Silly Who

Karl’s Story

Karl was pleased that his daughter Ellen spent so much time out in the woods. That way he wouldn’t have to be embarrassed by the silly things she did. He knew he should watch her more carefully, but he had never been able to bring himself to actually do it. If he tried to control her, things just got crazy.

Ellen couldn’t speak and many thought she couldn’t hear either. She just made incomprehensible sounds. The reason some people thought she really could hear was that she had an uncanny ability to notice what was going on around her. Those who depended on the fact that she couldn’t hear and tried to play tricks on her generally were unpleasantly surprised. Her practical jokes were usually embarrassing and sometimes painful, but never fatal.

This is a work of fiction. All persons, places, and events are products of my imagination.
Copyright © 2012
Henry E. Neufeld

Still, she behaved so strangely when she was in town. She’d spend time down at the shrine just looking at the inscriptions on the walls. She’d sit for hours just watching people on the street. She was nosy. She showed up at places she didn’t belong. She never did any chores. In fact, Karl thought, she was completely useless as a person and he quite frankly admitted to himself and to his neighbors that he resented the cost of feeding her. But he was much too responsible, and though he’d deny it, gentle of a man to actually do her real harm, and so he just let her run wild.

But he was delighted that she mostly ran wild far out in the woods. There were plenty of dangers out there, but at least he could pretend they weren’t his problem.

This arrangement worked well until one day Ellen came into town and went straight to the village headman. She got his attention and then began drawing in the dirt with a stick. Her father, who had followed her to try to keep her out of trouble—well, let’s be honest, to keep himself out of trouble by keeping her from bothering people—thought that what she was drawing looked hauntingly familiar, but he wasn’t sure why. The village headman had no idea, however, and he roughly pushed Ellen to the ground, told Karl to “control his daughter” and stalked off.

Karl tried to grab Ellen. The last thing he needed was to get in trouble with the headman. But Ellen was too fast and she disappeared into the woods. Karl chose the path of least resistance. He could always hope she would disappear again into the woods. He forgot entirely about the hauntingly familiar figures Ellen had drawn in the dirt.

Karl couldn’t read. Neither could the headman. In fact, nobody in the village could read. To them the figures on the walls of the village shrine were just strange religious symbols. They knew the shrine was very old, but nobody really cared. One just went there to offer sacrifices to the gods, though nobody knew why. They were sure the figures had sacred power, but they had no idea what they were, or what they were supposed to depict.

In the woods around there were ruins of other buildings, but nobody knew much about them either. They were just part of the landscape. Ellen had once led her father to one of those ruined buildings outside the village. She tried to point out things on the wall to him. He’d told her she was very silly, and that there was no point wasting his time.

In fact, Karl thought whoever had built the stone buildings must have been pretty silly themselves. Why go to that much work for shelter when a few tree branches and some woven grass would do just as well. It was probably right that his silly daughter spent her time in all those silly piles of rock. He had left her there and returned to the village, never noticing her look of disappointment.

For several days nobody saw Ellen at all. Karl was so pleased not to have to deal with her that he didn’t really get that worried about what might have happened to her. Surely she’d reappear in time.

Ellen’s Story

Ellen ran quickly through the woods to one of her caches of supplies. She had a hunting bow and a knife there, really all she needed to survive. She didn’t understand the problem. Did they imagine she would like about a thing like that? She was sure she had the symbols right. Why hadn’t they gotten her message. Over the 20 years of her life she had tried many things, including trying to move her lips the way other people did, but she’d always thought that when she drew the symbols people would understand her. But they didn’t.

Silly villagers, she thought. And silly me. Why didn’t I realize they never used the symbols themselves?

She ran through the woods for hours. Through the river gorge to the north ran a major trade route. At this point it didn’t belong to any country, king, or noble. It was considered wilderness. The caravans traveled with guards. Ellen had observed them many times before. She knew there were scraggly and poor caravans whose guards were dangerous themselves. She had barely escaped from contact with some of them before. But there were others whose clothes were rich. She had practiced writing the symbols she saw on the walls. It was with a caravan guard that she had finally made the connection between the symbols, the pictures, and events in her life.

