Patriot: A Memorial Day Reflection

As we sit drinking our morning coffee this Memorial day, we are thankful for the freedoms we enjoy and reflect on the fact that people gave and still give their lives for those freedoms. We consider to be Patriots the people who fought and who still fight for the freedoms we enjoy.

Although we are too young to have first-hand experience with World War II, we know what it was about and the cost involved. One of the most devastating battles was during the invasion of Normandy, which is in the north of France. Our troops entered from the sea using amphibious watercraft. The area was a Nazi stronghold, and we were attempting to break that stronghold. Wave after wave of our soldiers hit the beaches under unimaginable gunfire from the Germans. The Germans were defeated, and France was liberated, but at a horrific cost. This single event in history is what we commemorate on D-Day in June. One of our grandfathers was part of this invasion where he was injured badly, suffering multiple gunshot wounds. One of our cousin’s grandfathers is buried in Margraten, Holland even though he was killed in action in Germany. He was temporarily interred in Germany, but we did not leave any of our soldiers buried there.

We have several family members who fought in World War II. They never really spoke of their time in service—only on a very rare occasion. Among those who served was a great uncle. I knew of his service as a marine and that he had been shot up pretty badly in the war. I heard him speak of it only once. He was probably around 80 years old at the time. We were sitting in the courtyard of a mall while waiting on his wife who was buying some shoes. He kept rubbing his hand as if it hurt. I asked him if his hand was bothering him. He said he guessed it was the weather. It was hurting a little more than usual. He said, “That one, and the one in my back, too. A little reminder from the Japanese.” I asked him, “Did you get shot in the hand?” He merely replied, “Yes,” holding up his hand. The spotlight from above us in the courtyard seemed to reveal the scars prominently. I had seen them before, but I didn’t know what they were from until that moment. After a while, he said, “It was bad over there.” After a few moments longer, in a shaky voice, he said, “We had to stop that scourge.” He emphasized the word “had”, letting me know that it was a necessity for mankind to defeat the Axis regimes and the ideology and terror that they propagated. Those were the only words that I had ever heard him speak of the war. He was a kindly man, and after the war, became a preacher and worked in the metal trades.

I would describe him and the multitude like him as a Patriot. Not only are/were these soldiers patriots for the United States, they were patriots for humanity. The problem now is how the media and other sources are trying to manipulate the public perception of the word “Patriot”. While we view patriotism as a good quality, worthy of being honored, it is often cast in a negative and derogatory light by those who mock the sacrifices made by so many, while enjoying the freedoms that those sacrifices purchased.

This weekend, a friend shared an article on our timeline. This article featured a deranged Caucasian male in his thirties or forties. He was dressed in T-shirt and shorts. Under the shorts were long leggings. He baseball cap was on backward. An American flag was wrapped around his shoulders like a cape, and he was shouting and giving a “Heil Hitler” salute. The article stated, “America, this is what a terrorist looks like.” This article was released Memorial Day weekend.

The writers of the article wanted the readers to get the idea that this was Patriotism, and that patriotism is tantamount to terrorism. After all, this deranged individual was dressed in a flag while giving the Heil Hitler salute. The writers chose to feature this man because he had recently stabbed and killed two people in a scuffle on a train in which he was harassing two women who were “thought to possibly be” Muslim. He had killed two men who had intervened on the women’s behalf. The writers of the article used a collage of old pictures of this deranged individual to manipulate the readers’ thoughts. Ironically, the writers of the article did not feature the two men who gave their lives to protect the two women from this man; they chose instead to feature the individual who committed the crime. In our minds, he is no Patriot. He is exactly the kind of person that my uncle and grandfather and actual patriots would have fought. From this article, we know nothing of the two men he stabbed. But, they are more patriots (patriots for humanity) than he is. There is nothing patriotic about this individual. I can adorn myself in a bear-skin rug, but that doesn’t make me a bear.

