Creekbank Blog

The writing blog of Curt Iles and Creekbank Stories. Our mission: To connect hearts to God by using stories of encouragement and inspiration.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

92 Dry Holes

Several weeks ago DeDe and I visited Ft. Worth, Texas where our son Clay, his wife Robin, and our grandson Noah live. Among the places they took us was the Amon Carter Museum of Art. It featured wonderful examples of Western Art, especially the sculptures and painting of Frederic Remington and Charles Russell.

Our tour guide told a story that impressed me as much as any of the art: Amon Carter was a West Texas oil wildcatter. Mr. Carter drilled 92 dry holes before he struck the gusher that made him a very rich and famous man. He later started American Airlines, owned a professional sports team, and amassed a vast collection of art and antiques. However, his first fortune was made in drilling oil wells.

92 dry holes… that is a lot of failure!
I wonder on what dry hole most of us would have stopped trying?
Would we have made it to 40… or maybe 56?
Surely, very few of us would continue on to 75… or past 90.

But Amon Carter kept drilling until he hit pay dirt and became instantly wealthy. However, let me re-phrase that: There was nothing instant about his wealth and success. It was the result of much hard work, sacrifice, investment, and persistence.

There is that word again: persistence. It is the dogged determination to never give up.
It is gripped by having the grit to stay with the job.
The resolve to not turn back until your goals are met.

Call it persistence, determination, grit, or resolve… Amon Carter had it.

I wonder how many oilmen had the same goals and dreams as Carter? How many potential oil millionaires quit on number 92… just before success? They went to their graves still dreaming of that gusher. Amon Carter just kept drilling. I wonder how many more he would have drilled had number 93 been dry also!

Once again, I write this as a reminder to myself that success in life is in large part simply refusing to quit, showing up every day, pushing, sweating, and working hard.
Resolve: It is defined as “to act with determination…. steadfast and faithful.”
It’s a word I like. I want to learn more about it.

Join me on this blog as we continue to share stories on resolve.
If you have a comment or a story, feel free to share it. This is your blog too!

Curt Iles

Next blog: John Colter’s 156 mile run

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Word Called Resolve

It is one of my five favorite words.* It is the word resolve. There are several uses of the word, but I love the definition that speaks of persistence and grit. Webster’s defines it as “to act with determination, boldness. To be steadfast and faithful.”

Resolve is a trait found in the lives of all great leaders and difference makers. It is that willingness to carry on no matter the cost. It is the fixed and focused intention to achieve a desired end/result.

We see resolve in the life of Jesus. In the ninth chapter of Luke, Jesus (who is in Galilee) has turned His face and feet toward Jerusalem. It is time for Him to begin His final journey to the cross.

As he begins this journey, the disciples believe they are going to a crowning… a coronation of the Messiah. But for Jesus Christ, it is a death march. He is moving toward the cross, not a kingly coronation. No golden crown is waiting – only a crown of thorns that will cut his head and draw blood.

So Luke 9:51 is a great verse to examine the resolve of my Jesus. It states: “As the time drew near when Jesus would be taken up to heaven, he made up his mind and set out on his way to Jerusalem.” (NIV).

Listen to the same verse from The Message: “When it came close to time for his ascension, he gathered up his courage and steeled himself for the journey to Jerusalem.”

The NKJV says, “… He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem.” I can see the jaw of Jesus clinched tightly. There is purpose in every step as He begins the journey southward. I can imagine His eyes taking on a deeper focus and intensity.

Jesus in now ready to do what He was born to do. He was born to die - to die for the sins of all mankind, including you and me.

When we need resolve and determination to take on a tough job… or to finish a difficult task, there is a place to turn for strength, understanding, and guidance.

We can turn to this same Jesus who set His jaw, gathered up His courage, made up His mind, and started the long, lonely journey to Jerusalem

He will give you the resolve you need. Ask Him. He is faithful.

In coming blogs this week, we’ll continue to look at stories of resolve, persistence, and determination.

Tomorrow’s Blog (Wed. October 25): 92 Reasons not to Quit

If you've enjoyed this blog entry, feel free to copy it and pass on to a friend.

* I’ll share my 5 favorite words in a future blog. In the meantime, be compiling a list of your own and we’ll compare notes.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Rich Life of Carl Ford
Sunday, October 15, 2006

They buried one of my heroes today. In a steady rain, Carl Ford was laid to rest by an Air Force honor guard at Shiloh Cemetery. The 21 gun salute and playing of taps both echoed off the pine trees and emotionally touched everyone present.
Carl, a retired Air Force serviceman, was given a worthy and honorable send-off for a hero. A member of the honor guard gave the folded flag to his wife Sugar as she sat between her children, Mike and Pam.
However, the fact that Carl Ford was my hero was due to something else beside his honorable service to our country. He became my hero during my teenage years. Here is the story:

When I first began to drive (legally) in Dry Creek community, the place I most wanted to go was the Sugar Bowl Skating Rink at Wye, Louisiana. It was the main hangout for teens in the East Beauregard area (Dry Creek and Sugartown) as well as the surrounding communities of Fairview, DeRidder, and Pitkin.

