copyright 1997, Rex Ballard
My name at birth was Rexford Ernest Ballard. The last name means "Bald Head". I was the first Ballard male in my family tree to reach age 40 and still have a full head of hair. The first name means Kingmaker. According to geneological records and family folklore and oral tradition, the Rexford name goes back to the Roman occupation of Wales when a Roman scholar familiar with Hebrew, Greek, and Roman language, religions, and philosophy began training the children of the Kings in the skills it would take to be an effective ruler in a dominion where one ruled solely at the discretion of the people being governed. The legend of Merlinius (Merlin) and Arturius (Arther) originates from my Ancestor's training of the first "King" of what is now known as England. When Cromwell decided England didn't need a King, or a Kingmaker, our family escaped to Ireland, and from there emmigrated to the United States.
My mother's father was a Gideon, one of those people who puts Bibles in hotel rooms. He was born in the Oklahoma Territory where his father had set up a bank prior to the Oklahoma Land Rush. The "Sooners" came, but he was their sooner. Grandpa's father tried to take care of his farmer friends by guaranteeing their loans through the "Dust Bowl" era, in exchange for something worthless like, mineral rights. A few years later they decovered oil under those farms. Grandpa became a metalsmith and opened his own furnace and heating shop. During the depression, he would put leins on people's property so that they wouldn't have to loose their houses. He kept passing the lein in exchange for a percentage of the value of the house. When he died, he was a millionaire. The Woodworths made their fortunes by being nice to people.
Grandpa used to hand out tracts and little green bibles at the airports too. Some of my earliest memories were of sitting on grampa's lap while he read the stories from the bible. By the time I was 4, I knew many of the Bible stories.
My mother's mother was born on a homestead in Missouri. When her father disappeared (probably killed for the homestead) they were forced to leave the Homestead. Grandma's mother, known as Bama, then left the kids in Boulder Colorado and went to Montana where she and her sister Cora became the first women to homestead in their own name. When they got to the end of the 7 years, the knew that the bank would hire thugs to burn them out. To prevent this, Bama and Cora had a photographer take a picture of them. Bama had her double-barrelled shotgun held fully extended at arms lenght. Cora held a double handled broad-axe. The bottom of the picture had "Come and visit", and was posted in the local bar. It was said that Bama could throw a man 20 feet. The bank didn't burn her out, and she sold the homestead at a very good price. She came back to Colorado and opened a Laundry and bath house in Cripple Creek where miners paid a day's wages to be clean enough to get the attention of the best saloon girls. My great uncle, Lloyd Mints taught school in the one room school house. He eventually went to Chicago and became a professor of economics.
I frequently spent time with my grandparents. My mother was suffering from bipolar disorder and acute PMS back in the days when the only effective treatment was electroshock. I found out many years later that she had been brutally raped by a "good christian" fiancee (the son of a high ranking public official), before she met my father. Mom had come from Polio and an Iron Lung to the point where she could walk unassisted, but a selfish man who couldn't wait a few more months, nearly killed her.
That I was even born is a miracle. My mother contracted Scarlet Fever and then Polio when she was 8 years old. She was completely paralysed and had only a few months before she would have to live in an Iron Lung and had less than a year to live. The doctor suggested that there was a new treatment that might save my mother's life. Grandpa approved the procedure. My mother endured almost a year of extremely painful therapy and eventually she could move,, swim, and eventually she could walk. Over the next few years she even learned to rollerskate, ride a bicycle, and with the help of some surgery, even reached the point where she could walk without braces. As I grew up, she was the living demonstration that I could do anything I put my mind to.
I was born with acute respiratory problems, including asthma and hay fever. I had to take daily medications that were more potent in in terms of mood swings than heroin and cocaine. By the time I was 18 months old I was getting injections of cortizone daily. By the time I was 4 years old, I was in the hospital. My father had inherited it from his mother who had inherited it from her mother, who inherited it from her mother.
In my first trip to the hospital the doctor tried to sink an IV needle. She had to puncture me 23 times including both arms, both wrists, and finally in my ankles. They had to tape my arms to boards to keep me from moving. Over the next 7 years I would go to the hospital over 100 times. On average, I would spend 2 out of 8 weeks in the hospital. On the odd cycles, my mom would end up in a psychiatric hospital.
Some of the most horrifying experiences was when I was going to an allergist who had been trained by a survivor of the Holocaust who practiced at National Jewish Hospital in Denver Colorado. After doing "scratch tests" all over my stomach and back. The doctor, her nurse, and my mother would strap my wrists, elbows, legs, and head to a table and begin a series of excruciatingly painful blister tests in which those substances I was most allergic to were injected in "skin pops". In each of 10 visits, they would do 36 injections in each arm, starting at the wrists and moving up to the shoulders. I would scream but I couldn't move. No sedatives were allowed as that might interfere with the results, or so said the doctors at the camps. By the third visit, I would just be in terror most of the way to the doctor's and most of the visit. I knew what was coming. The only consolation was the beautiful nurse who assisted the doctor.
