Thursday, February 26, 2009

Man's Best Friend

Proverbs 12:10a...Good people take care of their animals.

After several friend's on Facebook lost their pet's a few day ago, I thought about our dog, Meister. So today's blog is about pets. We never got to have pets when we were growing up, other than the hunting dogs daddy kept outside.

We use to run our farm supply business in our house. When the farmers would come talk fertilizer or something to spray on diseased crops, they'd come in the house. Typically, most men don't think to wipe their feet when coming in the house, so after a while the farmers start leaving a little dirt trail to the office in the house. When it was decided that we'd turn daddy's barn into a office, mama decides she's not going to like a quiet house with no one to talk to, so she tells daddy she's going to get a dog. Like how I said that? She tells... Anyway, she started looking up different types of dogs, and decided on a Cairn Terrier. For those that don't know what a Cairn Terrier is, it's the same type of dog on Wizard of Oz...Toto...only a wheaten color. So "Meister" the Cairn Terrier is shipped in from New York in March of 1997 and picked up at Gainesville Regional airport. He was the fattest little butter ball of a puppy, cute as can be. Keep in mind my daddy did not want a dog, especially one in the house...but eventually the dog got daddy wrapped around his paw. Daddy still had his hunting dogs that he'd have to go out and feed every day, but they had the outside pen. When we'd tell daddy he was better to him than he was to us kids, daddy would always say, "That's because he doesn't back-talk". He'd take him for rides, walks, and even let him sleep in the house on the couch (that was covered). The sicker daddy became, the less walks and rides he got, but Meister was always at his side. The last few months of his life, daddy had to decide what to do with the hunting dogs as he always insisted on feeding them each day himself just to get outside for exercise, but he was growing weaker. Concerned as to what to do, the Fugate family told him they'd take his hunting dogs for him and care for them. This lightened the load for daddy, but broke his heart to have to give his dogs away that he had taken care of for so long. Like giving away one of your children. Daddy was depressed for a while. He soon started telling mama, "If something happens to me, please be good to Meister and bury him in the corner of the backyard."

Eventually, Meister graduated to being able to sleep by daddy's bed. The last chemo treatment put him in the hospital, and mama stayed with him. I was living out at the trailer and came back home to stay with the dog just to relieve daddy's mind that someone was here to care for the dog while he was away.

In his last few days on this earth, daddy stayed in the house or in bed. Meister was right at his side. Due to drastic changes in his condition on Friday, the very next day we called in my high school classmate, who had previously worked for Hospice. She told us some of the signs to look for in a person in their last days. She then turned to ask us who's little dog we had in the house. "Oh that's Wesley's dog", mama said. "Well, just keep an eye on him and he'll let you know when it's time". Meister was a little unsure of what was going on in the house as all the kids (Anneil, Wes, Pam, Ginger, and I) decided to spend the night to be around should mama need any help, so Meister slept in different areas in the house...I guess to keep an eye on us. As we went to kiss daddy goodnight on Sunday night, Meister followed us in there. Daddy had been in a comatose-like state most all day and not saying anything. Meister goes over on daddy's side and looks up at him, sniffs the air, then lays down on the floor next to him. In the wee hours of Monday morning, daddy passed away. Meister was never allowed on a bed, but this day she put him up on the bed where daddy lay, and he went over and licked his arm, then laid down next to him. We were later told by Mrs. Patsy (Fugate) daddy's hunting dogs started howling for no particular reason in the wee hours of Monday morning. I kinda think they sensed something too, even though they were a couple miles down the road from us.

Daddy's been gone a couple years this summer, and he's not only missed by his family, but his little buddy, Meister. His ears perk up straight when we ask him where Papa is, and his tail wags like nobody's business if we say something about "Papa's truck." He's 12 years old now, 84 in dog years. Smart dog...smarter than some humans I know. He'll probably outlive us all. But if he doesn't, he'll be buried in the corner of the backyard.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


"It was almost time for the Lord to take Elijah by a whirlwind up into heaven....As they were walking and talking, a chariot and horses of fire appeared and separated Elijah from Elisha. Then Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah saw it..." 2 Kings 2:1a & 11

What better way to go than in a chariot of fire pulled by horses? I've been to one of the annual Frontier Days in Cheyenne, WY and to see those people race in the chariots there made me a little nervous as they would seemingly fly around the arena. I've had my share of horses in the first 20 years of my life...and, I understand why they have words like horsepower, as the Bible even mentions the speed and strength of horses.

