Thursday, February 26, 2009

By By Blackie

You know there are always things that just seem to become a fixture in your life. Some people have an old shirt, some it’s a chair or a car – things. I have a couple t-shirts that I just cannot give up and they are more comfortable than ever. I don’t wear them in public.

I had a jacket I got after my dad died that I loved. The jacket was leather and it looked a lot like the one worn by Indiana Jones. I actually bought a hat and wore Kaki pants with it every Halloween. One day my bride was clearing out the closet of coats to donate to Coats for Kids and the coat went away. I was so upset. I went that night to the coats warehouse and sifted through thousands of coats to find it and never could. To this day we just don’t talk about it. She didn’t realize what it meant to me and I guess God wanted to bless someone else with it.

One of the first things I did when I moved to Austin was to buy a fishing boat. It was a new, sleek bass boat and I ordered it to match my truck perfectly. My oldest son Cody and I spent years on that ole boat fishing, cruising, hanging out. We got in all kinds of trouble when I would pull him out of school to fish. We laughed when we would get in trouble for him missing a school day or come in late off the water because we just didn’t want to come in. I remember after a long day the drive was quiet and he would ask me if he could rest his eyes. He never wanted to “sleep” if he was with me, just rest his eyes. He would fall asleep in a flash.

One Christmas I bought Cody a pony. Cody was maybe 8 and I hid the pony in the garage, it was a cool Christmas. Blackie was a stubborn little fat black pony. We had a saddle and all the gear. Cody and the kids in the neighborhood would ride him everywhere. It was a little boys dream come true. I forget now all the hassles that came along with him, just the good memories. It was a sad day when we had to finally sell him and the folks drove off down the street with him in their trailer.

That ole bass boat was black. We kept in the garage and took very good care of it. I bought it in 1987. The last few years’ life being what it is I had not gone out in it much. Cody, now 25, began fishing bass tournaments and bought his own home. I gave him the boat. He has used it the last few years to hone his fishing skills and is now a very good tournament bass angler.

Time being what it is, a robber of newness and mechanical health we decided it was maybe time to sell the boat and move on. Last night Cody called and said, “Dad, Blackie is gone. Remember when we watched Blackie (the pony) drive down the street? That is how I feel right now.” I knew what he was feeling.

Cody needs a different boat and I was proud he took such good care of her while he had her. He sold the boat to a nice young man and we hope it serves him well. Things don’t mean much in the end. The memories made on that boat are precious and bonded us close. Thanks Lord for Blackie and the bass boat. Thanks Lord for Cody. Thanks Cody for being a great son. I love you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Frig in' Dog Thieves

She called my cell from the posting I put on Craigslist looking for information. The story she told me made me really mad. This lady and her young daughter lost their small dog, a Chihuahua I think, just a couple weeks before she called me. The small dog squeezed out of the fenced backyard just moments after he was let out to go to the bathroom. They worked hard putting up posters and posting online, going to the pound every other day. Finally after a week or so she took a new batch of flyer's out and this time she stopped at the large pet retailer in the strip center not far from her home. Here is where I get mad, as she was asking the clerk for permission and telling her story, describing the dog, the clerk next to her perked up and shared about a recent customer she had.

The new customer was a middle age white lady. She came to the register with a cart full of everything you need to make a new dog comfy. A cute bed, food bowls, food, toys, blankets even little sweaters and booties. She talked all about her new dog and how cute he was. She told how she found the little booger walking alone down the road and she saved him. That was it, she rescued him and decided he was hers for the keeping.

Ranger and Lilly were our dogs since my kids were little. Lilly was a wonderful female black lab we got one Easter in the parking lot of a local grocery. The family giving away the puppies assured me she came from a long bloodline of great hunting dogs, sold me. She was as sweet as any dog could be. Ranger was a Father’s Day gift from my wife and kids after I had to put down Bud. Ranger was a full blood Sheppard with all the brains of a turnip but a heart the size of a watermelon. He was, is, however a compulsive fetcher of anything that is not bolted down.

