Friends Recollect Stories of Gayle Rhoads

Here are stories and recollections about events in Gayle's life. Most of these were submitted by his friends...

The Wrong End of Johnny B. Wright's Shotgun

Gayle wrote about the Johnny B. Wright event in a 12 Dec 1996 letter to B: "Your reminiscences of Johnny B. Wright bring up images of the past to the front. My first meeting was one of those brutal backpacking trips Clayton and I used to subject ourselves to. We had wandered down river from Ham Creek and camped on a wooded rise above the Brazos. When we emerged from our pup-tent at morning's light, there sat Johnny B. at about twenty paces, with his shot gun. He asked if we knew we were on private property. He asked if we realized he was thinking of taking all our stuff and throwing it in the Brazos. We were appropriately ignorant and apologetic and assured him we would depart without further urging. He seemed satisfied, and sat there watching us pack up. While he watched, he plied us with questions. When we were packed he suggested we'd better go up to the house with him and fill our canteens. We rather wanted to move on, but he had the shotgun, so we followed him through the oaks to this residence. We filled our canteens. The while we were asking him questions about the area, his place there, how long he had been on the Brazos, etc. He reckoned we'd better follow him up the hill as he had an historical location we needed to see. We dropped our packs and followed him up into the woods. By this time he was sans shotgun. He took us up to an old still which he claimed had been very active during prohibition. It was a good sized still, made of copper tubing and oil barrels. There were barrels buried in the ground in which the mash was stored, some of which had remnants of mash in them. Mr. Wright said the operation had been "closed down" rather abruptly. We went back down to the house and sat on the porch and talked most of the morning. I wondered when he was going to go to work, but finally concluded he was at work. When we left, he invited us back and told us we could camp on his land any time we wished. Wasn't it Johnny B. Wright who referred to MCC as "his private army"? I think it was he. Those people had a charm that is difficult to define, and they are of another era."

Fence Posts & Blisters
[Sandy Clayton recollects the summer of 1950]

The Klondike [Ranch] was the name of the place we spent that summer...Ham Creek is a tributary of the Brazos that enters the river on Klondike property. The early MCC camps were held on the creek for several years. Gayle and I spent many hours hiking up and down Ham Creek...We went to the ranch shortly after school was out in the summer of 1950. We were supposed to cut cedar fence posts for the ranch. The first day of post cutting just about ruined [Gayle's] hands. He did not have any gloves. By quitting time his hands were blistered and bleeding. It was about a week before he could use an axe again. Not a word of complaint tho. We used the recovery period to hike here and there. We actually did cut several pickup loads of posts over time...

The Storage Tank Caper
[Recollection by Fred Speyer]

[From an email January 14:] "I could share some interesting stories about the storage tank for the grounds which was up by the irrigation canal up the hill behind the San. We had certain times when we could draw down water to the tank and until we watered the beds and lawn, the tank was full. Despite the warning signs to KEEP OUT, neighborhood kids would swim in our tank. Kids died from swimming in these tanks, So Gayle and I tried to keep a closed eye when we turned the water system on. There were drowning deaths in other tanks that summer as the suction at the bottom of the tank was so strong the kids would not be able to come up for air when they dove into the tank.We would chase them away and when the tank was full again they would be back. So Gayle and I slipped up and got the clothes of the boys and girls (preteens) who were skinny dipping, and hid their clothes. They always left them some distance from the tank so they could run when we came up the hill. I think that broke them from using the tank, as the parents had to call the San to find out what happened to their clothes."

Fred Speyer Recollects the Summer of 1951 [50?]

[From an email January 6, 2005] "...The summer after our freshman year in college, the four of us went to Boulder Colorado to work in the Santarium. Gayle and I worked on the grounds ten/twelve hours a day, which had been badly neglected. He and I would go hiking in the Rockies on weekends we did not have to sing. We would stick out our thumbs and go up South St. Verain or other roads, hike to Pikes peak and on Sabbath or Sunday a bunch of the nurses would come up and picnic with us and take us back to Boulder. While there, we put on a secular program for the millionaires who came to the San to get healthy and passed the hat, got enough money to buy 2 suits apiece: one light tan and one navy blue, which gave us 4 different outfits. Our sopohmore year [Gayle] was president of ASB and I was yearbook editor at Keene."