I didn't grow up on a horse farm, but grew up around people that had horses and I got to ride them several times while out at my best friend's house. When we lived at the old house, our next door neighbor's, the Stokes', had horses. In our childhood years, we grew up around Audie & Julie the son and daughter of Mr. Jack and Mrs. Judy as we called them. Audie, who was the same age as my sister Pam and a year older than I, was an all-around, natural-born cowboy. After school and during the summer months, Audie and Julie would always come over, or we'd go over there and play. Audie was always a prankster, and knowing we didn't know as much as he about the equine family, he always had the upper hand over us. So it was when he saddled up all the horses one day and asked me, Pam, Wes, Anneil, and our cousin Cathy if we wanted to ride. Pam and I rode double (me on the back). We were just little kids (probably somewhere around 7 & 8), so we just could walk straight, and the only horse we were around to ride at that particular time was the one at the grocery store. At any rate, we hopped on and took off at a slow pace. Well that wasn't fast enough for Audie, so he comes by and slaps the horses rear end and it took off, throwing Pam and I both off the horse, onto our stomach's, and knocking the breath out of us. Audie got a good laugh, but he was verbally chastised by my mother later.

A few years later, Audie and Julie came over on a pony cart and asked me and my baby sister Ginger if we wanted to ride; so me and Ginger jump in the cart and we're "off to the races". Yeah right. If you're like me you probably think, a little baby horse...but a pony is not a baby horse. The pony got spooked by a car when it got close to the highway in front of the house and took off like Moody's Goose. If you don't know what Moody's Goose is, just know it moves fast. The pony could not be stopped, but went right over the highway and into their yard, just missing a bayonette bush. Julie bailed out of the back leaving me, Audie, and Ginger still in the cart. You must know that working on their small farm and around horses since he was old enough to say "horse", Audie was a strong boy. He stood up in the carriage and pulled on the reins with all of his might, and this didn't affect the pony one ioda, it only made him run faster. I yelled for Audie to let me help him pull the reins (thinking we'd pull together), but Audie handed them to me and jumped out as me an Ginger bobbled down the road, screaming with all of our might with every ounce of breath we had. As the pony continued running down the side of the ditch and Audie running after us, it rode over a culvert causing one of the wheels to be on the highway, and the other to run over the culvert and off of it. In seemingly slow motion, it flipped the cart and threw me and Ginger out of it and into the ditch. Knocked the breath right out of us (again). We got up and off of the ground crying out of fear and not because we were hurt. All we could see was the pony & it's cart being drug on its side a quarter of a mile down the road. Audie came by us still running, and eventually caught up with it and its warped frame. Audie had a warped frame when his dad, Mr. Jack, got home from work that day and saw that the cart was bent up. That was about 40 years ago, Audie came by to visit last year and one of the first things he asked me was, "Wanna take a pony cart ride?" He's never lived it down, and neither have Ginger and I.

