Part 2 – The only Child

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Boy AloneIn spite of my “only child” –like status I was a very social little boy. I loved playing with all the other kids in my neighborhood who were close to my age. By my eighth summer I spent as much of my time as possible playing with other kids. I hated being called home for supper or to come in for the night because these social relationships were of prime importance in my life.

You may remember from my previous blog that my parents made two major decisions during the summer of 1947 that affected me in many ways. The first decision was to take the multi-state vacation trip to the West Coast and back to Eastern Kansas. The second decision was to move from our little bungalow on Crawford Street in town to “the farm” about 3 miles south and east of town. This move is what I’m going to tell you about now.

My two hardest changes with our move were  adjusting to “farm life” in general and adjusting to the bullying I experienced in my new school.  Because it was a very small school and most of the kids were older, I felt out-of-place most of the time, and was often tormented as “the town kid”.

“The farm” was a 5-acre plot of land with an old farmhouse, a small garage, a little barn with a shed on the side, and a brick chicken house. All of these structures sat at the top of a hill among much larger tracts of 80-160 acres that peppered the rural areas of Eastern Kansas. Many of our neighbors were older farm couples who were still living on and farming these family farms. Few had children living at home so my need to socialize was sharply curtailed by the lack of young children living anywhere within walking or bicycling distance from our new home. In fact, I remember distinctly my mother telling someone that part of the reason for the move was to break me away from some of the kids in the old town neighborhood that she felt were not good influences on me. I was angry and sad when I learned this.

We moved about the middle of August that summer and for the rest of the month, we were kept busy getting settled in the old farmhouse and beginning “improvements” that would allow us to have a degree of “modern living” like we had enjoyed in town. For example, our bathroom was a tiny one-holer situated at the end of the dirt path between the garage and chicken house. It was about a 100-foot walk from our back door to get relief! The garage may have had electric lights, but none of the other buildings did. So going out for the last bit of business before bedtime required carrying a flashlight to see the way.  The only water that came into the house was pumped by hand into a wash-basin in the kitchen, mounted on the wall just inside the back door. Without running water in the kitchen getting a drink or water for washing dishes was a difficulty.  These inconveniences of living on “the farm” made it hard for all of the family.

But even more difficulties for me were yet to come.

When school started at the beginning of September I didn’t have to walk far because the school was almost right across the road from our house.  It was a little one-room schoolhouse and our teacher was a young lady who was fresh out of high school. jeffrey-hamilton-571428-unsplash Miss Brown taught a group of about 12 kids who were distributed in all grades from 1 to 8.  For the smaller kids there were smaller desks in the front of the room and larger desks at the back.  Miss Brown taught us by spending a little time with each grade on their different subjects. Although there was one boy near my age, most of the other kids were older and in grades 6, 7, and 8. Inside the schoolhouse, these boys behaved pretty well for the young teacher.  But at recess time the older boys decided to pick on the new “town boy” who didn’t understand much of anything they were talking about.  They teased and tormented me all of my 3rd grade year.  Each teasing made me angrier and I was ashamed with the tears and crying. One time a big 8th grader grabbed me and turned me upside-down, and holding me by the ankles he tamped my head in the dirt. When he finally dropped me, I was so angry I picked up a loose board that was lying near the schoolhouse and chased him and others who were teasing, swinging the board at them.

The two kids who lived nearest to our house were both named Bob. The older Bob was a 7th grader and the younger was a 6th grader. Although these Bobs were older, Mom and Dad let me go to their homes to play on occasion although neither of them was consistently kind to me. The older Bob, who also lived the closest, was the friendlier of the two and he sometimes came to my house to ride bikes with me. There was a big hump of dirt between two road ditches with a nice path across it and it was fun to ride down one road as fast as we could, then onto the ditch, over the hump, and onto the other road. Big Bob kept encouraging me to ride over it faster and faster until I had a massive wipe-out, falling on my face and cutting my lip.  This time he pushed my bicycle home for me, but Big Bob wasn’t full of kindness. That school year he introduced me to sexual play that was completely new to me and totally inappropriate for a 8 year old boy.  Because we did this in secret, I felt full of shame, and I never talked about it with with my parents or any other adult. Almost all of my third grade year was an unhappy one with many other things that upset me emotionally and caused me physical pain. I welcomed the end of the school year in early May knowing that most of those older boys who had tormented me that year would be gone the next year.

