Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

For Sunday, June 29, 2003


Stuart’s stories convince me that the truth really is stranger than fiction


          On a Saturday afternoon in June, Laura Tillett stood before me to exchange wedding vows with the man she loved, my friend Stuart Rogers. She was beautiful, innocent and unaware of what life would be like as Stuart’s wife and companion.

            No one can predict the future. Prophecy is not one of my gifts. On the other hand, I chuckled within as I wondered what surprises await this happy, unsuspecting bride. Given the stories that Stuart tells about his first 27 years, I imagine in time Laura will have some intriguing stories of her own to tell.

            I say this because strange and funny things happen to Stuart. And there is no reason to suppose his adventures will not continue as he shares his life with Laura.

            Listening to Stuart share his stories of personal adventure is a good way to spend an afternoon. The more I heard, the more I wanted to know.

            As he talked, I kept interrupting him to ask, “Were you dreaming or is that the truth?” Honestly, I kept thinking he would laugh and say, “And then I woke up.” Stuart insisted his spellbinding stories were truth, not fiction. I believed him.

            I love a good story, and I like to think that I am a fairly decent storyteller myself. I remember times, when my boys were small, they would question me about stories I had told in my sermons. Mark always got a laugh with his question, “Daddy, were you telling the truth or just preaching?”

            Stuart and Laura will set up housekeeping in Montgomery after honeymooning in Cancun. In recent years, Stuart has managed a fast food restaurant in Laurel, Mississippi.

That is the location of one of his great stories.

            He and one of his friends went bass fishing on Bogah Homa Lake. Despite the presence of alligators in the lake, people still swim and water ski without fear. “The gators are afraid of you, so there is really no danger,” Stuart informed me.

            “Just as the bass began hitting,” he said, “I noticed an angry moccasin trying to get inside our boat. It was while I was trying to convince the snake that he could not come aboard, I heard this strange sound.

            “It was an eerie, humming sound, like a strong wind blowing through tall grass.

The sound grew stronger, more ominous, and it seemed like we heard it for 15 minutes before suddenly the sky overhead was darkened by a great mass of bees.”

            I questioned him about the size of the cloud of bees. “It appeared to be as large as a football field, and there were billions and billions of them.”

            “Were they Killer Bees?” I asked.

            “I don’t know,” he replied. “Actually we were so frightened that we got face down in the boat, afraid they might attack us. In a few minutes they were gone.”

            I was still curious. “Did the snake ever get in the boat?”

            “No, we gave that snake a good lick on the head and got out of there. That swarm of bees helped me decide it was time to go home.”

            I made a mental note never to accept an invitation to go bass fishing on a lake near Laurel, Mississippi. I wondered if Laura likes to go fishing.

            With a little prodding from me, Stuart went on to share the story of his run-in with a gas pump. It began innocently enough. He pulled into a gas station and began pumping gas into his car.

            Suddenly the hose jumped out, and without cutting off automatically, began to spray a powerful stream of gas into his face.

            “The gas blinded me completely,” Stuart said, “and unable to see I began running wildly about pleading for someone to help me.”

            He heard later that he ran near a man who was smoking, but the man stepped aside and avoided him. Otherwise, this story would have had a tragic ending.

            Two people came to his aid and began pouring water in his face, but he could not see a thing. He was blind, and terrified.

            Paramedics came and kept squirting a solution into his eyes, Stuart said. “My eyes were hurting like crazy, and I remained unable to see anything.”

            On the way to the hospital, where he received further treatment, Stuart said slowly his vision began to return. “I remembered seeing a tree outside the hospital, and it was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. I realized my sight was coming back, and I praised God. I would not be permanently blind.”  

            His recovery was complete and Stuart’s vision today is excellent. But what a story

Stuart has to tell about a gas hose that viciously attacked him without warning!

            After awhile Stuart asked me, “Do you remember Hurricane Opal?”

            Yes, I said, of course.

            He began to tell his Opal story. “My parents had just flown to Washington, D.C. I was alone at home. We had no power for two weeks.”

            I waved my hand in protest. “No more stories, Stuart. It is time to dress for your wedding. You must bring Laura to see me after your honeymoon and tell me the Opal story.”

            There is every reason to believe Stuart and Laura will have a wonderful marriage. My guess, however, is that many strange and funny things will happen to them. And their friends will enjoy listening to many fascinating stories of their adventures in this journey called life.

            Stuart, the storyteller, can convince you that truth really is stranger than fiction.

I can’t wait to hear their honeymoon story! + + + +