Sunday, November 28, 2004


Rustlers on the Range

In the late 1800’s my grandfather, William Calvin Turner, homesteaded in Indian Territory, now the western half of Oklahoma. In many respects it was the last frontier of the lower 48 States. Thus, a lot of criminals would flee there and revamp their trade a little. You guessed it! They became cattle thieves, known as rustlers, the worst kind of criminal on the open range. They were a menace to ranchers and homesteaders alike, who were always missing livestock.

One day two boys, traveling on foot, got caught is a storm. They decided to take shelter in a nearby abandoned farmhouse. However, while they were in the house, they discovered that the house was not abandoned, at least not totally. They were in the rustlers’ hideout. The scared boys kept quite and out of sight.

The rustlers gathered. But one was missing. One man said; “My horse jumped and I heard a spur jingle.” Another replied that the missing man was dead. The rustles continued to talk. They were making plans for their next criminal activities. Little did they know this would result in their end.

After the storm ceased, and the rustlers had left, the two boys continued on their journey home. They told their father everything they had heard. Their father called together four other homesteaders. This was the break they needed. It was time to round up the criminals.

Knowing the rustlers’ plans, the homesteaders were successful at catching five of those thieves. They prepared to take them to Fort Smith, Arkansas for trial. That was the nearest court, but it was four days journey away.

The homesteaders had not gone far with their prisoners before they were approached by five masked men, guns drawn. “Hand over your prisoners,” the leader demanded. “Ride back home and don’t look back.” The homesteaders obeyed. What else could they do?

The masked men hung all five rustlers on the same tree.

After that no livestock went missing for a very long time!

Several weeks later a Marshal came into Indian Territory where the five homesteaders lived. He had a warrant for their arrest. They had been charged with the murder of the five rustlers. (Another Marshal had refused to issue the warrant, saying: “Those are the finest men in that area.”) The homesteaders had a meeting to decide whether or not they should go with the Marshall. (That shows how much power he had in that untamed land.) The men decided that they should go and get the matter cleared up. After all, they had done nothing wrong.

The four-day trek to Fort Smith began. Each day one of the charged men would take his rifle and go hunting wild turkeys and other game birds. He could have put two days distance between himself and the Marshal but instead he showed up in camp every night.

On the fourth evening, the marshal arrived in Fort Smith with his “prisoners.” To their surprise several ranchers were there waiting to make bail for these men. The judge complained that it was highly irregular, but the ranchers told him: “You are not putting these men in jail.” The judge did the only thing he could. He set the bail high, very high for that era. He asked for $2,000 each. The ranchers laid $10,000 cash on the judge’s desk. The prisoners were free.

The homesteaders enjoyed a luxurious night (for them) at the expense of the ranchers. They overheard a black man say: "Five men come in here charged with murder, and in five minutes they are all over this town!” They also learned that two ranchers who arrived late were willing to go $5,000 apiece on their bail. It makes me wonder: “Who were those ranchers and how much money (and power) did they have?”

The next morning the trial began. The judge called for the prosecution to present their case. They asked for some time, perhaps half an hour. Then the court reconvened and the judge again called for the prosecution to present their case. Again they asked for more time. When this happened for the third time, the judge said: “Then there is no case,” and dismissed the charges. The five homesteaders were free to go home.

What actually happened no one knows. I suspect that the rich ranchers hired the five masked men to hang the rustlers, and then bought off the prosecution, and perhaps the judge too, in order to cover up the truth.

The homesteader who went turkey hunting was my grandfather.

This is my favorite of all the stories my Dad would tell us about our deceased grandfather, as we sat around the supper table.


The Alpha Wolf

In a wolf pack the dominant male is called the "alpha male." The term is sometimes applied to the human species too.

This weekend I again watched my son Ron play a couple of Basketball games. They were against the Lakeland College "Rustlers." The Rustlers have four of the top ten scorers in the league on their roster, including the top scorer who is way out in front.

