Monday, March 30, 2009


I did not grow up a reader. I can only remember a few books, one or two, that I read as a child in school. I grew up in a normal school and home setting for the most part, but I don’t remember being a family that read. I had friends along the way that I noticed devoured books and I envied them.

Danny was one of those friends. His parents were well read and they were smart. They talked about politics and things going on in the world. They also read the bible. To this day Danny reads every night before he goes to sleep.

Somewhere along the way, in my mid twenties, I began to read. I think it was Danny who inspired me to read again and the first books I chose. I started reading the James Clavel series Shogun, Taipan and the others. Then I read a couple huge books on mergers and corporate takeovers rolling straight into a series of business biographies. These were all long reads and each time I completed one it became a special trophy, an accomplishment I was very proud of.
When I had my birthday recently I got a book from my wife, Wilderness Challenge by William G. Collins. I read that book over the weekend and loved it. It is now on my favorites list. Another favorite is Waiting for White Horses by Nathan Jorgenson. Both these books took me on an adventure, moved me to thought and emotion. Those are the things I look for in a book. Interestingly these were both first book for the authors.

Reading is a lost art to many. I have a friend, Ben Raider, who is an author. He has written a series of really funny books built around a game warden and his adventures. The problem that he and I have talked about many times is that it is hard to get the guys who would enjoy his books to read them. Outdoor guys are good on magazines, but not necessarily books. I remember once at an event we had tons of kids coming by our booths. He had books, I had stickers and pencils. The kids avoided him and flocked to the free stuff we had. By the end of the weekend we were laughing as he tried to coax kids in to see some literature. A book. They were confused and all but interested. Sad but true.

My kids have been read to almost every night since they were small. They are now good readers. I give that credit to my wife. Her consistency has paid off in dividends that will give to them for life. I love it when they read and tell me about their books. I will buy them almost any book they want to read. I actually have found a used book online is a great buy and I buy them a lot.

I could always read more. I should read more. When I read a book I love to feel it, to laugh and cry and be excited to get back to it. I love the feeling of not wanting to be interrupted or rushing back to it after a day of work or a distraction.

Coming from a high school drop-out background Satan always tries to convince me I am not worthy or smart, but he is wrong. The Lord has blessed me with the ability to read, the gift of emotion and a world of books, including His. I can read the bible everyday and understand something new.

Now I wear reading glasses and they can be a hassle. I have electronic distractions everywhere; I carry one on my side (Blackberry phone). But there is nothing like a book, a story on paper that takes you somewhere, teaches you something or just makes you feel good. So remember what my good buddy Ben Raider says, “Hey kids look, literature – it’s OK”.

Take a minute, enjoy that quiet time. Enjoy the adventure of a book.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Cowboy Way

I love stories of strong willed resolute people. I hear these tales many times when I talk to our older generations. I hear stories of kids who woke up early to milk the cows then off to school all day then home to work till dark each night. I hear of long days at the office where men built businesses and careers from nothing. I hear of time spent reading, writing (with a pencil) and talking. People set forth to accomplish things and they would not look up until they were complete. Change their lives, change their living conditions just change what needed to be changed.

Today it seems we are getting soft around the waste and in how much we can handle. Society as a whole seems to look for the easy way out. Don’t hear me wrong because I know many who work their fingers to the bone, who love with all their hearts and set their minds to get things done and do. There are those who want everyone to have it easy and comfortable even if they do not do their part, they want others to pick up the slack and make it all better.

Winn McClure grew up ranching and living the “cowboy way”. McClure lives in West Texas and to this day works his cattle ranch, he is 80-years-old. He lives each day with droughts and fences, cattle feed and coyotes, fresh air and quiet time away from everything. When I sat and talked with him recently we talked about God, morals and habits. At one point our conversation turned to smoking. McClure had smoked the old brands of cigarettes that were filter-less and pure nicotine. Four packs a day at his peak. Now anything you do that many times a day then add in an addictive chemical element over many years will hook you.

McClure had a wonderful spin on how he quit cigarettes that got me to thinking about how tough we are and determined as a society today. “Back in 1959,” was how he started his story. “Back then we lived in Odessa and one cold winter afternoon I ran out of smokes.” His wife was in the kitchen making Christmas candy when McClure announced he was out of cigarettes. “Well go to town and get some and get me some raw peanuts for the candy,” she said matter of factly. So he headed into town.

When McClure got to the store they were out of raw peanuts. “I asked for my regular carton of smokes and they told me that would be $3. Three dollars, I told him he was crazy, I would never pay that much for a carton of cigarettes. Then he told me my wife had been paying that for years. I didn’t know cause I never did the grocery shopping. That was it – I told them right then and there if they were gonna cost that much I would just quit.”

That day McClure quit smoking and never started back. I have quit a few unhealthy habits but I don’t think I ever just quit something with that much resolve. I usually squirm and whine as I suffer through it. I just thought what he did was so classic, hard-nosed, set in their ways old timer tough. I have heard ranchers and country folks tell me all types of stories like his. Stories of strong willed individualism and determination for good.

As Americans I don’t think we will ever lose our drive and will to push ahead, not everyone. There will always be mavericks and innovators, winners and losers. No matter where we go as a society we will have men and women who will not fit the mold or settle for less.

The bible tells us stories of those who lived and died because they made a decision and would not waiver. They were convicted of their faith and determined to share that with others. While facing certain death, sitting in prison and even Jesus as he was beaten and crucified stood for what he believed, made the choice to stand in the gap, speak out, to die for what is right. Mr. McClure quit smoking and that was that, done. I pray I can teach my kids to reach for the brass ring, to stretch, to strive to be a winner. I pray my kids are not afraid to share their faith with others and make hard choices. To this day I believe there is something to be said for “the cowboy way.”