Monthly Archives: January 2014

Gas masks for Canaries


They used to tell stories of  old time coal miners when I was a kid, and how the mines were at times inundated with seeping, deadly  mine gas—especially in the labor intensive, primitive coal mines that were so prevalent many years ago. Coal seams emit a colorless, odorless, and heavier than air toxic gas in mines, which now is abated by powerful ventilation systems. Many miners would perish from the gas- not such a positive force for profit if you are a mine owner or- for happiness if you were a miner. Someone came up with the idea of bringing canaries into the mines with the miners. Canaries are very sensitive to toxic mine gas; and when exposed to it the birds would sicken and die before the miners would notice anything amiss. The miners would know that it was time to skedaddle- they would evacuate, the gas was dealt with, and after some testing the miners would return when everything was safe. Great for all involved; unless you were a canary.

The canary was an early warning alarm, letting miners know when conditions became dangerous for human life.  The canaries were sensors if you will, and through the inventiveness of modern man society has become full of such sensors (today they are almost always mechanical).  Circuit breakers inside structural power panels for example: when a potentially dangerous electrical surge runs through the lines, the circuit breakers trip, cutting off the supply of electricity in order to prevent injury.  With smoke alarms you assume you will see the smoke… but by the time it is visible it is often too late to save everyone; so smoke alarms detect smoke before a person is able to.

These modern safety sensors work precisely because they are more sensitive to danger than the people they are designed to protect; just as a canary once did- it would not do for a smoke alarm to trip only after the smoke was so thick you would be overcome. The canary in the old coal mines worked, as they died from the poison gas before humans would be affected by it and the miners would take notice: but what if the mine owners or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Canaries forced the government into providing gas masks for canaries? Where would that leave the miners?

  Now here is the leap: while I will be the first to admit that there are far more spiritual advantages to be gained by Moral law, it cannot be denied that there are many tangible temporal advantages to be gained by the adherence to the Moral Authority of Jesus Christ and the teaching authority of His Church. That is why Our Lord put His Canaries into the system. What is the danger to the living when death comes to the unborn? What is the danger to family, when there are no strings to sexual activity? What indeed are the dangers to humanity when we now act like animals? Paul VI answered these posits 40 some odd years ago and was branded anathema. Some of us moan, “What has God wrought?”

I say, what has man wrought, now that the Canaries all have gas masks?


The Problem with Proof Texts: Conclusion



Bob was leaned up against a wheel of the wagon tight up under the tent fly; about as dry a place as there was during the storm. He was a skinny old rip, looking very much like he was weaned on a pickle and never recovered all the years since. He took a deep breath and stated, “That will do for a minute” everybody just stopped talking and turned towards him. Like him or not (and some surely did not) he commanded respect around just about every cow camp or miles around. He took a final drag from the taylor-made he had and flicked it into the fire. “You boys have either lost your wits or were cut with a dull knife. Which one of you is ready to listen to sense? If not, clear away from the fire, for I am tired of all this chin music.” No one made a peep, for his voice got real loud at the end, and enough of us knew it was not sensible to rile ol’ Robert; most who did in the past were ever so sorry they made the attempt.

“Which one of you has ever had the ignorance to take the word of one man no matter who he may be; especially when what he says flies in the face off all that we have known from the dim past to today? How many of you would buy a saddle horse based upon the testimony of a single man and him being one who has the most to gain from your decision? How can everyone for the last 1000 years have gotten it all wrong, and plenty of ‘em far better hands than myself- not mentioning marginal ones like Luther Martin-how can all of a sudden they all be wrong about the livestock world, and one day a renegade takes a trip God knows where… and now he is the expert on all things? For herd quitter he is, and if he was a steer who acted like this, every last one of you would be itching to shake out a loop of whale line and bust him in two, choke him down and rub tobacco juice in his eyes for acting like this.  But since he is tickling your fancy for novelty, just think of this: You are all basing your entire future upon ONE FEATHER. Is your whole life so worthless as to make such a casual wager?”

“ Every bird I have ever seen has jillions of feathers- all different, for all have different jobs- down keeps ‘em warm, wing feathers are for flying, tail feathers are for showing off, back feathers keep the rain off. Yet you really believe there is a bird that has only ONE KIND OF FEATHER, AND THAT THIS BIRD REALLY EXISTS? Only in your fevered minds can that be true. To have a real bird you must take all the feathers in consideration with each other, all doing different jobs, each complementing the other in getting the bird to be a bird. A single feathered bird is either a fantasy, or naked and useless for what God made it for.

