JUMP

Edited and reposted from October of ’11

jump
image courtesy of photo bucket.com


The first time I saw the Upper Colorado River from that dizzying vantage point I was impacted by its beauty, even at a young age. The rugged cliffs towered over the edge of the river that was formed by the cutting force of the vicious current below.

Some said those cliffs were over 80 feet tall, others said that the most notorious cliff, aptly named “Suicide”, was just over 65 feet tall. I’m not sure which was closer to the truth, I only know they were scary high.

We started on the lowest cliffs and after each jump into the ice cold water the swift current would take us down to the entrance to a cove. We’d paddle our arms and legs as hard as we could to ensure we made it into the cove. A miss of the entrance to the cove would mean ending up way downstream in the mighty Colorado current.

After about half way up to suicide, my brother called it quits there. He was brave enough, everyone knew that. He was just secure enough with himself to not have to go higher. Being younger, I felt I had something to prove. I wanted to prove I was brave and courageous.

As I stood 60 to 80 feet above the swift moving water I felt gut-wrenching fear… Sheer terror owned the inside of me as I glanced at the distant water and my brother a few cliffs down watching me. My brother didn’t care if I jumped or not, it wouldn’t change his world or what he thought of me.

Why would anyone put themselves in such a precarious predicament? What makes people do things in spite of fear? I couldn’t tell anyone then, I didn’t have a clue. I have a better understanding of these matters now. I’m not claiming to be an expert, but I’ve learned a thing or two about insecurity since then.

As great as the immense fear was within me at the time, it wasn’t as great as the opposing force. It could be called many things; courage, bravery, or guts. It’s possible those ingredients are part of the makeup, but those aren’t the driving force in all similar circumstances.

No, the biggest influence that sometimes makes people overcome fear? In my opinion. Fear itself.

As frightened as I was of the height of that cliff, I realize I was more frightened to not be brave. I sensed more terror of being controlled by fear of the jump. The fear that might come to define my life and own me.

Many are familiar with FDR’s famous quote from his 1933 inaugural address, -“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I wasn’t familiar with that famous quote at that time of my life, standing on loose sand, peering over the side of the cliff at the blinding and shimmering river below.

The jump called me out… It dared me to risk my life. It taunted me… Only the fear of not having the strength to overcome the fear of the jump is what could cause me to “chicken out” and crawl back down in defeat.

There was no crowd cheering me on. There was no one there I needed to impress… except me…

I’m not saying my jumping off a cliff made me a man. I’m also not condoning ignorant and dangerous acts. I just think sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zone. Maybe do the solo at church, tell the people in our world of our beliefs. Ask the advice, give the advice, run that marathon.

Fear, if we allow it, will keep us locked in the closet of life, while others take that step of faith, believing they can fly, even if for only moments.

I could smell the adrenaline in my nostrils as I sprinted toward the edge of that cliff… I planted my left foot about eight inches from the edge of that cliff and shoved off into the great wide open…

Funny thing, once I started running – committed to the task, I felt no more terror…

Only determination.

MILESTONES

It’s been one of those hurricane type of weeks. Busy beyond belief, what you’d call a “Milestone” week. When one of those type of weeks roll around, with all the balls I like to juggle, something’s gonna fall. And more often than not, it’s a fine thing.

You see, we’ve been praying, and not for just a little while. Not so much for this day or week, but for all the days of Ali’s life.

Family and friends were present to see our middle daughter get married. There was laughter and there were tears… and the family got bigger. And to a very welcome and fine young man that grasps the meaning of “Fear of the Lord”.

Mr. and Mrs. Quaid and Ali McKinnon

It’s a blessing from God to live long enough to see our children walk the paths and aisle directed by Him.

I’ve gone from being a little tyke in people’s weddings as a kid to participating in my own. Now I’ve seen three daughters grow up. I’ve witnessed two of them getting married and one of them having a couple kids of her own.

These aging eyes have seen much… and I’ve never failed to see the hand of God’s protection, provision, and grace in my life and the lives of my loved ones.

So I’ll continue to pray like I have from the beginning. As my family grows so do my prayers.

A week when all the balls I’ve been juggling drop to the ground around me, I’m reminded of what’s truly important. And I’m also reminded of the wisdom it takes to be still and know that He is God… and He’s the giver of blessings in milestones.

THE BEAT GOES ON

It’s kinda funny how styles change over the decades, but there’s only so many things you can do with clothes, shoes, and hairstyles. As a kid back in the seventies, although we didn’t know it, the style was “skinny jeans”, if you were skinny, that is, but it was just Levi 501’s ordered extra long so they’d fit tight. Cuffing them up was part of the appeal.

Pretty soon it was bell bottoms, back to flairs, blah, blah, blah… and as Sonny and Cher sang, “The Beat Goes On”.