The Sugar Bowl (also known as Morel's) had been run by the Morel family for years. When I first started going there, it had just been taken over by Carl Ford and his wife, Chaery "Sugar" Morel Ford. Carl had just retired from the Air Force and he and Sugar had returned home to run the skating rink.

The Sugar Bowl could be a rough place. As with every teen hangout, there were constant problems and challenges, many dealing with alcohol. My mom's parting words on going to the Sugar Bowl were always, "You park your car on the south side of the highway close to the rink. I'd better not hear about you being across the highway."

Needless to say, 'across the highway" was the parking area where most trouble took place. Being pretty square, I stayed away from there. I didn't go to The Sugar Bowl to fight, get in trouble, or get drunk - I went to skate, laugh, shoot pool, and be among my friends.

Carl and Sugar Ford ran the skating rink in a way that made me respect and love them both. That is when both of them became my heroes. This couple made the perfect team. Sugar was so sweet (she is the most aptly named person I've ever known.) Her positive personality made her loved by all the teens. No one wanted to disappoint her or cause her problems. Because of that, most everyone behaved well.

Carl was respected for a whole different reason. He just had the aura of the kind of man you did not want to mess with. He had a strong jaw, a quiet manner, and a friendly but cautious manner. Because of these qualities, even the most onery teen boys wisely chose not to cross or disobey Carl Ford.

He was well-liked by all as well as slightly feared by the rural teen boys who frequented The Sugar Bowl. I never remember him having to get rough with anyone. His quiet words and manner defused problems before they escalated.

Carl Ford reminded me of several men from that era- the hero of the Westerns: whether it was Matt Dillon keeping Dodge City safe or John Wayne cleaning up a cattle town, this quiet yet powerful manner of addressing problems made an impression on me that lives on to this day. I learned this not from the stars of the screen or television but from Carl Ford at The Sugar Bowl skating rink in 1972... and 1973... and 1974.

Carl and Sugar ran the skating rink in a way that prevented most problems. They modeled for me how to deal with teenagers. For my entire adult life, I've worked with teenagers. I firmly believe the Fords helped shape me during those impressionable years.

Thinking back: Even now I can hear the screen door slamming behind me as I enter the loud skating rink on a Saturday night. Smoke on the Water (by Deep Purple) or Linda on my Mind (by Conway Twitty) booms from the jukebox. Jimmy Garner and my other friends lean over the pool table enjoying a game. In the next room you can hear the skates colliding with the hardwood floor of the rink.

Behind the counter stands Sugar Ford. She is flipping those famous Morel's burgers on the grill. That wonderful burger smell permeates the whole area. Her husband Carl, always working hard, walks briskly from the kitchen to check out another pair of skates, then back to unjam the pool table that has jammed and taken someone's quarter.

Over the next thirty-five years of my life, I worked with Sugar Ford for years in our school and community. I always enjoyed visiting with Carl whenever our paths would cross. He continued to be my friend, and probably unknowing to him, my hero.

Yes, Carl Ford. Always my hero.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Burned, yet Blessed, by the Fire

This is one of my reader's favorites. The original story is in Wind in the Pines. This updated version will be in my new book, The Mockingbird's Song. (It is due out in early 2007.)

