Friday, September 25, 2015

MEMORIES IN THE CORNER OF MY MIND

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LIFE MAGAZINE 
"The Man Upstairs"
 and Me
  
People smiled when Jim Bledsoe took off his shoes and socks, placing them on the walk. They watched as he planted his bare feet firmly in the sandy gutter, picked up his black umbrella and looked skyward. They grinned broadly when he unfolded his umbrella and began holding it over his head. Almost immediately sweat began pouring down his face as the sun baked the streets and the unabashed man of faith. He said, “If we have enough of the kind of believing it takes, the rains will come. It just takes a mustard seed of faith.” He proposed that on a given day the whole town wear rain gear as tokens of faith that it would rain. He found few takers of his offer. Undaunted, he placed an ad in the Hobart Democrat-Chief offering free umbrellas for those who didn’t have one. Still, he found few takers. For days, he sat confidently on the curb holding his umbrella in the hot blazing sun with the temperature hovering at 101°.
People across the Oklahoma countryside and beyond began talking about the Hobart businessman sitting outside his store in the hot blazing sun holding an umbrella, while praying for rain.
The owners of Life Magazine took wind of the circulating stories about the unwavering man of faith, and sent reporters to the small town of Hobart to cover the story. The May 30, 1955 issue of Life Magazine contained the story of Jim Bledsoe and his faith in God.
Even though I was a young child at the time, vivid memories of this time in history remained in my heart. Living out in the country four miles from the small town of Hobart meant a lot to me. The fond memories of my childhood left an unfaltering longing in me to create a tribute, as well as a family heirloom for my family, Jim Bledsoe’s family, and for people in the small town of Hobart.
Thus was born the color-illustrated children’s book, “The Rain Snake” that tells of my childhood adventures, and the unshakable faith of Jim Bledsoe.
Recently, I received correspondence from Jim Bledsoe’s granddaughter who was doing genealogy research and came across the Life Magazine and my book.
Lisa Horton said, “I am Jim Bledsoe's granddaughter. I grew up hearing the rain story and seeing the pictures in Life Magazine. I am sitting here in tears after reading your lovely book, The Rain Snake. I cannot tell you how intensely touched I was to read your book and see Granddaddy's story intermingled with yours! This has been the most amazing day.
I enjoy doing genealogy for the family, and for some reason today I just decided to Google granddaddy's name. The Life Magazine article popped up and then I saw a link to a book that contained his name. So of course I had to check it out. I then found The Rain Snake, read it, and felt the most amazing joy! Here was a book with the story I grew up hearing, along with drawings of the pictures from the Life magazine article! I couldn't believe it. I felt a connection to you and was so very touched that I had to contact you immediately. This has been such a wonderful discovery and has really been a boost to my spirit! I can feel Granddaddy smiling, and I know he's pleased. I know Grandmother is too! Granddaddy and Grandmother died six weeks apart in the spring of 1967, right before I turned five. I have pictures of me with them but really don't remember them. I do, however, remember Hobart. We spent the summer there following their deaths, and I have very fond memories of that cute little town.  
Your book will be a family heirloom that I will share and treasure. And, I'll keep it with the Life magazine to make a beautiful tribute to Jim Bledsoe. By the way, his middle name was Russell, which is what I named my first son. My granddaddy is and always has been, a big part of my life.
Jeannie, this has been such an amazing experience for me. I feel my beloved grandparents smiling at me and happy the way this turned out. Honestly, this has produced more than a few happy tears! Thank you so much for writing this beautiful book. 

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