KEN’S CORNER: My Friend the Caretaker, His Mice & God’s Green Earth
By TLB Contributing Author: Ken LaRive
It had been raining enough all summer, and the crops grew in an unexpected bounty. But then, as on cue, the sky turned a deep azure-blue, and the autumn dried the fields perfectly crisp and clean. Harvest time began, and everywhere around Acadiana, the multi-colored combines began their yearly journey to bring in the harvest of rice, sugar cane, and soy. A cool breeze provided a magical energy to the gathering, and the fruit of another year of dreams, planning, and labor, were fulfilled.
Slowly I walked and talked with my neighbor among the hedgerows, as we watched his two sons glide the huge apple-red reapers in a precise zigzag upon the fields. They had been taught, with a tender firmness, a full respect and pride for the land, and it was evident that the five generations to have worked it was the very life’s force of this family.
His face was shaded by a new ball cap given to him by the feed and seed store that very day, and as he looked out into the glare of a midday sun, an aged recognition materialized on his face. He slowly and knowingly scanned the horizon, and his border far beyond. It had grown with each generation, and he was the first to admit that he was blessed.
There was a little grassy plot on his land. A wrought iron fence that had been made in New Orleans nearly seventy years before surrounded it. Flowers grew at the base of the freshly painted works, of roses and thorns. He told me once it represented the pain of love lost, and it surrounded nine graves capped in white marble. The newest one was his wife’s, buried just a year ago. There was always a vase of fresh flowers upon it that summer… the white and yellow daisies she so loved.
My friend’s weathered old face showed the map of his life. There were long lines along his brow and down his cheeks, deeply marked by sun, wind, and bitter cold. There were stern lines around his mouth, where he knew well the pain and disappointment this land, and life, could bring. But there, a fine web emanated from the corners of his sparkling eyes, the laugh-ines that only a truly successful man could have. That joy radiated like an aura from his deep blue eyes, intelligent, honest, and sincere, and all the worth of a lifetime of labor was reflected there.
We each took our own strand of dusty track as we walked together, where farm equipment pounded the weeds to a fine powdered dust. He pointed to a black snake, to quick for my eyes, and called it “The King.” Immediately, all in one gesture, he pointed to a muddy and wet animal trail that lay diagonally across a fallow field, “That’s Skunk.”he said.
We stopped and watched the swarm of black and white birds getting their share of the harvest, and the multitude of insects that scurried before the tractor’s wheels. Several mice ran through the golden weeds, appearing and disappearing in a flash. His low but sharp whistle kept his Chocolate Retriever between us, and there was an easy aura that surrounded him I didn’t readily understand. I thought it was a display of Love, but I think I was wrong. Today I know it as respect.
And I think it was he, more even than my own boy scout father, who taught me that life was a balancing act.
One night, years before, when his loving wife’s laughter filled his large wood-paneled home, we had been sitting around his library’s fire trying to adjust my taste to his drink. He called it “Calvados”, the tonic of his grandfather. The fire was large, and except for the alcohol scald down my throat, it was the only warmth that winter night. We both slouched comfortably in worn leather chairs, our boots drying before us as our white-socked feet propped high on the hearth’s grate without ceremony.
I remember the sounds that echoed from the interior, of running water for the boy’s baths upstairs, her stern voice as she called them, a gentile laugh, and the scratching of the Lab running on solid oak floors. Every so often, a Spark cracked loudly from the fire’s logs, and was pulled up into the chimney that was perfectly designed and made by pioneer men. It was getting late, and in just a half hour Maddy and Laura would be calling me to supper…
“Hold on a minute Ken, I want to show you something.” he said as he stretched to a book laying on the edge of his desk. “This book belonged to my grandfather.”
I grasped it with both hands as he handed it over to me. It was gold tooled, and on a worn green cloth cover it said, “The Naturalist’s Note Book.” On the inside title page it was dated, “1869.” The print was small and hard-pressed, found only in very old books. In the margins, nearly on every page, was writing with the jet black ink of a primitive pen. It looked like scribble, and I could not read a word of it… In the middle, an ancient pressed daisy, and several holy pictures fused together as one….
He gave what seemed to be an embarrassed chuckle, which I thought was a bit out of character…
“You read the Bible, don’t ya Ken?”
… he said with a wink,
“Well, this is my earthly bible. I also need the farmer’s yearly almanac, for planting, but this book has saved me more than once. Not only with knowledge I figure is lost to most of the poor souls today, but ideas too. My grandfather told me many times to read it, but it wasn’t until after he died that I did. I wish I had, and many times over. He saw it as a gift, but I, as a young man, saw it as a kind of homework, something to stimulate responsibility… and not something a young man wants to embrace. Hell, that would mean growing up! Know what I mean Ken?”
