Jacob DeShazer: Forgive Your Enemies

Chapter 1
Into the Darkness

It was Jake DeShazer’s turn to jump. Jake slid his pistol, knife, and packets of rations into the pockets of his leather jacket and edged toward the open hatch. The howl of the wind was deafening, drowning out the drone on the Mitchell B-25 bomber’s engines. As he clawed his way along, Jake recalled all that he had been taught during Army Air Corps training about making a parachute jump. At that time the closest he’d come to making a parachute jump was lowering himself through the hatch of a bomber parked on the ground and dropping to the tarmac. But this was no exercise. After thirteen hours aloft, the bomber had empty fuel tanks. The engines would cut out at any moment now. It was time to bail out before the plane crashed.

At three thousand feet above China, Jake knew he would not survive unless he followed his training procedures to the letter. With shaking hands he checked the tension on the harness of his parachute and made sure that the handle of the ripcord swung free. Then, as he gingerly began to lower himself from the hatch, the wind caught his legs, flinging them back against the fuselage of the plane. The force of the wind was so strong that Jake had to use every ounce of strength to get himself all the way through the hatch. “You’ll never make it, you’re going to die,” voices inside his head told him. But Jake pushed forward, squeezing his way out. Then suddenly he slipped free and felt himself falling into the darkness.

As he fell, Jake looked up through pelting rain. He could still make out the outline of the B-25. The light from the plane’s open hatch cast an eerie glow as the bomber flew away from him. Jake reached up, felt for the handle of his ripcord, and yanked it with all his might. He heard a slight whooshing sound and then felt an upward jerk. He breathed a deep sigh of relief. His parachute had opened. In the distance above, Jake could hear the now sputtering drone of the bomber’s engines trailing away. He was totally on his own, enveloped in darkness.

Jake wished it hadn’t had to be this way. They were supposed to land, refuel their plane, and fly on to safety farther inland in China. But things had not gone according to plan. And now somewhere out there his four comrades were also falling through the same dark, stormy night. Jake wondered whether he would see any of them again and, if he did, under what circumstances. As he continued to fall through the darkness, other questions flashed through his mind: Would he land on water? In the top of a tree? In a field surrounded by the rifle-toting enemy soldiers who had heard the plane overhead? He had no idea.

Jake felt totally alone, and more than anything at that moment he wished that it was the farm in Madras, Oregon, he was falling toward. But it wasn’t. He was on the other side of the world, falling into an unknown country and an uncertain future. For all he knew, these could be the last minutes of his life. How far it all was from his boyhood growing up in Madras.

Chapter 2

Eight-year-old Jake DeShazer ran the last hundred yards to the Sunday school room at the back of the Free Methodist Church in Madras, Oregon. He was proud of the shiny buckles on his new coveralls, and he was eager to show them off to the Sunday school teacher.

Minutes later Jake and his younger brother Glenn were seated side by side in the Sunday school room. Jake looked down at the knees of their new coveralls. The knees of the pants were just a single shade of dark blue denim, with no patches on them. “Jacob, Glenn,” he heard the Sunday school teacher say.

Jake and Glenn looked up.

“Please remind your mother for next Sunday that boys do not wear coveralls to church. We try to dress in our best clothes to honor the Lord,” the teacher said matter-of-factly.

Jake felt his face turn a deep shade of red, and his neck got hot around the collar of his flannel shirt. He fought back the urge to run away. He managed to sit through the Sunday school session, but he hardly heard a word the teacher said, and he mumbled his way through the singing. All he could think of was the delight he had seen in his mother’s eyes when she pulled the two new pairs of coveralls from the Sears, Roebuck package that arrived in the mail and presented a pair each to Jake and Glenn.

“Look, boys,” she had said, “brand-new coveralls. Take good care of them. They cost a lot of money.”

Jake and Glenn had grinned at each other—Jake because his mother normally sewed his clothes with fabric from his stepfather’s worn clothes, and Glenn because he always inherited Jake’s hand-me-downs.

Now with Sunday school finally over, Jake’s thoughts were in turmoil. Why couldn’t the first new clothes he’d ever had be good enough for church—for God? He didn’t know. What he did know was that the teacher had made him feel humiliated, and he did not ever want to go back to Sunday school and feel that way again.

Of course, deep in his heart, Jake knew that was not going to be an option. His mother and stepfather, Hulda and Hiram Andrus, were pillars of the Free Methodist Church in Madras. They believed in living the Christian life seven days a week. Every morning after breakfast in their small clapboard farmhouse, Jake’s stepfather would read an entire chapter of the King James Bible, and some of those chapters covered two entire pages of the Bible! All of the children—Jake and Glenn, their older sisters Julia and Ruth, and their half-sister Helen—had to sit quietly and listen to what was being read. Then each person was expected to offer a lengthy prayer of thanks to God for the new day. This was hard to do, especially when Jake knew that the reading of a long chapter would put him and Glenn behind in milking the cow and delivering the milk around town and then would make them late for school.

