(Picture of Smoots Creek is courtesy of Mike LeMasters at www.bridgehunter.com)
Several years ago, I was speaking to Karen and Gary Keese who had just returned from working for two weeks at a Bible camp in Arkansas. Apparently, they had bumped into a college friend of mine who had revealed a tightly held secret- my nickname. Fortunately, I've outgrown it or at least, I think I have! This is from 7-24-07.
I'm not big on nicknames. They help market athletes and entertainers but I think they tend to outlive their usefulness when we reach adulthood. Did you see the Seinfeld episode where George tried to give himself a nickname? He wanted, for some reason, to be called T-Bone. That being said, I was saddled with a college nickname. As a social science major, my American History classes often included a mention of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930, a bill which dramatically raised fees on thousands of imports. Amazingly, I got tagged with Smoot and it followed me for the remainder of my college career. My younger brother, Scott, also inherited the Smoot tag for which I feel I should apologize. When I left college, the nickname stayed behind. Needless to say, it was not listed on any subsequent job applications.
During my sophomore year at York College in Nebraska, there was a freshman in my dorm who lived in Kansas. He informed me that in Kansas, there just happened to be a Smoots Creek. It also just so happened that Smoots Creek ran through Kingman County and was marked by a road sign as it crossed under a bridge. Furthermore, he lived in the county adjacent to Kingman. Would I be interested in having that Smoots Creek sign in my campus residence? I'm sure I did nothing to dissuade my Kansas buddy. You can guess the next installment. I ended up with that Smoots Creek road sign decorating my dorm room. This is where it gets tricky. Somewhere along the line, my conscience began to kick in. At first, I considered it a prank, as did my friend, who has turned out to be a fine Christian gentleman. But as time dragged on as it seems to do in times of an awakening conscience, I felt I had to do something. I mailed a letter of apology and explanation to the Kingman County Road Department without mentioning the name of the young man who actually disconnected the Smoots Creek sign from its pole. Several weeks later, I received a reply from a gentleman named Joe D. Freeman, Kingman County Engineer, which I uncovered this week as I sorted through boxes of my past. I was hoping he would commend my honesty- and he did. However, he explained that in the interim the Smoots Creek sign had been replaced and he had no choice but to bill me for the replacement cost, a very reasonable $19.50. Mr. Kingman praised my commitment for doing the right thing and felt I would be rewarded in doing so. I paid the $19.50: I also found the receipt. This week, I uncovered all the evidence of this crime wave.... except the sign. I can't say when for sure but I disposed if it years ago. It still, in my mind, was stolen even though it was paid for and the receipt didn't make it right. In Romans 2, Paul speaks of how our conscience has the ability to both accuse and defend us. I tried to tell myself it was permissible- and the state of Kansas pardoned me- but they didn't have to live with that little voice in my head. Today as I cooked lunch- OK, it was only Ramen noodles- something got too hot and the fire alarm went off. In an apartment, the shrill noise from the smoke detector is unbearable. I ran around opening every window and door to make it quit. There was relief when, after an eternity of screeching, the stillness returned. I've heard that buzzing in my head quite a few times in my life when I knew I was wrong. I take the stillness that accompanies the soothing of the conscience as a sign. It just doesn't have Smoots Creek stamped upon it.
Applicable quote of the day:
"Nicknames stick to people and the most ridiculous are the most adhesive."
Thomas Chandler Haliburton
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org