Down through the eons of time, empires, dynasties, and eminent civilizations, have achieved great heights, and then come down like the salmon leaves of autumn, brought low by the same, troublesome human nature that has hobbled mankind since ol’ Cain cudgeled Abel. Learned philosophers and renowned historians have devoted their lives to the study of these events, producing ponderous, voluminous anthologies, which grace the shelves of celebrated centers of higher learning all over the world.And today, when similar behavior threatens our own aspiring metropolis, we scratch our head, and wring our hands, and wonder what the hell happened.I feel tremendous empathy for people as individuals. As a species, I think we’re highly overrated.
King Solomon lamented, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity, vanity and vexation of spirit” Truer words were never spoken; much of life seems meaningless. I’ve often been the victim of unrealistic expectations myself.We never outgrow our longing to fill our rooms with the same toys the big kids have, whether we can afford them or not.Those who achieve the affluence to reach their goals are understandably swelled by the accomplishment. Too often, long sought goals once reached, become a burden, and dreams, once realized, generally disappoint.
Reflecting on the life of Solomon, the Bible encourages us to enjoy the simple pleasures of our Christian lives and labors; these are our portion; these are a gift from God. Eat, drink and find gratification through savoring your life and humbly serving others. Offer your heart, and God will surely fill it.Micah 6:8 points out, that in order to attain goodness in Gods eyes, we need only follow Christ’s example: “Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.” STC
Back in the mid fifties, my previously idyllic childhood was changed forever, by a stubborn fever and a stiff, aching neck. Following a spinal tap and a diagnosis of Poliomyelitis, I spent several weeks convalescing at Kaiser Hospital in Vallejo California. During a two week confinement in a crowded hospital, with countless other crippled children, a five year old has worlds of time to pray. One night, all alone in my room, scared half to death and miles and miles from home, I called out to Jesus from the very depths of my soul. Days later the hospital ran some tests and told my folks to collect me and take me home. Infantile paralysis had run its course; my symptoms were gone, and my folks free to take me home. When I tugged my cowboy boots back on, and Dad and Mom headed out with me in tow, I began a walk with Jesus that has lasted to this day. When my family and I arrived in Missouri in 1978, I became a member of Dry Creek General Baptist Church, where I was baptized under the bridge at Indian Creek in 1979. Twenty years later, in 1998, I became a member of Pomona Christian Church, where I maintain my membership today. I live in the Ozarks now. Suffice it to say, the majority of my church family are lifelong, staunch conservatives. I love those folks dearly, and so far they tolerate me. As someone who has considered Jesus Christ my personal Savior for over fifty years, I follow The Golden Rule. I respond to others as I’d have them respond to me. I believe in doing justly, loving mercy, walking humbly with my God, and enthusiastically supporting the rights of others to walk with theirs. I believe freedom is all about personal choices. I cherish my own freedom; I make my own choices, and I passionately support the freedom and choices of others. If that makes me a liberal, so be it. I prefer to consider myself an American.
San Francisco Bay is entered through a comparatively narrow passage, and then opens up into a grand expanse of water, extending north and south as far as the eye can see.Eventually our travels would take us northward across this tremendous bay to the storied El Dorado, with its mountains of goldand the snowcapped Sierra’s beyond.For now our destination is Yerba Buena.
Approximately thirty miles southeast from the mouth of the bay, on the leeward side of a long spit of land, is a high point on which the presidio is built.Southeast of the presidio is one of several harbors in the bay.This particular harbor is anchorage for trading vessels, and near it is the mission of San Francisco and the city of Yerba Buena.
As we rounded this point and the harbor came into view, even our well-traveled captain gasped and stood in awe!There at harbor were literally hundreds of ships! I’d seen some busy harbors in the last five months, and the harbor in Philadelphia was no slouch itself, but never in my wildest dreams had I ever even imagined a spectacle like this.I’d hazard a guess and say there were probably five hundred ships in this bay!There were tall ships, and steam ships, old East Indiamen, brigs and barges, countless schooners, and clippers of every imaginable cut of sail.There were Yankee clippers that looked as though they might have been built last week, and ol’ frigates I’ll bet Columbus himself has sailed.
