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By Luke Ford Chapter One Chapter Two  Chapter Three  Chapter Four Chapter Five  Chapter Six   Chapter Seven  Chapter Seven B Chapter Eight   Chapter Nine  Chapter Ten  Chapter Eleven  Chapter Twelve  1994-1997 1997  1998 1998B 1999 2000 2001 2009

After 20 years running Avondale's Religion Department, my father ranked as Australia's most influential Adventist. And its most controversial.

He taught that salvation came from faith alone in Christ alone, not through belonging to the Church and keeping its laws. My dad denied the doctrine of chosenness, the essence of most group identities.

The Seventh Day Adventist Church believes that it was specially chosen by God to prepare the world for the Second Coming of His Son Jesus. William Miller founded adventism in the 1840s. He preached that the end of the world would come on the Day of Atonement, (Yom Kippur) October 22, 1844. He based the date on a year-day interpretation of Daniel 8:14 for the coming of the Messiah.

Tens of thousands of believers sold their belongings and waited for the Second Coming. When Jesus didn't arrive, they were disappointed. But in a vision, one adventist saw that Jesus had moved that Yom Kippur from the Holy to the Most Holy place in the Heavenly Sanctuary to begin the final work of judging the saints. Yom Kippur, 1844 thus inaugurated the beginning of God's true Church, the Seventh-Day Adventists.

Adventism refers to belief in the soon coming of Christ. The Seventh Day part refers to observance of the Seventh Day of the week, Saturday (technically from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night), as the holy Sabbath.

To rid themselves of a troublemaker, Adventist officials transferred my father to the Pacific Union College in California's Napa Valley. They hoped that by taking the big fish out of the small pond of Australia, they would lose him in the bigger pond of America. It didn't work. My father's message of righteousness by faith appealed to thousands of Adventists who lacked assurance of their heavenly salvation.

In June of 1977, my parents and I moved to America. My older brother and sister, now adults, stayed behind in Australia.

I resolved to be kinder and gentler to develop more and closer friendships than I had had at Avondale. I failed. Instead, I began a habit that still persists -- writing voluminous correspondence to friends on the other side of the world, who rarely reply in equal depth, while paying scant attention to potential friends around me. I've often thought that my lack of intimacy with those around me is the fault of those around me. Friends and family on the other side of the world, I tell myself, truly understand and appreciate me.

I found it hard when I first came to America to love anyone near me. During the three-month stretch before the beginning of the school year, I read history for hours in the PUC library. I spent time with every issue published of Time, Life, Newsweek, Readers Digest and, Sports Illustrated magazines.

When I met several of my future classmates at Pacific Union College Elementary School (including Andy Muth) in the college swimming pool, I felt awkward. So I greeted them with splashes of water and verbal abuse. They hated me.

Ever since third grade I'd wanted a girlfriend. Near the beginning of sixth grade, Cindy, the most beautiful girl in the class, dropped a note on my desk asking me to be her boyfriend. With the opportunity to seize love and move into the popular circle, I froze, felt unworthy and never answered her. Instead, I teased her unmercifully for months. When finally I asked her to be my girlfriend, she responded with an enthusiastic "No!"

I vowed that afternoon to never again love a woman. I wanted to grow up hard, handsome and heartbreaking.

My habit of glorifying things far away in space and time, also contributed to my social isolation. Just as I had done in Australia, I told my American classmates that the greatest country in the world is Great Britain. In sixth grade I organized a debate on the rightness of the American Revolution. I argued that the colonies' move was illegal and unnecessary.

I used bizarre tricks to get attention, such as eating insects, stuffing my mouth with eight bananas at once, and producing rude noises in class. Inheriting my father's awkwardness at giving and receiving physical affection, I shuddered when I received what I wanted most - the female touch.

On the ride back from my sixth grade stay at Albion, a couple of girls in my class hugged and kissed me dozens of times. I protested loudly but loved every minute of it. Though I longed to touch the opposite sex, I didn't know how. Before my teens, I'd kick and punch girls. During my teens, I twisted their nipples.

I twisted frequently at the Pacific Union College Pool where I spent much of my summer vacations through 1983. The boys and girls would pair up and play keep-away games. We'd "tackle" each other in the water in our pursuit for the ball.