I wish I had been able to tell my parents about how I felt about going to that school and about how those older boys bullied me and took advantage of my naivety.  I felt so ashamed of my short temper and crying.  And I knew the things Bob and I did secretly were wrong.  If my parents had known more about what was happening to me that year they might have been able to help. But I was too embarrassed and ashamed to tell either Mom or Dad about it.  And if they ever asked about school I learned to say that all was fine.

Parents of young children today are much more aware of the social and emotional damage that bullying does to children at all ages.  Dads are learning to find more time to spend with their children one-on-one, encouraging them to talk openly about their experiences with others without judging too harshly.  And moms are learning to take time to really listen attentively as their sons and daughters talk about their days.  I wish my parents and I had developed a relationship of openness and honesty and that I could have made them aware of my struggles while I was still young.  Instead, it has taken me most of my life to shed the shame and pain of my early years on the farm.  By forgiving them and others who hurt me, I have been able to enjoy God’s forgiveness as well.

If you are a parent, do you talk with your children daily about the things they find difficult to cope with in their lives? If your child were to be sexually abused, does she or he feel comfortable initiating conversation with you about it?  Even what many people considered as just “child play” has left personal, emotional and social scars on children that affect their ability to heal and mature as adults.  It’s time for all parents to step up to the challenges of helping each of their children navigate their youth and adolescence in such a way that adults of the next generation will be free of the social and emotional pain most of us have experienced.

Please share your thoughts and feelings on this topic.

Photo Credits:        TopStaring Into The Sun, Japheth Mast (@japhethmast) on Unsplash    In Text:  (Inside old schoolhouse) by Jeffrey Hamilton on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Picking Pears

Pears on tree

Gary Armour, September 13, 2011

Today I picked pears.  I enjoy picking pears each year!  It reminds me of when I was young and we had Easter egg hunts.  Pears have a way of hiding themselves among the leaves of the tree in such a way that finding them all requires many trips up and down the ladder, relocating the ladder, and the reaching out as far as I safely can and plucking all of the beautiful fruit I can see within my reach.

Often I will see a pear that is just out of my reach by a few inches and I know I will have to remember where it was then move the ladder closer or wait until I get the taller ladder.  Invariably I will miss a few and when I think I have picked all that my ladders will allow me to reach, I find one I missed.green pears

There are several lessons to be learned from picking pears.  First, there are many more pears up there in the tree than first meets the eye.  When I think two boxes will hold the full crop it usually turns out that I need four.  Second, it is impossible for me to reach all the pears on my trees. Some are just too high and only God can bring them down with his winds or the rain.  Third, even though I think I can see all the pears that are within reach from any one point, there are some that just won’t become visible until I move to a different vantage point.

A fourth lesson to be learned about picking pears, and perhaps the most important, is that pears must be picked one by one. I remember helping some close friends harvest pecans from their property in western Missouri years ago.  We would spread out tarps on the ground under the trees and Don would climb up into each tree and shake it. Hundreds of pecans rained from their pods into the tarps below, which we then rolled up and emptied into boxes. Not so with pears.  Each must be carefully picked and placed into a bag or basket so as not to bruise the fruit.

It seems that these lessons can be applied to life in many different ways.  One way is to think of the ripe pears on the tree as people in our lives, many who may not know the Lord as their personal Savior.  We think we know who they all are — but isn’t it possible ripe pearsthere may be some that we don’t readily see?  Perhaps they are even the people who live in our neighborhood, who are closely related to us, or with whom we work each day.  Some of these people may not come to mind today, but in God’s timing, He will show them to us, one by one.  And one by one we must reach out to them and bring each one closer to us, so that we might discover and minister to their needs.

And finally, it is true that no one Christian will ever be able to reach every other soul in his life, his family, or in the community by himself.  Some may go unreached because there is no one who is capable of getting close enough to them to really touch them.  But the harvest is in God’s hands.  He uses us to bring in those fruits that He shows to us and brings within our reach.  And He will provide other ways to touch the hearts of those who seem too distant for anyone to reach.