The following morning around five o’clock, I was sleeping like a baby, when something cracked me with a vengeance on the head! As I lay there, trying to gather my wits and diagnose my smarting, a resounding clank issued from the graniteware coffeepot. Having retreated into a fetal position, I was fighting desperately to remain unconscious, when something pelted a nearby rock and splattered my face with ice. With this I sat up instantly and scanned the camp! Additional bombardments began peppering the camp, and all at once something landed in my lap. Examining the little intruder, I discovered a hailstone about the size of a marble. Within moments the occasional pelting had built to a fever pitch, and the deluge threatened to bury me in my sheets.
Just as my poor sleep muddled mind was preparing to dictate some action, the camp lit up with a nearby lightning strike; thunder followed instantly, and gale force winds began to ravage the camp! Suddenly the previously peaceful scene took on all the urgency of an angry ants nest! The unsecured canvas abruptly abandoned the kid’s wagon, subjecting its unsuspecting inhabitants to the onslaught of hail. All the Kinney kids heads popped up, and little Eliza let out a blood-curdling scream! Anyone not already awake was on their feet and reconnoitering now!
I sprang to my feet and embedded my toe in a big ol’ slab of granite, and the camp came alive with frantic folks in nightgowns! Springing from his cot in a red cotton nightshirt, Griz became hopelessly entangled in the tent support, and wet canvas came down around Asa and Meda’s ears. Mariah struggled to light a lantern, donned a robe, and rushed to assist the kids. The combination of Eliza’s unsettling outburst, and the heartening glow of Mariah’s lantern, quickly drew all the campers to the back of the wagon. Nehemiah and I respread the canvas, and then, desperate for cover from the pummeling hail, fourteen of us squeezed in the bed of that crowded shelter. Once our initial fright had subsided, Eliza became amused and gave a giggle. Lidge was the first to give our assembly voice. “Well Jeez Louise!” He articulated disgustedly, “so much for sleepin’ in!” And the whole congregation laughed until we cried!
All fourteen of us sat there shoulder to shoulder, with the little ones in our laps, cowering from the thunder and hugging each other for warmth. Teeth chattered, nightshirts dripped, and we listened to the rain on the roof of that canvas tent. Thirty minutes later the storm subsided and Mokelumne peeked from the canvas and gave the all clear. The unexpected deluge had beaten the collapsed tent flat and covered most everything else with a half inch of hail. The campfire was drowned and all our bedding soaked! Asa set about resuscitating the campfire, and we tied a rope to several trees and hung the soggy bedding out to dry. The towering thunderheads flashed intermittently as they slowly advanced to the north, and eventually the welcome sun peeked over the ridge. Despite our best efforts, the children could not be reconciled to sleep. Lynn dried their hair and assisted with nature calls, and eventually chaos relented and order returned. The campfire being reconstituted, Asa fed it lavishly with pinecones and pitchy limbs, until at last it responded and produced a spectacular blaze! The dry, pitch-laden fuel cracked and popped intermittently, and the nighty-clad children formed ranks and gathered round. Their little hineys steamed from the warmth of the fire, and we tried unsuccessfully to get them to wear their shoes.
Within thirty minutes the full sun had made short work of our accumulation of hail, and the temperature gradually warmed back into the seventies. Lidge and I led an expedition to bring back additional firewood, and our party returned to the welcome aroma of smoked bacon and heating griddles. Lynn started the bacon frying and Mariah and I helped Mokelumne peel potatoes. Asa had brought along the big pot from the restaurant, and once it was boiling, he prepared to add the coffee. Rolling up his sleeves, he reached into the burlap bag and meticulously brought out three handfuls, as he counted, “That’s one for me, and one for you, and one more for the pot.” Then he brought out his pocket watch and noted the time. “Three minutes ought to do it.” He said, carefully winding his timepiece, “peel an eye and holler if she starts to boil over.” Leaving me to observe the pot, he walked to the tailgate where Lynn was cracking eggs. He selected several pieces of eggshell, eyed them approvingly and returned to the boiling pot. “Has it been three minutes?” he enquired, checking his timepiece. Hearing no reply, he glanced at his watch and suggested that was close enough. Removing the pot and observing the swirling froth in the top, he set it to rest and allow the grounds to settle. After a moment he lifted the lid and dropped in the handful of shells. “That’ll help settle the grounds.” He says, “Don’t ask me why, but it always worked for Dad.”
