The Farm Chronicles: Rafts and leadership

I’m staring down, watching the logs on which I am standing disappear beneath the murky pond water. Slowly, as I push out even deeper hoping the raft would somehow miraculously float, the raft, though I was still standing on it, was deeper and deeper in the water. Soon, the water was edging up over the top of the barn boots Mom had recently bought me a Skorman’s Miracle Mart in Ravenna. I could feel the water seeping over and into my boots, down my legs and filling up around my socks. All I could think about was how much trouble I was going to be in when Mom and Dad found out that my buddies and I were playing in the pond again. But there was yet another lesson reserved for that day.

We were about 9 years old—two friends from school, Brian and Greg—and had been religiously watching episodes of Daniel Boone. And on this Saturday, we were having an adventure at the farm. Of course, among running around the woods in stocking caps with wash clothes hanging out the back (our coonskin caps) and carrying long sticks (sometimes doubling as flint-lock rifles), we happened along the creek. This is what gave us the great brainstorm idea to build a raft and cross the pond in it. Can’t be that hard, Daniel Boone and Mingo could do it. We should quickly build a raft and cross the great lake, thus evading a marauding band of bad guys who were tracking us down in the wilderness.

We spent the afternoon building the raft, a great ship, I might add, on the banks of the lake (the pond). We found small logs and dragged them up to our campsite. We “borrowed” a few 2 X 4s, a hammer, and some nails from a settler in the clearing (my Dad’s workshed). By the time we were finished, the raft was about four feet long and three feet wide. Then we had to decide who would be Captain of the ship, so to speak. We all wanted to be Captain until I said, “Well, we don’t know if this raft will float or sink. The Captain of the ship has to be willing to go down with the ship.” All of a sudden, I was voted to be Captain. We dragged the raft to edge of the pond and pushed it in. And it floated, that is, it floated really well until I stepped onto it and shoved off with my flint-lock rifle, now a push pole. And now my boots were full with water rising.

Brian and Greg ran off to the barn in search of a plank that I could use to get off the raft and walk to dry land. Well, that’s what they said, anyway. I didn’t see them again until I sloshed up to the house, soaked to the waist. Deuteronomy 31:8 says that the Lord “will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” Something I learned about leadership that day—a few things. One: count the cost and see the end in the beginning. Two: While you can count on the Lord to always be with you, you might not be able to count on your friends. Three: Courage and hope will get you out of a lot of tight situations. That raft floated around in the pond for years as a reminder of the day I went down with the ship and my lesson in leadership.

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Bill Wilson