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The Fisher of Stories


So I ran a 5K for the first time in my life while at Falls Creek this year. I keep saying “ran” because that’s what I hear other people saying and I figure I should probably just say the same thing and not mention that I walked 4.85K of it.
My time? A confident 55.24. I got a pin and shirt, which was a XXL, and didn’t even come close to fitting. I walked into the gift shop with my pin and the kid behind the counter just stared at me. I said, “Y’all got any triple beefies behind that counter?” And she replied, “Seriously?” I think she honestly thought I had stolen the pin.

It’s a shade snug, and one lady told me I looked like an overripe orange, but I’m shakin’ haters off.

I want to make one thing very clear though. I DID NOT FINISH LAST. I would also like to make another thing clear. People skinnier than me finished behind me. Clearly this means I’m the most in-shape fat guy in the entire world.
I’ve taken the liberty of breaking down the “run” into segments that most popped out to me.
The Walk to the Race – I seriously probably walked 3K to get to the 5K and then another 3K back. They have all these little golf carts running around and not a single one would pick me up and give me a ride. When I got to the “race”, I asked the ladies at the starting line if 5Ks worked on a deduction system whereby I could subtract the walk to and from my cabin from my actual Ks ran, and they said no. I’m probably going to write a strongly worded letter.
Self-Image – I think the biggest mistake I made outside of waking up that morning was actually looking at the other runners before the “race” started. Pretty sure all fat people can attest to this, when we go anywhere we immediately check to see if we’re the fattest person there. It’s like the old Lewis Black bit about IHOP. Anyway, I got down to the start line and I was the fattest person there by at least 150 pounds. People stared at me and asked if I was some sort of official. It was real awkward. All these people stretching and getting ready and I was just bent over trying to get my wind back from the walk down, which could explain the poor start I got.
Golf Cart Chasers – At one point during the “race” I saw a golf cart hurtling towards us at a ridiculous rate of speed. In my mind, I thought, “Well that’s just unsafe, we have folks running (walking) here.” Clearly there had been a breakdown in communication and the situation would be resolved shortly. However, as it passed, I noticed two gentlemen behind the cart, keeping pace with it. It was almost as if the cart was slowing them down. I think at this point we were fifteen minutes into the race, and these dudes were on the home stretch. They’d literally lapped us twice. Just making everyone look bad for their own personal glory. Keep it classy, boys.

Hills – SO MANY HILLS I’M GOING TO DIE LORD JESUS TAKE ME HOME. Essentially, and I’ve worked the math on this, if I had just laid down and rolled down the hills, I would have taken 10 minutes off my time. Solid math fact. Just a follow-up question, is there a committee or activist group I can join that propositions all-flat racing courses? Does Westboro have an opinion on this? If so can I get an application? I’ll pay dues.

Maybe should have taken that Romans reference out of there.

Shin Splints – I’m not gonna lie. I’m just shy of what scientists call “peak performance ready.” I got the shin splints about 38 seconds into the “race.” For those of you who don’t know, a shin splint is where your entire shin muscle separates from your entire shin bone,* and drops down onto the ground, where you drag them behind you through mud and rocks and get them filthy. The burning sensation this causes is, in purely clinical terms, the equivalent to child birth, and is directly connected to your motivation to finish the “race.”

The shinabolic muscle connects to the lower dorsimus tissues…

Red Rovers – These are the people who line up side by side, jammed tighter than me in a SMART car, and take up the entire width of the road, just walking leisurely and discussing things such as New Balance tennis shoes, wind resistance, and what they’d like to have for dinner at the 4:30 Early Bird. I’m not trying to imply they’re all old, but I’m also not denying it either. My favorite way to get through them is to scream “RIGHT!” and blast through two of them like I’m Emmitt Smith breaking through a defensive line, only with more hip dysplasia.**
Camera Crews/People I Know – Here’s the thing. I like to look good on camera, and in front of people I know. I could care less about people who don’t know me, they can think what they want. In the words of Tupac, only God can judge me, you know? But when we passed anyone with a video camera, I had to start jogging. I also started jogging any time I saw someone I knew or when we passed our cabin, just dragging my shin muscles pitifully behind me. It got real sad a few times towards the end.
The Finish Line – You can walk the whole “race” but if you don’t run across the finish line you’re a stone cold loser. I’m almost positive John Wooden said that. A direct quote. My legs were numb at that point, so running was more guesswork than painful, but I did it anyway. I went through the finish line like there was a crowd cheering and a ribbon for me to bust through when in reality it was six bored camp staff waiting to hand me a pin so they could go eat breakfast. I also may have left my partner behind at this point but it’s every man for himself here am I right?

I made this on the Internet so you know it’s true.

