Over the past few years I had developed a strong fondness and respect for Phil. I commented often to my wife that he was the most exceptional man I had ever met in regards to temperament, boundless energy, moderate habits, and I believed him a God fearing man. I thought he would make a fine Mormon. Too bad he didn’t have the truth. Such were my thoughts at the time.
He purchased a house on a few acres in Florida and rented it out to me and my family for some time. He gave us a fair deal. A very needed thing for us at a crucial juncture. I helped him renovate and make livable that house before we moved in. I’d never seen a person work so efficiently and tirelessly! He just never seemed to run out of energy, and he worked just as he logrolled, with quick sure movements, no wastage of effort. A lifetime of using his body and acquiring the skills to do what seemed to be “anything he made up his mind to do”.
He was a blessing to anyone he was around, and that most included the lumberjack show owner we both worked for those years. Not only was Phil a champion logroller and a fine showman, but also could rig up or fix anything under the sun. With minimal tools and supplies, and a little time, there was no limit to what he could accomplish.
He levered an engine off the mounts once and pulleyed it up under a big tree branch to swap out a part. Many a time when a piece of equipment was inadvertently left off the show trailer, he would build something from scratch, which often exceeded the original.
And he had a fearless work ethic!
He never grumbled and griped like other men, he just pitched in and got the job done. No matter the conditions. I tried to pattern myself after him. I failed. He was cut out of good cloth.
In a snowstorm once, we left the motel and the show owner turned on the windshield wipers without first clearing the snow. The blades disconnected from the motor. There was a nice hum when the switch was pulled, but no movement.
Phil didn’t bat an eye. Completely disregarding the fact it was not his fault the blades had been broken, or that freezing wind and snow were whipping a campaign, he told us to hang tight and he’d fix it.
Two lumberjacks sat comfortably in a warm truck cab that day and watched an indefatigable man clear six inches of snow from the hood and window with his bare hands, order the hood popped, and then climb up and rig away, at last hopping back into the warm cab of the truck, and off we headed on our merry old way, everything back together again…thanks to this humble man.
He just always seemed to elect himself to take care of problems, whether his or not. He always got the job done, no matter what it was. He was a finisher. He never complained or murmured. Just did.
But now another storm was brewing!
In the summer of 2006, Phil and I reunited for a three month contract at the old Sea World theme park in Ohio. It had been sold to some outfit that transformed it into a water park, renaming it “Geauga Lake”. I had performed there several years previous when it was still Sea World. Phil had been there many times before.
We had quite a bit in common really. One of our mutual interests in regards to food and nutrition. Both of us agreed that modern processed foods were destroying people’s health at an alarming rate, and nobody seemed to be aware of it. Graves being dug at kitchen tables with fork and knife.
We ate wholesome food that summer, working together to acquire provisions from neighboring Amish communities, next to nothing purchased from the grocery store. We could buy fruit and vegetables by the box, as well as had access to unprocessed meat, milk, and eggs. Oatmeal a staple.
Mr. Phil Scott. Champion logroller. A man preferring food in the form the Good Lord made it. Blueberries in season a particular favorite. Maple syrup or honey in place of white sugar. Maker of his own bread, time permitting. Blessed with a cast iron gut. Able to assimilate large quantities to replenish the strength spent in labor. Not prone to put on weight. Not a glutton. Receives his food with gladness and thanksgiving to the Lord. Acknowledges God as provider of all. Abstainer from tobacco and strong drink.
So, Geauga Lake, summer of 2006. Four man show. Phil Scott. Champion logroller. An axeman from New Zealand. Phil’s nephew. And myself. Two apartments the lodging, Phil and myself sharing one, the other two occupying the other.
The summer started off swimmingly, fine shows and fine crowds. Business as usual. Good food. Good conversation. Good performances. Everything going along without a hitch…
until Phil asked that certain question!
“So, you are a Mormon, and have some other book just like the bible, right?” I affirmed this, telling him about the Book of Mormon and how it was a book of scripture that also testified of Christ. He asked for a copy, stating that if there was another book about Jesus, he wanted to read it. I got him a copy.
He began reading it immediately. I remember him quietly sitting there studying, a pen and pad of paper handy, scratching out notes. He did this for a couple of days. I was convinced God was leading him to the church and remember the hope I experienced at the time.
