On January 30, 1985, David Graham cut out a hole in the ice of his daddy’s pond. The hole was about the circumference of a basketball goal. But the ice was thick, maybe eighteen inches, plenty strong enough for two grown men to stand on. We both dropped in a line. I can’t remember what we used as bait, but whatever it was, it worked very well.
Soon we were pulling up some rather small bluegill. The catfish, bottom feeders that they are, must have been asleep in the depths. In summer, David or his father, Blink, would toss in a handful of what looked like dog food, and the waters would churn, huge and hungry catfish fighting over the kernels. In a cold Indiana winter, the catfish stayed in what must have been warmer water. They were fine, David said. And come springtime, sure enough, those catfish all seemed to have survived.
We hadn’t been out on the pond more than 15 minutes when David’s mother came to the door and called for me.
“Dick, Candi says you need to come home.”
I knew what that meant. So did David.
“We’ll fish another day,” he said. “Go see about your wife.”
As I walked toward the house and my car, David’s mother said, “Candi thinks it’s time.”
There were no cell phones in 1985.
“If you don’t mind,” I said, “call her and tell her I’m on my way.”
The drive to the parsonage was only a couple of miles. From the parsonage, we were 35 miles, roughly 45 minutes, from the Columbus hospital.
Candi had packed a bag several days earlier for the occasion.
“We’d better leave,” she said. “I think it’s happening. And the weather report says we’re in for another blizzard.”
Minutes later, we were on our way.
This was our third child. We were not in a rush. At least, I wasn’t. With our first child, we’d left Commerce for the hospital in Athens at Candi’s first few sharp labor pains. Twenty-three hours after we arrived, Matthew was born.
Our second child was born in Kentucky. I had to make up a final exam at the January term because we left shortly after 8:00 a.m. to make a half hour drive to Lexington. We arrived a few minutes after 9:00. A few minutes after 4:00 p.m. Macie was born.
Not long after that, the next door neighbor at seminary went into labor while her husband was driving from 50 miles away. I drove Marilyn to the hospital. Six minutes after our arrival in the parking lot, James Paul was born.
“No need to get to the hospital too soon,” I said. “We’ve got time to eat.”
The snow began falling, but the roads were clear. We stopped at Wendy’s and I ate inside, although Candi had very little appetite. I also stopped at Walmart to pick up a ribbon for the electric typewriter.
Candi remembers that she was chewing on the ice from her paper cup in the Walmart, when she felt the change.
“We need to go now,” she said.
It was snowing hard now, but we were only a few miles from the hospital. We got her there and checked in. Thirty-seven minutes later Mallory was born.
Some people said, “You were cutting it mighty close, weren’t you?” to which I said, “No, we had plenty of time.”
That was it for Candi having babies. Just a few years after Mallory was born, we were sweltering in the South Georgia heat in a parsonage with an air conditioning unit that was inadequate.
One day when we were juggling children, none of which was yet old enough for kindergarten, one of the members of the church was having their first baby. At the first signs of labor, off they went for a long hospital stay.
“Their first baby,” I said. “They’ll have a long wait.”
“If we ever had another one –.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
“I know, but if we did, I wouldn’t make you lie around all day waiting. But I’d get you there in plenty of time.”
“No. No. That’s way too long. My record is six minutes.”
She didn’t even look at me. I wasn’t sure she’d heard me.
“My record is six minutes,” I said again.
She got up from the chair to check on the children we already had.
“Six minutes,” I said. “Six minutes.”
She never said a word. I’d have a better chance of ice fishing in a South Georgia pond than going for that record.
Right now, of course, I’m glad I never had to go for it.