“Oh I Ran It Last Year” People – I think we’re all familiar with these guys. “Oh, you ran the 5K this year? I ran it last year/I ran one just last week.” Guess what though? You didn’t run this one, so your time of 10.34, which I’m pretty sure is impossible anyway, has no bearing here. It’s like when Martin Luther King Jr. said “The only race people care about is the one you just ran…and white people.”*** I don’t want to hear about your last 5K when I’m clearly trying to get my shinabolic reconnected to my dorsimus tissues.

*Got this fact directly from WebMD. **Can humans get this? I know German Shepherds can, so I figured we could too. ***100% legit MLK quote. Just can’t find a source for it.

It’s been four years.

1,462 days have passed since the last time I was there. In that time I’ve almost wrecked a marriage, fixed it, worked at three jobs, left a church, found a new church, gone back to college, and adopted two kids.

I’ve ended a ministry, and started a new one. The former, teenagers. The latter, senior adults.

The last time I was there, Flour on the Roof happened.

The last time I went, we left early on a Monday morning. This time, I’ll be arriving on a Wednesday night. Last time, I was excited. This time…

I’m nervous.

The place I’m talking about is Falls Creek, Oklahoma.


For those that don’t know, Falls Creek is a youth church camp that is based near Davis, Oklahoma. For those that do know, there’s nothing more to be added. It is a wonderful camp, full of wonderful kids that spend the week battling heat and hormones, and trying to build a closer relationship with God.
In short, this place is amazing.
So why have I waited four years to go back?
Well, the answer to that is a bit complicated. The way I figured it, the Youth Minister that took my place at Okay was a nice enough guy to let me go back with them if I wanted to. Especially after I sorted my personal issues out. However, I couldn’t justify in mind tagging along with him while he was trying to rebuild some of the trusts that I’d broken. To me, it is the equivalent of a pastor ceasing his ministry at a church, then continuing to go to church there. I just didn’t think it was right, and so I didn’t ask.
“Okay, but Travis, aren’t you going back with that same church tonight?”
The short answer is yes. The long answer is that the YM that took my place has left, and the family that replaced him I have known literally my entire life, and also, 99% of the kids that were there when I was there have passed through by now. So I’m taking our newly saved and baptized daughter down for some “precious memories,” as my mother-in-law so contemptuously corrected me a few nights ago.
And when I took Akeeli up to the church the other night to get everything registered, one of the ladies doing the paperwork looked at me and said, “Did you have to do all of this when you were running things?” As she said it, she had a look in her eye that was something akin to a wildebeest cornered by several large and not-yet-vegan African lions.
I looked at her and smiled and said yes, fondly recalling how much I love it. All of the planning, the waiting until the last second on registrations, that one kid that would come running up on Monday morning ten minutes before we left and wanting to go. I. Loved. It.
So why am I nervous?
Falls Creek is almost like a living thing. It’s an entity, it experiences growth and change almost exponentially. And so I’m half afraid that it’s grown out of me. But another real reason is that I’m afraid I’ll get down there and realize that I’ve grown out of it.
I would love to one day return to the Youth Ministry field. That’s a long way away, but I know that if I return to it, I’ll more than likely be taking kids to Falls Creek. I have a heart for teenagers, and I know that FC is the best place for them when it comes to high intensity spiritual conditioning.
But what if I’m over it? What if I get down there, look around, and say, “Wow. This is so different. I can’t stand this.”
It seems silly and trivial, I know. But it is a genuine concern of mine, and the main reason for my nervousness. I’m sure I’ll get down there, take a deep breath, turn my phone off, and realize that FC is still the best place in Oklahoma. And I can’t wait to see my daughter’s face as she experiences the sounds, the sights, the smells, and…her very first icee date, which will be with me.
So I’ll leave work tonight, pick up our daughter, go home and grab our bags, and head out to Falls Creek, where I’ll make…
…The Return. Pray for me.
I am spinning a yarn today that is woven from the fine thread of revenge. Sit back, have a mug of coffee or cocoa, and read on, Edgar Allen style.

I was once a youth minister at Okay First Baptist Church. I lost that job because I was an idiot. I’ve changed a bit in the last few years, kind of wandered a bit, but just because I use a few bad words here and there doesn’t make me any more of a sinner than the next guy.
One of my responsibilities was to take the teenagers to church camp every year. The camp we went to is called Falls Creek. You may have heard of it, you may not. It’s a blast. If I had to pick the one thing that I miss the most of being a YM, the time with the kids there would be it.
Pranks are a big deal at church camp. If I had to pick a priority order, they’d come in just under God Himself.

Some pranks are funny, some are tolerable, and some are just downright stupid. As the YM, and having been in a prank when I was a kid in the camp that involved me running balls naked from the shower and tackling another kid, I had to set some ground rules about acceptable pranking.

