Gary Lee and the Summer BBQ

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” Revelation 19:9

Summertime has a way of bringing back good memories of growing up on our small farm in the Midwest. As summer began, I finally had the opportunity to run the forests and fields with a dog or two, free from thoughts of homework and exams.

Gary Lee shared my sentiments about this most wonderful season of summer, and we spent countless hours together exploring the woods or fishing new lakes and streams. It was during one of those times that we made a remarkable, extraordinary discovery. I’m sure with the passing of so much time and my vivid imagination, I’m probably not exact on these details. But they’re not too far off.

Basically, our discovery all had to do with food. As in free food. As in all-we-could-eat free food. This was a dream come true for a forever-hungry teenage kid.

About a half-mile from our homes was a park-like picnic area owned by a large corporation. Each summer this company would hold its annual employee and family picnic there. They also rented the facility to other companies, for family reunions, weddings, etc. Wherever someone needed a big outdoor space, complete with ball fields, pavilions, and a lake in which to fish or swim, this was the place to be. And the pavilions also had big, like really big, BBQ grills.

This picnic area was a bit down the hill from our homes. We never had a schedule of events for the summer, but we never needed one. Whenever someone would hit a home run on one of the ball fields, the sound of the crowd would carry up the hill toward us.

Within moments of the roar of the crowd, one of our phones would be ringing:

“Did you hear that?”

“Yeah. Can you go?”

“I’ll be there. Meet you in a few.”

We were so in tune with the sounds from the ballfields that we may have already finished our phone conversation before whoever hit the ball had rounded all the bases and reached home plate.

The entrance to this park was almost always staffed by security guards. I imagine some worked for the corporations who were renting the park for the day, others were local police or whoever. There was only one way into the place, and there was no way to enter without being seen by the guards.

Unless, of course, you happen to live nearby, and be two hungry teenagers who probably knew the country better than the landowners themselves.

Gary Lee and I would walk across a pasture where we had to watch out for either pregnant cows or ones with new calves. We had learned the hard way that these particular cows had quite the attitude – they could run you up a tree in a heartbeat. Then we’d cross numerous fences and climb up a steep embankment to the railroad tracks, taking care to be on the lookout for fast-moving trains. We’d hike west for a while, climb back down the embankment, climb over some more fences, cut through the woods near the park dump, and – voila – emerge just about right in the middle of the entire party.

From here we’d try to blend in with the crowd, acting as casual as possible. I’m sure if anyone took the time to notice, we must’ve looked like the two biggest dorks out there as we tried to act cool and not draw attention to ourselves.

Our biggest problem was now locating the caretaker of the place. Sometimes he’d be invited to the party, sometimes not. But he was about the only one who could blow our cover at this point, so we spent some time looking for him.

After determining the coast was clear, we’d slip over to the food line and get some hot dogs and burgers. Then we’d sit down under a tree and quietly express our utter astonishment at our good fortune as we’d scarf down one hot dog after another.

There were only two times that I know of that our goose nearly got cooked. Once was when we were in line for food, and we noticed the caretaker in line just a couple of people behind us. Since we both were rather tall, it was difficult to make ourselves short and ”invisible” without drawing attention to ourselves, but we tried anyway. After wallowing around in line trying to act short for what seemed like forever, we sort of lost our appetite and slunk out of the place, disappearing into the trees as quickly as we could.

The other time was when we’d gone through all our maneuvering to get behind security, avoided the pregnant cows and racing trains, crossed over all the barbed wire, and popped up right in the middle of a family reunion. Although neither Gary Lee nor I were ever accused of being the sharpest tool in the shed, it didn’t take too long for one of us to notice the problem. And for whatever reason, when one of us would notice a problem when we were in a crowd, he’d talk the best he could without moving his lips, as if that kept other people from hearing or something:

“We’re in trouble.”

“Do you see the caretaker?”


“What is it???”

“We’re the only white people here.”

“This is all your fault.”

Had we stuck around, those folks may well have fed us anyway. Or maybe tossed us in the lake, who knows?

Perhaps that very experience somehow helped me later in life when I lived in Africa. There I indeed was the only white folk around for many miles. My neighbors, for the most part, were very kind and welcoming.

I’m grateful to have grown up a bit since my high-school days. I no longer crash parties, or eat other people’s food unless invited. I’m glad the Lord protected both Gary Lee and me despite some of our not so stellar activities. Mostly I’m so very thankful that He opened our eyes for the need of His Son our Savior, and that we both repented and believed. (See Gary Lee and the Big Tree)

I wonder what the marriage supper of the Lamb will be like. Thanks to Jesus, I at least know we’re not going to have to try to sneak into that one.

Hope you have a good summer.

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