by Rick Mansfield
“A really good prayer!” That is what the young gentleman attached to my leg courtesy of a child’s hug called the supplication I had just had the privilege to lead. I had to agree, though it had little to do with my prose or even passion. I had spoken of both the beauty and bounty of His creation. Had acknowledged the magnificence and majesty of our surroundings, there on the banks of the Upper Current River.
Any of the other four adults present could have just as easily led the petition to our Lord, the message of thanks for the food and company. The request that our actions honor His name, that our behaviors serve as living examples of His teaching to those four youth among us. The asking for safe passage for all involved when this night and this weekend adventure came to an end. Anyone else could have said these things, for these collective parents were all children of the light, themselves.
The prayer began with the young man stepping to my side, his right hand grasped in the left hand of his mother’s. Silently, with that trust that the Son of Man recognized as so important in our adult selves; he reached over and placed his other hand in mine. Asked his earthly father to also grasp my other hand. Within moments, we had a prayer circle. Nine people with joined hands opening their hearts to God. All under a celestial canopy of stars despite incoming clouds; all lit by the burning sticks of cherry and sassafras nearby.
It ended with that comment and that hug. It preceded a wonderful evening on that pristine spring-fed stream. We saw a kingfisher adorning a limb still in search of a meal. Numerous beaver, some first sighted by the limbs moving across the stream and then the small heads noticed doing the dragging. Later their entire body exposed as they shared their meal on water’s edge.
We even harvested a few fish, not bad considering the scarcity of the prey and inexperience of the giggers. We had already dined on fish from a previous trip and potatoes freshly spiraled on a handmade machine of wood, a threaded rod and a few screws. All cooked to order camp-side overlooking the river. Just like Ozarkians had done for generations. A little like the Osage had done a millennium ago.
We floated beneath limestone bluffs carved from some of the oldest mountains on our planet. Below limbs of cedar trees that exemplify the power of life as they jut from those very bluffs. Witnessed families bonding as they gathered on the bow of my Blazer boat, as mesmerized by the beauty of Nature as captivated by the challenge of trying to “stab a fish!”
Watched a young child struggle with conflict; exuberant an older brother was successful and then saddened by “the killing of nature” as the fish was placed in the bottom of the boat. As the circle of life was explained, and the counsel given that game should always be taken by fair chase, every effort made that it not needlessly suffer; and that game harvested should never be wasted—everyone felt better.
Towards the end we had actually been snowed on. Drizzled with rain. Seen some beautiful sights. The evening concluded with a round of heartfelt goodbyes accompanied with hugs and handshakes. And yes, a few squirts of hand-sanitizer. We were outside, in fresh almost-freezing air. We were careful. Cautious. Maybe even a bit courageous. Mostly, we were blessed. Thanks for joining us!