Left in Indiana

The following message is a slightly paraphrased version of a video created by "Johnny Anonymous"

6 Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? 7 Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock? 8 I am not speaking these things according to human judgment, am I? Or does not the Law also say these things? 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (NASB1995)

A New Take On An Old Story

Field of wheat

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

This story takes place in Huffman, Indiana

It was October 1960 in Huffman, Indiana. I woke up one morning with six hungry children and just 4-dollars in my pocket. Their father was gone. The boys ranged from three months to seven years, and their sister was two.

Their dad had never been much more than a presence they feared. Whenever he came home, they heard his tires crunch on the gravel driveway, and would scramble to hide under their beds.

He didn't manage to leave much, but he did manage to leave 15-dollars to buy groceries for the week. The red barn lay empty. He had sold the machinery, the hay, and all the animals. All the animals except one, a little lamb who grazed constantly right by the house. Now that he had decided to leave, there would be no more beatings, but no food either. He drove off toward the Huffman Mill Bridge and straight out of our lives.

Girl leaning against car with lamb
Image taken from Johnny Anonymous YouTube Video

If there was a welfare system in effect in southern Indiana at that time, I certainly knew nothing about it. I scrubbed the kids until they looked brand new and then put on my best homemade dress and the only tattered wool coat he had left me. I loaded the kids into the red ‘51 Chevy and drove off to find a job. The door locks were broken, the tires were leaking and the seats were ripped, but the body and engine were solid.

The seven of us went to every factory store and restaurant in our small town. No luck.

The kids stayed crammed into the car and tried to be quiet while I tried to convince whoever would listen that I was willing to learn or do anything. I had to have a job. Still no luck. The last place we went to, just a few miles out of town, was an old drive-in that had been converted to a diner. It was called, The Dixie Cafe.

Dixie Cafe
Image taken from Johnny Anonymous
YouTube Video

An older lady named Roberta owned the place. Well, older than me anyway. She peeked out of the window from time to time and all of my kids. She needed someone on the graveyard shift, 11 PM until 7 AM. She paid $1.20 an hour, and I could start that night. I raced home and called the teenager down the street that baby-sat for people. I bargained with her to come and sleep on my sofa for 2-dollars a night. She could arrive with her pajamas on, and the kids would already be asleep. This seemed like a good arrangement to her, so we made a deal.

That night, when the little ones and I knelt to say our prayers, we all thanked God for finding mommy a job. And so I started at The Dixie Cafe.

When I got home in the mornings, besides almost hitting that lamb that would always wander onto the driveway, I would wake the baby-sitter up and send her home with two dollars of my tip money; half of what I averaged every night.

As the weeks went by, heating bills added a strain to my meager wage. Countless times I would fall asleep praying to God for relief. The sound of that lamb baaing right outside my window didn't exactly make it easy to pray in silence. I prayed about everything that was hindering me. The tires on the old Chevy had a consistency of penny balloons and were now leaking worse. I had to fill them with air on the way to work and again every morning before I could go home.

One bleak fall morning, I left the cafe to go home and found four tires in the back seat. New tires! There was no note, no nothing, just those beautiful brand new tires. Who had opened the car and put them there? I wondered. I only complained about them once, and didn't think anyone was even listening.

I made a deal with the man at the local service station. In exchange for his mounting the new tires, I would clean up his office. I remember it took me a lot longer to scrub his floor than it did for him to dot he tires. I was now working six nights a week instead of five, and it still wasn't enough. Christmas was coming, and I knew there would be no money for the kids, not even for necessities.

I found a can of read point and started repairing and painting some old toys. Then, I hid them in the basement so there would be something on Christmas morning. Clothes were a worry too. I was sewing patches on top of patches on the boys pants, and soon, they would be too far gone to repair.

On Christmas Eve, the usual customers and two of my coworker's were drinking coffee in the cafe and whispering among themselves. These were the truckers Les and Frank, and my co-workers, Darren and Joe. “Did they fit?” Les asked. “No, but I made them fit!!” Joe said. I had no idea what they were talking about, but these for were always joking around, playing pranks on each other.

(clutching his fists) “Put more in before I throw a beat-down on you!” Darren joked. They were all laughing hysterically now and shoving each other around. “Don't spill your coffee Frank. Put more in, don't make me ask you again!” “You made the others fit, so make this one fit!” As Darren shoved a box in Franks's face, all of them were laughing so hard they were almost falling off their stools at the counter.

A few musicians came in after a gig at the Legion and were dropping nickels in the pinball machine. The regulars all just sat around and talked through the wee hours of the morning and then left the get home before the sun came up. When it was time for me to go home on Christmas morning, the owner let me leave at 6:30, so I ran out of the door and straight to the car.

I was hoping the kids wouldn't wake up before I managed to get home and get the presents from the basement and place them under the tree. We had cut down a small cedar tree by the side of the road down by the dump. It was still a little dark and I couldn't see much, but here appeared to be some strange shadows in the car. Were my eyes playing tricks on me?

Something certainly looked different, but it was hard to tell what. When I reached the car I peered warily into one of the side windows. My jaw dropped. The old Chevy was filled full to the top with boxes of all shapes and sizes. I quickly opened the driver's side door, got inside, and knelt in the front seat facing the back.

Reaching back, I pulled the lid off one of the boxes. Inside were several pairs of little blue jeans, sizes 2-10! I looked inside another box, it was full of shirts to go with the jeans. Then I peeked inside some of the other boxes. There was candy and nuts and bananas and bags of groceries. There was a ham, an enormous turkey, canned vegetables, and potatoes. There were two cakes, cookies, pie filing, and milk. There was an entire bag of laundry items and cleaning supplies. There were five toy trucks and a beautiful little doll, and a brown wool coat just my size. I had only looked in half of the boxes.

As I drove back through empty streets as the sun slowly rose on the most amazing Christmas of my life, I was sobbing with gratitude. I will never forget the joy on the faces of my little ones that precious morning. Yes, there were loving and gracious people in Huffman, Indiana that long-ago December night, and they all hung out at The Dixie Cafe.

Dash board with note
Image taken from Johnny Anonymous
YouTube Video

There was a note on the glove-box that I hadn't even noticed when I hurried into the car to look at the boxes.

It was New Years Day when I decided to phone Joe to thank him again for all they had done. How couldn't I? The kids had eaten all they could eat and we had enough food for a month. My basic needs were taken care of, the kids were outside playing in the snow and I had some free time, so I had to call him.

“Hi Joe, it's Annette.”

“Well hello there Annette, Happy New Years, how's everything going?”

“Amazing thanks to you, Frank, Darren, and Les!”

“It's not a big deal, all four of us needed help too at some point in our lives, and someone helped us. If you want someone to thank, just look up.”

“Well thank you anyway Joe...oh, and thank you for the tires. I never would have been able to get to the cafe, if it hadn't been for those new tires.”

“Ahh...new tires? What new tires?”

“C'mon Joe, the tires you guys put in my back seat.”

“I have no idea what you're talking about...what tires?!

“Ok Mr. Prankster, is this one of your jokes where you keep me hanging in suspense for hours or days? Maybe one of the other guys put them in the car.”

“I doubt it, Darren hasn't had a day off from the cafe in 3-weeks and Les & Frank had to make a haul to Missouri last week. They weren’t even at the cafe.”

“What?...what do you mean...then who put them there?”

“No idea...but none of us bought you tires Annette.”

“When I reflect back on the hardship of those fall months in 1960, but also that wonderful Christmas in December, it's true, someone left me in Indiana, but God never did.”

Dixie Cafe Crew Dixie Cafe Crew Girls


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