Wednesday, June 23, 2010


It was sometime during the last days of the Great Depression. Dad was working as a grave digger at the Park Lawn Cemetery in Fort Worth, Texas. Somehow he got some time off, more than likely, no one died that day, anyway he had some free time so he took Mom, Jo and I to the Fort Worth Zoo. I don’t really know why it stuck in my four or five year old brain, but I must have really been impressed with the elephants. For later that day after arriving back home, Mom sent us outside to play so she could get some work done. We were living in the cemetery in a house provided for the care takers. In my explorations I found myself in the barn. And there stretched across the aisle that ran between the milk cow stanchions was a creature I had never seen before. It had a long narrow body, except for the head. The head was twice the size of the circumference of his body, and it had a snout. I stared at it for a long time and it stared back at me. For whatever reason, I did not feel led to pick the thing up and take it to show Mom. But, about that time Dad came driving into the yard on the cemetery tractor. I ran over to him and told him to come with me. “There’s something in the barn that has a snout like an elephant.” Dad got down off the tractor and followed me to see this strange creature. When he saw it he didn’t stand and stare at it like I did. He grabbed a garden hoe propped up near the barn door and promptly tried to chop the creature in two. Its head flicked back a split second before the hoe buried into the ground in front of him. The snout disappeared into its mouth, the head struck forward over the hoe bound right for Dad, who did a quick Texas Two Step - I’m not sure that dance was invented at that time, but Dad did it just the same. Before Dad could get the hoe free from the dirt into which it was buried, the creature disappeared under the hay rack. Dad, using the hoe to poke around, could not find it. It was only after he was sure he could not find it, that he revealed to me that it was a snake and was not kin to elephants. The snout was the tail of a rat the snake was in the process of swallowing.

Dad and I had a pretty tall tail to talk about that night at the supper table. He commended me for not trying to pick it up, or play with it. He did not think it was (a new word) poisonous. That meant it couldn’t severely hurt me. It could bite, but the bite would not kill me, and Mom vowed to never go in the barn again. The reason I remember this incident out of my childhood is because I heard Dad or Mom rehearse this story numerous times. It’s funny how your mind retains certain things through the years.

My point is this: There are a couple of verses in the Bible that tells us about the personal angels God gives his people to protect them during times of harm. In fact it says, “He shall give his angels charge over thee that thou shall not dash thy foot against a stone.” Another one says, that our angels always behold the Father’s face. They always have his attention. I’m really glad my personal angel wasn’t afraid of snakes that day.

