In the Valley of the Mighty Muskrat

“A few figs from thistles…”

by Howard A. Tabor

The Cheshire Bridge

The old Milwaukee Road right-of-way  crosses the Mighty Muskrat river three times during tis course through Fennimore county. Bad surveying, if you ask me, because it required two bridges and a trestle. And those don’t come cheap. Some of their cost was borne by the Northwest Iowa Traction Co., whose route followed the railway for more than half its length. But NITC ceased operation in the mid-50s and the last regular freight traffic passed through Agincourt twenty years later. Much of the route went through the Rails-to-Trails conversion, so things are running a bit more slowly these days.

Old Timers — which surely includes me — still refer to the trestle as Cheshire Bridge, I suppose because anyone younger has been over the trestle but never stood far enough away to get its full profile. If you do (and enjoy the view shown in this postcard from about 1910) and squint just a bit, you’ll see its Cheshire grin squinting back at you.

<This is a stub awaiting further inspiration. Have patience; Agincourt wasn’t built overnight.>

[#948]

I had a dream last night…

“I dream. Sometimes I think that’s the only right thing to do.”
― Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

“I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours”
― Bob Dylan, Lyrics:1962 2001

“I was in a dream last night. Was it yours?”
― me

It was late afternoon — unusual for me to be in bed that long. I knew without feeling that this would be my last day on Earth. Probably the most vivid dream I’ve ever had.

Why are you telling me this?

Because you were there, sitting beside the bed, holding my hand. I knew then that it was O.K. to go. Are you embarrassed?

Just a little but go on — I guess.

Then you and all the color in the room drained away. Even the walls — the walls, the furniture, the trees and slice of sky I could see through the window, turned white. Not some antiseptic hospital white. Not the absence of color but what color had always wanted to be: its total presence. Somewhere between South Sea pearl, white diamonds, and — oh, I dunno — cottage cheese. You wanted to smear it on toast with a slice of lox.

Now here’s the weird part. Rick Astlie was there doing his MTV video “Never going to give you up” in a sharkskin suit with those 70s pencil legs.

But you hated everything 70s! Remember, I was there, too.

I know. Weird. Except it wasn’t Astlie in the suit; it was Morgan Freeman doing all those 70s dance moves.

Then the room turned Farrow&Ball red, crustini without the basil. It was the Dulwich Picture Gallery and every painting I ever loved was there: ‘Das Floß der Medusa,’ ‘The Martyrdom of Crispin and Crispinian,’ several by Holman Hunt and Alma-Tadema. And da Messina’s ‘Condottiere.” Damn, I’ve got taste.

And Morgan Freeman was still there, minus the sharkskin suit.

Freeman was naked!?

No. Three-piece. You’d take him for an annuity salesman. I said ‘I thought You’d be Ella Fitzgerald,’ and He said ‘Oh, I could be, if that would give greater comfort, but she’s with Donald Trump just now.’

‘Trump?!’ I asked in a more accusatory tone than the moment called for. ‘I thought he’d be in the other place, pitchforks and molten sulfur and such.’

Then He shocked me: ‘This is what you’ve all got wrong. Everything’s Heaven. But some people just don’t get the one they expect.’

I gotta ask: What did you have for supper? This reeks of indigestion.

‘Of course it’s happening in your head, Harry, but why on Earth should that mean that it’s not real?’ By the way, when it’s time, you’re gonna get Albus Dumbledore. This isn’t my dream, you know. You just screwed Sarah, rolled over, and went to sleep. So this is in your head, not mine.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

“He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Slain in the Spirit

“For men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt. The more stupid the man, the larger his stock of adamantine assurances, the heavier his load of faith.”
― H.L. Mencken, H.L. Mencken on Religion

“The country and culture commonly known as ‘America’ had had a badly split personality all through its history. Its overt laws were almost always puritanical for a people whose covert behavior tended to be Rabelaisian; its major religions were all Apollonian in varying degrees—its religious revivals were often hysterical in a fashion almost Dionysian.”
― Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

The Holy Spirit craves your attendance at Revival

Conducted by Messrs Lunkwill and Fook.

Come as you are. Leave, a New Creation.

The torpid summer of 1925 was long, the latter because of the former. Revivalists Zadok Lunkwill and B. D. Fook had announced their arrival months in advance. Anticipating crowds proportional to their reputation, they had also arranged the construction of a tabernacle on the old Parsons farm just south of Crispin Creek near the Broad Street bridge. The creek had been a popular venue for total immersion baptism since Agincourt’s founding in 1853 and it was about to be visited again for a full ten days of refiner’s fire.