Fast forward about 10 years, and several horserides I have under my belt. A few years before Jesus turned my life around, a friend and I decided to take a horseback ride. A couple other friends of ours had horses, Toot (pronouced with a long u) and Carol. Toot was an older horse, very good-natured and one that no one would fear riding, and Carol was high strung, one that the owner used in his rodeo competitions. He said, "I don't mind ya'll riding her, but whatever you do, do not holler around Carol because she spooks easily". So off we go. We had nothing to do that afternoon, so we were in no hurry. When we got as far out as we wanted on their property, we decided to turn around so we'd have enough daylight to ride back. I don't know if every horse does this, but the three horses I've ridden in my lifetime all had the trait that when it sensed it was on it's way back "home", their paces would pick up. Toot sensed this, and would trot a little when he saw Carol and my friend take off at a little pace. Toot would stay up with him so that my friend and I could talk to each other. Due to the drugs we were under the influence of, this made us laugh quite a bit. Back and forth it went for about 10 minutes until Toot's pace picked up a little more. Toot got a little faster until pulling the reins didn't slow him down. For some reason the pony cart flashed in my memory... I commenced to getting a little more stern with him in a louder voice just to try to get him to slow down, only Toot was not obedient. Soon, Carol was way behind and Toot and I were barreling down the path toward home. My voice was now into the hollering/screaming range as it was hard enough to hang on, let alone see straight under the drug influence. We were in the field and had to go through a gate that led into the yard...I knew we weren't going to make that turn as fast as we were going, until at the last tenth of a second Toot made a turn into the gate nearly taking my leg off. We were headed straight toward two trailers parked end to end in a V-shape, and there was no place to go but to hit right in the middle of the V. Once again Toot made a split second decision and stopped...dead in his tracks. I went right over the top of his head and onto the ground a few feet from the parked trailers. I'm sure it would have looked like something you'd see on a cartoon. Fortunately I did not break any bones, but from the groin area all the way down to my knees were solid bruises on both legs. Toot didn't get hurt, but he certainly hurt my pride. I haven't been up on a horse since and really have no intentions of doing so until one day in the future. Word has it there'll be a lot of them, and for some reason, I don't think I'll have any trouble riding it, as I'm quite sure it'll be well trained. Just listen to this description...

Then I (John) saw heaven opened, and there before me was a white horse. The rider on the horse was called Faithful and True, and he is right when he judges and makes war.....The armies of heaven, dressed in fine linen, white and clean, were following him on white horses. Revelation 19:11 & 14

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday Night and Still Alive

It's Saturday evening and all I can hear on the other end of the house is my mother watching TV, sounding much like Lawrence that I mean the "tiny bubble" music. If you don't know what "Tiny Bubbles" is, then don't ask. Growing up, every Saturday night for a number of years, we ate supper just down the road at my Uncle Orian and Aunt Vi's house. While Daddy and Uncle Orian were out back grilling, we either sat and looked at old yearbooks, or watched Lawrence Welk. That was our choice. Forget the Dish or Direct TV, as we probably only had about 4 ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS channel and you had to get yourself up off the couch or chair to change the channel...a remote control was unheard of. For supper, we kids got the hamburger or hot dogs while the grown ups got steaks. We usually ate first, and moved out of the way where they could enjoy their meal without us around (so they could talk grownup), then we'd go outside and run it off. We scared our parents in later years when we told them what we used to do when they were in the house eating. If we have any older ones reading, you'll may recall the old skates that had keys to them. You used it to shorten or lengthen them. My uncle and aunt lived up on a hill and their road was paved in front of the house, you could enter or exit from either of the two entrances they had that led down to the highway, state road 121. They had big oak trees that graced their yard, so there was always moss hanging down which we found to be useful. We'd get a wad of moss and set it atop the roller skate for "padding", then we'd sit on it and someone would give us a shove as we'd skate down the hill. We've "skint" an arm or leg a few times, but we always got a thrill when we could balance good enough to get all the way to the bottom at the highway. We'd wait until it was dark before we tried another stunt in which we'd look both ways for cars, then run out into the highway and lay down on it until we saw a car top the hill a quarter of a mile down the road, then we'd see who could lay there the longest before we jumped up. We'd even take pennies and lay them in the road to see if a car could flatten it, and we got a few smashed pennies that way, but most got smashed down into the tar that patched some of the holes in the road. It wasn't long before we'd hear mama or daddy stick their head out the door and holler to tell us to get ready to go home. We'd gather the skates and take them back inside till the next weekend. Little did they know what we were doing with them...because less then 10 years before this, I was hit by a car just a few feet from where we played. Yes, I was 3 years old and walking to my aunt's with Pam, Wes, and my cousin Mike. We were going down there where mama was having coffee with my aunt, and Anneil (my oldest sister) was visiting with Mike's younger sister, Cathy. Wes and Mike ran to the other side, and I misunderstood them telling me not to cross the road, and crossed over as an older couple came by at just the right time and I got hit. I suffered a broken arm, leg, fractured skull, and concussion, but over a few months time, I recovered from the accident well. Fortunately, 121 wasn't as busy back then. The old man died about a month later from a heart attack. You'd have thunk we'd have learned our lesson...unfortunately we didn't, because this was a typical Saturday night for a few years for some of the Smith kids. In later years I learned the hard way again, only the injuries were more serious and confining...but grateful to have survived. You know if I didn't know better, I'd think Satan didn't want me around. But I hope every morning I open my eyes he's saying to himself, "Oh no, she's awake again". If I can encourage someone with a smile or laugh, give a word of warning, hold someone up in prayer, or lead someone in the right direction...then that's my way of getting back at him.

