Here’s the scene: A wildflower covered mound, surrounded by knee-high prairie grass. A barbed wire fence row stands on one side, while dried skeletons of yucca blooms stand as sentries to protect the site.
“It’s right there,’ Fred, the cowboy/jack-of-all-trades whispered, “Chief Rain-in-the-Face’s grave.”
My mind shuffled through the vibrant family history of our homestead, that had been drummed in my head for all of my pre-teen years. The place had been homesteaded 100+ years prior by Aunt Lizzie, who was only thirteen at the time. Around that time she eluded cattle rustlers along this very creek, riding horseback 60 miles to Woodward, OK in the dark with a significant bank deposit. Up the road, my great grandpa is hailed as being the first white baby born in Kiowa County, Kansas. Winding through the buffalo wallow dotted pastures, I could almost picture regiments of US Calvary soldiers following the lonesome trail they laid out. Not to be forgotten, legend tells of a headless black man buried in a long-lost grave on the property. The man was on the lam, hired on with a cattle drive. But when the boss rode on to Dodge City to arrange for the arrival of the herd, he came back with a Wanted: Dead or Alive poster. He chose the dead option. The crook’s head journeyed on to the Cowboy Capitol and his body left on the Parkin Ranch. But I sure didn’t remember anything about an indian chief.
Fred continued, “Go stand on the Chief’s grave and say very loudly–it has to be loud–Chief Rain-in-the-Face, what are you doing? Listen and he will say nothing at all.”
I weighed and watched as my dad kept a straight face, while Fred’s eyes twinkled. If I did this, would I really hear a voice answering, ‘Nothing at all?” How cool would that be! As tempted as I was with the possibility of experiencing the amazing, I leaned to common sense. No, I didn’t fall for it, but Fred sure made me think.
The next victims to step to the grave were my younger brother and step-brother. And as the years have gone by, there was a whole string of targets. At his place, I hear there is a sign pointing folks to a Chief-Rain-In-the-Face gravesite. Maybe we were dealing with twins?
When Cliff and I were first married, Fred was a constant fixture at our house a lunch time. Of course, I had a long history with him always being around, and it didn’t take Cliff long to fall in love with his humor, storytelling, and his joyful countenance, no matter what health woe had befallen him.
Everyday Fred shared mini-Snickers bars and Jesus. The Snickers I could handle, but I wasn’t really on speaking terms with God at that time. Oh I knew him, but he’d let me down and I didn’t need him–unless I was about to run out of gas in the car or was stranded in a wicked ice storm with our daughter running a 104 degree temp. Then I’d rattle his door, but kept him at arms length like the loud and bossy old aunt that smells like Vicks and Roses, Rose perfume, but always is good for some significant cash at Christmas.
Cliff and I would sheepishly look at the floor, when Fred wove the goodness of his Lord into the conversations. I didn’t much like that he was attempting to jump-start my thinking or my soul. However he was such a great guy, we were ever-so polite, but rolled our eyes behind his back. When we got a gift subscription to Guideposts from him and his lovely wife, Marlene, I quickly pitched all the issues in a magazine rack. I couldn’t throw them away. What if he asked about them?
Many months later, I can’t remember why Fred had been rerouted from our daily lunch date, but I was in the clear to clean out the magazines. I started leafing through the booklets and reading hit-and-miss. They backed everything Fred talked about and convicted me to get my girls in Sunday School. (Notice: not me, but my kids. I was just fine, thank you very much!)
That is when something started that I can’t stop. Soon after, our worlds crashed with the loss of our two very special grandpas and Cliff’s live-life-to-the-fullest brother, Mike. That is when I had no choice to cry out and grab on to the Jesus Fred had talked about.
And for over a quarter of a century that Jesus has held me together through many valleys of the shadow of death, fears, worries, etc, etc, etc. I don’t have to think about it anymore, I know.
A few years back, one of my brother’s kids called me. Bursting with skepticism, a little voice said, “Aunt Kel, do you know who Chief Rain-in-the-Face is? Will he really talk to you and say nothing at all?”
And my response will always be, “What do you think?….. And once you are think it through, how about we share a Snickers, because I know someone even more amazing than Chief Rain-In-the-Face.”
“Whatever you do, work at it with all of your hears, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward, It is the Lord you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24
(Side note~For some reason, Fred and I always had a special bond, even before the Freb Webb Preaching Series. Last week when I heard that he had gained his prize to be with Jesus, tears rolled like a fountain. Some because I’m so glad for him and some because I owe him more than I can ever express. While he was still with us, we visited, emailed, and even facebooked a little bit. I will never regret letting him know how important he was in my faith walk.
My question to you is this: Have you told that person(s) the impact they’ve made in your faith walk?
Photo credit-my own