Posted: July 12, 2007 in Family and Friends
Paul Bunyan
Jay DeFrees made multiple trips to Ocean Springs from northern Illinois following Hurricane Katrina. On one of those trips, we discovered a common bond involving a love for the St. Louis Cardinals. It did my heart good to receive emails from Jay from time to time simply saying “How ’bout those Cardinals?” He even called my house after the World Series last year (which, in case you have forgotten, the Cardinals won)!!!!My family went to Disneyworld a year ago April, and we were at Disney-MGM Studios one day. We were getting off of the Backlot Tour ride when I heard someone yelling my name. It was Jay and his wife! We had the pleasure of briefly introducing our wives to one another (and each other), and I walked away smiling at how that crazy hurricane had made the world wonderfully smaller.

Jay’s heart has been in Mississippi ever since those trips he had made, and he was overjoyed when he found out some church folks from his world were making a trip to Pascagoula. He jumped at the opportunity to come. He emailed me a couple of weeks ago, and we set up a date to have lunch while he was here. That was yesterday, and he and I enjoyed lunch at Monica’s in Pascagoula together. We swapped stories from days gone by, and he asked me lots of questions about how things have gone for us at the Ocean Springs Church of Christ.

But my favorite story of the whole time involved our (now) mutual friend, Travis Hass (a.k.a. Paul Bunyan), pictured above.

To briefly introduce you to Travis, Travis had decided to take a semester off from college in August 2005. Even though he wasn’t much past twenty years old, Travis could do it all in terms of house construction, and he had planned to remodel a few houses, make some money, and simply take the time to refocus his life. Then, Hurricane Katrina struck. He came to the Gulf Coast with his preacher, Jack James, and they were heroes to us. They came initially as experts in floating sheetrock, but before long, Travis had decided to spend his semester – the one he was using to refocus his life – living at our church building and heroically rebuilding houses. Along the way, I learned that Travis was an excellent speaker, a brave firefighter, and a deep thinker.

Plus, he is really strong. Which is where my lunch with Jay comes in.

Jay asked about Travis yesterday. He said that after his trips to Ocean Springs, he would make presentations for his church family, telling them all about the unforgettable people and experiences from Ocean Springs. He told stories about Travis throwing roofing tiles up on a roof while he and a friend struggled together to push one at a time on the roof, and before long he said “Travis-stories” began to take on mythical proportion – “like Paul Bunyan” he said. 🙂

Jay said that his young son is enthralled by Travis, a young man he has never met. Travis has become a regular character in their father-son interactions, this larger-than-life figure whose spirit and muscle and heart and love combines to fuel a young boy’s imagination.

I just thought that was wonderful. To think, that a man from Illinois and a man from Georgia met in Mississippi on missions of mercy, and that brief meeting inspires a young boy for the future.

Both Travis and Jay are larger-than-life to me.

Yes, larger than life is a good way to put it.

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