In 1 Thessalonians 5: 14b-17 it says: "We ask you brother and sisters, to warn those who do not work. Encourage the people who are afraid. Help those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. Be sure that no one pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to do what is good for each other and for all people. Always be joyful. Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. This is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Purpose For Everything Under the Sun

For almost 4 years I've written a newsletter for the ladies out at Levy Forestry Camp that several from our church's prison team go to minister to every week. To hear some of the stories from the ladies that come to our Bible Study is something else....their backgrounds, childhood, etc. I am truly blessed to have had such a fun, memorable childhood...thus my reason for loving to write about them from time to time.

Our family didn't have much growing up, like the ole saying goes, "We didn't have a pot to pee in". Two adults and five children in a little Fiat. I don't know what we went to next except that up above the back seat, we had enough room to lay down and look out the back window. Sometimes we would take turns between that and lay over the "hump" in the back floorboard. We didn't even think of using seatbelts. Eventually we graduated to station wagons with all of our "caravan". I was one that suffered with motion sickness. I didn't like the nausea (who does?), but from time to time I would get to sit up front and let the air conditioner blow in my face....that seemed to help a little bit. I cannot count the times on vacation when in the Smoky Mountains, my grandparents always wanted to take us for rides on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Well, if you aren't familiar with the Parkway, the scenery is beautiful, but the roads are like hairpin curves...continuously. I promise you I am getting sick just thinking about it. I would literally cry and beg for us not to have to go....I never won.

In the mid 70's we were up in the much higher elevations of NC around Christmas time, and the first grandchild/my first nephew was born. This trip may be the main reason I'm not too fond of snow, other than to look at in pictures. As we arrived in this small town (much smaller than Williston), we missed a turn and daddy applied the brakes and we spun around in the road...looked like something you'd see on TV. A few days after the birth, my (then) brother-in-law, Mike, was driving us around looking at the snowcapped mountain scenery and took us down a little one-lane road. We looked as though we were riding in "Deliverance" territory....a little like the Hatfields & McCoy stomping grounds. As we were making our way back up the mountain, we had the side of the mountain on one side of the road for viewing, and the other side was Elk River running down in what looked like a canyon...way, way down there. Mike, my mother, and baby sister Ginger were in the front seat, while Wes, myself (sitting in the middle), and daddy were in the backseat. Wes and I had just quietly commented to each other as we were making our way up the mountain and fixing to go around a curve, "I sure do hope no one's coming around the corner". Well, the mail carrier was out delivering the mail and ran right smack into us as she came down the mountain. Quick-thinking Mike steered into the mountain as we hit....that's better than the river below. It was so bitterly cold outside. Wes, Daddy, and Mike all set out for walking up the road a piece, to warn any other drivers that may be traveling down the same road of the accident ahead of them. The rest of us sat inside the warmest place we could get, inside the vehicle. Pam literally had to sit on my feet to keep them warm which the day before had been frozen from my wet tennis shoes (from the deep south we aren't accustomed to being in the snow). It was a little nervy as we could feel and hear the car shift on the icy road. After waiting on a deputy, we made it out of there safe and sound without any bump, bruises, or scratches to us. The front side of our new Chevy Caprice was smashed, but still drivable.