The Tabernacle was a ramshackle affair, mostly built of second-hand material donated in the spirit of expiation — contributions of labor and construction supplies toward the implied atonement for sin — despite how “Romish” the idea would have seemed if explained that way. Indulgences, after all, were a fundamental reason for the Reformation in the first place. Weeks before Lunkwill & Fook’s appearance, wagon upon wagon deposited planks and posts in orderly heaps graded by size and quality for service to the Lord. Foursquare trumps fussy every time.

The revivalists had sent a drawing of the structure they required: fifty feet wide by one hundred feet long, with sides that could open for overflow crowds and, more likely, air movement on a stifling July night. The tabernacle had to be constructed in three weeks, serve for one, and then be dismantled, leaving the site as it had been. Did Lunkwill and Fook know Sir Joseph Paxton? [If you know the conditions required for construction of the Crystal Palace, you’ll understand the reference.] But first a word about religious complexity.

Black & White or Shades of Grey

Bush 43 got some very bad advice or none at all on the eve of the Iraqi invasion. Quite aside from the botched intelligence on WMDs (which was either wrong or purposely spun that way), there was the matter of Islam and Bush’s sense that it is a monolith: the confrontation was a classic us vs. them, Christian “good guys” versus the purported evils of a religious faith other than Christianity, in this case, one with both oil resources and the weapons to defend them. It’s difficult to believe the Pentagon honestly believed Islam was one unified belief system. At minimum we should have understood the religious politics of the Middle East, where either Shi’a or Sunni dominate in each country — one is always an oppressed minority — and that Shi’a and Sunni are divided on a fundamental question of lineage with the Prophet. They not only disagree, they have been willing to shed blood over the question. Read Karen Armstrong’s Islam: a short history published in 2000 and readily available from Barnes & Noble by our military leaders in the Pentagon. If they’d read it, we’d have had some inkling of the can of whoop-ass that was about to open.

It’s farmore complicated than that, for in addition to Shi’a and Sunni, and there are also Sufis (mystical Islam) and the Wahhabi sect, and very likely several other subsets of which I, as a Westerner, am unaware. Karen Armstrong’s point in her 2000 introductory treatment of a complex topic was to draw a parallel with Christianity’s own Reformation and Counter-Reformation of the Sixteenth century: Islam has simply not undergone its own Reformation. And the more significant difference between that prospect and the Christian experience has been weaponry: ours occurred with the rough equivalent of bows and arrows, whereas today’s religious battles could be waged with nuclear warheads.

I only mention this as an aside for further discussion of the movement of the Holy Spirit across the land during the 1920s, when there were similar religious distinctions in the Evangelical movement that we often fail to note. Nuances that may be lost on the outside observer like myself but which were overlooked by Believers in the Arms of the Holy Spirit.