It’s harvest time.  We all need to be out in the orchard gathering God’s fruit. Let’s trust Him to show us the “pears” he wants each of us to pick!

 

 

My Plans and His

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“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.”            —Proverbs16:1‬ ESV‬‬‬‬‬‬

I don’t know about you but it seems like I’m always thinking and making plans in my head.  I can spend hours thinking about and planning something I’d like to do. Now some people might call this daydreaming, and maybe it is…  But it is during those times of “thinking about things” that I can come up with my most creative ideas.  The problem is, I can spend way too much time thinking and planning, and too little doing.

Sometimes my planning involves acquiring some stuff that will be needed to carry out the plan.  Sometimes it may require that I learn some new skill or skills that will be needed to make the plan work.  Other times, the plan may involve someone else, who may or may not go along with the plan, or even have any interest in it.  So just because I think I’ve come up with an excellent plan, it may not even be feasible.  It may be something I want to accomplish really, really bad, but it just isn’t going to work. There is also another reason for my plans to be doomed for failure:  they are my plans and not necessarily the Lord’s. 

I am reminded of a story from 1 Samuel 16:6-10 when God sent Samuel to Bethlehem to select one of the sons of Jesse to be the next king for His people.  Samuel watched Jesse and his sons come in to the place for a sacrifice and as he looked them over his eyes fell on Eliab.   Samuel thought he was the one the Lord had chosen.  Eliab must have lookrd impressive because God immediately told Samuel not to look at the man’s appearance or his stature.  Eliab was not to be the one chosen because, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (v. 7)

Samuel looked over all seven of Jesse’s sons. but God made it clear that none was the man He had chosen to anoint as King. When Jesse admitted he had still another son, his youngest, who was out tending sheep, Samuel had them send for him.  When this son, David, came in Samuel saw this man was also handsome in appearance, but in a special way.  God was not looking at David’s appearance he was looking at his heart that was filled with faith and joy.

Like Eliab of old, I often form my plans around what looks good to me.  But if I take the time to chat with God about my plans, He often tells me what I’m thinking is not what He wants me to do. His answer may be something entirely different.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to reconnect with a person I had known nearly fifty years ago.  I soon discovered that this man and his sister, whom I had also known, were now living in California and had become celebrities in their individual arts related to the motion picture industry.  At first, I was filled with pride thinking that somehow my knowing these persons made me more important or better in some way.  My friend and I talked for an hour and a half, mostly about him and his accomplishments over the last forty-some years.  But as we talked, it became clear to me that God had other reasons for us to reconnect..  It was not to enhance my ego, but to direct me in His plan for my friend.

If we read the next two verses in Proverbs 16, we see that it says:

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”       Proverbs16:2-3.  ESV‬‬‬‬‬‬

I thought my motives were pure when I set out to contact my friend.  But God showed me that I was looking for something different.  He enabled me to reconnect with this old friend for an entirely different purpose.  If I’m to believe the truth of verse 3 above, God will take care of my next step if I will just give it to Him.

Like most men I know, I like to be in control. I like to make the plans for myself.  It is hard to give up that control to anyone else.  But what about those times when things I planned didn’t go well?  Was it God’s fault?  For instance back in the early 1980s my first marriage was on the rocks.  It became apparent that what I was expecting from that marriage was not the same as what she was expecting.  But, more important, I was no longer depending upon God to direct our choices.  We were not taking the necessary steps that a husband and wife should have been taking to assure that God’s blessing remained upon our marriage and providing us direction.  More accurately, was not asking him for the direction He expected of me as the leader of his family.  But I turned the blame around, back to God, and for the next 25 years I walked away from Him.  I had decided that I still wanted to make my own choices and plans.  And God let me.

How about you?  Have you been looking to God as the one whose plans are being established?  Do you look to him each day for His directions for that day?  Do you recognize that God weighs your spirit when you make choices and then allows the results He sees in your heart to control the outcome? The consequences of our decisions are for each of us to own.

“Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

Photo by Fabian Grohs on Unsplash

The Only Child

I don’t know about your’s, but my experiences with children who are the only one in their family would tell me that very often they are very narcissistic, self-centered, and victor-van-welden-596129-unsplashspoiled. Because these only children often get an abundance of attention from their parents and others, they learn to expect to be the center of attention in the extended family, at school, with peer friends, and with adult friends of their parents.   This is not to say that every only-child gets an abundance of attention from their parents.  Sometimes it’s just the opposite and they are sent away from home to boarding schools, private summer camps, or stay home with nannies or nursemaids, thus relieving parents of the need to be with them while they are young.  In any case a child who grows up without siblings or other children around them frequently displays the above kinds of behavior.

When the only child begins school or is involved with other groups of children, they also display self-centeredness and expect others to cater to their wishes and plans.  When others fail to oblige them, anger, rage, defiance, and threatening behaviors emerge as temper tantrums.  These behaviors frequently scare other children or bring out retaliation, avoidance, and other behaviors that exclude the only child. In order to avoid threatening behaviors and to placate the only child, others will sometimes be cooperative or supportive to him.

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In my home, I grew up like an only child. My two siblings were considerably older and lived away from home when I was young.  Because of this I received a lot of attention from my parents, my siblings when they were home, and often other adult friends of others in my family.  I relished that attention and grew to expect it from others, both children and adults.  Like the only child, I wanted to be the center of attention and acted selfishly much of the time.  When others rejected me for my inappropriate behaviors I would withdraw and feel sorry for myself.  Or, I would fly into a rage, threatening those who whom I perceived were hurting me.

The summer I turned 8 my parents made two decisions that affected me in ways I never dreamed of before.  Their first decision was to take a month of vacation and travel from Kansas to the West Coast.  That July of travel broadened my horizons considerably through many first time experiences.

Before that trip, which would take us through 9 new western states, I had only visited neighboring states Missouri and Oklahoma. For the first time I saw mountains, first in the distance from Eastern Colorado and then up close as we drove through the Rockies. We visited the Royal Gorge, The Garden of the Gods, and my first visit below Earth’s surface at The Cave of the Winds!  In Denver we visited the Zoo and Natural History Museum, two new experiences for me.  We watched big fireworks displays and visited the airport on July 4th, and were involved in a fender-bender auto accident the next day as we left Denver for Wyoming.  I had never been an accident before and it scared me so I was anxious and afraid to go on!  As we headed across desolate Wyoming, I was depressed and begged Mom and Dad to turn around and go home.

Then we arrived at Lander, Wyoming, just in time to watch a big Indian pow-wow!  Another first:  Real Indians and Indians Dancing to the beat of their big drums.  My depression dissipated quickly.  And Mom told me we’d be arriving at Yellowstone National Park the next day.  While trying to wrap my mind around a park so big, Mom taught me how to read the road map that was really a big atlas of road maps of the U.S. my folks bought before the trip.  She showed me how she had marked the route of our travels so far and how to orient the map with North at the top.  I quickly found that “reading” the map book was exciting and I wanted to know where we would be going from there.

The next parts of the trip were rather non-exciting as they took us to visit people I didn’t really know in Montana and Idaho, across a corner of Oregon and on West to San Francisco.  The longest suspension bridge in the world, between Oakland and San Francisco and the cable cars there were exciting, but paled in comparison to my first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean!

Gary-at-OceanSeeing a real ocean for the first time was overwhelming!  I had learned the word “horizon” before, but actually seeing the horizon as a straight line far in the distance with nothing but water in between made it real to my almost 8-year-old self.  I ran from the car, hurrying down the beach to the water.  Mom was crying-out something from the car, but I couldn’t hear her.  As I reached the water’s edge, I realized, too late,  that the water was moving in my direction and REALLY FAST!  The surf swept over my shoes and quickly climbed almost to my knees, scaring me so much I almost fell over into it as I turned and ran to the dry beach.  It was then I decided to scramble upon a nearby plank of wood that was sticking upright in the sand where it looked much safer.

