Hebrews 1:13; 13:2 (Modern King James Version)
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
We shall use the same featured Scripture for this Gem as for the last, Hebrews 1:13; 13:2 (Modern King James Version):
Are...not [angels] all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? ...Do not be forgetful of hospitality, for by this some have enter- tained angels without knowing it.
The thing is, I don’t know whether I interacted with an angel on my cross-country trip, or not! “What cross-country trip?” you may ask. I’m glad you did!
I finished my four-year stint at Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village, Connecticut in June of 1964. Yes, I graduated, but I didn’t receive my diploma that June. I failed Trigonometry because I didn’t put any effort into it. I later studied on my own, passed Trig, and received my high school diploma around the first of September!
However, I got into a little police problem earlier that year. It was a heavy snow in late winter and I dropped off a friend who needed a ride to a house about a mile from ours. In turning my 1956 Plymouth around, I backed into a 1957 Ford, loosening the headlight rim. I reasoned, “I’m not going to stomp through eight inches of snow fifty yards to the house without my boots! I know who owns the Ford, a fellow high schooler, and I will call him in the morning to settle up.” At two o’clock the later that night, I was aroused from sleep by a Connecticut State Policeman knocking on our door. I was arrested for hit-and-run, escorted to the Canaan police barracks, and thrown in their basement clink! My mother bailed me out the next morning.
We hired a lawyer who said we could beat the charge, since I had planned to call the next morning about the accident. But by police procedure, I had my driver’s license pulled……….and I kept on driving my Plymouth! …until that day a couple of weeks later when I was arrested again, this time for driving without a license! I was fined by the judge and lost my driving privileges indefinitely!
I was a country boy who lived on Sharon Mountain (I like to tell people we were high-class on the mountain, we had a two-seater outhouse! A neighbor only had a one-seater!). I found myself stranded and at the mercy of my mother to drive me somewhere I needed to go, or one of my “friends” picking me up for a night out. (I put “friends” in quotes because they seemed to disappear, forgetting me after my license had been suspended). So I enlisted in the Air Force in November – the enlistment being much out of boredom! By the way, I appeared before the judge on my first leave, in October of 1965. And because I was then in the Air Force and my record was clean, I received my driving privileges back on my first leave home, in October of 1965.
But that summer after high school ended, I decided to entertain my driverless self with a cross-country trip. My friend Billy and I had been planning to go to Europe, working our way there on a freighter, and bumming around the continent for a year. But Billy fell in love with Linda, and our European travel plans were squelched! So I set out on my own adventure.
On an early June morning I packed a duffle bag and had my mother drop me off at the crossroads of Sharon, the intersection of Route 4 and Main Street, and I hitchhiked west! That evening I ended up in Elmira, New York, 245 miles away by road! I spent $4 for a room at the YMCA and, once in my room, I realized I had no idea (other than ‘west’) where I was going! So I did the logical thing: I spread a large mid-western map on the bed, closed my eyes, turned around once or twice, and plunked my finger down on the map! When I opened my eyes I was looking at the city of Pierre, the capital of South Dakota!
The next morning, I bought a bus ticket to Pierre (pronounced “Peer” by the locals) and off I went! I can’t remember how long the bus trip took, but by the time I arrived at this flat prairie city, so unlike the rolling Connecticut Berkshire Mountains, I was tired, bus-travel weary, and homesick! I was so homesick I immediately asked at the bus station when the next bus east was available! “Not until tomorrow,” the attendant told me. So I was stuck in Pierre, at least overnight! I asked where a cheap hotel was located, and was directed downtown. I found the hotel, entered the lobby and went to the desk to sign in. As I signed the guest register, I asked the clerk if he knew of any work nearby I could do. He replied, “Sorry, no.” And that was that……….or so I thought!
An older man approached me and began to question me: “Are you in trouble? Are you running from the police? Is there any warrant out for your arrest?” I said no to all his questions, and told him of my desire to see the country after high school and before I joined the Air Force. He introduced himself with an extended hand, and told me he was the retired chief of police of Pierre! He said, “I have a friend who might need some help on his ranch. I’ll call him for you and ask.” It was a long distance call (he paid for it) to Boots Gregg (Merrill Benjamin “Boots” Gregg) who owned “The Boots Gregg Ranch”, the largest ranch at 50,000 acres in eastern South Dakota, 40 miles east of Pierre. I can’t remember the name of this former police chief, but he was there for me when I needed a friend! Or was he the former police chief? Could he possibly have been an angel who entertained a homesick young man from Connecticut, the teen completely unaware that this man was a heavenly messenger? Who knows? What I do know is that he was kind and friendly, just at the right place at the right time – and he sure came to the aid of a homesick teenager!
Boots Gregg hired me over the phone on the recommendation of that police chief! He hadn’t met me or even talked with me, but the deal was sealed! He drove into town the next day, and I hung out with this powerful rancher all day as he conducted business, drank a beer or two, and played poker with a few friends. I spent the next month working on that huge ranch, bucking hay or tearing down a tractor engine. One Sunday, the day off, I even got to ride a gentle horse named ‘Jack’ a couple of miles down to the Missouri River and back! Boots paid me $100 for the month (more than the going rate!), enough to purchase a bus ticket home with a little bit left over. I spent an afternoon at the World’s Fair in New York City, and I made it home with three cents in my pocket……and a lot of wonderful memories – perhaps even of an angel!