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Still standing on the rock

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By The Staff

In a letter to the editor published Dec. 10, 1992 in the Los Alamos Monitor, military veteran and local resident Fred Farnsworth wrote the following about war, faith and family:

“A little after midnight in the early morning darkness of the third day of the new year of 1929, dad left the little campground shack in Klamath, Calif. Mom was going into labor and it looked like the Klamath Indian midwife was going to need help in delivering the first white baby to be born in this town so a doctor was summoned from Crescent City, 40 miles away.

A heavy rain had closed the main highway with mud slides and turned the forest road into a muddy quagmire that required all the driving skill this 20-year-old father of two could muster to keep that old 1920 Dodge moving.

At the main road the doctor was waiting in his car and followed dad back along the winding, slippery ruts to the little shack were, at about 3 a.m., the Indian midwife held me up and declared "Him be lucky baby" and dad became the father of three.

One of my earliest memories was three or four years later near the mud flats of San Francisco Bay just outside the town of Rodeo, Calif. Dad was digging clams from the mud to make chowder for supper. Mom stood us three kids on a rounded rock there at the edge of the bay and taught us to sing "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

At the time I had no way of knowing that rock we stood on would follow me for the rest of my life and would be the foundation upon which my life would be built. I consider that truth to be the most precious thing my parents ever gave me.

Sixty-two Christmas seasons have come and gone for me now and the joyful anticipation of their coming has never diminished because more than anything else it was the time we celebrated the birth of the gentle man from Galilee.

There was always the church play reenacting the arrival of the shepherds and wise men at the stable with Mary and Joseph watching over newborn baby Jesus. Never mind that this scene was not historically correct and that I and my fellow shepherds were dressed in someone's old bathrobe and our turbans were salvaged bath towels. The message came across.

Dad had explained to my brother, we called Junior, that a pedal car would probably be too expensive a present for Santa Claus to bring that year. When they were walking hand-in-hand down Main Street, Junior spotted Santa on the corner and broke from Dad's grasp to run up to him and ask if he might have a cheap pedal car he could bring on Christmas. Dad wanted to sink into the sidewalk under Santa's questioning look.

Don Sauer really did get a genuine Red Ryder BB gun. When I retrieved that long package from under the tree and stripped the paper from it, there, reflecting the color of the tree lights was a cheaper, nickel-plated Daisy, but it looked like pure gold to me. The times were difficult, but that rock stood firm.

My cousin, Everett Bailey, stood on it as he nursed his bullet-mangled B-17 across the border into Switzerland after his 49th bombing raid on Germany only to hear Swiss ground control order the waiting fighters to shoot them down.

After telling all the crewmen who were able to bailout, he lost his own life in a vain attempt to save the wounded on board by bringing the doomed bomber in on a Swiss lake.

Renate Schneider told me how faith in the name of the Christ Child sustained them through the long war years. Neighbors would seek shelter in their house in Frankfurt as American and Allied bombs exploded in the street and the vacant area a half block away, but they were never harmed.

Mr. and Mrs. Risner were a quiet older couple in the church I was a member of in Tulsa. Their two sons, Jack and Grover, became ministers. Grover pastored a church in Albuquerque for some time before retiring. Their third son, Jamie, chose to be a fighter pilot, becoming an American ace in Korea with eight communist MIGs to his credit. He led a squadron of F-l05s in the air battles over Viet Nam before becoming a guest in the "Hanoi Hilton" for almost eight years.

It was his faith in the name of the babe of Bethlehem that gave him hope through the years of deprivation and torture when he "screamed 'til he had no more voice to scream."

The highlight of this experience came, he said, when he, being the senior officer was asked to lead a church service for the prisoners. When he warned them that it would mean torture and beating, that some of them might not survive - still, to a man - they voted to proceed.

"We opened the service by singing the Star Spangled Banner and as the strains of that song went out across the courtyard and over the wall into the streets of Hanoi, I felt nine-feet-tall," said Lt. Col. J. Robinson Risner.

As those fighting men continued to sing the hymns, they could remember the communist guards broke in and beat many of them senseless and dragged some into the courtyard to be further punished. I'm sure the guards must have wondered what was there about the one they sang about that inspired these men to risk such brutal punishment."