In the first game Ron opened up the scoring with a three pointer and then a lay up. He continued to play well and made 21 points in all. However Ron's GPRC "Wolves" still lost this well fought game. But the highlight for me was seeing Ron receive the GPRC Player of the Game award. In my eyes Ron was the "Alpha Wolf" and I was his proud father.

In the second game Ron continued to play well but did not make as many points. However he did a lot of rebounding and set up a lot of baskets. Although the team lost and he was not choses as player of the game, he's still me "Alpha Male!"

Saturday, November 20, 2004


Sheep in Wolves Clothing

Last night and this afternoon I had the privilege of watching our son Ron play Basketball against one of the top College teams in Canada, the NAIT Ookpiks from Edmonton. NAIT stands for Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and "Ookpiks" is their team name. It is the Inuit (Eskimo) word for the Snowy Owl.

In last nights game Ron played more that he usually has and he did well. It reminded us of when we watched him play for the Briercrest Bible College "Clippers" several years ago. Although his team lost both games, it was action packed and fun to watch. Both teams worked hard. On highlight was meeting Rons friends from Chetwynd who came and watched both games as a part of their Christmas shopping trip to Grande Prairie.

Ron's team? The Grande Prairie Regional College (GPRC) Wolves. The first game I watched, earlier this fall, was against Peace River Bible Institute, where we live and I work, but my loyalties followed blood, not work! At that game I bought a team cap. Now I wear it to every home game I attend. Hence the name for this posting.

Friday, November 19, 2004


In Hostile Territory

Will was tired. His horse was tired. He knew the Indians were "on the warpath," but he dicided to go across the Reserve anyway. Off the one side, a short distance away was a circle of Tee-Pees. Will hoped he could pass unnoticed or at least undisturbed. But he was soon spotted had here came several braved on horseback.

What should he do? Running was out of the question. The braves had fresh mounts. Will decided to stand his ground, and turned his horse to face them. The temptation to raise his rifle and shoot as many braves as he could was strong, but he realized that that would be the wrong thing to do.

Soon the braces circled around him. Will notices their war paind and that each brave had a rope in his hand. Had he tried to run, he'd probably been whipped to death.

"Paper?" one brave asked. "No," Will replied. He had no pass from the Indian Agent. No white folk were being allowed on the Reserve at that time.

Finall one brave suggested: "You come our camp." Will immediately spurred his horse and headed straingt for the Tee-Pees. The braves all followed him in. There he was received as their guest and he spend the night with them.

The next morning Will woke early and wanted to get on his way. But he knew he had to get permission. So he went to the Chief's Tee-Pee and called to him: "Me go now!" "Good, go head!" the Chief replied with a very sleeps voice. Will saddled his mount and was soon safely on his way home.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Newlyweds in a Covered Wagon

My Grandmother, as a single parent, traveled from New York to to New Mexico with some of the teen age children, in search of a healthier climate. There she met another single parent, my Grandfather. They were married in Armirillo, Texas in 1910.

The previous year, an adult son of my grandfather had traveled up into Alberta and learned that land in the Peace River district (where I now live) was opening up for homesteading.

Almost immediately after they were married, my grandparents, now 42 and 50, left by covered wagon. Several of their children and another fanily accompanied them. But the son who had been to Canada stayed home and took over the sruggling general store.

This little wagon train took two years to get to Canada. They often had to stop and work along the way in order to pay for their trip. Also, in June 1911, they stopped in Pueblo, Colorado for two weeks. Why? My father was born there, in a tent beside the wagon.

They crossed into Canada the next year, but they never did make it to their desired destination and a possible homestead here in northern Alberta. Instead they rented farms in southern and central alberta.

When oil was first discovered in Alberta, south of Calgary, in 1928, my Dad and my Grandparents were in the area and got in on the excitement.

My Dad lived virtually all his life here in Alberta, but he remained an American citizen throughout. So that means that for a Canadian, I'm about as American as one can get!


