UNKLE KARL AND THE BADMAN
Bro Kirk Luehrs
It was a dark and stormy night…. Actually, it really really was.. A very typical nasty dark and rainy Seattle winter night. It was late and Karl was just getting ready to close up the old downtown Bartel drug Store #14, when in comes this wet and rumpled man, hat pulled down and collar turned up, his unshaven face was covered with scruffy hair...
He shuffled up to the pharmacy and sticks this great big gun in Karl’s face and demands all his money.
Now, Karl was not some skinny, pencil neck pill roller, with round rim glasses and a pocket protector.. No sir! Karl was a big man, a little over six feet tall and weighed, depending on the day.. 275 to 300 pounds. He had had a rough
and tumble childhood, and was not only an all state champion wrestler, he was smart too, as the 1928 recipient of the Lehn-Fink medal for highest scholarship. This punk with a pistol was messing with the wrong man.
Karl casually leaned over the counter and completely ignoring the weapon in his face, he said, “Excuse me? What is it you want?”
The kid was obviously nervous, his hands were trembling as he stuttered, “Give mme your money dadamit… give me all your mamamoney!”
Karl stepped back, cracked his knuckles, and said, “do you want my money or the stores money?” The robbers eyes widened in confusion.. “I I …” Karl interrupted, “ I will give you the stores money, but you will have to wrestle me for mine.” The bad man was half the size of Karl and it was easy to tell that he didn’t want any trouble with a man as big as Karl.
“Just give me the stores money and be quick!” he barked..
Karl made a big production out of getting one bag and then another bigger than the last.. He told the bandit that they were too small to hold all the loot.. He finally settled on a big paper bag that seemed to be just right.
As he was he was opening the cash register, Karl took a long and serious look at the gunman and nodded in his direction, said most sympathetically, “Son, are you alright? Do you feel ok?.. You look terrible..” This took the bad guy by surprise.. “Well doc..” he said. (back in the day, every one called their local druggist “doc”) “I am feeling pretty warm and sweaty” Karl nodded.. “there is a lot of crud going around right now son, your hands feel damp? Chest tight? Throat tight hard to talk? Feel like you cant get your breath and you are gonna faint?
The kid shook his head up and down.. “Now that you mention it, I kinda do”
“That’s it kid, you got the crud, if you don’t do something about it right away its gonna kill you, you better pull up one of those chairs over there and sit down before you fall down… I got just the right medicine to fix you up.” The would be robber drug the the cash first so Karl sauntered over to the till and whistling a soundless tune, he slowly lifted bill after bill from register and placed it carefully into the bag.. At last he handed him this really heavy bag of money.
The kid set down his gun and picked up the pills in one hand and the water in the other and just as he start to take his medicine it dawned on him what he had just done.. So he quickly drops the water and grabs up his gun and waving it wildly he shouts, “were you trying to trick me, you trying to get my pistol?” Karl just shook his head.. “Now why would I want to do that? If I got your gun then I would have to shoot you and then after they drug your lifeless body out of here, I would have to clean up the mess, and buddy, its been a long day, I am tired and I just want to go home.. So take your medicine and I will go in the back and get you the money out of the safe and we can both call it a day.” Nodding the bad guy, tossed back the pills and swallowed them dry, plopped down in the chair, clutching both the money and his gun, and waited for him to return.
Karl went into the back room and called the police, and when they arrived they found the robber, still sitting in the chair, still clutching his gun, still clutching the money and totally knocked out. The cops could not wake him up, they shook and shaked him, poured water on his head.. To no avail.. In fact he didn’t wake up until the next morning, and he was locked up in jail when that happened.
Karl told the cops he gave him two very high powered sedatives, because he wasn’t sure if one would do the job. The cops called the press.. And they came down and took pictures of Karl standing next to the sleeping bandit in the store. It was in all the news papers the next day and the TV station even came and interviewed him.. He was a hero for an hour or so and then he went back to being just Karl.
Oh and if you are wondering how much money the robber got, well it was about twenty, one dollar bills and five rolls of pennies. Karl never touched the big bills in the cash register.. And the safe wasn’t in the back room, it was under the front counter.. He just want to use the phone.. The cops thought all of this was so funny that after Karl closed the store that night they took him out for beers, and they listened to Karl tell the story again and again to rounds of deep and hearty laughter..