We live next to a park and on occasion the dogs would find their way out, always returning filthy and tired, sometimes covered with skunk or porcupine. They were, are, good dogs and we have been trying to find them since 9/11/2008 when they got out. We have posted on Craigslist, at the pound, and still to this day put out huge posters all over. We still have hope.

Not long ago I got a call just minutes after putting up a poster on near our home. A guy and his kids just picked up two dogs and were taking them to their house. I turned around and rushed to a parking lot to meet them. They were not our dogs, they were big, cute pups, maybe a year or so. The guy said in passing “well I guess I will take them home.” His kids were overly excited about “their “ new dogs. I asked him to please post on Craigslist and call the pound. He said he did not know about any Craigslist and said he would try to find the owners, I have my doubts.

One bright spot from this whole thing was all the loving and kind calls from folks who thought they found Lilly and Ranger, saw them or just giving us tips. It is amazing how many folks care for pets that are not their own. God has a special place for these folks who through their kindness have lifted our family up and cared.

I know someone has Ranger and Lilly. I know the people who have them have not gone to the pound to see if anyone lost them and they have not posted or looked on Craigslist. I guess now, after almost 7 months we have to think about moving on. I pray that our dogs have found a good home and are loved as much as we loved them. I pray that people who find dogs or other lost pets are convicted to try to find an owner. I pray my kids and wife do OK as we work through this time. Thanks to everyone who cares or helps in times like these. Our dogs were, are, family and it is a loss we will not soon get over.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Little Turns and Lessons

I was pretty nervous as I prepared to speak at the wild game dinner. I am not usually uptight about speaking in public and most often jump at the chance. This time however I really wanted to convey a good message and relate a point. It had to include a lot about my childhood experiences and growing up. This is a topic I can talk on for hours.

My concern that I would get off topic kept me on I task. I spent days handwriting, typing, editing, reading and re-reading the speech. The versions changed each time I wrote it and when I finally read it to my wife and pastor they shredded it. It was good they were honest and open with me and I was surprisingly open to their critiques.

From the ashes of reflection into my childhood I learned some things about myself that were wonderful as I wrote. My childhood was not a perfect white picket fence, apple pie, tucked in bed story of love and caring. It was one of trials and challenges, disappointment and struggles, not always, but a lot.

The amazing thing I realized as I was writing them down was that each piece had a part in making me who I am today. There are many amazing and wonderful things, things I would have never imagined, but are now common and every day, like this blog.

In the midst of all the craziness of my childhood during elementary school I wrote a story. I was in the fifth grade and it won a “best in school” honor. It was read in front of the whole school and I received $5 cash.

I remember camping trips from the family station wagon and catching my first fish. The adventure, bears, streams, smells, mountains and the dirt of the outdoors.

I remember as a young teenager being on my own and walking through fields of tall grass in the middle of the night searching for a place to be. I remember one night I was walking along the interstate as I hitchhiked. I was again a young teen and I was cold, tired and hungry, to top that off it started to sprinkle. I remember seeing a farmhouse in the distance and wishing I could be there, inside where it was warm, and I was loved and cared for.

As I reflected on these storylines of my life I realized each one of those trials and struggles were God’s way of preparing me for who I am today. I am not and do not complain about my childhood. I don’t live in a constant reflective and remorseful time of lost boy or childhood opportunities. But I can see now how God took each moment, each lesson and is using it for His good.

I am an award winning outdoor writer and communicator. I am not the best or most skilled, but it is who I am in my life today. The confidence from that one story and knowing I might could actually have a talent or gift. That $5 sealed a deal that lay dormant for many years.

That lost little boy wandering the country gave me the ability to know how a lost boy feels. The drug and alcohol problems gave me insight from a firsthand position to understand those struggles in boys and men. These combined with the outdoors birthed the Kids Outdoor Zone youth ministry in my life.

God used all these struggles, these challenges to create who I am today. I believe we all have these pieces in our life experience that if we stop, be still and reflect, we will see. The gifts and tools that we uniquely have like finger prints. My story is my story. Yours can be exactly opposite but you still have things in your life that He can and will use if you let Him.

Take some time to think how best you can serve the One who gave up his only Son for you. What an outstanding chance to give a little back. You have talents and gifts, ask Him to help you know them and use them. You are amazing!