A minor miracle happened a few days ago on a secluded Kansas farm. It occurred while a nation was transfixed by what was happening in the U.S. Capitol building.

The small farmhouse sits upon a tranquil prairie, roughly 1,190 miles away from Washington D.C. I am told the sunset was one for the books that night. The sky was an arresting seascape of reds, violets, and golds.

Some are surprised to learn that Kansan sunsets are among the most unique in the world. This is because of dust. Dust particles from the entire earth travel to the central plains, riding on global wind currents.

Sometimes dust comes from as far away as the Sahara, drifting 5,000 miles to hover above the Flint Hills. At dusk, the sun shines through these particles and it sets off an explosion of color throughout a pink and yellow sky.

It was during one such vivid sunset that an SUV came barreling up the elderly cowboy’s driveway.

The wiry cattleman stood outside his barn, waiting, watching the car’s dust cloud

get bigger. He pulled his jacket snug over his slender frame. It was 29 degrees outside.

From the SUV ermerged his adult daughter and his two grandkids (ages 8 and 9).

“Grandpa!” they cried. “Are we too late?”

He shook his head. “Nope, just in time.”

Most kids would have hugged their granddaddy at this point, but this particular cowboy is a distant man. He’s not a hugger. Call it evidence of his abusive childhood. Call it a byproduct of serving in a Vietnam War. Call it being a windburned cowpoke.

His adult daughter explains: “My father’s a great guy, but he’s never hugged me. Not in my whole life. We’ve never said ‘I love you’ either. Not even at Mom’s funeral.”

The funeral was back in March. It’s been hard on everyone.

The quiet man led the family into the barn to see something…

I was sitting here thinking about you. Which is kind of weird because I don’t know you. But I still consider us friends. And this has been one heck of a year.

See, when I write, sometimes I envision you reading this. Whoever you are. I can almost see you sitting in your PJs, or your work clothes, or dressed in a gorilla suit.

Maybe you’re sipping your morning coffee, or hot tea, or an ice cold Ensure. Or maybe you’re stopped at a redlight, reading this on your phone, holding up miles of traffic. In which case, you’d better put your phone down because right now everyone wants to harm you.

Over the years I have written some off-the-wall things to you. I once wrote an entire column/blog/whatever-you-call-it about eyebrow hair. Another time I wrote a column where, as a joke, I quoted God. Almost everyone got the joke, but a select few didn’t. These are a select few religious people who might benefit from a little Metamucil in their diets.

But after

I quoted God I got some hate mail from these people who obviously have incredible amounts of free time because they went into lengthy detail about what was going to happen to my eternal butt. One guy told me I was going to rot in hell for putting words into God’s mouth.

Normally this kind of thing doesn’t bug me too bad. But getting more than a few hate messages at once can really put you in the dumps. Which is what happened.

But the tides turned. A Catholic gentleman from Maine sent me a bottle of Knob Creek bourbon in the mail. There was a card attached.

It read: “I sure love you. Sincerely, God.”

Somebody I’ve never met guessed that I was having a bad week and took the time to send me the Catholic sacrament of choice, full-proof alcohol. The thing is, I…

Yesterday. It was 4 P.M. Carol turned off cable news and picked up her phone. She announced there would be an emergency club meeting.

It was “URGENT!” she texted her friends.

It was urgent because within Carol’s 73 years, she has never seen anything more disheartening than the events she saw unfolding in Washington D.C. that afternoon.

“This country needs healing,” says Carol. “Just like any sick person would.”

Carol is no stranger to healing. She leads the quintessential small-town church prayer group. These are elderly women who get things done.

The older ladies have been getting together for 18 years to do things like raise money, volunteer, eat congealed foods prepared with liberal amounts of mayonnaise, and of course, pray.

These women have prayed so hard their knees have gone bad. They’ve prayed for rowdy husbands who are bad to drink. For children who are ill. For couples who fall upon the rocks. They have even prayed Carol through her cancer. Twice.

“I could tell you stories ‘bout healings we’ve prayed for,” says Carol. “It’d shock you, the kinda miracles we've seen

happen over 18 years.”

When the pandemic hit, Carol started holding their weekly meetings online instead of in-person. It was the smart thing to do since most ladies are older, and three members have compromised immune systems. Carol herself is on oxygen.

But social distancing never sapped their enthusiasm. There are nine group members in total. And on this particular day, after the horror in the U.S. Capitol, the world needed all nine of their healing prayers.

Carol sent out her first text to Kelly, and their conversation went something like this:


Kelly texted back: “Yes! Watching now! Scary!”


“In person?”


“Cars? Really?”


“Why are you writing in all caps?”



The world is a dang mess. And I have gone fishing.

It’s been a long time since I’ve held a rod in my hands. Too long. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I sat on this overturned five-gallon bucket, perched upon the shore of this Choctawhatchee Bay, staring at this water.

Some people don’t understand fishing. Take my wife. She can’t figure out why any rational man would spend hours on a bucket not talking. She says it’s boring.

Boring? No. To go fishing is to embark upon a great intellectual competition, attempting to outsmart the cleverest creature on earth. You might not think fish are intelligent, but believe me, they are much smarter than humans.

A redfish, for instance, would never drain his kid’s college fund to purchase a 17-foot Tracker Pro Team 175 TXW boat package simply to go catch his limit of humans.