That was my uncle Karl, husband, father, grandfather and friend..
God Bless Him
I miss him dearly
This is a true story.. My unkle Karl was not a “psalm singer” as he called people of religion.. He was a non practicing Methodist.. He didn’t talk the talk.. He just walked the walk.. He would rather die that hurt some one.. And I believe this story illustrates that.. He would always look for non violent solutions to problems first.. If none were there..
God help you after that.
BYIt all started innocently enough. When I was about ten my mother asked me to go down to the end of Harold Place and pick some black berries at the Villa. She handed me the coffee can buckets, that we usually used when we went huckleberry picking up on Mt. Rainer. These were our special berry buckets, each with a story of its own.
Bro Kirk Luehrs
I hot footed it down the block and picked up my buddy Dick, and together we crawled e Villa’s field’s where the lush blac alt=k berry bushes basked in the warm Seattle sun. Some said the Villa had been there since God put water in Lake Washington, but that wasn’t true. Those twenty five golden acres were purchased by Mother Cabrini, who was the very first American to be proclaimed a saint by the Catholic Church. In 1914 it became an all girls orphanage, that went by the name of The Sacred Heart Villa, but we all just called it the Villa. The place was run by some nun’s that we had never seen until that fateful day.
Dick and I had picked several buckets full of plump fat juicy berries, and were dreaming of the great rich flakey pies that my grandmother would soon make of them, when all of a sudden, the air was full of words so heavy in accent that they were not to be understood. I spun around and there was this nun who was almost as tall as I was, and I was short for my age. English was definitely her second language, Italian being her first. I am sure that her father was some old country mafia don, who raised her to be a hit man. She grabbed us both and demanded that we go with her to see Mother Superior.
Now, I was not a Catholic then and didn’t have a clue what she was talking about but Dick was a Catholic boy and his face was a mask of terror. He said that we had better go with her. I didn’t see that it was such a big deal, we were not doing any thing wrong, so why not. I had never been in the Villa’s big building before and figured that it would be a lot of fun to see it. When we reached the stairs going up to the front doors, Dick ascended them like a man on the gallows steps. I took them two at a time, as I was on a grand adventure.
Once inside we were ushered into this great big office with walls that were buried in books, and a desk that was bigger than my bedroom. Behind it stood a nun who was even smaller and more Italian than the first, her father had to be the Godfathers Godfather. She looked older than dirt, her face made a raisin look smooth, she had very dark piercing eyes that could see through steel. For the very first time I felt more than a little uncomfortable. Dick looked like he was going to wet himself. She demanded to know why we were stealing the Villa’s black berries. I was shocked. Every year the Villas black berries just rotted on the vine. We were the only ones that ever picked them, the nuns never did. They just let them go to waste. Besides we were not hurting any thing, I mean I was just a little kid picking some berries, I wasn’t like Jessie James at the Northfield Bank.
I told her that my mom had sent us off to pick some berries so that my grandmother could bake a pie. This really set her off on a verbal tirade, that I just barely understood, about the mother of this child of the damned who taught her son to steal from the saints and had corrupted a good little Catholic boy in the process. I was totally lost, and had no instant response in defense of our actions. She kept marching back and forth slamming this giant yard stick against the side of her desk. Each slapping sound sent shivers down my back, her eyes cutting holes in my soul, who could believe that anyone that small could be so menacing. Finally she said that we must go into the chapel and pray for the forgiveness of our sins, while she decides our fate. I was relieved, as we were led away from this monster that they all called mother.
I had never been in a Catholic church before, and I was overcome with awe when we were hustled into the hallowed sanctuary. It was humongous. The ceilings reached all the way up to God’s throne, and were held there by carved images of long dead Christians. My eyes could not hold all that they were seeing, nor could my nose count all the exotic smells that lay heavy in the incense burners. It was the biggest museum that I had every been in. I wandered from statue to statue, touching the ones that I could reach and staring at the one that I could not. Dick was setting a new worlds record for hail Mary’s and our Fathers, he was whipping through the beads like there was no tomorrow. He was condemned and he knew it.. I was still very ignorant of my situation.
