A Conversation with Bob: Mormons

This is a bit different from my normal post. .. an exchange of emails with my friend \Bob Tuttle.   http://foundationforevangelism.org/2010/07/dr-robert-tuttle-jr-retires-after-25-years-as-professor/

    bob is my friend, my neighbor, my running buddy. he has spent the past couple of decades teaching world evangalical religions and world comparative religions.  he is professor emeritus at Asbury Methodist Semenary, Louisville, KY and Orlando, FL.

tuttle …                   ( 1:25 PM monday … 10 october ) 

                what is your take on the debate re: is mormonism christanity or a cult ? … my phone is not working … you can call me, but i can’t call you.  they are sending me a new one, but it may be next monday before it gets here.           TEH

2:54 PM  Monday   10 october …                          I’m just off another airplane.  Delta (probably stands for: Doesn’t Ever Leave The Airport).   My flight was late going to Pittsburgh and arriving from Pittsburgh so I missed my connection last night and had to spend another night in Atlanta.  I’m tired. … …  As for your Mormon question, if I am correct (and I believe I am with all my heart but there is still no guarantee.  Ultimately we will let God be the Judge) Mormonism is a cult as they deny that which I consider most critical to my understanding of the Christian faith.  Our Mormon friends have Jesus Christ as the brother of Adam and not the incarnate Son of God (which, of course, he claims to be and all those who knew him best claimed him to be).  The Book of Mormon is an interpretation of the Old Testament as our New Testament is an interpretation of the Old Testament (as is the Qur’an for that matter).  They simply disagree as to the person of Jesus.  By the way, Mormonism is closer to Islam than Christianity or Judaism (I gave you that for nothing because it is probably worth nothing). 
Dianne’s mom is now on hospice as she has a new case of pneumonia.  We will be driving down in the next day or two so I may not be there on Thursday.  Run on pal.  You are looking great.  I wish I could get back at it now that my gardens have been put to bed.    Bob

3:08 PM     Monday    10 october           thanks …   try to get a day’s rest before you head   off-down-east. … i wanted to be able to tell an online “friend”  ( christian conservative …  pro-life, young earth creationist, presbyterian ) that Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney are as “christian” as is she. … that Robert Jeffries, Dallas, is way out of bounds. .. but maybe not. )                                TEH

3:22 PM … Monday … 10 October        Christian is not simply what we believe.  It is who we are.  If you have accessed the power of the Holy Spirit by virtue of your faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God then that should manifest itself in love and forgiveness.  Romney may be more Christian in his actions than your on line friend.  In my opinion Jesus would be heart broken by what the right wing is doing.  They do NOT manifest the mind nor character nor spirit of Christ.  God help us all.                    BT

This post is in no way intended to offend or to force my point of view on anyone. It does, I think, point out the need for all of us to take an honest look at and to respect the beliefs of other honest and honorable Americans.

The Mormons that I know are good and honest and honorable people. … Who am I, for that matter, who is Dr. Robert Jeffries, First Baptist Church, Dallas to say that Mormons are not Christians, that their religion is a cult.  I offer to you that he, Dr. Jeffries, is far move devisive and inflamatory than either Jon Huntsman or Mitt Romney.


Tom Honea

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A Conversation With Danny

We were lucky enough to get a few minutes with Danny just after he got home from the vet the other afternoon.  ( See A Yellow Lab & 40 Hours … posted on 1 August.)

“How did this start?” the visitor asked. “How did you get in this mess?”

Well, before the big guy threw us out to go and pee in the yard I had lifted a couple of beers from the frig, stashed ’em out by the gate. Of course, it’s his fault. He taught me several years ago to open the frig and bring him a beer. Lately, though, he and The Lady have been putting a lock on the door. From time to time  the left-over lasagna or deviled eggs were just too tempting. I keep looking for a pork tenderloin, but there is never one there! Even when the lock is not on the door.

You heisted a couple of beers? 

I did. Do it all the time. The Big Guy never misses it. Just keeps it there for when the neighbors come by. Especially that old, grey fellow … they don’t talk about nothing but football, drink beer!

Anyway, when he sent us outside to do our business at  just dark I collected the beers and headed off into the edge of the woods. Settle down for a drink and keep an eye on the night critters: raccoons, those little spotted skunks, and the occasional bear. … The Big Guy and The Lady get all upset, hate it, when those two yearling bears from up the road get the bird feeders. B G and the  Lady just stomp around most of the day, make twelve phone calls telling all the neighbors how awful it is. Damn bears! I suggested that they bring the feeders in at night, but I don’t think they paid much attention.

