How Elijah Missed My Dad’s Smile

Elijah arrived at Masada too early to watch my dad smile at an Israeli cowboy.

Dad was attracted to the cowboy’s penetrating voice. So he migrated toward the voice until he stood behind the little cluster of Americans who had hired the cowboy to guide them around the top of Masada.

If some Israeli tour guides look like college interns earning three credits in The Geography of the Holy Land, this one reminded me of a Wyoming cowboy who earned his spurs in at least 58 spring cattle drives. He wore a dirty white Stetson, a black and white goatee, and a dull-grey six-shooter. To lead into his next lecture, he called out a question:

On top of Masada

“What famous person died when he was only 33?”

The little group of paying followers stood mute — which made Dad feel uneasy. My dad was raised in a Free Methodist church where no polite person will leave a Sunday-school teacher’s question unanswered. It wasn’t Sunday, and we had climbed about as far from church pews as you can reach, but he needed to break the silence. So Dad raised his hand and called out every Sunday scholar’s favorite answer.

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

“Jesus Christ!”

The guide looked up and snarled, “I’ll thank you not to mention that man!”

Uhn! I looked to see how Dad was taking this slap in the face.

“Tell me.”

Dad was listening, head up, and smiling. I had seen that smile on him sitting in the office of a banker or standing in the yard of a lumber mill. It said, “Tell me, my friend.”

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great

I like to think the slap in the face reminded Dad we were guests. That our hosts had been rescued from murderers who called themselves Christians. That this cowboy was standing in his own front room, where he had earned the right to snarl.

As Dad smiled, the guide launched into his lecture, and since Elijah saw Masada in 874 BC, he walked by too early to hear a lecture in 1984 AD about Alexander the Great kneeling to Jaddua the High Priest in 332 BC.

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3 Responses to How Elijah Missed My Dad’s Smile

  1. Donald Ingram May 23, 2017 at 10:20 AM #

    Now wait a minute. That cowboy may think he is in his rights to say whatever he wishes because he is in his own element. But it just so happens he is under the same God as all of us. Uncle Warner got it right.

  2. Anita Archer May 23, 2017 at 11:31 AM #

    Wow! I’m so glad your dad kept his smile and didn’t hang his head, embarrassed.
    I’ve been to Masada too! So impressive.

  3. Gary Dougherty May 23, 2017 at 10:46 PM #

    Perfect poise and answer !

    We enjoyed Masada!! Loved the mistique of it – it’s history – it’s tragedy – your article for sure !!!!

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