From the Pacific shore we headed south along the length of California and east across the Mohave Desert, another first for me, then into Arizona and New Mexico.  As we crept across these states at what seemed a snail’s pace we saw more Indians and lots of dry, red earth with little growing in it.  We saw more petrified wood than I could shake a stick at (petrified, of course). My 8thbirthday was celebrated when we reached Albuquerque and I remember my folks buying me a small bow and arrow from a road-side Navajo stand. While they rested I had fun shooting my arrow all around the place where we stopped for the night.

The rest of the trip home, I remember little about except that it seemed never to end.  I missed my friends and wanted to get home to tell them all about all the new experiences I had!

I guess you’ll have to wait for my next blog post to find out about the rest of that summer and the other big decision my parents made that was a big change for me.


Do my experiences during the first part of the summer I turned 8 remind you of times when you had a whole bunch of new all in a short time?  If so, what did you experience and learn about the world?  I’d be honored if you would like to tell me about them by responding to this post.

Color photos by Victor Van Welden  & Bonnie Kittle on Unsplash

B&W photo by C.R. Armour

Liberty and Justice for All

Independence Day, The 4thof July, has always been my favorite holiday!  Even when, and especially when I was a child. I always looked forward to that holiday as much or more than I did my birthday or Christmas.  It is a day, even after experiencing 79 of them, that I still anticipate with expectation.

For one reason, Independence Day is in the summer, my favorite season of the year.  I have always loved the summer because it is the season I can be outside almost every day.  I still love being outside in summer, though the hot summertime here in Colorado’s Grand Valley usually sends me scurrying back inside much sooner than when I was young.  In Fort Scott, Kansas, my birthplace and home for the first 20 years of my life, it is not unuaual for temperatures to remain over 100º F for most of the months of July and August.  During July in 1954, we had almost a week of temperatures over 120º F!

Soon after school was out in May each year, an army cot came out of storage and was set up in the back yard, under the shady Elm trees.  This became my resting place during the hot mid-day, where I could read comic books or peruse the different fireworks catalogs that arrived in our mailbox at about that time.  When the fireworks catalogs came, they took precedence over all of my downtime activities until fireworks were ordered and I waited expectantly for them to arrive, usually in mid-June.  After that I was allowed to shoot off firecrackers (limited by Mom’s tolerance for the noise) until the 4thof July was over.  Of course, all the night displays were saved and shot-off during the annual family celebration the night of the 4th.

I was probably about 9 or 10 when I was first allowed to order and shoot my own fireworks. Most of the firecrackers I ordered we called Chinese Firecrackers.  They were about an inch or so long and a quarter-inch in diameter.  Their rolled-paper fuses came wrapped together with string so that 30-40 of them were fastened e7a7c2e0-22bf-4340-8e89-da601b50bae9together to form a flat package about 2 ½ inches wide by 4 or 5 inches long.  If you were to light the fuses that protruded from the package at one end all 30-40 firecrackers were ignited incrementally and then exploded one-after-another very quickly.  Of course this way of exploding firecrackers was much too quick for me and a big waste of both the noise and fun.  I preferred to fire each firecracker individually, spreading the time out over as much of the day as I wanted.

About that time, my brother, Jim, built me a little toy cannon out of some scrap 2” by 6” wood with a slanted length of 1” galvanized pipe for the barrel.  Using this “cannon” I shot off hundreds of Chinese Firecrackers every summer for the next 5-6 years.  Hmmm… I wonder what ever happened to my old fireworks cannon?

Shooting fireworks was only a part of our July 4thcelebration, though.  Each year my parents would plan a get-together with our friends, the Holy’s and we’d have a big picnic with fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, and, of course, home-made ice cream and cake!  The venue of our picnic changed from year-to-year but often involved other activities such as swimming in an ice-cold Ozarks stream and fishing for Dad and Mr. Holy.  Mom and Mrs. Holy sat streamside in lawn chairs watching and visiting most of the day.  Or perhaps we’d go one year to Farmington Lake and take a boat out on the lake to fish or just have fun.  The Holy’s were my favorite family friends, and spending July 4thwith them was a tradition I loved!

