My Spoiler-Filled Review of Spider-Man: Homecoming

I’ve had the privilege of getting to watch more movies than usual this summer.  I haven’t reviewed all of them, as I’m not a professional—or even amateur—movie reviewer.  Wonder Woman was my favorite of those that I’d watched.  Last night, I watched Spider-Man: Homecoming.  Spidey has been my favorite super hero since I was in the third grade.  So, you might ask if this movie dethroned Diana’s film.

*****SPOILERS!!!*****

I’m going to break this down into things that I liked and didn’t like.  Kind of like a “pros” and “cons” list, understanding that what I don’t like, some others may not mind.

THINGS THAT I LIKED:

The prior two Spider-man actors each nailed one aspect of the character.  Tobey Maguire was a perfect Peter Parker.  He nailed the nerdy Parker perfectly.  When he put the mask on, however, he just couldn’t manage to be Spider-man.  Garfield was the other way around.  He nailed the humor that defines Spidey perfectly.  But his Peter was too “cool”.  Tom Holland manages both parts very well.  The geekiness, from Peter’s incredible intelligence to the geekiness of helping to put together a Lego Death star, is shown awesomely.  Spidey’s humor is there, nailed in particular when he interrupts the ATM heist.

Seeing Spider-man involved in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe was a treat, and Iron Man’s inclusion played an important part.  As much as I hated how much Peter idolized Tony Stark in Civil War, this movie went a long way toward correcting that.

Peter’s relationship with his Aunt May was heartwarming.  While it didn’t mention Uncle Ben, it paid lip-service to the death when he tells his friend that, with everything else that his Aunt has gone through lately, he can’t put her through the pain of revealing his identity as Spider-man to her.

We also see, in more than one case, how being Spider-Man screws up his social life, affecting school and his time with the pretty girl.

THINGS THAT I DIDN’T LIKE

To start, everyone was spouting off about how this movie did such a great job of including minorities.  I’m not racist.  I think that having minority super heroes is a great thing.  Falcon rocks.  Black Panther is awesome.  If you made either of them white, there would be heck to pay.  Granted, they didn’t make Peter a different race but they made Liz, MJ (see below), and even Flash Thompson a minority.  If you want to include more minorities in the movie, create new characters for them, like Peter’s friend, Ned.

Flash Thompson is supposed to be the jock who torments Peter for being a nerd.  Here, he’s presented as Peter’s intellectual rival and it just doesn’t work.  Further, making him a minority actually kind of defeats what the filmmakers were trying to do.  “Hey, let’s make the mean bully a different race!”

They made Liz Allan the daughter of the Vulture because . . . plot, I guess?  Ugh.

Zendaya plays Michelle, who really has not reason to be there, other than being a total downer in the movie and to make an obscene gesture at Peter for no apparent reason.  On top of that, she tells us at the end of the movie that her friends call her “MJ,” leading us to the conclusion that, while her first name is not Mary, she is going to fill the role of Mary Jane in the MCU.  Another UGH.  MJ is lively, playful and passionate.  Michelle is none of these things.  If she were removed from the movie, you wouldn’t even miss her.

The movie had way more adult language than any of the prior Spidey films; compounded by the fact that some of it comes from the Web-head, himself.  There is a joke about Ned telling a librarian that he’s looking at internet porn.  Tony makes a flirty comment about Aunt May, inappropriate because it’s right in front of Peter.

The new suit was . . . well, a plot device.  It looks close enough to the original to appeal to those of us who are old fans.  But making it almost a clone of the Iron Man suit (minus the invulnerability) felt really out of place.  The talking computer, to whom he gave the name of Karen, had a pleasant enough voice.  But Peter being a financially-struggling super hero is one of the staples of the character and all of the tech in the suit kind of worked against this.  How many web shooter combinations did she say that he had?  Hmmm . . ..

To answer my question about whether this movie dethroned Wonder Woman, I enjoyed watching this movie.  I really did.  I would probably put it somewhere below the first two Raimi movies and just above the two Webb movies (and WAAAY above the third Raimi movie).  But I question many of the decisions that they made.  So WW remains my favorite of the summer.

