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Sunday, August 26, 2012

LANCE ARMSTRONG AND A COUNTRY PREACHER

     robert mangold


Continuing absurdity in the news is the beating Lance Armstrong into the ground with "allegations" about "doping," by somebody who has a passion to strip Armstrong of his medals and everything. It's obviously a hate vendetta, but it's not PC to say that. They're saying because Armstrong is done with being hounded and tested and tested to the point he doesn't care any more, he's guilty. Let them have it all. They want his trophies and winnings so bad, he really doesn't have a choice. Now they're claiming he's admitting guilt by throwing up his hands and saying take it all. He's been tested every race, extensively tested and extensively tested on top of that. Like he, himself, said in his own words, "They have no physical evidence." The entire log of evidence against Armstrong is all hearsay, totally hearsay. Somebody said, I seen him do it. Then it's, OMG Somebody seen him do it! Next they have the guy they put out for doping accusing Armstrong, he too seen him do it. Now they have a line of people that seen him do it, but he has been tested every day along the way and there's no evidence at all.


These allegations badgering Lance Armstrong are something like small town gossip or faculty lounge gossip. He said that she said that he had halitosis. I knew an old-time Regular Baptist preacher, Millard Pruitt, in my first 15 years in the mountains. He was a man of honor. I knew him fairly well, knew some of his brothers and sisters, his wife and daughter, the people of his world, his entire family. I knew him to be a man of integrity. His integrity was between him and God, a direct line. It's true he had a weakness for pretty young girls, appreciated them for their feminine beauty. To say he was flirtatious would have been like saying he was a child molester because he liked little kids and the kids liked him. If there was any man I'd ever known who would not get himself a little something on the side from a girl in his church who was getting a divorce, it was him. No way. I knew the woman too. But the stories that went around the county about him stuck like glue, as those stories do. One absurd woman I knew told me about it to be certain I understood that preacher wasn't what he appeared to be. "I seen em do it!" I didn't allow myself to laugh out loud. I was thinking of dogs in the grocery store parking lot. Just telling me she was there to witness the penetration told me it was a lie.


All the time I knew Millard Pruitt, I knew a man who was incapable, even at the age of 30, to have a one-time liaison in public with a young woman in his church he'd known since she was a child, in the time that she was involved in a traumatic divorce. Not even in private. He was incapable. I knew his brothers and sisters. No matter what kind of sexual typhoon took hold of his crotch, his integrity as a man of honor, leaving the called-to-preach part aside, would not allow him to even entertain the thought if it came to mind, and I'd project that it never did come to mind. I knew he bore no guilt about it before God or his wife or the woman involved with him in the story. I knew him to be the same as a monk in his relationship with his Lord. He was from his beginning. Millard Pruitt lived in the world and was not of it. When he was being called to preach, he resisted the call for a couple years, didn't want to go there. He wanted to play fiddle at dances on weekends and work like a man all week. Called to preach, he had to give up playing fiddle at dances or playing the fiddle at all in public. It had the name the Devil's instrument. He didn't believe that, but that didn't stop everybody else from believing it. The spirit of the Lord won the struggle and Millard never looked back.


Along the way several people have said to me, "You know, Millard has a woman story 'gin him." Then we share our hypotheses on the matter. Some could not see even a remote possibility, and some could make a convincing case. I tended to prefer the individuals who saw Millard as I saw him, a man of such integrity of the spirit he's not going to have a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am moment with a young woman in his church involved in a traumatic divorce she's seeking spiritual advice over. He wasn't one to take advantage of anybody for any reason, certainly not a woman in her situation. Millard was such a personality that some people loved and some people hated. It was no in-between with Millard. The people that loved Millard paid the story no mind, while the people that hated him embraced the story and kept it going.


Millard's integrity was not self-repression. His integrity was drawn by his love for God. His integrity was open to the spirit. He lived his life in God's light. He valued that light. It was the light of day for him. By light I think I mean along the same line as what I mean when I feel reluctance to do or entertain anything that might knock me off my track, or out of my flow. When I'm in my flow I don't want interruption. My flow includes my everyday life, people I see, all that. It doesn't mean the phone ringing sets me into a state of alarm. And it doesn't mean shutting out the unexpected. I like the unexpected. Not always at the time. An interruption to my flow would be going away for a weekend, leaving Caterpillar. I can't go anyplace anymore, because I want to sleep in my own bed every night. I don't like to cross the county line anymore unless I'll be back by bedtime. When I'm in my flow, I feel like I'm in the light of God. It's best characterized visually by seeing a leaf float down a mountain stream, riding the flow around and over rocks, rollin' down the river. Slowness is the key to happiness. Sometimes I feel like I have slowed down now to a zone where I feel like I can now go slowly through the day and at the same time get a lot done. I feel like I'm sniffing the crack under the door to happiness.


In this time of the life I am able to do what I want to do. It happened by letting go of everything after a life that required me to be someplace else every day. I sat around and watched movies, read, visited friends, slept late, stayed up late, whatever. Passed the days as I felt like it. I foresaw a lengthy transition from being told what to do all the time to being allowed to do whatever I feel like doing. It feels like I'm more productive than ever, simply as a human being. Possibly more accessible in spirit. Maybe? Maybe so. I enjoy the people around me more than ever. In a big way I feel buoyed by the people around me, the people of my world. They are the cast in the play I have a role in too. I really have never cared whether Millard's "woman story" had any validity. If I believed he did, I'd have thought nothing of it. I understand matters of the groin somewhat. Enough to allow a man a lapse in a lifetime. Millard didn't have lapses. His faith didn't have lapses. Millard Pruitt was as much a monk as my monk friend Swami Yogeshananda living in a Hindu monastery in California. Millard Pruitt was a monk in the Regular Baptist branch of Christendom. I respected him as such in the time I knew him because I saw it in him. Millard was an honorable man. I believe Lance Armstrong is an honorable man too. I feel like he's all the more honorable for being able to tell them to shove it.


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