One Phone Call Is All It Takes

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Today’s “Story”

December 22, 1969, may have been just another day for many, but my life changed forever that day.

I was a sixteen-year-old boy living in Franklin, a sleepy little Cajun town on the Teche Bayou in south Louisiana. My Dad pastored a small church with 45 in church on a “good” Sunday. Our church was only the third different denomination in town. Franklin had a Catholic and Baptist church. Ours was “Full Gospel.” It was pretty tough explaining to classmates the differences between the first two and ours’!

I loved living in a small town. I loved the French culture. I loved hunting and fishing and spent as much spare time as I could in the woods and the bayous that were all around us. Before I had a car of my own, I saved up and bought a small boat and motor. My boat was a “bateau,” which is a small, flat-bottomed boat that was perfect for shallow water. I spent as much time on it as I could.

In January of that year, my Dad hurt himself and was out of work for months. I needed a part-time job to help out. Little towns are often not accessible places for teenagers to find part-time work, and Franklin was no different.  My high school Speech teacher knew everything and everybody in St. Mary Parish. I asked him to be on the lookout for a chance for me to make some dough.

That teacher, Rodger Robinson, was the news director of the local low-power AM radio station: KFRA. He told me one day they may need somebody to help out at the station. I went to an interview expecting to get a janitorial job. At the end of the meeting, after reading and recording a sample newscast, I was the newest disc jockey in town!

As you can imagine, I became something of a rock star among my friends: a sophomore on-air DJ. I was already a musician, loved Top 40 music, and got to play all my favorites on the radio and was paid to do so. Early ‘69 was a blast. But it changed dramatically and quickly later that year.

I learned many years later that infidelity — as wrong as it is — is seldom the primary factor in divorce. It most often is money. There wasn’t much money in our house before Dad’s accident. And with him out of work, it worsened quickly. Things between my parents were not beautiful before his work injury. But when the money dried up things really got tough.

Arguments that had been rare but were all quiet and confined to their room became frequent, louder, and happened everywhere. Tensions rose as did tempers, and insults were ugly. My brother was in the Navy and living in California. I got to experience all this as the only kid in the house.

The hurt, anger, insults, and desperation boiled-over that Christmas week. Mom couldn’t take it, Dad couldn’t make it, and I had no choice but take whatever they decided. “They” didn’t choose it. Dad did when he left: December 22nd.

Things quickly worsened.

Mom had a nervous breakdown. My brother was gone, Dad had moved fifty miles away, we had no money, and I was sixteen.

So, I left home.

No, I didn’t abandon my Mother. Some close family friends approached me to let Mom go with them to get some help to get through this horrible time. They lived in Lafayette, about 50 miles from Franklin. We had lived in Lafayette before moving to Franklin, so it seemed a good idea. Mom went with them, and I moved into a small garage apartment in Lafayette owned by some friends, went to a new high school, and got a part-time radio job there. The first day for me at Lafayette High School was three weeks to the day after Dad left. And I started to work at KSMB-FM in Lafayette two days later.

The Spring of ‘70 was tight: there was the trauma of divorce, a different town, financial hardships, loneliness, and all the “new” stuff: house, school, work, friends, church, and no parents at home with me. As tempted as I was to get despondent and worry and to get into the “poor me’s,” something inside of me drove me to keep my head up and to move forward. I was hopeful: for what I had no idea. I felt something good was in the offing. Thank God I was not wrong!

Late one May afternoon, I was on the air when a longtime Lafayette friend of mine called me on the Request-Line. A mutual acquaintance of ours from Shreveport was in town. They were driving around, listening to me on the radio, and asked to come by the studio. When my air shift was over, we all went to eat dinner.

That mutual friend was a high school quarterback who was getting into the ministry and headed to college to play football. He was putting a Christian band together that was going to travel that Summer around the South, visiting small churches holding revival services. He knew I was a keyboardist and asked me to join the group: “The Vessels.“ I said I’d give it some thought. I did — for ten minutes. I told him, “I’m in!” Two weeks later I packed my clothes in a friend’s car who gave me a ride to Shreveport. And 50 years later I’m still here!

Better — Much Better

The Summer went by in a blur. We traveled all over the South, singing and ministering in small churches. There were nine of us in a Chevy van, pulling a trailer with our clothes and sound equipment. We slept in churches, peoples’ homes, and loved every minute of it. Not only did we see miracles in the lives of hundreds of young people, we saw terrific miracles in our own lives.

