Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"Peace on Earth?"

You've got to be kidding, right? It's sure not exactly the thing that reaches out and grabs you when you survey the world today. Everywhere you look there seems to be an overwhelming abundance of the opposite.

I could say amen to the words of the song that says, "Then in despair I bowed my head, there is NO peace on earth I said, for hate is strong and mocks the song, of peace on earth, goodwill to men".

 Why oh why, since we're so ever-increasingly evolved and so dreadfully smart, why can't we just all get along? Where is the promised "peace" that this long awaited Prince of Peace was supposed to bring?

You see the absence of it among the nations. Here recently, China claims some uninhabited islands and the air space above them as their own. The next day or two the U.S., Japan, and South Korea all fly planes through the area just for spite. Reminds me of adolescent boys on the school playground jostling over a line in the sand.

Recently I spent some time looking thru a bunch of photos of the conflict in Syria. 100,000 killed so far with multitudes displaced and living as refugees. The photos mostly showed the "brave"soldiers, aiming their rifles out thru the holes of the bombed out buildings.

The ones I was thinking mostly about were the children. Huddled somewhere living in constant fear of when the next bomb will drop. I can hardly stand to think about it, it's so far beyond sad. It seems that the innocent are always the ones who have to suffer the most. 

Peace on earth? Definitely not in Syria. And we could go around the globe; it's reeling chock full of sadness and unrest. And one of the saddest things is the percentage of terrible things that go on in the name of religion. And the saddest of all is when supposed followers of this Jesus, the "Prince of Peace", take up violence to defend or promote their cause.

Of course, some say religion is the cause of our dilemma. If we'd all be atheists we'd have our problems solved. Nah, I doubt it. Or some say get rid of all the arms and weaponry. Nah again; we'd probably just go back to beating each other up with clubs like cave men. And anybody knows it's drastically more civilized to blow somebody up at a distance than it is to crack their skull open from three feet away.

I've  been reading in Isaiah the last while. A whole lot of it is big-time gloom and doom. Reminds me a great deal of what could be said of our world today. But then every so often, when it seems the gloom and doom just can't get any darker, here comes a blazing flash of holy light!

For example, here's how chap. 8 is ending. "Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom"... Sounds pretty much like the evening news, doesn't it?

But go on to chap.9-"Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a  light has dawned! (exclamation point mine) For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on HIS shoulders (can't wait!), of the increase of HIS government and peace there will be NO END, establishing and upholding it with JUSTICE and RIGHTEOUSNESS from that time on and FOREVER." 

And from Is. 2-" He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples, they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."

It seems obvious to me that this Prince of Peace, who came as a babe, has some unfinished business. What a comfort to know there is someone with enough power to set all the wrong things right.

But what do we do until then? I mean, you and I aren't going to change the world. The nations aren't going to pay us one lick of attention.

But there is one small thing that we can do. We can make our hearts a place where the Prince of Peace can set up his throne. That will make each of us a Peaceful Kingdom of One; shedding just a little bit of wonderful light into the oppressive darkness. There's no greater calling.

                                                                                   Until the Prince takes over,

Saturday, November 2, 2013

"Not By the Hair of My Chinny-Chin-Chin"

Lest you think I've been influenced by "Duck Dynasty" and the Boston Red Sox, I'll set the record straight right here at the onset. My chin disappeared in the summer of 1988 and hasn't been seen since. Personally, I'd like to keep it that way.

I never was that impressed with my chin anyway. It sort of slopes off to the south in a wimpish sort of way, so I was more than happy to get it out of sight.

That reminds me of long-faced Harrisonburg native Ray Shank. He was a born and bred Southeasterner before he married a second cousin of mine from Aroda and defected to the Beachy church in that area. I met him some time after he got married and he had grown a very nice beard in the meantime. I complimented him on it and he grinned, "I guess anything would be an improvement!", he said.

I'm not sure when I first started having a hankering for a beard. I remember having a talk at church soon after we were married and saying that I may look like something different on the surface, but in my heart I'm a bearded Alaskan.

A few years before my beard started to grow. I have a feeling that I would have matured much sooner but I was stunted by that top button choking the life out of me.

  If you had spent as many years scrawny as I had, you might understand why I wanted a beard. To me it seemed part of what it meant to finally be a man.

 But in our setting, it wasn't just real easy to get it accomplished. You have to remember, we hadn't long come out of those terrible Sixties, and the Seventies weren't much better with the long haired, bearded Hippies having their heyday.
Newly married, 1977. Man, were we ever skinny!
But the more I thought about it, the more the idea grew on me. (ha, that's sort of how it happens with beards) I began to talk about the possibility, but it wasn't received overly well. There were several beards in our church at the time, but these were men that had come from Beachy background and had beards when they came. And supposedly had "Convictions". For one of us young guys to grow a beard, well, we were probably following that rebellious hippie movement.
Still no beard; probably about 1986.
Finally the ministry decided to have a meeting where this would be discussed. And our bishop, Leon, told me I could talk and explain why I wanted to have a beard. You better believe I did my homework.

The time came for the meeting. I got up and said that it would be nice to have a clear verse to quote to support my position. The nearest thing I could find, I said, was where it says that whatsoever God has joined together let not man put asunder. Later when Leon got up to close he said that there is also a verse that talks about wood, hay, and stubble. (why is it that you always remember the humor and not the main points?)

Mary claims to this day that I talked for almost an hour. I still don't believe it. I do know I said I felt frustrated because I might be the first man in my family line since Adam to NOT have a beard. (my forebears were Amish) I don't really remember what else. I do remember that dear old worry-wart Noami Zehr, who not everyone got along with but I always did,  said that she worried about getting them caught in the PTO. (FYI we had cool abbreviations way back then; PTO stands for power take off; the shaft that runs from the tractor to a machine)

My talk must have been somewhat convincing, because after the service my cousin Howard came to me and said, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."

To make a long story short, the ok was given that you could have a beard. Without a mustache, that is. I was convinced at the time, but churchwise it took us several more years to realize that God had probably created those upper lip hairs at the same time as the lower ones and that they were part of what made up a "beard".
No mustache.
So should a man need a "conviction" to have a beard? I say humbug. Do you have a conviction for eyebrows and toenails? A beard grows naturally, just the same as they do. I feel quite comfortable with the verses in Genesis that say how God created mankind male and female (with their differences) and when He was all finished He said it was all "very good".  And I feel like if it was good enough for God, it was good enough for me. In any case, if there is a conviction needed, the burden of conviction should be on the one that shaves.

Now, I get along fine with my brothers in the church that don't have beards, although it is completely beyond me how they can stand to keep scraping (or buzzing) away at their chins week after week  and going around with cheeks almost as smooth as a woman. Especially with winter coming on. But it's up to them.
A year ago at Thanksgiving; me and the coon seem to be graying at about the same rate.

For me, if my chin ever comes into public view again you can be assured that I have either lost my mind or somebody stronger is shaving me against my will.

Maybe you're trying to decide if a beard might be God's will for you. Here's a test. Go to the woods for a week of fasting and prayer. Or take plenty of food along. Not to minimize prayer and fasting, but the week is what's important here.

 Then come home and look in the mirror. You just might get your first clue.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Another blog so soon? I know, I've pretty much fallen into the groove of being a one-blog-a-month kind of guy, so one this soon is a little out of character.

