From the high station in life he has attained, Charles A. Galloway, Jr., can scarcely remember the rebellious teenager he was more than fifty years ago. Back then, in the winter of 1938, he had done things his way, regardless of his parents' deep concern for his life and future. During that time, an event took place that would change Charles's life forever.

The son of two loving and devoted parents, Charles had grown up in Jackson, Mississippi, and had been privileged with a wonderful childhood. But during his teenage years he had grown restless, anxious to experience a wilder lifestyle. At age sixteen he decided he no longer wanted to stay in school.

"Charles, I absolutely will not hear of you dropping out of school, you hear me?" his mother said when he presented her with the idea.

"But Mom, I wanna be a prizefighter! I can do it, Mom. Give me a chance!"

"Nonsense," she said, turning away and shaking her head in disgust. "No son of mine is going to leave school for prizefighting."

His father agreed. "Stay in school, son. You don't have a choice."

The relationship with his parents became more and more strained. Charles waited until school was out for summer vacation and made plans to run away from home.

"I just need to be a man," he told one of his friends before he left. "Gotta set out on my own."

Charles was an intelligent boy, tall and athletic and with an innate sense of survival. Because he had only a few dollars, he knew he would first need to find work. After only one afternoon on his own, he discovered that by watching the railroad cars, he could determine approximately where they were headed.

He watched the station for nearly an hour. As with all train stops, this one was protected by railroad bulls, large club-bearing guards who kept people from stowing aboard the boxcars. When the trains began moving, the railroad bulls would climb aboard and ride near the front of the train. They were not worried about people stowing aboard while the train was moving, since to do so would have been foolishly dangerous. For that reason, it was rarely attempted.

Charles could imagine the dangers associated with jumping onto a moving train, but he was not afraid. He determined he would wait until the train was moving and take his chances. If his timing was right, he believed he could run alongside a slow moving train and jump aboard one of the cargo cars without incident.

Summoning his courage, Charles waited for a train which appeared to be heading north out of Jackson and then made his move. If he missed, Charles knew he risked falling under the train's wheels. He forced himself to think positively, and at just the right moment, he jumped, landing safely inside the boxcar.

"Easier than it looks," Charles muttered confidently to himself.

He used his new mode of transportation several times over the next few days until he got off the train in a small Missouri town and saw what appeared to be a traveling carnival set up under a large banner that read "Red-Top Circus." His money spent, Charles approached the circus officials and was immediately hired as a roustabout.

"I'd also like to do a little fighting, if you don't mind," Charles added cockily, sticking out his chest as if to demonstrate his worthiness as a fighter.

The circus leader looked him over skeptically.

"We'll see, son," he said. "We just might be able to use you."

Now that he had found a place to stay and a way to make money, Charles wrote to his parents. They opened the letter together, tears of concern in their eyes.

"I can't tell you where I am, but I'm safe," he wrote in that first letter. "I may even get to do some prizefighting."

Over the next eight months, Charles traveled with the Red-Top Circus to dozens of towns from Missouri to Nebraska. Eventually, the circus leader allowed him to participate in the pit fights, in which two men were placed in a sunken pit and allowed to fight until one dropped from the punishing blows or from exhaustion. Charles didn't lose a single fight. Each time he won, he would go back to his sleeping quarters, pull out some paper and write a letter to his parents.

"I think you'd be proud of me," he would write. "Sure, I'm not in school. But I'm living out my dreams. Please don't worry about me."

Meanwhile, Charles's parents were naturally very worried about their son. They had always provided such a steady environment for him and now he was a drifter, a roustabout and occasional fighter for a traveling circus. They handled their fears about his safety and his salvation by praying for him daily.

"Lord, please protect our son," they would pray aloud. "Keep him safe and bring him home."

In February, after a cold Nebraska winter took its toll on carnival attendance, the Red-Top Circus folded. Charles had enough money to take care of himself for quite some time. But he wanted to return to the south and knew his money would not pay for train fare. Resorting to his former method of travel, he stowed away on a series of trains until two weeks later he was in Hayti, Missouri. After a large lunch at a local diner, he considered his options. Returning home would be admitting failure. He really wanted to find another circus, somewhere he could resume fighting. That afternoon Charles scouted the area only to discover that the nearest traveling circus was about twenty miles south. He knew just the train to take him south, and he hid himself near the railroad station's warehouse, under the loading dock. There he waited for the perfect moment. As he crouched in the shadows, he noticed that the train, which was still being loaded, would be pulled by two locomotives. That meant the train would pick up a great deal of speed much more quickly than usual. It might even be traveling close to full speed as it left the station. But he had jumped on fast-moving trains before and was not afraid.

When the time was right, he ran toward the boxcar and jogged alongside it. Suddenly, the ground beneath him narrowed and he was running alongside a steep ravine. A few feet ahead he could see that there was no land at all alongside the tracks--only a steep drop-off. Charles knew he had just one chance. Jumping before he had picked up the proper speed, he thrust himself upward and landed partially in the open boxcar. But with nothing to hold onto, his body began sliding out. As Charles struggled to pull himself inside the car, he could feel the train gaining full speed. Terrified at his predicament, he looked over his shoulder. The train was winding along the top of a very steep and narrow canyon ridge. If he slipped out he would either fall beneath the train's wheels or plummet down the steep canyon to his death. He closed his eyes and tried to will himself into the boxcar. Instead, he could feel himself slipping.

"Please, God!" he cried out, his eyes squeezed shut. "Don't let me die here." But Charles knew there was no way to survive the situation; he was seconds from certain death.

At that instant he opened his eyes. In front of him stood a fantastic-looking muscular black man in his thirties. The man was staring at him intently but said nothing; he only reached down and pulled the boy by his arms into the speeding boxcar. Charles lay facedown on the floor of the car for several seconds trying to catch his breath and regain his strength. When he looked up to thank the man, he had vanished. The boxcar was completely empty. One of the two side doors was closed, as it had been since the train began moving. He glanced outside and shuddered. There was no way the man could have jumped from the train and survived. He had simply disappeared from sight. Charles sat down slowly in a corner of the car and began shivering.

Suddenly he knew with great certainty that he needed to get home. He stayed on the train until it reached Jackson and immediately returned to his parents' home. He told them about the man on the boxcar.

"An angel, son," his father said, as his mother took them both in her arms. "God was watching out for you," she said. "See, he brought you home to us."

Charles nodded. "Things are going to be different now. You watch."

Charles returned to school that week and a few months later, his faith renewed, was baptized in the local river. After graduating, he moved to Southern California where he spent two years working as a professional prizefighter before being drafted. Charles served in World War II with the 339th Bomb Squadron in the 96th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force. He flew twenty-eight combat missions over Germany, and in May 1945, he returned to Jackson and went into the construction business with his father. Working together, their business became both lucrative and well-respected.

Now, at age seventy-one, Charles shares his story with anyone whose faith needs reaffirming. He is convinced that God saved his life by sending a guardian angel to get his attention.

"My entire life would be different if it weren't for that single afternoon," says Charles, whose faith and love for God is always evident these days. "God used that angel not only to save my life but to change it into something that could glorify him forever."

 

From: ANGELS, MIRACLES AND ANSWERED PRAYERS. (There’s an angel on your shoulder: Angel encounters in everyday life) Vol 1. Kelsey Tyler. Angel encounters in everyday life and everyday lives touched by miracles. Pag. 23-28, Guideposts. New York 1994.

 

 

Index