Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Running the Rapids

My An Arkie's Faith column from the June 20, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

The little group gathered on the banks of the Yampa River. You could see the concern on their faces as they prepared for another day on this wild river. The Yampa River is the only major tributary in the Colorado River system that still runs wild and free; without a single dam along its course. It flows free with run-off originating from the melting snows and glaciers of the Colorado Rockies. The river is only runnable for a few weeks each year and permits are very limited, which gives the canyon a feeling of secrecy and surprise.

Today was the day that they would run the most challenging rapids on the Yampa, Warm Springs. Before 1965, the Yampa River was as a family-friendly river with only a couple of big rapids that were pretty straightforward. But on June 10, 1965, a flash flood created a huge rockslide that filled the river near Warm Springs with boulders and transformed a minor wave train into one of the most famous river rapids of the West.

Warm Springs is one of those rapids that everyone has a story about; you don’t just run it, it’s always an experience. It is the most talked about rapid in the main Yampa Canyon and inspires fear in even the most veteran boaters. Beneath a towering 1,700-foot sandstone cliff, Warm Springs Rapid drops through boulders for about a quarter of a mile, creating intensely churning whitewater. It is rated among the ten biggest drops in the country. The little group were not experienced whitewater rafters. The knew the reputation of these class IV rapids but were not sure what to expect. As they gathered on the banks of the river before taking off in their six rafts, they prayed for safety, guidance, and help from God.

From a distance, Warm Springs is just a band of whitewater on the river’s horizon line. But as the group got nearer, the sound of the rapids reverberating off the cliff roared louder and louder. They pulled to the right bank where the passengers were dropped off so they could walk around the rapids. But each boat had to be piloted through the rapids. While they were preparing to run the rapids, they were approached by a group that said they were with a joint search and rescue training exercise between the National Park Service and the Moffatt County Sheriff’s Office. Would they like some assistance as they ran the rapids? They were relieved and happy to accept the help.

The most dangerous aspect of the rapids are two roiling holes where submerged boulders make the current churn backward. The first boulder in the middle of the rapid has been dubbed, Godzilla. The last hole in the rapids is named Maytag and can flip rafts and work over boaters. According to the website; “If you miss the entrance and setup on warm springs, you are guaranteed a white-knuckle beating in Godzilla and probably Maytag holes.”

My son-in-law piloted the first boat into the rapids. He said, “that feeling when you see the rapids up close is an adrenaline rush like no other.” When he tried to navigate the turbulent waters of Godzilla, he was thrown out of his raft. As he was being swept down the river, the rescue team was yelling at him, “swim, swim to shore.” He said, “as soon as I hit the water, it seemed that every ounce of energy was sapped from my body. Even though I knew that my life depended on it, I couldn't find the energy to swim to shore.” After what seemed like an eternity to my son-in-law, someone from the rescue team was able to throw a rope to him and pull him to safety. After getting to shore, he collapsed and just lay there for several minutes before he had enough energy to stand. The ordeal had sapped every bit of energy from him.

Four of the remaining five boats, including the one piloted by my daughter, made it through. But one of the boatsmen was thrown into the water and had to be rescued. After getting all of the boats through the Warm Springs rapids, the group got back into the boats and made their way on down the river. As they floated on through the canyon and looked at the amazingly beautiful scenery, they thought about their prayer that morning. They had prayed for safety and God’s help. They had made it safely through the rapids even though there had been tense moments. After being rescued, my son-in-law found out that the joint search and rescue training exercise was a yearly training and had been scheduled a year ago.

As my son-in-law and his family were recounting their experiences on the Yampa River raft trip, and especially their struggles at the Warm Springs rapids, I thought of the scripture found in Isaiah 65:24 (NKJV). “Before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.” The little group had no idea when they were praying that morning that God had answered their prayer one year before they asked for His help. “Before they call, I will answer.”

Gentle Reader, David wrote about his near-drowning experience in Psalms 69:1-3 (NIV). “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.” Every one of us has experienced the need to be rescued. God has made a promise to us. "Call to Me, and I will answer you." Jeremiah 33:3 (NKJV)  When God answers our call, he will bring us to a place of safety. “He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.” Psalms 18:19 (NLT) When you call on God, you can count on Him to answer you, rescue you, and save you.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Daddy's Day

Today is Daddy's 63nd Father's Day. I know because I have been around for every one of them. Some people may have a Father, but I have always had a Daddy. I have spent most of my life working alongside my Daddy.  Here is proof.  I learned the auto body trade very young.

How Long Have I Been Sanding

Through the years some of the things that I have learned from my Daddy are the importance of having God in your life, and how to work.  Here are some photos of Daddy working through the years.

30 Model A

Happy Daddy's day.  Some people have fathers, but I have always had a Daddy.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart


Today a special day. Forty-three years ago on June 15, I said "I Do" to my very best friend. The best decision I ever made was to marry the girl who stole my heart when she walked Mr. Brost's History class the beginning of my senior year of high school. I know that high school romances are not supposed to be forever and that when kids get married when they are in their teens the marriages aren't supposed to last, but we have proven those things wrong. It is still awesome to go through each day with my best friend.

A Senior in High School

This is the girl that took my breath away when she walked into class that morning. I was too shy to talk to girls, so it was almost a year before she had any idea that I was interested. I think that the good Lord knew that I needed all of the help I could get so he made it so that our paths crossed in a number of ways that year. Mr. Brost selected five students to work together each week producing learning packets for History class. Gina and I were both in the group. We both worked at the Harris Pine furniture factory. I worked on the dresser jig, and she made drawers. I would spend my breaks back with the drawer makers, but she still didn't catch on.

