A good word: “Compel”
A short story from Hearts across the Water by Curt Iles
Then there is the story of my friend Tom Dunville. I’ve known Tom for seven years. He is a wonderful artist and the nicest guy I know… when he is sober. Tom has fought a life long battle with alcohol. Sometimes with the help of the Lord, he has won. At others, it seems as if the bottle has had the upper hand. But sober or drunk he is my friend. I love him like a brother.
Tom re-surfaced in Dry Creek on the day that Katrina flooded the levees in New Orleans. Tom and his son-in-law Tim Evans saw the flooding going on in New Orleans. From their house in Westlake they watched in horror as the city went under. They and four other buddies immediately decided to do something about it. But first they needed a boat. Tom remembered that our pastor, Don Hunt, had a fishing boat. So they borrowed our pastor’s flat-bottomed aluminum boat and headed out.
They were stopped at the edge of New Orleans by state police and turned back. But they told “a little white lie” to convince the officers that they were part of the official Wildlife and Fisheries Department caravan coming in. They “had just gotten separated from the rest of them.”
Once they were inside New Orleans there was no stopping them. They put the boat in at the 17th Street Canal that separates Orleans and Jefferson Parish. By going through the levee breaches they were able to get to the areas of the city with the deepest water. For the next four days they rescued people from rooftops and the second story windows of buildings.
Tom told me they never saw a uniformed official in the first three days. The entire rescue was done by civilians. Tim Evans and a Baton Rouge marine, Mason Crawford commandeered (my favorite post-hurricane word) a one ton semi truck and five flat bottom boats and used them to haul people off rooftops to Interstate 10.
Now if you saw Tim, Tom, and their crew you’d say they look like a pretty rough bunch. I’d agree with you. But if you were stranded on a roof for three days, you’d see their heart long before you looked at their hair or dress.
When describing his decision to go to New Orleans, Tom Dunville had a simple but deep explanation, “After I saw the flooding, desperation, and great need I just felt compelled to go.”
That’s a good word: compel. It means to “bring about by force.” Tom and his friends saw a great human need and something deep within them forced him, in compassion, to take action and go make a difference. Once again, a group of guys who decided to “get er done.”
The complete story of the Evans/Dunville “fishing expedition” was in the Lake Charles American Press edition on Sunday, September 11, 2005.
Excerpt from Chapter 6 of A Good Place
Narrator Mayo Moore, age 12, is on an errand through the piney woods when he encounters the local “bull of the woods” named “Roscoe.” As a boy my great grandfather entertained me with tales of wild bulls chasing him.
Trotting toward my grandparents, I had no idea another
encounter awaited me. Bo wandered off in pursuit of a squirrel,
and a few minutes later, a noise came from the woods ahead.
Figuring it was Bo, I whistled. However, what stepped out into
the clearing was much bigger than a dog—it was a huge red bull,
snorting and pawing the ground.
In our area, cattle roamed the woods. Most were gentle and
grazed close to the homes of the settlers. Others, what we called
range cows were truly wild and foraged in a wider area.
Some of these wild cattle, especially the bulls, were fierce
and greatly feared. The most infamous one was a big red bull
nicknamed “Roscoe.” His normal area was West Bay Swamp, a
good fifteen miles from where I stood.
I’d heard tales of this bull and had no doubt it was him
standing fifty yards in front of me. It’s Roscoe. That storm must
have run him off from his usual stomping grounds.
Speaking of stomping grounds, that is exactly what Roscoe
was doing. Upon spotting me, his front hoof began throwing
clods of mud behind him angrily. He was the bull of the woods
and well known for attacking other bulls, horses, and even
humans—I fit in that last category and it was obvious this meant
trouble for me.
Filled with fear, I looked around for a climbable tree, but saw
only tall pines with no lower limbs. Only a fox squirrel was going
to scale those trees, not a scared boy. My best shot at escape lay
toward the swamp, where low-limbed climbable hardwood trees
grew. We both moved at the same time—I scampered like a scalded
dog toward the swamp, with Roscoe chasing after me. Each time
I’d glance back, he’d gained on me. Soon, I could easily hear his
plodding steps closing the distance.