So now she went looking for a caravan and the guards. She’d have to pick one carefully, because she didn’t want to be captured and enslaved. But with the right caravan, she might get the guards to come and help her deal with what she had found in the woods. It would be good for them too.

It was a full days travel on foot to the cliffs above the caravan road. Horses could make it much faster. When she arrived at the place where she usually climbed down the cliffs she found that the path was held. She should have thought of this. The people she had found near her own village would be planning to raid caravans, and this was the one place one could get down to the road easily. It would be impossible to sneak down the cliff where she had planned to.

There were other places to climb, but she had never done so. She moved perhaps a mile further along the road, going downstream. She knew from the guards that they were near where the canyon came to an end and the road moved into territory owned by a king and patrolled by his troops. She felt her first true fear as she faced the cliff. She hadn’t been afraid when she found the bandits. She hadn’t been afraid when her father had tried to catch her. She hadn’t even been afraid when she saw the path blocked. She had never climbed down a cliff like this.

She very nearly didn’t make it. Several times she came close to falling, and there wouldn’t be any second chances. She was so tired when she reached the bottom of the cliff that she couldn’t do anything but just lie there and try to recover. And then she fell asleep.

She was wakened by a man in armor. He was poking her with a stick. She jumped up and tried to reach her weapons, but he knocked her to the ground. It was the first time she had been caught asleep by an enemy, and this guard clearly proved to be an enemy.

It was lucky for her that the caravan was moving. These were the sort of merchants and guards who would not treat a girl in their midst well at all. But since they were moving they didn’t have time to do anything except throw her into a cage. She was not the only person in there. Apparently this caravan included slaves in its cargo.

The other women in the cage tried to talk to her, but she couldn’t hear them, and she could get nothing from the movement of their lips. She tried drawing symbols on the floor of the cage, but they just thought she was crazy and moved to the other end of the cage. Ellen thought if they got together they could break out of the cage. Prepared, she was sure she could break away from these guards. But the silly women weren’t cooperating.

Finally she scratched symbols for “ambush ahead” into the floor of the cage as carefully as she could. One of the guards looked at the symbols, but the silly man either couldn’t read or didn’t care what some girl had to say.

So the caravan was completely surprised by the ambush. The other women huddled at the back end of their cage, but Ellen watched carefully for any opportunity. The opportunity came when one of the guards was hit by an arrow and fell against the bars of the cage. Ellen was able to grab his dagger and cut the ropes that held the door. In a moment she was outside and grabbing a bow. It was heavier than her hunting bow, but she was able to pull it, and she started to shoot, while carefully and frequently checking behind her.

She moved slowly toward the cliff and she used her arrows against the attackers since it was clear that they had the advantage. She found these warriors much easier to hit than the game she had hunted in the forest, and most of them were not that well armored. If she had given her full effort, she might well have made the difference for them between victory and defeat. As it was, she killed the last of the attackers just after he had killed the last of the caravan guards.

What was left was a small number of the merchants and their servants, none of them armed. They huddled together and waited to see what this apparition from the forest would do to them. Silly people! Some of them didn’t even realize she was the girl who had been captured just an hour or so earlier.

She tried to release the women from the cage, but they were afraid to move as well. Silly women! They didn’t know who to trust even though she hadn’t given them any reason to fear her that she could see.

She tried to get the caravan folks to understand that they could go ahead and get moving, but they didn’t get the idea. So she sat on a ledge just above the road and watched them. She hoped another caravan would come along. She still wanted to talk to some real guards, and she knew that there were more bandits than had been involved in the attack.

It was past noon before anyone more showed up and it was a small patrol of guards. She had no idea where from. The lady who led the guards tried to motion her to come down off her ledge, but she kept her bow in hand and motioned for the guard to come to her.

When the lady came up to the ledge she tried to talk, but of course Ellen couldn’t understand her. Ellen motioned as though she wanted to write, and the lady produced a pencil and some paper. It was nice to deal with someone who didn’t just think she was silly! She slowly wrote down the basics about the ambush and then she drew a map showing where the bandits had their large camp.

