Sometimes in the dark of the night, reflection takes a hard look at my deteriorating condition. There are so many things I can no longer do. I call them my used to coulds.
We don’t hear that phrase these days. What a shame. I was formerly able is more acceptable, but why when three short words will do?
The girl from 313 told me in the long ago Oulu days her brother Gene’s good buddy Bryon Jenson often said used to could often. The phrase was common in my childhood. I grumble because I can’t pick an object off the floor without my grabber and Norma says used to could.
I who once hiked mountain trails now can’t cross the living room without a walker. My diamond willow leans lonely in the closet—just a used to could. My pants sprawl on the floor awaiting the grabber to slip into. Sox require a patented device. Digital dexterity and tactile sensitivity keep fading; I can’t button a shirt without spitting on my fingers. We’ll not discuss the bathroom. Balance? a used to could.
I’ve tried folk remedies and read books trying to drive off the used to coulds, but nothing works. I’ll just have to watch them multiply until breathing joins the list. I pray that day will come before my brain becomes a used to could.
Old Grandpa Lloyd
As I write, my eye falls on a tattered paperback, Deep River Jim’s Wilderness Trail Book. The fading blue cover shows two men hunkered by a campfire. The older man wears a battered felt hat. Deep River Jim himself! I met Deep River 85 years ago through the Open Road for Boys. When the magazine announced he had written a book which could be mine for 50 cents, I begged a half dollar my father, wrapped in tissue, and fired off. Finally the book came and I was lost to the world for days. Then the book was gone, worn out by reading and back-pocket excursions.
Thirty years later I was Cap Matt doing a column in Venture, Christian Service Brigade’s magazine for boys. When the editor asked me to write about key books in my life, Deep River Jim came to mind. On an impulse, I offered ten dollars for information where I might find his book. Roy Bradford from Comstock, California sent me his worn copy and refused the ten dollars.
Life privileged me to share Deep Rivers’ philosophy and recipes with hundreds of men and boys through wilderness treks from Maine to Alaska. I put stories from these treks in a small book called the Wilderness Way. Now the Hole News and Facebook provide a forum to share the stories with new readers.
Most everyone delights in a wedge of geese honking southward, or a hillside aflame with autumn. I pray my stories will lead some to ponder the deeper secrets hidden in the Creators’ universe.
Old Grandpa Lloyd
The oldest item in my memorabilia is a faded, stained packsack. My father gave me when I was 12. My shelves hold copies of the two books from my boyhood that shaped my life: Deep River Jim’s Wilderness Trail Book and the Boy Scout Handbook. Sorry, the Bible didn’t come close. These fading treasures remind me how gospel churches can fail kids.
My childhood was steeped in orthodoxy with Salvation the key issue. But for some young sinners, salvation did not take. We sought fun, a scarce commodity in church. I endured sermons, but my carnal mind strayed, as when a wandering wasp circled a bald head three rows forward. I prayed mightily it would land but I was not on praying ground. I daydreamed–fields and hills, woods and streams. The church men of my childhood were sincere but far too busy serving God to spend time with a boy in the woods.
My parents turned me loose in a widening circle, perhaps understanding it’s not what you do for a boy that counts but what you allow him to experience. I built secret places in the woods and blistered my thumb at campfire cookouts. I devoured Open Road for Boys magazine and poured over Deep River Jim’s book. At age 12 I joined Troop 18 at Lester Park Methodist, where I met new kind of churchman.
Our Scout leaders didn’t pray with us, but they led us on hikes and taught us to tie knots. They played Capture the Flag, men and boys creeping through the woods. You could hardly expect a spiritual man to get his pants dirty over such foolishness. The Cabin is the most hallowed spot of memory. I cringed on my bunk as darkness fell and two ancient birches, leaning one on the other, groaned in the wind. Sunday mornings we sat close to the barrel stove and read the Sunday school lesson leaflet. Then we scattered to explore or cut wood or follow a trail to the spring. There is so much more. The men who taught me the ways of the wilderness did not talk about Jesus, but they modeled Jesus’ love.
I pity the person who sees nothing more than lumber in a forest or power in a river. Wild places have infinite worth in their very existence. When I come upon a giant stump rotting in northern Minnesota, I feel cheated. Who killed almost all the pine, leaving only this black tombstone? Few stands of virgin pine remain.
