Adventures with Father–Imperial Nebraska

We arrived late in the evening of 10 August 2013 at Enders Reservoir State Recreation Area. It is just inside the Mountain Time Zone, so the sun set very early–8:10! After a summer in northern Michigan and growing accustomed to 9:30 sunsets it was quite disconcerting. Once again we were forced to set up in the dark, which is typical for camping Phelpses. Fortunately we had eaten at Mac’s Drive-In in McCook so did not need to make dinner. 


Sunday morning Dad arose quite early; I crawled out of bed around 7:30. Dad chopped up bacon, onions, and green pepper and I practiced my new-found omelette-making skills in my brand-new Cabela’s fold-up frying pan. Fail: too much grease and the egg won’t cook! Dad’s motto is, of course, “Be Prepared.” (You’d be amazed at how much stuff he forgot, but that is another post.) But his little-known second motto is “Never throw away bacon grease if you can eat it.” Not surprisingly the omelette tasted just fine even if the texture was off a bit. ! And just for the record I like Merriam-Webster’s definition: “beaten eggs cooked without stirring until set and served folded in half,” though it forgets to add, “loaded with yummies like spinach, green pepper, onions, sausage, and bacon.” (Who writes dictionaries these days, anyway?)


At 10:00 we left for church at Crossroads Wesleyan, where Todd Burpo, author of “Heaven is for Real,” pastors a tiny flock. We walked in and a man said, “Hi! I’m Todd.” Dad said (only slightly incredulously), “Todd Burpo?” (Funny guy! Perhaps he should have studied the pictures in the book more!) After introductions Todd took us around to the fellowship area and talked with us for about 25 minutes until he had to go put his microphone on in preparation for the 10:45 service. Even though it was only a few minutes since we had eaten, dad, true to form, did not pass up free sweets and coffee from the kitchen! 


After the service (I did not know a single song we sang), Todd talked with us again for about an hour, sharing all the joys and trials along the way to becoming a 10-million-copies-selling author. He flies today or tomorrow to the set where the movie version of the book is being filmed. Greg Kinnear is playing Todd, the writer is the writer of Braveheart, and the cinematographer is the one from Dances with Wolves. Todd thinks it will be pretty good, but is holding his endorsement of the film until he sees the finished product.   “I’ve sold 10 million books, but the only control I have now is waiting until I see the final edit. Sony does not want me to tell people to stay away so they are staying true to the book.” Smart. 


We were the last ones to leave (also typical Phelps fashion), and when I tried to start the truck, we were greeted with vigorous clicking but no starting. We called AAA; the nearest tow was some 80 miles away!  Thirty minutes later Todd came by, listened, said it might be the starter because he had just had a similar problem on his truck a month before. He dug a hammer out of his truck, crawled under the Dodge, and whacked away at the starter, hoping to unfreeze it. (Thaw it?) Nothing. He called a mechanic friend Ray who came, whacked it a few more times, and pronounced the starter dead. 


Ray arranged to tow the truck early Monday morning (we cancelled the AAA request!)and replace the starter (provided he could find one for a 1992 Dodge pickup at one of the two auto parts stores in the town of 1,700)! Todd had some things to attend to before heading to the lake with his son and nephew, so Ray dropped us off at Tequilas Grill, the only place beside Pizza Hut and Subway open in Imperial on a Sunday afternoon. Dad had shrimp enchiladas and I had Taquitos Mexicanos, similar to Matamoros taquitos but deep fried. All yummy. Todd retrieved us in his truck and drove back to the church, where we transferred what we needed from our truck to his. After accomplishing this, we hopped in the big maroon (Fire Up Chips!) Ford F-250 quad cab, I apologized to the little boys for taking so much of their jet ski time, and I half-heard Todd say, “Uh, it might be a little longer.” “What?” He turned the key. Nothing. “This is exactly what happened to me a month or so ago. My starter wires became disconnected and I got nothing, no sound, no click, not anything, and the car would not start.” He crawled under his own truck (“Remind me to have my starter fail on the pavement and not in the gravel next time”), poked around, popped back out and tried to start the truck again. Nothing. He grinned at me and said, “You just can’t make this stuff up.” He walked the fifty meters to his house, grabbed the keys to his Explorer, and came back. The boys skipped off to the house, we transferred everything from the truck to his Explorer, and finally he was able to take us out to the lake. We chatted a bit more, and then he left. 


I spent most of the day exploring the shore of the reservoir and the dam, walking probably 3-4 miles in my Vibram Five Fingers. Dad sat at the table trying not to fall asleep. When I returned, we traded stories, I read through some music for the fall, and eventually we had a snack and went to bed. We were up around 6:30, had breakfast, and much to our surprise Todd showed up at 8:30–in the F-250! ”I got the wires reconnected but need to have it looked at again!” he said a bit sheepishly. He took dad back to town while I scrambled to clean up and pack everything. I washed and dried all the dishes, rolled, stuffed or folded sleeping bags, pads, pillows, and clothing, and took down the tent. Forty minutes later dad was back with his truck. I don’t know why but it took another hour to get everything back on board, and by then I was soaked, so I took a quick shower and we finally headed out around 11:00. 


Dad was so pleased with small town love and service that on the way back through Imperial we stopped, thanked Ray and collected his address, then bought some long tent-peg-worthy nails from the hardware store before we finally left Imperial. That’s what so great about a small town: not only do you know everybody, you can call and ask for favors and the people are always willing to help. Todd knew whom to call; Ray was willing and available. It was God’s blessing that we had the trouble here, because His people here were able to help us. They were a blessing to us, and by serving us we were a blessing to them. Win-win. 


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