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Antiques Road Show
When the gang of 1967 got together again in 2007, one of Phil Callaway’s best memories was Dan’s story.

Not many people know that I was once a gang member.  Yes, back in the 1960s, I joined the Prairie Heights Gang, a roving band of hockey-playing ragamuffins.  We were staff kids at Prairie, and according to those who taught us Math, we would not amount to much.  One wintry day in 1967, my brother Dan captured 14 of us at our finest, leaning on hockey sticks, decked out in hand-me-down skates, grinning like the half frozen urchins we were.

Prairie Heights Gang 1967. (Back row, l to r) Stuart Yule, Bob Kirk, Dan Boutwell, Mark Graham, Paul Chamberlain, Jonathan Toliver.  (Front row) Rick Jack, Tim Callaway, Jan Boutwell, Phil Callaway, Larry Charter, Roger Pike, Jim Dawson, Paul Workentine.

When someone circulated the photo by e-mail recently, I laughed at our uniforms, and at the memories of these older guys including me in their games – hockey in winter, and football in summertime.  That’s when they sent me for long bombs.

“Keep going,” they’d yell, until I was completely out of sight, maybe in Montana.

Someone suggested a reunion, an impossible thing now that we’re scattered about the globe.  But on a Saturday in May, seven of the originals, together with spouses and friends arrived at Paul and Ruth Workentine’s house in Calgary.  I was surprised how much these people had aged.  Some had even lost hair.  It was like going to the Antiques Road Show, bringing the best you had, wondering what it’s worth.  It didn’t take long to find out.

We ate steaks until our stomachs ached, then told stories until our sides hurt.  Stories of mischief and mercy.  Sadly, I only have space for one.

The last time I saw Danny Boutwell’s father, he was storming past our house carrying a suitcase.  My mother poked her head out a window and yelled, “Don’t go away mad, Bob,” not knowing that Mr. Boutwell was leaving his beautiful wife and children for good. When Dan left Prairie, he married Dawn, struck gold in the oil patch, and watched his spiritual life and marriage dry up.  “I was the ring-leader when it came to drinking and cussing,” he admits.  “I remember telling our kids, “Don’t do what I’m doing!  Do the right thing.”

Confused, Dan found himself in bars, half drunk, telling his atheist friends that there had to be a God.  When Dawn totally surrendered her life to Christ in 1997, he said, “Fine.  Just don’t expect me to go to church with you.”

Despite his wife’s prayers, Dan was a self-described atheist by 1999.  “One of the things that troubled me was how all my friends were prospering while the people in Dawn’s church weren’t,” he says.  “It was like the sinners were blessed and the saints were struggling.”

One night while sneaking a cigar in the backyard, he looked up at the night sky.  “You showed yourself in Bible times; why not do it again?”  he taunted God.  “How about…well, how about a light?”  Suddenly the backyard was flooded.  Startled, Dan turned around to find that Dawn had flipped on his study light.  Strange, he thought.  She never goes in there.

Weeks passed.  In the darkness of the backyard again, he repeated his challenge:  “Can you do it again?  How about a light?”  Bang.  The darkness was gone.

“Dawn had turned on our porch light,” he laughs.  “She was looking for me and when I asked her why, she admitted not having a reason.”

But the signs were not enough.  Not long after the lights came on, Dan descended further into darkness.  “He said he was finished with God,” Dawn recalls.  “He was looking into eastern religions.  So I just told God, ‘Dan is a big guy, but You are bigger.’”

The Gang in 2007 (Back row, l to r) Rick Jack, Dan Boutwell, Jonathan Toliver, Roger Pike, Larry Charter, Paul Workentine, Phil Callaway.  (Middle row, r to l) Ramona Callaway, Ian Charter, Ruth Workentine, Pixie (Hoath) Charter, Janet Pike, Ed Stromsmoe, Janet Jack.  (Bottom row, l to r), Dawn Boutwell, Jackie (Belt) Benavides, Donna Crites,  Linda (West) Stromsmoe, Colleen (Hertzsprung) Charter.

On a business trip to Calgary in 2000, Dan found The Book of Buddha in his hotel room and read it through.  “I learned that Buddha’s mother dreamt she was impregnated by a white elephant and later, she stretched out her arm and he was born,” he says, shaking his head.

Beneath The Book of Buddha was a Gideon Bible.  It fell open to Malachi 3:13-18, with its warnings of judgment, and its reminder of how God views those who are His.  Dan sat transfixed as he read the same words that his wife had been living.  Words that stood out in sharp contrast to Buddha’s empty philosophy.

“I couldn’t believe it,” says Dan.  “Every verse seemed written for me.”

Twelve hours after telling his wife he was through with God, Dan knelt by the bed, asking Jesus Christ to forgive him and change him.  “God used two hours of Buddha and ten minutes of Gideon to open my eyes to a joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

Today Dan loves his pulpit in the oil patch.  And he loves to golf.  In the last month I have swatted golf balls around a course twice with this gentle giant and his wife of 32 years.  Both times I’ve asked again to hear their story.  I will never tire of hearing how God showed Himself to one of my childhood sports heroes.

“I don’t know where I’d be without the faithful prayers of my wife and daughter, Dawn’s parents, and your mom, Mrs. Callaway,” says Dan, after tapping in a par putt.

People who say God does not heal today should spend a little time with the Boutwells.  They will discover that both of their children have come to Christ and are leading others to Him.  That the twinkle is back in their marriage.  And that the greatest miracle of all is the miracle of a transformed life.

Dan (HS u ’73) and Dawn Dvorak, HS u ’73) Boutwell live in Calgary, Alberta.  You can e-mail them at boutwell@shaw.ca.  Phil is an alumnus of Prairie High School (’79) and Prairie Bible College (u ’82).

Phil Callaway is the editor of Servant magazine, author of a dozen books and a popular speaker. His web site is: www.philcallaway.com.

Originally published in The Prairie Harvester, Fall 2007.

Used with permission.  Copyright © 2007 Christianity.ca.

 

 
 
 
 

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