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Legacy Blog #32: The Mobile Home

My Beloved Daughter,

My junior year of high school was more of an extension of the previous year than a year of its own.  The only thing that was really special about that year was that I took Speech II/Debate, in which more of my views began to move from the left side of the political spectrum to the right.  As mentioned in my last post, we had to learn to deal with Bridgette’s departure.

Mostly, it was just another year of waiting to see if my father would be legally declared disabled.  Senior year found us seeing him finally approved.  We didn’t see any payment, however, until the summer after I graduated.

We did see a payout, finally, from the long-awaited settlement regarding my father’s claim against the towing company that had fired him four years earlier—a paltry twenty thousand dollars, which seemed to me an insult, considering the condition of his lungs by this time.  However, my parents accepted the settlement so that they could purchase a mobile home to place on our land and get us out of the house that we had been living in that was, quite honestly, falling down around our heads.

Although the trailer wasn’t new, by any means, it was a million times better than what we had lived in before.  It was a single-wide with an extension that could be pushed out from the living room and kitchen to give it a small dining area and to make the living room a bit larger.  My parents put the family television there.

The master bedroom, obviously taken by my parents, had a bathroom connected to it.  The bedroom was a small, being large enough to hold your grandparents’ full-size bed, your Grandma Pat’s dresser, your Grandpa Chuck’s chest of drawers, and little else.  The bathroom was also pretty small, although it did have a bathtub and shower.

The kitchen was the nicest part of the trailer.  With the extended dining area, the kitchen was spacious with the stove and refrigerator on different walls and the sink in a counter that separated the kitchen from the living room.

The spare bedroom was tiny.  It was just large enough for a full-sized bed and nothing else.  A sliding closed door at least gave it the ability to store some things.

My bedroom, on the opposite end of the trailer, was about as large as your grandparents’ room.  I only had a twin bed, so I had plenty of room for other things.  I put my old TV in here, connected to my Super NES.  I covered the walls in Spiderman posters and Black Cat posters, as well as cut-outs of provocatively-dressed super heroines that I had cut out from various comic book magazines.

I know . . . PREREDEEMED MIND.

I gave up the trunk that had been used as a table in the old house, as it fell apart when we were trying to move it.  So, for gaming nights (which were, quite honestly, almost EVERY night), we all just sat around the room, creating epic tales that would entail entire generations of characters.

These games inspired me to take my writing to the next level.  More on that in the next post.

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Legacy Blog #31: Sophomore Year

My Beloved Daughter,

I had a good summer after my freshman year of high school.  I hung around with my cousin’s brothers-in-law and sister-in-law, along with our friend, Bridget.  We’d converge on the Clardy homestead and spend the entire day playing D&D.  This worked out well, as your Grandma Pat started working at the beginning of that summer at an onion ring factory in Piedmont.  She car-pooled with the Clardys’ mother, Laurette.  I’d just get up early, ride with her and stay at their house while the two of them were at work.

Bridget was a fun person to be around.  She was a tiny, cute girl with freckles and pretty much every guy in the group had a crush on her, something of which she seemed totally oblivious.  But, as she was three years younger than me, I just tried to look at her like a little sister.  She wasn’t afraid to ham it up with the guys, either.  She could come up with some of the most grotesque jokes and we would be rolling.  She had a rough home life, so getting her away from her house was our little way of helping her.

I started my sophomore year of high school in the fall of 1990.  I had resolved to go into this year with a better attitude than I had shown the previous year.  No matter how much I was bullied, I did not let myself miss school.  In fact, I only missed a week that year and that was because I got the flu.  My grades improved.

Also, my first full summer without cable television had a better effect on me.  I lost quite a bit of weight.  I remember having to go clothes shopping just before going back to school.  I actually got compliments on my weight loss.  I felt better than I had in a long time.

Sophomore year was the year that I first had a class with the English teacher who would teach that particular subject for the rest of my time in high school.  I won’t mention her name here, as she has threatened, through second-hand sources, to sue me if I ever mention her in anything that I write.  I even had to remove her name from the acknowledgements of my first book before the publisher sent it to press.