While we have grown to expect this type of biased story lines from media outlets, this type of thinking has infected other arenas of our culture, creating confusion and a slanted view of patriotism. None of these affected arenas are more troubling to us than the religious arena. We have heard multiple members of the clergy over the last several years speak against patriotism, military defense, and even self-defense, driving into parishioners’ brains that it is sinful to do so—creating guilt complexes if they even dare think about it. These comments are not from whacky online preachers but sadly are coming from pastors and pulpits right here in the heart of Texas. As we are writing this, we can’t help but see the irony involved between preachers speaking against patriotism and my great uncle who fought for freedom and who became a preacher. Even after almost sixty years of reflection since his wartime experiences, he still understood the need for what he had done. He never said, “We shouldn’t have been there.”

Today, the tragic misconception of patriotism incubated on college campuses and theological seminaries has hatched and is spreading throughout our country. Our great uncle and grandfather weren’t fighting for oil, land, money or some misguided ideal when they were shot. They were fighting for humanity. And, without men like them, we would not live in the world we live in today. We wouldn’t have the freedoms that we do, in our media, on our college campuses, and in our churches, even if those freedoms are used to mock and to debase the sacrifices of those who fought and died to achieve them.



Confessions of a City Girl Who Moved to the Country: I Guess a Raccoon Did It

Early one morning, I looked out my kitchen window to see a sea of white blossoms down in the swampy section of the pasture where the stock tank overflow funnels into the creek. I put on my tallest work boots and picked my way through the willows, swamp grass, dead stumps, and briars toward the white blossoms. What were they? I didn’t recall them being there last year.  The huge patch was thorny and growing wildly in all directions. I was intrigued by the lovely and mysterious swamp bush that seemingly appeared over-night. Fixated on the delicate white flowers, I called my mother-in-law who knows all things plants and gardening. She came over and looked. “Well, it’s blackberries,” she revealed, with an unspoken ‘duh’ in her tone. My delight was quickly snuffed out by her matter-of-fact statement of the obvious: “But, you can’t get to them. They’re down in that swamp.” Well, how did they get there? I wondered out loud. She looked at me with a quizzical expression. My ignorance of such things sometimes exasperated her. “Well, I guess the seeds washed in from somewhere upstream, or that’s where a coon decided to squat,” she blurted. “And,” she informed me in that knowing tone, “A patch this big didn’t just ‘spring up overnight’. This has been here probably for a couple of years. You probably couldn’t see it for all the willows and the briars.”

Well! Where was the justice in that? A huge, healthy, patch of delicious blackberries practically in my backyard, and I can’t get to them. Undeterred, I pursued my conquest of the blackberry patch. With renewed vigor, I took a variety of chopping and trimming tools and cut a path through the swamp. It was the principle of the matter. Satisfied with my path that lead through much of the swamp, I would have to continue in ankle and knee deep water. I had a pair of waders, and I would put them to good use…I thought…

A very large water moccasin slithered literally right between my feet. I looked up and spied a second one headed in the opposite direction away from me. Ok. That’s it. I concede. No blackberries for me this year. Waders or not, the snakes can have the swamp. But every time I look out the kitchen window at that patch, I catch myself squinting at the thought of that vexing raccoon who didn’t have the courtesy to poop this side of the swamp.

A Godly Moral Compass that Regulates both Private and Public Affairs

We have noticed a trend that seems to have escalated in the last few years. This trend troubles both Sarah and me. We believe that a capitalist based economy is the best economic form for a society. Capitalism not only rewards hard work, ingenuity, creativity, etc., but it encourages it.  I stand to reap the economic rewards for my efforts and creativity; therefore, I have a reason to excel and achieve in the marketplace, much like an athlete has a reason to excel or achieve in his or her chosen sport. If I run the fastest in a race, I am rewarded with a 1st place ribbon or trophy. Actually, that held more true when I was a kid in the days before “participation trophies”; but that is another subject for another time. But I’ll just say that, if in the Olympics, everyone only received participation medals, the games wouldn’t be the same.