The once green pine forest, now charred and blackened, lifelessly stares back at me. As far as I can see to the west of the highway, sad black lines of burned pine trees extend in the distance. It seems as if another stand of pines has succumbed to a late winter forest fire.
Normally in February, after several months of killing frosts, the piney woods of Louisiana are often be the scene of numerous forest fires. Whatever the source of these fires, whether control burning or woods arson, the result is often the same: Smaller trees, grasses, and shrubs all killed by the hot wind-driven fire.
Surveying the charcoal-colored field I before me, I realize that this is a stand of Longleaf Pines. Although seemingly lifelessly charred by the fire, the resilience of this species will reveal itself in the coming weeks as spring arrives.
There is an amazing story behind the effect of fire on Longleaf Pines. The history of the Longleaf Pine, Pinus Palustrus must be understood to truly grasp this story. This native tree, also called the yellow pine, ruled the virgin forests of the South from Virginia to East Texas. Because of its hardiness, adaptability, and ability to grow in shallow, sandy soils, it covered much of the acreage of the southern United States
These beautiful pines existed in vast tracts called pine savannahs. These were upland areas where the pines were scattered throughout grassy areas. Because of the tall grasses, fire was always a reality during the dead of winter, when frost had killed the surrounding vegetation. The first to burn the woods were the native Indians. They burned the savannahs to be able to see game animals better and lessen the chance of their enemies hiding nearby. Later, white settlers burned these same grasslands to make better grazing for their cattle and sheep, as well as to kill pests such as redbugs and ticks.
No matter the reason for these fires, the Longleaf Pines continued to grow. Whereas non-native pines, such as Slash and Loblolly, are easily killed by wildfire, the Longleaf seems to thrive because of fire.
Longleaf Pine grows much slower than the other pine species. Because of that reason, most replanting of pines today uses the faster growing non-native species mentioned above.
The early stage of a Longleaf Pine is called the grassy stage. The tree has hardly any trunk above ground and the long green needles more nearly resemble a wild type of grass than a tree. The pine will stay in this "long straw" stage indefinitely until a fire sweeps through.
During this stage, the tree will remain dormant in growth due to what is called Brown Spot Needle Blight. This fungus attacks the top growth area of the young pine, called the candle bulb.
The combination of the tall grass around the tree competing for sunshine and nutrients, and the Needle Blight keeps the young pine tree from growing upward.
The surrounding grass keeps the area moist, which is the condition the Needle Blight needs to attack the small pine's topmost candle bulb. The result is that the Longleaf sapling will stay in this grassy stage indefinitely - still alive, but never growing upward.
A Longleaf Pine will never reach its potential until a fire rushes through, killing the grass and other trees competing with it for water, sunlight, and nutrients. Additionally, the Brown Spot Needle Blight is killed by the heat of the fire.
Due to its thick bark, this species can withstand most hot forest fires. Unfettered by the competing grasses and trees and free from the stunting blight, the tree is ready to grow. The bushy Longleaf Pine is freed by the fire to grow to its intended height and size - and doesn't a Longleaf grow tall and beautiful!
One of the reasons I love these pines is because of their resilience. In the succeeding weeks driving along the highway, I inspect the field to see any new growth. Finally, in March the tops of the trees begin to show new green growth. Soon healthy candle bulbs, some nearly a foot long, begin to reach upwards. Over the coming weeks and months, this candle bulb turns into a tree trunk and sprouts fresh pine straw, and this once-dwarfed Longleaf Pine will never again have to compete with the grass for water, sunlight or food.
Knowing about this species, I also know that this same growth is taking place underground. If you've ever seen the exposed tap root of a Longleaf Pine, you know that it has a deep strong foundation for growth. This deep root enabled most of these pines to endure the strong winds of Hurricane Rita in 2005.
There is a spiritual application from the story about these pines. Just as these pines need the fire to prod their growth, in our lives we need the fire of trials and challenges to grow into the person God wants us to be. None of us desire these times of heat and pain, but God uses these times for the shaping of our heart for maximum growth.
During these fiery times, we will often wonder where God is. Even though it is often difficult to feel His close presence in the fire, He is beside us as never before. It is good to be reminded of his faithfulness and steadfastness.
We see a memorable example of this "burned yet blessed" experience in the wonderful Old Testament story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The book of Daniel tells of these three young men being thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow to the idolatry of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar.
The fire was so hot that it killed the soldiers tossing them into this furnace. Our three heroes were thrown in tightly bound, as good as dead. In a few minutes the King and his advisors were amazed to see them walking around in the fire. His words tell the story better than we ever could:
"Look!" he answered, "I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." (Daniel 3:25)
In the fire, God did not desert them but showed up personally to stand by them. Also, in this fire "what bound them" was burned off. Just like the Longleaf's fungus blight was burned off, this hot fire burned off what was holding our heroes back.
We will all experience being in the fire at various times in our lives. None of us are exempt. Your fire will probably be much different from mine. Regardless, God wants to use this fire to shape you and use you.
Throughout history the people God has used the most have been those who had worked through difficult circumstances to grow to their "maximum" height for use by Him.
Why God chooses to deliver us through the fire instead of from it is a secret that only He can reveal. I've learned that He can be trusted just as reliably in the fire as when we are in the cool and refreshing shade of an easy stretch of life.
Are you in the fire? If so, remember that God has not abandoned you. Just as Shadrach and his two partners were joined by God in the Babylonian fire, you are not alone. And you can rest assured that your faithful Father is using this fiery trial to shape you and use you as never before.
When you see one of these tall longleaf pine towering sixty or seventy feet above the ground, remember that its height and strength are due to being burned, yet blessed, by the fire.