Yes, America needed lumber to build its cities and lumberjacks needed jobs, but progress and money own no rightful priority over the heritage of unspoiled wilderness. I would rather teach kids the ways of woods than any game. Game-playing soon passes, but memories imparted by wooded streams and mountain trails remain until memory’s eye dims.
I own not one inch of land, yet I possess lakes and streams and a beaver dam or two. Take Pine Creek in Wisconsin. I have owned it over 70 years. It flowed though ten farms but I owned it more than the farmers. They watered their cows in its pools. I caught trout. I still remember those trout.
I took and old man to his favorite woods one day for what he knew would be the last time. We drove a rutted trail to a low-roofed, weathered shack. His gnarled hand traced a bleached deer antler near the door. Retrieving his ancient shotgun, he placed two shells in its breach and led me along a trail carpeted with spruce needles. I prayed a partridge would thunder up but none did. It didn’t seem to matter; he had hunted once more. Raising the gun he pulled the trigger and listened to the booming echo. He removed the spent shell and sniffed it. We buried him a few weeks later.
We must determine that our wilderness heritage not be taken from us. Please don’t cut all the trees in my forests, or destroy all my beaver ponds. I beg you: leave a few bookies in Pine Creek.
Old Grandpa Lloyd
If you aren’t plugged into BioLogos, check it out. I find it the most common-sense approach to the Bible/science debate out there. The current newsletter gave me the most stimulating afternoon I’ve enjoyed in a long time. BioLogos president Deborah Haarsma wrote:
“On June 18, 2018, leading geneticist and BioLogos founder Francis Collins gave a landmark lecture at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The event was hosted by The Trinity Forum, a group that brings Christian leaders to public square conversations, and was co-sponsored by BioLogos. Over 350 people attended, packing out the room and extending into the overflow space.
“I had the privilege of hearing the lecture in person and feeling the energy in the room. I encourage you to watch it for yourself. Dr. Collins began by sharing his own story, both his scientific journey from earning a PhD in quantum physics to leading the Human Genome Project and directing the National Institutes of Health, and his spiritual journey from atheism to coming to faith in Jesus Christ through the writings of C.S. Lewis. He argued for the underlying harmony between science and biblical faith, and pointed to BioLogos as a place to engage these questions thoughtfully.”
To watch the presentation, Check YouTube for Evening Forum: Conversation with Dr. Francis Collins and James K.A. Smith.
Old Grandpa Lloyd
My living room at Woodland Garden is a museum: every item on the walls tells a story from my life. I especially love the memory shelves where you’ll find Deep River Jim’s Wilderness Trail Book and a vintage edition of my first Boy Scout manual, the books that shaped my life and career
My original Social Security card rests next to my ID card for Zenith Shipyard. The abalone shell holds small stones gathered from a beach on Alaska’s Lake Becharof. The large brown rock came from iron mine tailings. It bears a subtle winter scene etched by nature. The petrified wood came from a Wyoming mountain side and veteran Africa missionary Lorraine Green gave me the miniature log canoe.
I prize the story knife. It was crafted by Native Alaskan lad from caribou horn and a blade-shaped rock. Friend Oden Alreck gave me the inscribed cement trowel. The thin cross section of railroad track harks back to Father’s farm home in Kelsey. And Korean friend Young A from Sunshine Café made the colorful origami swan.
There you have it: my life from age 10 to soon 95. Wall décor fills in the blanks.
I’d love to tell you about the life-size pine cone grouse next to and the watercolor of a small white church. The girl from 313 painted it for me. I preached there the spring of ’47. Now there’s a story.
Old Grandpa Lloyd
Yesterday I ventured off the sidewalk for the first time in over a year. I have no mobility apart from Matilda, my four-wheeled walker. Waltzing Matilda through wet grass and loose gravel is tough, but I gave I spent two hours in Woodland Garden’s backyard.