“Yes, I think I do. What’s in it?” I said.
“My grandfather spoke only French, and he was taught to write it by his mother, who came from a place called Toulouse, in South France. He could not write in English, or speak it properly, but could read this book fine.”
He turned the page to a bookmark in the early part of the book, and with something akin to reverence, he recited a passage. Now, no way could I remember it verbatim after all of these years, but I found a copy of that very same book on Ebay, for $8. It is difficult to explain, and sounds a bit lame from the start, but in essence what he read to me was the veritable importance of the mice on his property, and how he could never have a viable farm without them…
It discussed and gave statistics about how fast and an efficient breeder was the mouse. In the middle of that essay was an entire paragraph of pure multiplication where it showed that just two mice, in less than a year, if all went well, could produce almost a million offspring. I could see this meant something very significant to him, as he wasn’t one to deal in triviality. It went on to state that on the thirteenth month the mice would be approaching 20 million!
He gazed into the fire as I continued reading the chapter, and it went on to describe the author’s description of weasels being nailed to a farmer’s door, as the corn-stacks were overrun by mice. Mice, which was the weasel’s principle food! It explained the imbalance that went unseen, and the lack of understanding by the farmer, mentioning him as the caretaker… and he paid for it dearly.
When he saw I was finishing the segment, he pointed to a slightly smeared footnote in the marginal space, French words that his grandfather had so long ago written. In a soft voice I could barely hear, he translated it to English:
“Think naught a trifle, though it small appear; Small sands the mountain, moments make the year, and trifles life.”
Honestly, I had no clue as to what most of it meant. I was thirty-five years younger then, and nodded my head a lot, with little comprehension. Today, it rings so clear to me, and I now see what my old friend was trying to explain.
It is this…
There is a balance, in life and the world around us, and the two are one. Small things we may think simple and unimportant, can tip the scale. Everything is needed on his farm, and in every life, for he and his family to be healthy, successful, and to flourish. There is understanding in the knowledge that we are caretakers, not exterminators. Caretakers… not exterminators…
One important thing I remember him telling me I will attempt to put down:
“My heavenly Bible tells me to give tidings, glad tidings, so too does this earthly bible here tell me to give back. It is tidings just the same; tidings to God’s green earth.”
Today, a bit older, that lesson has never left my mind. It followed me as a husband, a father, a grandfather, a businessman, and an American. I have resigned myself to be a caretaker, not an exterminator, and yet I know that the world that exists has little or no moral standard, such as this… I know, from my experience, that most everyone is damaged in many inexplicable and profound ways, and that the decisions they make are primarily based on them, whether they realize it or not… They are pulled and pushed through life by these open wounds, and no moral standard is even considered as they struggle and crawl…
Many, will go through their whole life and never once take the time to actually contemplate just what an amazing gift it is… our eyes, our minds, and this most amazing garden we live in, designed to be perfectly balanced, for us. What crushes my heart, and gives me the greatest empathy for my fellow man, is his unrelenting need for Liberty, and yet… as our lives meter to the cadence of an infinite clock, our reality, our hope and dreams, our future, is designed and made manifest by us. We create our lives, and our reality… but the most profound revelation of all is the undeniable fact that our lives are not our own unless we take responsibility for it…
As we move upon this earth, where chance and happenstance attempts to dictate our destiny, only a person who embraces the responsibility of what happens, is able to cope, to grow, to flourish in any adversity. There is a strength there, that my old friend’s grandfather was trying to explain, and its solace fills me to this very day.
One other thing… My granddaughter once told me something rather profound. We were looking at a picture book of animals, and somehow the thought came out that there were some animals men liked more than others… like a skunk and a horse, a dog and a possum… I asked her why she thought that was… She said, “People like animals that can cry.”
Little Maddy told me that…
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From the Author, Ken La Rive – We in the Liberty movement have been fighting to take back this country for less than a decade, peacefully and with the love of God and country in our hearts. Our banner has been trampled on and displaced by a multitude of distractions, further eroding our nation and the cause for Liberty. And so, as we are pulled by forces we cannot fathom, powerful entities with unlimited resources stolen from our future, unaccountable trillions printed out of thin air and put on our backs as debt, we must formulate the most pitiful of all questions any patriot might ask in the final hour: Are we going to fight for our master’s tyranny, or are we going to demand the return of our civil liberties and Constitution? Are we going to choose The Banner of Liberty, or the shackles of voluntary servitude? Will it be a war for corporate profit, or a war to regain our ability to self govern, as the blood and toil of our forefathers presented to us, their children, as a gift? I fear that decision is emanate. I fear that any decision will be a hard one, but my greatest fear of all is that the decision has already been made for us.
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