Monday, January 10, 2011

Precious Ghosts From My Past

I took Arayo to the Chapel this week. As the bitter January winds blew, we walked the cherub-lined walkways towards the building that once drew crowds. Like visiting an ancient European Castle, the walls and beauty remain, but only the ghosts speak of the pageants, crowds, and glorious days of not so long ago.

The spirits remind me of my first visit to this hillside. There was only a simple home here then, and the shy woman I met flinched when I asked of rumors that a chapel was to be built. "You'll have to ask Sam about that," was all she would say.

Sam was her husband. Sam Butcher. The creator of the most collected figurines in the country: "Precious Moments." The Chapel - his tribute to God.

No one who has ever met me would imagine that, tucked in my past was a period where I ran around giving presentations on these sweet, religious cherubs. That I was once married under a bridge with a 20 foot concrete troll looking on is understandable. But gooey angels?

For 7 years I traveled the Midwest, my Newfoundland dog, Tara, by my side. Meeting with groups of "clubbies" - collectors who had anywhere from 10 to 1,000 of the figurines which proclaimed their messages of Jesus, love and glory to God. Though I think the collectors always knew I wasn't a Precious Moments girl down in my soul, I adored the "clubbies" for their genuineness and gentle spirits, and ended up with groupies who followed me from venue to venue.

As I walk toward the chapel, I recall its construction, its painting and the crowds of people who made their way to stare in wonder at the stories the paintings on the walls portray. I remember the conventions I organized, and of helping protect Sam, the shy soft-spoken artist, from the mobs who wanted to meet the man they so adored.

Today, the parking lots are nearly empty, and the tour guide says the masses have dwindled to a handful of people who visit each day. No longer are the roads jammed with tour busses, and Sam is probably free to walk around unconcerned with crowd control and body guards.

The Precious Moments Chapel is still beautiful and well worth a visit. It is a simple but talented man's tribute to God and in its own way, a tribute to those who collect or once collected. It is a gift from a wonderful man who had a vision that changed the face of a small hillside in Southwest Missouri.

Perhaps, if you are lucky, when you are there you can still hear the ghosts of a glorious time gone by.

Photos: My cousin, Megan, admires the inside of the Precious Moments Chapel. Arayo visits with Precious Moments Figures on the Chapel Grounds.

For more information on The Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage Missouri

A little song for the day

Happy Birthday to me. Happy Birthday to me. You lived to see another yeeeaar.... Happy Birthday to me!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Santa's "Protection" Newf

Santa dropped by for a Newfie fix this week.

It was a beautiful day so I spent a few hours cleaning the dust of many miles of travel from my car. He approached quietly. I s
uppose he had a lot of practice from sneaking around people's homes at night - but I turned around and there was his bright red Chevy sedan parked in the driveway behind me. When he stepped from the car, there was no mistaking the big jolly lad. His funny red Santa hat was replaced for the off-season with a red and white "Oswego Indians" ball cap, and in place of his fur trimmed suit were a red t-shirt, red windbreaker, and red polyester pants held up by blue and white stripped suspenders. His face was hidden behind a beard and as a disguise - his little round spectacles were replaced by big nondescript glasses. Didn't work. I knew who he was.

He hadn't dropped by to see me, though. As always, when you own a Newf, you know that the people who stop really just want to see your dog.

"I used to have a Newfoundland," Santa proclaimed proudly as he bent over to scratch the belly that Arayo had immediately dropped to the ground to offer up. The story goes that some years ago a friend had a litter of Newfs. This one had a nose that was too short (breeders wanted long-nosed newts, you see) and the breeder offered to give this pup to Santa, who happily accepted. Santa had an office in these days, and figured he'd better take this a step at a time. He left the puppy at his office at night, and went home to the missus and said, "Don't you think we need a dog?" To which the answer, night after night, was always, "No!"

After a few weeks of this, he figured this was a no-go deal with the wife and offered him up to the police department, who's office was next to his. They thought he'd make a big scary police dog and snatched him up for their program. (Of course, that same night, Santa went home and Mrs Santa proclaimed "I think we need a dog, don't you?" but by then it was too late.)

Well, some time later, the police come back to Santa and say "want your dog back?" Turns out there are reasons that police departments all over the world don't have attack Newfs on their force. Seems they could train the dog to chase down a bad guy. Could even get him to knock the guy down and pin him to the ground. What they couldn't get through to the dog is that you do not lick the bad-guy's face while waiting for the back-up of your fellow officers.

Santa had his Newf back.

Then, Santa proceeds to tell me the rest of the story. One day this guy is driving down the street. He's in a hurry, driving too fast, and he sees this big black form in the middle of the road. He hits the brakes but can't miss hitting Santa's dog. The dog died protecting two kids who were in the street.

So, that's Santa's Newf Story. I'm glad Santa only visits children one night a year and does it with a very busy schedule. His story was charming but he needs to work on happier endings.

Happy 2011 to one and all. - - Karyn and Arayo