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Category Archives: Americana

The ‘Bar Mitzvah’ for Ranch Kids

The Bar Mitzvah is a Jewish ceremony for boys reaching the age of 13 and is kinda regarded as a coming of age from boyhood to manhood. Well, the Jews do it a little different than we did it out on the ranch. OK, …..quite a bit different, as a matter of fact!

All our water on the ranch was made by windmills, not just for the cattle and horses. They even provided the water for our houses. If the wind didn’t blow for a few days (usually not a problem in the Texas Panhandle!) we would have no water, which did happen a couple of times in the 30 years we lived there. As a kid growing up on the ranch one of the things you learned early on was how to fix a windmill. Sometimes it was just to replace worn ‘leathers’. Other times the bottom cylinder might have a hole in it which required pulling all the pipe out of the well and replacing it. Not fun! But we could do it, and did many a time.

One of the routine jobs in keeping windmills operating is to keep them oiled good. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, ….it ain’t! Here’s how it goes. OK, looking up it doesn’t look too high up there but up top where you have to put the oil in, and lookin’ down, it’s scary high! So, what you have to do is get a big ‘ol can of oil (about 2-3 gallons) with a long spout on it, climb up the hand and foot rails of the windmill. Remember now, you’re also carrying roughly 20 lbs of oil in one hand and climbing with the other. So, I’m makin’ my way up the windmill, my Dad coaching me every step. Now I”m gettin’ closer to the top where there’s a little foot and a half platform to stand on. Getting up on that tiny thing is a real trick…..with only one usable hand. Now, you’re up on top of the tiny platform. The fan or blades of the windmill are 6-8 feet in diameter. The windmill is turned off so the blades are not turning. But in the Texas Panhandle, there’s hardly a day where there ain’t at least a nice little breeze. This day was a day such as that. And when it’s breezy like that the fan and blades, while they’re not spinning, still move around some causing you to picture yourself getting knocked off there and hittin’ the ground to certain death. All this is going through my mind while my Dad’s still coaching me along from the ground. Now, lookin’ down it appears to be about 90 feet (actually only about 25 ft) to the ground! It’s not…..but it dang sure looks it! As if that wasn’t enough, ….here’s the tricky part. The part of the windmill that has the gear mechanism in it is enclosed and covered by a big (foot and a half) hood, kinda cone shaped. You gotta stand on your tippy toes, reach as high as you possibly can and remove the nut off the top of that hood! Now, I’ve got oil in one hand, a nut and the hood in another….all the while trying to hold on for dear life. The entire 13-14 years of my life was running like a movie through my mind. Is it gonna just kill me on impact or will I be mangled and a vegetable the rest of my life? I’m way too young to die. My Dad still calmly coaching me along, ……almost like he doesn’t even realize I’m about to fall to my death. Now, I gotta hoist the big oil can up over my head and start to pour it in the gear casing. Oh, did I mention your hands are super greasy from handling the oil can complicating the whole process?! I’m trying to do all that and listen to the instructions my Dad’s giving me and I couldn’t help but to desperately ask, “What if I fall?” And, you know he gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. He just calmly, confidently and simply said, ………..”You won’t”.

He was right! I didn’t!

You can’t imagine how relieved I was to get back on solid ground!

So, that’s how we do the ‘ol Bar Mitzvah on the ranch! It’s the rite of passage from being a kid into full-fledged manhood!

There’s a lot of things I miss about the ranch life,     ………that ain’t one of ’em!

PS-I’ll bet money if you climbed up that same windmill today you could find my claw marks dented in that galvanized iron!

…….makes me miss my Dad……

Addendum: Every person who has climbed up a windmill tower and stood on that little platform has experienced the sensation of looking up and seeing the clouds slowly drifting overhead. It gives one the feeling that the windmill is tipping over. It’s pretty frightening the first time you experience it. So much so that I heard a story of one man who was up there, saw the clouds, thought the windmill was tipping over……..and jumped! I’m not sure if that’s true………but it could be!

 

Here’s another one you might like:

Labor Day Out on the ‘Ol ‘Lazy J’

 

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A Lifetime of Faithfulness

I bumped into a Friend in the post office last week. He’s a retired pastor in his late 80’s.  He just sold his home and he and his wife are entering an assisted living facility in a neighboring town. He retired from the ministry a short time ago. Spent his whole life ministering in a small country church. A whole lifetime of faithfulness. I have a lot of respect for guys like that.

