Spark Ranger: The Man Lightning Couldn’t Kill


The sound humans often associate with thunder is actually lightning. The booming claps are the result of air rapidly expanding as lightning heats it to nearly 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. 90 percent of lightning actually occurs above our heads in the clouds, we only see the remaining 10 percent on their fraction-of-a-second journey to Earth. 

These are what meteorologists refer to as “cloud-to-ground strikes” and they generally measure up to five miles long and a couple of inches in diameter. A single bolt of lightning can produce one billion volts of electricity. Humans have died from a 42-volt shock to their system, which is part of the reason that Roy Sullivan’s story is so incredible. It’s not just that it happened, it’s also the fact that he survived. 

Most individuals struck by lightning experience some kind of indirect strike. Roy Sullivan, apparently experienced them all. Born February 7, 1912, Roy grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Greene County, Virginia. As a boy, he roamed its many ridges and hollows hunting for rabbits. An avid outdoorsman, he spent his twenties building Shenandoah National Park until it spanned 311 square-miles of protected land. 

Roy was by most accounts, ordinary, he just so happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, seven times. In 1942, 30-year-old Park Ranger, Roy Sullivan watched a thunderstorm barrel through Shenandoah Valley from the panoramic views of Miller’s Head Fire Tower. 

He was enjoying himself until seven or eight bolts of lightning hit the wooden shelter and the tower erupted into flames, Roy fled for his life, but his efforts were in vain. Just as he escaped from the firelit tower, another bolt of lightning struck him directly in his right leg. The impact of the strike seared the skin all down Sullivan’s leg.

According to the Washington Post, blood spurted from his foot, draining through a hole ripped in his boot sole. Roy would recover and for the next 27 years, he was a guy that had been struck by lightning. But that changed when in July 1969, 57-year-old Roy was driving his truck down Virginia’s Skyline Drive through a thunderstorm, when lightning suddenly hit a tree on one side of the road and jumped, a side flash passed through Roy’s window and knocked him unconscious at the wheel. He lived, but the flash seared off his eyebrows, eyelashes, and most of the hair on his arms. 

One year later, in 1970, lightning struck a transformer in Roy’s backyard and jumped again, this time is blasted his left shoulder and knocked him several feet into the air. In 1972, Sullivan was working at the park’s registration booth when he heard a loud thunder clap. 

In an instant, the 60-year-old man found himself engulfed in a painful white light. Roy’s scalp apparently caught fire with six-inch high flames. The next time he was struck by lightning, Roy was on patrol when he saw storm clouds form in the sky naturally at this point, he was terrified of storms so he hopped in his patrol car and drove, but according to Roy the clouds followed him. 

When Roy finally felt that it was safe enough to exit his car, lightning blasted him into the air again, this time knocking the shoes off his feet with the shoelaces still tied. On June 5, 1976, lighting struck the now-64-year-old Roy as he routinely checked on a campsite in the park. Supposedly, the sixth strike hit him just one mile from where he had been struck by the second bolt. Five months later, Roy retired from his service at the park. 

He packed up his things and took outdoors out of the equation. He and his wife Patricia moved to a small mobile home in Virginia. Naturally they littered their property with lightning rods, one on every corner of their home, one on the television antenna outside and several on numerous trees that were nearby the home. 

Despite the rods, lightning still found its way to Roy. On June 25, 1977, Roy started to smell Sulphur while he fished for trout in a pond near his house. Just as the hair on his arms eerily stood on end, lightning hit him again. This time sending Sullivan into the pond where he had been fishing. 

The blast also singed his hair, burnt holes in his clothes, and left his stomach and chest covered in burns. Afterwards, he lost hearing in one ear. This is said to be the last time that Roy Sullivan was struck by lightning, but it is said that he didn’t count the time that he was struck while helping his father cut wheat in a thunderstorm. When lightning struck the tool that young Roy was holding, then jumped from the tool onto the ground, and started a small fire.

On September 28, 1983, after 41 years of being the victim of chance and circumstance, 71-year-old, Roy Cleveland Sullivan took his own life in Augusta County, Virginia. Today, Mr. Sullivan’s disturbingly mysterious and incredible life is remembered by many in the Guinness Book of World Records

Roy was either the luckiest or the unluckiest man in the world, depending on how you look at it, but he definitely lived a life unlike any other.