But I got all inspired about something today and just had to let you in on it.

It all started with today being my friend Verlyn's 52nd birthday. So, out of the goodness of my heart I felt I should wish him well and encourage him as best I could, seeing that it's all downhill from here.

So we had a really nice exchange and I got to thinking some more. About how we men catch it from the ladies about how we don't have meaningful and in-depth conversations, like, of course, they do.

Well, obviously they haven't listened in on a conversation between Verlyn and I. The one today was full of heartfelt caring, honesty and in-depth discussion. Life and death was actually one of the main topics at hand.

And when I say conversation, I don't mean actual talking, but texting. Texting is a great method of communication. You can say something very short that you would never call someone up to tell them and then hang up. It also gives you time to think of the perfect response back where you couldn't (at least I couldn't) think that fast on the phone.

So anyway, I thought I would let you listen in to our communication today to prove my point that ladies don't have a monopoly on good and in-depth sharing. I thought about getting Verlyn's permission, but then I thought, nah, if he doesn't like it I'm sure he'll get over it. That's another thing men have going for them, they get over things. I think it's because they can only think of one thing at a time so as soon as they have to start thinking about the next thing, the former thing vanishes in thin air.

Okay, let's get started.....................

Me: Hey Birthday Boy. I had thought about sending you flowers since I wasn't sure if I would make it to your funeral. You know, I might be fishing or something important.

Verlyn: Well, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to send me this text that was far beyond what I expected or even imagined. But you might want to reconsider coming to my funeral because you could be one of the lucky six. I'm giving my wife money to pay the pallbearers. I figured it would be cheaper and easier to hire six after I'm dead than it would be to make six friends and try to keep them while I'm living.

Me: Hey, you're a pretty good sized guy. I'd save up enough money to hire eight if I were you.

Verlyn: All the prospects that even seem interested (that Ruth is working with) were raised with me and are rough and burly and she said that four of them could do it. So you wouldn't even be considered anyway. I was just trying to be a friend and help you out, but she is looking for a deal, not a big showy thing.

Me: How about I come supervise for only half again as much as you're paying each of the four actual workers? I could tell them when to cry, etc.

Verlyn: You might be good, but trying to get one of them to cry at my funeral, good luck. They don't even cry when there is something to cry about.

Me: I was afraid of that; them not bein' cultured enough. You think some well timed tear gas might do the trick?

Verlyn: They use that for happy hour just for something to do.

Me: Sounds like a scary bunch. I might be too scared to come at all. Maybe I'll just send a card.

Verlyn: You are a better steward than that, man! Don't waste your money.

Me: You're right. How about in the case of your demise I just send Ruth a text with my condolances and wish her better luck the next go-round. But in the meantime, enjoy that birthday!

There you have it. I hope I encouraged him on his birthday. I know it sure cheered me up to have a good manly, heartfelt, honest and in-depth conversation.

If this is what the women are having on a regular basis, I'll have to admit, they're really on to something!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"The Trip of a Deathtime"

      I would have expected to call it "The Trip of a Lifetime". And let me hasten to say that we (surprisingly enough) actually did all survive. It's just that we were within mere feet of sure death for awhile there. At least if you subscribe to one party's version of the story.
      Let me explain. Mary and I have always loved the mountains. And going to Glacier National Park has always been on our dream list. Several years ago Myron's and myself drove thru the park one day but Mary wasn't along.
      So I said this summer it is going to happen. Myron's and us rented a house near East Glacier Park Village for a week. Montana, here we come.
       We flew into Great Falls late one evening, got a motel, and headed out the next day, arriving at our rented house that evening.
      I had recommended that the next day we would head over the Marias Pass on Rt. 2 to the west side of the park and then come back thru on the "Going to the Sun Road". This would give us a good overview of the park right at the beginning of our stay. Mistake No. 1.
      I would have a suggestion for the Park management. Right below the grizzly sign they need to have another one saying, "If you are transporting a highly-strung female with bad nerves who is deathly afraid of heights, it is strongly recommended that you lock her in the trunk before proceeding any further. Failure to do so could significantly and negatively affect the quality of your trip." We, as you might have imagined by now, had one of those  on board.
      Which, even if the sign would have been there, it wouldn't have done us no whole-lotta good, seeing we were driving a rented Suburban, which has a pretty poor excuse for a trunk. If I had it to do over again  we would have started in on the east side and came out on the west. As it was, for the better part of 50 miles Mary was on the dreaded "tippy" side. And suffice it to say, she's not one to suffer in silence on these things. A day or so later she asked almost 3 yr. old Caleb, "What was Gramsy saying on that mountain?" He responded emphatically, "You said, GET ME OUT OF HERE!"
      But, as I mentioned, we did survive. With one set of nerves melted down and all others only slightly frayed.
      If I had it to do over again I would do more hiking. At first the idea of a possible grizzly encounter sort of spooked me. But when you were out there and there were plenty of other hikers on the trail, it didn't seem as scary.
     One day Mary and I hiked in to a falls. We were standing at an overlook when a young man walked up and was looking over as well. I sized him up and said, "Now, you look like one of those 'real' hikers".
He laughed. He said he's done a little. After visiting with him some more, we find out that this summer he's been hiking the Continental Divide Trail. It starts at the Mexican border and runs all the way to Canada. Three thousand one hundred miles! He started in April and was within several days of the end of his trip.
       Mary asked him how many pairs of shoes it takes. He said these he had on were pair number four. You usually get 500 to 700 miles out of a pair, he said. We asked him about bears on the trail. In three thousand miles of trail he had seen one bear in New Mexico. Plenty of moose and elk though.
Life in the fast lane.
      My favorite part of the park was the Many Glacier area. Most of our wildlife sightings were there. Saw 5 bears (all along the road, not on the trail) several bull moose, mountain goats and must have seen a hundred bighorn sheep. All ewes and lambs; didn't see any rams. We watched an ewe and a lamb moving across the mountain slope and every time you thought for sure that they wouldn't go up any further, they would hop up one more ledge and keep going.

   And the mountain goats were the highest of all. I was fascinated with them. (and maybe a little envious) It's like they live up there and just let the world go by below them. They're like the "Alm Uncle" of the mammal world.  I read that they live at such high elevations that they have no predators at all except that once in awhile an eagle will get a newborn kid.
I challenge you to find the goat in this "naked eye" picture.
Same mountain, zoomed in as far as I could go. He's the white dot in the center.

Our highlight was the day Mary and I hiked to Iceberg Lake, which was almost ten miles round trip. The trail climbed about 1,100 feet but it was basically a gradual climb the whole way. A lot of trail was thru open country where you could see vast distances in all directions.
Check out the high-octane mountain climbing drink.

