The Fleas (Chapter 5, Pages 27 - 35)
Daisy's relatives in England were horrified when they learned that the Buck children were going to public schools. They would have been thoroughly shaken if they had known the circumstances surrounding those school days.
There was little money for clothes for the Bucks, so they dressed very poorly. They weren't alone. During those depression years, there were a lot of people in similar circumstances. There was another problem, however, which made one of their school years miserable.
One of the houses they lived in was infested with fleas. Daisy, a frail, little person, who had never been trained for housekeeping, really had her hands full with so many children, so they all just lived with the fleas. When the Buck children went to school with little red bites all over them, they didn't realize that there was anything socially unacceptable about frankly telling the other children that those were flea bites. Their eyes were opened, when the other children began to tauntingly call them "The Fleas!"
It was a hard year for all of them. Dot made good use of her lunch bucket, defending her little brothers and sisters. She couldn't be with them all the time, but when she was, a lot of kids went home with headaches!
Every once in a while, Roland would come home from school all tattered and torn with a black eye. He never started fights, but he surely defended himself. When his family gave him too much sympathy, he would always say with a twinkle in his eye, "Oh, but you ought to see the other guy!"
Roland often told the following story to depict how Christians could face the enemy or adversity when Christ, as their big brother, was on their side.
There was a bully who loved to torment the smaller boys in the schoolyard and on the bus. He especially picked on little Rollie. One day Roland's older brother, Al, came home from the Navy for a visit. Rollie asked him to ride to school with him. That day, on the bus, Roland went right up to that big bully who had made his life so miserable and kicked him in the shins. He then proceeded to make faces at him, dance around him just out of reach and tease him unmercifully.
The bully could not understand what would make Rollie take his life in his hands this way and, finally, he had had enough. He made a lunge for Roland. Just as he was closing in for the kill, big brother Al stepped into the picture. Al didn't ask questions. He just picked the boy up by the seat of his pants, and left a firm foot print as he kicked him right off the bus.
One of the adventures during Roland's Tom Sawyer youth involved his brother, George, and another friend. George decided that he was going to earn his Boy Scout lifesaving badge, but he didn't want to wait around for somebody to fall in the lake so that he could rescue him. He was pretty sure that would never happen, at least not soon enough for him. He devised a scheme, whereby he and Roland would take an unsuspecting friend who couldn't swim out into the middle of the river on their raft. Then George would push the boy off the raft and jump in to save him. Roland was supposed to verify that George did this. He argued vehemently with George against it, but George's mind was made up. Roland decided he might as well go along with George since he was going to do it anyway.
The day came when George, Roland and the unsuspecting victim took off on a raft down the Pilchuck River. Sure enough, George pushed the boy off the raft at a point in the river he had previously picked out, then he rescued him. They rowed the raft back to shore, but George had such a guilty conscience, he never could claim that lifesaving badge.
On another lazy summer day, George, Roland and another friend decided to row their little homemade raft over to an island, just off Whidley Island. They were going to camp out for a few days. Halfway between the two islands, they were suddenly surrounded by a school of whales, each about twelve to fourteen feet long.
George was terrified, but Roland showed another trait which he exercised for the rest of his life. He was cool in the face of danger or emergency. He said to his terrified older brother, "Just sit still, ignore them, and they'll probably go away." That wasn't hard advice to follow, because George and the other boy were literally paralyzed with fear. The whales nosed around the raft a little bit, caused it to bounce up and down in the waves, then went on their way.
Times were hard for people everywhere during the Great Depression. There was the winter of the big snows. The water in the Buck's house froze so the family moved into the living room where they could at least be warmed by the fire. They lived on cornmeal mush with skim milk that the neighbors gave them. The following summer Hoyt started a big garden. The vegetables from that garden tasted so good after all that mush.
The Buck family moved to a place with a big apple orchard on one side of the house. The children picked apples in the fall, and put them in sacks. Hoyt would then take them into town and sell them door to door in order to earn money to feed his family.
