What is the chief end of man?

jesus card

Jesus of Nazareth

I’m a baseball card collector. Any kind of trading cards, really. Especially if they’re interesting.

I’ve been at it since I was in Sunday school.

One of the main reasons I went to church was for the the swag – Bible verse rulers, cookies and … trading cards – Jesus cards. My Sunday school teacher had a lesson and then passed the cards around. I’m pretty sure the girls didn’t know what to do with them. Probably wrecked these paper treasures by gluing them in a scrap book.

Me, I had a Jesus collection.

jesus card back

If Jesus autographed this card, it would be worth a lot of money. I doubt anyone could authenticate it.

I’ll trade you two Mantles for this Jesus..

When I was a kid, my family went to the First Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was on the “other side” of town and kids from the other junior high school feeder schools went there.

In a sense, it was integration.

We went to church most Sundays. My parents were involved in the activities – women’s circle, Mariners. I’m pretty sure my mom was the main instigator of all that and my dad just tagged along for the food.

My sister and I went to Sunday school, sang in the choir and went to the youth fellowship group in the evenings. It was fun with not much emphasis on Christianity-related stuff. The mission was to make it home before “Batman” came on the TV.

Not like some of my friends who were Mormons, Catholics and Lutherans, there was some high pressure sales when I went to my friends church events. When it came to summer church camp, the Presbyterians and Congregationalists all came together.

I almost became a Mormon at one point. There was a girl involved but I came to my senses.

Presbyterians didn’t emphasize the “Jesus Saves” message or much of that sins = hell and good =  heaven drills.

It was mostly about the liturgy of church life – baby christening (which I don’t remember), free Bible in the 3rd grade (which I still have and rebound it when I wore it out. Well, actually dropped it off the top bunk at camp one too many times), catechism – “What is the chief end of man?” (I still know the answer), another free Bible for high school graduation (which I have but still in the box).

hc alan debbie karen mary coors

My mates and I at Hastings College.

A group of my Presbyterian high school friends all ended up attending Hastings College in Nebraska. The student body was around 650 which was the size of my high school class.

More liturgy.

Chapel on Wednesday morning wasn’t required, but there would be the occasional good program like Barbara Jordan.

Dress up family style dinner on Wednesday night was a hassle. We were enticed to attend with pretty good food.

Then there was the social engineering.

Freshman women weren’t allowed to leave campus for the first semester.

All women had to be back in the dorms by 1:00 am. They looked forward to daylight savings time because of the added hour.

There were very few minorities – a latino who now happens to live in Boulder, a couple black guys on the football and track teams, a Chinese and me.

These days, there aren’t women’s hours, but the school is still very white bread, but it fits in with that middle-of-the-grain-belt-culture, which is okay.

There was a Jewish guy who was big into Jews for Jesus. Apparently the Bible says there will be 144,000 Jewish men selected to be “saved.”

He wanted to be one of them.

He was the most religious zealot on campus. There were some pre-seminary majors, but this guy was over the top – Campus Crusade for Christ, all that.

At the time, the conservative lifestyle suited me – I was Republican then. In fact, my first presidential vote was for Nixon, I’m sorry to admit. The school year was 3-1-3. During the January Interim in 1973, I took a political science class called Legislators and Lobbyists in Washington DC. One of the activities was attending Nixon’s inauguration. I was tear gassed during an anti-war demonstration.

I was going through the motions, but still didn’t get the religious part of campus life at Hastings College.

chariots_of_the_gods-720080While in college I became interested in the “Chariots of the Gods” craze.

Basically, it’s about aliens from other dimensions who Erich Von Däniken believes are the angels who talked to various Biblical characters through burning bushes, pillars of fire, angels. The chariot that Jesus is supposed to ride when he returns at the end of the world is a UFO.

The Bible categorizes angels from archangels at the top to Satan at the bottom and several categories in between. There’s supposedly a constant unseen battle happening between good and evil.

Since I’m more into the tangible, the aliens / UFO model started to make some sense.

I’ll skip through time.

After graduating from Hastings with degrees in biology and political science, finding a job was not on my radar screen. My counselors forgot to tell me there aren’t many jobs counting smooth and wrinkled peas.

I sat out the post-Vietnam War recession in grad school at the University of Wyoming. After two years, I got a job in Gillette in 1977.

ufo mcguire

The water well on the McGuire farm with the Israeli flag flying.

In 1980, there was a story in the Casper Star Tribune about strange lights in the sky bouncing around a remote part of southeast Wyoming. I called the reporter about it and as a journalist he was awe struck.

At that time, there was a TV show called “That’s Incredible” hosted by Sarah Purcell and John Davidson.

The show was sending a crew to  Wyoming for a story about the UFOs visiting the Pat McGuire family at the Morton Pass Farm in the Sybille Canyon between Wheatland and Laramie on Highway 34.