"Don't dunk so much," my friends advised me. "Just wrap your arms around G. and feel her breasts."

I felt awkward and clumsy, and acted in and out of the pool more with violence than sensuality.

Several times, I told my seventh grade teacher to "shut-up." She suggested that I leave the Pacific Union College Elementary School and receive home-schooling from my stepmother Gill. I hated the idea of leaving my schoolmates, and by softening my ways I stayed in school.

Yet I remained a thorny guy. I enjoyed publicly humiliating people by correcting their grammar, theology, historical knowledge, etc.... Many teachers said that I was their most "challenging" student.

As I moved into my second year at PUC, my appreciation of America deepened, though my ability to deal with reality did not improve as much. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I replied "President of the United States." I chose to ignore that only those born in America could be president, and dreamed on.

For my first year or so at Pacific Union College (P.U.C.), I little understood American sports such as baseball and football. My classmates routinely chose me next-to-last for teams.

Feeling bad about my social isolation, teachers, parents and librarians introduced me to the books that my classmates read. I gradually switched emphasis from history to sports, a great mistake that saw me waste thousands of hours over the next ten years. My dad tried to correct me but I would not listen to him or anyone else.

"You'll be great the day that you stop spending so much time on professional sports," my friends Grethe and Glenn Hartelius told me. I ignored them.

Looking back, I wish that other adults had followed Grethe's example of giving me immediate tangible rewards such as money for getting good grades and using my mind for deeper things than analyzing the National Football League. I would have been more likely to change my ways.

From seven to twelve years of age, I shifted my primary allegiance from Adventism to Great Britain to the United States to the Dallas Cowboys football team which won the 1978 Super Bowl. This was my way of aligning myself with "the winning team."

In 1979, Dallas lost the big game to the Pittsburg Steelers because of a referee's incorrect pass-interference call against Cowboy safety Cliff Barnes. Without that injustice, Dallas would have been the team of the 70's. Cruel fate had robbed me again of happiness.

A poor student and a social misfit, I tackled my problems by running away from them. When I felt miserable, I ran fast and far until my body hurt so much that I no longer cared about anything else. At times, I even ran through "the wall."

After running 18-20 miles, the body's muscles run out of glycogen and the long distance runner "hits the wall." I hit at least seven walls in my marathon jaunts but I bulled my way through five of them to the finish line in unimpressive times of over four hours each.

On Yom Kippur, October 22, 1979, my father told hundreds of people at an Adventist Forum that the Heavenly Sanctuary Doctrine was nonsense. Adventists were no more specially chosen by God than other Christians.

I felt miserable the next day, for the Steelers beat the Cowboys in a rematch of the previous Super Bowl and two schoolmates defeated me in the approximately eight-mile Angwin-to-Anguish running race. I did beat my dad by three minutes. He probably had other things on his mind.

Resolving to work my way out of my frustrations, the day after the race I began training twice a day for a total of 100 miles a week. A couple of months later I was on pace at the 18-mile mark to finish a marathon under 3:30 but bad knees forced me out of the race and eventually out of jogging altogether.

The General Conference of the SDA church called my dad to Washington D.C. to prepare a defense of his heretical views (later published as Daniel 8:14, The Day of Atonement and the Investigative Judgement).

In my third year at PUC Elementary School, I had developed good friendships. I did not want to leave halfway through my graduating year.

One Sabbath at church, my classmate Andy Muth brought me home for the first time to eat lunch. His parents invited me to stay with them when my parents moved. I could then finish the school year at Pacific Union College (PUC) Elementary School.

When Andy's mother first broached the idea to him, he said, "You ask him." Andy feared my scathing words.

I felt happier that afternoon than I ever remember. Not just because I could eat all the peanut butter and drink all the fruit juice that I wanted (both rationed in my home for health reasons) but because I felt accepted by the Muth family.

I eventually stayed with Grethe and Glenn Hartelius who had asked my parents earlier if I could live with them.

Over the next few months I got closer to almost everybody in my life -- my classmates, the Harteliuses, the Muths', particularly Andy. He remained my best friend through 1986.

For the first time I participated actively in after-school activities and church events. Constantly pursued by people for decades, my father had spent most of his free time, and ours, seeking privacy.