While we believe that capitalism is the best economic form, it needs to be kept closely in check by another force. That force is not government, because government is not capable of the task.  Only one entity is capable—it is He who imparts us with the ability to govern ourselves and our actions. I am speaking of God and the Godly moral compass He imparts to his followers.   Without a Godly moral compass or governor, capitalism over time becomes controlled by greed, which results in dishonesty, selfishness, and a list of other vices. These vices, in turn, create all kinds of misery for society at large. Does any of this sound familiar? Has anyone reading this experienced any unscrupulous marketing or business practices of late? This is the trend that we were speaking of earlier. It has always been around, but it is escalating in mainstream, and even small town America. Why? Because we have removed God from most of our society; hence we have removed the Godly moral compass that should keep our business practices in check. Without this governor, our business practices become ruled by profits and bottom lines. If we remove regard for God’s laws and compassion for humanity from the equation, price gouging doesn’t exist, neither would deceptive marketing. It would be about a business extracting as much money as possible for the least amount and least quality of a product or service as possible. Sound familiar? Because we have deemed ourselves too good for God, we now live in a world of escalating deceptive advertising, deceptive packaging, and deceptive pricing of products that are often shrinking in quality and size, all in an attempt to maximize profits. We have lost our Godly moral compass of what is right. While you might expect this type of behavior from the world at large, sadly many people who attend church and claim to follow Christ have developed the attitude that church is  church, and business is business, and they need to be as profitable as possible: it is just good business. God has become compartmentalized; He no longer has complete rule of our lives. We have become out of control. We have in essence removed ourselves from the principle stated in the Scripture passage, 1 Cor. 10:31, which states, “whatever we do, do unto the glory of God.”

Why can’t government step in to remedy this situation? Simple: because without a Godly moral compass, Government is just as corrupt as the businesses they are supposed to keep in check. In our society, “government” is a group of elected or appointed individuals, most often from within our own communities. There is no such thing as a mysterious entity called “government” absent the people. Government, is, in its very essence, people who are in positions to govern. Some societies choose a monarchy and are ruled by royal families. Some societies are prone to dictatorships and are governed at the point of a sword or gun. But, even in those situations, it is still people who are in a position to govern. In our society, those who govern are most often chosen through an election process and are consequently put in charge “at the consent of the people” to manage public affairs. However, they can, and often do, go awry with the power with which they are entrusted. We must return that internal governor of God awareness in order for both private and government affairs to be fair, just, honest, and effective. Otherwise, the strongest one wins, the one with the most money, power, influence, or intimidation techniques runs over the “governed”, and it most certainly does not represent the ideal of “with the consent of the governed.”

Who Decides Right and Wrong?

I have stated many times that man or humanity cannot deem what is right or wrong; it can merely determine legalities according to the laws created by the morality of that society. Like it or not, only God determines right or wrong, and we as humans are subject to his decisions. Recently our nation has recognized the legality of same sex marriage, while it is now legal according to our laws and accepted by many as legitimate, these actions do not , I repeat do not, make it right. Why? As I stated before, God determines right and wrong.  We, as individuals, and as a collective (society), are not sovereign over God, but rather, are subject to Him. He does not have to accept our laws; we have to accept His.  God doesn’t have to accept something as right just because it is now legal in our country.

The strength, health and legitimacy of a society are really judged on how its laws align with God’s laws. If its legal system is based on God’s principles, all of that society’s judges and courts should be the same in determining right or wrong based on God’s stance not their political viewpoint. There is one standard. If the standard was followed, there would be not liberal or conservative judges with personal and political viewpoints coming in to play.

We tend to think of religion (following God’s way) or anti religion (against God’s way) along political lines—if someone is “liberal” he or she tends to be anti religion (not religious themselves and not friendly toward individuals and institutions who are); if someone is “conservative” he or she may be more religion friendly, if not also religious themselves. This is not always the case. Just because someone is “conservative” does not make them godly. In fact, there are such things as conservative atheists who are not hostile to religion but who do not espouse it themselves. There are “conservative” humanists and secularists who believe more in man’s power than God’s power. And, just because one is liberal, does not make one against God. Churches are full of Christians who tend to lean toward a liberal political viewpoint. One cannot be grouped merely by their political affiliation or their religious affiliation.