Also water guns were allowed at the camp, and no water balloons because another church in Muskogee, I won’t say whom, blasted the camp director in the face with a water balloon one year. Yeah… He wasn’t a happy camper (chuckle).

Anyhow, no shower pranks, no nude pranks, no messing up others bedding, and no shaving cream pranks were allowed. This left options limited…unless you’re a girl.

You see, girls have certain…ahem…items that they should always take to church camps, just in case. Being girls, these…items don’t bother them because they use them in the natural order of life, womanhood, and all that jazz.

However, the items in question are often not used in the natural order of things, and are instead used to do other things, mainly torture boys with.

Talkin’ bout tampons, y’all.

One night the girls decided that they were going to play a prank on us. It consisted of them sitting outside our door with an air horn and blowing it until one of the kids got fed up enough to go outside and do something about it.

To be fair, I warned the kid not to. Being a veteran, I knew what was waiting. I knew there were about fifteen girls out there armed to the teeth, and that somehow tampons would be present in that armory.

I told him to calm down. I told him there’d be tampons. In the end, he just couldn’t take the stress anymore. He made a decision.

He went out with his head held high, and he paid dearly for it. Yelling his head off, he walked straight into some saran wrap laced with shaving cream, then took 25 tampons to the face. It was humiliating. He came back in the bunk a changed man.

I couldn’t let that go.

I was going to punish them because they used shaving cream, but The Missus would have none of it. She believed tampons were fair in love and war, and so I just decided to let it ride, and we plotted our revenge.
I’ll give you the way it went down, from the girl’s perspective.

Editor’s note, April 2013: There is absolutely no way I’d allow this to be done again. Looking back and remembering, it was the dumbest thing I ever let the kids do, and one time I let them in hotel rooms with stocked mini bars, so that tells you something. If something had happened, woo. But the only thing that happened was pure awesomeness.

We had a new guy with us that year, Harlan Johnson, who happened to be the guy that took my place when I left the church. He was the “bait.”

The girls were having a nice, quiet awards ceremony that The Missus had dreamed up for edifying purposes.

Harlan came running full-tilt from the dorm through the commons area and out the front door with a few of us guys in tow. I ran out chasing him in my socks, slipped, and slid across a polished floor into some tables.

That was not planned, but it wound up being effective in luring the girls outside. And bruising me.

We chased him outside where we caught him, and started tying him to a basketball pole. This also caused all the girls to come outside to see what was going on.

And then, from the middle of the fracas, the code word was yelled!

Suddenly, boys appeared from everywhere. It was like that scene from The Rock where the people doing the rescuing are down in the pit and the bad guys are on top and Ed Harris is all like “WE HAVE THE HIGH GROUND JUST SURRENDER!” and no one surrenders and then there’s a massacre only we didn’t give them a chance to surrender, no, not after the Great Tamponing of 2008.


Part of the young men were on water duty. They came out of a trailer we used to haul stuff in and covered the girls head to toe with water. Soaked them up real well…and then…


We had agents stationed on the roof with tons of leftover flour from the kitchen. As it rained down on the soaked young ladies, I was reminded of snow…and of winter.


Obviously an update. Still appropriate.

The flour covered the girls, and unfortunately most of the awards they were given, turning everyone and everything into a sticky sort of glue. The girls, being ever brilliant, quickly decided to start hugging the guys, and since teenage boys LIVE for hugs from girls, their dichotomous natures betrayed them and they ended up floury as well.
A group was outside their cabin having devotion when all of this happened. In retrospect, I feel really bad for that YM. You really can’t bring your kids back to Jesus after they’ve just witnessed Falls Creek history.

They loved it though, and were really excited about it. One of them even claimed to have gotten the whole thing on video and agreed to send it to us. We never got it. I like to think though that somewhere out there is a church who has a Flour on the Roof Sunday, where they put the tape in and watch it, laughing hysterically.

We spent the rest of the evening and into the wee hours cleaning flour from our patio, the cabin next door, the van, and everywhere but our minds. The flour on our minds will live in infamy.

Immediately after, The Missus and I had an enormous fight about ruining her awards ceremony (which I still feel kind of bad about), and the fact that I violated almost every rule at the camp in one fell swoop.

1. No running in the cabins
2. No yelling in the cabins
3. No tying people to things
4. No water throwing unless in designated areas
5. No wasting of precious food commodities

and the list really just goes on.

The rest of the week, all that was talked about, aside from God, was Flour on the Roof, and its other name, The Battle at Finkery Hill. To my knowledge, it has never been topped, nay attempted, ever. I don’t think it ever will be.Unless some poor sap lets me take kids to Falls Creek again.

It was like Scarface sneezed on our cabin.