Powell explores ‘come to scratch’

by Fred Petrucelli
Mike Kemp photo

Once a churchman of renown, Larry Powell today is content to ruminate while roaming on his beautiful homestead on Cadron Gap Road, thinking critical thoughts such as “the will to live.”

It is his contention that much of life involves recovering after being knocked down by one kind of adversity or another.

If one was to suggest that Powell would later in life become a marvel in the art of speech, others would shake their heads in disbelief. Even Powell would agree. “I could not even talk, let alone speak before an audience,” he said, explaining that he was in the grips of the debilitating ailment of stuttering. But he conquered his liability and fought doggedly to overcome his problem with speech, so much so that he became a speaker of note and was twice invited to preach at the famed Chataquah Institute in New York City. He also found himself speaking in several other influential venues. 


It is to be assumed that Powell was determined to prevail, to “come to scratch,” refusing to stay “knocked down.” Powell, in this instance, stole a term from the bare-knuckle fighters of old England. According to rules of that day, if a fighter was able to stand independently on his own after taking a ferocious beating, he had to advance to a mark on the floor of the ring, unassisted, and place his toe against the mark, indicating his intention to continue the battle. Therefore, if a fighter was unable to “come to scratch,” his opponent was declared the winner. The term still means to persevere, come back with the intention of winning.

To wit, adversity did not overcome a 37-year-old body builder in the news not too long ago who won body building contests despite an accident involving an electrical transformer that left her armless. It is impossible to calculate the number of times in the ensuing years that Barbie Thomas must have struggled to gather herself to “return to scratch.”

So, she refused to stay knocked down and was determined to fight through her circumstances with the intention of winning. And she was a winner. She has two sons, dresses herself, loves to dance, cook and shop. 

Stories of people “coming to scratch” and the hypothetical assumption of the will to live consume Powell today. Among the amenities that underscore his attractive place, Powell does his best thinking there among “God’s masterpieces,” his thoughts often reflecting on the inanimate, intangible will to live, for it is the machinery for “coming to scratch.” 

As Powell is wont to say, “Albert Schweitzer brought the mater into focus when he repeatedly talked about the will to live. He said his observations disclosed that all living things have three things in common. The desire to live. The desire to be free from pain. The desire for well-being. This is from his Reverence for Life.”

Consider, Powell suggests, the ignition behind the perseverance of the single iris “who jackhammers its way through an asphalt driveway, or the many creatures that literally fight their way through a shell or membrane just to be born.

“So, without the desire to live, coming to scratch ceases,” he maintains. “It becomes a sign of defeat or forfeit.”