Granny from the Hills

My grandmother was born in West Virginia in 1868. She lived to be 96 so I got to know her fairly well as a lad. She alway had various plants drying in her front porch. From them she made her own alphalfa tea (yes, from scratch)and many other home remedies. One time she made us grandkids pick dandilion leave for "greens." They didn't taste verry good! She also had various signs for predicting the weather. Yes, she was a lot like Granny Clampit, except she didn't feud with the neighbours nor did she have an oil well in her back yard.

When she died it was the first time I lost someone close to me so I took it kind of hard. I cherish the times I had with her on the home farm, including riding a horse, riding in the milk cart Ted and I were pusing (and falling out of it), and taking her first airplane ride, all after she was 90.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


Home on the Range

My grandfather, William Calvin Turner, was born in 1860, in Turner's Point, now a part of Dallas, Texas. At the time four generations lived in the community. As a young man, Grandpa cowboyed and homesteaded in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

In fact, he was in the famous Oklahoma land run (portrayed in the movie "Far and Away"). He also had several (mis)adventures with Indians, rustlers, and law men.

Grandpa married in 1880 but several of their children died in infancy. Then in 1900 his wife died and left him with five children which he raised as a single parent for some ten years. The youngest child, an infant, was adopted out.

Although I never met my grandfather, I feel like I know him from all the stories my father told us over and over again. around the supper table. (Stay tuned for the rest of the story.)

Sunday, November 14, 2004


Tractors on the Shelf

It all stated last Christmas. My son Ron gave me a book on the history of John Deere tractors. The author got me thinking. I cannot afford to buy and restore some old tractor, like a lot of farmers do in the off season. Besides, where would I put it. I don’t think Wascally Wabbit would want it on the front lawn. But then I began to consider the many pictures of “Ertl” scale-model tractors in the book. Why don’t I collect some of them? So Dis Elmer Fudd started on another hunting adventure. It took me through many tractor dealerships, hardware stores, web sites, and especially e-Bay. Many of the models I want are out of production and are collectors items, only available on e-Bay.

Now I’m coming out of the closet and admitting, yes, I still play with toy tractors. But I don’t get down on the floor and make funny noises with them. Well, not unless my grandson is with me!

Before My Time

On the shelf above me are some unique machines. There is a set of three 1:24 scale dice-cast aluminum toys. They are a Case 80 steam tractor, a Case threshing machine, and a tank wagon. My Dad worked on such an outfit in the early 1930’s in southern Alberta. He hauled water to the engine, some 20 horses, and the cook. He used a horse drawn tank wagon and he filled it using a hand-operated pump. I was on a Case 80 in Camrose this past summer. The engineer was quite informative as a quizzed him about how the machine worked.

Beside these toys is a 1:16 scale John Deere “D.” It is the only other steel wheeled machine in my collection. Dad had one on the home farm before I was old enough to remember it. He refered to it as "Steely John." Apparently he did not use is a lot, except to break up sod with a three-bottom plow.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


Coming of Age on the Farm

Back on the farm there was one think we young men (boys, really, about 12 or 13 years old.) wanted to be able to do in order to prove our manhood. It had nothing to do with girls, the local bully, or sports. But it was something that would establish our independence within the infrastructure of the family farm.

We had tractors on the farm (obviously). We'd learned to drive them. But we still could not start them. Why not you may ask? Don't you just have to turn a key or push a button? That's the way it is now, and the way it was then for one tractor, if the electrical system was working!

But the little John Deere "B" was another story! It was one of those old two cylinder machines that made the famous "pop pop" sound distinct to John Deere. But it had no electric starter. It had to be started "by hand" as we called it. On the side, attached to the engine was a rather large flywheel. One stated the engine by kneeling in front of this flywheel like you would propose to a young lady. After adjusting the throttle, choke, and decompression valves, we'd turn the flywheel one turn to prime the engine. Then we'd get it around to the point of compression. Now the test would come. One quick, hard, pull on the flywheel would start the engine. Supposedly! It usually took several attempts. If we were old enough, and strong enough to give that quick, hard, pull, we had achieved manhood. We could now start and run the tractor without Dad's help!