It came time for our High School graduation and I still had never gotten up the nerve to ask her out. Finally, I mustered up every ounce of courage I could find and asked her if she would march with me when we graduated. She told me that she would like to but she had already told Russell she would march with him. If I would talk to Russell she would march with me. Once again summoning up every bit of courage I had I talked to Russell. He was very gracious and bowed out. I was on cloud nine.

The rest is history. After a year of a long distance relationship, five hundred miles, we were finally in the same place at the same time. I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this girl. On June 15, 1975, we were married in the Denver First Seventh-day Adventist Church.

My new favorite new song is "If the Rain is Fallin'" by National Park Radio. They played at this year's Lum and Abner Festival in Mena.

If the rain is fallin'
It makes me think of you
And when the birds are callin'
It reminds me too
But any moment now
Lord knows I'll be gone away
Oh please remember how
Our hearts still beat the same

And I was young when I first saw you
We held hands and I was scared
But now the only fear I go through
Is living life without you there

I have a version that I sing while I am at work.

When I'm sanding
It makes me think of you
And when I'm painting
It reminds me too

Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart!
I was young when I first saw you
We held hands and I was scared
But now the only fear I go through
Is living life without you there

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Grasshoppers or Butterflies

My An Arkie's Faith column from the June 13, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

The little engine chugged out of the station with its cargo of sightseers and excited children. Its narrow tracks snaked around the side of the mountain and led to an amazing view of the valley below. As the miniature train followed the curve of the tracks away from the mountains edge and into the woods, the kids nervously hoped they would spot a bear. The movement of the train and the shade of the woods helped cool the passengers on the hot summer day. All too soon the little train completed the loop and pulled back into the station.

For over fifty years this little train has thrilled generations of riders as it made its way around the beautiful views atop Rich Mountain. My first visit to the area in the 1970’s included a drive up to the top of Rich Mountain and a ride on the little train. My daughter first rode the train as a baby, and now her daughters love to take the train ride on top of the mountain.

Earlier this year when the Department of Parks and Tourism announced plans to do away with the train ride and transform the tracks into a walking and cycling path, the local outcry against the plan was unlike anything I have seen in the forty years I have been in the area. The Arkansas State Parks Director said that “the commission felt like the space the track used would be better utilized for the trail and special areas along the trail for activities everyone could enjoy year around.” Local park users vehemently disagreed with a loud and almost unanimous voice. When an online petition was started to keep the train, over 4,000 people took the time to sign it. State leaders reported that their phones were “ringing off the hook,” with people asking that the decision be reconsidered, and the train be allowed to stay.

At a time when our country seems so divided, it was refreshing to see as a community come together as this community did in support of the train. Because of the public outcry, State Parks Director Grady Spann says that “negotiations are in the works to save the miniature train that carried tourists around Queen Wilhelmina State Park each summer for the past 60 years, paving the way toward a reopening this summer.” He added, “It's a neat thing to see a community coming together. It shows a great emotional connection to the park, which I'm really glad to see. It's always good to see people are invested in their state parks. And we paid attention to that."

Over the years I have ridden the train many times, but one of my favorite rides was with my three-year-old granddaughter. It was a beautiful September day, and as we entered the brushy wooded area of the ride the grasshoppers along the path of the train would fly away. As each grasshopper flew away, my granddaughter would point and say butterfly. There were so many grasshoppers, that she was constantly pointing and saying “butterfly, butterfly, butterfly.”

To her, the grasshoppers were beautiful and exciting butterflies. I don’t feel the same way about grasshoppers. When I was growing up in Colorado, we seemed to have a constant battle with the grasshoppers eating our garden. A single grasshopper doesn't do much harm, even though it eats about half its body weight every day. But when you have large numbers of grasshoppers, their combined feeding habits can be very damaging. In the U.S. alone, grasshoppers cause more than 1.5 billion dollars in damage to grazing lands each year.

He "tobaccoed" me!

If you've handled grasshoppers, you've probably had them spit a brown liquid on you. Scientists believe this behavior is a means of self-defense, and the liquid helps them repel predators. But it isn’t very pleasant. Very few people find grasshoppers as attractive as butterflies.

Unlike my granddaughter, who saw the beauty in the grasshoppers, most of us don’t see beauty in those around us. Instead of seeing the good in people, we tend to be critical. When we are critical of others, we become harsh, vindictive, and cruel. A critical spirit leaves us with the idea that we are somehow superior to others. Jesus’ instructions about being critical and judging others are very simple; He says, “don’t.” His words are recorded in Matthew 7:1 (NKJV), “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

Instead of judging, God wants us to “encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV). The word “encouragement” means to support. When we encourage we speak words that support someone and help bring change for the better. By our words, we need to let them know that we support their dreams, pursuits, and goals. We all tend to get discouraged from time to time and need encouragement.

Gentle Reader, the choice is yours; you can either criticize or encourage. I hope that your choice will be to encourage others. If you do, God will encourage you! Most of us see the potential for bad in others. We look first for their flaws. We see their deficiencies and shortcomings. Instead, we need to see them as someone that Jesus loves. Just like my granddaughter looked at grasshoppers and saw beautiful butterflies, I hope that you will see the potential for good in the people around you. “God has chosen you and made you his holy people. He loves you. So always do these things: Show mercy to others; be kind, humble, gentle, and patient.” Colossians 3:12 (ICB). If we follow this instruction, we will encourage others instead of criticizing them. We will see them as butterflies.