After that things were easy. The guards hunted the bandits, and they were very skilled. They also released the women and promised to escort them back to town. They arrested the caravan merchants because they had taken the women from their town.

When it was all done, they returned to Ellen’s village. Ellen wrote a question for everyone. “Why is everyone so silly?” she asked. “The villagers ignore me, the caravan guards ignore my warning, the women think I’m dangerous. I think I hate these villagers.”

“Things look silly when you don’t understand them,” said the lady. “What’s really silly is when you won’t learn.”

(This story was written for and submitted to the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival – Silly.)

 

Farmer Jack’s Arsenal

“Old Jack has quite an arsenal,” said one villager knowingly to another.

The stranger sitting in front of the village pub perked up. This was the sort of thing he wanted to know.

“Who,” he asked, “is Jack?”

“Farmer Jack,” said one of the villagers.

This is a work of fiction. All persons, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination.
Copyright © 2012
Henry E. Neufeld

“Yes,” said the other. “We call him Old Jack or Farmer Jack.”

“What do you mean that he has quite an arsenal?” asked the stranger. It was a risky question. People often reacted badly to someone who was too curious about their stock of weapons.

But the two villagers just laughed. “You’d really have to see it,” said one. The other just snickered.

So the stranger set about discovering just what kind of an arsenal it was that this Farmer Jack had. If his boss was to gain control of this village and the surrounding farms, he would certainly have to get rid of any arsenals that might be in the area.

That evening he asked a few of the people in the pub about Farmer Jack’s arsenal. He wanted to do it subtly, but it was rather difficult. “I heard there’s a Farmer Jack around here who has quite an arsenal, ha ha, do you know anything about it?” That sounded rather silly, but the reactions he got just weren’t normal. Some people looked at him as though he was crazy. Others laughed. A couple of them finally explained that in the mountains behind Farmer Jack’s farm there was a cave which was filled with weapons. What weapons? Oh, swords, crossbows, crossbow bolts, maybe even a ballista or two. One never knew what Farmer Jack might collect.

He thought he noticed a number of people trying to conceal their faces. He thought it might be that they were laughing, but he set that aside. What could be funny about a cache of weapons? That was one of the things his boss would want to know. He’d want to grab the arsenal first.

Over the next few days he tried to watch people as they went about their business, especially as they went to surrounding towns. But he never saw what he was looking for. He wanted to see some town militia or maybe even one or two people going and getting weapons or putting them back there in the arsenal in the hills behind Farmer Jack’s farm.

So he sent in a report to the boss and the boss sent a couple more scouts to the town. It was important to locate this arsenal before he made his move. His men would be spread thin, and even one well-equipped militia might be able to bring down his entire plan to control the area.

The new men actually scouted the area behind Farmer Brown’s farm. They looked through the hills, but they didn’t find any weapons, nor did they find anywhere that weapons might have been stored, nor did they see a single person carrying weapons one way or another. Well, except for one hunter who was using his hunting bow to hunt deer. They thought the hunter hadn’t seen them. It was important that nobody realized they were looking for the arsenal. That would just make people start to believe they were planning something, and that would be dangerous.

Finally the boss decided to make his move. In order to make certain that everything was safe, they decided to send the majority of their troops to secure Farmer Jack and to close off the path to the arsenal. It wouldn’t do, after all, to let people go get weapons from there.

They swept across the farm, surrounded the house, and grabbed Farmer Jack. The captain in charge of the operation congratulated himself on his success. There wasn’t so much as an injury, provided one didn’t count Private Smythe, who had turned his ankle in a post hole in one of the fields.

Farmer Jack was an old man. The captain thought he might be 80 or 90 years old. “Where’s your arsenal?” he asked. “We want your arsenal!”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Farmer Jack.

The captain slapped him a couple of times, but one of his lieutenants pointed out that with such an old man, a slap might even be fatal. So they just told Farmer Jack that he might as well tell them, because they’d be there until they figured out where the arsenal was. They’d find it eventually, so why not make things easy?