People on both sides and all along the political scale (from far left to far right) have ideas on what this country should look like in the future and where we should go from here. They have ideas of what laws we need to pass, what laws we need to abolish, and so on. When one side of the political scale gets their way and a law is passed, the other side weeps and mourns, proclaiming doom and gloom; when the other side gets their way in the political system, the first side proclaims that the apocalypse is just around the corner.

The truth is, the only hope we have as a nation is to bring ourselves back in alignment with God. Try as we may, we will never bring God into alignment with us. We must be One Nation, Under God or we will become fragmented along the cracks that have already begun to develop in our society. As much as I urge my fellow countrymen to do so, sadly, I do not see us uniting under God. We will continue to try to unite under laws passed by man and man’s strength, which, in time, will result in a fractured nation that may or may not stay intact. In truth, our country now resembles a broken windshield—pieces of shattered glass barely held together and technically still in place, but obviously very broken. Again, our only hope of our nation’s repair is in God. This is achieved by giving Him His rightful place—Sovereignty over us.

The Scriptures are full of episodes in different nation’s existences that can be summed up best in this verse: Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance.” Throughout history, many nations have risen and fallen as the Lord has seen fit. He can call into existence a nation out of nowhere, and He can cause the mightiest nation to fall. It seems like the stronger a nation gets, the more independent of God it thinks it is. It becomes its own god and offers up a plethora of false deities to its masses to please different regions and groups.

I mentioned Psalm 33:12 in particularly to a man who attends church regularly and who identifies politically as both a Christian and a liberal Democrat. He said that he does not accept that verse because it implies that if the Lord God is not the God of our nation, we will not receive His blessings, and that’s not fair. This person’s beliefs toward God were that He is fair, and like a social program that doles out benefits equally to all, God should do the same. He (God) should not have preferences or dole out His blessings selectively to people who accept Him and follow His ways.

I was speechless. How can one argue with that (ill)logic?

Right now, our nation has many gods. But there is only One Sovereign God, and we seem to want any other god except Him. Ultimately, we want to be our own god.

In Article 3 of the “Declaration of the Rights of Man” approved in 1789 by the French National Assembly, a statement reads, “The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body or individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.” This socialist, humanist, atheist world view governed the actions of the notable and infamous French Revolution. Clearly, they had become their own god. And, history tells us where that leads.


Am I Missing Something?

We have several friends who are opposed to securing our country’s borders. That is ok; they are entitled to their opinions.

What puzzles us about this stance is that the majority of them live in urban settings with their yards surrounded by privacy fences. Why do they have fences around their backyards? While discussing this with some friends, one woman suggested that perhaps the fences in city neighborhoods were to mark property lines, and without the fences, perhaps the property owners wouldn’t know where their property lines are. Okay, we’ll give her that one. She may have a point. But why a fence? Why not just mark the property line with a rope that people can easily pass under or step over?

And, why do most of these fences have gates that have latches and locks? Someone else suggested that maybe these fences are to keep in the pets or to keep a small child from wandering off onto the road. Okay. We’ll give him that one.

But, if the fence and the gate and the lock are to secure anything other than a pet, or if the fence, gate, and lock are for anything other than a child’s safety, what or whom are you, as the property owner, securing the backyard from?

Could it be to keep out uninvited persons who might just walk into your backyard? And, if so, could these uninvited persons pose a possible threat to property on the premises or persons living in the home? Could people who wander uninvited into your yard and home also be a possible threat to others living in the area?

Maybe the fence around your home is to keep unwanted/uninvited people out of your pool. What if the uninvited guests didn’t have a pool of their own? Shouldn’t they be able to use your pool? With or without your consent? When they want to? And bring as many of their family members and friends as they want to? Why or why not?

