Monthly Archives

November 2017

The Tuggles

Episode 13: The Darkness

November 29, 2017

April 1996

The sound of the rolling cart approached his cell for what seemed like hours, stopping at 30-second intervals for each inmate to make a haphazard selection. He hadn’t accepted a book yet in his few weeks at the penitentiary, but a sense of solace beckoned to him today from the squeaky wheels. The cart came into view in front of his entrance and Tim glanced up at the scruffy attendant, his hand on his hip, belly hanging out of his blue button-up uniform. With no words exchanged, Tim rose from his bed and slowly walked the few steps between them. The unorganized cart was picked over. Having never been much of a reader, he moved uncertainly from title to title. The bottom shelf held only five books: The Catcher in the Rye, and four copies of Holy Bible.

Staring at those titles, the world seemed so far away. Those last few weeks contained the most intense loneliness he had ever experienced in all of his 36 years of life. All his failures, his accomplishments, his desires—separated from him by concrete walls and barbed wire. The defeat within his spirit left a humbling resolve for whatever lay in front of him, and right now what lay in front of him was this tattered hardback, blue Bible. He grabbed the one out front and the cart rolled out of sight. Nestling back into his bunk, the book fell open and he began to read. Returning the book an hour later, Tim climbed into bed and ruminated on the words he had just ingested. A feeling of fresh life coursed through him and tears filled his eyes. He knew the resounding echo in his spirit could only come from God, the One he hadn’t spoken to in years, but was now speaking to him.

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The Tuggles

Episode 12: The Dump

November 27, 2017

The dust cloud extended hundreds of yards out in front of them, like a lingering jet stream hovering just above ground. A rusted, old pickup truck rounded the high sand dune next to them and within seconds was pulling up next to the traveling caravan. The window rolled down and a curly-headed thirtysomething stuck his face out, the sun reflecting off his Aviator sunglasses.

“Nice pack string! Where you guys going?” he hollered above the loud rumble of the engine.

“We’re crossing America,” Tim yelled back. The kid didn’t miss a beat.

“What for?” he continued to holler, seemingly unaware that he could turn off the motor to have a conversation at a decent decibel level.

“We’re missionaries. We’re asking people to pray for the nation.” Tim got a little louder at the end to be sure he was heard.

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The Tuggles

Episode 11: The Desert

November 25, 2017

The sound of forks clanking against porcelain overtook the tiny mobile home kitchen. Tim added more pepper to his ribeye and pulled his chair a little closer to the table, clearing his throat.

“Cindy, what would it be like crossing the desert up to Elko?” he inquired, lifting a bite of steak to his lips. Lynn glanced at him in between passing the cottage cheese to Cindy and receiving the sweet potatoes from Leif.

“Do you mean in a vehicle?” asked Cindy. “Or are you talking you three on horses?” She held Tim’s gaze across the table while taking a sip of her sweet tea. Tim put the chewed bite of steak in his cheek to give an intelligible response.

“Horses,” he responded, resuming his chewing.

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The Tuggles

Episode 10: The Encounter

November 23, 2017

The high noon sun beat down on the pack string with a blaze of August heat. Nearing the edge of the Redwoods the trees were beginning to scatter farther apart now providing less amounts of shade. Tim’s green, plaid shirt clung to his back in a pool of sweat. The crew looked forward to every patch of shade on one of the hottest days of the California summer. It was the eighth day of the journey and the group had become used to the camping routine, enjoying the brilliant night sky in the middle of the forest near a bubbling brook of water.

In a staggered line, Lynn rode between the two men. Her saddle soreness beginning to wear off, each day her body settled into a comfortable riding regimen a bit quicker than the previous day. The two pack horses on her string ambled along, adjusting to the hefty weight of all the canned goods she had insisted on bringing with them. She glanced over her shoulder at the nearest horse, Toby, his front leg muscles bulging out with every step, convincing herself that he was perfectly fine bearing it up, yet knowing she had probably gone a little overboard.

Amidst the hoof-clopping of the horseshoes on the rocks, a loud, shrill screech came from Tim’s front pants pocket, startling Cher in the saddle beneath him.

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The Tuggles

Episode 9: The Miracle

November 22, 2017

The train tracks seemed to stretch on endlessly ahead as Tim led the pack string onward. The Redwoods towered high above them, keeping them from direct sun exposure. The cool, woodsy breeze felt more like October than the usual August, dry heat they were accustomed to in Bakersfield. Like a traveling safari, the caravan stayed true to the old, rundown train tracks. The clear path ahead of them provided a longer stretch of smoother travel than the unsteady terrain that surrounded them on both sides.