When I heard from my stepmother, Gill, in May 1979 that my family would never return to PUC, I cried. For the first time, I felt normal and a part of my community and not separated and cut off from those around me. I could do things that everyone else did -- talk to girls, flirt, even hug and kiss, listen to rock music, watch TV, play sports and hang out with my increasingly close friends.

In the middle of June, 1980, I flew to my parents in Washington D.C. where they prepared for that August's Glacier View Conference in Colorado which would decide my father's fate. I kept this diary:

8/10

Three hour plane trip to Denver. Mom introduced me at the airport to the president of Adventism, Elder Neal Wilson, who looked unhappy that I was along. My dad's former student Eddie Gallagher and his wife drove us two hours to the Adventist Glacier View retreat.

Elder Wilson decided our fate tonight. He said that the decision about my father and his aberrant views will be based upon consensus rather than majority, and we would stay by the pillars of the church and support [Adventism's official publication] The Review and Herald.

Elder Wilson says that dad does not have constitutional rights to free religious expression when he's employed by the church.

8/11

They [Adventist scholars and administrators] met in small groups in the morning to discuss my dad's book and then they met all together in the afternoon.

I went swimming. Someone asked me who I was. "The son of the heretic," I answered.

8/12

Today the bomb exploded. Elder Heppenstall [my dad's mentor] made an emotional appeal to dad to retract his heretical views. Dad didn't and looked stubborn.

"Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God," said dad.

Elder Wilson jumped on dad's case, saying that because everyone was against him [dad] he should change his mind. That is absolutely dumb and stupid [to believe that one is wrong simply because everyone disagrees with you] considering history. Elder Wilson's point is irrelevant, considering he picked everyone [for the conference]. You should have seen all the tears... [I think they are] crocodile tears. [The SDA Church administrators are}... a bunch of fakes.

8/13

Progress. Elder Wilson says that dad doesn't have to drop his belief but rather, put it in his pocket and preach what the church believes. [Elder Wilson] says that he doesn't want dad to go back on his conscience but he really does want dad to [go back on his conscience].

8/14

Gun is loaded. Things get worse. Topic turns to Ellen White [Adventism's prophet]. Nobody is listening to what Dad says. The scholars aren't speaking up [for Dad]. Dad is on his own.

8/15

Bubble has burst. My Dad is sick of being pushed and kicked around all his working life...They [the SDA church hierarchy] ask him to damn [his friend] Robert Brinsmead [the controversial Righteousness by Faith evangelist], to retract his writings and to preach exactly what the SDA Church believes. At this moment we are Seventh-Day Adventists but my dad is not employed by the church as a minister. Elder Wilson's main point is that even the scholars disagree with him.

8/16

Scholars talk to Elder Wilson saying that they mainly agree with dad. We may still be a minister's family. What a privilege! Blah!

8/17

More scholars speak up. We may go to England.... Dad as a pastor.

8/25

Decision on Dad's future today. We'll probably go to England. I hope not but nobody cares what I think.

8/26

They haven't called us yet.... Bunch of double-tongued political vipers. I don't care if dad thinks that they are Christians. They are not.

8/28

The plan to go to England has fallen through. We're moving to Sacramento to start with Dr Zane Kime a non-profit evangelical Christian foundation Good News Unlimited.

Over a thousand people attended my father's first meetings. They gave him a huge round of applause.

***

The Glacier View Conference and its aftermath split Adventism. Many of the most fervent and best-educated followers of my father and his pure Righteousness by Faith theology (as opposed to righteousness through belonging to God's Chosen Ones, the Seventh Day Adventists) left the SDA Church. The amount of tithe paid to the Church plunged in Australia, the U.S. and other parts of the western world. Though the number of Adventists would double in the decade after the Glacier View conference, the new proselytes would largely come from the poor third world.

"What's wrong with Adventists believing themselves specially chosen by God?" I once asked my father.

"It makes them proud," he responded.

And pride is the antithesis of complete reliance upon Jesus for salvation. But without such pride, groups go out of business.

My father didn't go out of business. His gospel message over radio and television found a receptive Christian audience. Evangelicals hailed him as a hero for his courageous stand for Christ. Dad reached Christians who would have never listened to him while he was employed as a Seventh Day Adventist theologian.