On this thought, why even put a fence around a public pool? Who cares whether the swimmers come in legally (paid their fee) or illegally (non-paying customers)—they just want to swim. Why shouldn’t they? After all, while they’re there, they may jump start the pool’s economy—they might buy something at the concession stand or put some quarters into the coke machine. They might even stay and clean the pool after hours, providing labor that no one else wants to do. But wait, if they don’t have to pay for the privilege of swimming in the pool, why should they pay for a soda or a snack? Why should they stay and clean up the pool they used illegally?

While not all of the friends we speak of have backyard fences and pools, they do have one thing in common—doors on their houses. Why do houses in this country typically have doors? The obvious answer is to make our homes weather proof—to keep out the wind and the rain, the hot and the cold. And, we are glad for doors on houses. But, why are there locks on the doors to these houses? We have had some pretty severe storms, but none required locking the doors to keep out the weather. Closing the door was adequate to keep out the weather. Why the lock? The obvious answer is that the lock is supposed to provide some form of protection to keep those inside the house safe. Safe from what? Not the weather.

If you lock your doors at night, for safety, to keep out unwanted, uninvited people who might intend you harm, wouldn’t that same principle hold true for our country? Could people who just walk into our country uninvited be a threat to us?

Maybe the people who came into your home uninvited didn’t intend you harm. They just wanted to watch your big screen. After all, they don’t have one. And maybe they just wanted to cook a steak on your grill. They just wanted something better than their own menu and equipment. They didn’t want to wait and take the necessary steps to purchase their own grill and steaks, so they decided to use your stuff. I don’t understand why that should upset you. After all, you didn’t get to where you are on your own, and, if you look closely at the package you are eating from and the utensils you are cooking with, I’ll bet you didn’t grow it/raise it or build it. It was built/made somewhere else. Maybe in the same place where these folks are coming from who just want to come in and use what you have.  Oh, but wait, you paid for and bought the items in your home. So, whether you built, grew, or raised these items yourself is immaterial. You paid for them. That makes them yours.

Maybe these people who wandered into your home uninvited just needed a can of green beans. And, it was easier to get one from your pantry than to go to the store. That should be okay with you, right?

We talked about locking the doors at night for personal safety. What about when you leave your home to go out, say for work, or to church, or anywhere? Do you lock the doors then? What person are you protecting then, if no one is home? Ah, it’s not about safety, now, is it? It’s about property. Unless you have that pesky property that has that nasty tendency to sprout legs and try to escape on its own unless you lock it in, you are protecting it from someone else entering your domain and taking your stuff. Our question is, if securing your home is prudent and considered okay to do, why is securing our country not?

Regardless of your political affiliation, we all understand the necessity of security. In some cities, tickets are even issued to homeowners who leave up garage doors and who leave unlocked houses or vehicles, thereby, “tempting” criminals and thieves who create a bigger work load for police departments and create bad statistics for the town’s crime rate, thus discouraging tourism. It’s bad for business all the way around. So, tell me again why securing our borders is a bad thing? We’re not locking them down—no one in or out. We are simply securing them against illegal activity. Isn’t that what you are trying to do for your home?

Confessions of a City Girl who Moved to the Country: Why Rural Folk Stash Things, Wear Camo Pants and Wear the Same Clothes Three Days in a Row

Funny misconceptions often occur when urbanites elect to spend time on vacation in the country (perhaps visiting family) and when folks from cities move to country homes but are not familiar with country ways. Moving to a rural setting doesn’t suddenly make you of a rural mindset. Living as a child in the country but most or all of your adult life in the city, then moving back to the country as you approach retirement age does not make you of a rural mindset. Most of the country ways you may have absorbed as a child have probably been replaced with the city ways that made you successful in your chosen career in the city or made you able to survive in an urban setting. They will backfire on you in the country.