Don in Georgetown

Saturday, January 05, 2008

I watched most of the Cotton Bowl game today, (New Years 2008). During the course of the game the announcers interviewed a spry, 83 year old Frank Broyles. They asked him questions about the tradition of the Cotton Bowl, he graciously shared his thoughts, then they asked him his favorite memory of all those years coaching the Arkansas team. His immediate reply was their national championship game in the 1964 Bowl game. That answer brought back some memories.
On January the first, 1964, we had slept late. It was a holiday, and besides we had been up past mid-night attending our New Year's Eve service. I had no more gotten out of the bed when the phone rang. It was Leroy Kirkpatrick and he asked me if I would like to have a couple of tickets to the Cotton Bowl game. "Give me a few minutes and I will call you back." To which he was agreeable. After discussing this with Bettye; kids, baby sitters, etc., she couldn't go, we decided to give Don Elmore, a member of our church at the time a call. He was a faithful member and from Arkansas, both qualified him to be the first I called. Absolutely! No question about it, he was ready and rearing to go. So I called Leroy back and told him I would take the tickets. By the time I was ready, and had eaten a bite, Don was knocking on my front door. Somewhere around 8 A.M. we were on the road to Dallas. We got there in time to do a little site seeing at the Texas State Fair and eat a big hotdog on the midway. The plastic mustard jar was hard and I cranked down on it with a grip of steel, (yeah, right) and it broke lose and sprayed mustard all over me and the lady standing next to me. What a way to start an adventure.
Anyway, we eventually found our seats, well up in the stands, but under the seats above us, because it rained during the game. We remained dry. Arkansas played Nebraska. It was a low scoring game with Nebraska taking a 7 to 3 lead into the last few minutes of the game. Arkansas mounted a late drive that resulted in a touchdown and was enough to win the game and secure the national championship for the Razorbacks and Frank Broyles that year.
I got a voice mail from Bro. Don today. He had heard Frank Broyles' comment, and reminded me that we were a part of his favorite memory during the years he coached at Arkansas University. Do you know where you were 43 years ago today?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Madison (Mattie is what her family and friends called her)slipped the mini-skirt out of its hiding place. Today would be the day. Mom was not back from work yet (she worked the 11 PM to 7 AM shift) and she had been dying to wear this new skirt for days now. She slipped it on, and was just finishing her bowl of cereal when Mom walked through the door. After the initial shock, there was an immediate confrontation. It ended with her Mom threatening to call her Dad and placing her on restrictions for the rest of her life. She changed her skirt in anger and rebellion. She stomped through the living room, flung the door opened and just before she went through it, she turned and in a hateful and angry voice, said to her Mom, “I hate you!” She stomped out the door slamming it behind her. Four hours later the principle called her out of her class and informed her she needed to go home, that something had happened and her Dad wanted her home. To her horror she learned that her mother had died shortly after she left for classes. That whole morning scene replayed itself now with an accusing finger pointed at a frightened teenager’s heart. “I killed my mother.” Over and over, this scene played out its message in unmistakable terms.
All of Mattie’s family and friends say the same, “She was never the same after her mother’s death.” After the funeral she was uprooted and sent to live with an uncle and aunt. She learned a trade and she also learned that the love of men could not atone for the grinding guilt she felt for what she had done. She went from one husband to another, until God in his great mercy brought Sam into her life. He was quiet, calm, strong, rock solid, and at peace with himself. Everything she needed. They got married and spent several years together. She let everyone know that those were the best years of her life.
We had her funeral today, she was 54. What caused her to die? We could say it was an ulcer in her stomach that allowed juices to leak into her intestines. We could say it was peritonitis that killed her. To the Doctors and the Medical Examiner that would appear to be a satisfactory explanation. But that is not what killed her. It was the 39 years of living with the fact that the last thing her mother ever heard her say was, “I hate you!” After 39 years of living with that awful truth, it finally ate a hole in her stomach and killed her.
My point is this: Love really does cover a multitude of sins. Love will remove the guilt and heal the ulcer. Never allow yourself to leave the presence of a loved one when you are angry, or have said something hasty or hurtful. It is an awful burden to carry in your body. It will kill you, it did Mattie.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I haven’t heard one of these little creatures in quiet a while. In fact, the last one I heard was back in the ‘40’s. The only ones I ever saw was after it had been stuffed and in a museum. They were called Screech Owls, and for a good reason. If you were outside after dark and just a little jumpy to boot, and one of these darlings of God’s creation cut loose - it would scare the living breath out of you. Their call, for all the world, sounded like a woman in severe pain, like she was being tortured to death.
It just so happened that the first time I heard Mr. Screech Owl, I was with my Dad. Still, my blood ran cold, and I looked at Dad half expecting him to be as scared as me. “What was that?“ I demanded, and in a quiet and calm voice, he said, “Oh, that’s only a screech owl.” “Well,” I responded, “it sure scared me.” Dad chuckled, and owned up to the fact that it scared him too, the first time he heard one, but that was when he was only a boy too. They became so common place in his day, that he hardly paid attention to them anymore. But this one sure set my heart to racing, big time. They are a small creature, only about nine inches long, and weighing less than seven ounces, but when they cut loose you can hear them from several hundred yards away.
Later, when any of my friends were with me and heard the sound they made, it was my turn to act all calm and cool about the matter. “Oh, that sound, it’s only a screech owl.” Dad even picked up some information on the birds for me, and understanding more about them, I lost all fear, and even came to welcome their eerie night time calls.
But, like a lot of God’s special creatures, their ranks really dwindled to the point, that they may even be extinct. It has been well over 50 years since I last heard one. They were harmless to people. Other than scaring the bejeebers out of you, they posed no threat at all. But, there are some special things I learned from these unusual birds, and that brings me to my point.
There are some things that frighten us, or at least, they do me. They bring “sudden” fear upon us. Death, suffering, even the presence and purpose of God are just a few. I was afraid God would call me to preach, or to serve him in some capacity. When the thought came to my mind, “sudden” fear would come upon me again. That caused me to put off surrendering to God’s call on my life for about four or five years. Why was I fearful? It was because I didn’t have enough information as to what God wanted to do with my life. The more I learned about the screech owls, the less fearful I was of them. The more I have come to know God and his will and purpose for my life, the less fearful I become of God. The more I know God and the more I listen to him, the more I know his yoke is easy and his burdens are light. Besides, perfect love casts out all fear.