I see a significant part of my dad's post-Glacier View legacy as leading thousands of Christians out of denominations. Without concrete religious home, many of these believers become secular in behavior. Feeling spiritual inside, they walk with Jesus into acts of an ethical quality that are no better than those of the average person. As time passes, these Christians' belief in their guaranteed personal salvation through their faith in Christ, diminishes purpose to this life.

***

Obsessed with myself, I paid little attention to my father, or anyone else. My stepmother says that during my teenage years, I ignored her.

In ninth grade I entered a non-Adventist school for the first time since kindergarten, Forest Lake Christian School. I met a tall skinny kid, Mark Phillips, who won his under-18 age division in the Sacramento marathon in October 1980, a year after my gradually swelling knees forced me to abandon long-distance running. I wrote in my diary that if I'd been able to continue jogging, I would have won that marathon. My name would have been in the paper and I would have worn that bright medal to school. "I have the worst luck."

I read Ayn Rand on the virtue of selfishness and decided to live for myself.

Chaim Potok's novels caught my eye. Judaism appeared strange and irrelevant. Living in religious ghettos where they perform hundreds of minute commandments, orthodox Jews showed no sense of mission to the world. Their primary curiosity, for instance, about a fellow Jew was, "Does he observe the commandments?" Not, "Is he nice or good?"

It never even occurred to me as I read The Chosen, The Promise, My Name is Asher Lev, and other Potok novels, to fetter myself with such an anachronistic lifestyle. I wanted to embrace modernity, not flee from it.

I grew older and paid less attention to religion and more attention to the world. Israel filled the news and I didn't know why, as it was smaller than New Zealand.

For the first time in my school life, I received long homework assignments. I finished my first semester at Forest Lake Christian School with a D average.

My parents scared me by threatening to make me repeat my first year of high school. I still have nightmares about such a fate. What a social embarrassment! I improved the next semester, despite many colds, to finish the year with a C- average.

My classmate Doug Badzik told me in the summer of 1992 that his memories of me at Forest Lake Christian School "are not fond. Luke Ford was an arrogant little turd who was always right regardless of whether he was right.... Whatever his arguments lacked in substance, he made up for in verve and raw rhetorical abilities.... Luke frequently seemed illogical."

I moved to the public Placer High School in tenth grade so that I could study journalism (I read my first book on the topic -- Melvin Mencher's "News Reporting and Writing" -- near the end of eighth grade and immediately decided that this would be my life's work). That would be the area of my next endeavor over the next six years to do something great. My grades improved to better than a B-average, as I found public school easier than private school.

For every one of my six semesters at Placer, I took Media Class from Gerry Paulsen. I recorded weekly news and sports shows which played on KAHI radio news. Also, I anchored news, interviews and sports programming for our school's five hours a week on the local cable TV public access channel. The amount of my TV exposure was matched only by the ego of the performer and the mediocre quality of his performances. I had a squeaky voice that rose so high when I got excited that only dogs could hear it. Placer boys' basketball coach Wendell Witt called me the "Squeakin' Deacon."

What I lacked in deep throat I made up for with fierce rhetoric. "Nobody knew what to do with his brain," recalls my schoolmate Neva Lynch.

I missed the first two weeks of the spring semester 1982 because I returned down under to attend my sister's wedding. I went back and forth on whether to attend since my plane would be in the air during the Super Bowl. When the San Francisco 49ers edged the Cowboys in the NFC championship game, I said to myself, "What the hell. I'll go." My family paid for my trip. My brother Paul picked me up at the Brisbane airport. It was the first time that we'd seen each other in almost five years.

My father and I drove up with Paul and his live-in girlfriend JulieAnne to Paul's new home in Tannum Sands, central Queensland by the coast. I felt awkward during the seven hour drive because Paul played rock music which I knew would irritate dad. I'm so empathetic at times that I keenly feel the pain of characters in movies and novels.

When we all drove back to Brisbane a few days later, Paul, as is his bent, criticized Dad for the overly strict way he'd raised him. Dad had forbidden the teenage Paul to have girlfriends, to go to movie theaters, to read certain books, and to wear the fashion of the Woodstock era. Against Paul's will, dad forced him to attend church and church-school.

I was the easiest of the three children to raise. By virtue of my pliancy and silence, and by being the youngest child, I received the most tolerant treatment from Dad. Books and movies (such as The Deerhunter, The Exorcist), forbidden to my older siblings were allowed to me.