You cannot base your bird beliefs upon one feather, anymore than you can base your beliefs in God on one Bible verse. Why it says in the Good Book that “Jesus wept”… so does that mean He never laughed?

What have I (not) done!


What Have I (not) Done!

 Pushing and shoving, dust and noise; the smell of bodies, the hubbub of celebrity- something novel was going on. I remember it like it was yesterday. When He came to town with his followers everyone seemed to sense it at once-in retrospect most folks were initially just drawn to the commotion as any curious onlooker would have been. While we all had heard of Him, none of us actually expected a visit to our little home, yet many of us were alerted by the shouting and ado as if there had been an accident in the street. In a sense, that is just what happened: an accident in the street- with hundred of witnesses- and one at least who ended up being a victim; me. The sad thing is, even though the event was so many years ago it is only now that I realize what had happened: and oh how I wish things would have turned out differently!

I wanted a glimpse and got way more than I bargained for; I ended up right in the middle of everything.  All of a sudden I was pushed from behind and fell right into Him, almost knocking Him down. Startled, I recoiled back:  then He looked at me. All I could do was stand there and try to look nonchalant with a stupid grin on my face as I caught His eye and His gaze bored into me, seemingly straight through to my very soul.  Just a short second or two but my… the sweetness and curiosity in His eyes as time stood still. The next thing, He kind of jumped, and turned to the great big, hard looking fellow who was with Him  saying, “Who touched me?” The big guy blinked as if to reply, “Are you crazy? Here you are in the middle of a mob and you want to know who touched You?” The big guy then kind of flicked his arms out and sent me sprawling into the dirt.  The others with him were trying to explain that everyone was touching Him; but He turned behind Himself and then looked down at Smelly Agnes saying that He felt power going out of Him. “Who touched me?” He asked again.

 Agnes was kneeling in the dust, and I was on the ground as well- my face was about six inches from her- and the look in her eyes… to this day when I think of it I get chills down my spine.  She was an old beggar widow that we used to treat like dirt—all dried up, with a squinched up face, and heavens did she have an odor about her; she smelled like a rotting corpse. We used to steer as clear of her as possible and make up the most awful jokes: a woman of no account and one we considered a burden to us all; until now. I gasped from surprise as I fell next to her with a gasp; the fragrance that surrounded her was as a hillside in the spring when all was in bloom. Her face was transformed into that of a stunning young girl in the absolute pinnacle of feminine loveliness. “I did” she said.

She had grabbed the end of His cloak in her conviction that He was who He said He was; and His power had turned her into something completely new. I had fell on top of Him; so close that I could smell His breath and feel the sweat on His clothes—but since I only considered Him an oddity and kind of news item, I was the same as I had even been, even until this very day.

Dear Jesus; have mercy on me for I have sinned a great sin. Please, please, please… give me another chance, and I won’t screw it up this time. Amen.





The Stadium in Nuremberg

Emotion is not a sacrament… or is it?

I go to worship every week and it is fantastic! We all come together in a spacious place that has a big stage in front. At the beginning of our service we all sing songs with a song leader and a great music director- sometimes with live musicians! Then sometimes we will have little play or demonstrations about what we believe in, and it is very exciting at times to see people we have only thought or heard about, right there in front of us! After a while we settle down and listen to our leader who preaches to us about what he has been meditating on over the past week, and how he has acquired new wisdom that he wishes to share with us concerning the circumstances of daily lives and the world at large.

We sing some more—popular songs we all know; songs that express how we feel, and they are so uplifting. We are never bored, things always move quickly and we don’t ever have to deal with sadness or any feelings of regret- it’s just so wonderful to be so “fed” by so much emotion and good will from every direction. The fellowship is all but indescribable, we are so in tune with each other, and we all are almost exhausted at the end of the service from all the stimulating sights and sounds.

Afterwards I just do not want to leave for when I do the feelings seem to leave as well, which is kind of sad in a way: but during the week we get together in smaller groups and try to recreate in a tiny way all the feelings we have during the big service. There are always deep discussions were we all try to interpret how we are to go about our daily lives and how to relate to others—especially to those who are not part of our belief system.  Junior leaders reinforce our conclusions always remind us to stay in tune with the times so we can adapt our attitudes and judgments to the ever changing world.

