The Early Years – Military Brat
New Mexico, Okinawa and Wyoming
Born near the end of the baby boom generation, I have been blessed with two great parents who have been married for 50+ years. My father, Eugene, is a native of Oklahoma and was the 8th of 9 children. My mother, Lillie, was born and raised around the cotton fields in Arkansas. Both of my parents were members of the U.S. Air Force. They met and were married in Albuquerque, NM.
10 months later, I entered the world as a military brat. My preschool years were spent in Albuquerque and in Okinawa. I have little recall of these years. After living in Okinawa, we moved back to the U.S. and specifically to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Soon, however, Dad was sent to Vietnam.
Grade School Days
For that year, my mother, younger sister and I lived with my Grandmother in rural Arkansas. I do remember as a youngster, learning how to milk a cow, pick cotton, dig potatoes and other farm related chores. We did not have running water, so I also learned about getting water from a well and using an outhouse. I also participated in team sports for the first time by playing shortstop on the baseball team.
When Dad returned from Vietnam, we relocated to Texas. First to Abilene and then to Austin. While in Texas my love for sports took root. I participated in football, baseball and basketball. I would play these sports throughout the rest of my school days. Even though we were in the home city of the Texas Longhorns, Dad had instilled a loyalty to his native Oklahoma Sooners. I remember discovering that girls looked nice. I also have my earliest recollections of doing things that I knew were sinful and wrong. These two streams of memories will merge more than once in my life as I grew older.
My mother provided a strong spiritual influence during these early years. My father was a proud member of the armed forces. He became a follower of Jesus during these early years of my life. He also was a lay preacher for a few years. We attended small Baptist churches and went to church twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday. I became a follower of Jesus in large part because of the influence of my parents. I saw a mother who lived out her Christian faith. I took note of the transformation that came to my father when he was converted.
Junior High (now known as Middle School)
At the end of my 6th grade year, Dad was transferred and we all moved to Aviano, Italy. For 3 years I had the privilege of living in this beautiful country. Here my love for Europe and for history began to take root. There is so much about life across the pond that I enjoy — the food, the people, the architecture, the art, etc.
Baseball & Football
My sports life really took shape here. I also had the privilege of having Dad help out as a coach in baseball and football. In baseball I made the all-star teams. As a 14 year old, I played shortstop on the team that was runner up to represent Italy in the European championships for the Senior Division of Little League baseball.
Because I was taller and a bit bigger than most my age, my first year of tackle football (7th grade) saw me playing on the offensive line. Had I remained a lineman, I probably would not have continued playing football. In the 8th grade, I was moved up to play with the JV team and started as a tailback and played some quarterback.
In the 9th grade, a new high school opened with a new coach. Since I was much younger than the rest of the team, I thought I had a better opportunity of making the team as a wide receiver. During the first week of practice, I missed playing quarterback. So I approached the coach about trying out for quarterback. A week later I was named the starting quarterback. I went on to be the team MVP that year and made the All-Conference team.
High School (part of 9th and 10th grade)
After football season, we moved back to Texas. This time to Ft. Worth. I lived here for just a little over a year until Dad retired from the Air Force. I was the new kid around future urban cowboys. It took me awhile to really fit into my new setting. Once Dad retired, we moved back to Dad’s hometown of Sapulpa, Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma, I began my next stage of life. I will chronicle that stage in the next article. Stay tuned for more.
- Autobiography (part 2): Early Manhood – Years 16-21
- Autobiography (part 3): The Pastoral Years
- Autobiography (part 4): The Dark, Scarlet Letter Years
- Autobiography (part 5): The Winding Road Years
- Autobiography (part 6): Restored to Joy & Fellowship