By this time Griz had the batter prepared; Nehemiah poured it on the griddle, and the aroma in camp was enough to drive me wild! After Griz had produced several healthy stacks of pancakes, Mariah cooked the remaining batter, producing animal shaped cakes for all the kids. Golden brown with melted butter and awash in maple syrup, ya can’t beat pancakes eaten by a crackling fire. I’ll remember that breakfast till the good Lord calls me home! We had hotcakes & bacon with scrambled eggs, a huge pan of fried potatoes, and I don’t believe I’ve ever enjoyed coffee more! The smell of the campfire, the melodious call of Steller’s jays, and the invigorating mountain air, all left an impression embedded in my soul.
During the rest of the week, we went hiking and swimming, took afternoon naps, went picnicking up at Loon, and enjoyed a snipe hunt that the kids won’t soon forget, but looking back now, I treasure the fellowship most. That week with my family and all of my friends, the MacCauleys, and Asa and Meda, produced memories of loved ones I’ll treasure for the rest of my days. When I make it to Heaven and the Lord sees me in and asks how my best days were spent, I’ll remind him of the week that we spent up at Loon, when we camped in that ol’ canvas tent. Obie’s Quest
I've invested a good deal of time and energy into naturalizing my yard, so that it appears as though I've done absolutely nothing.My efforts have been largely successful; my wife at least is convinced!
Eventually a pause in the conversation signaled an opportunity to freshen our coffee. Nehemiah stood, stretched, and gazed briefly into the myriad, brilliant stars. Turning to me, he gestured in an all-encompassing wave across the area to our east, and began a detailed description of our surroundings. His observations were insightful and undoubtedly came of a wealth of firsthand experience. According to Nehemiah, approximately a mile east of our location, beyond a series of granite peaks are the headwaters of Gerle Creek and Loon Lake. Barely a dozen miles beyond that, as the crow flies, occupying an ancient crater, is Bigler Lake, Initially christened Lake Bonpland, and known to Lake Valley’s native inhabitants as Tahoe, which translates as “Big Water” in the Washoe dialect, or “Grasshopper Soup” if you prefer Mr. Twain’s embellishment. Stretching between here and Tahoe is Desolation Valley; a vast expanse of inaccessible canyons, impenetrable vegetation, flawless, jewel like waters, and sheer granite precipices, piercing the wispy cumulous and vying for the stars. Barely two dozen miles from here, on the eastern shore of Tahoe, lay the Nevada Territory; home of Virginia City, Carson Valley, and haven to this areas Indian population during the long winter months, when snowfall in excess of twelve feet renders these magnificent mountains inaccessible to even the hearty Paiutes.
At this point in our conversation Nehemiah paused, warming his backside at the campfire, and savoring his steaming cup. Mokelumne, squatting cross-legged on the sandy ground and staring intently into the glowing embers, pulled her shawl close around her shoulders and continued. Her captivating saga depicted the well-remembered experiences of her own family’s migrations, and went on to recall time-honored ancestral stories of the ancient ones, who’d migrated to this land long, long ago, when woolly mammoths still ranged the lowlands, and the Great Spirit had led the people into the northernmost reaches of the west coast of North America. From there they’d migrated southward, along the west coast, in a faithful quest for freedom, independence, and a new life in the storied promise land.
Here, after long years of hardship, her people had escaped the great ice, and found a land of plenty. Here the Great Spirit had placed his cross on the mountain, that all who behold the fabled TALLAC, will remember the Lord’s covenant with the Redman; that, while Tallac endures, the Redman shall endure also, prospering in his stewardship, and blessed by the natural wonders of his God. This thought provoking chronicle stirred emotions and resulted in a long, disquieting lull in the conversation. Mokelumne became suddenly melancholy as her narrative brought home the sad plight that her people currently suffer. Tallac and its legend endure to this day, in the form of an ancient snow filled crevasse, high on the mountain. Here its cross-like feature stands lonely sentinel over Lake Valley and the immaculate waters of its majestic lake.
Mokelumne’s people on the other hand, although enduring, represent the last scattered vestige of their once proud nation. Tallac endures, and the noble race endures, but their faithfulness is sorely tested, and despite their stewardship, their cherished way of life and their God-given bounty hang in the balance. Their land is besieged, and the world rushes in.
Rising slowly, Mokelumne excused herself and set up our cots. Nehemiah and I tended the mules and stoked the fire, and then the three of us made up our beds and settled in. Tomorrow would bring new adventures, a fishing trip to Loon, and more precious time with this remarkable couple. I lay there on my cot, with my wool blanket tucked snugly around my neck and the day’s adventures swirling in my head, and I marveled at my blessings and that multitude of stars, and the incomprehensible complexity of our lives. “Obie’s Quest”