March 31st 2008 09:13
Everyone in the factory knew that Gene and his family were devout Christians. Some people may even have felt that he and his family went overboard in their Christian lives. Gene always wore a long-sleeved shirt. He did not smoke or go with any coworkers to bars after work. He was jolly, self-assured, and easy to approach. His language was measured; he usually had some clean jokes to share or witty sayings but never used any words or phrases which he felt would not be appropriate for a Christian to use.
Gene’s wife and three daughters were also quite noticeable in their plain mannerisms and mode of dress. All of them had long hair, the daughters never having had their hair cut. All of them wore dresses or skirts and blouses, considering that jeans or slacks were men’s clothing, which they believed that women should never wear. Their dresses always were worn rather long, the hems always being well below their knees. Their sleeves, as the father’s, were long, well below the elbow.
As they walked, Gene noticed that one of the workers from his department was across the street. “Hey, there,” Gene shouted toward the other man. “Darryl. Pull the wax from your ears so you can hear me.” His grin showed that he was being his usual friendly self.
Darryl glanced over and saw Gene waving to him. “Yo, Boss,” Darryl greeted as he crossed over the quiet street to pass the time of day with Gene and his wife.
Gene shook Darryl’s hand with a warm smile and introduced him to Edna. “This here’s my wife, Edna. Dear, this is my boss at the factory.” His mischievous smile showed that he was joking again.
“Now, Boss,” corrected Darryl. “You’re the boss. I’m only a peon.” Looking at Edna, he added, “I’m kinda new on the job. Gene’s my boss; he’s only kidding about me being his boss.”
With a rather quiet manner, Edna smiled slightly and answered, “I’m happy to meet you Darryl. And, yes I know. Gene’s been joking like that ever since we met many, many years ago. I understand him quite well, and I know when he’s pulling my leg.”
Darryl looked down toward Edna’s long skirt, then felt embarrassed that he’d appeared to be showing impropriety.
With a big smile, Gene came to Darryl’s rescue, not wanting him to feel embarrassed. “We’re Amish, Darryl,” he joked. He stroked his clean-shaven chin as if there were a long Amish-style beard there.
Relieved that Gene and Edna did not seem to be judging him, Darryl replied, “Aw, Gene. You’re not Amish. You don’t have a beard.”
Edna interrupted with a bigger smile, “Oh, yes. He has a beard, but he cuts it every morning. I make sure of that.”
“Can I ask you something?” It was Darryl’s question.
“Shoot,” smiled Gene. Edna’s open-faced smile revealed her agreement to being questioned.
Darryl hesitated a bit in trying to formulate his question. “If you’re not Amish, what are you? I mean, I don’t want to be offensive. Still, you’re almost as plain as the Amish are, if you know what I mean.”
Edna and Gene each added elements to their explanation to Darryl. They explained their quite exact interpretations of New Testament Scriptures, especially concerning how to dress to avoid confusion about one’s gender and how Paul had written in a Corinthian letter that women should have their heads covered with long hair as well as how people should dress modestly without the adornment of jewels.
Whether Darryl understood their point of view was not determined. To avoid the conversation being too heavy, Gene added some levity before proceeding to the shopping that he and Edna had come to town to do. “Darryl,” he said. “God has been really good to me. Just think about it; I have the biggest house in the state.”
Darryl had a rather incredulous look on his face, but he realized that Gene was about to provide a humorous punch line, as usual.
Gene continued, “God gave me a house that covers five Akers.” He put his hand on Darryl’s shoulder, waiting for Darryl to catch the point, to understand the pun.
Finally, Darryl burst out laughing, “Oh, I get it. Your name is Akers, and you have three children. That makes five people with the family name of Akers. It sounded at first like you meant to say that your house is five acres in size. That’s a good one, Gene.”
With appropriate remarks, Darryl went on about his business, and Gene Akers and Edna did their shopping before heading back to their little farm outside the Churubusco city limits.