The trail didn't have many steep drop-offs so it worked well for my nerve-shattered wife. I was thinking that Iceberg Lake might have been hyped up a little and was expecting to see maybe several small blocks of ice floating in it. (after all, we were there the first week in September) But some of the icebergs were as big as small houses. A stunningly gorgeous place.
And I was lucky enough to catch the Iceberg Lake mermaid out and about.
On the way back out from Iceberg Lake. Probably 6 miles done and 4 to go. Mary is in pain. I'm suspicious that, like Elijah, Mary was praying for a chariot ride.
There was incredible beauty on every hand. Every time I think of the scenery there it brings a soothing and peaceful feeling over me.
St. Mary Lake. (probably named after a different Mary than the one I know)
One other highlight was the huckleberry ice cream. And the huckleberry pie. One evening we were coming thru East Glacier Village and the sign on a little restaurant in town said huckleberry pie. The women were dead set that we needed one. Now I'm not one to go into strange places and ask strange questions, but I figured these were some pretty good ladies and this was one thing I could do for them.
        So I go in and ask if I can get a whole pie. They said sure. Bring the pan back and you get a deposit back or else a free piece of pie.  I take it out to the Suburban. "No whipped cream?!" the ladies say. So I go back in and the waitress gives me some whipped cream for free. "What did it cost", Mary wonders? I told her I wasn't telling.
        But the next day when she was bragging about the great deal she got on a pretty pink jacket that was marked down to $40.00, I told her that that's about the same deal as a huckleberry pie. Exactly the same actually. Well, except for the $5:00 deposit that you get back. Mary about fell over.
      I've got to say a little about the Great Plains yet. Flying over, the plains look all so boring. But the evening before we were to fly out of Great Falls the next morning, I got in the car by myself and drove for nine miles down a dirt road and back. I met three vehicles in those 18 miles. All three waved at me. I guess they figure they better wave when they have the chance.
       But it gave me a totally different outlook on the plains. With that much sky to see in every direction,there's no way possible it could ever be boring to live there. I absolutely loved it. In fact, if I had to choose, I would live on the plains with the mountains in the distance. There was something about the vast space of things that took your breath away.
In the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

      There was lots of open range land. You see horses or cows along  (or in) the road. There were cattle guards on the exit and entrance ramps of the interstate to keep the livestock from wandering there. It gave me the feeling that nature has the right-of-way in Montana.
You couldn't judge the distances. What you thought looked like a mile or so might be 3or4 miles.
       And the clouds. It was like seeing them three dimensionally. It was AWESOME. And that's a word I  rarely ever use.
        It was an awesome trip.

Even if, for awhile there, we were treading on the brink of certain death.

P. S. Mary has always wanted to go to Switzerland. She says now that she will be content to just look at the pictures.



Saturday, August 24, 2013

"Time BWE"

Do you ever wish for life like it was in simpler times?

Me too. Like time BWE. Now, I feel like keeping you guessing awhile before I tell you what "BWE" stands for. Maybe it's, "Before We Evolved". Yeah, that would be simple sure enough; not nearly so many worrisome decisions to make.

Or how about "Before Winter Equinox"? Or "Before Winnie's Eeyore"? Actually that last one could fit. As in how some of us Yoders (me and my friend Jeremy mostly) are afflicted with the "Eeyore Syndrome", but we didn't really realize it until we worked our way up to reading Winnie the Pooh later in life and now we feel worse than ever because we understand what's wrong with us and know what to expect in the dismal future.

But no, that's not it either. You might as well give up, because you'll never guess it.

It stands for "Before Weed Eaters".

What in the world?, you say. Aren't weed eaters a great invention?

Yes, they are a marvelous one. But the timing of the feminist movement and the appearance of weed- eaters in the 1970's was a bad combination.

Let me explain it this way. We have a weed-eater. And my otherwise good wife Mary loves to weed eat.

Now to most husbands, this sounds like a winning combination. But don't be so quick to jump to conclusions here. There are a few problems that go along with this otherwise rosy picture.

For one thing, she usually can't start the thing. So I suppose you can guess who gets the honors. You're right, that would be me.

Now it's not so bad if I'm going to be on the premises. But sometimes I'm not going to be and she'll say something like, "Will you start the weed-eater for me before you leave for work?" So I start it and race out the lane and up the road as fast as I can so hopefully I'll be out of sight by the time it stalls.

For the second thing, she doesn't have the foggiest idea how to fix the string when it messes up, which for her happens a lot. (mechanical things aren't her strong point)  Really and truly and honestly, she is absolute MURDER on weed-eater string. In fact, they should hire her to TEST weed-eater string.

 I can see the ad now, "Brand X weed-eater string; best on the market! Outlasted all others in Mary's famous and grueling weed-eater string trials!)

You would think with that feminine touch she would operate the thing with finesse, but no, if you listen, you can hear the string whap-whap-whapping against whatever it is that she's weed-eating around. All of Mel Good's fence posts have marks around the bottom from the weed-eater string. I wonder what he will say when they start falling down due to having been weed-eated in two.

And then there's the thing about gas. We don't have our personal weed-eater gas can. (We should)  I usually try to keep the tank full by taking it along to work and filling it with chain saw gas. But, alas, sometimes I forget.

Just the other day I was doing something important, like unloading logs. My phone rings. It's her. She wants to weed-eat but there's no gas here. There is this certain "martyr-type" tone of voice she uses. She has mentioned this before, about the gas. She says (like she has many times before) that she is going to get her own personal weed-eater gas can so she can have gas when she needs it.

Which would all be well and good except for one thing. Our weed-eater has this new-fangled gas cap that for the life of her she can't figure out how to get open. ( had I mentioned that mechanical things aren't her strong point?)

Well, it's off my chest now. I may be headed for the doghouse directly.

I sure hope it doesn't need any weed-eating done around it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

"The Old Swimmin' Hole"

We went to the old swimmin' hole last evening. Myron called and said they were taking the boys down and wondered if we wanted to stop by.

I didn't actually swim, but man, did the memories ever come back thick and fast about the place. I realized how privilaged we were growing up to have our "own" personal swimming hole. (well, it wasn't ours exactly. It was on Uncle Robert's farm, later to be cousin Dwayne's) And how, at the time we might not have been able to verbalize it, we thought anyone who didn't have a creek was dreadfully deprived.

As the crow flies, over the field and down the ridge it was less than a quarter-mile from our place. And in the summer we made it there almost every day. I have no doubt but that some of those years you could have found my DNA in a sample of Albemarle Sound water, which is where the water from Seneca Creek eventually ends up.

In the spring of the year one of the main things on our young minds was, "When will it be warm enough to begin swimming?" The hotter the forecast got, the better it sounded. Actually, I should rephrase that. I should have said it was our parents that were concerned about when it was "warm enough".

For us, if it wasn't frozen over, swimming was fair game. In fact,one year several friends and I made a solemn pact that we would swim in every month of the year. I don't think we quite got it accomplished; I think we may have missed Jan. and Feb., but I'm pretty sure we got all the rest. Some of those months like Nov. and Dec. you absolutely couldn't make yourself get in the water by just wading in. The only way was to jump or dive in off the "rock". (you know, you couldn't change your  mind once you were in midair) The transformation was amazing. You would dive off the rock a quiet and serene Mennonite kid and come up a shouting charismatic. But you felt deliciously good after it was all said and done.

One of my earlier memories of the swimming hole was a time before I knew how to swim. The hole seemed big, deep and scary. I was innocently standing on the rock watching the older boys swim when all of a sudden two of my cousins, Joe and Howard picked me up from behind. One had my feet and another my legs. They swung me back and forth several times like a sack of potatoes and then gave me a heave into the deep.
Looking upstream at the swimming hole, which begins on the upstream side of the big rock. Actually, the rock we dived off of is hidden by the rock in the picture.

I forgave Howard quicker because he jumped in alongside me and plucked me out of the water before I had taken in a lethal dose of Seneca Creek water. It took a little longer to forgive Joe, as he just looked down from the rock and laughed.