So you’re just there in the dark? … Having a beer?

Just minding my own business. …  It gets kind of fuzzy here, but most likely what happened is I went to sleep after that second beer, didn’t wake up until sometime in the middle of the night. What woke me up was a bit of a ruckus down in the hododendron  thicket that seemed like needed investigating. Turned out to be an owl in pursuit of a black snake, crashing around down in the middle of the limbs and leaves. I left them to sort it out. Decided I didn’t have a dog in that fight.

You realize it was the dark of the moon. Darker than a well-digger’s —- . Well, you get the picture. But even at that, if it
hadn’t been for that second beer I would have never gotten turned around. But I did, took the wrong trail, got on the wrong side of the ravine. I sat down for a while to think about it: go around the long way, or cut across?

What the heck, I decided. Just walk that log down to the lower end. It’ll save a couple ‘a minutes. Everything was fine until that mama possum started fussing at her little ones. Right under my feet, it sounded like.  Scared the bejesus out of me. In the dark I  missed that next step, slipped half off the log.

You slipped off the log?

I did. But even then it would have been okay except that the limb I could reach with my back feet was rotten, broke. So, there I am draped across this half rotten log, four feet off the ground. Rear end hanging out in the breeze, so to speak. Every time I tried to pull myself back up, I just slipped farther.

Is that when you fell?

It was. Didn’t even hurt. Just suddenly I’m on the ground. Surrounded by all these broken, rotten limbs. Every direction I turned I kept jabbing myself against something. Finally decided I would just wait until daylight, figure out then how to get out of there.

But, boy, it was a long night. Longest night I ever spent … up to then! Bet I went to sleep twenty times, woke up with a start thinking it was dawn. But it wasn’t, still no daylight.

But it did come eventually. What did you do then?

Well, I discovered I was in a kind of a hole. And my rear end and legs were curled up sort of under and behind me, beginning to go numb. I could tell already I was gonna need some help getting out ‘a there. I barked like crazy.

Nobody heard you? … Bark?

No. I guess not. You know the house and all is on the other side of the ridge from there … and I was down in that ravine, and under all that brush and stuff.

After a while I heard the Big Guy come walking through. I knew he would be mad at me about the beer and staying out all night, so I studied on it instead of barking when he was close by. Then he was on down the trail and didn’t hear me.

That must have been discouraging.

Boy, I’m telling you! … And I was starting to get really thirsty. It wasn’t too hot. Being down on the ground, and under all that stuff. But it sure was thirsty.

Were you scared? … Ever scared? Snakes and things.

No. Not from that standpoint. Snakes don’t bother you much as long as you’re too big to eat. (chuckle) … I did hear some coyotes the second night, up on the mountain.  But they didn’t ever come  close.

Did you try again to get yourself out of the hole?

I did. Tried to use just my front legs, pull myself up. But there wasn’t any direction I could go that wasn’t blocked.

People came by once a while. That nice lady from next door, the one with the little black and red dog. I barked, but they didn’t hear me. Them being up on the trail and me in the bottom of that ravine. Nobody ever got off the trail, came down in the rough stuff, the ravine.

What was the worst of it? When you got really worried.

When it got dark again and there wasn’t anybody still coming by to check. That was the worst. And, by then I needed water bad.
Even another beer!

I don’t remember much of that night and the next day. I think a must have passed out from time to  time. Then I would come  to and know that it was getting hotter and how thirsty I was.

Did anybody coming looking that day?

Maybe. Truth is, I didn’t know what was a dream and what was real. The Big Guy might have been calling. But, hell, I don’t know. I might have been making it up. Things were getting pretty fuzzy about then. I thought somebody was there, or maybe another dog. Ester maybe. Then I would look and nothing. Just those damn  limbs and sticks. The sun getting higher in the sky.

When did they find you? … How?

There was a howl. I sort of remember that. A howl, and three or four yelps. It wasn’t me, I know that. I knew it was from right  where I was, but it wasn’t me howling. Do angels howl? I don’t know. I never heard one howl. I tried to look around, see who it might ‘a been. I didn’t see anybody. But … I might ‘a been dreaming, or even hallucinating.

Anyway, there was a howl. If I heard it, somebody else must have, figured out where to look.

What’s the first you remember? First time you knew somebody was there?

Somebody breaking away the limbs, the snapping sound. Then pulling on my collar. I think I just looked at them, couldn’t help.  I tried to help. Think my front legs just quivered. I couldn’t help.  … Then the water came. I’m still in the hole, and the water came.

I knew then it would be okay.