I was up by the alter when the chapel door blew open and the words, “Don’t touch that you garble garble barrble marble” came crashing through the silence.. I couldn’t quite make it out but with in seconds I was snatched in the back and push-dragged out of there by the nun who was the first to capture us. We were whisked back into Mother Superiors office, where suddenly fear became very real to me. Standing beside the desk was the biggest policeman that I had ever seen. He was nine feet tall, had a baseball bat for a Billy club, and his gun was so big that it fired cannon balls. He frowned at us.. He frowned the frown of the lord high executioner. It was deaths frown. My knees went weak and Dick looked like he was going to faint.. The black clad raisin hung a finger off her fist in my direction and shouted to the officer to arrest that thief. He promptly snapped the handcuffs on me, and wanted to know if he was to take Dick too. The old hag shook her head no, she explained that Dick was a Catholic boy and that she would see to his punishment. The look on Dicks face told me that he would have loved to have been arrested.
It was the very first time that I had ever been handcuffed, I mean good grief, I was just ten years old and it scared me. She ordered the cop to get me out of there, and as we started to leave I reached out to take my berry buckets. WHACK!! That old bugger blasted my knuckles with her stick, scattering buckets and berries all over the place. Still I had to get the buckets or mom would kill me. I reached out again and WHACK!! She got me again. Now I was getting really mad and I shouted that those were my buckets and that I wanted them back. I didn’t see it coming but I felt the slap all the way from my hair to my toes. Anger and hate immediately replaced fear and pain. I had been crippled as a kid and other children would taunt me by slapping my face and running away.. My face burned rage red, and my teeth crashed together as I told her never to slap me again and WHAPPP!!! She nailed me again. I totally lost it and went for her throat, but the cop caught me in mid air telling me that’s it bucko as he took me kicking and screaming out of mothers dungeon, down the stairs and slammed me into the squad car.
It was a short ride to our house, where the policeman explained to my disbelieving mother that I had been apprehended trespassing on the Villa’s property and had attempted to steal about two pounds of prime wild black berries. He also said that that I had attempted to assault Mother Superior, but no charges would be filed and that I would be let off with a warning this time. My mother wanted to know where her buckets were and was very displeased to learn that they were being kept by the lady at the Villa. The cop released me into my mothers custody and drove off to protect the world from other ten year old berry thieves.
My mother fed me and sent me to bed. When the house was asleep, I crept down to the basement made two new berry buckets from yesterdays coffee cans, tip toed like a ninja to the Villa, and filled them with the sweetest fattest black berries in the whole wide world. I put them on the kitchen table where she would find them in the morning and ate them that evening in my grandmothers pie. Nothing was ever said about my misadventure again.. Well not really., that woman’s hand print was still visible on my face the next day, and burned in my heart for years.
Several days later, as I was returning home from school, I spied a nun on the other side of the Villas fence. She was walking on a trail through the field that led to a place where they did their religious thing, like praying a lot. Anger over came judgment. I snatched up a rock and pegged it off in her direction. It fell short, but it felt so good, that I pegged a couple of more. From that day on, I kept an eye out for the tell tale black robe in the field, and should one appear, I would attempt to stone it. Never scoring a direct hit, the exercise proved to be therapeutic, that is until it became boring. I could never throw a rock far enough to hit a nun, and it was becoming very frustrating, because they didn’t even know that I was trying. I would lay in bed at night dreaming of the day that I scored a direct hit, and really boinked one.
Finally I couldn’t take it any more, and decided that bolder action was needed. I filled my pockets with rocks and crawled under the fence and crept over to a berry bush that was much closer to the nuns trail. I secreted myself behind it and waited for my prey to appear. I was not to be disappointed. A portly woman in black trod slowly down the path and past my place of concealment. I took careful aim and with the skill of an all star pitcher I let fly the perfect stone that found its mark in the middle of her more than ample fanny. I don’t know which went higher.. Her or her voice. The scream, startled me, and I broke from cover and ran like a mad man, across the field, under the fence and all the way home. A jack hammer was pounding in my chest, and dry sweat covered my forehead. I had done it.. I had stoned a nun.. And it felt good, and I wanted more.
