Running Into Trees

I grew up an orphan — at least in the summer time.  Set out to play in the morning, no one worried about me until dark.  Things were different in the winter, though.  I was expected to come in the house every couple hours to warm.  I hated that, for warming up meant taking off everything wet: shoes, socks, and jeans, and then putting them back on when I went out again.  Mom thought this would deter me from going back out into the cold.  Never.  Winter was an adventure, a challenge to which I rose.

 

My brother David plotted the path for our sled.  Of the thousands of hills in the Ozarks upon which we could sled, ours had to be a gentle slope.  I was discouraged.  But my older brothers had an idea.  Though the hill was not a particularly fast one, they made sure that the path presented a set of fun complications, namely trees. 

 

They pushed the sled to get it up to speed.  As the tagalong little brother, if I got to ride at all, it was in front of one of the bigger boys.  This slowed them down, so most of my fun was relegated to cheering them on, and dragging the sled back up the hill. 

 

The ultimate challenge was, of course, to ride the sled on your stomach, which put your head at the front, and presented it as a battering ram for the nearest oak.  If you actually hit the tree and drew blood, you were put upon a pedestal and encouraged to recount the story in front of all the boys on the bus the next school day.  It was every boy's greatest hope to hit the tree and spew blood like a geyser.

 

One particular winter day, our sledding was cut short by a great discovery.  A bump in our path turned out to be a broken wagon wheel and parts from what looked like a Conestoga.  It must have been there a hundred years, we figured.  Perhaps the wagons had gotten stuck in a blizzard, or attacked by Indians.  It must have retreated to the hills and trees. 

 

Near the wagon wheel, we discovered an antique letter stamper from a town somewhere in Indiana.  This was enough to for small boys with large imaginations to conjure stories. Sledding soon gave way to snow forts and snowball fights, as we imagined that we were defending the wagon from wild Indians. 

 

Nearly forty years later, I look back on that winter day and realize that that stamper, and that wagon wheel gave my life direction.  Since that day, I have had a keen interest in American and local history.

 

Upon further reflection, I realize that the path that my brother plotted out is very much like my spiritual journey, beginning slowly, and full of trees.  If left up to me, I would run – indeed I have run – straight into several trees.  In fact, there is no telling what kind of harm might have come to me or my brothers if we had not found the wagon wheel and stamper, which distracted us from sledding.

 

Likewise, I have no doubt that, had I not "found God" and learned to surrender to His will daily, I would still be running smack into life's trees.

 

~ By Steve Hager ~

 

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