Converse tennis shoes were losing their appeal by the time I came around, but I remember them. They were all but gone in my high school days… now my daughters wear them.

Now I’m not sure polyester leisure suits are going to make a comeback, but if I were a bettin’ man, I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that platform shoes are going to get another turn. They already have for women, but I mean even for men.

By the time the ’70’s rolled around there wasn’t but a handful of kids in school that weren’t sporting a haircut with the “Feathered” bangs, parts down the middle the norm.

Come the ’80’s it was spiked hair and long in the back. That was before the style was officially named a “Mullet”. By the time it got the official name I’d moved on. Or back back in time.

While the fads come and go, a lot of folks, mostly the older ones, bail off the merry go round. My dad, and my older brothers for that matter, never slipped a pair of platforms on their feet. Not to mention polyester leisure suits… Then again they didn’t listen to top 40 radio either. And they never owned a Kiss eight track… 😳

By the early ’90’s I was reaching the age of not giving a hoot like the elders before me. After missing my scheduled haircut for a couple months in a row, I checked out.

Since then I’ve been to a place where they cut hair professionally about three times. And that was only a few years ago when I tried to join the ranks of normal folks with normal haircuts. I couldn’t hack it. It was just too much work.

For decades I’d have one of my girls get the thick pair of scissors out of the wooden kitchen knife scabbard, double ponytail wrap my hair and hack through it. I figured someone should get something for laziness or ADD, not sure which, maybe a little bit of both, so I’d send the cut ponytail to Locks of Love.

Just a couple days ago I hacked it off yet again. That’s nine times I’ve donated my hair. Between it turning grey and falling out, I’m not sure I’ll make a tenth. But I am sure I still hate going to the barbershop…

Ninth time.

Everything changes. There was a time when young people with long hair were held in contempt. One time I had a preacher pretty much point me out during a sermon for my hair. I guess he didn’t consider that I might be donating it… Or Samuel, or Samson, or Absalom, or even Paul before he wrote 1 Corinthians 11.

Fads will come and go… and long after I’m gone. There’s probably a pretty good chance that the judging of others won’t go away either. It gets passed down from generation to generation.

I have to remind myself of that every time I see someone that doesn’t look like me. When they have shaved heads and tattoos and piercings from top to bottom. When they wear hats and turbans. Or even when they dress like a CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

But we’ll all still go on struggling with judging a book by it’s cover. It’s part of living in a fallen world… and the beat goes on. For now…

THE LAST WALKING COTTON PICKER

Repost and edited from Feb of ’11.

“You know son, I guess I’ve gotta be one of the last walkin’ cotton-pickers left.” He said quietly, as if the realization just crept up on him.

“Really?” I was caught a little of guard.

My dad went on to explain the details of some of his childhood that I’d never heard from him my entire life. I knew my dad was born to a poor sharecropper family in Arkansas, I just didn’t know some of the details.

image courtesy of calisphere.org

One of the first times I got in trouble at school was for making fun of another kid. My dad used some of his childhood memories to teach me one of many life lessons.

I was use to teasing and being teased by my big brothers and friends. It was a pretty tough area we grew up in. It seemed kinda natural to make fun of the kid in my class that ate baby food. He must have had something wrong with his stomach or something, but I didn’t bother to worry about that part of the equation at the time.

I was only considering the laughing and having fun part, not the other people’s lives, feelings, and future impact I might have on one of them part.

When word got back to my dad through the usual channels, he was not amused to say the least, but he wasn’t angry. Even at a young age I could tell he was deeply disappointed. Enough time has passed for me to recognize that he was heartbroken by my actions. Those kinds of acts were never part of my dad’s life, he was a champion of the weak or downtrodden.

It would take many of my dad’s stories about his life and experiences to teach a hard-headed son.

My dad didn’t even whip me for making fun of Ronald at school. You see, I knew enough about my dad’s life from my brothers and uncles to know that my dad was a tough. He’d rescued his brothers on many occasions and I knew he’d boxed in the Air Force, just one of the many stories I used to build the vision of my dad around.

That afternoon he took me into his room; that’s where we’d sometimes get whipped for blatant disobedience. The lesson began.

“Sit down son…” He began to tell me about his days in school as a kid around my age. My dad shared with me how there were many times in his school days that his family didn’t have enough money to buy him or his brothers shoes for school.

I was horrified. He shared with me how hurt he’d been as a kid when the other kids would make fun of him for something he couldn’t do anything about. My dad also told me how disappointed he was that one of his own children would make fun of another person the way the kids had made fun of him.

I was learning the other untold side of my dad and who he really was in heart and character. You gotta know by that point, as much as I hated getting whipped, it would have been way less painful than this lesson I was learning.

Whippings were a bit painful on the outside, this punishment was painful on the inside. I never cried as hard over punishment or groundings as I did that day. The next day when I apologized to Ronald I meant those words from the bottom of my heart.