You probably had a favorite family tradition you also enjoyed as a child.  Perhaps, you have similar traditions now for the holiday that commemorates our great country’s declaration of independence from the rule of the English.  It’s a wonderful day to thank God for our “Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave” as Francis Scott Key wrote in his famed poem, The Star Spangled Banner, during the War of 1812.  We love our country and we all pray that “under God” it will remain “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Independence.  Freedom.  Liberty.   Justice for all. Today we celebrate all of these terms that we use to describe our lives here in the United States of America. But not everyone enjoys all of these privileges, even here in the USA.  Many find themselves in bondage.  For them there is no Freedom or Liberty.  They are under the control of others and are told what they must do and when.  For others, many of them people of color, cannot obtain justice, because of their heritage or for economic reasons.  Children are stolen away from their parents to become slaves to others.  Other people are deprived of their homes and live on the streets and under bridges in even the smallest towns of our country.  How can we celebrate when so many of our fellow countrymen, countrywomen, and children are deprived of these benefits others of us take for granted?

Would you please join me in a prayer for all of those who call the United States their home? Especially those who are being deprived of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”:

Dear Father in Heaven, please forgive us for taking our Freedom and Independence for granted.  Help us this day to constantly seek Your will here on Earth as it is in Heaven. Help us to learn daily to love and appreciate all of the people who live in the U.S. and to work tirelessly as a nation until all of them can enjoy ALL the privileges of living here.

Thank You for all of the benefits we receive just for being citizens of this great country.  Thank You for the resources You have provided our family, and help us to be willing to share with others who suffering from lack or other reasons beyond their control.

Father, please provide for all of those who are less fortunate than we and those who do not have all of the freedoms we enjoy today. May our Country, it’s leaders, and all of it’s citizens work together in the coming days, to assure that our freedom is never lost by our neglect.  Without Your help, dear Father, we are lost as a nation, and may never see the promise of “justice for all”.  In Christ’s name we pray.  Amen.

Setting out “lines” with Dad

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Marmaton River at Stewart’s Dam             Photo by Andy Cramb

The only team sport I remembered my dad taking an interest in was baseball.  When I was a young boy he somtimes took me to watch other local men playing softball or baseball at a local field.  To my knowledge Dad never played himself nor did he particularly encourage me to learn to play.  On the other hand, Dad loved to fish and hunt, sports he often enjoyed sharing with his closest male friends.  He had plethora of fishing equipment, enough for himself and anyone else in the family who would go with him.  

By the time I was 10 or 11, he had taught me how to prepare my own pole with line and Fishing with Daddybait and how and where to cast out into the water.  I remember his delight when he would take me to the park as a youngster to fish one of the small lakes where any hook with a worm on it would be swallowed up by a Sun-Perch as soon as it hit the water.  Dad also had a rowboat that he’d take out on larger lakes or the nearby Marmaton River to flyfish.  Sometimes he’d put Mom in the back of the to fish and me in the front with my own cane pole, while he rowed us to the best fishing holes.  Once there, Dad would pick up his fly-rod and begin whipping it in the air until he had enough line out to place his fly or lure in just the right spot to get a bite.  In addition to his love for fishing with friends, he always enjoyed taking his family out fishing with him.

One of my favorite kinds of fishing involved taking the boat out on the river in the early evening to set out “trotlines” and “limblines”.  As I grew older, Dad would let me row the boat up the river from Stewart’s Dam on the lower side of Gunn Park, pulling in toward shore at various places spaced out along the riverside where trees or brush grew out over the river.  Dad had a collection of lines cut about 3-4 feet long with a sinker and hook on one end, and a knot on the other end.  He would tie the line to a low, overhanging branch so that the hook was near the river-bottom and then apply a variety of baits to the hooks.  His favorite bait for these limb-lines were small Perch or Minnows that he’d hook by the tail so they could swim around enough to attract bigger fish.  

After setting out 20 or 30 of these lines along the both sides of the river, we’d unroll one or two sturdy, light cotton ropes across the river, securely tying each end of the rope to a tree or bush on opposite sides of the riverbank.  Across the length of the rope Dad had tied metal eyelets or rings, about 3 feet apart, to which we attached some of the limb lines, complete with bait and sinkers to hold them down in the water.  This “trot-line”, so named because the gentle flow of the river’s current made it bounce up and down slightly as it flowed past the immersed rope, would then provide tempting morsels of bait all across the river where our trot-line traversed it.  

