Rocky Mountain High

At the end of the eight-part miniseries The Kennedys, he found himself leaning out of his chair, staring down at the ground, and saying one word — “Kendra!”

He started when he said her name. He was not the type to talk to himself. Hmm. What was he feeling? It was definitely sadness. Why? Why did a TV series about the Kennedys remind him of his own life? He guessed it was the myth of Camelot. The senseless deaths. The brutality beneath the beautiful words. The family unit sacrificed on the altar of public service.

It’d been years since he thought about Glacier View, Kendra, her family and that summer of discontent.

In June of 1980, he graduated from eighth grade at the Pacific Union College Elementary School — a Seventh-Day Adventist school — and did a final trip with his classmates — three-days of whitewater rafting on the American River. Then he flew by himself to Washington D.C. and was picked up by his mother, reproved for chewing gum, and driven to their new home in Baltimore.

He occupied himself most days throwing a ball against a wall and reading books at the library.

Then his parents introduced him to a family with two kids — Kendra (a year younger) and Brent (four years younger). And now he had company and didn’t feel so wretched.

He hung out at their home. It was a loving home. Fun. Funny. Warm. Here was proof that theology doesn’t have to make you screwy.

Kendra’s home had a den and much of the time it was just the three kids and they watched TV and they played games and they talked about books.

They all ended up at the Seventh-Day Adventist Glacier View Ranch August 11-15 where his dad went on trial for heresy (for denying the church’s central doctrine that in 1844, Jesus moved from the Holy to the Most Holy place in the Heavenly Sanctuary to begin the final work of judging the saints, the Adventist elect). They were the only kids who came along to the denouement of this brilliant Adventist career.

It was just the three of them much of the time and they splashed in the pool where one afternoon Old Testament scholar Bill Shea asked him who he was, and he said, “I’m the son of the man you’re burning at the stake”, and the poor bloke blanched.

When they didn’t have crippling headaches from the altitude, they threw the frisbee, not one of Kendra’s top 100 skills. She had thick glasses and was not the most athletically gifted but what she lacked in sporting skill she more than made up for with goodness, kindness, and intelligence.

He knew he had the last trait but not so much of the first two, but being smart, he made a point of hanging around those strong where he was weak.

On the Sabbath after the conference, the three of them were led by Kendra’s dad up a mountain in the sun, and when they got to the top, about 10,000 feet, he crawled to the edge and looked out.

He saw that his life in the church was over. They would not be going back to Pacific Union College. They would not be staying by Kendra. They would go somewhere he couldn’t see, not even from this peak, and he felt dread in his heart and he knew they were all going to be very lonely.

It’s great fun to state your opinions, but when they go against the orthodoxy of your group, you’re condemned to isolation, which is another word for death.

When the call came to return down the mountain, he thought that it would all be much easier if he just launched himself into the void.


About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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