It made me think; I doubt he ever made much more money than to barely get by. Not rare to have to find some kind of supplemental income. Probably never got asked to speak at a big conference anywhere. Never gonna have his picture or an article in Charisma magazine. Not even gonna name a street after him in his little town. He’s not one to complain about that kinda stuff. It obviously wasn’t what was important to him. But, he kept on being faithful anyhow.

I bet he knew three or four generations of people there where he ministered all those years. Went through all the ups and downs with ’em. Everything from burying their grandpa to seeing a new baby boy welcomed into the world and entire families devastated by some of the tragedies life brings. Held their hands when they didn’t have any hope for what they were facing. Always clinging to, and pointing them to God. And, in a little church like that in a tiny community, the Pastor has to do everything. Preach every Sunday for decade upon decade. Marry ’em, bury ’em, and everything in between. All the while getting the usual criticism that goes along with the job. Think about how much wisdom he gained in a generation or more. Think about how much he would have to offer…….anyone.

In my conversation with my Friend, he lost his train of thought a time or two and apologized for it. He even said, “Well, that’s the problem I have now.”. I ‘felt’ his pain at that very moment and it grieved me. Even makes me tear up while I’m writing.

It’s been a whole lifetime of faithfulness, to the Lord and to the people He entrusted him with. It makes me wonder if anyone really noticed; if anyone did much more than say, “Thank ‘ya”. But, I have an opinion about men like my Friend. You don’t have to agree with me but I bet ‘ya when we get up ‘there’, you know, in Heaven that guys like my Friend are gonna be getting some heavy duty hardware when they start passin’ out the rewards. I think we might be surprised at how honored ‘then’ they might be as compared to those who won world acclaim here on earth. We should honor them now, ….but we probably won’t….

Some people just don’t appreciate a lifetime of faithfulness like that.

But I do!

….and I think the Father does too!

Well done!

 

 

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It’s The Hardest Part

We lost a great American treasure a year and a half ago, in my opinion, when Tom Petty unexpectedly passed away. One of the great rockers of all-time, who grew up in Gainesville, FL, and was the victim of some pretty violent abuse at the hands of his dad. Music, as it turned out, was a welcome escape from that environment for him. His mom bought him a cheap Sears guitar when he was 14 and the rest, as they say, is history. His band, The Heartbreakers, accomplished what few other bands have ever achieved…and that is the fact that they stayed together, for the most part, for over 40 years! Some would argue that Petty lacked vocal perfection, but if you were fortunate enough to make one of his concerts (we did twice in the last 3 years!) you would hear the bigger part of twenty thousand people, young and old, singing along with every song…..word for word, for two and a half hours! So, Tom Petty fan or not, you’d have to admit that he’ll go down in history as one of the all time greats.

Now, I don’t think every song out there has a spiritual message, unless of course, you want it to. But most songs of any genre will have a line or two that, if you think about it…and try just a little, could definitely be applied in a spiritual way. I’m a ‘music guy’, not a musician by any stretch (I could only wish!), just someone who loves music. So, I hear in just about every song something that catches my attention, something that I can apply spiritually and maybe pass it along to someone else who can catch the truth contained. Many of Tom Petty’s songs have those things I’m talking about; “You Don’t Have To Live Like a Refugee” would definitely be one. Gonna write something up on that ‘un one of these days. And, how about, “I Won’t Back Down”? Now there’s a, nearly perfect, spiritual warfare song; one that you could actually sing on Sunday mornings if you’d loosen up just a little.

But one that recently caught my attention is a song called, “The Waiting”. Written over 37 years ago, and not designed to be a spiritual song, whatsoever, it does have a line or two that holds some pretty profound spiritual truths. “The waiting is the hardest part”! Boy, ain’t that the truth!? Learning to wait is one of the hardest things for both the natural, and the spiritual man. We live in a culture that has trained us to want everything immediately; I mean, ….right now! But, as we mature in the Lord, learning to wait is an invaluable trait…and one that’s not often found even among believers, sad to say.

I wish I could say I had it perfected. But, waiting on the Lord hasn’t come easy for me. I guess you could call me a ‘slow learner’ in that respect. But I’m a lot better than I used to be…and I think I’m getting better. It comes with an understanding that God has His ways and He’s precise in His timing. In another way, it’s one of His ways of teaching us to live by faith. At any rate, waiting on the Lord is a virtue that we should all try to attain.