(Picture: Washington Post)

Destined for Greatness: A Testimony of God’s Mercy

On the afternoon of December 12, 1997, at 1:50 p.m. I saw this world for the very first time, and some thought I wouldn’t live to see life outside of the four cold walls of that dark hospital.

The first few months and years of my life were spent with trips to and from hospitals. I spent most of my early childhood traveling anywhere from Montgomery, Alabama, to Birmingham, Alabama, all the way to Greenville, South Carolina.

At six weeks old, I was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy. Not long afterwards, my small intestines ruptured, I was diagnosed with gangrene, and had suffered a stroke.

Seeing everything that I had been through having just been born, the medical staff basically said I wouldn’t live much longer.

I knew that if I wanted to see the light of day outside of the four walls of that Birmingham, Alabama hospital, I had to put up a fight.

I knew that my life was at stake. I knew I had to prove the medical staff wrong. I just knew I had to fight. Nobody in that hospital had given me even the slightest chance to make it, so it was all up to me.

Thankfully, God had greater plans for my life and saw me through those early horrors. Throughout the nearly 23 years of my life, I’ve survived multiple surgeries.

Through the years, I’ve seen my fair share of tragedy and triumph. At age 16, I lost four of my friends in the same year. With one of them being my lifelong best friend.

Even though I have faced many trials and tribulations in my short time, the one thing that has remained constant is the great and power mercy of God.

He has seen me on my best and worst days and has always remained at my side. Even though I will face much more adversity in the coming years of my life, I have no doubt that God, along with my guardian angels will see that I make it through the hard times safely.

I share my testimony not as a pity on me, but in hopes that my story will touch the hearts and lives of its readers. May it serve as a source of hope and inspiration.

God Bless you all.

An Open Letter to My Best Friend Who Left This World Way too Soone

We all have that one friend that we do everything with, but few people can say they have a friend that was there with them through the good, bad and indifferent times.

For me, that friend was Jody Sanford, we grew up in diapers together some 22 years ago.

We had a bond that was somewhat similar to Bonnie and Clyde, except we didn’t kill anybody, even though I know that went through our heads on multiple occasions with siblings that drove us crazy, but we never killed anybody.

We stuck by each other’s sides through hell and back. When one of us needed something, we knew that we could just pick up the phone and dial the other’s number and either one of us would be there in a matter of minutes.

I’m almost positive she’s the only reason I did my school work and graduated high school.

Jody was more than my best friend, or my partner-in-crime, she was the sister I never had.

When I was too busy talking in class to do my work, she’d turn around and say “You’d better get busy before I tell Mrs. Ellen.”

She said that quite often, in fact. Most of the time, I would just roll my eyes at her and get busy doing my work and she’d laugh and say “That’s what I thought.”

Through the years, we shared countless memories, like Mobile Mardi Gras, where we saw ‘M&M man’ a man that was dressed in a yellow M&M jacket waiting to catch beads and whatever else they threw his way.

We shared many laughs like the baby monitor incident at Mardi Gras one year, I won’t go into detail, because words just wouldn’t do that baby monitor justice.

We shared serious times too; believe it or not.

I don’t know how she managed to keep me in line as often as she did, I can barely keep myself in line.

But sadly, on February 2, 2014, my best friend, partner-in-crime, the sister that I never had, gained her wings.

I remember that day vividly, perhaps too vividly.

My mom was in the kitchen cooking on the stove and literally dropped everything she was doing ran to the back, where I was on the computer, and grabbed her shoes.

When I asked what she was doing, all she could say “Jody! It’s Jody!” At the time, I didn’t understand why she was running, because the last time I saw Jody, the day before at the ball field, she was fine.

Then, an hour or so later, my brother came and took my cellphone because my parents told him to.

I didn’t understand that either, I wasn’t grounded, I hadn’t done anything wrong.

Then another hour passed, still nothing, about 30 minutes passed and the house phone rang, I picked it up and answered it.

Everybody in the room on the other side of the phone was silently crying.

Mom answered and said “Jody’s gone,” I was speechless. But when I finally processed what had just been said I responded “WHAT?!?” Then mom said “I can’t talk right now, I’ll tell you when I get home.”