Adrenalin is addictive, and I quickly became an adrenalin junkie. Stoning nuns was a real rush. I would do it at every opportunity. I studied their habits, no pun in tended, and planned attacks, plotted ambush sites, and escape routes. I even dug some holes to hide in if the nuns gave chase. Some of the young ones were pretty quick. I was having fun, I learned that if they were doing the stations of the cross, that they would not chase you, even if you smacked them, but if they were going to or from the there, watch out! They could get wicked on you really fast.
I had this friend of mine who lived on the other side of the Villa, who’s taste for adventure matched my own. I finally told him of my secret assaults on the Villas saints. He could not wait to join me, his soul was as devious as mine, and he quickly added new and more nasty ways to devil the lives of the ladies in black. We would swoop out from hiding, screaming like banshees, flinging rocks as fast as we could, coming as close as we dared and then fleeing to the fields or the lake below, where we rafted like pirates to safety. Our rules were very simple.. No head shots, no front shots, and don’t get caught. It was not long until there were a number of us Harold Place and Laurelhurst boys who would stop by the Villa and stone a nun or two. What is so stupid, is that this was all over a couple of buckets of berries. Mercy.
There were several of boys who got caught over time. They were out stoning on their own, and not with us pro’s. One boy got hung up in the cane berries, and fell into a patch of nettles. The good sisters descended on him like bee’s, and got very ugly on him. Pay back is an angry habit. They messed him up pretty good.
As time passed, stoning got old, the rush was gone. Then one fourth of July, I figured it would be fun to peg a fire cracker, just to see what would happen.. I crept close the stations of the cross, and let fly a two incher right in the middle of a group of nuns. Man you should of seen those ladies jump.. Whoa it was something else.. There was total pandemonium.. I got laughing so hard I almost didn’t get away. Fire crackers replaced rocks for the next couple of months. I would toss them like hand grenades, and play like I was at war.. It was great sport.
One afternoon, after bombing and blasting the tranquility of reflective prayer into moments of shock, surprise, and anger for a bunch of penitent practitioners of the cloistered persuasion, a friend and I were exiting the fields of battle, ducking under the fence and down to the street that ran parallel to it. I was just dusting my self off, when I saw it. The cop car. My blood ran cold as I watched this great big policeman getting out of it. He adjusted his gun belt, nodded his head, squared his cap and motioned for us to step his way. I stood quivering, in his shadow, as his garlic covered words, began to question us. He wanted to know if we had any fire crackers. My friend say yes, and showed all that he had.. I said no, which prompted an instant search. He reached into my pockets and pulled out my matches and cherry bombs. I was so busted. The cop let my friend go because he had been honest.. He kept me because I hadn’t been.
As he was putting me into the squad car, he said that he remembered me as the berry thief, and was not surprise that I was involved in this. In fact he had been trying to catch me for over a year, because he had been sure that I was behind the gang of hooligans who had been terrorizing the good sisters of the Villa. I was a rotten apple, and a corrupter of boys, I had graduated from berries to bombs.. I was bad to the bone. He drove me back up to the Villa and parked at the foot of the stairs. The Mother Superior, flew down the steps and planted her face in the side window of the car, promptly reached in, slapped me and screamed something about me going straight to hell and not passing go or collecting two hundred dollars, and continued to beat on me. I thought she was going to stroke out right there, she was really ticked.
The cop knew where I lived and lectured me all the way to my house, pushing my head to make his points or punching me on my arm. He pounded his fist on our front door, told of my stoning and bombing of nuns, and demanded to know from my father why he had raised his son so badly. He departed with out an answer, but assurances that justice would be done. Dad’s punishment was swift, painful and remembered to this very day.
I was angry and humiliated. Slapped and hit again, by screaming Italian shrew, who needed to stand on a box to reach the ground, punched by a giant policeman and a come to the woodshed meeting with my father, had worked its evil my soul. I wanted revenge.. I mean real revenge.. I declared war on all their houses.. I got out my civil war troopers cap with the crossed sabers on the front, and took out the sling shot that I had made from a super flexible strength branch of our willow tree. Strips of inner tube attached the buckskin pocket to the upright forks. You could kill crows with it. My first target was the cop. I nailed his windshield down on Sand Point Way when he was giving some poor dude a ticket. He didn’t even see it until he got back in his car to drive off.. He was not a happy camper but I doubt he ever figured out what had happened.