So, whether it’s a promise from Him you’re waiting on, or a prophetic word that has yet to materialize, or maybe even a prayer you’re wondering if He heard or not, ….waiting, as hard as it is, …..might just be the most productive thing you can do. Make no mistake about it, Tom Petty had it right; the waiting is the hardest part!

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part …………The Waiting’ – Tom Petty

...oh, and by the way, the Bible holds some amazing promises for us as we learn to wait. Isaiah 40:31 *(go read it!)

 

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The Empire ‘Always’ Strikes Back!

One of the largest grossing films of all time, now surpassing the $538 million dollar mark! The story, the second in the Star Wars Trilogy, set 3 years after Star Wars pits again the villainous Galactic Empire leader, Darth Vader against young Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance. The film was the largest grossing film of 1980 and has since continued to rake in the millions and is now regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. When the movie came out it moved the bar up considerably where special effects were concerned. George Lucas became a household name and the ‘Trilogy’ established itself in American culture forever.

There is a mystical power known as “the Force”. It’s described as, “an energy field created by all living things that bind the galaxy together”. (sound familiar??!) Those whom “the Force is strong with” have quick reflexes; through training and meditation, they are able to perform supernatural feats. The Force is displayed by two opposing entities who are at violent conflict with one another. The Jedi, the ‘good guys’, who act on the light side of the Force, and the Sith, Vader’s evil empire, who use the dark side through fear, intimidation, and aggression.

It’s an epic story on the eternal battle between good and evil both here on the Earth and in the celestial realm. As a believer, it’s a battle that you’ve been swept into whether you like it or not. Just the movie’s title, The Empire Strikes Back, has a somewhat sobering and prophetic ring to it. It’s a great analogy of the spiritual warfare we face as believers and kingdom citizens. The spiritual comparisons in this movie are many. Darth Vader is a fair comparison to Satan although even at his very worst is no match for our adversary, the devil. At the end of the first movie, Skywalker and his rag-tag bunch of warriors win a hard fought battle against the forces of darkness. But there’s enough of the remnant of the Evil Empire left to start the slow process of building back, and ultimately assembling a formidable and potentially vicious deadly troop focused on the attack and destruction of the Jedi’s.

So yeah, just like in the movie the Empire always strikes back! You might as well get ready for it. They know your weakness. They know just how to attack. They’re determined to destroy you. But, take courage! You’re well equipped for this epic battle. It’s one you’re going to win! So, suit up!! Take up your lightsaber! You know, the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God! Put on your helmet of salvation, and take up that shield of faith with which you can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one!

This battle is a BIG one!

Good luck, …..and may the Force be with you!

 

 

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Don’t Let The Old Man In

That Clint Eastwood can make a movie! He’s had a string of good ones. You can see a list of them here. Starting out as young Rowdy Yates, a cowhand and cattle drover, in Rawhide (I never missed that one as a kid!), to his most recent role in The Mule’, as Earl Stone, a 90-year-old drug courier for the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, the movies he’s starred in or directed are nearing the 3 billion range in dollars generated! That’s mind-boggling! Whether it was the High Plains Drifter or ‘Dirty Harry’ Callahan, Eastwood has always managed to give a stellar, and genuine performance. And if you’ve kept up it appears he’s done nothing but get better at his craft. At 88, he might very well be at the top of his game.

I like a movie that arouses my emotions; one that can make me laugh, make me think, has plenty of suspense or mystery, maybe a surprise or two….and one that’ll even cause me to try to hold back the tears. His last one, The Mule, has all that. Without going into detail and risk ruining the whole story for ya, I’d just say, “You need to go see it.”. The critics gave it mixed reviews but if you like any of the things I like, ….you’ll be pleased.

There was a song closing out the last scene in the movie. It was a great song. I was pretty sure it was Toby Keith singing so when I got out of the theater I Googled it and, sure enough, it was Keith. The song title, “Don’t Let the Old Man In”.  As it turns out, sometime in the last couple of years at a celebrity golf tournament Toby Keith and Clint ended up being paired with one another. And probably just like you and I would be, Keith was enamored with Clint Eastwood. As they talked Clint told Toby that he was about to start work on this new movie. Keith asked Clint, “How do you still work so hard and stay so sharp at 88?” Eastwood quietly replied, “I just wake up every morning and don’t let the old man in.”