The Book of Revelation

Pre-dispensational-Post-tribulational-Antinomianism

Eschatological Topic Futurist belief Preterist belief Historicist belief
Futurists typically anticipate a future period of time when Bible prophecies will be fulfilled. Preterists typically argue that most (Partial Preterism), or all (Full Preterism) Bible prophecies were fulfilled during the earthly ministry of Jesus and the generation immediately proceeding it, concluding with the siege and destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. Historicists typically understand the prophecies to be continuous from the times of the prophets to the present day and beyond.
‘The 144,000’
Revelation 7:1-8
Various interpretations of a literal number of 144,000, including: 144,000 Evangelical Jews at the end of the world, or 144,000 Christians at the end of the world. A symbolic number signifying the saved, representing completeness, perfection (The number of Israel; 12, squared, and multiplied by 1,000 = 144,000). This symbolises God’s Holy Army, redeemed, purified and complete. A symbolic number representing the saved who are able to stand through the events of 6:17.
Locusts released from the Abyss
Revelation 9:1-11
A demonic host released upon the earth at the end of the world. A demonic host released upon Israel during the siege of Jerusalem 66-70 AD. The Muslim Arab hordes that overran North Africa, the Near East, and Spain during the 6th to 8th centuries.
Large Army from the Euphrates, an army of ‘myriads of myriads’
Revelation 9:13-16
Futurists frequently translate and interpret the Greek phrase ‘myriads of myriads’ as meaning a ‘double myriad’, from which they develop the figure of 200 million. Futurists frequently assign this army of 200 million to China, which they believe will attack Israel in future. Many Bibles employ a Futurist interpretation of the original Greek when they adopt the figure of 200 million. Preterists hold to the original Greek description of a large army consisting of ‘myriads of myriads’, as a reference to the large pagan army, which would attack Israel during the Siege of Jerusalem from 66-70 AD. The source of this pagan army from beyond the Euphrates is a symbolic reference to Israel’s history of being attacked and judged by pagan armies from beyond the Euphrates. Some of the Roman units employed during the siege of Jerusalem were assigned from this area. The Muslim Arab hordes that overran North Africa, the Near East, and Spain during the 6th to 8th centuries.
‘The Two Witnesses’
Revelation 11:1-12
Two people who will preach in Jerusalem at the end of the world. The two witnesses and their miracles symbolise the ministries of Moses and Elijah, who in turn symbolise ‘The Law’ and ‘The Prophets’, the Old Testament witnesses to the righteousness of God. The two witnesses (AKA “two olive trees” and “two candlesticks”) are the Old and New Testaments.
‘1260 Days’
Revelation 11:3
A literal 1260 days (3.5 years) at the end of the world during which Jerusalem is controlled by pagan nations. A literal 1260 days (3.5 years) which occurred ‘at the end of the world’ in 70 AD when the apostate worship at the temple in Jerusalem was decisively destroyed at the hands of the pagan Roman armies following a 3.5 year Roman campaign in Judea and Samaria. The ‘Two Witnesses’ appeared to be dead for 3.5 years during the siege of Jerusalem, but were miraculously resurrected as the Early Church. 1260 days = forty and two months (vs. 11:2) = a time, times and the dividing of time (Dan 7:25). 1260 years during which the two witnesses are clothed in sackcloth, typically understood to represent the time from 538 to 1798 A.D., the time of Papal authority over the Christian church.
‘The Woman and the Dragon’
Revelation 12:1-6
A future conflict between the State of Israel and Satan. Symbolic of the Old Covenant Church, the nation of Israel (Woman) giving birth to the Christ child. Satan was determined to destroy the Christ child. The Woman (the early church), fled Jerusalem before its destruction in 70 AD. The Dragon represents Satan and any earthly power he uses. The woman represents God’s true church before and after Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. The Woman flees to the desert away from the dominant power of the 1260 years.
‘The Beast out of the Sea’
Revelation 13:1-8
The future empire of the Anti-Christ, persecuting Christians The Roman Empire, persecuting the early church during the rule of Nero. The sea symbolising the Mediterranean and the nations of the Roman Empire. The Beast is the earthly power supported by the Dragon (Satan). It is the Papal power during the same 42 months mentioned above.
‘The Beast out of the Earth’
‘The False Prophet’
Revelation 13:11-18
The future empire of the Anti-Christ, persecuting Christians. The apostate rulers of the Jewish people, who joined in union with the Roman Empire to persecute the early church. The first is the U.S.A. The second is a future religio-political power in which everyone is forced by the first power to receive the mark of the beast.
‘The Number of the Beast, 666’
Revelation 13:18
The number identifying the future empire of the Anti-Christ, persecuting Christians. The Roman Empire, persecuting the early church. A number symbolising an apostate ruler as King Solomon was, who collected 666 talents of gold annually. Also, in Hebrew calculations the total sum of Emperor Nero’s name, ‘Nero Caesar’, equated to 666.
1Kings 10:14
cryptogram of one of the names of the pope – the False Prophet: Vicarius Filii Dei, v and u = 5, i = 1, l = 50, c = 100, d = 500
Armageddon
Revelation 16:16
A future literal battle at Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley, Israel. Megiddo is utilised as a symbol of God’s complete victory over His enemies. The battle of Armageddon occurred 2000 years ago when God used the pagan armies of Rome to comprehensively destroy the apostate worship at the temple in Jerusalem.
Revelation 16:16
Judges 5:19
2Kings 9:27
A symbolic name concerning the ongoing battle between Jesus and Satan.
Mystery Babylon
The Great Harlot
Revelation 17:1-5
Futurists compose various interpretations for the identity of ‘Mystery Babylon’ such as the USA, or the UN. The corrupted city of Jerusalem, who united with pagan nations of the world in their idolatrous practices and participated in persecuting the faithful Old Covenant priests and prophets, and the early church of the New Covenant.
Matthew 23:35-37
A virtuous woman represents God’s true church. A whore represents an apostate church. Typically, Mystery Babylonis understood to be the esoteric apostasies, and Great harlot is understood to be the popular apostasies. Both types of apostasies are already at work, ensnaring the unwary.
The Thousand Years
The Millennium
Revelation 20:1-3
The Millennium is a literal, future 1,000 year reign of Christ following the destruction of God’s enemies. The Millennium is the current, ongoing rise of God’s Kingdom. The Millennium is a symbolic time frame, not a literal time frame. Preterists believe the Millennium has been ongoing since the earthly ministry and ascension of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, and is ongoing today.
Daniel 2:34-35
The time period between Christ’s Second Advent and the rapture of all the righteous, both living and formerly dead, from off earth and the third Advent which brings the New Jerusalem and the saints to the planet. While the saved are gone the planet is inhabited only by Satan and his hosts, for all the wicked are dead.
‘The Rapture’
Revelation 4:1
The Rapture is a future removal of the faithful Christian church from earth before the ‘Great Tribulation’ Preterists generally recognise a future ‘Second Coming’ of Christ, as described in Acts 1:11 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. However, they distinguish this from Revelation 4:1 which is construed by Futurists as describing a ‘Rapture’ event that is separate from the ‘Second Coming’.
‘The Great Tribulation’
Revelation 4:1
The ‘Great Tribulation’ is a future period of God’s judgement on earth immediately following ‘The Rapture’ of the faithful Church to heaven. The ‘Great Tribulation’ occurred two thousand years ago when apostate Israel was judged and destroyed by God, culminating in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem at the hands of the pagan armies of the Roman Empire. The early Church was delivered from this period of judgement because it heeded the warning of Jesus in Matthew 24:16 to flee Jerusalem when it saw the pagan armies of Rome approaching. The Great Tribulation was a period of persecution for the Church for 1260 years from 538 to 1798 AD at the hands of papal authorities.
‘The Abomination that causes desolation’
Matthew 24:15
The Abomination that causes desolation is a future system of idolatrous worship based at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Abomination that causes desolation was the pagan armies of Rome destroying the apostate system of worship at the Temple in Jerusalem two thousand years ago.
‘Gog and Magog invasion’
Ezekiel 38
Ezekiel 38 refers to a future invasion of Israel by Russia and its allies, resulting in a miraculous deliverance by God. Ezekiel 38 refers to the Maccabees miraculous defeat of the Seleucids in the second century B.C. As Chilton notes, ‘The word chief is, in the Hebrew, rosh, and according to this view, it does not pertain to Russia.