I said earlier that we looked at it as "our" swimming hole. Well, it didn't end up quite that way in real life. This spot in the creek was well known in the community and sometimes other people were there, much to our dismay. We always hoped on the way down that nobody would be there that day.

One time there were some other boys there who we didn't know and we decided on a plan. (I'm guessing the plan was mine, since I was the oldest that day) Dwayne's cows were grazing in the field alongside the creek, so we got in behind them and began herding them towards the swimming hole, shouting and raising a ruckus. "Watch out for the bull!", we shouted to each other. I'll have to admit that's about as close as I ever came to telling a bald-faced lie, as the truth was, there was no bull there at all.

We did manage to get the cows all herded right into the swimming hole. It definitely  got the other boys out, but they just sat on the bank and looked at the cows and looked at us. I can't remember if we got to swim that day or not!

One game we used to love to play was a game of points that used cans. We would gather up cans along the road on the way down and come up with a points system. Common cans like Miller High Life or Old Milwaukee were one point apiece. Some rarer cans might have been worth five or ten points. There would be one can, say a Shlitz Malt Lager, that would be worth twenty-five points.

Then we would fill all cans with water, to make them sink, and randomly throw them all over the swimming hole. (Although the randomness could be disputed; just recently at our last family reunion, my brother Robbie accused me of throwing the "valuable" cans in the "deep part" where the younger ones like him were too afraid to go) Then each of us would make a circle in the sand for our cans, and on the count of ready, set, go!, we dove furiously all over trying to find as many cans as possible. When that round was over we would add up our points to determine the winner. I'll put that game up alongside any computer game out there, even if it was played with beer cans.

We camped many nights on the bluff overlooking the swimming hole. Anybody for swimming at night? It was wonderful! There aren't many places as dark on a moonless night as a swimming hole with overhanging trees. But if you have a lantern on the rock..........

One night (I hope the statue of limitations has run out on getting into trouble with my folks over this one; it's been forty years ago) we found that if we took gas and threw it out over the water, it would, of course, float on top. Then you could light it and fire would float down the creek. We would dive in and swim under the fire. It was an amazing and spectacular show with the flames of the fire reflecting and bouncing around with the moving water. (Parents: warn your children never to do this; oh, that's right. Not to worry. They're playing computer games)

When I think of pure relaxation and contentment, I think of a scene from the old swimmin' hole. I came by one day and saw Johnny Irby in the hole. Now Johnny was one of those guys who shaved when he got around to it. It might go a week or two in between. (I was like that too, until I gave up altogether twenty-five years ago)

The day I went past it was was very hot and muggy. Old Johnny was in the swimming hole, right it the deepest part up next to the rock, with basically just his head sticking out. He had his soap, shampoo and towel laid out. He had a small mirror propped up on a ledge on the rock and he had himself all lathered up and he was shaving.

The sheer contentment of it all impressed me greatly. I thought to myself that there would be no better comfort on a hot muggy day to get deep into the swimming hole and drink a cold Dr. Pepper at the same time. So, sometime later, I tried it.

It wasn't as great as I expected. What makes a cold Dr. Pepper so good is the contrast between being so hot on the outside with the cool liquid going down the inside.

I've thought of many life lessons with the old swimming hole in mind. The hole itself was in a bend in the creek and each year the topic of discussion in the spring would be how the hole would be this summer. Sometimes the current would come to one side of the bank and curl back upstream on the other side. Sometimes the current would be the other way. Sometimes the hole was filled in somewhat with sand, sometimes it was washed out and was deeper.

But "the rock" was always the same. It never changed. Hundreds of years ago when the Indians walked across that same trail alongside the bluff, I'm sure that rock looked exactly the same as it did yesterday.

I could go on and on. About the beauty of swimming in the rain. (underwater the raindrops make quite a loud sound) I could tell you about the cable we had fastened up in a leaning Birch tree and how you could swing way out over the swimming hole. Or of trying to get cousin Delvin out of the swimming hole when it was time to go home. (you couldn't)
The next generations having a blast in the creek. (grandsons Caleb and Clifton)
Long live swimming in the creek!

But I've got to stop. Let's just say if you're one of those terribly unfortunate ones who grew up without a creek in your childhood, I feel dreadfully sorry for you. You have been deprived of one of the greatest pleasures known to growing boys.

I'll pray, that God in His grace, will make it up to you some other way.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

"The Family Reunion"

Today we had our first annual Fourth of July week family reunion. We've decided getting together at Christmas time is often too complicated with so many family connections that we will do ours in the summer. When I say family reunion, I mean my mom and dad, us siblings, our children, and a growing number of our children's children.

The reunion will alternate between here and Floyd, VA with us siblings taking turns being in charge. My brother Calvin just may be out of luck (or maybe he gets off scott free, depending on how you feel about it) since he lives in Indiana.

This time Mary and I were in charge so we decided to keep the meal simple. We did. Domino's simple!As I was loading up the stacks of pizza boxes (about a dozen in all) a gentleman walks in behind me and was watching. I told him I was feeling a hungry spree coming on.

After eating we sat around for a time of sharing and fellowship. I told them of the strange thing that happened to me the other evening. Our Sunday evening program guy had planned a service for the "over 50" crowd. They had invited Papa to come speak to the gathering. I was going to help sing in an over 50 group. On the way to church I was thinking to myself that I never would have dreamed that my dad and I would be having part in the SAME old people's service. I thought he was permanently older than me. Or maybe that I was permanently younger.

I said also that growing up we didn't necessarily have a flamboyant  family life. Our  idea of a nice family evening was all of us sitting around the living room reading books. One evening Robbie wondered if anyone would notice if he came out in his blue long johns to read his book.

 Nobody did.

At this point Mary stood up and said that we had calm family life until I got married. She told how when we were first married we lived right beside Papa and Mama and she would borrow lots of things off  Mama. (we were poor as church mice and didn't have much) She said Mama was always so gracious and would loan her anything she wanted. Until one day she decided that I wasn't getting the brush and trees around our trailer cleaned up fast enough and she went up the hill and asked Mama if she could borrow the chain saw. Mama told her maybe she better wait until I get home.

 I said I did sort of envy some of my cousins at times. Uncle Bud's family and Uncle Robert's family both had boys that were very close in age (I think it's Donnie and Joe that are actually the same age for about a week every year) and could have fair fights and such things. I was always in awe of how cousin Jerry knocked out his brother Howard once in a fight.

I was the oldest in our family and then sister Judy came along 3 years later. So my closest brother is Robbie, who is five years younger than me. Now I told them that I was scrawny but Robbie was scrawnier. If I tried to fight with him, I was just seen as an older bully picking on him, and that was no fun at all. If I made him mad all I had to do was hold him at arm's length and he could swing all he wanted to and never hit me. About here Robbie spoke up and said he learned that the way to do was to get in one punch and run.

We took turns going down thru the families. Nephew Steven said if anyone wonders why he is the way he is, that he had a very traumatic thing happen to him when he was growing up. How when he was young he had this habit of picking his nose. He had a substitute teacher one day (Aunt Mary) and Mary was reading them a story. He was peacefully sitting in his desk minding his own business (and picking his nose)  when Mary stops right in the middle of her story and says, "And Steven, stop picking your nose!"