“We have to go there,” I said to a group of my friends. I was obsessed by it.

The story is whacky and more involved than what I’ll write here, but hold on to your hats.

Sprinkle

Leo Sprinkle

A world renowned paranormal psychologist from the University of Wyoming named Leo Sprinkle specialized in alien abduction experiences and through hypnosis, regressed McGuire to the time he was taken aboard the UFO several years earlier.

He claimed to have been in touch with the Archangel Michael and given instructions to drill a big well on his property and begin farming.

The well was a gusher – over 8,000 gallons / minute supposedly delivered by the aliens.

He was approved for a low interest loan from the state of Wyoming for some irrigation equipment, even though hydrology studies that said the sage brush country would remain dry and unproductive dur to lack of water.

In homage to Michael and his other alien abductors, he flew the Israeli flag over the water well pump. He said the aliens wore Star of David belt buckles. He also wore one on the belt that held up his Wranglers.

ufo lights

Nocturnal Lights seen from the Morton Pass Farm in 1980.

My UFO entourage drove down and met the “That’s Incredible” crew. The nocturnal lights weren’t quite as active as they were earlier, but nonetheless, there were some to be seen, which I photographed.

On my way to Laramie from Gillette to visit my parents I generally stopped at the McGuire’s through the early 1980s. One day, the access road was closed.

After that, I lost touch with the McGuires.

Over time, I learned the McGuires had family and financial problems and were unable to make ends meet with their high altitude barley crop, even with the free water.

I heard the University of Wyoming ended up with the farm.

Pat died in 2009.

I read a couple books on the topic of angels as aliens. One was “Angels: God’s Secret Agents” by Billy Graham. It puts into context good angels and bad angels and mentions the UFO phenomenon and I can’t help but make the same comparisons with what I saw on those hills on Highway 34 that summer.

angels gods secret agentsGraham writes, “Some reputable scientists deny and others assert that UFOs do appear to people from time to time. Some scientists have reached the place where they think they can prove that these are possibly visitors from outer space.

“Some Christian writers have speculated that UFOs could very well be a part of God’s angelic host who preside over the physical affairs of universal creation.

“While we cannot assert such a view with certainty, many people are now seeking some type of supernatural explanation for these phenomena. Nothing can hide the fact, however, that these unexplained events are occurring with greater frequency.”

A few years later, after I moved to Lander, I was in Cheyenne for some reason.  I saw that Billy Graham was speaking at Frontier Park. It was free, so I went over to listen.

Alan and the PopeCopter in 1993

It was the biggest religious event I’d attended, at least until I went to see Pope John Paul II at Cherry Creek Reservoir in 1993. Now that was a crowd. I’d only taken Catholic communion once and it was at that papal mass.

Rev. Graham didn’t talk about angels or UFOs, but he’s one inspiring speaker.

I was compelled to give a few bucks when his minions passed the hat. I was attending the Evangelical Free Church which was a fairly conservative branch of the Presbyterians. The preacher and his wife were young and personable. I had forgotten that I wrote my home church on the offering envelope. Back in those days, to get a tax deduction, the church had to send you a receipt.

My minister was surprised I went to see Billy Graham and I told him my Angels and Aliens story.

He looked at me as if I was the son of the devil and the topic didn’t come up again.

I don’t wear my faith on my sleeve.

I do think there’s something to the historical Jesus as being a guy who walked his talk about the benefits of being nice to each other.

I bought a copy of the Jefferson Bible. Thomas Jefferson separated out all the scripture that was said by Jesus and compiled it, which is pretty much what I follow.

“What would Jesus do?”

The path I happened to take to get me there, was the UFO and alien route. I ended up where most others end who come through more conventional recruitment.

Based on the super natural stuff I’ve seen, the claims that Jesus was taken up to heaven don’t surprise me.

I don’t care if there’s a resurrection or not, nor do I care if I get raised from the dead. As far as I’m concerned, one lifetime here is enough!

jesus alou

Jesus of San Francisco

I’m still an avid card collector and plan to hold on to them, just in case.

I don’t want to be standing at the Pearly Gates and Peter says, “Welcome to heaven, but where’s all your stuff?”

To go along with my Jesus of Nazareth card, I have Jesus of San Francisco – Jesus Alou.

He and his two brothers Matty and Felipe all played for the Giants. The three played in a few games together in 1963.

Most of what I know about life is from trivia on the backs of trading cards.

jesus alou backAnother factoid and why I like this card is, Jesus Alou started his professional baseball career in 1959 playing for the Hastings Giants in the “D” Nebraska League.

Will my Presbyterian coincidences never cease?

By the way, man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

Advertisements

Purging baseball cards for the good of future generations

I put all my baseball cards from 1979 to 1998 in the neighborhood rummage sale.

