The Boy From Mill Creek
I want to tell you about the Boy From Mill Creek. Many say what I’m about to tell you is simply legend. Some say it didn’t happen this way or that. But what I’m going to share is straight from the horse’s mouth…so to speak.
In September of 1945 a boy was born. He was literally born in a cabin with a dirt floor. He was born number five of what would eventually be twelve kids. His family moved around a lot. They were sharecroppers and poor…by any standards.
When the boy, we’ll call him Jim, was eleven, his mom left; And she left him with a violent drunk of a father. But Jim hung on. He took care of his younger siblings and did what he could. Then, at 16, he decided to move on to other opportunities. He left home and school behind.
For the next few years our young protagonist worked, bounced from place to place and lived life largely on defense. He was surviving, as he would tell me later, and that was all he knew how to do. It worked, in a sense, and he made it all the way to getting drafted into the army to serve in the Vietnam War.
Now, here’s where things really get interesting. Jim had tremendous pride in the fact that he served his country with honor during that war. But he also talked with anger about being sent to kill people who, in his words, “had done nothing to me.”
Still, he answered the call when it came and did his best. He survived 366 days in that country and came home. He was soon married and, in short order, had a mortgage, two kids and a job. Life was moving fast and Jim was still reeling from his childhood, his “in between” years and from the things men see and do in battle.
Drinking became a part of his life…heavy drinking. He didn’t really want to drink. He just wanted to not feel. When life got really upside down and he felt like he was failing his young family, Jim sat out to stop drinking. He did so successfully in October of 1975.
Though there were hazards on the road ahead he kept moving forward.
Over the next several years he went through a couple of divorces and struggled to find his place with his two sons, he kept learning and growing and trying to improve.
See, a few years of sobriety didn’t really change the way he felt…not really. Oh he was happy and thankful he alcohol no longer had control over his life, but there was something else. He couldn’t name it but he felt it deeply.
That’s when he decided to work on the why of his drinking. He dug in and he dug deep. He read hundreds of books on childhood issues, PTSD, religion and philosophy. He went to countless hours of group meetings, group therapy and individual therapy.
Slowly, a picture started to form. The wreckage and pain from his past was slowly being cleared, by the grace of God, and his true nature began to show more and more. He championed his inner child and reclaimed his playful spirit. He was growing and finding peace.
Through all the above, recovery, pain, therapy, divorces and the rest, Jim stayed the course at work. He could have had any job or career he wanted but he worked at a union trucking company for 30 years because of the promise of a pension and retirement. He would have his childhood…it just would have to wait until he was 54-years-old.
Then one day it was complete. He stood on his back porch, fresh cup of coffee in hand and inhaled deeply. He was retired. His therapist told him he had done the hard work and had all the tools he needed. He had 24 years of sobriety. He had strong relationships with both sons.
He spent the next 22 years doing what he wanted. He lived humbly. He gave. He spent time with the ones he loved. He spent time in the woods and at his beloved river. He was ever-present as his grandkids grew (seven in total). In short, he just lived.
Jim has gone home now. He had 76 years on this planet and in this place and time. He spent it well. Hundreds of people helped in countless ways.
Jim gave time, wisdom, talent and materially to those who needed him. He loved deeply, laughed often and lived the most honest and true life he knew how. What he leaves behind is a legacy of humble service and an example of what it looks like to have lived well.
This is what I know of the Boy From Mill Creek. There is more to his story but that will have to be for another time. Today, know that, though there are many heavy hearts mourning his passing, he changed the paths of many…and he did it with love.
Published on: March 2, 2022