I gotta give my dad credit, he taught me a good lesson. I never, ever made fun of anyone like that again. Oh, there were many more lessons for a kid like me to learn and it usually was the hard way, but not that lesson. That cottoone I got.

I was proud to know and tell others that my dad was one of the last walking cotton-pickers. My dad and I talked about, and he carried that title of realization for about a year and a half after that… Now he’s gone…

I miss my hero, the last walking cotton picker… He taught me a lot…

I share his stories with my kids and friends to teach and inspire them and me to live a Godly and humble life like my dad did.

I’m honored to carry the title and share the memories of the last walking cotton-picker’s son…

PEOPLE ARE FUNNY

People are funny. But I don’t mean the type of funny that makes you laugh or even smile for that matter. This kind of funny seems to do the exact opposite. This kind of funny makes you frown and often shake your head in regret or disgust… ’cause people act funny.

I was reminded how funny people are yesterday around lunch time. I was leaving a business lunch at Applebee’s. It wasn’t my choice and I guess eating dry and overcooked chicken is better than getting sick from it being undercooked… but I digress…

The parking lot to the mega outdoor mall and shopping centers was jammed with people, mostly retired people. The mall is just west of Sun City, the famous old Del Webb senior retirement city northwest of Phoenix.

As I pulled up to the main parkway road that leads to the traffic light on Grand Ave I saw a red Ford F-150 short bed pick-up on the aisle west of me. The truck was slowing to a stop as I checked east again and gunned it into the main parkway.

I pulled up to the last four way stop sign and stopped to wait for a car to the south to pull out. That’s when I heard the red Ford’s horn blow. I glanced into my rearview to see the guy with the baseball cap holding his arms out to the side, his left one out the rolled down driver’s window. So I mimicked him and did the same thing.

The main parkway road east of the four way intersection opened up to four lanes, each lane a turn lane to left or right on Grand Ave. I saw the red Ford trying to catch up with me before he had to stop short in the left hand turn lane due to the amount of cars in front of him. My lane only had a few cars at the light waiting to turn right.

I have a history and habit of obliging people in traffic that want to talk… or fight. Some habits are hard to break. I stopped short of the cars ahead of me so Mr. red Ford pick-up driver could tell me what was on his mind. His wife talked first.

“You almost ran over us back there,” she said.

“How is it that I almost ran over you when we were pulling out at the same time and I was in front of you? If anything you would have hit me.”

“No. If we wouldn’t have stopped you would have ran us over!” she exclaimed.

People are funny. No one in their right mind could have construed that situation to be life threatening or dangerous or reckless. These folks were emotional. And I learned a long time ago that arguing with emotional people is a big waste of time.

I looked the driver in the eyes and waited for him to say something.

“That Hummer don’t mean a _od damn thing to me!” He had fury in his eyes.

Ahhh. Bingo. He had vehicle hate for me for what I was driving.

I get that a lot. Not as much as I did when it was new, but my truck brings out the worst in a lot of people… ’cause people are funny.

Here I am driving a twelve year old truck with close to a hundred and fifty thousand miles on it and people are still hating it. Or the people that represent what they believe the type of people are that drive them.

They don’t know I used to drive new F-350 lifted crew cab four wheel drive trucks with diesel engines all my life that you could hang meat in, the air conditioners worked so well. The last one was stolen, used and destroyed by Coyote’s hauling illegals across the border. I never drove those trucks more than three or four years anyway. In good times and bad I managed to drive what I know is a truck that is light years better than that Hummer.

They don’t know that the air conditioner in my Hummer is close to useless in the summertime, not a good thing in the Arizona summers. They don’t know that I don’t particularly care for my Hummer. They don’t know that the recession has left scars and changed the way I buy work trucks forever.

I could tell the guy that was around my age, maybe a little older, wasn’t about to call me out so I called him a loser. His wife defended him and told me that he was not a loser.

“Yeah, he is a loser to say something like that,” I said and rolled up my window and pulled up to the cars in front of me waiting at the light.

I had immediate regret for having stopped to let them talk… but people are funny… and I’m part of the group… unfortunately.

There was a beggar standing on the center concrete island leaning up against the light signal pole holding a sign. There’s beggars on every other corner nowadays and I usually ignore them. Most of the beggars are young and fit people that would rather beg than work. And I know in this town if someone wants to work there is a job to be had for them.

But this was a girl. And I don’t know if it was me feeling guilty or if God used the circumstance for His benefit. But I called her over across traffic to give her some cash. In the process the light turned green.

“God bless you,” she said with a sincere voice and eyes. I nodded.

That lane trying to turn left, along with the red Ford with the Hummer haters, got stuck as the girl made her way back across to the center island. That made me smile a little inside… people are funny…