Last night I was sitting in a football stadium overlooking a trillion colors of leaves on the first ridge of the Appalachian mountains just beyond the stadium, where the high school football teams from two little, next to one another, towns in rural Pennsylvania were playing the most important game of the year; The LBJ – the Little Brown Jug – an ultimate, yearly, rivals contest to win the old ceramic whiskey jug. The place was electric, the crowds at capacity, a total uproar, with towns small enough it felt like you knew everyone in the stands.
This morning I stood in a warm kitchen with my sons layering up in our hunting clothes, jumped in our pickup truck where we drove 3 miles to the Blue Ridge Mountains to publicly owned land where it was perfectly legal for us to climb the mountain with our perfectly legally owned high power rifles to perfectly legally hunt wild deer. (All things very much more difficult to do in most of the world). What a day looking over what the mast crop means this year, how much sign was on the ground, what sassafras is and tastes like, how to tell if the deer have been browsing an area, what the squirrels were eating this time of the season. The excitement of the running shot our youngest son took at a good doe that came through a zillion miles per hour was simply icing.
And this afternoon I just returned from that same football stadium after dropping that son off for a pre-game practice where we will soon watch him play (three leagues the younger) the little little little Little Brown Jug. I crossed the rolling farm country hills of the Cumberland Valley in between the mountains; corn crops being harvested, dairy herds moving together toward the milking barns, 150 year old barns and farm houses everywhere, October clouds racing across the sky and over the mountains.
When people were imaging a life of abundance and freedom in America 250 years ago and more, it sure seems to me the life we have here in these little towns is sure that. The people I live among here think this is the greatest place ever. The crowd I run with theologically more often has a dis-appreciation for America and its place in the world, and the injustices that still occur in this land.
But, I, on this perfect Fall day in between the mountains of Pennsylvania, perhaps made bitter sweet by the prospect of leaving the U.S. for a career change, I love America. And when we stand for the National Anthem tonight, my heart will be full of many thanks.