Patience, Doing it Yourself, or Going Without Vs. Expedience and Getting it Now:

A married couple from the Jacksonville, Florida area one year visited us for Thanksgiving. They were urbanites. He really liked his beer. One evening after supper, he ordered his wife to “run to the corner and get him a six pack.” She shook her head. He said, “What?” She looked at us helplessly. We had to explain to him that the nearest place to get a beer was thirty miles one way (this was before Dublin carried it…now the nearest beer is 12 miles away, one way). To an urbanite, 30 miles, or even 12 miles is an eternity. To us, it’s “just down the road” and “won’t take a minute”.

But, that’s one reason country folk stash thangs. There is no convenience store on the corner. I’m my own store. I go to my storage closet and get stuff. I’m not going to drive 30 miles, or even 12 for any amount of items on the spur of the moment, unless it’s an emergency.

This same fellow wanted to eat out on Thanksgiving Day. He insisted on it. OOOKKaayyy. Where? We found one restaurant open Thanksgiving Day in Stephenville in 2007. Funny. It just wasn’t at all what he expected.

The night before they left, the weather dipped down really cold. A neighbor who didn’t know who our company was pulled up to our house in his pickup truck. We went outside to greet him, even though the temperatures were in the teens. The man got out of his truck and was covered in blood. In the city, people might panic at such a sight. Not in the country. This time of year, that means one thing: he got a deer. And, he wouldn’t be pulling up into our driveway if it wasn’t a good one. Grinning, we invited our guests to come outside with us. We knew what was going to happen next, but we couldn’t resist. Our neighbor, being neighborly, stuck out his huge paw, covered in blood, of course, and gripped our guest’s hand. “Good to meet ya!” he bellowed. “Hey, John, check out this buck. Its got ten points!” We walked around to the bed and looked. Sure enough, it was a big one. With ten points. What a beauty. The weather was super cold, and it was late. John asked if the neighbor was going to work up the deer that night (it was already field dressed). “Naw, I’m just going to hang him. It’s cold enough.”

“That’s what I’d do,” John said. “It’ll keep.” The guest turned his back and tried to hide the gag that came to his mouth. “I gotta go back inside,” he said. “It’s too cold out here.” We nodded and said, “Yeah, it’s pretty cold. We’ll be in in a minute.” (Explanation: why would you hang something that is already dead? To an urbanite, this is strange talk. It means that the carcass will be hung from a tree or a rack to be processed, but not processed yet. Because the weather was so cold, the processing could wait until the next day. The great outdoors would provide the necessary refrigeration. Field dressed means that the guts—organs, such as heart, liver, lungs, intestines, bladder, etc. have been removed from the deer because they can ruin the meat if left in once the deer is dead—the head, hide, and rest of the deer are left intact for later processing.)


Another funny misconception between urban and rural is attire. To rural folk, prudence and thriftiness is high on the priority list, resulting in rather strange fashion phenomena. One doesn’t change clothes every day or more than once a day like urbanites do, unless a special event is going on, such as a church service, a funeral, or a wedding. And, one doesn’t buy an $80 pair of pants or a $60 shirt just because it’s fashionable. That’s considered stupid. What one does do, is to have several standby pair of pants and shirts that are durable, and, if they were picked up at a thrift store, so much the better. Wearing the same pair of pants for 3-5 days is good. Wearing a shirt for 2-3 days is also good. Socks and underwear get changed every day (most of the time).

Camo pants in rural areas are like blue jeans: they go with everything. Camo is accepted with various patterns or solids. Camo can go with plaid, stripes, even flowers. The fact that Camo pants are mostly green with blacks and browns thrown in doesn’t matter. In fact, the color doesn’t matter at all; that’s not why rural folk wear Camo. Have you ever worn a pair of Camo pants? They are marvelous for several reasons. Because the military designed them, they are built for movement: there is not that tightness that comes with blue jeans that grab you in the crotch when you bend or twist. Camo pants move with you. They are designed to do that. Rural people do a lot of moving—loading stuff, picking up stuff, etc. It’s part of the rural lifestyle. No sitting at desks crunching numbers or writing reports or clicking from one computer screen to the next or attending one meeting after another in climate controlled conditions. Rural folk are mostly outdoors, sweating as they are driving tractors, using hand implements, like shovels, hoes, rakes, etc. moving livestock, carrying pails and buckets, that kind of thing. And, when one chooses attire for the day, a pair of pants that moves with you is always the best choice. Camo pants also have lots of pockets. No need to wear extra gear or carry a sack. Stuff whatever you need down in those pockets and go. Camo pants are cheap and readily available. Remember, rural folk are prudent and thrifty. Camo pants can be had for under $10/pair and are everywhere at thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets, etc. Some of these types of “cargo” pants can be had in colors other than camo, such as denim, khaki, or black, but they are usually a lot more expensive…so, there you go…back to the cheap, readily available ones…that’s right…Camo.