You see, all throughout high school, she taught us certain rules of grammar.  And, being the Word Nazi that I’ve always been, I latched on to every lesson.  While Mr. Hager and Mr. Freeman were my favorite teachers, this woman was something more.  I idolized her to an almost unhealthy extent.  Her views were more in line with those that I thought that I, at the time a bleeding-heart liberal, felt that I should have.  So anything that she taught me in high school, I ingested like a starving man.  What brought everything crashing down didn’t happen until I was in college, so I’ll not go into it here.  We’ll save that for a later entry.

The best part of my tenth grade year was meeting new friends.  Through Bridget, I met Eric Hall, J.D. Hall, Josh King, and Jesse King.  Also, I started hanging out with Travis Hanger, whose parents were friends with my parents.  I didn’t get to hang out with him in school, however, as he was in Elementary School.  So, along with your Uncle Evan, our little group just kind of worked.  We all had the same interests and it was us against the world.

Eric was probably the most intelligent boy I had ever met.  A “straight-A” student, he graduated at the top of his class in 1995.  You now know him as the man who owns Annie Moon Trading Company, the comic book store.

Josh was the silliest kid I had ever met.  He would come up with some of the most off-the-wall things and make jokes of them.  He used to brag that he was the reincarnation of Robin Hood.  Well, technically, he never said that he was the reincarnation of Robin Hood.  He just said that he was Robin Hood.

Jesse, Josh’s little brother, was an adorable kid who I think looked up to Josh more than either of them cared to admit.  J.D., Eric’s little brother, was the most gifted master of the insult that I’ve ever known.  Nobody could insult him without getting a sharp comeback.  Together, the two little brothers referred to themselves as “Jade and Jessifer” . . . and I have no idea what they meant by that or why they did it.

Josh now travels around, working at Renaissance Faires and pretty much living his fantasy.  I caught up with him on Facebook long enough to find out that his technical home is in Colorado, even though he doesn’t stay still for long.  He also told me that Jesse lives in the Kansas City area and doesn’t have a Facebook page, as of this writing.  Then, he inexplicably dropped me as a Facebook friend and broke off all contact with me.  I never figured out why.

And you’ve met J.D., as well.  He now goes by Jack and teaches elementary school.  We’ve played Pathfinder with him.  He’s certainly mellowed out since his younger years.  You’ll hear much more about Eric and J.D. as this blog continues because they were the friends that I was around the most during the summer.  Your Uncle Evan, living on the far side of town, didn’t start coming out to visit during the summer until after he had gotten his driver’s license the summer after we had graduated.

My best memories of this time were the nights when my Uncle Junior would host the Penny Ante Poker game at his house.  Travis Hanger’s dad and Eric and J.D.’s stepdad would go.  Since Uncle Junior lived right up the road from us, Eric and J.D. would ride with their stepdad and Travis would ride with his father.  Sometimes, Josh and Jesse would ride along with Eric and J.D. and William Clardy would come, too.  They would all come down to my house and we’d spend the hours fighting monsters in dungeons around my makeshift gaming table, which was a large trunk that took up the majority of the center of my room.  I treasure these memories and miss them a great deal.

The summer after my tenth grade year, Bridget’s mother took her children and moved away from Van Buren.  For years, we wondered where they had gone but, knowing the kind of home life that she had with her stepfather, we hoped that she was having a better life, wherever she may be.  Now, also due to the wonder called Facebook, I’ve found her again, too.  She lives near St. Charles, of all places, and I hope to introduce you to her soon.

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Preview #1 of FULL CIRCLE: Book Six of the Adventure Chronicles

Here’s the first preview of the sixth book of the Adventure Chronicles.  I’m hoping to release it by the end of August, to coincide with my appearance at the Burg Comic Convention in Harrisburg, IL.-Jeff

Prologue

August 9, 1993

Monday, 9:32 PM

 

Below a small, long-closed convenience store on the outskirts of Jameston, Missouri, the basement had been converted into a casino.  Craps tables, roulette, cards . . . any game of chance could be found here.  Wealthy individuals from all over the state—as well as the surrounding states—would come here and gamble away small fortunes.  To these people, a hundred thousand dollars was petty . . . mere pocket change.  But in large numbers, these people were quickly making this casino the biggest income generator for the gang that ruled the small town.