That being done I returned with vengeance to the Villa. Once again the game was a foot, only this time I was out to inflict pain, I wasn’t fooling any more. I meant to hurt them. I would attack from ambush, stretching the tubes to the max, and beyond.. Sighting the area where the butt should be, and letting fly the stones of retribution, with deadly accuracy. Cries of pain replace the meager ones of surprise. This was no longer fun and games this was war.. No quarter no mercy. It was over almost as soon as it began.
Coming home from school, I was walking near the Villa basketball courts, when this priest hollers out and asks if I want to shoot some hoops.. I smelled a rat and fearing a trap I declined. The next day as I was sneaking under the fence and into the Villas field, to go nun hunting, the priest suddenly appeared. My heart stopped.. I was a dead boy.. I knew that I could not out run this guy.. I was toast. .. The priest smiled and took me by the arm and led me up the trail to the basketball courts, thanking me for taking him up on his offer to shoot some baskets.. He was glad that I would join him in a game of “horse“.
He was young, nailed his shots with easy and pitched the ball to me. I kept looking around for the cop. Something just wasn’t right here.. The wicked mother had to be hiding in the bushes to get even with me.. Or something.. I felt very uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to say or do so I just blurted out that I didn’t believe in God. The priest laughed and said that the basketball didn’t care, and that I should take my turn… we played all afternoon.. Played again the next night.. And it got to be a regular sort of thing right after school, when it wasn’t raining, we shot baskets. Pretty soon other kids from Harold Place would be hanging out there too.. Playing pick up games. It was cool. This priest was more like a big brother, and he was not opposed to playing rough and running right over you in a game of one on one.
The cop never did show up.. And soon became a yesterdays memory.. The priest never asked me if I was the one who stoned the nuns.. He already knew.. We just talked sports, he wasn’t a big talker, so I usually just babbled on about the Huskies or little league football, or whatever. He was the first adult that every really listened to me and took what I said seriously. He never pushed religion or faith or good and evil, but if you asked a questions he had answers and most important, if he didn’t know the answer he said so .. He never pretended to know something that he didn’t. Like when I asked him why God made me a cripple when I was little, he didn’t know, but he thought it was great how strong that had made me. And what about my doubts and disbeliefs about God? The priest figured that if you had not doubted or challenged your faith you might not truly believe. He said that he too had doubted big time and almost didn’t become a priest because of it.
I was amazed, this priest guy was a human being like the rest of us.. He told me that while I might not believe in God right now, God believes in me, and that some day when I really needed Him God would be there for me. I just figured that he was blowing smoke, I didn’t think God even knew who I was.
On day the priest asked me, if I though we met by accident and I said yeah, that he just got lucky catching me at the fence. So the priest says that luck had nothing to do with it, that God had sent him to me, because I was really getting off track, and heading for some major trouble. Then he proceeded to take me around the field showing me all of my ambush sites, hiding holes where I stashed my extra rocks and sling shots. He had been watching me for quite some time. I asked him if he was going to call the cops now and he laughed and asked if the cop could shoot baskets. And that was the end of that.
Winter came and nun hunting and hoops were over for the season. The next year for some reason I wasn’t in the mood to stone anyone. The priest didn’t come and shooting hoops wasn’t the same with out him. I found mischief to get into and my youth rolled into history.
It would be years before our conversations would come back to me. I was dying and pretty much alone, when the words of the priest tip toed through my mind. That there was a God and that God loved me. That when I really needed Him God would be there for me. So I started to talking to this God, really really talking to God and for the first time I knew that God was really really listening to me just like the priest did when no one else would. That started me on the most grand adventure of my life. God gave me a second chance and His Son Jesus Christ, and an amazing thirty eight of life since then.
Now I don’t know the name of the priest, the Catholic kids all called him father, I just called him, Hey.. But there is No doubt that God sent him to me back then, just as certainly as He had me get caught stealing black berries. He had a message for me, a message of salvation, and it took a lot to get my attention. You see God is not sleeping, even when you are stoning nuns.
God Bless You
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