I had no plan at age 17 to go to college. No one in my family ever had gone. Despite my "depression" and "atheism," i planned to get my lay preacher's license from the Methodist Church and support myself through ordinary labor. I would work full time for lumber mills, join the union and develop work related skills. I had already been offered, and accepted trasimning as a lumber grader and had proved my strength on the greenchain. I would preach like Paul, not for a living, but for a better life for everyone. So what if there were no God. The words of the sermon on the mount, the two great parables, the works of mercy (though i would never have called them that), and the 13th Chapter of I Corinthians were still there and it really didn't matter where they originated.
About this time i started reading the medieval Catholic mystics (though i was totally ignorant of Roman Catholicism and i feard it like a good fundamentalist Protestant would.) I also read Evelyn Underhill. I have no idea why,
My pastor stongly suggested that i go to college and seminary. At the same time the girl who won the local scholarship to attend college (a whopping five hundred dollars) decided to stay in town and get married. The scholarship was given to me.
So i was off to college at CPS in Tacoma, a Methodist school, with my $500 plus a couple thousand i had earned over the post three years. With part time jobs and work study, i assumed i was paying my own way. I did not know for many years that my a-mother had cashed in her life insurance policy to pay/pave my way. After so many misguided attempts to "help" me, this generous and anonymous gesture was truly helpful. I dearly wish i had known about it at the time.
College was okay, i got fairly good grades without much study. I had a few friends, certainly more than i thought i needed. I planned a Philosophy major, but the torture of the introductory class convinced me that Psychology would be a more "practical" major. A counseler suggested that psychology might "destroy my faith' and he suggested sociology. (Psychology majors are more likely to remain religious than are sociology majors) I liked sociology from day one, but could not imagine that i would make my living at it.
I took the standard freshman and sophomore level courses. But i also took "Medieval Persian Poetry." Don't ask me why! Did this have anything to do with the fascination with Sufi poetry that developed, seemingly out of nowhere nearly sixty years later?.
I attended Chyurch regularly and taught adult and junior high level Sunday School classes as i had through High School.
My high school girlfriend was now my fiance and she was attending Blackburn College. So i decided to finish college there. Also
my money was running low and three months of work was not paying for twelve months of sustenance. Blackburn had an early and remarkable "work-study" program based on the one at Berea -- a school in the Appalachian region of Kentucky. There was a
president, professors, a registrar, a chaplain, and a construction superintendent who were employees of the school. All other work was done by students, each of whom worked twenty hours per week to cover tuition, room, and board.
So at the end of Summer in 1953, I caught the plane to Prince Rupert and rode the TransCanadian Railway to Winnepeg and Chicago, then took a bus to Carllinville Illinois and my new school and my "beloved." That train ride, which was all Toonerville Trolley from Prince Rupert to Banff, was a memorable and fun experience.
I enjoyed Blackburn immensely until the last week.
I was inspired by a Quaker Political Science professor
I started reading The Catholic Worker newspaper in the school library
I decided i wanted to work in an inner city church (long, long story)
My fiance broke off our engagement
My a-mother came to my graduation.
I had hoped to continue my education at Garrett Theological School in Chicago, but i applied too late. I had already been accepted at Iliff Theological Seminary in Denver. So my mother and i took the train to Denver where i got off And she continued on to Seattle, then to Ketchikan.
I had a few friends.
I learned the critical study of scripture
I did not take Latin or Greek.
I took lots of courses on pastoral care but remained too shy and aloof to practice it well.
I worked at an inner city church
I got married.
We had a kid.
I became pastor of a rural church near Denver
I became an "elder."
I was hired by the Methodist Church in Idaho
I dated a couple of young women, very casually, very briefly. Probably had as much fun as i was capable of having. Than i met a girl at the church i was working at in Denver. I was teaching a junior high Sunday School class. She walked in lAte and sat down
I wondered why she was there, she seemed so much older than the others. I later learned that she was 15, but she was not in junior high school, she had dropped out.of school and was working as a live in housekeeper and nanny. Her mother was living with a man with two young daughters whose wife was in a mental hospital. He was also a "minister." They kept a half grown African Lion in their appArment. I should have mentioned that i seem to have an attraction for strange women in strange circumstances.
We started keeping company. After about six months, her mother announced that she was returning to Flority, either with or without her now sixteen year old daughter. She would be allowed to stay in Denver only if she was married. I said,"but she's sixteen." She said, :"You have my blessing." She signed a consent and left with her lion. I don't know whether the mAn and his daughters went with her. They say that the decision making capcity of the human mind complete their development in the erly twenties; i would say, in my case at least, that it doesn't before forty. We got married in the inner city Methodist Church, moved into an apartment, then student housing, then a parsonage in Parker, CO. We married in February, 1956. Our son was born the following January. Eighteen months later we loaded up a U-Haul, hooked it up to a 1952 Chevrolet coupe and headed for Idaho.
There was an experience at Blackburn. I became obsessed with the idea of finding my biological mother. This obsession took hold of me suddenly. I had learned her name only a few months earlier, but it was simply an interesting bit of information. Her Age (17) held more interest than her name. This obsession grabbed me and hung on tightly for three months, then just as quickly let go. Forty years later i learned that my half brother of whose existence i was totally unaware, had died just about the time my obsession began and his body was found three months later, just about the time my obsession lifted. Coincidence, yes, but i'm not as sure of that any more. They say everything is connected to everything in ways for which physics has no good explanation.