Teen says Feast of Tabernacles 'smoothest in centuries'

The 13-year-old writer lives with her parents and brother in Big Sandy, Texas.

By Jamie Cartwright

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.-Best Feast ever. Smoothest Feast in centuries. Really. I am not kidding. The Feast of Tabernacles was purely awesome!

Okay, so we did go to Colorado, and that is pretty cool in itself. The Feast made it even better because, of course, there were lots of activities planned each day; I made some good friends; and I got to worship God with these new friends in the Christian Church of God (we are members of the United Church of God). I even sang special music one day. But I am getting ahead of myself.

I'll start with Atonement back in Big Sandy. This year was the second time in my life that I've ever completely fasted all day. It would've been my third year, but one time my brother and I were pretty sick and stayed home and guzzled orange juice and chowed down on vitamins all day.

Actually, it went by much, much better than I figured it would. I made a pig of myself at the Olive Garden in Tyler afterwards, which is odd because I don't even like Italian food, save pizza. (Ahhh, pizza, ahh, mmm.)

Atonement makes people desperate, I think.

Cool Feast site

The next day we left Texas. Yeah! Left! For the Feast! Left for Colorado Springs, where life is good, also cold and dry, compared to the smothering humidity of Big Sandy, Texas. However, there wasn't enough oxygen in Colorado to appease my lungs; both humidity and lack of air can just suck the life out of a person like so many Hoovers. I can't decide which is worse: a dearth of oxygen or an overabundance of heated humidity.

It took us two or three days to get to Colorado Springs (we visited my grandmother in Kellyville, Okla., and the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kan., on the way). We stayed in the Radisson Hotel all eight days. I love that place. It has a huge lobby and a hot tub outside and an indoor pool and a little restaurant and water fountains galore. Very cool.

When we first arrived I was dead tired and just lay around my room (my brother and I shared a room that adjoined my parents' room) watching Lois and Clark. Mom finally got me on my feet, and we went out to eat with a nice family from New Mexico, the Kirkpatricks, who have a son, Jason (13 years old), who was the first person my age I met and who later became one of my good friends, though at the restaurant I just kind of stared at him or looked at my hands. Major shyness attack, as always. I can't meet anybody without first being introduced by someone I already know, and even then I just nod and smile and keep quiet.

So, after munching our fill at On the Border, we went back to our hotel (well, duh), and Trey (my 17-year-old brother) and I played Super Nintendo on our TV. Just hit a switch on the remote and it's ordered! Any game! Ha ha!

Oh, before I forget, I believe it was the same day we arrived at the Radisson that we went to the Royal Gorge! Yippee! The Royal Gorge is, well, a gorge that's incredibly steep and has a tiny-looking thread of a stream-the Arkansas River-down at the bottom of it. I'm sure if I fell down into it it wouldn't look so tiny.

There was a long bridge over it that Dad, Trey and I walked across. Apparently it's the highest bridge in the world of its kind. I don't doubt it. Trey and I leaned over the railing and spit (there was a rule about throwing stuff over the bridge but no rule about spitting) and counted the seconds till we could see our saliva no more. Twenty-eight seconds, Trey counted, though you could tell the spittle still had some ways to go before it hit the ground.

Dad says two of his friends from college-Dana Bauer and John Dickerson-once climbed down the side of the gorge, swam the river and climbed up the other side. That seems extremely impossible to me, but I would just love to try. Now, of course, the place is a tourist trap that costs a small mint to get inside, even if you don't go on any of the rides.

Dad repeatedly told us kids of how, 37 years ago when he visited the gorge, you didn't have to pay an arm and a leg just to walk across the bridge. (Dad has also told us about walking six miles through the snow, uphill both ways, just to get to school.)

Trey got sick

The next day was the first church service. We didn't have to drive to it; it was right in the hotel. Unfortunately Trey got sick that day and had to be confined to our room. My parents were down in the lobby fellowshipping when I got lost in the hotel searching for them, wondering how Trey was doing and starting to get really nervous.

The next day wasn't nearly so bad. Trey started to feel much better, and I had this little purple bracelet from yesterday's services that had white letters on it that read "WWJD." It stands for "What Would Jesus Do?" This little bit of jewelry is a daily reminder for whenever any tough decisions come up, and I adore it.

I was supposed to go to a pizza-and-pool party that day, but I got a horrid cramp in my leg and lay on the bed crying because it hurt so much. It was a major pain in the neck or whatever.

The next morning I got sick. I wasn't as bad off as my brother had been, but I was weak and miserable and kept getting hot and cold flashes. I just lay all twisted up in bed, watching the evil TV, wondering if the whole Feast was ruined.

However, by nightfall I could stand up (with a lot of complaining), and we church people went en masse to the Flying W Ranch, where we had a choice of chicken, fish or steak for dinner-and it all came with a western-music show.

The head musician there said there is a difference between western music and country music. Country songs are about somebody else's wife. Western songs are about somebody else's horse. We also heard the story of Rindercella, who went to the bancy fall and fell in love with the prandsome hince. I'm not kidding.