For some True Believers, these theological distinctions are fighting words. So I wonder how smoothly the Lunkwill & Fook revival may have gone.

Brigg Fair

Dorothy “Dolly” Pentreath [1692–1777]; Shanawdithit [1801–1829]; Fidelia Fielding [1827–1908]; “Ned” Maddrell [1877/8–1974]; Tevfik Esenç [1904–1992]. Do you have any idea what this disparate group of people have in common?

Each of them was the last native speaker of a language that subsequently vanished as a living mode of communication.

In the early years of the 20th century, anthropologists, linguists, folklorists and other academics ventured from their classrooms to record minority cultures vanishing in the advance of mass culture. John Wesley Powell, founding director of the Bureau of American Ethnology, sought “to organize anthropologic research in America.” In the current political maelstrom, such an idea is laughable.

In a similar way, composers and performers of music abandoned concert halls, scouring the countryside with early recording devices to transcribe and record folk music before it had completely disappeared. Bela Bartok and Zoltan Kodaly did for Hungarian culture what Percy Grainger and Ralph Vaughan Williams did for Great Britain, and we are all better off for their efforts. One of Grainger’s recordings, in fact, found its way to Frederick Delius, whose orchestration can reduce me to tears because I link it with the death of my grandmother.

Brigg Fair

It was on the fifth of August / The weather fair and mild / Unto Brigg Fair I did repair / For a love I was inclined

I got up with the lark in the morning / And my heart was full of glee / Expecting there to meet my dear / Long time I’d wished to see

I looked over my left shoulder / To see what I might see / And there I spied my own true love / Come a-tripping down to me

I took hold of her lily-white hand / And merrily sang my heart / For now we are together / We never more shall part

For the green leaves, they will wither / And the roots, they shall decay / Before that I prove false to her / The lass that loves me well

[Recorded on wax cylinder in Lincolnshire in 1905 by Percy Grainger. Incidentally, that antique recording device is the actual machine used by Grainger.]