As the people who came here were so diverse, it was with wonder that two Japanese individuals . . . one man and one woman . . . garnered so much attention when they walked in the door on this warm summer evening.  The man looked around the room, his eyes settling upon the door at the opposite side of the casino.  He walked purposely toward it, the woman following a respectable distance behind.

As they reached the door, the woman blurted out in their native language, “Are you sure that you don’t wish for me to accompany you?”

He shook his head with a smile.  “Wait here.”

“I don’t trust this Benjamin Shalley,” she returned.

“Nor do I,” was the man’s response.  “Your hearing is excellent.  If I need you, then I trust that you will come at the correct time.”

She bowed to him and he returned the act of respect.  Then the man turned and opened the door, stepping inside.

As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he realized that he was in a room with four American adolescents.  He closed the door, as the one who his aide had mentioned outside said, in perfect Japanese, “Greetings Hiroshi-san.  Please, take a seat.”

Hiroshi walked to the center of the room and sat at the circular table that occupied it.  He looked casually at the four gang members who now towered over him.  “To what do I owe the pleasure of your invitation, Shalley?”  His words were in English.

Ben also converted his speech to his native tongue.  “Since your family’s arrival in Southern Missouri a couple of months back, our partnership has been one of mutual benefit.  At first, I was concerned that you would decrease our profits, but we’ve actually been doubling them based on our records from this time last year.  I really wanted to trust that you respected us as much as we respected you.”

Hiroshi cocked an eyebrow.  “Then I do not see a problem.”

Ben turned and grabbed a vinyl bag from a smaller table and tossed it to the Japanese man.  “What do you make of this?”

Hiroshi examined the bag.  It had a strong zipper on top for closing it.  The zipper had been broken off at this point, however.  On the side of the bag were written the words PROPERTY OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE.  Hiroshi shrugged and dropped the bag on the table.  “It would appear to be a bag for carrying money.  What is your point, Shalley?”

“This armored car was robbed on the outskirts of the Bluff yesterday morning,” was Ben’s response.  “The drivers said that they were attacked by Asian men.”  Ben glared at Hiroshi and folded his arms across his chest.  “Our agreement was that the Renegades would get a cut of any of your activity in Missouri or Northern Arkansas.  Where’s our twenty percent of this heist?”

Hiroshi looked down at the bag, at a loss for words.  Had some of his people robbed this truck without his knowledge?  “I have no indication that my family had anything to do with this.”

The largest teen—a Hispanic youth by the name of Mike Noddingham—swore.  “We’re not playin’ games with you anymore!”

Hiroshi sighed in mild annoyance.  “I am not playing games.”

Mike reached into his pocket and pulled out a gun, aiming at Hiroshi’s head.

Just then a four-pointed shuriken embedded itself into his right hand.

The large adolescent yelped and dropped the gun just as a Japanese woman charged into the room.  Before Hiroshi even had a chance to register what was happening, Maori had kicked one of the boys who was still seated, sending his chair falling backward.  She had used another well-placed kick to break the leg out of the chair of the other boy who was still sitting, dumping him to the floor.  And she now had Mike on his knees, twisting the small finger of his left hand.

“They say that this is the weakest part of the human anatomy,” she told the Renegades’ enforcer as she moved his finger, forcing his entire upper torso to follow.  “I believe you Americans call it a pinkie?”  Her voice held not the slightest accent.

Mike glared at her through pain-filled eyes.  “I’m gonna kill you!”

She smiled at him.  Her smile was actually quite striking.  “I don’t think so.”  She then gave a sharp twist of her wrist, snapping his finger.  The big teen cried out in pain as she let him go, dropping him to the floor where he grasped his left hand with his right, which still had her throwing star embedded in it.