Don in Georgetown.

Monday, November 05, 2007


His name was Billy Jack Hoover, he was my wife’s younger brother’s best friend. They were inseparable. Billy Jack and Charlie went to the same school, from kindergarten through the twelfth grade. Both played sports, and both had a Cushman scooter on which they rode up and down highway * with abandon. Why they were able to remain good friends is anybody’s guess. They played some of the “dirtiest” tricks on one another that you can imagine. Charlie was a people person. He always had to have his friends around and he never met a stranger. You would see Charlie talking to someone you did not know, and you would swear they had been acquaintances for years. When they finished their conversation you could ask him, “Who was that” and he would reply, “I don’t know, we were just talking.”
Anyway, over the course of time Charlie made friends with a farmer who lived down the road a couple of miles from their house. He even worked for him some. One of the farmer’s cash crops each year was watermelons. He would give Charlie one or two to take home with him at the end of each day’s work. He even told him anytime he wanted a melon, just come by and get it. Here’s where the plot began to thicken. Charlie told him he would like to play a trick on his friend. It was okay by the farmer, so at an appointed time, (read after dark) he and Billy Jack arrive at the watermelon patch, to “steal” a couple of the farmer’s products. With perfect timing he shows up with shotgun in hand and Charlie conveniently flattens out in a furrow and behind some rather thick watermelon vines. Billy Jack froze in terror when he heard the booming voice asking, “Boy! What do you think you’re doing?” And then the deadly sound of a shotgun being cocked for serious business. The unwitting victim was close to tears when Charlie rose up off the ground and he and the farmer enjoyed a hearty laugh at his expense. A real tussle broke out between Charlie and Billy Jack.
That’s only one of may instances I could site, but the real point of this article happened a couple of years later when these two friends were in high school. It was track season. Charlie was a letterman in four different sports all four years of high school. In track he ran the open quarter and was the anchor leg on the four-by-four hundred relay, and the mile relay. They were competing in the regional finals. The meet was held in an ancient stadium in Kilgore, Texas. To show you how ancient, the track ran in front of the bleachers on one side of the field, and behind them on the other side so that during the race, the participants were hidden from view down the back stretch. It came time for the half-mile race. That was Billy Jack’s event. All went well on the first lap, then during the second lap, they disappeared behind the stands. We waited expectantly to see how he was doing. The other runners sprinted from behind the stands and as we identified each one, we realized there was no Billy Jack. We waited five or ten seconds more, but no Billy Jack. I begin to think it in my mind, but then a voice from behind us articulated it for everyone, “He quit.” Sure enough, when they went to look for him, he was sitting on the curb, arms folded over his knees and his head resting on his arms. He was fine, but he would not look at or speak to anyone. He was ashamed. In his shame, he wanted no companionship at that moment. He had quit.
My point is this; I’m sure that all of us have thought about it at some time in our ministries. “I think I will just quit!” It’s alright if you think about it, but not too much. Just don’t do it. Someone has said, “The only sure way to fail is to quit.” Don’t let it be said of you that, “He quit!” What and awful epithet to carry to our grave, to be engraved on our tombstone, “He quit.” You will reap in due season if you faint not, that is, if you don’t quit.
Don in Georgetown

Saturday, July 21, 2007

From left to right is Adel and Bill Reese then Gladys and J.W. Steadman. J.W.'s letter jacket is from the Fighting Yellow Jackets of Cleburne, TX. The little building in the back is our restroom, and the hoist in the tree was used by Papa to fix his car engine.