By the time we finished setting out all of our lines and returned to where we had launched the boat it was fully dark.   We’d climb out and Dad would produce a snack and a Thermos of hot coffee or chocolate for us to drink while we waited.  I enjoyed these short breaks together with Dad because they provided rare opportunities for us to talk and tell stories.

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Carbide Lamp

Before going home for the night, Dad would fire up a couple of Carbide lamps for us to use for light, and we’d again board the boat and row up and back down the river checking our lines.  This time we didn’t have to get back under the limbs to see whether there was a “catch” or not.  If there was a fish on the line it would cause the limb to bob up-and-down an we knew there was a fish caught on it.  Likewise, the trot-line would usually be bouncing from more than the current of the river if it had fish that had hooked themselves on one or more of the lines.  After checking that all was ready for a night of fishing, we’d load our boat on Dad’s home-made trailer and return home to sleep in our own beds, or else on a rare occasion, retreat to our tent to pass the night.  Early in the morning we’d return to the river to retrieve all of the lines and Dad would carefully lay them out on the deck of the boat to keep them from tangling.  Those hooks that had caught fish were carefully removed from the their mouths and the fish were tied to a stringer that Dad attached to a railing inside the boat so they could stay in the water until we were finished.

These nocturnal fishing trips with Dad hold very fond memories foùr me because they were always very special, a time to get to know him in a very personal way.  Although Dad has been gone for nearly fifty years, now, just remembering those nocturnal fishing trips with him always bring a smile to my face and a longing in my heart for just one more trip up the Marmaton River with him to set out lines.

GA

Top Photo from MTB Project: Gunn Park Trails

Making the Right Choice

(The following was written on Oct. 25, 2015, but has not been previously published)

It was the end of May 1957.  I was only 17, a few weeks before my 18th birthday.  School had ended and I had graduated from High School. My intention was to begin college in the fall to pursue a degree in electrical engineering, the profession my father had planned for me.  Dad’s intentions were good.  He only wanted me to complete college and be able to make a better living for myself than he had with his limited eighth grade education.  Somehow, in my heart I knew electrical engineering was not really my passion.  Nevertheless, I enrolled in junior college that fall and took only math and science courses that first year.

Shortly after school started that fall, I came to know Jesus Christ in a very personal way.  Although I had gone to church with my mother as a boy, I never really had such an encounter with God.  In the days ahead it became more and more clear to me that He was speaking to a very Man Reading Bibledifferent place in my heart regarding my professional plans. Although I loved my college physics class, college level mathematics was much harder than I expected and I began to realize that my heart was not in theoretical studies.

At my little church, I had been asked to teach a group of junior high school boys.  I had never been around kids that much younger than me, so I was skeptical.  But as I got to know the boys (there were only about 4) I realized that I really enjoyed being with them.  God began showing me He was calling me to work with children.

The next year I enrolled in courses I would have never considered before:  introduction to education and psychology.  It only took me a few weeks to realize that for the first time in my life my heart was really happy and at peace. I had decided that I wanted to teach in elementary school. Needless to say, Dad was not pleased.

“Why do you want to teach little kids?  That’s no kind of profession for a man!” my dad was incensed.  “How do you expect to raise a family on a teacher’s salary?”

I finished junior college and went on to the state teachers’ college to finish my degree.  In the spring of 1961 I finished my degree program and started teaching fifth grade in the fall.  Although Dad was still disappointed that I didn’t pursue electrical engineering, he was proud that all three of his children had graduated from college.

When I retired years later I wondered what my life would have been like if I had not followed my heart.  Would I have finished college?  Would I have been successful as an electrical engineer?  Teaching young children was not considered by most men to be a “manly” pursuit.  But God gave me 34 years of joy doing what He had etched on my heart when I was still a teenager.

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How many men truly follow their hearts and choose a profession that allows them to express who they really are?  How many choose to spend a lifetime trying to fulfill the dreams of their fathers?  How many choose those professions that allow them to further isolate themselves from people because they are afraid of exposing their hearts or opening up places of pain in their lives they are unwilling to face?