When mom returned, she explained to me that God had called Jody home to be with Him.

All I could do was sit in my room and cry for the rest of the night.

Later that week, I was called to the counselor’s office at school, I didn’t understand this either, I didn’t need counseling.

But I didn’t ask questions, I just went to the counselor’s office. I was unaware of what was happening, all I knew was that I had just lost my best friend.

When I entered the office and sat down, her brother, Jeremy was sitting there also. He hadn’t been at school all week, and understandably so.

But I was still confused. Before I knew it, there were six of us sitting in the office with Jeremy and after a while, after shedding several tears, he asked us one by one to serve as pallbearers at her funeral.

He asked me first, because I was the first one on the list. I broke down, unsure of how to feel. After a while all of us went to the baseball locker room. I talked to Jeremy and the head baseball coach about it.

I wasn’t sure I could carry my best friend’s body to its final resting place, but then I realized, I’m not going to be alone.

I didn’t need to do this for myself, I needed to do this for Jody, because she wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

So I accepted the offer, hugged him and fell apart. Jeremy then said “Hold your head up brother, she’s not hurting anymore, she’s happy again.”

That night, we went to her visitation, now, keep in mind that I’m not big on visitations or funerals because that’s not the way I want to remember them.

Jody’s mom and dad met me inside the church and escorted me to the chapel, where her body was, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it alone.

When I reached the chapel, I looked up and saw her colorless body lying there, arms crossed and eyes shut.

I began to cry again, I didn’t understand why this had to happen to her so soon.

The next day was the funeral, we arrived at the church at about 8:30 that morning because my brother and I served as two of the six pallbearers.

We entered the chapel and were met with what seemed like a thousand hugs.

It was 8:30am and the funeral didn’t start until about 11am. But this gave me time to realize that it wasn’t a dream.

Around 10:30, close to 1,000 people came into the chapel, heads hung, tears falling and hugging each other.

Then before I knew it, the funeral director motioned for us to stand, approach the casket and carry the body to the hearse.

When I reached the hearse with the body, and loaded her onto the loading rack in the back, I fell apart again.

I was met with several hugs, the one I remember the most came from somebody that had known both of us ever since middle school when I served as mascot and Jody, a cheerleader.

I tightly gripped her and pulled her in, she laid her head on my chest, looked up at me and said “You are one of the strongest people I know.”

When we reached the cemetery, all six of us, grabbed the casket and placed it on a table and then stood around the casket and table for prayer.

When the prayer concluded, I fell apart and I was once again met by the person that met me in the church parking lot after I loaded the casket into the hearse.

She dried my tears and said “Look at me, she’s happy now,” and hugged me tight and then wiped her tears on my blue blazer.

Dear Jody, thank you for always keeping me in line, laughing with and at me, loving me unconditionally, being my confidant, my shoulder to cry on, my partner-in-crime.

Thank you for forcing me to do my school work, the disagreements, the memories, but most of all, thank you for being the sister that I never had and having my back no matter what.

I promise I will continue to stand up for you as long as I live.

You’re safe with me.

See you on the other side beautiful, I love you.

Your best friend,

Braxton Parmer.

You Don’t Have to Have a College Degree to Be Successful

People often try to tell us at a young age that you have to go to college in order to be successful.

But in reality, college just isn’t for some of us for one reason or another.

You see, there are millionaires and billionaires out there that don’t have a college degree.

Maybe they went to college and dropped out, maybe they never went to college, but they are still successful.

I don’t have a college degree. I’m a college dropout. Most people won’t tell you that they dropped out of college, but I will gladly tell you that, not to seek attention from you, but to prove to you that college isn’t everything.

Yes, having a college degree would open a lot more doors for me and give me opportunities that I don’t have.

But it just wasn’t for me. Yes, there are times that I wish I had stuck it out and gotten a degree but there’s also a part of me that is thankful that I dropped out of college.

I never really liked school to begin with, in fact, when I was little, I would tell people that PE was my favorite subject in school.

No, PE isn’t necessarily a “subject”, but it’s what I enjoyed the most. I wasn’t the best math student.

Even though, you can ask me anything about sports stats and I can tell you everything you need or want to know.

Success without a college degree is harder to achieve than with a college degree, but I’ve always been one to procrastinate and take the long way around things.

