Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mountain Men

Mountains -- we sing about them; we write about them; we long to be in them. Mountains have held men's fascination throughout history. Names like Jim Bridger, Buffalo Bill Cody, Kit Carson, Jedediah Smith, and Zebulon Pike fill us with daydreams of conquering a vast, uncharted wilderness. Daniel Boon may have conquered the Appalachians, but Lewis and Clark pried open a window of knowledge about how immeasurable our world really is. The Mountain Men -- fur-trappers and pelt traders -- opened the routes to the fertile valleys of the West as they crossed the snow-capped peaks. Collectively, they came to know every river valley, safe passage route, teeming stream, mountain pass, fresh water source, and barren stretch of plain. They also knew the best hunting and wild game areas and, of course, Indian territory.

If you ever take time to explore mountains, it doesn't take long to picture a small log cabin next to a stream, stocked with enough provisions to hole up for the winter. We can picture times spent in the primeval forests tracking game, armed with only a trusty long rifle, hunting knife, and a hard-won knowledge of the woods. It doesn't take long for us to get in touch with that spark within us that longs to be self-reliant, self-sufficient, and self-assured. Standing on the top of a mountain looking down into a valley filled with verdant trees, gurgling streams, and plentiful game reminds us that there was a time when men didn't have to sit in a cubicle, surrounded by artificial light facing deadlines instead of danger. Breathing pine-scented air contrasts with the car exhaust we have grown used to. Rousing from a heavy slumber to cool air washing over our faces gives us a peace in our heart and mind that we may rarely feel and often can't find even if we wanted to.

Men, we can't all live in the mountains. We can't all be self-reliant trappers living off the land. We live in the valleys; we live in the cities; we live in the towns; we live in the plains, and we live in the fields and farms. That's life in the 21st century.

But we can be "Mountain Men" no matter where we live. We can be the leaders, the explorers, the men who provide for their families and for their communities. We may not stalk game in the woods, but we can put food on the table. We may not blaze new trails through rugged canyon passes, but we can find new ways to do our work. We may not be fiercely individualistic, but we can stand apart from the crowd.

Collectively, we can seek out and know the dangers of the world. Together we can know how to fight these dangers as we arm ourselves with the power of God's relentless Word. We can lead our families and our communities to this knowledge too. And in this pursuit I say, let us all be Mountain Men.

See you over the next ridge.

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