Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Train Ride to No Where

There was little about the day that was ordinary. Mom had spent the morning cleaning house. The kitchen floor stood empty, ready to be cleaned. The chairs, usually neatly placed around the kitchen table, were lined up in the hallway at the base of the stairs. The boy imagined them to be a long train traveling through the untamed west...

He didn't really know where he was going or why. Boarding the train was a distant memory obscured by the events since. It seemed as though he'd been traveling these tracks for a hundred years. Riding horses on the range and herding cattle to market had been traded for the steel tracks long ago. Still, he considered himself a cowboy – a gun-toting, boot-wearing, grit-encrusted cowboy. There were other terms to describe who he thought he was: brushpopper, buckaroo, and cowpunch just to name a few. Some even considered him something of a scoundrel at times.

The train was going through unfriendly territory. What had come to be known as The Nation was full of danger  unfamiliar animals, unshaven men who'd shoot you for noticing, and Indians. He was certain that if he encountered any Indians, he was in trouble. Indians were mortal enemies of cowboys and everyone knew that. Shoot first or be shot. That was the rule. The risk was doubled due to the poor quality of the rails along which the train slithered. If you find yourself in hell, you want to get out fast. To push the train faster, though, would ensure derailment. This was a dangerous ride through treacherous territory. 

The train had been moving at a turtle's pace for hours. He knew it was only a matter of time before they'd encounter a group of indians looking for trouble. It seemed the only upside was the terrain didn't provide much cover for ambush. Cactus and Joshua Trees as far as the eye could see, hidden by little else. He was getting jumpy and the Joshua Trees could look uncannily like a man who needed a shave. 

Just about the time his vigilance was to give in to the unnatural quiet, he heard the wisp of a speeding arrow fly past his head. He'd gotten lucky again. The whole reason he was here had just let loose with a war howl sending his heart into his throat beating like a drum. His job now was to keep the uninvited guests from boarding the train. Flanked on both sides, he had to keep his focus moving. The grip of his gun was worn to fit his hand. It was comfortable and felt at home there. After shooting a few shots, the numbers of men trying to get on the train had started to diminish.

He was focused primarily on keeping the rest from getting on the train when he was startled by a soft, "hey . . .

"... buddy, it's time for lunch. How about a cheese sandwich?"

Mom and the boy had similar tastes. Grandma called it a "dry old cheese sandwich" but they knew it was the best there was.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

In memory of our God, our religion, our freedom, and our peace, our wives and our children

Following the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, the country was in an uproar. It was an easy choice for many to send in the troops, invading Afghanistan. Here we are 11 years later. We’ve fought in Afghanistan. We’ve invaded another country, Iraq. We’re still fighting in Afghanistan. Of course, I say, ‘we’ like it means something more than those who are actually there. I do not believe WE are doing anything of the sort. In fact, when the United States military invaded Afghanistan, I was worried.

The Book of Mormon provides an account of a secret criminal organization and the toll their secret plans had on society. This group called themselves the Gadianton Robbers. Although they were a terrible group with designs that were contrary to the good of the civilization, efforts to eradicate them were nearly impossible. I considered al Qaeda and their friends in the Talaban to be something more akin to the Gadianton Robbers than an organized country we could bring into submission through military force.

Again, here we are 11 years later. The Talaban hasn’t been stomped out and al Qaeda isn’t gone either. We’ve wasted so much blood and money in pursuit of these and others. Now, I fear another problem - the status quo.

We, the American people, have turned our backs on our military. We placate ourselves with yellow ribbons and hallow words of support. Little comfort does this provide the families who’ve lost their sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers. We have become so used to these great and selfless people fighting in a far away place, against and for a people with whom we haven’t any connection that we’ll hardly give it a second thought. Two months ago, the United States military casualties in the Afghanistan fight exceeded a milestone. More than 2000 soldiers have lost their lives. It was a footnote to an otherwise normal day for those of us living in the United States.

I am reminded again of another account from the Book of Mormon: “But behold, great has been the slaughter among our people; yea, thousands have fallen by the sword, while it might have otherwise been if ye had rendered unto our armies sufficient strength and succor for them. Yea, great has been your neglect towards us.” (Alma 60:3)

Are we not too complacent in the status quo? What have we gained from their sacrifice? How many friends and family have gone into the battle only to give up the most precious possession of all?

I am going to have a hard time sitting in relative comfort Thursday afternoon without remembering all we’ve lost in our pursuit of revenge for the most atrocious foreign attack on United States soil. I worry we’ve grown far too complacent in our lives and we do little more than lip service to support the military. I am grateful for our military, our soldiers and their families. I am grateful for the sacrifices they’ve made for my family, my friends, my country and me. We need to do something more than just talk about how great these young people are. I worry that my gratitude is far too little, it's not enough.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Caring Glances

Sometimes words do not carry as much meaning as we would like them to. We want to convey our feelings, our desires, and maybe a little wisdom. However, the tools we are left to use – words – just cannot seem to fill that gap between what we want to share and what we can impart. It is interesting that sometimes a few moments of silent interaction between two humans can convey more than a thousand words and leave a deeper, longer lasting impression.

When a toddler is learning to take those first steps, seldom is eye contact with the parent lost. During these moments of excitement, a great boost is offered in the confident smiles of a loving mom or dad. Still, it is more than a mere smile; surely, the whole countenance is one of caring concern mixed parental pride. This is just one of many occasions when a child will look to the parent for an approving look.

A few years ago, the greatest man I ever knew looked at me with an approving smile and love in his eyes. I will never forget that day for as long as I live. Although it was one instant of many, it is most important because it was the last.

I am grateful for the loving care with which my parents raised me and for the moments like this one that helped me to know they did have pride in the person I had become.