At my sister's wedding in February 1982, I danced awkwardly, with my late cousin Linda, for the first time. Adventists believe dancing is a sin. My Christian friend Calvin Edwards, also from an SDA background, said that I looked like I was jogging on the spot. My father still teases me about my 'dancing' that evening.

While in Australia, Dad baptized me and my best childhood friend Wayne Cherry. I heard second-hand that the SDA church would not accept us into official membership through that baptism. "Luke Ford is a threat." If I wanted to officially join the SDA church, I would have to be baptized by an Adventist minister who still had his ministerial credentials.

My father's supporters laugh in derision but the Church's purported decision makes sense to me. Neither Wayne nor I ever applied to officially join Adventism. Instead, we made do by belonging in our hearts to what my father calls "The Invisible Church of Jesus Christ." Our actions became increasingly secular.

I frequently read books and magazines in newsstands with no intention of buying them. Until 1982 I concentrated on sports magazines, though I occasionally looked over the shoulders of men gazing at raunchier material. Beginning with this trip to Australia, however, I picked up for the first time Playboy and Penthouse magazines. The exposed creamy flesh transfixed me more radically than the thousands of hours I had heard about the flesh and blood of Christ. Blood pounded my temples and my shorts bulged as I stared at cherry lips, big tits and pink cunts.

I decided to dedicate my life to achieving sexual satisfaction (though it would not be till February, 1989, that I'd have any with another person).

In my second semester at Placer High School, I joined the Newspaper Club. But it was only on the condition, said Newspaper Adviser Bob Burge, that everyone had the right to strangle me at any time.

My schoolmates and teachers frequently remember me as the most obnoxious person they ever met. No longer rooted in anything; not Seventh-Day Adventism, not Australia, Great Britain or America, not marathoning or identifying with a champion football team, I mocked and sought to tear down the allegiances of those around me rooted in something.

"Don't write that," said my Sports Editor Shannon Anderson when I looked into allegations that football-coaching teachers gave special treatment to football players. "Everyone will hate you."

I published the story anyway on the front page of the Messenger and found out that Shannon was right.

Student Body President Bo Cassell wrote at the end of the school year: "The award for "Most Controversial Reporter" goes to Luke Ford for his incident involving the Beast Bunch [Placer football's offensive line]. Luke's article on football favoritisms inspired the creation of the "Nuke Luke" committee."

Almost two years later, I described the reaction to my article in an essay enclosed in my entry for the Northern California High School Journalist of the Year competition:

When a 300 pound defensive tackle wraps his bulky arms around your neck and squeezes, you ask yourself, "Why am I a journalist?"

After my article on teachers' favoritism towards football players, I expected criticism but not strangulation.

Once the teacher pulled the bully off my neck, I thought about the price of truth. Without it, democracy can't exist. Yet, even with the need to know the truth, many people don't want to hear it.

This was the case in the football favoritism story I wrote. The student body knew about the problem but didn't really care. The teachers were embarrassed. The football players felt their cozy relationship with some instructors threatened...

***

Despite my B-grade in Drivers Ed class that Winter semester 1982, I drove badly and I didn't get my drivers license until May 1984. It was just as well, however, considering my careless driving and several accidents over the next few years.

One Sabbath afternoon while driving back from church with my parents in the car, I pulled in front of an oncoming motorcyclist. He skidded to a halt and fell off his bike. The old man was shaken up but not too angry. My father gave him about $40 and I drove away.

While driving my brother's car in Australia, I pulled out into the oncoming lane to pass. Suddenly I saw a car (which probably came out of a driveway) come towards me and I pulled off onto the other side of the road unhurt.

My lack of skills at driving was just part of my overall lack of social skills and contributed to my low popularity. Through careless scheduling, I had to take Soph Lit class at the beginning of my Junior year. I received my poor C-grade in Newspaper Class because I failed to collect my quota of ads.

In my Junior year, my thick lips opened up to their first down-the-throat kiss. I was sweet 16 when A. gave me the nickname "Hot Lips."

Feeling confused for days afterwards, I eventually decided to avoid A. for the remaining three semesters of high school. Though she served on the Hillmen Messenger with me, I told her that if she had any questions about her assignments to talk to the Newspaper Advisor, not me.

