Ricky Bobby

Ricky Bobby
If you ain't first you're last

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Couple of interesting shots from the weekend. First look at the shot of the Walking Iris Bloom. I'm convinced the most perfect of all God's flowers. Three pure white petals signifying the perfection and purity of the Trinity. Then inbetween each white petal is a corresponding petal of royal purple rising up and curling back over itself as if preparing to cloak the shoulders of the whole blossom. This one opened with the early morning sun of Easter Sunday.
The other shot is the end result of four straight days of dawn to dusk kitchen duty. The undisputed queen of hospitality and sausage biscuit birthday cakes.....this was taken about 5 pm on Sunday Afternoon. I DO so love that girl.
Well Peep, Easter came again. You were thought of often Sunday. It was your favorite holiday of the year and I always remember the fun we had at your house every year. We do our best to continue in the tradition of fun, food and mostly a reverence for the awareness of our Risen Lord. The kids....as when we came to your house were the focal point of the day....but like you.....the big kids had their fun too.

I guess my greatest treat was watching my Gracie daintly pick through the shrubbery for eggs....nothing like the "Helter-Skelter manner of he mother. You know Christy has never been shy about anything. You should have seen her go after the "money eggs" There's nothing she wont pick up through or look under. Watching her with Parker is just such a joy. He's a colicky child and certainly a challenge sometimes...but she is so patient through it all. He does pay off in his good moments. I was fortunate to enjoy some of those. I even enjoyed my turn with him through the colic jags....a good reminder of the year plus we endured that with Stinky Ninky.

My sister Angie came up with husband Paul and daughter Sarah. They are still relatively new to the "discovery techniques" necessary to successful camoflage egg hunting, and therefore didn't fare quite aw well as the others who have 20 plus years of experience...but we did make sure as you always did that "everyone scored".

You would be glad to know Mimi and Penny both came down with Cheryl. Neither Cheryl or Penny get around too well just now....both have a bad wheel. Mimi seems to have fully recovered and looked good. Kristine "a friend of mine and Tilena's" joined in and completed the fun.

Well, Peep....I'm gonna go hit the bed. It's 10:00 and I've had a long long day preparing for Commission Workshop tomorrow. It will be my first one and I'm not really confident on how it will all work out.....but it will work with the Grace of our God.

Hope you enjoy the photos Peep. We all miss you so much. It will just never be the same.

Don and Company

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

But for the Grace of God...There go I....

I talked to an old friend today. Something I had needed to do and have been trying to get my nerve up to do for a long time. Time, words, and events had separated us by more than 12 years and I must confess, until recently, I had grown to consider him an enemy rather than a friend. Actually I had called his office yesterday and after leaving my name with his secretary and being put on hold briefly, I learned he was not available....after that, I honestly never expected him to call me back, but today he did. I am glad.

Although we had both grown up in Perry and known each other all our lives, and considered one another friends, the last time we had actually spoken was not a warm and fuzzy type of moment. We had both made a career of law enforcement, and it was that very thing that would drive a wedge between us. The year was 1996. We had just finished a long tough and bitter run for the office of sheriff of Taylor County Florida. Seven or eight of us started the race, but after the primary it narrowed into a tight and ugly runoff between me and "Bummy". Bummy won of course, and life as I knew it was about to change. I don't know how many of you have ever run for or been very close to a political race....but there is nothing endearing about the process. An awful lot of things are said and not much of it is generous. Bummy and I both had young families, and it was gut wrenching for them to have to go through that. I actually began to think of someone I had always considered a friend to be a bitter enemy. Through it all I learned a lot about a lot of different people and especially about myself that I didn't like. I remember sitting on the floor in a back bedroom of our house holding onto Tilena's hand as the election results came in by radio. God was pruning the first branch on my overgrown non producing tree.....the ego branch went first. How could anyone not vote for me? We had spent every dime we had on this race and borrowed $10.000.00 more. We were dead broke with three kids and a new house. The branch of financial idolatry fell next. Tilena had believed in me and I had failed her. Down came the branch of pride. She cried that night and I was so numb and hollow inside. It's a feeling like suddenly you realize....the majority of the people in you're hometown don't believe in you. Now I was working at the Sheriff's Office at the time and actually held the rank of Captain. So, as you can imagine, the last words between me and Bummy were spoken in January of 1997 and were something along the lines of..."Don, ole buddy...Bummy think ole Don gonna have to find his self another job". He actually talks that way, and I don't mention it to belittle him,,,,it is a very charming attribute he has. I really think it bestows a sort of humbleness to hear someone refer to themselves in the third person. And humbleness was something I was quickly learning.

