Archive for Thursday, July 22, 2004

Soldier comes home, bicycles and a ‘fire’

July 22, 2004

I always love to hear from the Rev. Ira DeSpain. It seems like he always has a bit of good news or an interesting story idea. When he called last week, it was even better.

I could tell by the excitement in his voice that it was good news. It was. His son, Dan, was home from Iraq. A Marine, Dan had been stationed overseas since February.

It brought great relief to Rev. DeSpain and his wife, Barbara, that he was back and all in one piece.

"It's unbelievable," Rev. DeSpain said. "It's been one of the biggest trials of our life, but his battalion was returned July 12. We're real glad to have him back. It's been a long haul for us all."

Dan is a 1997 graduate of Baldwin High School and is also a graduate of Baker University, where his dad is campus minister. I'd talked to Rev. DeSpain several times about his son enlisting and then going overseas. Dan felt very strongly that he was called to do it.

I admire that courage and conviction. Of course, his parents did, too. I've known them for years. Barbara taught both my sons in second grade and I credit to her to this day for helping them get started on the good education path.

There's been much worry and prayer though the whole ordeal for the DeSpains. When Dan returned, he was reunited with his wife who is expecting the couple's first child.

This was some good news for a change.

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  • I don't know about you all, but I sure enjoyed The Wheelmen's stay in Baldwin City last week. It was a real hoot to see those old-time bikes going all around town.

They were having their 37th annual meet and Baker University played host to them. They trickled in, but by Friday were pretty much in full force. As that happened, it was interesting to see them here and there along the streets of Baldwin, as well as in the country.

Although their big event was a parade in downtown Lawrence Saturday morning, they put on quite a show here Friday night in downtown Baldwin. Most, if not all, of the old-time bikes and riders were on display along with Art Walk.

There were members of all sizes, shapes and ages. Many were in costume, which was also interesting. They all amazed me, but the youngsters who would climb on those big-wheeled things were especially note worthy. Just another example of learning something while you're young.

They finally put on their parade of sorts after 9 p.m. Friday and circled around as a group. It was too dark for a picture, but it was fun to watch.

Between them, the people that came to see them, a new Baldwin band making its debut and the regulars, it was quite an Art Walk. I always love it when downtown Baldwin is bustling and that's certainly what took place.

I had been concerned because of the timing conflict that forced the usual July Art Walk tradition of the Community Band concert and ice cream social to be moved to August. But, it all worked out great and we still get to enjoy the band and ice cream next month on Aug. 20. Mark your calendars. It's always a good one.

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  • Not too many people were able to see the excitement Tuesday morning at McDonald's, which appeared like was burning to the ground at one point. No, don't worry, it didn't even come close to that.

It was around 10 a.m. when the fire truck left the downtown firehouse with lights and siren going. I've seen this way too many times, so I didn't get overly excited. I calmly grabbed the camera, a roll of film and headed to the truck to see what was up. The vast majority of times, it's nothing -- but, you never know and that's why I always go.

The fire engine had turned north on Eighth Street before I had reached the truck. I headed that way, checking all the side streets as usual. There was nothing. By the time I got to the highway, I thought I'd probably lost them. I thought I'd check FireTree Estates, but when I looked east to check traffic, there it was.

Smoke was just absolutely billowing from behind McDonald's. I thought it was up in flames, figuring the french fry grease had done a number. Of course, this really had the newsman in me going full blast, figuring out the next steps.

I went on around through FireTree and approached from the north. When I got to the entry to Santa Fe Market, the problem was quickly identified. It was just a truck that had caught on fire after going through the drive-through. No big deal after all.

The Baldwin firefighters already had it well under control, just in that short of time. Reports are still being compiled, but it wasn't the major disaster I had envisioned at one point. I love double cheeseburgers. They were safe.

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