Silver Sage Village is having a 16 household rummage sale on September 19th and everyone has been culling through their junk. My office mate moved to one he set up in his apartment and this has given me a good chance to go through my stuff.

I’ve been selling unwanted things on ebay, including parts of my sports card collection. My account is AnAmericanPlaceII which is an homage to social realism photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery in New York City.

In a past life, I had a sports card store front called Pine Riders in Riverton, Wyoming that opened during the sports card bubble in the late 1980s through the 1990s. The great thing about having a store like that was buying, selling and trading for my own hobby, as well as helping others support theirs. To this day, I’m amazed I was able to keep the doors open turning over cardboard worth a dime to a few bucks.

On Pine Riders opening day, former Yankees pitcher who won the decisive game of the 1961 World Series, Bud Daley, came over and signed autographs. I ran into Bud at the Wind River Casino when I was in Fremont County a few months back.

When I moved from Wyoming to Colorado over 20 years ago, I hauled literally a ton of cards with me in notebooks, boxes and brief cases that took up space in closets, crawl spaces and basements.

At the height of the card bubble, I had a colleague trade my entire collection of cards – complete sets from 1958 through 1998 – around 25,000 cards – for a handful of items that are of more interest to me and much less bulky to haul around. Among my newly pared down collection is a 1951 Bowman Mickey Mantle card and Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig autographs.

My friend Rodger McDaniel recently wrote a blog post about how he was once a millionaire before his mother threw away his baseball card collection with included a few 1952 Mickey Mantle cards. That Topps card is one of the few Holy Grails of the hobby. My mom, on the other hand, saved mine in a box which was the basis of my collection as I have continued it to this day.

Rodger’s lament is one of the classics.

In getting ready for the garage sale, I am doing my part to increase the value of the newer vintage of sports cards that are generally from 1980 to the present.

I realized I had no heart-felt feelings about them, like I do for the rest of my Yankees collections and started slashing and burning. I collect:

  • 1919 Yankees for no particular reason except that Chicago Bears founder George Halas was on that team and this also was the year of the Black Sox Scandal;
  • 1923 Yankees were the first to play in Yankee Stadium and won the first World Series title that year;
  • 1932 Yankees finished the season winning the World Series and highlighted by Babe Ruth’s supposed “called shot” home run for a sick kid and also the first year for Frank Crosetti;
  • 1961 – 1962 Yankees‘ third base coach was Frank Crosetti and this was also the first year I paid close attention to baseball mostly because of Maris and Mantle chasing Babe Ruth’s home run record;
  • 1977 – 1978 Yankees with Reggie, Reggie, Reggie!
  • 2001 Yankees since I went to New York for games 3 and 4 of the World Series a month after 9/11

I emptied out all my boxes of Donruss, Fleer, Bowman and Topps, cards, which in this day and age have little value to me personally or financially. The huge number of cards and sets and subsets became unmanageable. Now, I could care less about Harold Baines or even Mark McGwire who took a personal and professional nose dive in the wake of the performance enhancing drug scandals.

Those are all going to the garage sale along with hundreds more – George Brett, Nolan Ryan …

Free agency also screwed things up. It used to be a player stayed on the same team for his entire career. Now, a pitcher has a good year and gets traded.

I’ve always been a Yankees fan and many of those I’m tossing are of ballyhooed young players like Brien Taylor and Pat Kelly. I also have a lot of players like Joe Girardi who were okay, but not great players. I also had a lot of Girardi cards because he was one of the original Colorado Rockies in the 1992 expansion draft.

During this time period, I was in a rotisserie baseball league called the Buttheads. I always collected cards of the players on my team – the Yangs – which gave a bit of reality to the fantasy. I have a lot of Greg Maddux cards and Pedro Astacio, Denny Neagle (I was the only Butthead to select Rockies pitchers).

Why the Yangs?

In Star Trek Episode 52 “The Omega Glory” Kirk and crew find themselves in some alternate world where the good guys are the Yangs and bad buys are the Coms.

Back to sorting.

I’m a member of a facebook group called Baseball Card of the Day. Members post images of cards for various reasons, memories, updating about the status of their collections. Occasionally, there will be someone who talks about leaving their collection to their kids to pay for their college educations.

I say, do your kids a favor and cash in your cards while you’re still alive. If a guy like me who  has a pretty good idea as to how much a Frank Thomas 1990 Leaf card is worth and where I might find someone who would might buy it, an heir with no idea about the hobby will have a hard time figuring out how to parlay that 1989 complete set of Topps baseball cards into microbiology textbooks.

Baseball cards are for moms to decide to keep or throw away, it’s much less stressful.

By the way, If you’re holding a Joe Hesketh rookie card, it just went up in value because I threw mine away.