I did eventually find another job.....but I had to leave my home and family to do it. The boys were so young, and Christy was still in school, so until the school year was over, I was in Georgia on my own. Do you know how hard it is to leave three children and a wife for six months? I had lived in Perry all my life, and even built a house for my family on the same farm my parents still lived on. I was still close enough to drive home for a short visit on the weekends, but today my heart just shatters every time I think back over those days. Knowing what a tough job it was to leave Tilena alone with three kids and knowing she had to work too to make ends meet. The job I got as Police Chief in Quitman, Georgia paid less than I was making when I left the SO and now we had two homes to support. We struggled with loneliness, fear, finances and sometimes even our faith. I still think of those Sunday Nights when it was time to get back in my little truck and head back for Georgia all alone. Ryan was four years old and he would hold so tightly I would have to peel his little hands away from me. Then he would run inside the house so I wouldn't see him cry. As I drove away down that long dusty drive way, I always watched out the rearview mirror and could see him standing in the window of his room watching as long as he could see the lights of that truck. That will leave a hole in your heart. Nick was really too young to understand, but he was crying because Tilena and Christy were crying. Daddy would cry too, but as I've said before, none of them ever saw it. It wasn't just that it was my immediate family, but my parents were both advanced in years and I was the only one of their children still around. They had always depended on me an awful lot too. A farm doesn't run itself and there's not much a 70 year old man in failing health can do about it. The whole place fell into disrepair over the next few years, as did the health of my parents. I shed many, many private tears on that dark road to Quitman. It would be fair to say a blackness began to spread around my heart and I felt like I owed it all to Bummy. I said many times....."he needs to feel what it's like to do this". I blamed him for my missing out on my children growing up and I blamed him for missing out on my parents growing old. I was blaming him for a process God himself was using to take me where my service was waiting on me. The first fork in a new road always has the most potholes. But God knew from day one that Don's life was not to be spent in Perry, Florida. The branch of idolatry by family was being pruned.

The years slid by and we eventually found a home and wonderful church family in Quitman and it was there I learned to be a Police Chief. Those people were awfully patient with me as I seemed to make a mistake for every success. I made lifelong friends and memories. I was blessed to coach both my boys in little league football and baseball...we just never quite could get ahead financially. God was still pruning that branch...it kept wanting to re sprout. Quitman is a poor town and finances there are brutal. That part was always a struggle. But still in my heart, I always harbored hard feelings toward Bummy. I knew that was wrong, but I just still wasn't man enough to deal with it and get on with it. Eventually we found ourselves in Clewiston. Although not rich and never will be, we are comfortable and happy. As I write there are four people in the house and five cars in the driveway. One kid in college and one set to start this year. My soon pending retirement is secure and I won't have to worry with finances as I walk those final years. Contentment is a blessing of God's own Hand. I've thought often of the friends, sights, experiences and life I've enjoyed that I would never have known without having to experience that that awful day I had to drive away from my family. We survived...we actually thrived. God has blessed us in every way imaginable. Tilena and I walked over bridges we never knew we would face. Each trial making us stronger. During one particularly tough stretch, I lost both my parents in a span of eleven months. Every Friday Night for a year and a half, I drove six hours to Perry and every Sunday Night I drove six hours home. For eighteen months friends....think about that. Most of those trips, my family faithfully climbed in the car with me and kept me company. My thoughts turned many times to Bummy and my false belief that he somehow was the reason for all my pain....all my loss. At a time when my momma and daddy needed me the most, I was six hours away. Mom and Dad have been gone for several years now. The old farm so rich in my mind fell derelict and has been sold. My own boys are standing on the edge of the nest now, they'll soon follow Christy and fly on too. These days, I've found myself thinking of Bummy again.....but differently.