The Lady came in with a tray of peanuts, celery
and pimento cheese and such. Danny ambled off looking for a treat … or three.

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The Yellow Lab & Forty Hours

Dog stories are always good, especially when they have a happy ending.

On Friday morning there was a call from one of the Sugar Hollow neighbors, good friends, thirty year friends.

“Danny is missing, didn’t come home last night. Keep an eye out for ‘im.”

Danny is a twelve year old Yellow Lab. A lover, a great dog; a bit down in the hips. Not as quick and agile as he once was. Still, he has a reputation as an escape artist. Not that he wants to run away from home, you understand. He has a great home, and he knows it! He does, however, like to make the rounds in the neighborhood, there might be treats out there somewhere. When supper time approaches, Danny comes home.

His  domain comes complete with a fenced-in five plus acres that feature a network of trails. (Plus other assorted lawns and gardens.) Don and Martha both walked the trails,
several people walked the trails. Walked the road ( gravel ) in the immediate neighborhood.

Friday evening: no Danny.

This is serious. Had somebody picked him up? We don’t have much traffic on our part
of the road. But still, that nagging thought is there. Did coyotes get him? That has happened more than once in our little haven. Did he go into the underbrush and make himself a bed in which to die?  Animals do that, you know. We once had a Dachshund  who did that.

Saturday morning I ran a road race, the Bele Chere 5K; didn’t check in with Don and Martha until the middle of the day. Still no Danny. They were resigned to the worst, and still wanted to know what had happened and where he was.

“Can I come and do a walk-through?” I asked. “Put a fresh pair of eyes on the underbrush.”

The first part of the search was on the well kept paths: nothing. Now it was down to bush-whacking, getting off into the briar tangles and Rhododendron thickets, along the fence lines. Nothing.

Danny had been missing for some forty hours now. There was one last area to search. A deep ravine filled with downed trees and limbs left from the Christmas day ice storms two years ago.

Then: from half-a-football-field distance, up the ravine came a howl, a big dog howl, followed by three diminishing yelps. We called. No response. Whistled. Nothing.

We worked our way up the draw, circled the worst of the tangled mass of fallen debris. No barks, no howls, no yelps. But, was that heavy labored breathing, panting. Or was it wistful thinking?

We called Martha. “Maybe we’ve found him. Tell Don to come and help us call. Maybe he ‘ll answer Don’s call.”

We lost the phone signal before she could get Don on the line.

By the time we had worked our way partially down into the tangle, help began arriving. A couple of landscaper guys were next door working for Diana. She sent them over in response to Martha’s frantic call. Still, it was a full minute or so narrowing down the source of the now evident panting. In the midst of the effort to get Gene, the landscaper, to quit running about and shouting, what? … where?  we spotted the bright yellow of Danny’s shoulders and back in the deepest part of the pile of logs and limbs.

How he had ever gotten there is hard to imagine. But, I think, he tried to turn to get back out and his hip dysplasia reached out and grabbed him. He lost his footing on the big log and fell into the depths of the tangle. Probably his efforts to extricate himself just resulted into his slipping deeper and deeper into the mass of rotten limbs.

Diana brought water. The big yellow dog drank two 16 oz bottles straight-away, before we even tried to move him. The first efforts to get Danny up and out weren’t successful. He made feeble efforts to help with his front legs. They only trembled, quivered. Finally it was just pick him up and carry him out. Even then, it was one person on the rear-end, another
at the front, move the him two feet up the steep incline, get a new foot-hold and move him another two feet. Maybe twenty of those lifts getting him up to the trail.

Shawn (landscaper) was sent to fetch a canvas tarp from which we fashioned a stretcher. With one person on each corner, we carried him the two hundred yards back home. More water, Gatorade!!, and high protein food (a little at a time.) Within an hour the vet ( a friend ) was there with intravenous fluids.  Refusing to pee in the house, by
4:00 PM he was asking to get outside!

Did he hear us prior to that howl in the early afternoon? Did he know that one of the little Australian Terriers was close by, did he hear her? Was it luck, fate, did the Gods smile on him? Were his angels in the neighborhood just then? Whatever, that howl saved him. Don and Martha will not forever be left wondering.

And Danny? … The last I heard, his next get-away was thwarted just this morning even as he was being led to the car for a trip to the vet and a complete check-up!

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Writers on Writing

One of the neat things I have come across in this writing business is a series that the  NY Times did in their Monday Arts Section a decade or so ago: Writers on Writing.
There are essays from Andre’ Aciman and from Hilma Wolitzer. (A to Z: well, almost.) In between, fortunately, we find William Saroyan, Joyce Carol Oats, Elmore Leonard, Barbara Kingsolver, and Annie Proulx. And a full measure of other folks, writers all.