At the end of that 1970 Summer tour, I planned to go back to Lafayette, go to Lafayette High School my senior year, and go back to radio. Mom was doing good. Dad was about to remarry, and my Brother was still in the Navy. God had something different for me — something “New.”

That quarterback — Denny Duron — and his Mom and Dad pulled me aside in early August of 1970 and asked if I would move to Shreveport into their home, and finish high school as their son and little brother. Denny is a year older and was headed to Louisiana Tech. His room was open.

I was shocked. I had never heard of anything like that happening and certainly had not given any such thing a thought that it could work for me. But, once again, I said, “Yes.”

Mom and Dad Duron immediately made me their second son. Denny made me his little brother. And even though Dad Duron passed away several years ago, Mom, Dad, and Denny treated me as their son and brother for the last fifty years.

What about the phone call that changed everything?

I’m sure you’ve guessed what call it was — that call from my Lafayette friend when he and Denny invited me to eat dinner when I got off the air. That call and subsequent circumstances drastically altered the history of not just my life, but the lives of everyone in my life — then and now.

I after high school graduation went to Louisiana Tech. There I met a Pom Pom Girl from Minden, Louisiana, who became my wife. We have three amazing children plus six grandchildren.

I’ve had three professional careers in fifty years: broadcasting and journalism, automobile management, and business ownership.

  • Broadcasting was my first professional love and still is. Some of you are listening to this podcast, along with thousands of others. And today, people from more than 60 countries are reading or hearing this story!
  • I continued in broadcasting in college: it paid the bills.
  • After college, I got into the car business, where I learned sales, sales management, and managing people.
  • I went back to journalism as the Managing Editor of Winners’ Circle Magazine. 
  • I later returned to radio and was a morning show host on KVKI in Shreveport, Louisiana, and afternoons at WTPI-FM in Indianapolis, Indiana. Two years after Indy, we returned to Shreveport to broadcasting.
  • In 1992 I founded a medial accounts receivable management company that has run the course of my business life. In the middle of that, I owned and operated two different professional arena football teams.

You can see, my life has not been boring. It has been one thrilling moment after another. Of course, there have been lows and lots of bad moments. But, thankfully, there have been far more great moments than bad. But in the middle of getting down and discouraged, I always think back to that 1970 phone call in Lafayette when my friend asked, “Do you want to have dinner?” That called changed everything. How?

  • I’d never have gone to Shreveport and anchored into the Duron’s family.
  • I’d never have gone to Louisiana Tech.
  • I’d never have met Mary Ann, that Pom Pom girl.
  • I’d not have two daughters, a son, two sons-in-law, a daughter-in-law, four grandsons, and twin granddaughters.
  • I’d have never known the sales business, never known goods and bads of management. I’d not have started a company that has impacted the lives of hundreds of employees, dozens, and dozens of clients for which we have billed and collected millions of claim dollars for those clients.

But, there’s more: I’d never have touched the lives of all those people in those churches, on the beaches, and in the schools in where we ministered across the South that Summer in ‘70 and the additional six years we did the same across the nation.

I wouldn’t be giving you this blog post story and podcast.

In summary, consider these things: during your Christmas season, you may experience some terrible things. You may lose family members through divorce and death. You may lose a job. You may be fighting illness. You may be struggling with personal friendships, just trying to fit in. You may feel extreme loneliness and desperation. You may feel there’s just no way out of any of the circumstances in which you find yourself. But, to quote Jim Valvano when he was dying of cancer, said this, “Don’t give up. Don’t you EVER give up!”

I certainly didn’t have a perfect beginning. Who of us did? I certainly go handed a pretty bleak couple of years. Many of us have that happen.

Don’t get me wrong: my life today is far from perfect. I have problems; I have roadblocks. My family faces challenges all the time. I don’t have “everything” and haven’t had “everything.” But what I have is exactly what I need!

When I got that phone call, I was committed to looking for and finding “the next” step for me in my life. That call came in the middle of much noise and many distractions. It would have been easy to say, “No, Guys. I’m busy. I don’t have time to go to dinner.”

Be open to YOUR call. Be expecting YOUR call. And when the phone rings, ANSWER THAT CALL!

Wanna know something: I’m 66 years old, and I’m excited sitting by the phone as I write this. I’m waiting for the phone to ring for my “next” life chapter! ONE PHONE CALL IS ALL IT TAKES!

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