 Afterwards Mary (who didn't remember the incident at all) asked Steven if he would forgive her. He said he would if she would help him pay his Faith Builders counseling bill.

There were more memories shared and quite a bit of singing by different groups. I closed it by saying how when I think of growing up in our family, the things I think about most are peace and security. We took it for granted back then, but I'm afraid the percentage of homes today that have the peace and security we enjoyed are by far in the minority. Thank you, Papa and Mama!

We finished the day off with a softball game. And was it ever hot. At least 90 degrees and humid. We had a 47 year age range; the youngest player being 10 and the oldest 57. My brother Steve and his wife Joan were on different teams. Our team made a play at second (Joan was covering second) and got Steve out. So before he trots back in they have a quick hug. "No hugging on the field!", somebody shouts. "Fifteen yard penalty!", yells my brother Robbie.

It did me good to see my younger brothers getting more tired out and  red in the face than I was myself. We were going to play seven innings but along about the middle of the sixth Joan came over to me and said that Steve couldn't go anymore. So we decided to quit after we finished out the the sixth.

Our team was behind 24 to 22 but we had the last bat. We scored two runs to tie and someone else got on base.  Then the 57 year old hit a scorching line drive double over the shortstop's head to score the winning run and the game was over. (we won't mention his name here in case he would get the big head)

All in all, it was a lovely way to spend a hot July Saturday. For all of  you out there that are privileged, (as I am) to have family, be exceedingly grateful along with me.

There are multitudes out there who don't.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

"Trolls or No?"

I have no idea how you feel about trolls. Or especially how you feel about talking of them to young children. I mean, you could get them too scared to sleep in their own beds at night.

Well, a month or so ago Mary read grandson Caleb Merle "The Three Billy Goats Gruff". At the tender age of two and a half, it made quite an impression on him; especially the troll.

And it just so happens that Myron and Heidi's house sets on a little piece of higher group between two small streams. And crossing both of these streams are little bridges.
Doesn't this look a little "trollish" to you? You can almost see one peeping out. The sawmill is just on the other side of this creek and patch of woods.

This one looks like it could come right out of "The Three Billy Goats Gruff". See all that green grass on the one side?
Anyway, I just couldn't resist.(I'm a firm believer in children developing a little imagination) I told Caleb one day, "Look, I see a troll bridge!"

He ate it up hook, line and sinker. And ever after that they've been the "Troll Bridges".  Caleb uses a "w" for most of his "r" sounds, but in "bridge" he leaves out the "r" altogether. So it comes out "twoll bidge".

Now, Caleb and me are great buddies and almost every morning when I stop in to pick up Myron on the way to work, Caleb comes running out on the porch in his jammies to talk with me a little.
Nothing like a visit from Caleb to start your day off right!

 We talk about whether a bear came to see him during the night. Or about the "twoll bidges". (You can see both of them from the porch.) We talk about the things we hear running across the creek at the sawmill. He could tell you if it was "Jr's loader" running, the skid-loader,  a forklift, or the chipper making a big gnawing racket as it eats up a big slab from the sawmill.

One morning awhile back we were visiting (and I hadn't said a word that morning about trolls) and I heard a chain saw start up across the creek at the mill. I said, "Hey, I hear somethin' over at the sawmill!"

He got a great big grin on his face and his eyes were shining. "The twoll is cuddin' wood!" he said.

Monday, May 27, 2013

"My Sunday Afternoon Walk"

The Sunday afternoon walk was sort of a tradition in our family. That is for my dad, my brothers and my sister.We always left Mama at home and we'd always come back with a bouquet of some kind, of which Mama was always appreciative. Looking back now I'm pretty sure it was Papa's way of giving her a precious hour or two a week of peace and quiet. And we enjoyed the walk as well.

Still do. I enjoy going by myself and taking my peace and quiet along. The woods was made for peace and quiet. Now I know many people enjoy roaring thru the woods on 4-wheelers. While I know it's not a sin, to me it just borders on being sacrilegious. 

So, I went on a walk yesterday. Nothing earth shattering. Sure, I'd rather been in Glacier National Park, but that wasn't feasible for Sunday afternoon.

So instead I just eased to the backside of Airy Mont Farm to my favorite spot on Seneca Creek below Sheep Rock. How did it get it's name? The woods slopes down towards the creek here until it abruptly ends with a straight rock drop off of probably 35 feet down to the creek level. Legend has it that back in plantation days a pack of dogs was chasing sheep in this area and they went off the cliff and died.

Now I mentioned earlier about the peace and quiet. This year they are both in short supply around here. You see it's the year for the "17 year locusts". And from all appearances you would think it was a plague of Biblical proportions happening right in front of your eyes.

But actually, they're not locusts, but rather "Periodical Cicadas". The ones we are seeing now were born in 1996 and have spent the last 16 years as larvae in the ground. Now this is the year for them to come out, mate, and lay the eggs that will hatch out for the next cycle.
A cicada came out of each one of these holes!

When the larvae come out of the ground, the first thing they do is shed their old skin. The ground is littered with these empty skins.
Right handsome actually; red eyes and yellow tipped wings. Supposed to be good eating when they first come out.
For as many of them as you see, you would think they would eat everything green in sight. But they don't seem to eat anything. The only damage at all is to some of the smaller diameter tree branches which the females sort of spear to lay their eggs.

And they are LOUD! I read that the sound level from their "singing" can be as high as 100 decibels. Now this singing may not be as melodic as you might imagine. The nearest thing I would compare it to would be some of that Russian men's choral music where they stay on the same pitch for a very long time. Some folks say the noise drives them crazy. But personally, I think they were probably crazy to start with. To me, while the sound itself maybe isn't exactly beautiful, the amazing life cycle makes it a lovely sound to my ears. It sounds like they are just shouting about a Designer.

While I enjoyed the cicadas for awhile, I spent most of my time down in the creek.  Down in that creek canyon you feel like you've left the cares of civilization behind. I would say why don't you join me, but two's a crowd at this spot!
A little civilization going by high overhead. (Now that's BLUE sky and GREEN trees)

Look closely for Mama Duck and little ones.

Friday, April 19, 2013

"Till Death Do Us Part"

Sorry to disappoint you. I know when you read the title you were thinking that most likely the first "Eliezer Connected" couple was on their way up the aisle.

But to be honest, my phone hasn't exactly been ringing of the hook just yet. But on the flip side, the good news is that I haven't been run out of town on a rail yet either.

There was some good discussion going on lately and one of my favorite comments was someone who commented on Dorcas Smucker's "Thoughts on Marriage" post. (

This person said  it is so interesting "how people I've encountered from various cultures ended up in a pretty similar proportion of happy and unhappy marriages by vastly different means."

Well said. Which goes to show that the focus should be something other than finding the "perfect means" in getting the job done. (it also means that the "Eliezer Connection" could work, given the right focus otherwise)

One person said that she would very much enjoy being a part of an Eliezer connection for others, but couldn't imagine allowing some "disinterested third party" to play the same sort of role in her life.

I know what she means, but I was imagining everybody being very interested all the way around.

Take Abraham's servant, for instance. He stopped by the bosses tent that morning expecting to discuss where to graze the flocks and herds for the week and whether to make the tents out of goat or camel and were they going to kill the fatted calf for lunch or dinner, but instead Abraham blows him away with "Go get a wife for my son Isaac!"