See, on New Year's Eve this past January 1st. I was enjoying the evening at Christy's house in Savannah with ALL of my family around me. Including my Emma Grace. While we were enjoying each other's company my cell phone rang. A friend of mine from Perry called and told me that Bummy's son had just committed suicide. God had just cut off the branch of grudge. Maybe the most painful cut I had suffered yet just filled me with unimaginable shame. I stood without talking or moving for several minutes just looking at my two sons and my daughter, granddaughter, and perfect wife. Bummy's boy was about the age of my two boys and all I could think about right then was Ryan clinging so tightly to me when I left him on those Sunday Nights so long ago. Time changes things people, and if you'll just let him, God will change your heart. Yeah, I left my family that Sunday Night in March of 1997....but every Sunday before and every Sunday since that day, somewhere, somehow...we gathered together somewhere as a family and worshipped our Creator. Christ Jesus has always led our family. It was never a question of what Dad said to do versus what Mom said to do. Our lives were led according to what God said. He eventually took me to a community where we prospered with family, friends, church and community. A commmunity that not only has entrusted me with their safety for more than seven years now as Chief of Police, but even appointed me as their Interim City Manager for the next several months. That's a long way removed from the floor of that house in Perry where I held a crying young wife in November of 1996.

Bummy's boy I think was his only child...I'm not positive. I don't know what his relationship with Christ was. I never did know him well enough to have an opinion of him, but any judgement anyway is strictly between him and God. But I do know where my wife, Christy, Ryan, Nick and Don Gutshall stand. We each cluster daily beneath the cover of the cross and allow the blood of our Savior to flow again. The days apart were tough, the nights sometimes almost intolerable. But on a cold January night when a young man found his life too painful to bear and decided to end it, our lives found us gathered together thanking God for a prosperous year.....and my old friend sat in the grief of his dying child's blood. I made up my mind right then, I had spent years harboring a grudge against someone I had no reason not to call a friend. God's road is not always pointed in the direction we want to go. There's rocks, thorns and more than a few rickety bridges to cross. But he always has a destination. I wound up where God intended, and instead of counting it as a blessing, I had nurtured it as a grudge.

I sent Bummy a card and a Book of the word of God that week. I prayed for him often and asked often during the following days for the courage to call him and to give me the words to say. Well, today the circle closed. I talked with my old friend for about forty five minutes. He's still grieving, and there's not a lot I could say to make it any better. Only our Lord has that salve. I will still commit to pray for Bummy. Our lives have taken divergent paths since that conversation in early 1997. Bummy was not my enemy, he was a tool God used to pry me away from a place I didn't belong. God knew Bummy was the best man to be Sheriff of Taylor County and he knew he had other plans for me in another place. Bummy Williams is actually a man you just can't help but like. He is a charming, low key guy with a real genuine love for his community. Over the years I found myself forced to rely more and more on my Lord. More and more...he delivered. How easily things could have been different and I could be Sheriff of Taylor County Florida....but at what price might it have been? Save for the Grace of My God, might I have been sitting on the floor holding a dying son on that night this past January? God himself only knows these things....but I do know this....But for the Grace of God...There go I...

Today I go daily to an office I find hard to consider work. Surrounded by people who I love greatly and admire. We live in a community of prosperity compared to Quitman and great riches compared to Perry. It seemed that the more I abandon the worry and chase of financial gain...the more God blessed me. The more I gave, the more he returned. God finally revealed the truth to me on these matters....contentment IS the only true wealth. I have found God's calling of missions in my life. I'm blessed with friends from many communities, and the knowledge that I served my Lord at every stop. I've taught sunday school and served as a Deacon in three Churches in three different Communities. Worked with youth and ministered at every stop. Countless friends have enriched the lives of me and my family. My children all know there is a world bigger than Perry, Florida. Perry these days is sort of hollow to drive through. I think I referred to it in an earlier post as "hearing an echo rather than a voice". The place is dying and I don't know what the future holds for them. The population falls every census and it just has a forgotten look and desperate feel. If not for God's painful pruning of my branches...might I still be there? There was a particular path and purpose all along he had in mind for me. Who, but God, is wise enough to conjoin law enforcement and ministry.....He can do all things. And I live a life of comfort contentment.

Go hug your family....and whatever path God has you on today....walk it closely, and with a grateful heart. Listen carefully to his direction. The path may have a fork at the most unexpected moment. What seems a curse may well be the greatest blessing of all.

God Bless you Bummy, I hurt for you and pray ernestly for God's Grace upon you and your family.

Don and Company