Just Like Jesus: Saga of A Post-Modern Christian, Part One

Keith Brumley

Keith Brumley

I’d expected to meet a long-term acquaintance. He’d told me to sit tight and that he’d be there in 15 to 20 minutes. I heard a tap on my car window. It was a Sioux Falls policeman. He asked me to “get out of the car, please.” I couldn’t refuse.

So there I was, in the parking lot of the Sioux Falls IHOP at dawn, surrounded by three police cars 8212; lights flashing 8212; and staring at six police … hands on their pistols, all perfectly willing to shoot me to prevent my suicide.

It had been a tough couple of years.

I was nearly broke, homeless, and after months of “down the rabbit hole” experiences, at wit’s end. I’d wanted to die … except now it was from embarrassment; the kind you get when someone you’ve counted on lets you down. It was a scenario often discussed in my Counseling and Human Resource Development courses.

The policeman asked the routine questions.

“Did you threaten “this person?'”

“Of course not!”

“Well, he sure sounded frightened. What did you tell him?”

“I told him I wanted to die. I know him. He said he was going to meet me here and talk.”

“He didn’t tell us that.”

They handcuffed me, saying I wasn’t being arrested, and that they were going to take me to the Avera McKennan Behavioral Center for evaluation. I had to leave my car at IHOP.

We swung toward the psych ward. It made perfect sense … as long as you’re rabid or brain-dead with paranoia.

I’d spent several seasons working for a Christian Church camp as a dude wrangler, leading trail rides for mostly upper middle-class white kids while taking classes in the CHRD program in Rapid City, S.D. I’d been transferred from Custer, S.D., to another camp, just south of Isabel, S.D. I was to first maintain safety above everything. Second, I was to provide the basics of horsemanship to kids who were terrified, overly confident, and in some cases, insolent. Third, the well-being of the horses was to be paramount 8212; and though more than half had lameness and behavioral issues, I needed to keep the campers a-horseback. Finally, I had to be nice 8212; just like Jesus.

I was twice the age of my supervisor. The rest of the staff was only a couple years older than those in their charge. A geezer like me was not part of their agenda. My assistant was younger than many of the campers and the supervisor had told him he wasn’t necessarily needed to help me. So he didn’t. Contempt was the norm 8212; at least insofar as it was directed at me.I was furthermore dealing with a relationship that had broken against the rocks of God Knows What. My duties had me up at 4:30 a.m., and I was usually not in bed until 11 p.m. Sleep deprivation, psychic pain and anxiety had become so intense I could no longer rest. It’s true. I needed serious help 8212; but not via this process.

We arrived. I was ushered into the evaluation room. I sat down, hands cuffed, waiting for the M.D. One cop recorded the incident while another read The Sporting News.

The M.D. arrived and asked if I was going to be violent. I said no. He asked the guys to remove the cuffs. He flashed a light in my eyes and started asking “the questions.”

“Have you taken any illicit drugs or alcohol in the last 24 hours?”


“Have you ever attempted to harm yourself or another?”


“Have you ever made plans to harm yourself or another?”

“I said I wanted to die.”

“Do you entertain thoughts of harming yourself or another?”

“Not at this time.”

The M.D. smiled for half a second.

A few more questions were asked, blood was drawn and a guy nearly twice my size was called to escort me to what I’ll call “Ward A.” That’s where they watch you like a hawk. If you’re good, you advance to “Ward B” and more privileges. It was actually quite nice. It was carpeted. The lights were subdued, the furniture comfortable and the walls painted with earth tones. I hadn’t lived in this kind of luxury for years.

The door closed behind me. “Good luck,” my escort said. I was entering a brave new world.

That’s when I heard the ghost of journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Well, not really. It was more like a half-formed thought. “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”

And though I can’t for the life of me remember buying a thing, I figured this was the place for me 8212; at least until I got some sleep.

wlkerwllhjkghKeith Brumley is an SDSU alumnus and current journalism graduate student at SDSU.wlkerwl/lhjkgh