He read about half the book, then informed me he would read no more. Okay, here we go. Why not? He showed me the list he had compiled. It was filled with verse after verse. He told me they were verses that told how we must WORK for our salvation! He didn’t need to read the rest. He knew the book was false because it contradicted the Bible. Nothing I could say would convince him otherwise. He wasn’t fooled. The Book of Mormon
Did NOT pass the Bible test!
Not by a long shot. It preached another gospel. It preached another Jesus. I know that now, but at the time, I was swimming in deception. He did his best to show me salvation by grace alone, and the truth of the Bible. I did my best to show him salvation by works to “merit” grace. We were deadlocked.
At the show grounds we performed several times daily for crowds. Phil and myself rolling against each other, splitting victories, entertaining the audience, never cheating those who had paid the ticket price. The show must go on. And it went on well.
Our friendship was now strained near breaking. Enmity growing rapidly between us. I’d have liked to have dropped the whole conversation and just leave “each to his own”. Phil would not abide this. He witnessed to me as far as he was able, but I would not budge. My heart was flint, and he was set on his Bible believing ways. The match was proving a stalemate.
We didn’t talk much the rest of that summer and I banded together with the other two lumberjacks more often than not, leaving Phil out in the cold, alone in terms of fellowship. It was easy for me to get other people to see my side of things. Most in this world avoid the battleground of religious contention. Most would rather not even broach the subject. Most just nod and agree and change the subject as soon as possible.
Once I saw Phil talking to a young girl that worked at the park. I listened in from a distance. It was on the subject of tattoos, and the growing trend amongst young people to acquire them, and why a person ought not mark up their body, as it was the temple of the Holy Ghost, etc. After some debate the girl asked a simple question. WHY was it wrong to get a tattoo? Phil looked at her in surprise and answered simply…
Because the Bible says so.
That was his sincere belief. That whatever the Bible said, was true. Without question. Without fail. I ridiculed what I had overheard to anybody that would listen. HIS EVIDENCE WAS BECAUSE THE BIBLE SAID SO?!? I ranted about it to my wife that evening on the phone. I couldn’t let it go. It seemed so absurd to blindly believe, just because the Bible said something.
I overheard several such conversations he had with others over the remaining month, various topics, him preaching to someone or other, using the Bible as his proof to the arguments. Not many were convinced, but he remained undaunted in spirit, witnessing for Jesus every opportunity that arose.
That summer ended. Our friendship ended. We went our separate ways, hopefully never to meet again. But we did meet. The next year. Six months at Chimelong International Circus in Guangzhou China. Phil was to be there, and so was I.
I resolved to not bring up religion at all. I’d go on being my Mormon self, and let that crazy Bible-thumper do his own thing. Worked like a charm for a while, then things again came to a head.
The accusation he levied against me was that I refused to listen to him, though he was appointed the “crew boss”. It was a justifiable rebuke. I accused him of only bringing this up because of our religious differences. He assured me this was not the case, but that I was rebellious. What a glorious war we had that summer! My pride fanning the flames.
Long story short. The last time we really spoke together was when I was trying to amend things, smooth things over, just sweep it all under the rug, and let bygones be bygones. He would have none of it. He told me I had a terrible temper and a wicked spirit about me. He told me I needed to repent and come to Jesus.
I told him it was a bunch of baloney, and then and there we parted ways, not more than a few words between us the rest of the summer, only necessary communication for the completion of the show. I have not seen him since that time. Almost 13 years.
His witness ate away at me for the next eight years. It would make me so angry to think of his stubbornness and the bluntness of his words. I tried to forget about him. I could not. Every so often it would all flare up in my heart and would anger me again. I spoke badly of him for years, easily finding others willing to listen to my slander of his name.
AND THEN THE BIBLE BROKE ME!!!
My life had gone to shambles. My sins had found me out. I was reaping what had been sown. There was nowhere left to turn. I am ashamed to admit, suicide seemed an appealing option. I was reading any New Age and non-western religious book I could get my hands on. Hinduism. Buddhism. Guru-ism. Philosophy. JUST LOOKING FOR SOMETHING!!! Anything! Mormonism had long since been abandoned by both my wife and myself. It had proved to be a lie, so I had conjectured ALL CHRISTIANITY TO BE A LIE! A common mistake by many leaving a cult.