There was no way I’d make the swamp at this rate, so I
decided to use the fallen trees to my advantage. Directly ahead of
me was a pine top. I waded into it, pushing my way clear to the
other side. Roscoe couldn’t get through as quickly, and I gained
some running room.
However, in the clearings, he’d shorten my lead. A panic filled
my chest knowing I couldn’t outrun him much further.
Climbing through another treetop, I broke off a small limb.
When I came out of the top, Roscoe was already around the
treetop, heading me off at the pass.
I immediately reversed direction—running right back into
the treetop. Snorting with rage, he came back around, matching
my every move. We danced a deadly dance, a terrified boy and an
angry, two-thousand-pound bull.
Again, I retreated into the fallen treetop, waited, and when
Roscoe came around, I sprinted out the backside. Running for
my life, I saw my salvation ahead—a leaning pine lodged at a
forty-five degree angle against another pine. It was climbable if I
beat the bull there, so I dropped my bag and sprinted as hard as I
However, beating Roscoe there was a big if. He emerged from
the fallen pine in a rage—he’d had enough of being toyed with. I
ran, arms pumping, hollering at the top of my voice as if yelling
would propel me faster.
Neither Roscoe, nor I could have predicted what happened
next. Bo came hurtling out of nowhere, launching himself at the
large patch of skin dangling below the bull’s neck.
The enraged bull bellowed, slinging his head and spinning,
attempting to shake Bo loose.
I forgot all about the leaning tree; this was a fight I had to see.
My daddy always said that no Redbone worth his salt would ever
willingly miss a good fight.
He was right—I wasn’t going to miss this one and began
hollering for my dog. “Hang on, Bo. Get him, boy!”
I’ll never forget it—the bull turning savagely in circles
churning large clods of dirt as Bo, tossed about like a limp rag
doll, determinedly held on. It was a sight to behold, and better
than any rodeo I’ve been to since.
“Come on, Bo—hang on, buddy. Show that bad bull what
you’re made of.”
Finally, Bo slung loose, flying a good ways before hitting the
ground hard. He lay dead still as the bull, ready for the kill, went
Now, there was no way I was going to let that happen,
especially after how Bo had saved me. What I did next wasn’t
very smart on my part, but loyalty and instinct clouded my better
I ran and poked the bull in the eye with my limb, blindsiding
him since he was focused on Bo.
Being poked in the eye was all it took for him to turn after
me. By then, I’d dropped my limb and was halfway to the leaning
Like a fox chased by a pack of hounds, I scampered up the
tree. Roscoe arrived just seconds after I did and actually got his
forefeet up on the leaning trunk, scraping loose pieces of bark and
shaking the entire tree.
He snorted with rage as he slipped off, hitting the ground
hard. I climbed higher and held on for dear life, safely watching
him pawing and snorting below. From my high perch, I hollered
down, “Next time, I’ll have my daddy’s gun, and I’m gonna bust
you with a load of buckshot.”
As if in response to my threat, he butted the tree, and I heard
a sickening sound above me—the unmistakable cracking of a
limb. Looking up, I saw the splintered limb that’d caused the pine
Each time Roscoe rammed his head against the trunk, the
limb cracked a little more and the dead tree seemed ready to go
down. Sensing victory, the bull backed off to get a running start
at the tree.
Looking around desperately for any way out of this mess, I
glanced over and saw Bo standing, wobbly shaking his head. He
barked loudly, causing Roscoe to stop and turn. It was almost
comical to see the big bull repeatedly staring up in the tree at
me, then at the barking dog, trying to decide which one he hated
Bo’s non-stop barking turned the bull’s full attention toward
him. Roscoe snorted and trotted after Bo, who seemed to make a
game out of it, alternately running at the bull and then backing
I couldn’t help laughing as I hollered, “Watch him, Bo. He’s
faster than he looks.”
As Roscoe made a full charge, Bo took off for the swamp.
They were off to the races again, the bull futilely chasing after Bo,
as they went out of sight.
“Make it count, Son. Run that bull ragged.” Then the barking
and snorting faded and the woods became silent.
I waited a while before climbing down, retrieving my sack,
and making tracks for my grandparents.