I promise, I’m not the only one who has ever been successful and not finished college.

Yes, it takes longer to succeed without a degree, but for some of us, that’s the way our story was written.

When I was about five or six, I already knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

When I got to college, I felt like school was just holding me back, I felt like I didn’t need science for my occupation, I didn’t need most of the courses that I took.

Not because they weren’t important, but because I already knew I wouldn’t need science to be successful in my field.

I knew what it took, and I knew I had what it took.

So I decided to drop out of college and I’ve still heard ‘You need to go to college’, or ‘Get back in school’ over the past three years.

But I knew I didn’t necessarily need a degree to be successful, because of the work I had put in at an early age.

Sometimes, God puts us in certain situations not to tear us down, but to build us up.

You see, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Michael Dell, are just a few successful people who never finished college and look at them now.

It’s not college or bust, I never really understood why people would tell us that in school.

If you already know what you want out of life and you have what it takes, why waste time and money doing something that you don’t necessarily need.

I’m a seven-year broadcaster, who dropped out of college. I started broadcasting at age 15, why would I waste time and money doing something that doesn’t fit me?

Broadcasting has taken me places over the past six years, that I never dreamed of going.

It has given me the opportunity to work alongside and meet some of the people that I idolized as a kid.

Being successful without a college degree is possible. Yes, a college degree would be nice, but it’s just a piece of paper.

You can be successful without a college degree.

Picture: Entertales.

Don’t Let 2019 Affect Your 2020

Often times, we find ourselves letting the previous year’s mistakes shape the next 365 days of our lives.

We look back on previous years regretting the times that we had an opportunity to do something, but we didn’t take advantage of those opportunities when they arose.

We may find ourselves thinking about the negative things that happened in the previous 365 days, most of which we could’ve avoided.

You may also may find yourself looking back on the “failures” of the year that has gone by and we often carry that into the new year with us.

The truth is, there is no such thing as failure, those times are called lessons and if we don’t learn to leave those failures in the past but take the lessons with us, then we will live a life full of regret.

Don’t let what’s gone affect the present. There are 365 days in a year, that’s 365 new days to better yourself from previous versions of what you were in the days gone by.

Live life without regrets and you will live a rich life. What you’ve done in the past doesn’t matter now. Nothing matters except for living the rest of your life without regret.

What’s in the past is there for a reason, live the next 365 days regret-free.

Don’t let 2019 have an affect on 2020.

Never Forget the Value of Life

Last night, the Montgomery Biscuits, the Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, suddenly cancelled their scheduled doubleheader with the Chattanooga Lookouts, the Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, due to what was first described as a “tragic event within the Biscuits family” according to the Montgomery Biscuits Twitter handle. Later in the night/early morning hours, news broke that Blake Bivens, a 24-year-old pitcher in the Montgomery organization had lost his wife, 14-month-old child and mother-in-law to a triple-homicide that occurred in Virginia according to WSFA, a local news station based in Montgomery, Alabama and the suspect is related, in some way to the Biscuits pitcher from Sutherland, Virginia. As I continued to read of this unimaginable tragedy, I found myself asking these questions in my head ‘What was going through the suspect’s mind when this occurred?’, ‘How did he find out?’ Surely, the suspect was not in the right state of mind when this horrible tragedy was taking place. Surely, somebody got in touch with Bivens in some way. I can’t imagine how the Sutherland, Virginia native must feel knowing that some of his most prized possessions on Earth were ripped from his hands in an instant. My heart breaks for him and all of those effected by this. The point is, at no point is life ever so bad that you have to suddenly rip the lives of innocent people apart. It’s never that bad, yes, I know life gets tough, but it’s never so tough that you should feel the need to tear the lives of innocent people away. May God be present in Bivens’ life and let him know how much he was loved and cherished by those three undeserving victims. May God show mercy upon the victim as he awaits his fate. Folks, may we never forget the value of life. No matter ethnicity, background or age of other people, they all deserve to be loved, not killed. If you take the life or lives of innocent people, not only are you taking their lives, you’re taking away pieces of other people’s lives that loved them dearly. May we never forget the value of life and the people that surround us. Treat people as you would like to be treated.

Picture Source: Bleacher Report