The topics cover everything from alter egos to zina. Elmore Leonard discusses the
use  of adverbs. Barbara Kingsolver confesses that sex scenes need to be more than just a space-break, fade to black. Andre’ Aciman ( Out of Egypt, Eight White Nights ) talks about a place, a setting, and it’s importance to the whole of a work of fiction. Hilma Wolitzer ( The Doctor’s Daughter, Hearts ) raises the question: Can creative writing be taught?

One of my favorites is the Thomas Fleming piece from January 2000, in which he discusses plot and character inspiration. From where does it comes? In one case,  Loyalties, his dream is peopled by a young German woman, who, in her own dream/nightmare she sees her husband’s U-Boat sinking into the Atlantic Ocean.  … Officer’s Wives came from a song that would not leave his head:

The officers’ wives
The officers’ wives
That’s what we’ll be
For the rest of our lives.

At the time he was doing a history of West Point. Ten years later those four lines developed into three women characters and a plot.

My own completed work, A Confluence of Rivers, came the lines: Wiley Jennings flagged down the milk truck at the end of the lane, caught a ride into town. Why those words came to me is lost in the fog of war, as they say. Anyway, at that point I had to know why Wiley needed to get to town, what happened after he got there.  … Hampton Roads ’44, my work in progress, grew out of a Christmas morning run in Newport News, VA. some number of years ago. The pre-WWII neighborhoods adjacent to the James River and the shipyards. There are a million stories in these old houses, I told myself. It turns out that
there are.

Annie Proulx and I share a passion for road trips on two lane roads (paved or gravel ) in the west. Listening to old country music: Don Walser and Ray Price. There is  research to be done in every crossroad diner and feed & seed store. Her essay from May 1999 points out the random and endless possibilities for inspiration.

I have said before, when I forget how to write I just pull out some Elmore Leonard from the ’70s and early ’80s: Glitz, Hombre, Swag, the western short stories. He, Leonard, is the best exception of the genre writer who is widely respected in literary circles. His ten rules  (July 2001) for writing should, in my opinion, be the first thing students of creative writing ever take a look at.

  1. Never open a book with weather.
  2. Avoid prologues.
  3. Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
  4. Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two    or three per 100,000 words of prose.
  5. Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
  6. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
  7. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
  8. Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
  9. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10. … If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Leonard said, somewhere else: Readers like a lot of white on the page. Meaning more dialogue,  less narrative, which he called  hooptedoodle. …  When you write, he said,
leave a lot of white on the page.
I tend to write that way.

Put this on your favorites icon button: http://www.nytimes.com/books/specials/writers.html?_r=1
… Or just Google Writers on Writing.

If you are a writer, you will go there from time and again.

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Reading … good Writing

As a follow up to the post on Annie Proulx and good writing.

We have already gotten some suggestions from our readers re: good writing. … Let me know whom you think is really good at the WRITING part of it. We’ll post the result next Monday.  ( 13 June )

                thanks              tom honea

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Writing and Reading: they are not the same

Read enough stuff, once in a while you get lucky.

A week or so ago I came across an admonition by a successful editor to go light on the    in’ s    when writing dialogue.. Example: We’ll be gittin’ up before the sun. As opposed to, We’ll be gitting up before the sun. Once you start, the editor suggested, there is no stopping place. She, the editor, cited Annie Proulx short story collection, Close Range: Wyoming Stories.

I had not thought about Ms. Proulx having written short stories. We have all read, or we certainly should have read, Shipping News, and maybe Accordion Crimes. The former was, of course, the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, published in 1993. Most of us do not think of Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain, first seen in the New Yorker, October 1997, as coming from the same pen, or word processor, as the case may be. But they do. Perhaps you do know That Old Ace in the Hole  or Post Cards.

The Fairview library was the first call. “Do you have a copy of Close Range, Annie Proulx?” I asked. A minute later the word came back, “We don’t have it in house, but it is in the system. … We will order it up for you.”  Three days later the email came: your book is in. What a find!

People who pay attention to that sort of thing tell us that the average 16-year old uses 10,000-12,000 words, and 20,000-25,000 for a college graduate. Estimates of Shakespeare’s vocabulary vary from about 18,000 to 25,000 words. The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words.

It isn’t that Ms. Proulx uses words the rest of us don’t use. I didn’t have to get the dictionary out a single time. (When I read Faulkner, I keep a dictionary handy at all times!) It is just the order in which she strings her words together!