My dad did a great job of making sure that I was well cared for when mom wasn't up to the job. My parents had developed a network of families with whom I stayed. It was a culturally diverse environment. On family was Irish Catholic, another was Latino, another was Jewish, and another was of African descent. I went to mass, sabboth, and revivals.
For a variety of reasons, including my health and the fact that the boys in the neighborhood had an alcholic mother and an abusive father, I didn't like spending time with the boys. I usually played with the girls. I played with dolls, colored, and refined fine motor skills. If girls could play baseball and be "Tomboys", why couldn't a boy play dolls with girls? When the boys called me "sissy", the teacher told the whole class that "buddy" was short for brother, and that "sissy" was short for sister. For the rest of that year, it wasn't an issue, for me at least.
When I was about 5 1/2, we moved to a new neighborhood. I fit right in, as "one of the girls". I enjoyed playing with them and enjoyed playing Barbies after school. Mom had also taught me to knit, crochet, sew, and I taught them. Everything was fine until we started trading clothes. One day, we had traded clothes and my friend's mother saw me in her daughter's dress and completely freaked. She sent me home, told me I couldn't play with girls anymore, and made sure I didn't, by calling every mother in the area, calling the school, and warning the mothers at the next PTA meeting. They told everybody but my parents.
In less than a week, I had lost every friend I knew. I didn't know how to play with boys. I tried to play baseball and ended up in the hospital with asthma several times. When they moved me to the slower side of the class, I decided "I don't belong here, I'm Smart". Mom started taking me to the library, where I would check out the maximum limit of books and read. I wanted to learn how everything worked so I focused mostly on the non-fiction section. Soon, by the time I was about 6, I was building crystal radios, doing chemistry, and learning simple mechanics and electricity. In the hospital, I was usually in an oxygen tent for the first week. This meant no radio, television, or toys that could start a fire. Mom brought me logic puzzles. I became very good at working these puzzles.
In my hours of drug induced hyperimagination, I found that I was talking to God alot. I remember praying and just talking. Sometimes I would hear voices talking to me, just to keep me company so that I didn't disturb my mother. I also started reading the Bible, cover to cover. I even read different translations. My parents had a Bible that had 4 translations side by side. In Sunday School, I became the best Bible Scholar in my class, soon I knew the whole Bible.
I remember one girl, Melanie Witherall, that the kids called "it". She appearantly tried to kiss a girl and the girls decided she was not a girl, the boys decided she was not a boy, and they decided she was an "it". I told her I was an "it" too, and that I would be her friend. I had several friends like this. Most of them were "different" in some way. They were fat, skinny, gay, or lesbian (though I didn't understand that at that time).
At the end of the summer, just before I was about to start sixth grade, I came down with an acute case of Chigalosis. I had stepped on a piece of broken glass in a stagnant pond and the bacteria had gone directly into my bloodstream. In less than 24 hours, i had a fever of 107, was vomiting and had severe diareahh. My mother rushed me to the hospital under police escort. By the time I got to the hospital I was so delerious I didn't even feel them putting in the IV needle. My mother tells me they actually called for a priest several times during my stay.
At some point, I remember falling asleep, looking down at the doctors working on me, then going into the tunnel. I saw my grandmother Ballard, and old Mr Fields, and some other relatives and friends, all of whom had already died. I also remember the light in the tunnel. I wasn't afraid, I just started going toward the light. People didn't even try to stop me from going so fast toward it.
When I got to the light, I remember seeing what I, in my understanding as a 10 year old boy with lots of Bible stories, understood to be Jesus and his desciples, with God beaming bright light. I had no trouble seeing in the light. Jesus smiled and I said "hello". I asked if I could stay. Jesus said I could, but that he wanted me to do something for him, would I be willing to go back? I asked, "if I go back, can I come here later"? Jesus said, I could come back later, that I would be welcome. I said "OK, what do you want me to do?". In a matter of seconds I felt the doctors putting diapers soaked with with ice water. I jerked, and the doctor said "Whoa, I thought we'd lost you for a minute there". There was a priest standing there.
The doctors predicted that after my brain had been boiling for so long, that I would probably be brain damaged, possibly mentally retarded, and might even suffer the symptoms of a stroke. By the time I left the hospital, I was actually thinking clearer than I had ever been thinking before, was reading books furiously, and seemed to be more alive and friendly than ever. Every doctor just said it was nothing less than a Miracle.
I knew that God had a plan for me. I didn't know when or how, but I knew I had a purpose for being here now. The following summer, my parents joined a pentacostal group and asked me to ask Jesus into my heart and let him be my Lord and Savior. I didn't see what would be different, but I figured if Jesus had to be babtized by John the Babtist, I should probably do this. I could feel the spirit moving in me immediately. I was told that later, the Holy Spirit would come and I would have gifts of the Holy Spirit, like maybe speaking in tongues, or interpretation, or prophacy. I didn't know what God might give me, but I asked him to give me what I needed to do what I needed to do.