But Farmer Jack seemed uninclined to make things easy. He just sat in his big living room chair and thought. In the meantime, the captain’s men made a thorough search of the area for the arsenal or for any path that might lead the the arsenal. They didn’t find anything that wasn’t part of the ordinary farm equipment.

But at least, thought the captain, nobody else could find it either.

Just after dark they heard the sound of horse’s hooves on the path leading to the house. Such men as weren’t still searching for the arsenal prepared to stop the approaching horses. But what met them was a knight on his horse and with him several men-at-arms. If they’d all been there, they might have stood up to him, but as it was, they had no chance. The men surrendered quickly, and it was only minutes before the knight was in the house with Farmer Jack.

Now the captain was sure there was an arsenal, cleverly hidden. What else would make an obviously well-off and well-equipped knight show up at one very old man’s farm?

“Your plan, and your boss’s plan is finished,” said the knight. “I and my brothers in arms have seen to that.”

There was a long pause. Finally the captain couldn’t stand it. “I have to know,” he said. “Where is the arsenal?”

“The arsenal?” said the knight.

“Yes. Our spies reported that Farmer Jack had quite an arsenal.”

The knight stood staring at the captain for a long time. Then he started to laugh. He laughed long and hard. Finally he got control of himself. “You think there’s an arsenal around here?” he asked.

The captain nodded.

“Well, I suppose there is,” He reached out to shake the captain’s hand. Meet Farmer Jack’s arsenal,” he said. “Well, part of it, at least.”

The captain looked blank.

“Yes, I suppose I’ll have to explain.” He paused a moment. “You see, Farmer Jack has been living here for a long time. None of us are quite sure how old he is. Twenty years ago his wife died, and since then he’s lived on his own. Well, except for one thing. Any child or young person could find a meal in Farmer Jack’s house. They could find a job on the farm. And if they’d hang around long enough, Farmer Jack would teach them to read and write and the basics of handling farm tools, and yes, weapons. He was once a sergeant in the king’s army. He had so many of them that people took to calling them Farmer Jack’s arsenal.”

The knight turned to Farmer Jack. “I take it the current crop is safe,” he said.

“They’re out in the hills,” said Farmer Jack. “That’s where I keep my arsenal when there’s trouble.”

The knight looked back at the captain who still looked confused. “Don’t you get it, man?” he asked. “Half the government officials from here to the king’s court once found shelter here at this farm. We don’t talk about it, because Farmer Jack doesn’t like us to. He’s says it’s just what someone who has something ought to do. And yes, I said ‘we’, because I too learned which end of a sword was which right out there in that yard.”

“People took to calling us Farmer Jack’s arsenal, not because we might help him, but because there were so many of us. But you heard me say he–and his good wife–taught us to read and write. Not one in ten people up in these hills can read and write. Not one in twenty know even the basics of using a sword. So when we left here most of us made good. We had the skills.”

“So we really didn’t need to go after this farm at all,” said the captain.

“Oh, it didn’t really matter,” said the knight. “Farmer Jack sent word to several of us a couple of weeks ago. The kids noticed your spies searching the hills and got suspicious.”

“They said nobody had noticed them.”

“Doubtless they never noticed the kids. Nobody ever does. But they were the arsenal, in more ways than one.”

(This story was written for and submitted to the one word at a time blog carnival – arsenal.)

September Christian Carnival

Christian CarnivalAccording to the host schedule, I’m to host the Christian Carnival for September. Please nominate posts for inclusion in the Carnival. You can nominate your own posts or those by others that you think are relevant. I’m planning to find some extras so we get a good cross-section of Christian thought in the blogosphere during the month of August. Any post written since the last carnival (August 1, 2012) is eligible for inclusion. So please head on over to the nifty submission form and submit a post.

Of Banning Apples

For once I’m going to contribute a non-fiction piece to the one word at a time blog carnival. Why would I do such an astonishing thing?
Well, when I saw the word, the first thing I remember was the apple ban.

So what, you ask, is an apple ban? Who could possibly ban apples? Are not apples truly wonderful fruit? Should they not be recommended, perhaps even commanded? (Well, unless you’re in the Garden of Eden as conceived by a medieval artist.)

