“Bimbo” Griffin is the teacher of my adult Sunday school class at First Baptist Church of Baldwyn. His real name is Paul Ansel Griffin, and since his dad was Paul, I guess his options were ‘Ansel’ or something else. Perhaps predictably, he chose something else.
Bimbo is a five-and-a-half-foot, fifty-something ball of energy with a penchant for loud, flowery shirts and the quick joke. In fact, we are not totally convinced that the acronym corresponding to the name he gave our class – Alternative Sunday School – is coincidental. Bimbo may best be described as full of … well, life.
Before you get the wrong idea, he’s one of my favorite people in the world – a staunch Christian, a good husband, father and grandfather. And yet, here’s a typical “Bimbo moment.”
First Baptist Church is holding prayer meeting one Wednesday night early in November, and the pastor Bro. Stanley Huddleston, in his usual fashion, asks if anyone has any “praises” they want to share. Bimbo, of course, is sitting on ready and with utmost sincerity states “I want to say that I’m so very thankful for 10 good years my wife Darlene and I just celebrated together this week.” He pauses for effect, and then delivers the payoff, “It was our 25th anniversary.” Typical.
When it comes to Bimbo, I’ve heard many, many tales – a story that combines green body paint with an adult diaper and a calf bottle (I refer to that one as “The Incredible Baby”), the saga of a lengthy, comical dispute over mustard with a surly ballpark hot dog vendor (“Hey buddy, you ain’t doing me no favors selling me this $10 hot dog!”), and even a tale that revealed just what a deer rifle could do to a water tank (one of the low water marks of Bimbo’s career – literally). Yet just when you think you’ve heard them all, somehow he reaches back in the distant past, and drags forth a new one. Two months ago, he told me what I now consider the best “Bimbo story.”
It was 1976, and Bimbo had served in the National Guard for 6 years, reaching the rank of Specialist 4. On this particular June day, he and Company A of the 155th Armored Brigade from Baldwyn traveled to Columbus Air Force Base and checked in to fly 206 miles to Camp Shelby on a C130 transport plane. As the group prepared to board, it occurred to Bimbo that it might make for great entertainment to express to the more nervous members of the 155th a fabricated “premonition” that this flight was, in fact, doomed. And he did so, causing considerable consternation and hand wringing among the faint of heart.
Enjoying the turmoil, Bimbo bounced on board for the 45 minute flight, all the while continuing his dire warnings. As soon as he was seated, he saw, lying on the floor just across the aisle, a jump harness. The day’s next move immediately congealed in Bimbo’s mind. Renewing his indication of the plane’s impending demise, he expanded the scope of his performance into a full blown comedy shtick. He quickly slipped the jump harness on and hooked himself onto the steel cable that ran in the ceiling the full length of the plane’s fuselage. At 5’-6, however, there was one problem. Bimbo’s feet did not reach the floor.
So there he hung, like a Christmas ornament, spinning round and round still fomenting panic among many of his fellow soldiers with his predictions of disaster. On the other hand, the more astute among them, his buddies, were greatly entertained by their diminutive comrade, which, as has always been the case, provided the fuel for his fire.
When a hydraulic line spewed a shot of fluid at take-off, Bimbo disgorged a new stream of gloomy prognostication, and through maniacal laughter, he doubled-down, “I told you, boys. We ain’t gonna make it!“ He laughed and laughed and laughed.
The din finally trickled to a chuckle as the plane began its ascent. Now Bimbo, who had hung with his mates near the front of the plane, moved. He slid, at first, just a little bit, and then, all of the sudden, he began a slow but accelerating slide to the rear of the C130. What luck! This coup de grace to his comedy routine immediately brought loud howls from Bimbo and his troop.
Abruptly, the uproar came to a stark and complete halt at the precise moment that Bimbo finally came to rest near the rear of the plane. He hung there, suspended in the tail of the C130, slowly revolving, face to face once each turn with his guard division’s commanding general.
“Who are you, soldier?” the general asked.
The bobbing Bimbo responded, “Paul Griffin, SPC4, sir!”
“Not anymore,” the general countered, demoting Bimbo two ranks as he dangled from the cable, his toes stretching now, reaching for the floor in the futile hope of a quick retreat. “Awkward pause” does not really do justice to the moment. Bimbo’s retreat eventually, mercifully, did come as the plane leveled out and began to descend to Camp Shelby. He retraced his slide to infamy back along the cable to the front of the plane where his now-subdued buddies unhitched him.
The end of the flight was eerily quieter than its beginning. And so ends, the best “Bimbo story” I’ve heard … so far.