Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 30, 2017, column:
By Mike Haynes
            My grandfather, John C. Haynes, died at age 95. I’m not sure what were the last things he counted, but he was well aware of numbers.
            Grandad, as we called him, could do math in his head faster than I could turn on a calculator. He taught his grandkids how to count to 20 in Spanish. And milestones were a big deal to him.
            He had been a Gulf Oil distributor, a rancher and a mayor, but he also learned much when, as a young man, he worked in area banks. He recalled the day when Charles Goodnight came in to his office – I believe in Pampa – to sign some paperwork.
John C. Haynes

            From his bank experience, Grandad passed on to us how to properly fold a business letter and how to keep good records. And he did plenty of record-keeping in his head.
            We joked about all his 50-year-old stories, but his memory was impressive. He knew how many acres were donated to build the McLean golf course in 1927; the number of miles covered by the Bunion Derby, the 1928 race from Los Angeles to New York that crossed the Texas Panhandle and included football legend Red Grange; and of course, the number of bulls and heifers that were branded on the ranch each summer.
            He also counted inconsequential things such as pieces of baling wire he picked up around the barn and the white strings that were pulled from tow sacks. After he lost most of his sight, Grandad did a lot of walking – and he counted his steps. He could tell you how many paces it was from our house to his pasture two miles away.
            He was curious. He would ask an adult grandchild, “Well now, honey, how much do you weigh these days?”
            And those milestones. He wanted us to know about his 50th year in the Masonic Lodge, the same for the Lions Club, his charter membership in the Methodist Church and that he had moved as a child from Missouri to Texas in 1909.
            Noticing significant events extends to my parents’ generation. My mother played the organ at church for three decades. At age 86, Dad just got his second hole-in-one with a seven-iron on the eighth hole at that McLean golf course.
            So you can see where I got the urge to note a small milestone this month. I have just passed 20 years of writing this column. I had done columns for the Amarillo Globe-News since 1991, but in 1997 then-executive editor Cathy Martindale asked me to write for the new Beliefs and Ethics section, later renamed the Faith section. I leaped at the chance.
             I suppose my two main goals have been variety and a positive attitude. As I told my Amarillo College journalism students, an opinion column can be many things, and I’ve tried to fill this space with different types of writing.
Topics have included the role of religion in “Star Wars,” the Kairos prison ministry, the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, differences between evangelical and mainline Protestant churches, a local woman who became a synagogue cantor, a nun who graduated from AC, styles of music and dress at church, a visit to Wesley Chapel in London, intelligent design, a rodeo ministry, Hollywood’s treatment of religion, Franklin Graham’s 2000 festival at Dick Bivins Stadium – and many mentions of my hometown; my family; travels with my wife, Kathy; and Christian writer C.S. Lewis.
I’ve managed to find religion angles for the Beatles, “Downton Abbey,” Travis’ 1836 letter from the Alamo, author Harper Lee and area Indian battles.
I get the most positive feedback when I write about personal, nostalgic and local topics such as Christmas Eve services or the passing on of family or friends. But I also like to touch on history, theology, compelling books and inspiring people.
            All along, I’ve kept in mind column No. 1, in which I recalled a talk by Philip Yancey. The best-selling author had said that many Christians are satisfied with good intentions rather than effectively competing in a creative way with destructive trends in popular culture. And I quoted the late writer Bob Briner:
“… there’s a better way to do something about it than simply preach against it. The best way to stop the spread of evil is to replace it with something good.”
I want to keep documenting and commenting on people, places and events in a way that shows the truth and rewards of the Christian message.
Grandad died a few months after that first religion column. And not that anyone’s counting, but this is column No. 397.