Thursday, March 21, 2013

Stories on Grandpa's Farm

I remember as a kid going to Grandpa's farm.  Life was different there. For one week each summer, I moved from my city life with air conditioning and nothing to do to a life where there was always something to do.  Every morning the cows had to be milked, the garden weeded, and there was always a fish that needed to be caught.  But more than anything I remember the stories.  Grandpa didn't get to finish the 8th grade.  The Depression got in the way.  His mother died when he was very young, he spent hisadult life fighting in World War II and working on the assembly line at the GM plant.   Their house didn't have air conditioning, but it did have huge trees in the yard.  It also had some old bus seats that he had found somewhere sitting under the shade of the trees.  If you happened to be in the area, and didn't have anything else to do, you could stop by, Grandma would get you a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea and you could argue politics, discuss the weather, or trade stories.

I heard about the .22 bullet he put in the wood stove in the little one room schoolhouse in Arkansas.  There was the time he was aiming at some critter with his gun and, instead of hitting the critter, hit the inside of his pickup bed.  Then there was the time he was in Germany in World War II and fell asleep on guard duty, only to be awakened by the hot breath of ...a cow!!!  I heard about WPA camps, and the Depression and folk songs and growing up on a farm

The stories could go on and on and on for hours.  If there wasn't a story, my Grandpa would argue politics with just about anyone who didn't think Roosevelt was the best president ever.  And, if you would just sit still he would help you identify the calls of the Bob White Quail, or the the mocking bird, or the Whipporwhill.  He showed me how to tell what at Elm (but he always pronounced it El-em) tree looked like, how to identify a shag bark hickory and how to find a good hickory nut to eat.

Somtimes we would just sit and whittle, or sit on a creek bank and hold our fishing poles (I hate to call what we did fishing, but we didn't ever catch very many) 

Grandpa is gone, but rarely does a week go by that I don't think of him.  Tonight is one of those nights.  I realize we don't tell stories as a society anymore.  Our stories are sit-coms or reality TV programs.  I feel sorry for the kids who don't get to hear Grandpa's stories.  We don't go out in the woods and see what a hickory Tree or an Oak, or a Elm tree look like, we find it on Wikipedia.  We don't talk, we text, or Tweet, or Facebook.

I think my Grandpa would be suprised by the technology of today.  No, let me take that back, I am pretty sure he would be aggarvated that people didn't want to pull into his driveway pull up a chair or a stump under the shade tree and tell stories.  He wouldn't think much of texting, Facebook and Twitter.  After all, who can tell a good story in only 140 characters. 

I have to wonder.  Are we today missing something?  Where are the stories?  Where is the time just sitting under the shade tree talking?  Maybe it's time to put down the phone for a while, pull out a fishing pole or pull up an old stump and tell a story.  I'll meet you outside under the shade tree.

A Funny (and obnoxious) telemarketer

I was walking around at a Chamber of Commerce trade show today looking at the various businesses showcasing their goods and services.  In the midst of it my cell phone rang.  I thought it might be home, so I stepped out of the way and answered it.  Low and behold it was a telemarketer.  Now, I respect sales people, and appreciate the hard work that cold call telemarketing is.  I am, after all, a salesperson myself.  But it didn't take long for it to turn cheesy.

"Wow, you sound like you are  having a great day.  Just talking to you made my day go better."  (I'm just asking, do lines like this actually work on anyone?"

Salesman: "So, does the wife love shopping?"

Me: "No, not really."

Salesman: "I'm not surprised, but my script tells me I am supposed to ask."

And on and on the winning lines came.  I was actually amused at the phone call.  He asked if we had ever been to Branson.  Then I figured it out, he wanted to sell me time share.  Since I can sometimes get free tickets and free lodging in Branson, I didn't need his offer, but I was really curious what his offer would be to get me to bite.

"So, here's my offer."  He said in the fakey, smiley, phony, salesey (is that even a word) voice.

"Three days and 2 nights in a deluxe hotel designed like a castle, 2 show tickets and a $30 food voucher.  Not to mention the discount card you receive absolutely free.  The tickets are worth $100 and the food voucher $30.  This doesn't even count the nights in the hotel, so, you will agree that $139 is a good deal, right?"

Quite honestly, it wasn't a very good deal, because, like I said, I can usually get free accommodations and show tickets through where I work, but the offer got even better!!!!

"Plus, there will be a short, 4 hour, entertaining presentation about what we can do for you and the fun things we offer."

I am thinking, at this point, I have to listen to a 4 hour commercial to talk me into spending money, plus I have to pay to go?  I wasn't seeing an upside, but then this is where it got interesting.

"The hotel room has an arcade for the kids, and room for 4, so you could bring the whole family.  By the way, how many do you travel with."

"6, I have 4 kids"

"Oh,"  I could almost hear the disappointment in his voice.  But he recovered quickly.  "I am sure we can have room for everyone.  And you can have a nice time with the family.  Send the kids to the arcade in the hotel and you and the missus can, well I'll let you fill in the blank.  Or, maybe with 4 already, you have enough and will find something else to do."

REALLY?!?!?  At that point, even if they had offered it for free, I would have said no.  I know he thought he was being a funny salesman and trying to make conversation.  Quite honestly, I am not even aggravated at him, but rather the culture.  Four kids isn't too many.  Four kids isn't even a large family by any standard other than today's.  How sad to think that, given the opportunity, I would refuse to take yet another blessing from God (not to mention, you know what with my wife), just because I don't want any more kids.  Is that really where our culture is?

You know what is even funnier.  He was making that joke, and inside I had to laugh.  What I didn't tell him is that all 4 of my kids are adopted!!!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A View from the Windmill

I love the story of Don Quixote.  For those of you not acquainted, it is the story of a man who imagines himself a knight.  Frequently, he sees things in ways no one else does.  Many think he is insane, but he chooses to see a world of chivalry.  His true love is a servant girl easily ignored.  He gives her the name Dulcinea.  His family is concerned with their image and what his "insanity" will cause them, but he persists to be a knight, righting all kinds of perceived wrongs. 

Possibly the most famous scene is when he fights the windmills.  He rides up on his worn out old workhorse, Rocinate, and sees giants where everyone else sees only windmills.  As his trusted sidekick, Sancho Panza tries to help him see, these are only windmills, Don Quixote answers, "'One may easily see,' said Don Quixote, 'that you have but little acquaintance with such matters of adventures.'"

Life is an adventure, a gift from God, a gift to be enjoyed.  Not all of it is pleasurable, not all of it is fun, but it is all an adventure.  In fact, after the windmill battle, Don Quixote was rather injured, and sometimes our adventures leave us battered and bruised.  My prayer is that I will not see life through the same lens everyone else does, but rather, by God's grace, I can see myself as a knight, in service to a greater King.  May I be able to look at life as an adventure, given to me by my King.  And may I see people and situations more as He does, even if people think me insane.  That means sometimes my view comes from the windmills that I fight.  A view that might seem crazy to some, but allows me to see things differently.  I choose to dream the impossible dream, given by a God that does the impossible.  This is the song from the play, Man of LaMancha, a play loosely based on the novel.

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go.

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star.

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star