In 1928 when Roland was ten years old, the whole family came into a real spiritual renewal in an old theater in the town of Snohomish, Washington. Hoyt was a minister in the Christian church at the time. Neither he, nor anyone in his family, understood the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
The man who had invited Hoyt Buck to special meetings at the theater was an old man named Mr. Yonlik, who worked in the logging camp. Hoyt and Daisy and all the children went to the services every night. Daisy, Gladys and Dot just loved the life and excitement of these meetings, and right away were baptized in the Holy Spirit. Hoyt, however, just could not quite take it all in. He had preached against this for so long. Hoyt gave Mr. Yonlik all the reasons why it was not for today. Mr. Yonlik would just reply, "I can't talk like you can, and I can't argue with you, but I know what I have!"
One Sunday night, a missionary from China was visiting the Christian church. It was a beautiful service and, afterwards, young Roland went to the front to pray. He was literally slain in the Spirit. Nobody in that Christian church had ever seen anything like that before. Then Roland began to speak in a language he had never learned. The missionary was startled, then came and sat beside him. She listened for a moment, then said, "He's speaking in perfect Chinese!" This was the dialect she had learned for her work in China. She began to translate as he was speaking. Roland spoke for over an hour in that language. He told of the mighty wonders of God. God spoke thru him, telling these people about heaven and what He was preparing for His people. Roland shared with them in Chinese, translated by the missionary, what God was really like!
Fifty years later in Boise, Idaho, daddy shared with me how the angel Gabriel stood in his living room. He told me the angel was dressed in a white thigh-length tunic laced with gold at the neck, with a wide burnished gold belt at his waist. He wore what looked like white slacks. His shoes looked so bright they were almost like fire. His hair was gold and straight. He was over seven feet tall, and had a slim, but very powerful build. His clothes and face always radiated with a holy brightness because the angel, Gabriel, dwells in the presence of God.
The angel told daddy on this particular visit about that time when, as a ten-year-old boy, he spoke thru the Holy Spirit in another language, describing the Father. Gabriel told dad that he was there at that time. He then shared many instances throughout my dad's life when God had sent him to be there. God very definitely had a plan for my dad.
One of the things that God made so clear thru His divine messenger, is that God has had a plan for everyone from before the foundation of the world. God let my dad know that events which He has decreed have to happen! People are foreordained. God has included you in His great unfolding plan, but He will not violate your will. You can choose to experience the joy and excitement of being in partnership with Him.
Roland was not perfect. He had a temper and he was stubborn, but these were traits that, after he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit, were redirected. As the fruit of the Spirit began to develop in his life, the stubbornness became stick-to-itiveness and determination to finish something once he started it. His temper, with the Lord's help, became desire to show men the way to reconciliation with their Father. Even as a ten-year-old boy, the compassionate nature of Christ began to stand out.
Another quality which began to surface was a wisdom unusual in one so young. The whole family, especially his brothers and sisters would look to young Roland as a peacemaker. This was a "fruit of the Spirit" that remained in evidence throughout his forty-one years of ministry. Roland was a peacemaker.
Junior high school days rolled around. The Buck family was still very poor. Their coats were thin and their shoes, when worn thru, were lined with cardboard to cover the holes. Sometimes they were lucky in finding an old tire. That was really living, to have some tire thread for the bottoms of their shoes.
Roland was never warm, and in rainy Washington, he was hardly ever dry. They all had to pitch in and work after school to help earn money to keep food on the table. At that time, Roland would work steadily, side by side with his older brothers and his father, never complaining, but always dependable, even when he wasn't feeling well.
When he was fourteen, he developed a severe cold. He kept on working because he was needed. Roland's natural stamina finally gave out, and the cold became double pneumonia, which eventually resulted in inflammatory arthritis.
His fever was so high, and this type of disease produced so much pain on the surface of his skin, that he could not bear to be touched. Night after night, he lay in the living room near the fire suffering terribly with nothing to help the pain.
His little sister Margaret, who loved him so specially, would stay up thru the night to keep the fire going. She was the only one he could stand to have touch him. She would bathe his fevered head and body, and keep silent watch over him. She also stayed home from school during the day to help care for him. When Margaret had been sick with rheumatic fever the previous winter, Roland had brought her lessons home from school and helped her with them so she wouldn't get behind. Now it was her turn to do something for her beloved brother.
One night Roland was especially ill. Margaret was keeping her faithful watch by his bed, but she was so sleepy she dozed off. Suddenly she opened her eyes to find Roland was looking at her. Very feebly, he took her hand, and in a voice so weak it was barely a whisper, he said, "I love you, Margaret!"