Now, urban folks see someone in Camo, and immediately there derelict minds jump to something that frightens them: a militia. This guy must be in a militia. He is wearing Camo. After all, that’s what Newsweek has said about folks who wear Camo. And, just like the neighbor who jumped out of the truck covered in blood, frightening the urbanite who jumped to wild conclusions, they are very likely to once again be totally out of touch with their surroundings. You’re in the country. Camo means the guy likes his pants not to grab in places they shouldn’t. And, it’s not a Southern thing. Rural folks in every part of the country, north to south, and east to west, can be seen in Camo. It just makes sense. They are the best pants for the job.

We experienced something rather funny about eight years ago. A family of Houstonites recently moved to our neck of the woods. A neighbor who lived up the way lost one of his Holstein bulls. If you know cattle, you know that a Holstein bull is one of the meanest there are. Unpredictable and not nice. This bull showed up in our pasture. Uh, oh, you got it…while we were digging prickly pear out of the pasture by hand…and, you guessed it…we were wearing Camo.

We wanted to get the bull back to the neighbors who lived only a mile up the road. In the country, there is no need to get out the truck and trailer in a big show of things or get the horses saddled when you have only one wayward Bovine who only needs to go a mile or less up the road. You drive him on foot. This bull was young, and we didn’t want to hurt him, but neither did we want to be hurt by him. We thought a pellet gun would do the trick. Using the pellet gun and lots of shouting, we drove him out the gate and into the bar ditch along the highway. We walked him the short distance (about a mile) to the neighbor’s pasture and put him in. The neighbor saw us approaching and understood exactly what we were doing. The Houstonites did not. They thought we were trying to kill the bull. After all, we were in Camo waving a gun. (Urbanites typically cannot tell a pellet or B.B. gun from one that shoots bullets—to them, a gun is a gun.) And Camo, means…well, you know what that means.

Rocks for Toilet Paper

We met a family who had recently moved to a small, rural community. They were very happy to be there and were clearing the land of cactus and intended to run some livestock and plant a large garden. They were eager and happy to get out of the city and live in the quiet solitude of the country. They were blue collar at best and had very little disposable income, but they were hard workers and had a vision for their place. It was a very humble home, but cozy for them and their nine-year-old son. They befriended an elderly woman who was their nearest neighbor and volunteered to help her with yard work, etc. One day, while we were visiting this elderly woman, whom we had known for some time, she introduced us to her new neighbors who happened to be there at the same time that we were that day.

We were happy to meet the neighbors and were pleased that they seemed like good folks. For nearly a year, we did not encounter them again. One day while sitting at home, Sarah said she felt like she was supposed to go visit them. I said, “Do you mean Dora?” (the elderly lady whom we already knew). Sarah said, “No. I think I am supposed to go visit John and Miriam.” I said, “Well, you don’t really know them, but okay.”

Sarah baked some cookies and made up a nice gift basket with a note that read, “Just thinking about you guys and hoping all is well.” She drove to where they lived and knocked on the door. The wife answered and was surprised to see Sarah, who explained that she had brought a gift basket and wanted to let them know that we were thinking of them and hoping they were doing well. Miriam graciously invited Sarah into the house and accepted the gift basket. They sat on the couch together, and Sarah asked who the little girl was playing in the corner. She was probably around three years old. Miriam explained that it was one of John’s relative’s daughters. The child had been removed by social services, and John and Miriam said that they would keep her for a while (they ended up keeping her for two years).