Hiroshi smiled and climbed to his feet.  “Impeccable timing, Ms. Kabayashi.”  He turned to look at Ben.  “If any of my men were responsible for the robbery, then I will learn of it and they will be punished.  I am a man of honor, Mr. Shalley.  That is something that I had thought of you.  But a katana does not make someone a samurai.”  He walked over to stand at the door, waiting for Maori to follow.  “Our arrangement is now changing.  Do not expect any tribute from us any longer.”  Then the two turned to leave, leaving Ben to glare after them as Mike’s cries of pain filled the room.

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Wassup???

Sorry for the time between updates.  I’ve been busier than normal, as of late.  On May 20, I tabled at the Salem Comic and Toy Expo.  It was a great time.  Darrell Shaw did a fantastic job putting this together and I am intending to go to the one next year.  I saw some friends I hadn’t seen in a couple of years.  I met some new friends.  And I sold quite a few books.  Surprisingly, I sold more copies of Lily’s Redemption than individual copies of the ADVENTURE CHRONICLES.  I commissioned Nathan Bonner to draw a picture of Dave Isaac.  As he has always been a fan favorite, I’m shocked at myself for never having a pic drawn of him.  Between the various book covers, I’ve had Jamie, Yoshi, Deck, Star, Shawna, Elvara, and Buster drawn.  Now I have a commission of Dave that I just need to scan.

Speaking of book covers, Nathan is working on a new cover for Book One for me.  I’ve always been less than pleased with the cover of Invasion of the Ninja.  While the pic, portraying Yoshi kneeling with her face buried in her hands, is an awesome piece of work by Jason Richardson, it really didn’t fit the feel or theme of the book.  So the new cover will be more in line with what is in the book.

Aside from working on Book Seven (I’m waiting for the final edit of Book Six to come back), I’m doing some editing for a friend.  I never trust myself to edit my own stuff and, in all honesty, no author should.  But I’m finding an enjoyment in editing my friend’s work.  He’s a great writer and it sure helps that the story is good.

This leads me to my next decision:  I’m going to start doing some freelance stuff for other writers.  Nothing fancy, or anything.  Just editing and book layout.  I’m not sure what I’ll charge for these services.  I’ll need to do some more research on it.

I’ll be back to writing the Legacy Blog entries soon.  With everything that’s gone on in my home town of Van Buren, MO, it seemed cheap for me to talk about the “good ole’ days” while knowing that the town was flooded and so many people lost so much.

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#lwff A review of the Love Worth Fighting For Marriage Event

<Author’s Note-I must be cruisin’ for a bruisin’ in writing this.  To be frank, I truly expect to see many people drop off my Facebook friends’ list over this.  But I have to get this off my chest.>

Most high profile preachers, like those that you see on television, don’t have my respect.  Anyone who knows me understands that.  The likes of Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Benny Hinn tend to make me roll my eyes at the mention of their names, if I’m in a charitable mood.  At worst, their “ministries” tend to make me see them  as a blight to the Name of Christ, who wants you to have your BEST LIFE . . . in Heaven, not now (sorry Joel).  But out of these high profile names, there are a few who tend to have my respect.  John MacArthur, John Piper, Ray Comfort . . . even Mark Driscoll (despite his failings in Mars Hill).  Another who has always had my respect is Ray Comfort’s friend Kirk Cameron.  The former start of “Growing Pains” is all grown up and is a minister of the Gospel.  And I’ve always respected his theology.  This is why I was so stoked to go to the Love Worth Fighting For marriage event.  I’m going to put my thoughts on the event, which took place in Florissant, MO last night (May 6, 20017).

First of all, the hosting church was First Christian Church of Florissant.  Two years ago, my family left that church on bitter terms, at best.  It was revealed by the wife of a former member of the pastoral staff, that a former youth worker from this church had been arrested for child molestation out of state.  What’s worse, while this youth worker had been at FCCF, it had been reported to the Senior Pastor that there was a concern that he had been doing it to the youth at our church.  Very few things can break pastor confidentiality laws.  One of them is possible endangering of children.  Even if you don’t believe it’s true, you have to report it to the authorities to investigate.  Pastor Wingfield didn’t.  It was ignored and the people who had reported it were strong-armed into leaving the church.  Now that it was on public record that this man really was a child molester, this woman called for the pastor to step down, as he had, truthfully, made himself unfit for ministry in the dereliction of his duties.