I'm not sure how long the journey took, but you can be sure he had plenty of time to think. This whole story is high drama. ( I always get a little amused how drama is discouraged in our conservative Mennonite culture, but there sure is plenty of it in The Book!)

I can imagine him thinking about all the great and grave responsibilities he had as the steward of Abraham's vast portfolio of wealth. All that he was good with. This latest mission has him shaking in his sandals.

He was probably a lot of things, but I'll bet you "disinterested" wasn't one of them. What if he couldn't find a girl? What if he found her and she wouldn't come back with him? What if he found her and she came back but she ended up being a jerk? (can girls be jerks, or is that strictly a guy thing?)

 Read the story again in Genesis 24. If it doesn't give you goose bumps you're lacking in the feelings and emotions department.

Speaking of which, I do have a love story to tell you. I wasn't involved with getting them "connected", but a good love story nevertheless.

Now back when I was a kid we never, hardly ever saw Canadian Geese. We were too far from the coast and the migration routes. But gradually we began to get a few here and there and now we have a healthy population that stays here in south central Virginia and doesn't migrate at all.

In fact, some of the city parks are starting to look at them as a nuisance, they hang out there in large numbers, especially in the winter, and generally foul up the place. But out here in the country we still love having them around; to see and hear them fly overhead gives you that "call of the wild" sort of feeling.

On my way to work each morning, (3 mile drive) I go past four ponds that I can see from the road. And each one has a nesting pair of Canadians on them.

About two weeks ago I went down to Yeatts pond to check on the pair there and maybe get a few photos. When I got there the male wasn't at home. The female was on the nest and stayed there all hunkered down until I got quite close.

But finally I got "too close" and she erupted in a royal hissy fit. I thought maybe she would come after me, but she stayed at the nest while giving me a tremendous honking out.

The male must have been off feeding but after hearing his mate's frantic honking, he comes sailing in to the aid of his bride.
He gave me a piece of his mind as well.
You are remembering that Canadian Geese mate for life. Sit up and take notice, human race. We could learn something here about dedication and faithfulness.

When the geese are doing a better job than we are, shame on us.

Monday, March 25, 2013

"If I Ran the Zoo"

With all due apologies to Dr. Suess and the seriousness of the subject at hand, I just couldn't resist using that title.

Let me explain. A little over a month ago Shari Zook wrote a very short post entitled "PS". (look it up at  She stated that very few single ladies are single by choice and just wanted the men who happened to be reading to pass this on to their "compadres".

This prompted quite a few comments (mine included). I commented that I have some single guy friends who aren't necessarily single by choice either.  At the end of my comments I mentioned that I was having a brainstorm. How many single lady friends does she have, I asked. I've got three guys on my end, I said. Maybe we would be of some use in an "Abraham's servant" role here somewhere.

She commented back that I had a great idea. She has twenty-six, she said. She said she sees I will have to find some more men. She said she would supply the camels.

Which I have to admit was a very funny comeback. I laughed sitting at my computer for a long time. But really, I wasn't just joking. (read also her next post entitled "I Speak For the Trees", in which she spoke to the ladies; this generated lots of comments as well)

I have a few opinions of my own on the subject and since there is no one here to stop me I might just feel free to give them!

Let's get a few fundamentals down first:
1. Marriage is an exceedingly serious thing, so the contemplating thereof should not be taken lightly.
2. Marriage is not for everyone. A single person should NEVER be made to feel second-rate.
3. The falling-head-over-heels-in-love-with-your-soul-mate is overly hyped and over rated.

If you are a single person you may have a grandma or a biddy-hen aunt that feels its one of her highest duties to pester you about this subject. I think we would all agree that this usually isn't all that  helpful.

What about teasing? If done, it should be done VERY carefully. Looking back on my experience, (as a frightfully shy and slow to grow up skinny kid) if I was teased by my close friends who I knew loved and cared for me, it actually made me feel better about myself. That maybe I was worth teasing; like there was some room for possibilities in this area for me. But any teasing that comes from outside this close circle of friends is liable to be hurtful and crushing.

Know this couple? They met in a nursing home in 1976
And I've heard disparaging comments on how some couples meet. It seems like the "ideal" scenario is if you fall in love straight out of high school or the youth group. If that doesn't happen then maybe you should consider going to one of the Bible Schools. And if that doesn't work and you are getting older and desperate, you may want to consider going to SMBI, otherwise know as the "Shoe Factory". As in bringing the young people in, mending their souls first and then sending them out in pairs. And further down the line would be voluntary service, etc. etc.

That whole mentality really stinks in my book. I'd be willing to venture the relationships that begin at SMBI on the whole are quite a bit more stable than the "falling in love in high school"ones.

Do you need to wait until some romantic bombshell explodes in your consiousness before you move ahead in this area?? I say you better give it some thought beforehand, while you are still in your right mind.

What would be  wrong with a young single person (or not so young) making a simple, rational decision. That they would like to find a life's companion. (Ok Shari, I'll have to admit that in our culture the guys have the advantage here)

Now let's take it a step further. What would be wrong with second parties being a help in introducing singles who may not know each other at all? I know this does happen on occasion. But what if something was actually formally organized with this intent?

It could be called "The Eliezer Connection". It would work this way. Say I have a single friend that would like to be married. I also have connections with someone else who has some single friends of the opposite gender.

For example, I would say to my "connection friend" that I have a sincere, quiet, hard working young man and go on to give his character strengths (and maybe if there are any weaknesses, hey, we've all got them) and his interests. My "connection friend" would look over the possibilities among his aquiantances and we would get our heads together to see if we have a potential match. Up to this point the singles themselves would have zero involvement except to agree to allow "The Eliezer Connection" to do some homework.

At this point the Eliezer volunteers would go to the singles with a suggestion that they learn to know
 each other. And from this point they are on their own, realizing that the Eliezer people don't necessarily know the mind of God and that they are responsible to find this out for themselves.

Not romantic enough?? I have no idea what the ladies will say about this. I have this nagging vision of them tarring and feathering me and running me out to the edge of cyberspace somewhere.

Until then "The Eliezer Connection" is open for business!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Jersey and the Man-Shed"

Now, I'd heard of man-caves and man-sheds before but had never been in one. I guess I'd never felt the need. I do realize men need a place of solitude and quietness to connect with themselves and regroup and recharge to go out and face life for another day.

But hey, I can sit at home on the couch in plain view of my good wife and be in a cave all my own. Don't believe me? Just ask Mary, she'll tell you the truth. She's told me that she wishes I would at least grunt now and then, that way she would know that there's a slight chance that I possibly might have heard what she was just saying.

Of course, you would think that grunting would be a strong point of mine, you know, sort of natural-like. Especially since in years past she always said that I looked exactly like a Cro-Magnon man.Now, just so I don't put myself down too much, I will say that I've improved some over the years (although not in looks) and have actually learned a few words which add a nice touch along with the grunts.

I know, I know, I'm always getting sidetracked from getting on with my story, so here goes........

 Some years back when I was still logging I needed to cut a tract of timber where the only access was to come thru a neighboring property.