Guess what: I found the same elements of the God’s creation in our backyard I found in wild country from Maine to Alaska. I checked the pond for mama mallard and her fuzzy ducklings. She didn’t show so I worked my way to a sunny place and sat in the sun to just see, smell, hear, and feel spring. Wild flowers grow in the wooded fringe, along with wild strawberries and raspberries. A glorious swath of forget-me-nots brightens one spot. Cottontails chase one another; red wing blackbird trill for their mates. Many nights, coyotes yip nearby, and when the leaves are full, not a city light can be seen in the dark of the night.
I can no longer climb on a horse, or live for a week out of my pack on a mountain trail, but my backyard holds all the elements I so much enjoyed in far places. I’m grateful for the far places, and equally grateful for my nearby wilderness.
To read a few of my adventures in far places, go to www.lloydsstorytree.com.
Old Grandpa Lloyd
Once again, Susan Kline’s Fresh Start devotional channeled my thoughts and articulated them better. She citied Isaiah 55:8: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord.”
“Sometimes our perspectives can sway us into thinking that there is only one true viewpoint. For example, behind my house are many trees that extend approximately 150 yards down a hill. Having been a city girl most of my life, my perspective is that we now have a beautiful “forest” out back. Some neighbors prefer to call it “the woods,” and others who live on larger acreage might refer to it as simply “a tree line.” We all have different (none necessarily wrong) perspectives of this group of trees.
“The same can be true about our religious perspectives. Where some perceive the house of God to be a place of reverential knee-bowing and solemn acts steeped in tradition, others may perceive the church to be a place of boisterous expression or speaking in tongues. Still others may perceive it to be a casual place where all feel free to worship any way they feel most comfortable.
“Our perspectives typically derive from our experiences, upbringing or personal preferences. But perspective can also mean the ability to consider things in relation to one another accurately and fairly. While we never want to compromise solid biblical truths, we may want to consider how God might be giving people differing perspectives in order to meet their needs and to ultimately fulfill His greater purpose.”
Thanks, Susan. We all reflect the views of our teachers, and teachers are many, with diverse viewpoints. Friendly discussion? Yes; rancorous debate? No.
Truth will prevail; count on it.
Old Grandpa Lloyd
Hi, Alice. When I was a kid the fields and woods behind my home were magic. We played softball and kick the can and chased golf balls for neighbor men. I picked wild flowers, hazel nuts, wild strawberries, raspberries, juneberries, chokecherries, and pin cherries. The woods were my hideout, a place to feed partridge in the winter. My small garden had really rich soil. The space had once been a chicken yard.
Father’s scrap pile was just behind the garage. Each spring we burned it. When the big pile burn down to coals, we roasted marshmallows and potatoes. The potatoes turned charcoal black outside but tasty white inside.
Father did something at the pile burning I never saw before or since. He pinned together the corners of a double sheet of newspaper to make a hollow square and laid it on the coals. As soon as it began to burn, it rose into the sky and drifted off, like a hot air balloon.
Burning last summer’s tall dead grass from the field was always fun. Neighbors came with rakes and wet gunnysacks, burning small patches to make sure he fire didn’t get away. I don’t think city folks are allowed to do that anymore.
What do today’s kids do for fun in the spring? I see them sitting around twiddling gadgets with their thumbs. I wonder what they will remember when they get old like me.
I probably shouldn’t be telling you this story, Alice; it was sort of mean. But things happen when a new Scoutmaster wears a long nightshirt in cabin full of boys. Boys will be boys.
Our Scout troop owned the cabin with three other troops. It was built with vertical cedar poles chinked with concrete. Pieces of chinking had fallen out, allowing show to filter in on our bunks. One March our troop settled in for the weekend. We loved to tease our new Scoutmaster; he slept in a long nightshirt.
On Saturday night, we waited until he was ready for bed. Then three of us sneaked out barefoot to go snowshoeing by moonlight wearing only our underwear. Someone told the Scoutmaster and he dashed to the porch in his nightshirt. He yelled, “You boys get in here right now!” Snowballs appeared by magic and began to fly. Boys inside slammed the door and locked it. Pelted by snowballs, the Scoutmaster pounded and pounded: “You boys let me in right now!”
We were glad to get in where it was warm. The leaders made hot chocolate and we ate cookies and laughed, our Scoutmaster laughing with us. I loved he cabin.
Maybe someday you can join Girl Scouts, Alice. Love you.