This happened in 1971. Well, it actually happened earlier than that, but it impacted me in 1971 so, considering I was a teenager at the time, it didn’t really happen until it impacted me. That year, in the fall, I traveled with my parents to Guyana. As I’ve had to explain many times, that’s not Ghana (which is in western Africa), it’s Guyana, South America (which is also not South Africa). I specify all these things because, when I was living in Guyana, my mail sometimes went to those other places. Often it went to South Africa because somebody wrote “Guyana, S. A.” as the last line of the address, and human error proceeded apace.

After we moved to Guyana, my father was taken out of action for a period of time due to emergency surgery (a story in itself), and I got to explore the country alone. George Bernard Shaw said that the England and America are two nations separated by a common language. He was, perhaps, right, yet he would have been more right if he’d said this of America and Guyana. We’d been told that people in Guyana spoke English. They do. When they feel like it.

But normally they speak creolese, essentially an English based creole. Back in those days people tended to regard a creole as a sort of illiterate version of a major language. In fact, it’s a naturally developed language that results from mixing of parent languages. And, as with all languages, the ravages of time and the foibles of human beings.

Because of my father’s illness, I got to introduce myself to the country on my own. I got on the bus for downtown expecting to hear English, and I couldn’t understand a word that was said. When I talked to the bus driver in English, however, he spoke to me in English. I had to ask around in order to find out what was going on. Three years of life in beautiful (might I say gorgeous) Guyana, and visiting Americans couldn’t understand me any more, though I could switch to properly cultured English, as any of my Guyanese friends could as well.

So what does all this have to do with the apple ban? Well, very little, except that it was during this time that I learned about it. One of my friends informed me that the government had banned the import of apples. Now apples don’t grow in Guyana. Many other wonderful things grow there, but not apples. So apples had to be imported. And apples were a specialty at Christmas. One had to have one’s apples for Christmas.

The government’s point of view was that they had a balance of payments problem, and anything that wasn’t really necessary didn’t need to be imported. As a generally free trade oriented American–and at the age of 14 I already had many vigorous political opinions–I didn’t think much of this approach, but of course I didn’t have anything to say about it. And to be honest, except that some of my friends were feeling very deprived in that they couldn’t get apples for Christmas, I didn’t really miss them. Papayas, mangoes, pineapples, bananas, and many other wonderful fruits were quite adequate. One of the major benefits of living in Guyana for three years as a teenager is that I got to hear a very different perspective on political issues than I would have heard at home.

I don’t know how long the apple ban lasted. It was still in effect when I left the country. And therein is another story. In addition to banning certain imports, the government eventually decided to ban the transfer of actual currency. By closing off the exchange, Guyanese currency could not be exchanged overseas without government permission, but you also couldn’t get foreign currency in country. When you entered the country, your currency was counted, and you weren’t allowed to exit with any more currency than you brought with you.

We had entered the country before that law went into effect, so I could not take any U. S. currency out of the country with me. I often marvel at the things my parents accepted in my life. I wanted to leave before they did, so they got me the ticket, along with an Ameripass, which would allow me to travel anywhere in the United States by Greyhound bus for 30 days. They also arranged for me to go to the church offices in Miami after I landed and pick up some currency. I had to take a taxi, and I could only pay for it after I picked up the money.

I was 17 at the time. I’m sure my parents’ prayer life increased, but they let me go nonetheless.

Oh, by the way, there were apples in Miami. But after three years I wasn’t in an excessive hurry to eat them. And as I moved north, I started missing all those tropical fruits I had grown used to in Guyana. They weren’t banned, but they weren’t that easy to find.

 

Christian Carnival March 14, 2012

There were only a few submissions for the carnival this week, and since I’m busy with several forthcoming book releases, I didn’t come up with a wonderful theme. This is, of course, to assume that if I had the time I would come up with a wonderful theme! The same state of busyness leaves me with no post of my own, even from three blogs, to include.

I have still scattered a few random awards around, and I added a section titled “More!” to bring links to some posts that weren’t submitted, but that showed up in my reader feeds this week.

Next week’s host is Bible Archive, and you can submit your posts via the Christian Carnival submission form.