[Speyer adds January 14:] That summer besides doing grounds at the San we also helped build the Boulder church that is on the grounds of the San. I think they have built yet another church recently.

Dead Cow Creek and the Makeout Maneuver
[A Recollection by Don Weatherall]

Gayle and his friend Don Weatherall led the Medical Cadet Corps activities at Platte Valley Academy. MCC was a popular organization at the time--of the approximately 60 boys at PVA, about 45 of them had joined MCC. Since the purpose of the Corps was to train future Army medics, outdoor living was an important part of the training process. One year, the spring bivouac was held in the Black Hills of Wyoming. The students crossed a river on the way to their campsite, and filled their canteens. Gayle and Don were “by the book” regarding outdoor hygiene, so made certain everyone treated their water by putting water purifying pills in their canteens. The pills left the taste of iodine in the water and the kids groused about having to purify water from a pristine mountain spring. After crossing the stream, the Corps hiked upstream for a few hundred feet where they discovered, to their horror, a dead cow lying in the stream. The kids stopped complaining about the iodine pills, and Gayle and Don were relieved when nobody got sick. The purification pills had done their job.

Another year, bivouac was held in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. BJ went along and did all the cooking for the group. As Weatherall recollects: “The highlight of the time was Saturday night when one of the guards on the outer perimeter called on the phone (we didn't have walkie talkies. We ran long phone lines to foxholes so guards could call in). It seemed as though a car had come and parked just over the hill from where we were located. Captain Rhoads called the troops together and laid out to them our plan of attack. We quietly climbed the hill and went along a ditch until we were about 20 feet from the car. The boys pushed the jeep as close as possible. I was the driver and we had a big spot light on the back. At the whistle I came roaring out of the ditch and the boys jumped out and surrounded the car while the spotlight came on flooding the car with light. There was a high school couple in the car and Gayle stepped forward asking them to roll down the window and had them explain why they had stopped in a area where the US Army was conducting maneuvers over the weekend. After explaining that they didn't know about the maneuvers and promising they would not interfere again, he called for the men to back away and allow the car to leave. They were more than happy to leave as with the bright lights on them at all times. They never saw a face, only people in army uniforms carrying rifles (actually long pick-axe handles held as a rifle). It was a perfect ending to a bivouac.”

[Email from Don Weatherall, February 14, 2005]

4th of July Bug Swallowing

Andrews University. Jackie DeGroot.

Nocturnal Reflections is a Winner

Bus Floats By

Dawn Dawes?

Stranded Motorcyclist

Gayle's commitment to the value of "Service Above Self" was remarkable and sometimes startling. An event from the 1990s illustrates the point. Gayle spotted a motorcyclist who had broken down on the 215 freeway near his house. He stopped, loaded the motorcycle and passenger into his pickup, and drove home. The cyclist, distraught and broke, was in a hurry to get to Canada. So Gayle booked him on a flight to Canada (a gift, not a loan) and garaged his cycle until the man could return. Several days later Gayle was contacted by the Canadian police. Gayle's benefactor was actually a hunted felon that was desperate to get out of the States. The local police collected the motorcycle.

The Least Amount of Pressure is the Best
[A story told by Gayle's son.]

Psychologists tell us that the least amount of pressure is the best, when it comes to shaping attitudes and character in children. As a kid, one day I came home with a shady joke. I had heard it from one of my friends, and I told it to Dad, to get a reaction. (I didn't get one.) Then I told him I couldn’t wait to tell the joke to my friend David. Dad said, 'Well, hmm, I don't know, you’re a good kid, and you don’t usually go around telling jokes of that sort.' I said, 'Well, I want to tell David the joke anyway, it’s funny.' And Dad said, 'Well, you’re a good kid, and I trust you will do the right thing. You'll need to decide what to do.' Then he left the room. But he stood around the corner and listened. And in a few moments, he heard me say, 'Well, rats.' Which was the sound of my owning the decision not to tell this off-color joke. See, I owned that decision. I didn't tell David the joke. (And I'm not telling you, either.)

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Christmas 2004