I knew nothing about football games and teams. All I knew was what I played in my front yard with June Cowan, or with other friends on some vacant lot in the neighborhood. I had not yet been introduced to Southwest Conference football, or to announcer Kern Tipps who described the games over the radio. All that was about to change. Our favorite Uncle and Aunt paid us a New Years visit. I had no idea why they were at our house, but I heard something about going to a football game the next day. So, early the next morning Dad woke me out of a deep sleep, I put on my warmest clothes and Dad, Uncle Eldon, and I drove to San Antonio to watch a football game being played in what was called The Alamo Bowl. This was January 1, 1947 and I was 10 years old. I only found out yesterday (December 27, 2006) that game was the first ever played as the Alamo Bowl. It featured Hardin-Simmons Cowboys of Abilene, Texas against The University Denver Pioneers of Denver, Colorado. It was colder than blue blazes. We had to chip ice off the bleachers before sitting down. Hardin-Simmons won that day behind the running of their tailback, a young man they called Doc Mobley. He scored two touchdowns, and their tight end, J.W. Steadman, caught a pass for the third. The final score was 20-7.
That time with Dad and Uncle Eldon at the football game, visiting J.W. and his beautiful wife Gladys in their hotel room after the game - as you can tell it really made an impression on a ten year old kid. You see, J.W. was Uncle Eldon’s oldest son. That would make him my cousin. Of course, J.W. didn’t take after the Ledbetter side of his family - he was over six feet tall and weighed in at 200 pounds. I can still see him now, faking the block on a lineman, then slipping down the field behind all the defenders (who were zeroing in on Doc Mobley) hauling in the ball like it was something sacred and outrunning them to the end zone. It was a gray, cold, icy day, but it burns brilliantly in my memory to this very hour.
My Point Is This: There is some kid in your life. He may even be like me and not have a clue about what is going on - but take him and make a memory. It will stay with him far longer than you can imagine. He will love and be grateful for you all the days of his life. It’s worth your time and effort. Don’t wait, do it now.
Don in Georgetown

Sunday, July 08, 2007


The wash was done, the plug on the old wringer washing machine had been pulled, and the rinse water had been drained into the flower beds. The wash was hung on the line to dry, tenderly flapping in the gentle summer breeze. Mom’s voice, demeanor and intentions were clear and direct to my sister. “Mary Jo, this is the third time I have told you, go bring those close in off the line. If you wait till it’s dark, you’ll have to gather them anyway.” Sure enough, the sun set with the clothes still on the line. I had already gone to bed, not to sleep, but to listen to Red Skelton and Judy Canova on the radio. In the midst of my entertainment, I again hear Mom’s level but insistent voice, “Mary Jo, did you bring the clothes in?” “No Mam.” “Then get out there right now and get them in.” Instant weeping and wailing. “But it’s dark, and I’m scared of the dark.” “I don’t care, I told you, now you go bring the clothes in.” More weeping and wailing. “Young lady, you have a choice. Bring in the clothes or get a spanking, which do you want?” “Okay, I will bring them in.” More weeping and wailing. But in the midst of this character building lesson, an idea struck me like a bolt from the blue. I unlatched the window screen beside my bed, slid through the window and across the porch, down the side of the house and arrived at the back door well ahead of my reluctant sister. I waited. Still weeping and wailing she pushed the screen door open and all I did was raise up with my arms spread, my eyes bugged, and my mouth wide open. Now the weeping and wailing turned to screaming and running in place. Above this frightful den I heard my Dad’s voice, “Donald Lloyd!” I retraced my previous route as quickly as I could, but he caught me coming through the window. I got a whack on my thinly clad pajamaed bottom, one that would usually have stung worse than a nest of yellow jackets, but the prank was well worth the whack. Also, I had to go help her bring in the clothes. I didn’t care, I was still ahead in this game!
My point is this, when God lays something on our heart, especially something that needs immediate attention, it is better to obey. To put it off can be scary and painful, but too often, we choose to put it off. But unlike my prank, the consequences for our procrastination are far worse than we ever anticipated. Like the old invitation hymn says, “Almost is but to fail.“ To obey is good, to obey immediately is far better.
Don in Georgetown