My dad leads the way on our evening walk down one of the dirt roads of the ranch. Close behind him are my granddaughters, three-year-old Kate and two-year-old Allie, then me. Daddy holds the machete, in case we run into the “Mud Monster,” the legendary beast that lives in an ancient and run-down deer blind. As we round a bend in the road and the weathered plywood blind comes into view, Daddy suddenly stops and leans down, placing a protective hand on Kate’s shoulder. Squinting toward the ramshackle, deteriorated structure that is about the size of an outhouse, he whispers, “Be very quiet! We don’t want to wake up the Mud Monster!” Daddy draws out the words, so that you can almost hear the symphonic baritone and trombone play ominously -- dumm-da-DUM-dum -- as he says mysteriously, “Muuud Monnngster!” She looks up at him, her face full of questions and fear, then with wide eyes looks down the path.
“It’s okay,” I tell her, “Grandpa will take care of us.” (And those words are the subject of another blog entirely.)
For now, I reassure Kate, wondering if she will have nightmares tonight. But I can’t resist the mischief, and I play along with Daddy. “You just have to be really quiet so he won’t see us.”
As we approach the Mud Monster’s home, I can see her shoulders shrink and tremble, yet she forges on quietly and carefully, glancing often at my dad to make sure he’s in control of the situation. She looks anxiously from behind his leg into the Mud Monster’s home: but he’s not there. Daddy shrugs and says cheerfully, “Well, I guess he’s out somewhere in the brush, looking for his supper.” Kate is happily relieved, but still cautious about staying too long at his doorway.
We move on down the dirt road, but now she is all excitement and talk, something about “scary adventures” and wondering if the Mud Monster is nice or mean, telling her sister Allie that she needs to be careful if she ever sees him.
Daddy and I see a well-traveled game trail that winds its way through the brush and trees. We veer off the road and onto what we call “the pig trail.”
At first I lead, trying to hold the lowest limbs of the brush back so Kate can get through. Allie is unable to step on or over the tough huisache and shrub sage, so I carry her on my hip, trying to shelter her from the head-high brush and thorns that block our way.
As it becomes denser, Daddy takes the lead and hacks through with the machete. Kate follows behind him, still talking. Daddy teaches her to step on some of the twigs and follow the trail “elbow first” in order to shield her face. She is still talking non-stop, repeating what Daddy has told her, wondering where the pigs are since we’re on the pig trail, telling us that her baby sister Emma Jo could never get through this scary adventure, and occasionally asking Daddy, “Do you see the Mud Monster, Grandpa?”
She has become confident and adept at wending her way through the thicket. In one particularly dense patch, she lowers her head, sticks both elbows out in front of her and says, “Sometimes you just have to dig your head through, see, like this,” and presses past the snagging branches and scratchy shrubs, explaining to Allie that when she gets big she can do this.
I needed Kate’s advice as soon as I returned from my vacation. My schedule and obligations appeared as a dense thicket with obstacles and challenges in every direction. Fulfilling my responsibilities prevented me from blogging, reading, or paying attention to my dogs.
But that’s simply how life is.
Sometimes we just have to grow up, dig our heads through, and keep moving forward. Mud Monsters notwithstanding.
Romans 12:11 (Be) not slothful in business; be fervent in spirit.