Then it just hit me like a flash. Seemingly from out of the blue. An idea. A shockingly daring idea. An idea of such simplicity, yet so radical, that I barely dared hope. But I DID hope! It couldn’t be so simple. Could it? I felt I would burst with desire, just at the thought it could be true. Maybe it was…
as easy as trusting in Jesus!!!
Phil had explained it well. I was a sinner and damned. Only Jesus could pay for these sins. Wash me clean with his shed blood. There was nothing I could possibly do to merit this. No works, religious or otherwise. No trusting in any other things. Just in Jesus, and His shed blood. Accept the FREE gift of salvation He had granted me. Surrender my life to Him.
Suddenly everything I had scoffed at all those years made perfect sense. The simplicity of it was astonishing. The beauty of it unexplainable. The Joy! The gladness in my heart. I went to Jesus at that moment.
And Jesus saved me!
I acquired a King James Bible as soon as I could and began reading it. The words so comforting and sweet! Salvation by grace alone. By Christ alone. The Bible was indeed the Word of God! The ONLY Word of God. It is the authority on every choice in my life. Why do I believe what I believe, and behave how I behave? BECAUSE THE BIBLE SAYS SO! I have not ceased reading it since that day. It has not ceased correcting me since that day.
My gratitude for what Phil had done welled up in me immediately. If only I could thank him for his bold and unashamed witness of Christ. But life is more complex than that. There were miles to go now. There was now so much to be done! Born again. That meant life was truly beginning! Joy and gladness and hardship and tribulation. All the confusion in the world, and in the Church. So much to learn. So much to UNLEARN!
Prayer became a big part of my life. God my ONLY comfort. My wife decided to divorce me. In her eyes, my being “born again” just another one of my harebrained whims. I had contributed to our marriage becoming an unholy thing. We had gone after the world, and after the sin of the world. No time left to try and fix things. God saved me, but did not save my marriage.
the LORD gaue, and the LORD hath taken away, blessed be the Name of the LORD.
Job 1:21 (Holy Bible 1611)
Loose ends and errata…
Mr. Phil Scott. Champion logroller. A man with a love for music. He played a guitar and harmonica and sang gospel songs. He entered an employee talent show at Geauga Lake, summer of 2006. Others lip-synced their performances to rock and roll, while in contrast Mr. Scott used his God given talent. Guitar. Harmonica. The voice the Lord gave him. Taking advantage of yet another moment to show others his unashamed love for Jesus, this time in song. He was awarded first prize in the contest.
* * *
He gave me a set of calked (spiked) logrolling shoes that summer. I used them for many years, whenever there was a match to roll, or a boom to run. He made them himself. They were the old style, real leather shoe, needing to be soaked for half an hour before use, a type rarely seen nowadays. They deteriorated slowly through the years.
In 2015 I hit a couple of competitions in Wisconsin. At 42 years old, I was no match for the new generation of rollers. It was a good experience, though, for old time sake. I met people that summer who became good friends.
In a tournament in Madison, the last match I ever rolled in competition, the shoes Phil gave me gave up the ghost, blowing out beyond repair, after all those years of faithful service. Though I would continue performing in shows, the end of those shoes marked the end of my competitive career. Like a vapor of smoke.
* * *
I wronged this humble man. God has forgiven me, but I beg his pardon publicly. I am truly sorry. Thank you, Phil, for not backing down on your duty to Jesus, just to save my feelings, or our friendship. May I be as strong and faithful in whatever work the Lord has for me. God bless you. We will cross the river someday, and rest together under the shade of the trees…
* * *
To any over the years that I spoke to regarding Phil, speaking evil of him, slandering his good name, and scoffing at his faith in Jesus… I denounce my wrongful speech and behavior. I was blind, but now I see. Amazing grace.
* * *
I faced off with the nine-time Logrolling Champion of the World in the match of my life! In fact, it was a match FOR my life; I just didn’t know it at the time. Never was there a contest for higher stakes. It wasn’t just some trophy or title or bag of money on the line. It was my very soul. I gave it my best… speed, endurance, guts, and determination. Employed every trick in the book… kicks, turns, bobs, splashes… everything a good logroller should do to win. But I lost.