Monday, July 22, 2013

What Will They Remember?

As the signal on my radio and more disturbingly, the cell phone fade, so do the towns and homes that can be seen. The navigate feature on my phone, it just spins, looking for something that it isn't able to find. 

Here cattle outnumber citizens four hundred to one, there are horses stomping flies and a few sandhill turtles who think they have all day to cross the road.

The odometer says I'm making slow progress. Miles tick by with minutes, on this endless ribbon of road. 

Somewhere I've read, that folks believed these hills were nothing more than desert wasteland. At the time people came looking for a place to call their own, it was advertised as,  "the land of milk and honey" as well as  "the garden state of the West” and it was said that the soil was "a rich, black, loam." (a)

Those things were mostly untrue.

Still, they were just giving the land away in 1904.

Indeed, people stood in line for days to file claims, because you could just have 360 acres of  land.

All for free. If it didn't cost you every single thing you had.

As I climb each hill and drop down into the valley, which is followed by another hill, another valley, just about like the one before, I'm thinking this: the west may have been settled, but the wild vastness remains.

My friends, ...they live, (...count them?) thirteen cattle gates, past the last unincorporated town. Their roots and blood run deep, in this wild, wild west soil.

They know who their people were and still tell their brave stories. 

His great grandpa was only nine when he and the eleven year old brother were dropped off to care for and protect livestock here. These boy-men often went months alone. Great grandpa Russell could ride a wild horse with only a grip on the mane. He was the original bronc rider and was known for his honesty and hard work. 

Her great grandpa lived down in the river valley. A runaway who arrived in the area when he was about twelve. He didn't talk much about it, except that his step-mom and he didn't get along. He learned to speak several dialects of the Native Americans, which means that he spent time with them, since life was the only school you could attend for those kind of lessons.

He worked as a scout in the day of Buffalo Bill and the Pony Express. When Civil War broke out, he fought in the 1st Volunteer Infantry of our state. Great grandfather Issac, he was standing under the podium, when Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address. That lanky, humble, President, poured his heart and words out to the masses of history, and her great grandfather was there to let them run over his soul. He must have believed the words too, that there are things worth fighting for like, "....true equality for all this nations citizens."  

My friends, their ancestors were men and women who sang and lived an anthem of bravery. They came with their pockets empty and their hearts full of hope, that there was more to life than what they had known so far. Folks who survived against all odds, who dug their feet and fingernails into this wild place and hung on for more life. 

They had dreams of land, freedom for all and living a great adventure.

They weren't looking for awards to put on a shelf or notoriety printed in a paper. These honest folks, believe in the golden rule, that good fences make good neighbors, that children should honor their parents, husbands should love their wives like they love themselves, that hard work will reap a reward and that you fly the flag and ring the bell and remember who went before you and paid the price, to establish the things enjoyed now. 

Where stage coaches crossed 

She says this and it's truth rocks me: "Everyday I get up and do all that I can, the best that I can. Then I sleep well at night knowing that God will take care of the rest."

Read that again?

My friend. She knows some truth. Some truth that we could all live more of. And if we did, perhaps there would be less worry, stress, grabbing for things that may have never been ours to have.

Men and women, they tamed this land as much as a wild place can be tamed. They wandered into the wilderness, to build on something that was bigger than life.

They know this truth too well.

How fragile it all is.

They know how we are all, just one hail storm, one year of drought, one flash flood, one tornado, one wild fire, one car accident, one flight for life, one phone call from destruction. 

Unless the Lord sustains us.

There are things we can control.

There are more that we can't.

Here in this place, I can see the invisible face of God.

Deep green fields, with long haired strands of hay, stacked on the day when the sun cured it to perfection. Straight, spiky, hand tightened fence, uncoils for miles, like an open string instrument, tuned to pitch perfection. Meadowlarks seem to think it was strung just for them, as they clutch it, singing out their familiar warbled flute song, in melody with the beauty. 

This land rich with large, white-faced cactus poppies, royal stems of prairie clover, cone flowers pressing their faces to the sky,  hearty stands of delicate flowering phlox, and tender pink prairie rose lay tucked in the lush display of beauty.

Here the sky breaths out deep hues of blue and lavender, with endless brush strokes of silk white and pink blush colored clouds against the vast canvas of the plains. This paradise where horses run wide open with nostrils flaring as they drink in the oxygen of life, and where cattle graze on a thousand hills, in stirrup high, native grasses. 

It feels close to heaven here.

It's as if I can hear the voices of those who have gone before us too.

Those brave beautiful souls.

My friends live like their forefathers before them, doing ten thousand small things a day that add up to the great things. 

Mostly they live love.

Love for each other, for the land, for the things in their care.

And the One who is Love, is certainly pleased to have stewards like them taking care of this ocean floor of unrestrained, untamed, beauty.  

Their forefathers, our "four score and seven years ago" forefathers, they knew it was about the going, it was about the doing the next thing well. It was about the journey and not so much of the arriving and the being settled in.

We are all like that. People looking for a place to settle in and just arrive. Except this. No matter how settled we think we are, we are all just passing through this life.

This is not our home. We can't keep what is destined to pass away. 

Yet while we are here we live in the wildness, the beauty, the real riches, of being in the presence of His Presence.

The men and women who lived lives and left legacies remind me that today, it is important to live this life well, and to live for what will last.

The lasting, will be what we do, in Jesus Name.

When we are gone, what will people remember about us?

Thank you for the soul retreat Gary and Glenda.
Love and respect you both so deeply.
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