I had never met this man before, (we'll call him Jersey) so I went and talked with him and got permission to come up his driveway and go thru his cow pasture to get to the timber. I told him we would leave his driveway in good condition when we were finished. We did get along well the whole time considering the tract was 100 acres and it took a long time to get it cut. The only time he got a little bit aggravated at me was when I kept leaving the gate open when hauling loads and his cows kept getting out. After that I made a deal with him where I could shut a wire penning them out in the pasture for the day.

When Jersey got home from work he would often ride his four-wheeler down to see what we were doing. It was summer time when we started and he would come riding up shirtless, always with his Bud-Light in hand.

I wonder if the water was bad at his house and maybe all he ever drank was Bud-Light. Anyway, he had the most impressive beer belly I've ever seen. I had to wonder what it would have looked like if he had drank Bud-Heavy instead. I can tell you, it definitely gave me a new appreciation on shirts for men.

And also, Jersey was sort of a big talker, to put it kindly. Whenever he made an especially bold statement he would  heist himself up a little on his four wheeler, then secondly heist up his beer belly and proclaim his proclamation. It was fascinating to watch, although you didn't want to stare.

He told me how there was spotlighting going on in the neighbor's field just below his cowpasture, with people shooting deer there at night. He suspicioned that some of the local hunt club rednecks were guilty. He said he went to the hunt club meeting and fussed about it. He said he told them he was going to be down there with his gun and when HE shot, he was going to be aiming for the light.

One day I was looking for Jersey to ask him a question about something and I couldn't find him. I ran into Terry, who was a boyfriend of Jersey's daughter and he said that Jersey was out at "The Man-Shed."

Well, as I said before, I'd never been to one, so my interest perked up right away.

The Man-Shed was an old tobacco barn alongside the driveway that led up to the house. I had seen it plenty of times before without realizing it's significance. From the outside it looked very much still like the old tobacco barn that it was. But there were a few added features on the inside.

One was a fridge. Full of (what else?) Bud-Light. And a radio with which to play music. And a few  chairs for sitting. And that's about it. A picture of simplicity, really. (I mean, if this would have been "The Woman-Shed" you would have had to have curtains, rugs on the floor, tablecloths, candles and who knows what else)

But to be honest, I didn't really see much of anything about it that tempted me to get a man-shed of my own. I'd just as soon sit in my house.

To make a long story shorter, when we were just about to finish up the tract of timber, Jersey came riding down to see me. He thought he might want to select-cut a few of the trees on his side of the property line.

I wasn't really that interested in doing it, but I said I would go along and look at what he had in mind.

We walked  thru his woods and made our way back to his house.

 When we got back his wife met us in the back yard. She glared at Jersey with a gaze that would have withered an Arizona cactus. I looked at Jersey. I felt more than a little sorry for him. Always the big boastful talker, now all of a sudden he turned into the meekest of church mice. He looked embarrassed and had nothing more to say.

She did.

 She told Jersey in no uncertain terms that their woods was not getting cut in any way, shape, or form. She told me crisply that Jersey would be getting back with me. I took it that meant  I was dismissed, so I lost no time in easing on out of the circumstances.

Now I understood. Why some men have a real need for a man-shed. A place where they can be Man Over the Radio and the Chair and the Bud-Light. I'm not a drinking man, and don't recommend it whatsoever, but to be honest, I wouldn't hold it against him too hard if he stocked a little Jack Daniels on The Man-Shed shelf for special occasions. For the times when a six-pack of Bud-Light doesn't quite get you up to Man Level.

Man, when I left from there that day I couldn't WAIT to go home and sit in my man-house with that wife of mine.

Even if she insists that I must grunt every now and again.    

Sunday, January 27, 2013

"Those Stubborn Yoders"

Now I'm a Yoder. I can't help it and had nothing to do with being one. I weren't around to get my opinion asked of when I was getting hatched. Having said that, I'm also not ashamed of being one but certainly not proud of the fact either. It's just the way it is; "ain't complicated", like Mark Roth would say.

Well, here is where I have to disagree with him. In my case it is complicated. Sort of.

You see, I'm a Yoder  in more than one way and there are several other confusing things that go along with the whole scenario.

My dad's name is Eli Yoder. So was my grandfather's. Father and son? Senior and Junior perhaps? Nope. Grandfather Eli was my mom's father. Which means my mom's maiden name was Yoder as well.

It gets more interesting. My dad and his two sisters married my mom and her two brothers. Not all at once, of course. Actually my mom and dad, being younger, were the last of the three couples to get married. He says he wasn't being a copycat. Of course I can't verify that as I weren't around then neither. (He says he married for love and I have to believe him as they've been in love now for almost sixty years.)

So there are three families of Yoders with all of us twenty children being what's called "double first" cousins. I've tried to explain it to people on occasion. Most of the time they give you this big blank glazed over look and you can tell they haven't understood it at all. Someone told me once, "Just tell them you're from West Virginia!"

The trouble is, we were never from West Virginia. And I'm beginning to realize that West Virginians have feelings too, and they don't necessarily enjoy being the subject matter of all those less-than-intelligent jokes.

I always felt it a special thing to grow up amongst all my aunts and uncles and cousins. It gave you a sense of belonging. This gang almost felt more like brothers and sisters as opposed to cousins. It wasn't until just several years ago that I really thought about it and realized that I wasn't the same brand of Yoder that all the rest of my double first cousins were. I had a small identity crisis at the time but have recovered nicely.

So what kind of people are these Yoders? (I have to be careful here as some of them may read this stuff)

Basically they are nice people. Lean more towards being introverts. (I was majorly one) Friendly, kind and loyal. Steady and solid, not quick to make rash decisions. (Although in some ways slow rash decisions are worse)

There is one trait that I think runs deep among a lot of our brand of Yoder. We're stubborn as the day is long! We will listen to you, smile all the while, try to understand what you're saying, but if we don't want to be persuaded or believe it, we won't.

I had to give a talk once at an Easter Sunrise service on the perspective of Thomas the disciple. I gave the talk in first person and at the end I said that I hadn't revealed my last name yet. You guessed it; I proposed that Thomas' last name was probably Yoder. I said if we don't want to believe something, we won't. I said that we would even so much as die for something we didn't believe in.

Now that can be good at times. Like when you hear a rumor of bad news. We will refuse to believe bad news about someone until it smacks us in the face and we can no longer ignore it. Which is good in a way, but maybe if we would recognize something sooner, some help could be had earlier in the situation.

I'm thinking just now of something that happened many years ago that illustrates this family trait quite well.

It so happened that one day Sonny , David and I  were over at Uncle Buds to weed a potato patch that the young people were raising that year. Now Sonny is one of those double first cousins that I've been telling you about. David is a Yoder also, but of a little different strain. David's grandfather and mine and Sonny's grandfather were half brothers. Some years later David ends up marrying my sister Judy. (The plot thickens)

But back to my story. We were heading over the hill from the house and needed to go thru the cow pasture on our way to the potato patch. Which of course meant we needed go thru the gate, which was a simple one strand electric wire. Which, of course, someone needed to open.

Well, it wasn't going to be me. You see, I was driving. I wasn't old enough to have my drivers license yet (Sonny and David were) so I found every opportunity to drive off road that I could. And I was afraid if I got out to open the gate one of them would get in the drivers seat.

So we get to the gate. We stop. No one gets out. I tell them that I am not going to open the gate. Sonny says he isn't going to open the gate. David says he isn't going to open the gate either.

