A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
Recently, I have noticed something a bit different in my work, that is to say -- my writing, my commentaries, if you please.
I have noticed that my faith has much more influence on my thinking than I had thought. I'm told that is a sign of aging and wisdom. I can readily agree with the aging part. However, the wisdom part, is something else entirely. That, dear reader, is decided by you.
That's is a little out of character for me. I have always felt a man's faith was between him and his chosen deity -- and nobody else. As my family will unhesitatingly tell you "Papa" is subject to go off on a tear over a subject having to do with religion quicker than any other subject.
I have found, now that I am well into the eighth decade of my lifespan, that I am far more able to cope with the vexing problems that living life as a human being tends to deliver to our doorstep. That does not mean that I don't stumble and fall every once in a while, nor does it mean that I am mistake free. Look. ALL the erasers on my pencils are well worn.
Often, I have been extremely lucky, having the ability to learn (usually) from my mistakes. That is learned behavior, behavior taught me -- along with many other things -- by my father. Thus armed, I have been able to inform those who follow behind me of my personal flawed processes that led to my latest embarrassment -- whatever that might be.
One of life's lessons I have learned (the hard way) is that a man who does not acknowledge and learn from his mistakes and then pass that invaluable information along to the younger generation -- is a FOOL.
It is said that a man can count his real friends on the fingers of his hands. Some say the fingers of ONE of his hands. When I was younger I thought that was nonsensical. As I have grown older I have learned that a man is blessed, indeed, if he has ONE real friend.
When I refer, to and use, the word "friend," please understand that I am not using that word in any context in which it can be associated with today's social media on the Internet. Those friends exist only in zeros and ones. They are purely binary language.
I have made a number of acquaintances by way of the Internet that I most likely would not have made without the web. I treasure these connections.
It is said that a friend will help you hide. It is also said that a TRUE friend will help you hide the body! Sometimes, these "hard sayings" have a bit more truth to them than we are comfortable with.
I have become convinced that once the "finish line" of one's life is peeking over the horizon, it tends to help one focus on that which is really important.
For a little over fifty years I have been walking my life's pathway with death ever beside me. We have become "comfortable" companions. I know that sounds impossible, but like anything else in life, constant contact with a person, place, or thing, will result in a certain level of comfort in the presence of that companion.
Back in my mid-twenties, the family was summoned to my bedside and told that I would not live 'til morning. Obviously, I did survive.
My doctor recently told me that he has been constantly surprised that I have survived episode after episode of vicious attacks that should have taken my life and that he had expected me to die a number of times in the past fifty-three years only to have me still around making others uncomfortable, as is my wont.
So what keeps me going? I wish I knew. I have blamed it on pure stubbornness and persistence, something I believe I may have inherited from my Celtic ancestry.
More than anything, though, I believe it was my father. He taught, he instructed, he indoctrinated persistence in ALL things. You don't quit, you don't give up, you never give in, you never, ever, admit defeat -- for a man is never conquered until he surrenders.
My father also taught self reliance. A man should depend upon no one -- or nothing -- but himself ... period. A young man during the depression, my father was determined that his children would be able to fend for themselves if, and when, the time came.
He taught me to hunt and trap. He taught me to build traps, bait, and set traps and those secrets that disguise the human scent on a trap. He had me running the traps before school on icy Carolina mornings.
I thought of my Dad when the story on Cliven Bundy broke. See, I have been there -- with my Dad, too, many decades ago.
Our confrontation was over the state taking a portion of our land to change the path of a roadway. It seems the state engineers had built in a huge, unnecessary, curve in their plans for the new roadway and that curve would take a huge, unnecessary, bite out of our land, which sat in the corner of the planned new road and the existing highway with which it would intersect.
Dad went to the state capital and met with the state engineers and explained that their survey was wrong, and that it was unnecessary to take that chunk of land when the old path of the roadway was a much better roadway than the newly planned one.
The state listened -- and refused to change their plans. So the morning they work crew showed up to begin bulldozing our land, my father and I met them -- with our guns. Dad, careful to remain on our property at all times, stepped up where he could be clearly seen and heard and announced that he intended to shoot the first man to climb aboard the bulldozer.
After a hurried conference, the work crew left. A few days later we were visited by representatives of the state engineer's office. Dad had had me sketch out a route for the proposed roadway that would eliminate that godawful curve and not take a foot of our land.
Survey stakes were removed, a new survey was run, and the proposed roadway was moved, the curve was taken out, and wonder of wonders, we didn't lose any land, at all.
At no time was law enforcement involved, period.
Would my father have opened fire? Look. There was no political correctness in those days. A man said what he meant and meant what he said. I never doubted he would fire on those men. More importantly, THEY never doubted it, either.
America was a better country then. We were tough, we had honor and more importantly, we understood how important honor was. Back then we still understood that a man's home, his land, his livestock, belonged to him. He had a right, indeed, a duty to defend them from all threats, no matter the quarter from which those threats came.
Individual rights, personal freedom and liberty, were the foundation of the constitution and the constitution the foundation of the country.
I mentioned earlier that my faith has become a mainstay, a source of support and stability for me as the years pile up.
I think all my life I have been training for the end of my life. I think we are are granted that opportunity. Some of us take advantage and prepare while others, well, just let it slide.
Remember the old Negro spiritual: "I MUST WALK MY LONESOME VALLEY?" Read the words:
"I must walk my lonesome valley
I got to walk it for myself,
Nobody else can walk it for me,
I got to walk it for myself
I must go and stand my trial,
I got to stand it for myself,
Nobody else can stand it for me,
I got to stand it for myself.
Jesus walked his lonesome valley,
He had to walk it for himself,
Nobody else could walk it for him,
He had to walk it for himself."
There is a wonderful pearl of a lesson in those words.
"I" have to do it. Nobody will do it for me. "I" have to do it myself.
It's the lesson my father instilled in me as a lad. "You are responsible, son. Only you."
When it becomes my turn to walk that valley, God willing, I intend to walk it with my back straight, my head held high, leaning slightly forward in expectation of the wondrous things awaiting my arrival at the end of the valley.
But, I've not entered the valley yet. So, my pen shall not rest in my hand. There is yet much to do, much to be said, places to go, people to see, ideas to share, thoughts to formulate, ... much to do.
Yes, I'm bent. But I'm not bowed. I'm bloodied, but I'm not slain. So I'll lay me down and rest a bit -- then, I'll rise to fight again.
J. D. Longstreet