He refused.  Instead, the people who were still going to this church and calling for his resignation found themselves forced out of the church, sometimes by police escort.  Some of the respectable ministers on staff were removed and told to never return.  The church, in a vain attempt to save face, “punished” the senior pastor by making him take a six-month sabbatical—basically, he got a six-month, paid vacation.  And, to make matters worse, the church filed a lawsuit against some of the accusers, even going so far as to post, on the church’s website, a “bible study” about why a lawsuit—against other Christians—was acceptable.  The suit was later dropped but not before the liberal Riverfront Times, given cannon-fodder to attach Christians, had a chance to run with the story.

We weren’t forced out.  Having teenagers—one of whom had been in the class of this molester—we left willingly.  The church has dwindled to—fr0m what I understand—a shadow of its former self.  I’m pretty confident that, after what I’ve just written, I won’t be welcome back there.  But it had to be said.  An event like this has difficulty divorcing itself (pun intended . . . it was a marriage seminar) from its hosting church.

The event was ministered by Kirk Cameron and Warren Barfield.  The latter is a musician who wrote the song that would become theme for Cameron’s movie, FIREPROOF.  Barfield’s words were thought-provoking.  His mixture of passion and humor made both times that he was on stage exhilarating.  I specifically appreciated his marriage testimony, which basically told about how he and his wife almost divorced over a pretzel.  I won’t go into detail here, just look it up on YouTube.  I’m sure it’s there.

Kirk was good.  He started the seminar off with a little self-deprecating humor about his time as an eighties heartthrob and how he knew that many of the women in the audience probably had “Seaver Fever.”  My wife did not, BTW.  He also pointed out that he figured that most of the men in the audience were just there to placate their wives (he worded it better).  For the record, I was the one who pointed this event out to Vickie, not the other way around.

I enjoyed the event.  I got a great deal out of it.  But I just can’t let some things go.  First of all, Kirk Cameron is supposed to be an approachable brother in the Lord.  However, if you wanted a chance to meet him and actually talk with him, you had to pay double the price of the ticket.  Of course, I wasn’t too upset to not buy the VIP tickets, as I wasn’t a teenage girl in the 80s and I probably would have just spent any time questioning him about Ray Comfort, anyway.

Second, the seminar was totally geared toward the men.  Being a guy, I can see the importance.  However, with him pointing out the things that the men need to change, and reminding us that the marriage is the man’s responsibility, all fault fell on the men.  And I get this.  Often, a man can be a bear to get along with.  But, just as often, a wife can be as well.  And there was no counterpoint to the discussion.  He quoted 1 peter 3:7 and preached a basic sermon on the verse, showing how a man is supposed to treat his wife.  He began the discussion by pointing out that verses one through six discussed how a woman is supposed to treat her husband.  And then he ignored them and went along with how the men need to change.  I can picture a number of women—who have good, faithful husbands—going home with puffed-out chests and saying, “See, it is all your fault.”  Perhaps including discussion . . . any at all . . . about how the wife’s supposed to treat her husband, would have helped.  Or, even better, market the seminar as a husband’s enrichment seminar.  I’ve had a failed marriage in the past.  And, after a decade of going over all angles of what happened, I am more than willing to take fifty percent of the blame.  But 100 percent is not accurate in any case.

Third, the majority of the seminar was more of a commentary on the movie FIREPROOF.  We saw clips and Kirk discussed how terrible a husband Caleb was before he found the Lord.  And, yes, in the context of that movie, the majority of the marital problems were his fault.  However, they gloss over the fact that she was flirting with another man while she was still married (a man who was legitimately vilified for hiding the fact that he was married, too).  Mostly, this was a repeat of every bible study on Fireproof and the Love Dare that we had ever been to.

Finally, I have to go back  to the first part of this review.  As they discussed our need for Jesus, they encouraged us to come back to the host church.  Kirk (and please understand that, despite my review of this event, I still hold Mr. Cameron in the highest regard) specifically pointed out Pastor Steve Wingfield and said that he would be happy to pray with us.

