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January 29, 2022

Over these past months, I have asked that each of us contribute to our local charitable agencies. Thank you for all you have done. I will continue making suggestions because I have learned that unless these nonprofit organizations are called to mind, they are quickly forgotten. Please know that I respect your freedom to choose those that are meaningful to you. One way to measure the strength of our community is to observe how we respond to those in greatest need. Please continue with your kindness and generosity. This week, please volunteer, or donate, as you are able, to SAFE Homes-Rape Crisis Coalition 236 Union Street, Spartanburg, South Carolina 29302, (864) 583-9803.

Last week, during a winter weather event, I took the opportunity to do a few home repairs. A shelf in our refrigerator had a cracked edge. The molding along the front was split. I reached for the roll of white duct tape, not to be confused with masking tape, and repaired the damage.

A few days later, I used duct tape again to fix a broken picture frame. Around our home, duct tape is an essential product for just such occasions.

The troubled space flight of Apollo 13 has been chronicled in the movie “Apollo 13,” directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks. The real-life drama in space began on April 11, 1970. Two days into the mission, an oxygen tank failed. The crisis was reported with the unforgettable words radioed back to earth by Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here!”

The command module was shaken by an explosion en route to the moon. The crew evacuated the space capsule and entered the attached lunar landing module as a lifeboat. The square carbon dioxide filters from Apollo 13’s failed command module had to be modified to fit round receptacles in the lunar landing module. The challenge was the proverbial problem – how to fit a square peg into a round hole. Without the modification, the three astronauts would have perished in space.

On the ground in Houston, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration responded. Ed Smylie, chief of NASA, and Mission Control engineers designed the modification using duct tape. Following the directions relayed from Houston, the Apollo 13 crew made the repairs using their own roll of duct tape. The filters started working, saving the lives of the three astronauts on board. Later, Ed said that he knew the problem was solvable when the crew confirmed that duct tape was on board the spacecraft. In fact, duct tape had been standard equipment aboard every NASA flight since the early days of the Gemini program.

“I felt like we were home free.” Ed Smylie, a native of Mississippi, quipped, “One thing a Southern boy will never say is ‘I don’t think duct tape will fix that.'”

Among the nicknames for duct tape is “Jesus Tape,” derived from the miraculous properties of the silver adhesive. To some, the nickname may seem sacrilegious. Apollo 13 astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise may disagree. Duct tape saved their lives!

Duct tape was invented after Scotch Tape and masking tape. The United States military needed a waterproof adhesive tape strong enough to stabilize metal equipment during World War II. The iconic tape was developed by an Illinois factory worker named Vesta Stoudt. Leave it to a mom who had two sons serving in the U.S. Navy to come up with a solution. The year was 1943, and Stoudt was working at the Green River Ordnance Plant near Amboy, Illinois. She wanted soldiers serving in the military to have every advantage that might save their lives.

It was initially called duck tape because it was made from a cotton duck fabric, and it repelled water like a duck’s back. It was made with three main components: rubber adhesive, cloth, and film backing. It was used as a waterproof sealing tape for ammunition cases. The versatile product was also used to repair military hardware, including jeeps, guns, and aircraft.

Postwar, the United States experienced a boom in the housing industry. The name duct tape evolved because of its application in heating and air conditioning installation. Duct tape sealed the air ducts.

Its value is evidenced by its presence in most toolboxes. A friend contends that a handyman needs two indispensable tools: duct tape for sticking things and WD-40 for unsticking things. The two are sometimes referred to as the Red Neck Tool Kit.

 I want to share one of my all-time favorite stories from my years as the Senior Pastor at Morningside Baptist Church.

When a young woman and her mother showed up for Sunday morning worship, I quickly realized they were there to check us out. They were looking for a place to have a wedding. They wanted to hear my voice and see if I was a suitable pastor to officiate. They wanted to listen to our church organist. Most of all, they wanted to get a feel for the sanctuary to see if there was enough space for their guests. We passed inspection on every count.

The bride met with my secretary to ensure everything complied with the church’s wedding policy. I then had several premarital counseling sessions with the couple. That was standard procedure.

The rehearsal went off without a problem. The day of the wedding came. I arrived at the church about forty minutes before the service. I stopped by my office, filled out the marriage license, and put on my robe.

As was my custom, I went by the bridal room. I have never heard such sobbing and crying in all my life! It was not just the bride but two other women as well.

I knocked on the door, and as I did, the father of the bride came out. He was a huge man, about 6’5″ and well over 300 pounds. I recall thinking how incongruous he looked in a tuxedo.

“Can I help?” I asked.

“No,” he replied. I’ve got three upset women on my hands. I have to figure something out.” With that, he strode out of the church into the parking lot.

As he departed, he mumbled, “We might have to call this wedding off.”

I found the groom and the best man, and we took our places outside the door where we were to enter the sanctuary. I did not mention the possibility of cancellation to them.

Through a tiny peephole, I could see that the sanctuary was packed. The organist played “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” and the mothers were escorted in to take their places. Then the organ played Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” my cue to walk in with the groom and the best man. Then seven groomsmen, seven bridesmaids, and a flower girl made their entrances.

The organist chimed the hour and played “The Wedding March.” The doors opened, and there stood the father of the bride, that big man in his tuxedo. On his arm was his daughter, the bride.

Standing next to her father, she looked like a petite young woman, but she was not petite. She was generously sized, right out of her daddy’s gene pool. She was ample, stout, and heavyset. You get the picture.

There was just enough room for them to get down the aisle together. The bride’s father brought his daughter right over in front of me, parking her like an eighteen-wheeler.

She was not a petite woman, but when she stood next to her groom, he looked petite.

The wedding service went as smoothly as any I have ever conducted. There was no evidence of the tears that had been shed – no puffy eyes, not even a smudge of running mascara.

We signed the marriage license, took wedding pictures, and proceeded to the fellowship hall for the reception. I went by the office to hang up my robe. When I arrived at the reception, the bride was barefoot and was enjoying her second piece of wedding cake.

“I came by the bride’s room before the service,” I said. “I have never heard so much uproar in all my life.”

“Oh, Dr. Kirk, I thought I was going to have to call off the wedding.”

“What happened?”

“Well, I was measured and fitted for my dress about four months ago. It never occurred to me that I should try my dress on again before the wedding. We’ve had so many bridal parties and wedding showers that I guess I put on a few pounds. Just two hours before the wedding, I discovered that my dress no longer fit!”

“My mother pulled and tugged on the zipper. My aunt tried to pin it together with safety pins. Nothing worked. But my daddy knew what to do.”

“What did your daddy do?” I inquired.

“He went out to his truck and opened the toolbox. Buried under the jumbled contents, Daddy found what he was searching for, a roll of duct tape. He came back just in the nick of time. He said, ‘Honey, reach for the sky.’ Standing there barefooted and in my slip, I reached for the ceiling. My daddy wrapped that tape around me again and again and again and made me the best-looking silver corset. You know what, Dr. Kirk? My dress fit perfectly! I love my daddy.”

“I can see why.”

I am sorry to say that I don’t know the rest of the story. I can only imagine what happened on the wedding night when the petite groom ran into all of that silver adhesive around his new wife’s midsection.

Kirk H. Neely is a freelance writer, a teacher, a pastoral counselor, and a retired pastor. He can be reached at

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