Apologetics

The Goodness Of Man And Animals from A Christian Worldview of Fiction by Rebecca LuElla Miller. A comparison of Mankind with animals at the level of morality undermines common beliefs about who Mankind is. Excerpt: Our culture increasingly says openly, Man is good. Hence, we should simply give in to our instincts — as long as we do no harm to others. How interesting that the animals have no such exception clause. They can do harm to others with impunity.

Apologetics Daily from the Christian Apologetics Alliance via Maryann Spikes. This is a new page containing feeds from Christian Apologetics Alliance blogs. The most recent post from each blog is displayed in a list as an on-line magazine, updated as often as the bloggers post.

For example, one post linked when I checked the page discusses animal death and makes a theological argument for young earth creationism. There’s a need for more discussion of the theological implications of each position on the origins question.

Other

Modesty-Your Spiritual Act of Worship Part 3 from INSPIKS by Fadi. In Christianity, sin is not a line that we cross, or an edge we fall off. The Bible says that adultery is not only an action but an attitude of the mind, ie: lust. Long and thorough post award.

Theology

Monergism, Synergism, and God’s Image, 2 of 2 from Theological Pursuit by Carl Ayers. Are we saved or justified on account of faith alone? Is there any sense in which we are saved or justified on account of works? What does being created in God’s Image have to do with it? I answer “Yes” to the first two questions and explain the third.

This one gets the “digging into theology” award!

How to Pray to God from Prayers for Special Help by Cindy Brandon. Many people ask about how to best pray to God. There is no correct answer of course, but we can use the Lord’s prayer as a great template for those new to prayer. 🙂

And to this, the “keeping it simple” award!

Poetry

Fellowship from Windows to the Woman’s Soul by Kaleb. Two ships out to sea by the will of their Maker
One just a novice, one a skilled traveler
Cross paths to dock on common ground
An odd pair, yet fellowship each found…

This one’s supposed to be for women, but I give it the “do some more of this” award. I’d love to see more poetry submissions.

Devotional

How do I discern God’s will for my life? Step one: Shut up. from Zowada Blog by Matt Zowada. So many times we ask God about His will, without first seeking the book where He disclosed it. Yep – practical stuff!

21 Great Mother Teresa Quotes from What Christians Want To Know by Pam submitted by Josh. Many times Mother Teresa said just a few words, but whatever she said, you can believe it was a very thoughtful saying.

Grasshopper Minds from Ridge’s Blogby Ridge Burns submitted by Shannon Christman. If there’s a discipline that oftentimes we lack in our whole lives, it’s to really, seriously concentrate and really, seriously humble ourselves in the presence of God.

“Have You Seen My David?” from InFaith’s Mission Blog by John Hoover. Moving through the nursing home today, I ran into Herb. He’s a tall eighty-something former engineer with no hair, a ball cap, and a booming voice. All throughout my visiting time today, he kept wheeling up and down the hallways saying, ‘Have you seen my David? Have you seen my David?’

Clearly deserves the “most haunting question” award, and another one for making a deep point with very few words.

More!

I Am Different by my wife Jody Neufeld from her Devotional blog. How much does Christ shine from your life. How much of you is there?

I saw camels dancing on Satan’s grave from the misnamed Phil’s Boring Blog. Some of the language, the humor, and the references may offend you, but I confess I haven’t enjoyed reading something this much in a long time. Hint: Be sure you follow the link before you get upset about God not existing.

Allan Bevere has some random thoughts starting with the number of people who will miss worship because they arrive late afterward. What does he think we should do about it? Read and see!

How could you miss a post titled Luther, Erasmus and Bondage? It’s by Joel Watts on his Unsettled Christianity Blog.

Bob Cornwall reflects on the murder of 16 civilians in Afghanistan.

From Science and Religion: A View from an Evolutionary Creationist we learn that the American Scientific Affiliation has started a new magazine titled God and Nature Magazine.

Roger Olson responds to John Piper on God and tornadoes.

Alan Knox thinks there’s more “togetherness” in the gospel than many of us realize.

Arthur Sido discusses Unity as a Witness. Or Not!