Example: From the rodeo cowboy story The Mud Below: she writes With five whiskeys and four beers sloshing, Diamond took a turn, addressing them all, even the two dusty, sweat-funneled ranch hands who’d come in off the baler to press their faces against the cold pitcher of beer Ranny stood between them.  You get the picture: a bunch of tired and dirty cowboys in a crossroads beer hall. Telling lies.

          … or …

Brokeback Mountain: They had a high-time supper by the fire, a can of beans each, fried potatoes and a quart of whiskey on shares, sat with their backs against a log, boot soles and copper jeans rivets hot, swapping the bottle while the lavender sky emptied of color and the chill air drained down, drinking, smoking cigarettes, getting up every now and then to piss, firelight throwing a sparkle in the arched stream, tossing sticks on the fire to keep the talk going, taking horses and rodeo, rough stock events, wrecks and injuries sustained, the submarine  Thresher  lost two months earlier with all hands and how it must have been in the last doomed minutes, dogs each had owned and known, the draft, Jack’s home ranch where his father and mother held on, Ennis’s family place folded years ago after his folks died, the older brother in Signal and a married sister in Casper.

I have come to think, especially in the dozen or so years I have been actively writing, that good books, good stories, on the one hand, and good writing on the other hand, are not necessarily the same thing. They might be, they quiet often are. The stories in Close Range are both. … good stories and good writing.  This is the best writing I have read in a long time … maybe since The Old Man And The Sea.

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The Tuskegee Airmen: and a Little Luck

I was already in the parking lot, in the car when I realized: There are four older, black gentlemen in the lobby … black trousers and red dinner jackets. That is not a coincidence. I got out, went back inside. 

For several years now Ginny has been going to a really good horticulture seminar at the Lewis Ginter Botanicala Garden in Richmond.  They, the gardens, really are worth seeing if you are in Richmond.

The last time we went I made a side trip down to the Newport News/Hampton Roads area to check out resource locations for the novel I am currently working on: Hampton Roads ’44. I found several great repositories of information on the Hampton Roads Port of Embarkation during the WW II years: the local newspaper, of course; the Mariners Museum … and the Virginia War Museum, located hard against the Newport News terminus of the James River Bridge ( US 17/258 ).

Material at the VWM relevant to my work is, for the most part, in secure rooms: one has to be escorted into and out of them by museum personnel. Staff was most helpful once I explained what I was looking for. There wasn’t time that day to really dig into the stacks, but I was able to find out what they had, make a list so that I could give them a heads-up before I showed up for the next visit.

There was a crowd there. Way more folks than one would expect on a Friday afternoon. A lot of older men, many of them with grandchildren in tow. They all seemed headed into the auditorium. I headed toward the parking lot, the car. There was one more venue I wanted to check out before my afternoon was over.

I went back inside the main building. … four older, black gentlemen. They were nodding to the incoming visitors, greeting, shaking hands. Several people asked for autographs. Then it hit me. The announcement at the auditorium entrance said:   Movie … 2: 00 PM  The Tuskegee Airmen. These men were the real deal … real Tuskegee airmen.P-51 Mustang

I introduced myself, told the one gentlemen what I was about. Oh, he said, you need to talk to Sergeant Williams. He knows everything. We talked a few minutes, Sergeant Williams and I. I got his card, his email.

Then I asked, “You embarked from here?”
“Right up the river,” he pointed.  

“When did you sail?”

“26 December,” he said. “Day after Christmas.”

“What year,” I asked.


Of course. If I had thought for more than a second I would have known that. They did their thing in Italy in 1944.

“It was cold,” he said. “Cold as a son-of-a-bitch. … We were already on board; they pulled us off. Were loading bombs in the hole of the ship, they were. Made us sleep, spend the night, in a warehouse. Wind was blowing in off that water,” he pointed out toward the James River just across the parking lot. “Wasn’t no heat. Jus’ that cold concrete floor. … Didn’t nobody sleep much that night.”

I couldn’t have made that story up in a lifetime! … Sergeant Williams has filled in a lot of blanks for me since then. He is ninety-one now. I hope to visit with him again when I get back to Hampton Roads. Hope to take him for a ride in that part of Newport News, down where the docks and the shipyards face the river. Hope to get more of his stories.

There is, in my working manuscript, a fictionalized version of their story and that night. The Tuskegee Airmen are not main characters in my story … just passing through on their way to war: which is what happened in the Hampton Roads POE between 1942 and 1945. 

Writers have to be good. Sometimes it helps to be in the right place at the right time. Helps to be lucky now and again.

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