The day after that delightful little experience I was not really sick anymore, save for a slight sore throat that went away pretty fast, and I went horseback riding! It was about, hmm, a two-hour trip, I think, through the mountains on this sweet horse named Buttermilk. (To me all horses are sweet.)

Most of the teens in our congregation went, and I had a major blast, though of course my horse liked to gallop, which killed my neck the next day and made me saddle-sore. However, the scenery was beautiful.

Afterwards we went out to eat with the Kirkpatricks again (my mom and dad knew Joe and Jody Kirkpatrick in college, I think, so I guess they had a lot to catch up on) and with Chelsea Wertz, a 9-year-old girl from Pennsylvania, and her family.

Family focus

The next day was Monday and also Family Day. That was fine with me. We, Chelsea, her sister, Emily, and her father, Bob, and grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Gene Wertz, all went to a place called Focus on the Family. It sold lots of books and stuff and had a kids' corner with a three-story-tall slide that was so fun that I slid down it twice.

After that we drove to Denver and ate at the Village Inn with the new president of the Church of God (Seventh Day) so my dad could interview him. Then the Cartwrights and Wertzes went to the Denver Museum of Natural History.

The last time I had been there was 10 years ago. I can't recall much about it then except there were dinosaur bones everywhere, and in the gift shop I desperately wanted some pretty rocks, or "diamonds," as I called them then: tumbled stones-you know, those really smooth, pretty things that I have about a zillion of now and really aren't worth much but are drop-dead gorgeous.

When we got to the airport after that Feast visit in 1987, I suddenly threw back my head and shrieked, "Daddy didn't buy me any diamonds!" Or so they tell me. Apparently the whole airport heard and cracked up.

I wonder what would happen if I did that now. Mom seems to think it wouldn't be as cute as when I was just a little 3-year-old. Can't imagine why.

Not enough dinosaurs

The museum was cool, all right, though there weren't nearly as many dinosaur skeletons as there had been last time, which I found extremely irritating. I did enjoy the gem exhibits, though. There seemed to be rooms and rooms of beautiful diamonds and gold and all those weird, scientifically named stones that glittered like the sun with all the colors of the spectrum.

My second-favorite place in the museum was the insect exhibit. You haven't seen anything till you've seen five million little bugs stuck on the wall with pins.

At the gift shop I bought Feast presents for two of my friends back home-Nicole Fisk and Jessica Wann-and, of course, Daddy finally bought me my diamonds.

Ever-burning fire

When we got back home I sat in the lobby with Jason, and we talked-and talked and talked and talked. There was a lovely fireplace down there that was burning the same three logs every day. If you looked carefully you could see the words "Real Tree" on the inside of one stick.

The next day after church we went to Wal-Mart. Now I finally have a watch, one that's not some mail-order 99-cent black thing with more dials and knobs on it than an intensive-care unit.

The day ended again in the hotel lobby, though this time Chelsea was there and a few more people including Tom Vines, a boy from Missoula, Mont., who hung out and played guitar with my brother.

Forbidding stares

The next day was the day: the coolest part of our trip, the highlight of it all. I sang special music! No, wait! I mean, yes, I sang, but that wasn't the part I was describing. We teens and several adults and even Chelsea climbed into a couple of vans and drove up on top of Pike's Peak! It was so cool! And I mean cool: jeans-and-heavy-jacket, snow-on-the-ground weather. Then we bicycled back down it, 19 miles, from an elevation of 14,110 feet!

I'll admit the first part of it was scary. It was like we were in some other world: no trees anywhere above 12,000 feet, just sheer cliffs that I just knew I was going to go right over on this weird mountain bike while barren, forbidding-looking rocks stared at us.

The speed was incomparable, though I did no pedaling. It was downhill (almost) all the way. My hands got a major workout from working the brakes.

After we passed below the timberline, I had the time of my life. Halfway down the mountain we stopped and ate watermelon and cookies, then continued till we got back to Colorado Springs. My whole family went. Mom was mad at first because Dad signed her up without telling her, but later she said she had fun. It was one of those rare, unforgettable experiences.

The last great night

Of course, this was the last night at the Feast (somebody slap me!), so Jason Kirkpatrick and James Vines (Tom's 12-year-old brother) and Trey and I stayed up really, really, really late talking and giggling and singing "Living in an Amish Paradise."

I drank a Surge (a caffeine-hyped-up soft drink), which put me to sleep. (Maybe it's some kind of an allergic reaction.) Jason did his chain-saw impression (complete with sound effects) and pretended to saw up James's chair. And James's chair fell apart. I am not kidding.

The next day after services we left. Waaa!

All right, you must know by now that I had a good time. We went out to eat with the Kirkpatricks and Jeff and Linda Booth and Ken and JoAn Westby and the Wertzes about 20 times or so all during the Feast. We usually ate at TGI Friday's, and we all around had, shall I say it again, a major blast.

Pooh to the poor people who mimic the pagans and their holidays. They've got nothin' compared to the Feast.

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