The crew rounded the bend and came to the third train trestle in four hours. It was only the second day of their horseback journey, but Tim’s patience was wearing thin with all the detours around these trestles.

He sighed out his annoyance. Approaching the entrance to the trestle, he pulled slightly on the reins, bringing his horse, Cher, to a slowing stop. The metal frame of the bridge stretched nearly one hundred yards to the end, towering over enlarged rocks and bushy trees nearly thirty feet below. Tim scanned the railroad ties, examining their condition. Each tie lay close together and appeared sturdy and fairly new.

“Okay,” he said aloud. “Let’s go. We’re crossing this one.”

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The Tuggles

Episode 8: The Conditioning

November 16, 2017

Lynn stood at the window, pensively watching Tim work Sonny in the round pen as the setting sun cast its golden rays across her upper body. The sudden contrast of the sun’s heat with the chill of the living room sent a shiver down her spine and goosebumps up her arms. There were fewer glorious sights to her than a man with a horse. She bit her lip as the stud loped in circles around her husband, the whip in his right hand and the lead rope in the other.

“You’re going to get on that horse.”

The phrase was smooth and clear within her spirit with the gentle stillness of divine peace. A soft smile spread across her face as she settled into the comfort of His voice, even in a thought that would utterly terrify her in the flesh. Ever since breaking her neck in a car accident several years prior, she could hardly manage to hold a lead rope without a blanket of horror swarming her as vivid images of Christopher Reeves pummeled her mind. She settled deeper into the embrace of the Holy Spirit’s grace for this moment. Each thought of hesitance that rose up was calmly subdued, like a large mighty hand in the face of all apprehension.

Fear has no grip on me. I am courageous. Lord, give me strength.

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The Tuggles

Episode 7: The Telling

November 14, 2017


He placed the last few glasses inside the cupboard and pushed it shut as the back door opened. Lynn shuffled across the threshold and headed towards him into the kitchen.

“Afternoon, sweetheart,” Tim chirped with a soft smile. She set her purse on the counter.

“I did it,” she declared.

“You did what?” Tim asked as he reached down to close the dishwasher.

“I put in my two weeks’ notice.”

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The Tuggles

Episode 6: The Calling

November 13, 2017

Tim defiantly punched the “off” button and flippantly tossed the remote control onto the coffee table. Arms folded across his chest, he scowled at the blank television screen. “Worthless,” he grunted to himself. The front door swung open and Lynn walked in. Their eyes locked and she lingered in the doorway for a moment. “I am sick and tired of this country’s sorry excuse for media,” he spouted.

“So happy to see you, too, sweetheart,” she responded without skipping a beat. She headed through the living room and into the kitchen, setting her bags on the counter.

“The propaganda of the news media disgusts me to my core. This government’s administration is just unbelievable. I know it shouldn’t make me this angry, but it does and I can’t help it. Gets worse all the time.” A moment later Lynn reappeared in the doorway. “Sweetheart, you can help it, though.” Her gaze penetrated his dejection. “You can pray.”

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The Tuggles

Episode 5: The Favor

November 8, 2017

The February snow flurries were turning into thick flakes as we pulled the truck and trailer underneath the gas station overhead covering. We were passing through Missouri on our way to Illinois, and the sky was already dark even though the evening hour had barely set in.

Lynn returned from the bathroom and climbed into the truck’s passenger seat.

“I’m buying dinner!” a woman announced outside the truck. “You tell him I’m buying dinner!” I looked out my backseat window to see a woman with dark, wavy hair and a fluffy winter headband standing next to Tim by the gas pump, pointing her finger inside at Lynn across the seats with determination and intensity in her tone. It sounded more like a scolding than a generous offer.

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The Tuggles

Episode 4: The Hitchhiker

November 6, 2017

It was early on a Wednesday morning and the crisp December cold was bitter. The loud rumble of the Dodge pickup’s diesel motor droned a vibration all the way down my legs in the back of the truck’s cab. Tim moved his foot to the gas pedal as the traffic light turned green and we began to accelerate down the North Carolina highway. I took a swig of my piping hot coffee as the truck abruptly moved into the left lane and slowed as Tim clicked the turn signal.

“You picking her up?” Lynn asked. I craned my neck to see who she referred to and saw a young woman walking down the side of the road the opposite direction.

“Yep,” Tim said.

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