Our membership is always growing, because it is so easy to join: just a fealty oath taken in front of others; sometimes we can take them in private, and then we are members and can take part in all of the wonderful excitement that is so central to what we believe. Of course we walk in unity with our leaders and must adhere to their decisions; being cast out of our community is something too terrible to contemplate. Besides, who would want to, everything is so wonderful, and everyone is so nice to each other when we are all together -it is just unbelievable that anyone would not wish to walk with us. There are so many other benefits as well- business and social ties are formed where we just keep holding each other up against the rest of the world; we are trying to make people see that it is much better to be with us than against us.

 The future is bright, as we strive to break down all the old barriers and impediments that place obstacles in our paths of happiness, fulfillment and the brotherhood we have when we are all together. The old ways of community and the old hierarchies that place too much emphasis on the what and why we do things is obsolete; we know that what matters is the emotional ties that bind us into a new union will lead us to a new dawn. It is not the actions themselves that have any real purpose or value, but the feelings behind them that are the real source of our power

The Problem with proof texts, pt 3

That evening it began to rain; not one of those sweet summer rains the bards love to tell of, but a bona fide gully washer- more like a cow peeing on a flat rock. After an hour or two, it just settled down into a slow, steady hide soaker. Soon it was obvious that we would not be working stock till the rain quit, and the ground dried out. The crew got up early and turned out the gather in a loose herd across a big flat just below the timber. Next we shook out our loops and began to drag as much wood we could find to the fire, trying to stay as warm and dry as possible; not very much of either under the circumstances.
With a big pile of branches and logs on one side, the wagon and fly on the other, we built a respectable fire between, standing forlornly in our slickers. Mud above our spur straps, we tried to steam ourselves into a better mood with coffee and small talk. Nothing for it but stand and suffer till she decided to let up. It was apparent from the get-go that ol’ Lute had readied his pie hole for another vocal marathon. In fact, soon after the first pot of coffee he was no longer alone in his messianic fervor of this reformation of Kingdom Animalia. Six or seven of the crew were gathered round him, absorbing every statement that bubbled out of this new apostle. The rain started to come down harder.

 “By golly, the life of a cowboy- or am I now a frog!” piped up Cal Johnson, a blonde haired gunsel lately from a corn farm; in reality just a pumpkin roller, he fancied himself a top hand –and him with only about five summers in when it came to range work. “I am getting tired of rain, hail, lightening strikes, soggy soogans and scorpion filled boots. Luther, how about me throwing in with you in this new venture? I am sorted into your bunch from this very moment. I want to make a pile and take my ease with a critter such as what you’re going on about.” He pointed with his lips toward the pack where Lutes feather was stowed. “Seems to me it beats getting ruined chasing range stock for some syndicate far away; I do believe you have the answer to all my hopes and dreams”.
“Not only that“ he went on, “but it seems to me we can start afresh and make a whole new set of rules when it comes to this venture. We can be the authors of a brand new destiny. This suits me right down to the ground.”
“Slow down, Calvin; you may be a reformed farm hand, but when it comes to Peacockery, you have a thing or two to learn yet. If you wish to throw in with me, you have best learn your place in this new order of things.” drawled Lute. “New rules are all fine and good, as long as I have final say when you are with me- after all I came up with this new paradigm!” Not twelve hours, and already the schism starts to re-fracture; yet the heady wine of re-creation takes a firm hold on the imagination of those huddled around Luther Martin. For sure, no matter which way this haggard crew of disciples goes, they will always regard ol’ Lute as the founder of their bold new birth of “freedom”. Voices began to get louder as the crew began to split into two opposing camps. Lute and Cal on one side, and on the other the most unlikely of men to formulate a coherent defense of the way things are- Bell Mare Bob. Not the flashiest hand in the bunch, but steady, with outstanding credentials and all around one of the most dependable, hardworking pure quill cowboys in this sorry world.

