-2810.)

Current Chief Executive Officer Michelle Stevens says that through all the years of its history, the hospital’s mission and purpose have remained consistent. “We are here to serve the community,” she says. “It is absolutely vital that the hospital continues to be available. Most of the patients that we see come from Haskell and all the communities across the county, as well as those from about 45 minutes out in every direction. We are also one of the largest employers in the county, so that is another major benefit.”

Chief Operating Officer – and Rochester native – Mary Belle Olson is proud of the many services that the hospital provides. “If someone needs an MRI or a CT scan, we can do that, right here. We can usually get them in for that procedure within the next day. It’s a lot better than having to wait for weeks for an appointment, then having to drive somewhere.”

I spoke with Louis Enriquez, the hospital’s Chief of Maintenance. He told me that one of the biggest problems they face is the old plumbing and sewer system. “It’s 1939 plumbing,” he said. “Every pipe is old cast iron, and a lot of them have cracks, especially the sewer pipes. They’re all 2” to 4” in size, and a flood is coming – we just don’t know when. It’s going to be a major expense when it fails.” He said the electrical conduits are also a problem. “They’re all very over-stuffed with wires. We really don’t have room to add anything else.” He noted that the concrete walls also make infrastructure repair and replacement a constant headache, and that the basement – where many of the records are kept – often floods following a heavy rain.

Chief Nursing Officer Tammy Mason pointed out that the patient rooms were in serious need of improvements, that most of the rooms did not even have a toilet, and that those that did had doors that were too narrow for a wheelchair or walker to get through. “We are so far out of ADA compliance,” she said, “and if we start trying to fix one thing, we have to bring the entire facility up to date.” She also noted that the rooms are too small for needed equipment and personnel when a patient “codes” and needs resuscitation. Assistant CNO Meghan Shelton added that a more centralized nurses’ station with better access to the ER would also be helpful in managing patient care.

But Nurse Mason also added that she loves being at the Haskell hospital. “We’re a smaller hospital, and I like that we are a lot more family oriented.”

And CEO Ms. Stevens summed up the sentiment that I heard from several hospital staffers. “We have really good people, providing really good care, and we are so much more than just a ‘band-aid station.’ We absolutely want to do as much as we can for someone right here,” she added, “without having to send them somewhere else.”