We oohed and awwed over the baby, and was ready to head home after about a week of cold weather. The roads were icy the morning we left, and it was in the low 20's which I managed well with my brand new midi-length coat I got for Christmas. I was so proud of it. I was sitting in the backseat next to the door, only I could feel a bit of motion sickness coming on. I told daddy I was sick on my stomach and he just told me to "hold it" till he could find a place to pull off. Not exactly an easy thing to do when you have drop offs on both sides of the road. We rode a little further and the nausea became worse. "Daddy, I'm gonna be sick...please stop". Daddy kept saying, "I can't find a place to pull off!" So here we are with the front end of our car dented in the front, and a car full of people with one of the occupants sick on her stomach. Finally Daddy spotted a service station ahead and said, "Here, I'm gonna pull run inside quick, where we can get back on the road". The owner/attendant was out sweeping his driveway off and as we're rolling in, I swing my door open, stick my head out and let her that I mean...vomit. Poor ole fellow didn't know what hit him as we whip right out as quickly as we arrived. All I could say was, "I told you I was getting sick..." Our next stop hours later, I found that the belt to my new coat had been slammed in the door and frozen stiff from the ice. Our past week looked like something you'd see on National Lampoon's Southeast Vacation, if they had one entitled that. Most all of our trips were memorable...something we could all sit back and laugh at in years to come.

We were so happy to get back into Florida. After all the commotion and stress from the week, who'd have ever thunk that this would be the very weekend my father would go to bed in a drunken stuper, fall under conviction during the night, and give his heart to the Lord before the sun came up the next morning. The very beginning of our family coming to know the Lord.... the Lord works in mysterious ways, huh? There's a purpose for everything we go through in life...wrecks, motion-sickness and all.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Froggie Went a Courtin'

Last night, I was reading my bible about the frog plague in, some things in there will blow your mind. I cannot imagine so many frogs that they are jumping in and out of your house, your bedroom, your bed, your ovens, pots and pans, etc. My daddy would have had a fit; he couldn't stand frogs. When he was in Jr. high school he played basketball and was taking a shower in the locker room and some of his team mates threw frogs in on him through the window, and he ran out into the street behind the school (in his birthday suit). Another neighbor of his down the road kept trying to scare him by saying he'd throw one on him (a big bullfrog), and daddy threatened to throw a coke bottle at him if he did. The young man threw the frog, and daddy threw the bottle...which busted the back of the boy's head.

When I was about 10 and Ginger was about 4 or 5, we were playing outside and came across little baby toads...they were so cute, about the size of a thumbnail. Ginger picked one up and cupped it in her little hands and took it inside to show daddy, who was sitting down reading the paper. Not knowing they were very small, she told daddy she wanted to show him the frog she found outside and opened her hands, and the little bitty frog jumped out and onto daddy...then the little bitty frog went sailing through the air. And the moral of that story is just because somethings cute, doesn't mean everyone will think it is.

Imagine my surprise yesterday morning when I turned on my office computer and in checking my email, I got a devotion entitled, "Did You Eat Your Frog Today"? It about made me sick. According to the author of a book it was advertising (Brian Tracy), your "frog" could be the most difficult thing to do on your to-do list, if you keep one. This is more-than-likely the one you are most likely to procrastinate. By "eating" it first, this will give you the energy and momentum to tackle all the others on your list. If not, the frog will sit there on the side of your plate and watch you while you do a hundred more unimportant things. Makes sense huh? I've got the wonderful task of going through my closet and boxes full of other "things" just so I can store it out in my storage shed, my "shack". When I moved back home the week before my daddy died in 07, I just threw everything in boxes, and there it remains. Still have a few more boxes out at the trailer, but Peggy, Erik, and Ginger are kind enough to let me store it there as long as I need to. My shed is empty of junk now, but it's fixed up with shelves, carpet, an A/C, desk, my bike, and tanning bed. If I ever get my bedroom cleaned out, then I can get it fixed up the way I want it. Till then, my "frog" stares at me every day....but it will be a dead frog if I see it start jumping.

Knowing how my father felt about frogs, a sweet Christian sister of mine, Michelle T. got into the habit of sending my daddy (the last year or so of his life) a little something every now and then that had to do with frogs. She sent him a nurse frog, a stuffed frog, etc. all to remind him of what these frogs stood for when he looked at them...and it wasn't something to fear, but to remind him (and all of us) what to do when we go through the storms in our lives...F.R.O.G.. And that's what I leave with you today. Fully Rely On God.