During the conversation, Miriam emotionally broke down. No, they were not doing well. Long story short, John had been laid off and was out looking for work. Miriam had always worked at home and cared for the livestock, etc. but she was actively looking for employment as well. They were a one-car family, so they had to work around each other’s employment schedules. Their son had been playing ball at a cousin’s house and had run out in front of a truck that had hit the boy accidentally and broken his leg.

Sarah began to look around. There was hardly any furniture. She asked Miriam about it, who said that they had sold nearly everything to keep food on the table and pay the boy’s medical bills. Sarah noticed that there was hardly any food in the house, either.

Miriam said she wasn’t sure what they were going to do if God didn’t help them. She and John had made the decision not to get on welfare. They did not want to take government subsidies. They wanted to find work and stay out of debt, if possible. They had always paid as they went, and if they couldn’t pay for it, they went without. But they had reached an all-time low. Miriam revealed to Sarah that they were even out of toilet paper and shampoo. Sarah asked what they did for toilet paper. Miriam said that they went out to the pasture and collected rocks that were smooth. After they used the rocks, they collected them in a bucket and took them outside where they dumped them on the ground and hosed them off. Then, they would clean the rocks and reuse them.

Sarah asked what they did for shampoo. Miriam said that they used hand soap because that is all they had. Miriam ran her fingers through her hair with a look of disgust on her face. “It makes my hair feel nasty.” Sarah nodded in agreement. On a camping trip one time she had used hand soap for shampoo. It was not a repeat.

Sarah asked if the elderly neighbor was aware of their dilemma. Miriam said that they had not told anyone because they didn’t want to seem like the kind of people looking for a handout. She laughed and said that the nearby church had met on Sunday for their monthly “pot luck,” and the smell of food had tormented them for hours after. Sarah asked if anyone from the church ever came to visit them. Miriam said that one time, when they had first moved in, a couple had come over and invited them to church, but that had been over a year back and no one had been since.

Sarah noticed a wood stove on the porch with fresh ashes in it. She asked Miriam about it, who said, “I’ve been practicing cooking on it. When we lose electricity tomorrow, because we can’t pay our bill, I will be able to still cook and boil water for laundry.” Sarah said, “How will you get water? Isn’t your well on an electric pump?” Miriam said it was but that they had been collecting rain water in barrels for some time and had also drawn up more water to use until the electricity could be turned back on.

These were tough folks. They knew what to do to get by, even if it was really difficult. Sarah knew why she had felt like she was supposed to go visit them. She told Miriam that the electric bill would be paid and there would be food in the pantry and toilet paper and shampoo in the cabinet by the end of the day. Thankfully, that was so. A friend who came to visit us that evening pitched in, and John and Miriam were back to going with full refrigerator, pantry and cabinets.

Eventually, both of them gained employment, and a family member provided for them a second (rather beat-up, but functioning) vehicle. They are doing much better and still enjoying their home in the country. Their boy has grown up and moved away, but they have taken in two or three other children in need. They have invested in their community in other ways, as well, like helping dig a community storm shelter and taking part in holiday events. They have even been seen taking food to some other neighbors in need. When the elderly woman, Dora, ended up going to an assisted living home, John and Miriam were regular visitors to her.

One day while a construction team was remodeling the church building nearby, one of the workers was overheard talking about “them people.” They were looking in the direction of John and Miriam’s home and were intending to be derisive about them. We happened to be there visiting with some of the construction team and laughed at the ignorant statement.

We assumed, perhaps wrongly, that the “them people” comment was made regarding John and Miriam’s economic status. We don’t know for sure, but one thing we do know for sure–knowing the construction worker who made the comment, we do know who we would rather have for a neighbor. We are so happy to have met “them people”. They are an inspiration. They knew how to knuckle down when times were tough.