Considering what I know about the history of that church and the fact that the pastor’s arrogance splintered it, I couldn’t even take such a suggestion seriously.  The most honorable thing that he could have done was to step down and let the church heal.  Instead, he stayed and pushed out those who disagreed with him.  Even Mark Driscoll had the decency to make the right decision in the end, and still has my respect for having done so.

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Legacy Blog #30: The Current River

My Beloved Daughter,

I’m going to step out of chronological order again this week to deal with something that is—at the time of this writing—a timely issue.

The lifeblood of my hometown of Van Buren, MO, was the Current River.  During the winter, our town was small.  When I was in high school, we had only one open spot for teens to hang out, that being The Oasis.  It was a small, fast food establishment that also had an equally small arcade.  As a child, I would go there and play the likes of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Popeye.  By the time that I was in high school, they had more up-to-date games, like Street Fighter 2.  But it could only hold so many people, which is probably why most teens headed to Poplar Bluff (we called it “the Bluff”) on weekends.

But when the summer came?  Suddenly, Van Buren was the place to be!  With the coming of Memorial Day, Van Buren swelled with an influx of tourists.  On that special holiday, the famous Jolly Cone, a fast food stand where you walked up to the window to place your order, opened for the summer.  The Water Slide, on the outskirts of town opposite where your grandparents and I lived, opened.  But, most importantly, the Current River opened.

The river, winding its way through our little town and our neighbor of Doniphan, MO, was filled each summer with swimmers and fishermen.  Motorboats would speed down the river to find the perfect spot to catch some fish.  During the summer, the local motels would often have a policy requiring you to book two days per weekend, as they were often booked solid throughout the summer.

Floating was a fun pastime that even I—who never learned to swim—would take part in at least once a year.  I can remember my friend, William, parking his truck at Big Springs and us all crowding in my car to drive to Water Crest.  I’d don a lifejacket, fasten my glasses to my face with a rubber band, and jump into my tube (usually rented from one of the businesses in town that specialized in them).  Out of all of us, my friend, J.D., usually didn’t even use a tube.  Like your stepmother and stepsister, he could swim like a fish, so he swam the river next to us, holding onto one of our tubes whenever he would need a short rest.

We would float from Water Crest to Big Springs, which usually took about two hours.  Then we would jump into William’s truck (I’d usually ride in the back) and drive back to my car.  I don’t normally like water sports but even I enjoyed these days.

Big Springs, by the way, is a contender for the largest spring in America.  Depending on rainfall, springs give off different amounts of water on any given day, so it may share that title with the Snake River Spring Complex in Idaho and the Silver Spring in Florida.  But, with an average output of 286 million gallons of water a day, Big Spring is an awe-inspiring work of God, to be sure.

The majority of the businesses in the little town of Van Buren seemed to make the majority of their income from the tourists who came into our town in the summer.  But, living on a river could definitely have its disadvantages.  Too much rain could make the river swell.  I remember a time, when I was in high school, when the river came in so far that it flooded even the town library.  Every bottom-shelf book was lost.  Homes and businesses near the river tend to carry flood insurance, which has more than paid for itself, time and again.

As I write this post, however, the river has risen to the highest that it has ever risen.  The entire town of Van Buren, proper, is flooded.  Even my high school, several blocks from the river, hasn’t escaped the damage.  The problem with this is that most of the homes and businesses that weren’t really close to the river don’t carry that all-important flood insurance.  Many of them have lost everything.  Cell coverage for AT&T seems to have been affected severely there, although other carriers seem to be okay.  Each time I log into Facebook and read about the devastation of my hometown, my heart breaks.  Many of them have set up Go Fund Me pages to try to get help.

I haven’t lived in Van Buren in twenty-five years but it’ll always be home to me.  And I know the people there, people who have a strong will and work ethic.  If the town were filled with other people, they might let this destroy them.  But I’m confident that they will bounce back from this.  They will rebuild and Van Buren, MO, will be even better than it was.

My prayers are with them.

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