I kissed my first love, "Action Jackson", frequently in the summer of 1983. "Hans Ford" wanted to go further, but she wouldn't let me. I left her. Bored with french kissing, I sought to steal third base.

Near the end of my Senior year of high school, I wrestled in the rear of the school bus several members of the girls' gymnastics squad on the way home from the Championship meet. Gymnast R.K. accused me of trying to rape her. Gymnast Lisa Yamasaki, however, enjoyed our play. A few months later, a car accident permanently paralyzed her from the waist down.

Despite cheating through Geometry class in the Spring semester 1983, I couldn't even achieve the gentleman's C.

I quote from my 1983 Placer High School yearbook:

Luke, you sexy charismatic thing you! I don't know how I could resist raping your body all year long...(Kim H.)

Comrade, first we attack the administration [in next year's school newspaper the Messenger which I will edit], then we ridicule the athletic department...and [generally] sharpen our fangs of yellow journalism. (Chris McMaster)

Hey lovey...When are you going to show me your triceps or is it biceps? [Another sarcastic comment on my fruitless attempts in weight-training class to bulk-up.] I love the way they ripple under your shirt (pant, pant!)...(Jennifer)

What would the news be without Luke Ford....You've got one more year to learn to smile...(Media teacher Gerry Paulsen.)

You better get me on cable TV next year or else...(Nanci)

Luke, you sexy hunk. When you enter class I get the chills. (Denise)

Don't think that I haven't been lusting after your bod this semester...The minute I saw your bulging biceps I could hardly control myself...When you run your fingers through my hair I go crazy with lust...(Morry B.)

Luke, what a pervert! You'd think guys from Australia would be shy! Obviously you were deprived of things during puberty! (Lesley L.)

I know that you're going to do a good job [of editing The Messenger]. Watch the libel, huh? Watch out for the team, and don't get people angry. Having you on the staff was, well, interesting. (Eric Schulzke, Editor. After graduating from Brigham Young University, where he edited the school newspaper, Schulzke became the press-secretary for Congressman John Doolittle. They are both Mormons. I occasionally mocked Eric's faith as a false religion.)

Luke, keep up the weightlifting...Don't boss people around too much next year. Don't read so many dirty magazines...(Mary L.)

Luke, you little Australian pervert. You put a lot of excitement in my year. (Melissa L.)

***

At times during high school and college I wished to be a sportswriter. Just as when I ran, I sought out guidance from marathoner and PUC PE teacher David Nieman, so too in my teens I sought out older men in the media. One of them became both my friend and my hero - Joe Hamelin, Sacramento Bee Sports Editor and father of my classmate and basketball star Scott Hamelin. One fall afternoon in 1983 when I'd been particularly obnoxious, Joe told me that in a few years I'd look back upon my behavior as asinine. I phoned him in 1989 to tell him that he was right.

I developed an extensive betting system on everything that moved; but professional sports in particular, and I became my school's bookie. When unable to pay off debts with money, I compensated people by talking about them on my cable TV show.

My newspaper adviser Bob Burge refused to allow me to make bets in his classroom. "It is not good for you and your friends to learn to take advantage of each other."

Towards the end of my senior year, my friend Oscar took me to the cleaners on Golden Gate Field horse racing, about which I knew nothing. I owed him a couple of thousand dollars on our betting sheets. He gladly settled for $60 cash. I've never seen Oscar since.

At the beginning of the 1983-84 school year I interviewed the Sports Editor of the local newspaper (Auburn Journal) and eventually began writing for Rob Knies.

In my final column of the school-year, I described my boss as the "nervous, moody sports editor who writes in the style of the King James Version..."

For almost eight months, I wrote several nights of the week at the Auburn Journal, earning many byline articles and learning to work with minutes-away deadline pressure.

I got into trouble at the beginning of 1984 for publishing a page long story by my friend Chris McMaster titled "Wow Hawaii." My other friends Shannon Anderson and Barry Urtel wrote in:

"We feel that your article titled "Wow Hawaii" appearing in the Hillmen Messenger 2/10/84 issue exemplifies your staff's recurring usage of dramatic poor-taste. The article...made the "professional hooker" occupation seem appealing. Also, the journalistic mood created by McMaster seemed appropriate only for a cheap piece of pornographic literature. For example, the statement "...I take the order and then dish out the food" hardly seems comparable to a high school campus topic of "Life in the cafeteria."

