Good Friday morning ...
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were classic storybook favorites of mine as a young boy. Tom and his unlikely side-kick, Huckleberry Finn, not only became best friends ... but encountered one escapade after another in their search for adventure. Along the way, they touched many lives ... from Injun Joe and Joe harper to Becky Thatcher, Aunt Polly and the Widow Douglas.
My own childhood adventures relate quite well with those of these two young dare-devil explorers.
Mike Pierce was my only childhood neighbor until I was almost eleven years old. His family farm of fifty wooded and pastured acres sat across Taylor Road from my family's six acres. Our driveways were directly opposite each other, our mailboxes fastened to the same creosote post, our properties bordering the snaky, mud-bottomed Drum Creek. Mike had five siblings ... I had six. His dad worked at the naval shipyard ... so did mine. Both families had gentleman farms ... boasting large gardens, milk cows, chickens and an occasional pig ... providing dairy products of all kinds, eggs, fruits and vegetables, as well as poultry, beef and pork for our family tables.
With that as our playground ... the adventures of Mike and "Red" were wide and varied.
We made our own river raft out of discarded railroad ties and lumber and poled back and forth along the muddy banks of Drum Creek taunting the invisible wildlife to "come and get us." We named our favorite spots along the creek with meaningful designations like Hawk's Point, Beaver Inlet, Snaky Cove and the Secret Path.
We wrestled an abandoned wooden flat-bottomed boat out of the marsh grass and ... after repairing it with our own homemade pitch from pine tree sap ... used it to trap muskrats during the winter. We dug our own cave into the high clay bank of the creek ... clearly out of sight and sound of either of our fathers who would have shut our project down faster than an OSHA agent. We built our own "log cabin" out of felled trees that we cut with a two-man saw and axe ... then rode them to the ground with exhilarated shouts.
We hiked the abandoned railroad tracks along Pughsville Road hunting mistletoe in winter and wild blackberries in summer. We camped in the woods, in the fields, along the river bank ... and when we really felt adventuresome ... back by the old dump where wild dogs were known to roam at night. We chased pheasants and rabbits by day, stalked deer by night ... but always had hot dogs and beans for our campout supper ... 'because we never caught, trapped or otherwise captured a single thing worth consuming.
We frolicked in the corn fields in the pitch dark ... tested each other's brave hearts with fantastic stories of our own making ... and on one occasion tried our boyish nerves of steel by racing Mike's dad's 1949 dilapidated Willys Jeep up and down an old logging trail.
What fun we had!!! What adventures we enjoyed!!! What thrills pumped through our boyish veins!!! What amazing antics challenged our young hearts!!! What an awesome childhood!!!
My heart goes out for the children of our day ... especially the boys ... who fail to experience these kinds of Tom Sawyer adventures. They have become such a treasure for me ... a museum of memories ... a storehouse of recollections ... a vault of reminiscences ... drawn upon in flashback fashion on sleepless nights ... used as fodder for story-telling in teaching and preaching ... conjured up as sweet mementos as the years flit by one by one. I am so blessed to have had them!
But sad is the picture of boys who have no opportunity to experience Tom and Huck adventures. I see them kicking cans in the gutter and beating sticks against black asphalt pavement. I see them scowling in classrooms ... disinterested and bored. I see them hanging out on weekends without fathers or mothers at ball fields, in shopping center parking lots, on skateboards plying crowded neighborhood streets. I see them coming to church on Sunday mornings and on Wednesday nights ... sans parents ... alone and dejected. I see them waiting for school buses in the mornings and walking home alone in the evening ... appearing burdened with some unseen weight.
So many have been fathered ... sired by a man ... but left spiritually fatherless ... directionless in the most vital of human needs ... spiritually aborted ... floundering amid a sea of alternative lifestyles ... torn by nagging uncertainties ... left to fiend as best they can.
I am so very thankful to have had the best of both worlds ... boyish adventures AND fatherly advice. But how sad the plight of today's lads who may have neither! How much more the need for godly men to stand tall in faith with their own sons and daughters ... to pray for the fatherless ...and to, where possible, become the "spiritual" father of one of the many spiritually aborted children entering the doorways of our schools and churches. They are many and they are needy!
"Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me." [The words of Jesus ... Matthew 18:5]
You men of God ... pay attention to the boys around you ... and, if possible, reach out and touch their young hearts with the touch of the Master's hand.