Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Warfles

We moved to the tiny little community of North Rome in Northeast Pennsylvania right after Larry graduated from seminary.  He accepted the call to youth pastor there, sight unseen.  There was nothing there except the church and a little country store that belonged to the Warfle family  They didn't sell much, only a couple shelves of Kellogg's Corn Flakes and some cans of sardines.  I don't even remember them selling the basics like milk, eggs and bread.  If they did, I've long forgotten it. 

There was the dad, Leroy.  He was tall with a big stomach, dark-rimmed glasses and a brush cut.  His wife Sandy, short and blond with big teeth, appeared to be several years younger than her husband.  She must have been the second wife because the four older siblings were too old to be hers.  They all lived in the little house attached to the store.  There was  Leroy Jr., Bill, Vern and their sister Gloria.  The two younger ones were Laramie and Cherokee, but they went by Tucker and Squaw.  In fact, they all had nicknames.  The only other one I remember is Bill's, and they called him Pickles. 

We moved to North Rome in June of that year, and shortly after we arrived the Warfles set up an outdoor kitchen in their back yard.  It had four legs with a roof of corrugated steal to protect them from the rain.  They hauled out an old wood stove with burners to cook on and a sink that they kept filled for the dirty dishes.  I quickly realized that this was not your usual family.

Besides the store, they had a furniture refinishing business.  I'm not sure how much business they did, but it was obviously enough to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.  I didn't see the older boys working all that much, but if there was ever anything out of the ordinary happening in our little community, they'd be out their front door to check it out.  I don't think they were lazy, just laid back.  Extremely laid back.  They did get Larry out of a serious jam one time, however.   He was doing three courses by correspondence our first winter there.  Long before personal computers, everything had to be typed or written out.  After completing several lessons, he put them in three white envelopes and into his coat pocket to mail.  That winter of 1977 was like something they hadn't seen in years.  It never stopped snowing, and it was Larry's job as assistant pastor to keep the parking lot cleared.  He decided to run the plow before mailing out his assignments so he could get to the mailbox.  When he finally reached into his pocket it was empty.  He looked at the huge piles of snow around the perimeter of the parking lot.  He panicked, realizing that he had no idea where to even begin looking.  And then he thought of the Warfles.  And they, feeling a bit sorry for him, began to go through those enormous snowbanks, looking for three white envelopes buried somewhere in that winter wonderland.  Amazingly, they found his hours of work and three slightly damp envelopes were soon on their way to Indiana Wesleyan University.  He was never so grateful to anyone in his life.

Larry plowing during the winter of 1977

Even though the older siblings were in their late teens and early twenties, they were like children.  At Christmas time they could hardly contain their excitement.  Unable to wait for Christmas day, they would always open their gifts several days early.  One time we were heading out to see family but first stopped to wish them a Merry Christmas.  When we told them where we were going, they were curious about how far that might be.  After explaining that it was a three-hour trip, Leroy Jr.said he couldn't imagine traveling so far to see anybody.  As we pulled away, I could see the three brothers shaking their heads in pity.

The Warfles were not church going folk,  but I did what I could to live Christ in front of them.  One year right before Christmas, I set out all the goodies I had baked and invited them over for the afternoon.  Except for Leroy Sr. they all came, filled up their plates and we visited.  I played some songs on the piano and I remember Sandy asking if I would play "White Christmas" for her.  I don't think they stayed more than an hour.

Even though the Warfles had never shown any interest in Christianity or the church while we knew them,  a critical time in their lives changed that.  Sandy suffered a pretty bad stroke, the church was there, and they were ready.  She and her husband became believers.  I'd like to think that maybe some of what we lived had a part in that.

The store and the house are gone now and the Warfles have moved on.  But the memories associated with that family will always make me smile.   I mean, how many boys do you know named Pickles?
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