School was out. Summer was on the way. The redbud and dogwood blooms were giving way to their summer leaves. The creek cutting across the farm would soon calm from the spring rushing waters to a mere trickle winding its way through the woods. The grass was growing, the bees were buzzing, the frogs were croaking and the crickets were chirping in the swamp by the woods. The turtles were sunning themselves alongside the bank of the pond. And here I was, without a care in the world, laying flat on the grassy knoll overlooking the corral, the feel of the tall green grass beneath my back as I gazed up into the cumulous clouds with the sun peaking in and out as the clouds drifted into their various shapes.
A cowboy’s break, I would call it. Not that an eight year old would need an excuse for a some sky gazing. I loved laying there in the warmth of the sun’s rays after a cold winter and chilling spring. I liked watching the clouds form up into their majestic images, and I would make up stories about them as if God himself was writing them, the wind above the earth His hand and the clouds His words. I saw mighty horses with warriors riding across the sky. Ships unleashing their bellowing cannons in battle against an unseen enemy hidden among the clouds. Then I was awakened out of my imagination with the shaking of the ground and a loud thunder vibrating its waves beneath me.
Not five miles away was the Ravenna Army Ammunitions Plant. It was one of about two dozen such plants that supplied ammunitions and other implements during WWII. The site was chosen because there was 90% cloud coverage 90% of the time across that area of Ohio. It did underground tests of bombs during the 1960s. These were powerful enough to shake the plates in Mom’s china cabinet and startle the cattle and horses in the pasture into a short-lived stampede. Paris Elementary School was less than two miles from this military installation and often we had to do air raid drills—you know, getting under our desks—in case the Russians nuked us. As if that would make any difference. After the tremors, I decided to go check on the horses in the West pasture.
I reached up to the top rail to climb over the fence and a pain shot through my left hand and up my arm. I had been stung by a wasp. Not thinking much about it, I went to climb over the fence and got dizzy. By the time I wandered into the house, I was having difficulty breathing. Next thing I remember is waking up in a tub full of ice with Mom, Dad and Doc Owens staring down at me. I had passed out and nearly quit breathing and Dr. Owens made an emergency house call and said I could have died and that I was allergic to bee stings. 1 Corinthians 15:55 asks, “Where O death, is your victory? Where O death is your sting?” I knew right well where the sting was, but death had no victory that day. And thanks to Benadryl, and later the homeopathic Apis, the sting of bees could still be felt, but the sting of death had to wait for other opportunities.