You can see the pickle we were in. We had made our statements. That stubborn Yoder blood was running strong in our veins. Sort of like the early Anabaptists, we were  in no mood for compromise.

Were we mad at each other? Absolutely not. Everyone was calm and civil. Just nobody was willing to move. Personally, I was ready to sit there all day. (Well, at least till lunch)  I didn't know what was going to happen.

I wish I knew for sure how long we sat there. I'm pretty sure it was ten minutes. Maybe fifteen. (You gotta remember, this was over forty years ago and I didn't write it down) I don't remember either if we chatted about other subjects while we waited. But I know we weren't arguing and fussing about the matter at hand.

Finally Sonny gave in and hopped out and opened the gate. We worked in the patch and it was time to come back. I was dreading the gate thing again. I was fully expecting a long wait the second time around also. I was driving again so it wasn't going to be me.

When we got to the gate Sonny and I were very surprised when David jumped right out and got the gate. (Maybe the different strain was kicking in there)

As I mentioned earlier, David went on to marry my sister and had another batch of Yoders. Now all but one of their children have married. (And the youngest, Robin, is probably contemplating it) I was thinking about it just this morning. Take my nephew Gary's little guy Dustin. (Cute as all get out, he is) If you follow his grandmother Judy's side of the family, he has got to go all the way back to his great-great grandmothers to pick up a name other than Yoder.

Scary, I know. Gary and Susanna, are you watching him closely?  Genetically speaking, my guess is that he may have a slightly stubborn streak somewhere!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

"The Sounds of Silence"

He was a lean man, maybe you could even describe him as gaunt. Reminded me a little of one of the local Red Dog Hunt Club's Walker hounds after a long deer season. Like he had gone for too long on too little. His eyes were large and had a haunted look about them. (the eyes always seem bigger on a gaunt person) But his hands were what you couldn't help noticing.

His name was Dennis Tischendorf.

Don't know any Tischendorfs in south central VA? Well, me neither. The thing was, we weren't in south central VA at the time.It was 1989 or so and we were living in central Wisconsin. There were all sorts of names in Wisconsin that you could barely get your tongue around. Tischendorf sounds Scandinavian to me, but there were also the Polish ones (most of which ended in "inski" or "owski") and German ones. Where here people tell redneck jokes, out there it was Norwegian and Swedish jokes.

And the people out there thought I had quite an accent. Of course they didn't realize that they were the ones with the accent. Once I was in a store trying to find car washing soap and the clerk led me down the aisle to the udder wash. Thought I wanted to wash cows instead of cars.

How in the world did we land out there, you ask? I wonder sometimes myself. (it seems like a very long ago dream now) We had moved out there and were working for a dairy farmer; we lived in the farm house and I was basically the herdsman. Dennis would stop in every so often and just hang around.

He drove an old brown and white Ford pickup piled high in the back with assorted junk and old tires. I was never sure if he was homeless, but he definitely had the look. Sort of rumpled and stubbly, like maybe he had slept in his truck the night before.

He was a quiet man; like I said, he just sort of hung around and watched for his chance to talk to you. Sometimes he would very apologetically hang his head and ask if he could possibly have a sandwich. I would go to the house and get Mary to make one and take it out to him.

Now it's never nice to  watch someone eat, especially if it's a handout, so I would sort of glance away and give him a little space. But you didn't have to glance away long; give him a few seconds and the sandwich would be gone. I mean gone. And he'd look at you with a look that said he sure could use several more of those. But he never asked.

But I mentioned earlier about his hands. His hands were what you couldn't help noticing and you tried not to keep looking at. You see, his hands were covered with scabs and sores.

I'm sure you're wondering why. Did he have leprosy? No, the reason his hands looked this way is because Dennis constantly wrung his hands and picked at them and they never quite healed.

When Dennis talked, you could tell he was a tortured man. He had done wrong things in the past, he said, and he didn't know what to do about them. He was a former dairy farmer and had once put up a line fence and didn't put it in the right place. He had ran the fence to give himself  the advantage over his neighbor. He had cheated the IRS out of taxes. He said he never kept good books and when it came tax time he would just make the figures look such that he wouldn't owe much of anything.

He also had a truck and did hauling on the side. He would fill his truck with fuel from his off-road farm diesel tank which of course was cheating the government out of taxes as well. There may have been other things, but those are the ones that I remember.

I would try to tell him to just go to the IRS and tell them what he did. I don't think he owned anything other than his old truck so my reasoning was that the IRS people could take one look and realize he wasn't worth going after.

I often wondered if  there was some really big thing that Dennis never told me about. (not that cheating the IRS isn't a big thing, it is to be sure) It just seemed like he was more tortured than most people would be about that sort of thing. I wondered if there was maybe a skeleton long hidden under his barn floor or something similar.

But here's the thing I will never forget about what Dennis told me; it made a lasting impression on me. He would say over and over, "You know, I never gave myself time to think! I would fall asleep in front of the TV at night. In the barn we always had the radio going. When I got in the truck, the first thing I would do is turn the radio on. Oh, if I just would have given myself time to think! I didn't want to think!"

We moved back to VA in 1990 and I often wondered what ever happened to Dennis. I googled his name the other evening and it showed a Dennis Tischendorf that died in 2007 at the age of 73. That would sound about the right age. It listed the towns of Dorchester, Stetsonville, and Abbotsford which all sound right as well. That was the area in which he made his rounds. I wonder if he ever found the peace he craved.

Whenever I think of Dennis, I think mostly about the question of people having time to think. If Dennis had trouble with that in his day, we have ten times the possibility in ours. Electronic devices of all kinds that you can take with you anywhere you go and can fill your every waking minute.

So am I anti-technology? No, there are a lot of good uses for technology. I just happen to think that we need some silence in our diet. Some quietness, so we have some time to think.

Cell phones are great things, but put them away somewhere between calls. It gets to me how some people sit holding their phones on their laps even when they're not using them; like the phone is part of their anatomy that they can't do without. I have this sneaking suspicion that some young people these days are born with their cell phones wired to their belly buttons or somewhere.

I don't get as much silence as I'd like but I do love it. That's one reason I love the middle of the night.
(that's when I started this, it's getting towards morning now) Another place I love is my tree stand.
The old tree stand,thirty-some feet up in an old Hemlock tree

Now I haven't hunted for probably fifteen years. But I still like to spend time there. Myron and I built it many years ago; we would haul boards back there on the canopy of the tractor and I would pull them up one at a time as Myron tied them onto a rope. The most interesting thing of all was in the beginning when I climbed up that far in the tree with the chain saw and cut off the thirty-some feet of tree that was above where the floor of the tree stand is now.

I haven't spent time back there for a year or two now. But I feel it calling my name. I need to take a pilgrimage there soon.

I like to go back there and spend twenty-four hours at a time. Take my sleeping bag and pillow. My Bible and a notebook. A jug of water and that's pretty much it. Well, my cell phone. Sigh. That's for Mary's sake though. So she knows I'm safe and didn't fall out of the tree on the way up and that no bear or mountain lion ate me during the night.

Now I don't know about you, but I'm guessing  that your life is way too busy, too connected to the things of this world, and hasn't had nearly enough silence in it. 

And I know I'm not the doctor, but I'm feeling pretty confident with my diagnosis and about giving you this advice.

Take half a dose of silence and call me in the morning. Just don't be surprised if I don't answer.