After lunch, the three Akers girls were all home, planning to help their father buzz some wood for the burn-burning stove that they used during the winter. Gene wanted a large pile already cut to size before cold weather set in. The oldest daughter, however, had already made plans to be with her boyfriend at the mall in the big city, about 35 miles away. That left only Karen, the second daughter and Rhonda, the youngest, to help their father with the cutting of the wood.
It was a cloudy day in September, the weather not yet becoming cold in that part of the state. Gene went out to start his Massey Furguson tractor which already had the buzz saw attached to the back. Karen and Rhonda followed him out, and each sat on a fender of the little tractor, waiting for their father to drive to the wooded area of the farm.
Edna recommended, “Girls, why don’t you put your hair up in a knot while you are working around that dangerous saw. You’re both old enough to begin wearing your hair that way most of the time.”
Rhonda refused, saying, “I’m still a teenager, Mom. I like my long hair, and I like for it to be flowing so everyone can see how beautiful it is. Also, with it hanging freely, everyone will know that it has never been cut.”
“It’s your decision, Child,” Edna replied, shaking her head. “How about you, Karen? You’re over twenty years old now?”
Karen jumped off the tractor and ran inside the house, returning shortly with a bandana wrapped around her hair which was now in a tight knot on the back of her head. Edna smiled approvingly.
“Off to the slave pit!” teased Gene to his daughters. Edna watched as they rode toward the woods in the back of the farm. Then, she went in to begin preparing the meal that they would want in the late afternoon.
Within an hour, Gene rushed into the house. “Call an ambulance, quick! Rhonda’s hurt bad,” he yelled to Edna.
Edna was falling apart, not being able to make the call. Gene grabbed the phone and called for help.
In the meantime, Karen was helping Rhonda, who was making an effort to get off the tractor and into the house. Edna found enough composure to grab some towels and cover Rhonda’s bleeding head.
Rhonda had so much blood on her head and shoulders that Edna could not see exactly where the blood was coming from, but it appeared to be from her head. She noticed that there was very little hair present, but she saw that Karen had taken off the bandana that she had been wearing and had a mass of bloody hair and skin wrapped in it.
Quite soon an ambulance and paramedic were there. They rushed Rhonda to the local hospital. Edna rode in the ambulance with her teenaged daughter who was going in and out of consciousness. Gene and Karen followed in the family car.
The doctors at the hospital required several hours to work on Rhonda. While waiting, Gene and Karen explained what had happened so that Edna would understand. They explained that Gene turned off the tractor after they arrived at the wooded area. While the girls were looking for tree limbs which had already fallen and were somewhat dried, Gene fixed the buzz saw attachment to the power takeoff of the tractor so it would be ready whenever they had enough wood piled up to be cut into useable lengths for the wood-burning stove. After about an hour, Gene told the girls to stand aside while he started the tractor. He put his foot on the clutch before turning on the ignition key of his tractor. This was to keep the power takeoff disengaged. He slowly lifted his foot from the clutch to allow the saw to slowly begin rotating. Then, he increased the speed of the motor to make the saw spin fast enough to buzz the wood.
“All of this was just a normal as the sunrise,” explained Gene to his wife.
“Well, how did she get scalped, then?” was Edna’s logical question.
Karen explained, “Mom, you know Rhonda. She loves little critters. She saw this little willy worm crawling on the ground. She started bending over and following its meanderings. Before she realized it, she was really close to the back of the tractor. I think the wind blew her hair, and it blew into the whirling buzz saw. It happened so fast! In just a couple of seconds, her hair was all ripped off her head, and she was screaming in pain. Dad turned off the tractor, and we tried to help her.”
“I knew immediately that it was very serious, Dear,” said Gene. “I unhooked the power takeoff as fast as possible and drove Rhonda to the house.”
After a few hours, a doctor came to the waiting area to report that Rhonda would survive but that her scalp would never grow hair again. He said that she would need extensive medical care. They were going to keep Rhonda in the hospital for some time for medical attention as well as the emotional therapy that he was sure she would need. He told them that Rhonda was sedated, that they could see her, but that she would not be conscious for several hours.
