The unbearable lightness of perfect

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer May 17, 2013 12:04 pm
Today, people complain about a lack of role models. Growing up on the banks of Crooked Creek in the 1960s, I had no such problem. Role models were everywhere. Many of them watched closely out their windows to make sure me and the other kids did not beat each other with sticks.

The biggest role model for me, however, was not a neighbor or a friend of the family. It was Danny Orlis. He was the hero of a series of Christian action books, which could be checked out from the church library. Orlis was a high school hockey star from a small town in northern Minnesota, a slap shot away from the Canadian border. He didn’t drink. He didn’t swear. He didn’t run around with women of loose morals, or girls with pit bulls and tattoos.

God was on Danny’s side. When he got knocked down in a hockey game, the gloves didn’t come off. A fight didn’t ensue. Instead, he would help his opponent up off the ice and give him a big Jesus Saves smile.

I pictured Lake of the Woods as being immersed in an area of mountain peaks, much like the Cascades that towered in the neighborhood of 10,000-foot elevation near my westside Oregon home. I pictured wrong.

When I got married, the first time, I married a Minnesotan, a person who grew up in snow and humidity country 2,000 miles away. First chance I got, I made a pilgrimage to Lake of the Woods to visit the old stomping grounds of my fictional hero. Much to my surprise, the country was pancake flat. The lake was a sort of inland sea, stretching to the curve of the earth and then beyond. Mosquitoes chased visitors with an unprecedented bloodthirstiness never mentioned in the Orlis series.

Even after being on the receiving end of 1,001 mosquito bites, and dealing with a scary loss of blood, I remained happy to have had such a worthy role model as a kid. No, I did not live up to the Danny Orlis mystique. I had a short fuse. Danny’s fuse would burn indefinitely. Still, I rarely said bad words and I knew better than to fight every nasty boy who crossed my path. I knew better than to drown what few sorrows I had with alcohol. And coming from country where ice was rare, I didn’t know a hockey stick from a broom stick, but it didn’t matter. 

The point was to develop equanimity and to walk the Christian walk in an everyday sort of way, not just on Sundays, to develop core values and a strength of character that could withstand the winds of peer pressure.

However, the best thing was, I developed a yearn for reading. The Danny Orlis writer painted word pictures and helped me learn to travel to distant lands in my mind. It captured my imagination and scored a hat trick with my budding creativity.

Sometimes, though, even though it was dead wrong, I wished the sanctimonious Danny would take an uppercut to the solar plexus and that the bad kids would win. 

Never happened.