"Second, we... stress that the purpose of a high school paper is to report... on students, not to educate us on the birth control devices used by a "woman of paradise" two-thousand miles away. We hope that McMaster does not look forward to his next trip to the islands of paradise with an extra twenty dollar bill (and then some)."

In January 1984, for Spirit Week (which recognizes winter sports such as basketball, wrestling and gymnastic and seeks to bring students back together with school spirit), the girls' basketball team nominated me for Spirit King but I lost to quarterback Mike Trentman. I finished third in the Sexy Legs contest.

My feelings of acceptance, respect and even some popularity mellowed my writings towards the end of the school year. Bob Burge's Journalism class voted the lead paragraphs in two of my stories in the May 11th, 1984 Hillmen Messenger the issue's best.

"Hewlett Packard donated $50,000 worth of computer equipment last week to help upgrade Placer's burgeoning computer classes."

Though I wrote that article against a minutes-away deadline, I found this following story in which I had more time, more difficult.

Placer's girls' softball team had been losing for years under Coach Mike Duda. Although few people cared, "Scoop Luke" investigated.

I talked to several members of the team who blamed Duda for their woes. They said, for instance, that he had not been around over spring vacation to coach them. Duda told me that he had been away that week seeking medical treatment for his dying boy.

I felt torn between what I regarded as my journalistic duty to tell the full story and my compassion for Duda. I ended up ignoring that angle in my story:

It was just another normal night at FM-102. And just before the DJ played another record, he gave a quick run down on some of the area's best softball teams. As the music started to play, the DJ unexpectedly lashed out "Placer's softball team is definitely the worst."

Maybe not the worst, but in the last five years under the coaching of Mike Duda, they haven't been very good....

...........................................................

Duda later told me that my article was fair. A few years later, he pulled me aside during KAHI's coverage of a Placer basketball game to tell me how much he enjoyed my half-time radio show.

In the May 25th, 1984 issue of the Hillmen Messenger, I wrote in my column "From The Editor's Desk":

Interesting is the best word to sum up my years on the Hillmen Messenger. Many of the other words I couldn't print.

Arriving here as a sophomore transfer from Forest Lake Christian School, I found the campus intimidating. As a first year student at Placer, I was initiated more times than any freshman....

I joined this paper as a puny, smart-alecky kid, having the one quality that I felt a journalist needs most--being a jerk.

I'm frequently charged with "yellow journalism". Even my Newspaper Advisor feels I'm too negative. I hope not. I strive above all else to live up to the phrase in Hamlet "To thine own self be true."

I'm not really a jerk. Or a rapist, despite what Rochelle Kramer says.

...........................................................

Looking back, I wince at the careless way I tossed out my opinions. And I feel gratitude for the forbearance shown me by these Placer administrators who never once during my tenure censored the Hillmen Messenger. They left that responsibility to Newspaper Advisor Bob Burge who also never once tried to censor. Through his Journalism Class we learned the definition of libel and thus monitored ourselves.

Burge defined our financial boundaries, but left the running of the newspaper to us. He allowed us to make mistakes, then, he critiqued us after the publication of each issue.

Only when Chris McMaster, Rob Stutzman and I attended a summer journalism camp did we fully appreciate Burge and our school's administrators, for there we found out the intrusive ways of other school leaders.

I graduated from high school with a B-average for all four years and a B+ average for my last three years at Placer. I scored 1190 on my SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test),   finishing in the 80th percentile nationwide.

From my 1984 yearbook:

You taught me much about writing and asking aggressive questions...I'll miss you and your accent..and your orders. (Messenger reporter Robin Grayson)

You're a great writer and a better friend.... I admire your courage in reporting the tough stories even though you know it'll make people hate you.... Let's get together and I'll teach you to drink! (Barry Urtel)

When your body is at its highest point sexual tension, come see me and we'll have oooo.... (Morry B.)

Luke, it's hard to know what to write when last night said it all. (Darcy P.)

Luke, I hate you.... I'm sure the paper will be fine without you...When I want someone to be annoyed with me, I'll act like you. (M.K.)