Typically, this is my long way round the barn to reintroduce the topic of the Fennimore County Fairgrounds and its evolution. Now that the semester is complete (more or less), I can get back to filling some of Agincourt’s gaps.

American Passtime

What I know about the history of baseball you could put in the message space on the back of this postcard. That’s a rectangle 3.5 inches by 2.75 inches. Not very much. So if there’s anyone out there who knows anything about the history of minor league activities in the Midwest, especially in Iowa, I’ll appreciate some advice.

I’ve imagined a Double-A team in Agincourt as early as the 1890s — the Archers — and their field of dreams across the river in the Fennimore Co. Fairgrounds, a facility that would have been shared with Northwest Iowa Normal School after its founding. So many interesting possibilities: Who were the Archers’ principal rivals? Who were its star players and winning seasons? Did any of them catch the eye of recruiters and “graduate” to greater glory? I wonder if the county historical society might just have a rare surviving example of an actual Archer uniform.

Circuit Riders

The history of religion on the American frontier (or in places that had only recently enjoyed frontier status) is the phenomenon of “too much, too soon.” Uncertain where their flocks might settle and stabilize in numbers sufficient to warrant a place of worship and resident clergy, they cast their nets wide, using temporary, often borrowed, quarters such as courtrooms or lodge meeting halls above the general store.

The pattern had been established by Francis Asbury, one of the first two bishops of the Methodist denomination in the United States. Asbury (for whom many Methodist churches have been named, including the one in Agincourt, Iowa) set the record of more than 300,000 miles on horseback carrying the Gospel to any who would hear — and many who wouldn’t had his spirit not been indomitable.

The current Methodist facility in Agincourt was designed and built circa 1920, among the last of the true Akron-Auditorium church buildings that have fascinated me for more than forty years and about which I hope to write a book. That would have been preceded by at least one, possibly two, earlier church structures. The first, no doubt, came from a pattern book as was published by the denomination; the second, from the collaborative mind of building committee and local building talent — often with mixed results.

The Rev Candice Varenhorst is the current pastor at Asbury UMC. Who her predecessors were I can’t yet say (but you know I will) but I can assure you that they rode circuit to communities within a reasonable radius of Agincourt, in the hope of established a congregation sufficient to support a building and eventually its own resident clergy. This postcard view of a storefront Methodist church in upstate New York could easily have been in some hamlet a few miles from the “mother church.” With a little photoshopping, I think this can become the icon for riding the circuit.

nybennettsvilleme.jpg

Shell, a footnote

I’d like to claim this was my desk at Fred’s office but it wasn’t.

Fred Shellabarger’s architectural office was an L-shaped suite at the inner angle on an L-shaped building. A glass door and sidelight faced east, our only public exposure. Turning right past the secretary’s desk (at which someone rarely sat), a short corridor took visitors past the toilet and into the L-shaped draughting room. Is that a sufficient number of L’s for you? Fred occupied the draughting table straight ahead; I can’t recall if he had a window but if he did it faced north. Mine was just to the left and between us there was a phone answered most often by me. Now do a 180° counterclockwise turn and there were two more desks occupied by Richard Kenyon and Bill Peterson. Two west-facing windows admitted a lot of late afternoon light. I wonder what became of Bill? Richard, of course, is another story altogether. [By the way, is it an affectation to use “draughting” in lieu of “drafting”? For that matter, is it an affectation to use “in lieu”?]

This is a footnote to the story of Shell as a Ghost of my own Christmases Past. It has nothing to do with the physical office. Nor does it have much to do with the actual practice of making architecture. In fact, it has only slightly more to do with Fred himself. Fundamentally, it has to do with that phone and a few of the calls I took when Shell was out. I’ll tell you about three of them: one is rude, the other two prophetic confirmation of the “small world” phenomenon.

“Good afternoon, Fred Shellabarger’s office.”

Among our clients was a bank vice president named Jack Black — long before there was that other Jack Black of movie fame. I don’t recall Jack but his wife Claudia became an office legend, if for no other reason that her phone calls during the design of their house in the newly fashionable Norman subdivision of “Smoking Oaks.” That pretension and all other upscale suburban developments came to be known generically as Sunken Heights. We hadn’t yet encountered the McMansion; that was a phenomenon of forty years hence, but these houses were a step in that fateful direction. By today’s standard, the Blacks’ house was merely upscale and generous but hardly grandiose. Within the context of the ’60s, however, the Blacks had every reason to strut.