Margaret, who was not pretty, who was even kind of bratty, and who got on everyone's nerves, that night felt like she was the most beautiful, special little girl in the whole wide world. Her big brother loved her.
The Lord brought Roland thru with no ill effects, protecting him once again for the special task that lay ahead.
Later that same year, Roland cut his Achilles' tendon very badly. The only way he could walk without pain was to wear one of his sister's high-heeled shoes. So that is just what he did. The other children hooted and laughed at him as he walked to class in his "high heels, but he was comfortable. His foot didn't hurt, he could walk, and in his opinion, that was all that mattered.
Roland went thru the first two years of junior high school, and started the ninth grade. Times were so bad and things were so tough for the family, however, that when a job opened up on the night shift at the lumberyard, he decided to quit school and go to work to help support the family. This also gave him the opportunity to send a little money now and then to his brother, George, who was attending Bible college.
Roland's younger brother, Walt, has memories of a compassionate, loving, big brother. When Walt was in grade school, he followed his big brother everywhere. Roland would take Walt with him to the YMCA. Roland loved boxing, and Walt just loved to be with him. Walt says that Roland was such a natural athlete, he could probably have turned professional in several sports. He was a fine pitcher in baseball, good in football, and an excellent boxer. His only problem in the ring was that he was too poor to afford tennis shoes. When he practiced sparring, he would box in his socks. As he would get going, his socks would start to slip off and stretch. They would get longer and longer until soon his opponent would have a real advantage by stepping on his socks, preventing him from moving so fast.
Walt had not accepted the Lord with the rest of his family. One day he came home from school and found no one at home. The whole house was quiet. His mother's clothes were folded on the bed. Walt's first thought was, The Lord has come, and I'm left behind! Then he thought to himself, I'll go out in the woods and see if I can find Roland. If he's still here, I'll be sure the Lord hasn't come yet, because when the Lord comes, I know Roland will go! Walt tore into the woods, hollering for Roland.
Roland had been in the woods cutting down some small trees. When he saw his little brother coming, he decided to hide behind a tree and scare him. Roland left his axe sticking in the tree he was chopping. As he watched, he saw Walt frantically looking around. All of a sudden, Walt spotted the axe sticking in the tree. He knew then that the Lord had surely come, taken Roland, and he had been left behind. Walt fell to his knees and began to cry and sob. Then he began to pray at the top of his voice for the Lord to please forgive him and come back and get him too!
Suddenly Walt felts a big arm around his shoulders as Roland gave him a big squeeze. His terror at being left behind receded in the shelter of his brother's bear hug. Walt says that this is how he thinks of his brother, even thru the years after they grew up and were both in the ministry. When Walt thinks of Roland, he remembers a strong compassionate arm around his shoulders, giving him a squeeze, that somehow made everything right with the world.
A terrible forest fire had started in the area. Nobody was sure whether or not the houses were going to burn. Roland and George went out to help fight this tremendous fire. It was nighttime and, as they were building backfires up a small mountain road, trees were flaming and falling all around them. Suddenly, they realized they were trapped. The fire had completely surrounded them. There was absolutely no way out. Somehow, and neither man knows quite how, they were able to fight their way thru and get out. Neither one was burned at all. Once again God protected Roland.
Hopping a freight train to get where one wanted to go was a common practice in those days. When Roland was sixteen and George was eighteen, they hopped a freight train to Idaho, where they heard there was good work in the potato harvest. It was very cold the night they started their journey and somehow they got separated trying to find a place to keep warm. Throughout the night they walked back and forth on the tops of those freight cars shivering in the cold looking for each other.
The next morning, after traveling several hundred miles, the train stopped in Pocatello. Both boys got off the train, trying to figure out how on earth they were going to find each other. They started walking in opposite directions down the track and practically bumped into each other. Talk about a reunion! This was Roland's introduction to the state where he was to spend most of his adult life.
The two young men were able to earn enough money in that potato harvest to buy their first car. It was an old four-cylinder Dodge. The two brothers really felt as if they had made it as they drove their very own car back to Seattle. As they were driving down the highway, they passed an old couple whose car had broken down. George stopped the car and, being an astute young businessman, said, "I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll push you into the next town for ten dollars."
Roland then exhibited another quality that was to become a trademark of his ministry - a generous heart. He said, "Oh George, that's too much. Let's do it for five dollars." The couple happily took them up on the offer.
Next: The Wolf Tamer