At school Jake was shy. He did not talk to adults unless he was asked a question. While he liked playing games with the other boys, he found he didn’t have much to talk about with them. This was because the DeShazer/Andrus family kept very busy running their small wheat farm. Their life left little room for fun or imagination. From the time he was nine, Jake was expected to handle a team of eight horses, which pulled the combine harvester. Even riding his horse, Trigger, had a serious point to it. Jake always carried a rifle with him when he went riding, and he was expected to bring back jackrabbits for dinner.

The only day that the DeShazer/Andrus children had off to play was the Fourth of July, when they were allowed to go swimming along a sandbar in the Deschutes River. If Jake had talked about his family life to his friends at school, he would have discovered that even for life in rural America in the early 1920s, his family had a more rigorous existence than most.

Sometimes Jake’s mother told him about his early life in Salem, Oregon. Jake was born in Salem on November 15, 1912, the first son of his mother, Hulda, and his father, Jacob DeShazer. Jake’s father had been married before. His first wife had died young, leaving behind four children—a boy and three girls. When Jake’s mother married his father, she took on the role of stepmother to his children, giving Jake an older stepbrother and three older stepsisters. Then his mother gave birth to two girls, Julia and Ruth, followed by Jake and Glenn. The family of eight lived simply in Salem. Jacob DeShazer was a lay preacher in the Church of God, which as far as Jake could figure out had meant that his father worked on his small farm during the week and then preached all weekend.

Sadly, Jake’s father became ill when Jake was a baby and died from a stomach illness when Jake was only two years old. It was a tragedy for Jake’s mother and the eight children she cared for. The family had not only lost a husband and father but also the only way of making ends meet.

Knowing that she could not look after so many children, Jake’s mother arranged for the four stepchildren to return to Jake’s father’s side of the family while she concentrated on feeding and clothing the four children who were her own. This was not an easy time for her or the children. Sometimes food was scarce, the clothes Jake wore were all patched hand-me-downs, and the family never had any money for store-bought gifts or trips.

Three years later, when Jake was five, his mother married Hiram Andrus, a stern, forty-seven-year-old bachelor she had met at a church meeting in Salem. After the wedding the family moved to Hiram Andrus’s wheat farm in the small town of Madras, 130 miles east of Salem, just in time for Jake to begin attending school.

In the years that followed, Jake’s mother and stepfather had another child, Helen, giving Jake a total of one stepbrother, three stepsisters, one half sister, one full brother, and two full sisters. Jake always felt it was a shame that the family had so many girls, because there was so much farm work to be done and he and Glenn had to split the workload between them.

About once a year, the family would take the horse and cart and head to Salem, where they would visit with the other four DeShazer children and attend church camp meetings.

At school Jake liked to play football and baseball, and since he was short and slight, he made a good runner. Despite his love of sports, he could not sign up for the school teams. His stepfather reminded him that work came first—and there was always plenty of work to do on the farm.

Jake survived school. Although he was not an outstanding student, his favorite subject was mathematics, and he harbored hopes of going on to college from high school. However, Jake graduated from high school in 1931, when the United States was in the firm grip of the Great Depression, and there was no money for the family to pay for higher education. Like many other boys at the time, Jake had to scrap his idea of going to college and look for a job.

Unsure of what else to do, Jake took jobs working on neighboring farms. The work was backbreaking, but Jake was glad to have it. His labor earned him a dollar a day and his board. During this time Jake stopped attending church and participating in the other religious activities he’d had to be a part of when living with his family back on the farm.

Sometimes his half sister Helen would ask him if he believed that Jesus died on the cross.“I guess so,” Jake would reply, “but so what? Lots of people died on crosses back then.” He could not accept that Jesus was more than a historical figure. He admired his parents’ strong faith, but deep down it meant little to him.

Bit by bit, Jake’s jobs took him farther and farther from home—and his Christian upbringing. One day he heard about a job opening on the California-Nevada border. Sheepherders from the Basque region of Spain spent their summers grazing sheep in the high mountain meadows of the Sierra Nevada range. In the winter they drove the sheep down to the desert of Nevada. Since the Basque sheepherders were up in the mountains or out on the desert for months at a time, they needed someone to regularly bring them fresh supplies and cook for them.

Jake took the job, and he loved every minute of it. He would begin by buying supplies of beans, flour, and dried fruit for the men, as well as feed for their horses. He would load the supplies onto a pack train of donkeys and guide them on horseback up into the mountains in the summer and the Nevada desert in the winter. Once he located the Basque sheepherders, spread out in separate camps like spokes of a wheel, he would unload the supplies and set up camp. He would then spend his days baking bread in a sage fire and take it, along with other supplies, to the men.

Jake lived an isolated existence, but he loved the endless vista of mountains and desert, the fresh air, and the company of animals. He also liked the money. Since most of the time he was a hundred miles away from the nearest store, he was able to save most of his pay. After two years on the job, in May 1939, Jake had saved up the grand sum of one thousand dollars in the bank. He was ready to go into business for himself.