The Problem with Proof Texts part 2


Supper was over, and a few went on night guard, but the rest stretched out on our bedrolls and built smokes; we decided to explore at leisure Lutes epiphany. First thing we did was to try and get to the bottom of just what in the world this here avian oddity looked like—and off he went again like a man who had swallowed a pound of chili peppers and then tried to put out the fire by flapping his gums. The description he gave was sketchy at best, but then while we were shooting him down he jumped up and ran to his pack saddle. “I’ll show you just what I am talking about!!” Out from his pack he drew a long willowy thing, like a skinny two handed Scottish claymore.
It was a feather. About three feet long, and well, it was FEATHERY all along the edges with this beautiful round eye shaped end on it. Blue and purple, yellow and red, all at once—indeed it was about the prettiest thing I had ever seen and it come off of what sounded like an overstuffed chicken. “It is covered with these things all over! I tell you; just let them grow and then pluck ‘em off when you want one, or a slew of ’em. After that you can eat the bird when you are done with the feathers. They taste just like Gods own Sunday Dinner running in the streets of Golden Jerusalem!!!” After that soliloquy, Lute had to stop for a bit and catch his breath.

After a smoke and a short rest, Luther began again in earnest to convince us of his singular and unique discovery, along with the concomitant consequences which were sure to flow from such novelty. Unfortunately for him however, no matter how hard he tried, he could not quite seem to get his central ideas across about these “peacocks” as he called them. After a bit of cogitating Lute jumped up and snapped his fingers; “Why it’s been staring me right in the face the whole time, and I did not understand it– I really did not understand it at all; but now I do! Look right here, all of you… This right here, is all I or anyone else needs to see and contemplate to realize the fullness off peacock truth in its essence and glory!” Thus Luther Martin raised his right arm to heaven and held up above his head that long singular wand of a feather for all to contemplate.

“This one thing; this single feather not only proves the truth of peacocks, but it validates and authenticates all I have been telling you about these bodacious critters and how through me, they will change the face of civilization. This one feather is all ANYONE needs to understand all there is to know about Peacockery. With this feather, all questions can be answered and all problems solved when it comes to everything AVIAN. Why, it is as plain as the nose on your face, pards!”

The problem with Proof Texts part 1

One day Luther Martin rode up to the wagon and started carrying on about the new critter he discovered over west of the Divide. Now, you would have thought that it would not have made much difference to the rest of us: punching cows  our entire lives across the high plains the way most of us have done, what would one more strange new animal  mean to  a crew like us. Eagles and jacks, lions and cats, bears and antelope; we had seen and pondered pretty near every iteration of Gods matriculating creation across the prairie. Shaky Bob even had a thing or bugs for crying out loud; he even kept a bunch of mashed and dried ones between the leaves of a tally book in his bedroll. For fun once in a while he would take out the book and tell bug stories about them during slow evenings around the fire.

So you see it is not an overly strange thing for a fellow to come into camp and give us the latest on something new: and that is just what happened that August evening when ol’ Lute loped up to our camp and stepped down to the fire. Luther rode for our outfit in years past, until one spring when a bad horse wreck laid him up in town for several months. We were all surprised to see him show up, and more so since he said he was repping for an outfit on past China Reef. I asked why he was gathering strays for the MacNeill when he could have come back to us for work- after all Lute was a pretty decent hand, and we were short that summer. Oh my! Wrong question—for right then Luther Martin got as fired up as an Old Testament Prophet! It seems he took a ride on a train to see his sister over the Divide during his convalescence- and what a story he spun for us about the new wonder he found in that hilly damp, brooding place.

His life was forever changed he swore. For this new animal he had run across over west was, “One for the Ages!”, and he would never be the same. It was covered with feathers from head to foot– the prettiest feathers you had ever seen. It could fly like an eagle. Its taste was gastronomic Salvation, and to top it off, she was as pretty as a dance hall girl in her painted up prime. In fact, the riding job for the MacNeill was temporary; Lute signed on to pick up their strays so they could finish closing out. The powers that be on the MacNeill were wanting to gather all their branded stock for market so the shareholders could get their money- then Lute was hitting the high points at a dead lope for the west slope to  indulge in his Great Adventure; one that would set the rest of the world agog. He was going in for this new critter in a big way: Lute was going to be what he called a “peacock” rancher.

“This bird”, he proclaimed, “is going to take the world by storm and I am fixing to be right in the eye of it! I will be supplying all of Christendom with who knows how many jillions of them! For they taste great… and the feathers!! You have never seen anything like them!! Nor will you again on this side off Gloryland!”. Goodness, we about had to tie ol’ Lute down for all the ruckus he was making…and about a bird for crying out loud!