There have been many, difficult roads that I have travelled in my life… As my readers and followers know, I grew up as a country boy, in a small town where people worked hard to feed their families and provide the best homes for their children that they could.
      Life, in that respect, was simple. It was not, however, easy. It became clear to me, at the tender age of 6, that life was not for the faint of heart… I heard, from behind closed doors, a conversation that would shape my life in dramatic ways… It was that secret conversation between my dad and my mom, that opened my eyes to the unfairness of the world, and the bitter discovery that as long as I lived, there would be those with plenty, but many with bare sustenance…
     That morning, my dad cried, while my mom tried to reassure him that he was capable of the challenges that poverty imposed on our growing family… I was startled. I had never heard my dad cry. It tore at my heart, and threatened to damage my soul… Everything that I trusted and loved about life was stood on end, and, teetered on that precipice, above the canyon of great despair.
      I did the only thing that I knew how to do… I prayed. On my knees, at the foot of my bed. I didn’t ask God for money. I asked Him to help my dad, so that I wouldn’t hear him cry like that, again… I stayed like that for a long time, with my eyes closed and waited for the answer that would show me the way.
      It became a pivotal point in my life. I understood, at that moment, that I had two choices… I could give into the despair and wait for life to consume me and my family, or, I could rise up and take the challenge to heart.
      I stood up, and went to my toybox, a wooden construction, fashioned by the loving hands of my grandfather, and extracted the tools that I needed to start- a handful of crayons, and a sheaf of white paper. I started to draw, using mostly green and red crayons. I folded the paper into quadrants, and tore it into equal pieces.
    
      I became the very first, 6 year old, blond- haired counterfeiter ….

      When I was done, I took the handful of ‘money’ and opened my door and went to the dimly lit, morning kitchen. My dad was sitting at the end of the table, hunched over, and tying the last broken laces of his worn work boots… The ones that he told me he would never part with, because they ‘fit’ so well… He looked up, as I crept around the hallway corner, and walked slowly towards him, clutching my treasure. I will never forget the look on his face, as I presented him with the bundle of ‘money’ and told him not to worry. Everything was going to be all right.
    
       It was the second time I saw my father cry.

        A year later, I found a job… I asked a man on a tractor, who was driving slowly down the road, if he could ever think of something that a 7 year old boy could help him do, that would give him real money, so that his family wouldn’t be hungry. The man, a farmer, and, unknown to me, at the time, a childhood friend of my mother’s, turned the tractor off, and listened to the little blond boy with the determined heart… I will always love him for that. He never had to stop, but, he did. He didn’t have to quiet that rumbling machine, but, he did. He didn’t have to listen, but, he did. He didn’t have to hug me, but, he did…… I promised God that someday I would do that for other people.
      After a talk with my mother, that I didn’t hear, the tall man came out of my house, and changed my life… I started to work, the next morning at 6:30 A.M.  I was dressed in blue dungarees with a red and black checkered shirt on top of a clean, white undershirt. My worn, Thom Mcan sneakers were whitened with white shoe polish that I applied liberally, so that they looked as new as possible. Looking back, I don’t think they fooled anyone.
    

       I worked on that farm for almost 11 years, until I left to try to serve the nation at war. During the years of farm work, I learned the things that make me what I am today… I learned that a man takes care of those around him first… I learned that a man doesn’t complain when he doesn’t feel well… I learned that a man perseveres, especially in the face of adversity…. Ah, adversity, my old friend…..

       A MAN LOVES, EVEN IF IT HURTS.

       In the past few days, I am faced with new challenges, that I might find opportunity within, if I look deep enough… But, first, I have to find the courage, to look into that worn toybox again…

      Originally, I was going to post a story of my youth today… It was loosely titled (it wasn’t completed), ‘The Chipmunk Chronicles’…. It was to be, a humorous but poignant account, of a time in my life, where I tried to fulfill my childhood desire to become a cowboy…. by catching and ‘wrangling’ a chipmunk or two…  I wrote the story with some very important people in mind… The kids in my life, here, in the ether, and the ones that I actually ‘wrangle’ in my life, outside the internet…
       Sadly, in the past few days, many of my dreams have been shattered out here, once more… Some of the ‘chipmunks’ that led me to write this story, have vanished from my life… I am heartbroken… They were a joy in my life that will leave a real hole in my heart… I still don’t know why. Maybe I never will.
      A third ‘chipmunk’, one that I considered a nephew of sorts, has decided to walk a path that has shaken my soul… I am done crying now, but, I am still very sad. I am searching my toybox for answers, and it is empty. I have to go now, to pray… I don’t know what else to do….

                     Thank you for listening. Love, tman<3

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