Today I came to this bay because earlier I was watching the news and it made me sick to my stomach. The headlines du jour were

giving me literal palpitations. The irony is that I was having a pretty good day until I saw the state of our world.

You have to worry about us sometimes.

So I packed my tackle and left. And I’m glad I did because bay water can work wonders on a man’s soul.

Try to visualize this. I am looking at 129 square miles of brackish, blue water that spans two counties, and has a watershed that covers roughly 3,339,632 acres. Out here there are no radios, no screens, no phones. No traffic. No billboards. I only have a rod, a bucket, and the ghosts of my ancestors.


I come from a long line of fishermen. Most were mediocre anglers, but others were gifted like my uncle Ray Ray. Uncle Ray Ray could communicate with fish through extra sensory techniques. Sadly, the only message he could…

I thought about you this morning, Miss Margaret. When I heard the Carter Family sing “I’ll Fly Away” on the radio, you were in my heart.

The tinny sounds of a 1930s shellac record filled my den. Maybelle Carter played guitar like a twelve-fingered prodigy. Their magnificent Virginian voices sliced through the monotony of life and made me smile.

This particular Carter Family song reminds me of something that happened a few weeks ago.

I was out for a walk when I noticed something on the pavement. It looked like an insect had been smashed by a passing vehicle. Which is exactly what happened.

It was a butterfly. She was still alive. Sort of. Her wings were shredded, but still moving. Her antennae squirmed lazily.

I sat on the highway shoulder and held her broken body in my hands. This creature was suffering, about to expire, and there wasn’t a thing I could do. It was awful. After a few minutes, she finally died. I felt hot tears falling from my eyes.

I don’t mean to

be gloomy here, but have you ever noticed how this earth is indifferent to us? It robs us of every wonderful thing, then bills us for the damages. Nothing—not one thing—lasts, and it stinks.

Show me a beautiful day, and I’ll point to an approaching thunderstorm. Show me a handsome young man; I’ll show you a guy who will one day keep his dentures in a glass of water. Introduce me to a stunning mountain range; I’ll show you the future construction site of a T.J. Maxx.

I dug a small hole in the ground with a stick, I buried the butterfly, and said a few words. I felt like a fool when I recited the 23rd Psalm to a deceased flying insect, but it had to be done.

Then something happened. Something you will probably think I’m making up, but I’m not.


I have here an email from a high-school senior in Texas who told me he wants to become a writer. He asked if I had any advice. Here is an excerpt from that letter:

“...Please help! I want to know how to pay my bills with writing! Any advice on this career path is appreciated.”

For starters, I have no advice. I’m terrible with advice. I’m even worse at paying bills, which is why my face is on posters at the local post office.

But I can tell you a story. And this story opens on a drizzly night in Atlanta. I was 24 years old. I sat in a little cafe, after hours, with an old man who I’ll call Moe. My band had just finished playing at a nearby beer joint. Moe had filled in as our substitute guitarist that evening.

In the back of the diner, a waitress was trying to force feed an elderly man in rags who was barefoot and shivering. Merle Haggard sang overhead.

Music is what I did before I became a writer. I played guitar with no-name bands. I did construction before that, but I quit that job to pursue music fo a while. Which was a huge mistake. This meant I had to “pay the bills” with music.

I was suddenly forced to take every gig that presented itself, from Chiefland to Timbuktu. So for years I played in ugly joints your mother warned you about. Occasionally, I also played at the Moose Lodge on bingo night. Or I played piano at revivals.

I quickly started to hate music. I discovered that the professional bar-musician life was not the carefree experience I once thought. I slept in crud-covered motels. I ate fast-food. I missed my wife.

I learned that the easiest way to kill what you love is to treat it like a career. I know this sounds painfully trite, but…

On an empty neighborhood street near my home a father teaches his son to ride a bike. The boy sits on a tiny two-wheeled machine wearing a helmet roughly the size of a prize-winning watermelon. The father balances the bike and offers reassuring advice.

“Keep your head up, and just keep pedaling, and…”

Scattered on the driveway are disassembled training wheels which have been removed from the kid’s bike. The nuts and bolts lie on the pavement like memories of a bygone infanthood.

This boy is about to be one of the big kids today.

The child sits on his saddle wearing the face of Neil Armstrong before blastoff. It is the same facial expression Chuck Yeager had before breaking the sound barrier. The same look I once wore when I realized my income taxes were considerably late.

“I’m scared, Dad,” says the kid.

“You’re gonna be fine.”

“What if I fall?”

“I’m here.”

“What if I can’t do it?”

“You can.”

Meantime, I’m watching from a distance. They don’t see me eavesdropping.

Right now I am having a few

memories return to me. Not memories of bicycles, but of times I once sat in the proverbial saddle and asked myself similar questions.

Can I do it? Can I withstand failure? How about rejection? What about embarrassment? Or pain? Will I make a fool of myself?

There was the time I worked up the bravery to ask Dorothy Lynn to couple skate at the fifth-grade roller-rink party. I was nauseous about it. I felt as though I would vomit all over my shoes.

Dorothy was the most popular girl in fifth grade and I was a chubby redhead whose T-shirts always seemed too snug. Boys like me did not ask Dorothy Lynn to couple skate. Boys like me held the regional record for the most rice puddings consumed during a single cafeteria period.

But I asked Dorothy anyway. I ignored…