You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
David C. Cook; New edition (July 1, 2010)
Xan Hood is an author and speaker ministering to young men between the ages of 18 and 25. He is the co-founder and co-director of Training Ground in Colorado Springs where he disciples young men through their program in work, wilderness, and worship (www.trainingground.com). He has also written for New Man magazine and Discipleship Journal. Xan began working with young men in Tennessee and in youth groups in Nashville and Knoxville. He and his wife live in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with their first child.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (July 1, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
You would be amused to see me, broad sombrero hat, fringe and beaded buckskin shirt, horse hide chaparajos or riding trousers, and cowhide boots, with braided bridle and silver spurs.
I had always heard that Theodore Roosevelt was a tough, hardy “man’s man” sort of guy: a hunter, outdoorsman, activist, soldier, explorer, naturalist, and “rough rider.” But it wasn’t always so. Much like me, he was raised a refined, tame city boy, a member of a wealthy, powerful family with political influence. He was a sickly, asthmatic youngster who at the age of twenty-three still appeared boyish and underdeveloped. Both the press and his fellow New York state
assemblymen made light of his high-pitched voice and “dandified” clothing, calling him names like “Jane-Dandy” and “Punkin-Lily.”2 He was what we now refer to as a “pretty boy.”
It seems Theodore knew he needed to escape the confines of the city, to be tested and initiated beyond his Jane-Dandy world. There was only one direction to go: west.
“At age twenty-five, on his "first trip to the Dakota badlands in 1883, Roosevelt purchased a ranch, bought a herd of cattle, hired ranch hands, and, spending considerable time there, began to develop his Western image.”4 It is said he took rides “of seventy miles or more in a day, hunting hikes of fourteen to sixteen hours, stretches in the saddle in roundups of as long as forty hours,” pushing himself physically and mentally.5
Within two weeks of moving to Colorado, I drove up alone to the Orvis store in Denver to purchase a complete set of official Orvis gear: waders, boots, vest, and a fly rod. I had come to the West to bond with earth, wind, and rivers that I could fly-fish—and to find God. The fishing needed to be done in official Orvis gear—only the best.
You see, coming from a town of status and wealth, the type of gear you chose was very important. It needed to function, but it also needed to make you look good so you could feel good while looking good.
In my eyes Orvis was the status symbol of real and serious fly fishermen, the hallmark of class. I stocked up on floatant, little boxes, nippers, and line—all Orvis products and logos, of course. I paid with a new credit card and walked out.
While Theodore would become a great, brave man, his first attempts out West were about as comical as my own. It is written that he “began to construct a new physical image around appropriately virile Western decorations and settings.” These photographs show him posing “in a fringed buckskin outfit, complete with hunting cap, moccasins, cartridge belt, silver dagger, and rifle.”6 In a letter to his sister back East, he bragged, “I now look like a regular cowboy dandy, with all my equipments finished in the most expensive style.”
Though he looks like a young man in a Halloween costume, something much deeper than child’s play was occurring. A rich city boy was exploring another side of himself. The costumes, however foolish they appeared at the time, were a part of this becoming and would, in time, become him.
I was also searching for a new image, one more closely connected with nature. In his book Iron John, Robert Bly writes, “Some say that the man’s task in the first half of his life is to become bonded to matter: to learn a craft, become friends with wood, earth, wind, or fire.”8 I had yet to experience that. Ralph Lauren Polo shirts and a posh lifestyle were simply not enough. And while it’s likely that neither of us could have verbalized it at the time, Theodore and I were learning that a man had to find something away from all of it. I think his fringed buckskin and my Orvis gear were safe compromises between the worlds we were straddling.
A week after I bought my Orvis gear, I drove about an hour away to the South Platte River. An Internet search revealed that I could quickly access it from the road. On my way I stopped at a little fly shop in Woodland Park, Colorado. A retired-looking man had blessed my obvious naïveté but left the teaching to a sheet of paper, diagrammed for a nymph-dropper rig. He made a few fly suggestions and sent me on my way with the paper and a pat on the back. It was time to become Brad Pitt: Orvis-endorsed, perched on a rock, waiting for a fish.
I arrived on the water’s edge at about 2 p.m. Like a warrior dressing for battle, I donned my Orvis gear and set to work on the nymph-dropper rig. About an hour later, after clamping on weights, indicator, and tying two flies onto the razor-thin line, it looked like I’d tied my grandmother’s collection of jewelry to a string. I stood in the middle of the river, flung the line out, and whipped it back and forth, feeling good and enjoying the four count rhythm.
Though I filled the hours with flipping and whipping, I could not seem to hook a fish. Were they in the rapids? The calm water? Should I cast upstream or downstream? The paper didn’t say. It didn’t help that every few minutes I would get caught on a branch, or grass or algae would get on the flies, tangling them with knots. It was getting dark, and I was getting lonely and frustrated at Orvis, God, and myself.
But there came a last minute hope: I remembered Dan Allender telling a story at a leadership conference about going fly-fishing with his son. As an unsuccessful day of fishing came to a close, he told his son they needed to call it a day. But his son kept fishing, and then, on the fifth and final cast, as all hope was fading like the sun—BAM!—a massive trout on his fly rod. It was a miracle. Dan concluded his speech with this lesson: “God is the God of the fifth cast … He comes through in the end.”
And so I began my count. Okay, Lord, I prayed. This is for You. Help me fish. Catch me a trout. One cast … nothing. Second cast … nothing. Third cast … nothing. Cast again … nothing. God of the fifth cast … not for me. Eleventh? Nope. I kept going. God of the seventeenth cast … God of the twenty-second cast …
Before long, darkness covered me, and I could no longer see my orange indicator. It was over. There would be no fish that day.
I stood all alone in the middle of the river, holding my empty net. There wasn’t a soul in sight—not a fish, not even God. It was haunting. I demanded an explanation. Where are the fish? Where are You? Just one, God. All I wanted was one. One simple fish would have made this day worth it.
Would God not give a man dressed in Orvis a fish if he asked?