I recall one phone conversation during construction when much of the cabinetry was well underway; there was a lot of it. Counters in the kitchen and multiple bath-dressing rooms were in place when the Blacks returned from a vacation in Mexico, during which Claudia had become enamored of hand-made Mexican tile, whose nuanced irregularities suited the vaguely Hispanic character they’d requested for their home. Without bothering to call us from Oaxaca, Jack and Claudia bought a boatload of handmade tile for their countertops and then, when the shipment was irreversibly on its way, we spent several days revising the cabinet details to accommodate the difference between quarter-inch thick American tile (which was a pretty nice item, as I recall; Fred had taste) and the inch-and-a-half thick Mexican tile — all because the cabinets had to be cut down. Some people, as granny used to say, have more dollars than sense.

One afternoon I spent several hours trying to understand entasis, the optical correction the ancient Greeks had used on their columns to achieve visual elegance, and a proper seven-foot Tuscan column [the Roman counterpart to the Doric], three of which would define their bedroom corridor from the living room a half level below. Actually telling a wood shop in OKC how to do entasis was no picnic. It’s one of those opportunities that build character.

In this case the “phone” thing concerns Claudia Black’s voice: She had one of those nasal Texas twangs that break glass. I’d hand the phone to Fred and he’d hold the receiver six inches from his ear, her voice was that shrill. In fact, Richard, Bill and I felt privileged to be a part of their conversation: we heard all of it as if she were in the office with us.

In the “small world” category, there was a call late one afternoon when I was alone and ready to lock up. I thought briefly to let the phone ring (we had no answering machine and voice messaging didn’t exist) but decided to answer. “Good afternoon, ” I said, “Fred Shellabarger’s office.” A resonant voice at the other end asked for Fred and I replied he had gone home; could I take a message. “Tell him this is Bishop Powell” and that he’d call again in the morning. Fred and Gladys were Episcopalians and he often did pro bono work for the church, so this probably had something to do with diocesan matters. That would have been about 1968, though the other shoe wouldn’t drop for nearly twenty-five years.Let it not be said I have a short attention span.

The Rt. Rev. W. R. Chilton Powell [1912-1994] was bishop of Oklahoma for more than twenty years. His uncle Arthur Chilton Powell — his namesake — had been an Episcopal priest. What you possibly don’t know is that, in the meantime, I had taken a job teaching architectural history in North Dakota and also taken a fancy to a series of small split fieldstone Episcopal church buildings constructed here during the Territorial period. Fascinated by what I presumptuously thought didn’t belong here, I began collecting material about them, especially the names of clergy, architects, building craftsmen, and lay people connected with each church. In the case of Devils Lake, the head of the vestry had been A. M. Powell and Powell’s biography identified his family and that family included a son named W. R. Chilton Powell. Coincidence?

Recalling my conversation ten years earlier with Bishop Powell, I found him in a retirement village in Oklahoma City. I wrote, introduced myself as a student of Fred Shellabarger, recalled our ten second phone conversation, and mentioned my new interest in North Dakota architecture. “Are you, by any chance the son of A. M. Powell from Devils Lake, North Dakota?” After all, how many Chilton Powells can there possibly be at any one time! Admitting that he was, I asked if he’d be willing to write something about the significance of the Church of the Advent on his spiritual growth. A week later his four-page, single-spaced reminiscence arrived, exceeding my fondest hopes. It’s a small world.

Another afternoon in the late ’60s, the caller asked for Fred and left a message that it was Cecil Elliott from Stillwater. The Oklahoma chapter of the American Institute of Architects were publishing a small guidebook to state architectural landmarks and Professor Elliott was collaborating with Fred; they each taught architectural history. Once again I gave no thought to it, until 1975 when the Department of Architecture at N.D.S.U. had found a new chair, an N. C. State faculty member named Cecil Elliott. OMG! Was it possible my new boss had spoken with me seven years earlier for another ten second exchange? It was. He did.

I offer this miscellany as evidence that being in the right place at the proper time has happened more than it should have. For me, the proper place had been an inconspicuous, unassuming architectural office at 700 Asp Avenue in Norman, Oklahoma.

You’ll miss me when I’m gone.

[#923]