Keith realized right then, that would make good material for a great song so he went to work on it. After hearing about the song and then actually hearing it, Eastwood told Keith that he might find a place for it sometime. And, as it turned out he’d use it much sooner rather than later. It is so well placed in the movie that it puts just the right finishing touch on an already great film.

Whatever you do, click on the link above and listen to the song. You’ll be glad you did. But, heads up!! I’ll warn you ahead of time, it’ll get in your head!

And, as for me, I think I’ve decided to be like Clint; I’m gonna start wakin’ up tomorrow……and I ain’t gonna let the old man in!

 

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Everybody Needs a “Hi-Pockets” Duncan in Their Life

I bet you never even heard of him! Well, that name meant nothing to me either until a few months ago. *(Thanks to my good friend, Charles Lynn who sent me an autographed copy of Terry Jennings [Waylon’s son!], and who I recently became friends with) brand new book, Waylon, Tales of My Outlaw Dad) Hi-Pockets was a Lubbock, Texas disc jockey in the ’50s who was instrumental in giving a young Lubbock performer, Charles Hardin Holly, better known as ‘Buddy’, his first real opportunity. In those days there was lots of talent around Lubbock but Buddy Holly was special.

You know the tragic story of Buddy Holly but you might not know that his young friend and bass player from nearby Littlefield, Texas gave his seat up to another performer on that ill-fated plane destined for Fargo, ND. Yep, Waylon Jennings, himself, should’ve been on that plane. The regular tour bus froze up and Buddy decided to charter a plane for himself and his band. The others would use a school bus for the long, cold drive to Fargo.

Waylon and Buddy were tight friends and before Buddy departed on that fateful night they jokingly exchanged barbs with one another. Since Waylon was going to have to ride a bus to the destination, Buddy jokingly said, “I hope the bus breaks down.” to which Waylon replied, “I hope your ‘ol plane crashes.”That would be a statement that would haunt Waylon for decades. In fact, it almost ruined him, and understandably so. It crippled him so emotionally that he basically quit the music business altogether.

It was months later and Waylon had no intentions of re-engaging in the music business at any level when Hi-Pockets cornered him that afternoon. I guess you could say he, more or less, gave him a good chewing out; you know, one of them old fashioned talkin’ to’s! He told him he had absolutely no business feeling guilty about his friend’s terrible twist of fate; and that what he should do is get out of the ditch he was in, quit moping around, get back up….and get going again. It took a few days for that advice to kick in, ……but it did! And the rest, as they say, is history.

There’s probably not a single one of us who’ve not had our dreams snuffed out. For some it’s been terminal; for others maybe just a delay in where their life was to go. But at any rate getting back up after a derailment is exactly what needs to happen. Someone said, “To be successful in life all you have to do is get back up one more time than you get knocked down”. Sounds easy,…..the actual ‘doing of it’ is much harder. But, undeniably, it IS the thing to do.

And, sometimes, it takes a Hi-Pockets Duncan type to get you up and going again. Better yet, …..maybe sometime you’ll have the chance to be that person of encouragement for someone else. Sometimes a good ‘talkin’-to’ is just the thing to get the ball rolling again!

 

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You Oughta See Us When We Ain’t Winnin’!

It was back in the late ’70s, during my rodeo days.  We had driven all night the night before from Montgomery, Alabama with very little sleep. Only what little you could get in the back, or front, seat of a car with four others packed in there too. We had finished riding on this particular night in the rodeo in San Angelo, Texas. It was around midnight and we pulled into an all-night convenience store to get stocked up for another all-nighter to Phoenix. We dropped off one guy so there’d only be four of us for this trip. One less driver….but more room to sleep!

We made our trip around the c-store and brought all our stuff and put it on the counter to check out. Out there on the counter were big bags of potato chips, Doritos, pork skins, Cheetos, Louisiana Hot Sauce, Slim-Jims, Fritos, bean dip, beef jerky, peanuts, a few candy bars………oh, and a case of beer. The night manager, a gentleman in his 40’s, looked over all the items we put on the counter, shook his head back and forth a few times, ….looked me square in the eye and said, in an extremely serious tone, “How in the hell do you guys live??!!” …..To which I quickly replied, “Heck, that ain’t nothin’, you oughta see us when we ain’t winnin’!”

True Story!

 

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