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Apprentices of "The Carpenter"

Call it apprenticeship; call it discipleship; call it mentoring! It amounts to the same thing. In a nut shell its helping other believers in Christ become more like Him as we strive to do the same. It's teaching and learning from one another so we both become more like our Lord. It's a work in progress. Who is the work? The disciple and the mentor! Who is the worker? The mentor and the disciple. How does it work? It takes time. It takes commitment. It rakes being vulnerable.

Above all discipleship is about being vulnerable. The mentor must himself or herself be willing to admit his weaknesses, his failures, yes his sins. In the process both mentor and disciple are challenged to move forward in a Christ-like direction.

What am I talking about? The emphasis upon discipleship we see in the relationships between Christ and his disciples in the Gospels. The emphasis upon discipleship I also see in the relationships between faculty, staff, and students here at the college where I work.

And me? Sometimes I mentor a couple of pastoral students in a formal setting. Sometimes I encourage a student or staff member as they encourage and/or share their situations with me. And sometimes I do "wall discipleship!"

What's "wall discipleship?" Discipleship is about accountability. So when a student (or two or three) make a hole in the wall, they come to me and I hold them accountable by having them patch and paint it. I invariably have to coach them. (It usually takes longer than if I did the fix myself, but that is NOT the point of discipleship, is it?) The results: they learn a skill, I learn more patience, and everyone learns accountability at a very practical level. This year, oddly enough, the "wall disciples" have predominantly been girls! Some have earned their P.H.D. (Patching Holes Degree)!

For me, the best part of discipleship is interacting with students on a casual basis. I wind up praying for them. They wind up praying for me. We wind up encouraging one another. This evening I had a couple of guys over to watch "Garfield" over a bowl of chips. One of them, a farm kid from Wisconsin, surprised me by recognizing most of the toy tractors on my shelf. (more about my collection later) He had operated older machines than I had! A fun evening doesn't sound real spiritual, but it's all about relationships. The best part is linking us back to a growing relationship with God. To me that's being apprentices of "The Carpenter."

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


The Not So Straight and Narrow Way

Today, at work for "The Carpenter", I was installing a ceiling mounted power point projector. This required running wires through the ceiling between two floors. The only way to do this was to crawl up in there and be a gopher! (Sometimes a rat, sometimes a snake!) Getting up through the 16" square access hole was challenge enough. But I made it thanks to my partner pushing on my feet! (By then the access holes was a little bigger!) The ceiling was constructed with trusses about 24" high and spaced at 16." That meant I had to turn my shoulders on an angle to fit between them, slithering over hot pipes, cold pipes and large vent pipes too. (Good thing I'm skinny eh!) Going crossways was not too bad. I had more shoulder room but I had to climb over the braces. But making the 90-degree corner from lengthways to sideways was something else. Certain body parts bend one way and others the opposite way. So this meant rolling over while at an angle in a doubly tight spot. (Something like horizontal Olympic diving!) After about an hour of fishing wires and trying to be a gopher I emerged through the 16" square hole in the ceiling, two small rips on the knee, flashlight in hand, covered with a layer of dust, and with pieces of fiberglass sticking to my face and hands. All so the professors can use computers to display their notes via the power point projector as they teach God's Word to young disciples of "The Carpenter."

Monday, November 08, 2004


My First Tractor

There it was! My first tractor. Well, it wasn't all mine! I owned it in an un-equal partnership with my twin brother. You see, some tines he had a 51% share and sometimes I did! We got is brand new from the local dealership. We were so proud of it. We towed wagons with it. We farmed with it, using the two-bottom plow our brother Bill had made to attach to the three-point-hitch. We used it on the farm for many years. Then when we left and Bill stayed, his sons began using it. And now a grand son, my grandnephew, Calvin Gerald Turner is putting it to good use.