Edna stayed all night at the hospital although she actually did not need to be there since Rhonda did not awaken until well into the next day.
Gene went to his foreman’s job the next day. Although feeling intense emotional pain, he tried to be faithful to his employer’s expectations. He took the time to report Rhonda’s accident to the owner of the factory.
“You don’t have insurance on her, Gene,” his employer reminded. “Don’t you remember that you asked us to drop the insurance for your dependants and have coverage for only you and Edna? You said that the girls will soon be on their own so you stopped their coverage.”
“Yes, I’m well aware of that,” Gene answered. “That was a bad move on my part, but I made my bed so now I gotta lie in it, so to speak. The only reason I came in here was to tell you about Rhonda’s accident, not to ask for handouts.”
The next day, after spending some time with Rhonda, and after seeing a portion of the hospital and doctor’s bills, Gene did a good amount of private praying at home. When he got to the factory to begin his night shift foreman job, the factory owner called for him to come to the office.
“I’m here,” yelled Gene as he entered the office which appeared to be empty. The owner, calling from a side room, told him to be seated. In a minute or so, the owner approached Gene with a paper.
“Gene,” the factory owner began, “I’ve talked with our insurance provider about you and your daughter. We’ve agreed to add your daughter’s name to the company accident insurance policy. We will simply say that our secretary had made an accidental omission of her name when she typed the policy update.”
Gene’s normal jolly smile was gone. “Absolutely not!” he said. “I don’t have insurance on my girls now, and I won’t lie about it.”
“But Gene, the medical bills will be staggering by the time this is all over,” the owner countered. “I can save you a lot of money. Simply sign this update form, and we’ll date it for last month. Just think, you’ve been paying for medical and accident insurance for your girls for many years and never needed to use it. Now, you need it. Here, sign this paper, and I’ll do the rest.”
“I appreciate your offer,” said Gene, trying to appear jolly again. “But I can’t take it. It’s not honest, and therefore, it’s not the Christian thing to do.”
The factory owner was becoming perturbed. “Now, don’t be so obstinate, Gene. I’ve watched you for years, ever since you came here after finishing high school. I have confidence in you and your religious beliefs. However, I can’t agree that it would be against your religion to accept this help.”
“Against my religion is not the issue,” Gene replied. “Religion is not nearly as important as a relationship with Jesus Christ. That relationship is more dear to me than any religion. I intend to continue to be true to my Savior.”
“You’re too obstinate, just as stubborn as a mule,” accused the owner. “I guess that what you refer to as your ‘relationship’ is more important to you than your own daughter, too.”
“It is.” Silence followed Gene’s short statement. In a short while, Gene continued, “I love my girls. I love my job here. But I love Jesus even more than all of those combined. I can arrange to pay Rhonda’s medical bills on a monthly basis. It will probably take many years, but I can do it and keep my Savior’s smile on my life.”
Gene continued to work for the company. It took him a very long time to pay for Rhonda’s medical bills. He kept his integrity and his family and most importantly, his relationship with the Savior Whom he considers to be altogether lovely.
Gene and Edna are thankful that Rhonda was not taken from them. She wears a hairpiece now to cover the empty scalp.
Gene is still jolly and warm and positive in his outlook. He and Edna enjoy hearing their grandchildren singing in church, their long hair and long dresses and long sleeves and lack of jewels making them beautiful as they sing. One of their favorite choruses to sing is:
I’d rather be an old-time Christian than anything I know.
I’d rather be an old-time Christian with a Christian love to show.
I’m marching up the Grand Old Highway,
Singing everywhere I go.
I’d rather be an old-time Christian than anything I know.
Did Gene love Rhonda, his youngest daughter? Of course, he did. Did he love the Savior Whom he considered ‘altogether lovely’? Of course, he did.
This account is loosely based on real events in the lives of a family in the USA.
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