You skinny Aussie. We collaborated and came to the conclusion that "you're still a virgin, " unless you lost it being all alone.... We've decided to give you an expense-paid date with D. I hope the smell doesn't get you down under. (R.W.)

You have a negative way of thinking.... You don't have sexy legs at all. (Laura F.)

You are one of the weirdest people I've met.... The land down under sure produces unique creatures.... Take this book and shove it! (S.R.)

Luke (alias the rapist): I hope you had fun... spreading rumors about me. No, I guess you're right. I really did have massive sex with M.... And I did attack you on the bus back from gymnastics championships.

I'll never forget how you made me the star for cable tv. I hope you enjoyed editing the tapes.

I'm sorry I didn't sink low enough to be 'Hillgal of the Week.'

Your good, good friend, Rochelle Kramer.

(Seven years later I wrote to Kramer in Japan to apologize for my crude behavior in high school. She wrote back to say that I wasn't any worse than others she knew.)

The newspaper advisor Bob Burge writes: "I remember when you first joined the newspaper staff, I gave anyone permission to strangle you at any time....

"These have been three exciting, lively years.... In seventeen years of teaching I have never had another student challenge me as much as you did. If I have challenged you to remain calm in the face of disaster and to be both a gentleman and a journalist then, we have both gained."

I earned second place honors in the 1984 High School Journalist of the Year program sponsored by the Journalism Education Association of Northern California.

After publishing the final issue that school year of the Hillmen Messenger, Burge left me alone in the afternoons in the Newspaper room which I dominated for years, to cry.

Shannon Anderson was my best friend at Placer High School (which I attended from September of 1982 until graduation in June 1984).

Anderson was a starting forward for the school's basketball team.

I was the editor of my school's newspaper, the Hillmen Messenger.

We made a home movie in April-May of 1984. We had to edit the footage in the video camera (and then added music from the radio).

I last saw Shannon in 2009.

We read the news together for our school's (Placer High and then Sierra Community College) cable access chanel 8. Video from circa 1983.

Covering Placer High basketball with Joe Hamelin. More More

I wasn't such a great interviewer. I intruded too much with my own opinions.

To my parents' displeasure, I skipped church, and broke the Sabbath one Saturday morning in June to participate in Placer's graduation ceremony. That night I attended my first party, drank for the first time (everything imaginable from rum to wine coolers to beer, which I particularly hated), wandered around in the bushes with a female schoolmate K. whom I haven't seen since, and collapsed in bed at three a.m. The next morning my father said that I looked as if I'd aged ten years.

I've never taken illegal drugs; not marijuana, cocaine nor anything else.

A few days later my friends Shannon Anderson and Barry Urtel drove me to the Auburn Greyhound Depot. As I bordered my bus, I heard Barry say "It is going to suck without "Scoop" around."

I've never seen Barry again since that last glance through the bus window.

I rode to PUC to stay for a few days before flying to my brother Paul in Gladstone, by the coast of central Queensland, just south of the Barrier Reef and the formal demarcation of the tropics.

I'm glad that I was away from America for the next twelve months, for that football season the Dallas Cowboys failed to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade, signaling even greater decline in the years ahead. During the 1989 season they had the worst record in football. I had to look around, yet again, to identify with a winner. Read On

Nov. 25, 2007

I'm watching the movie We Are Marshall Sunday afternoon and I become sentimental.

So I Google "Placer High School." Almost 11,000 results come up.

Then I take a big breath and search the page with "Luke." I fear I'll get the big red "phrase not found" result in my firefox browser for the first 100 search results.

Nope.

So I hit next (the first result was my lukeisback@gmail.com email at the top of my browser, before the search results) and the seventh result, the first individual result, is for me.

Other notable Placer High graduates include all-star baseball player Jeff Blauser (who was in the graduating class of 1984 with me), Ben Nighthorse (captain of the 1964 Olympic Judo team) and Stacy Dragila (2000 gold medal winner for the pole vault).

By Luke Ford Chapter Two  Chapter Three  Chapter Four Chapter Five  Chapter Six   Chapter Seven  Chapter Seven B  Chapter Eight   Chapter Nine  Chapter Ten  Chapter Eleven  Chapter Twelve  1994-1997 1997  1998 1998B 1999 2000 2001 2009