I took a quick trip this past weekend to Thorhild, Edmonton and finally on to the home farm. It was about a 700-mile round trip. At the farm, I brought my car into the shop to change the thermostat (something important in northern climes!).

And there it was in the shop! A little different than it looked that day Ted and I first saw it some 40 odd years ago. Our John Deere 720. Although the three-point-hitch had been removed, and with a new set of narrow front tires and a shiny new green and yellow paint job, it still had the original two-cylinder engine.

There it was in the shop, up on the bench, the 1:16 scale toy Ted and I had gotten for our 8th or 10th birthday (somewhere in there). The replacement front tires had been skillfully caved out of a piece of truck mud flap by brother Bill so his sons, Chris and Quentin, could continue to play with it. The paint job Bill had given it was authentic John Deere green and yellow. But the large rear wheels were another story. At some point they had been reattached with a home made bolt, another one of Bill's great inventions. Somewhere along the way the steering wheel had broken off, but Quentin had welded on a little lever so his son could still maneuver it. But the rear wheels were broken around the hub and wobbled severely. (No fear, I'm sure Bill will weld them up for his grandson, and even add a splash of that authentic yellow paint.)

When my Dad, the late Calvin William Turner, bought that tractor for us twins, he never knew the joy it would bring to three generations of farm boys to say nothing of the fond memories it brought back to this old boy. And to think that for its whole life it never ventured more than a hundred yards from the sandbox where a pair of strong willed lads first fought over it!

Friday, November 05, 2004


Learning Carpentry

My earliest recollections of anything that related to carpentry was Dad building a house when I was three. I remember him having his John Deere "B" with a Farmhand loader on it in the basement hole doing a bit of touch up before starting the foundation. When he and the carpenter he had hired were building the back porch, my twin brother and I kept asking if we could have the short boards they were cutting. But they were for the short wall beside the porch door.

When I was six, Dad built a large round roofed barn. Ted (my twin) and I scrambled all over it as my oldest brother, Jim, sheeted the rafters. Later we learned how to lay cedar shingles (something I could still do today from that experience back then). Soon after that, Dad bought a little homemade sawmill and began sawing up logs for his own use. Over the years he built a complete set of outbuildings on the farm from the lumber he produced. Having three boys as a "ready" labor force certainly helped too.

Ted's and my first private venture was building a three-story tree house out behind the barn when we were about 12. (The sawmill produces a lot of scrap lumber for our various projects.

My first paying job was the first summer after high school. I helped build a Church. (Wiesenthall Baptist Church, still visible from Highway 2, just north of Millet, Alberta) The first's month's work got covered up by the concrete slab floor. But in a few days we had the arched beams up. Then the cedar decking and roofing soon fleshed out this skeleton.

Throughout my life I continued to learn by doing and by working with others. Although I've worked on many building and renovation projects, I've never build a complete building except for a few camp cabins and a 500 square foot addition to our house in Uranium City. By using donated or recycled material and volunteer labor, it only cost about $3000. Even 25 years ago that was a bargain!

At present I am a maintenance man at small Christian College. This means I am learning something new almost every day. That's just a part of "Carpentering for 'The Carpenter.'"

Thursday, November 04, 2004


"The Carpenter"

I was first introduced to "The Carpenter" at age three at a Vacation Bible School in a little one room school down the hill from our farm. About all I remember are stories about shepherds and sheep. Later I learned that Jesus Christ was the Great Shepherd and we are the stray sheep He is calling into His sheepfold. I stubbornly stayed outside the fold until the ripe old age of eleven. Since then I have continued to learn more and more that life is truly all about Jesus Christ. He is "The Carpenter" and we are the boards. The more we allow Him to saw, shave, sand, and shape us, the more useful we beome to Him, the more beneficial we are to others, and the more beautifully we shine for Him, reflecting His wonderful love and grace to those around us.

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