MAY 24, 2001
On Thursday, May 24, 2001 I was taking a group of bankers and an appraiser on a boat ride around the Wilderness Cathedral in my efforts to refinance the Hurwitz note at a better rate.
As we arrived at the place where the eagle joined us last week we saw a small clearing with three tents pitched on the shore. As I had not given permission to anyone to set up a camp I knew whoever set up the camp had to be poachers and were certainly trespassers.
San Jacinto County has long been recognized as basically a lawless place where released convicts set up residence and where people of the baser levels of our civilization reside at places nearby with names like Outlaw Ridge and Hawg Heaven.
The next day I gassed up the boat and took it around to see if the camp was still there so that our game wardens could let them know that they shouldn't be camping there without permission. When I passed by I saw 5 men on the shore. Not wanting to get too close without anyone around, even though I had taken my pistol with me just in case, I called our game wardens to describe the exact location of the camp.
I looked at the men through my binoculars and my suspicions seemed confirmed. They looked as if they had stepped out of a "Deliverance" movie. I called Steve, the man who keeps the poachers at bay, on my cell phone to warn him to be careful and call the State Game Wardens for backup because the last time a group like this had shown up at the other end of our property there was a fight with guns and knives and the whole gang either had criminal records or were fugitives.
Andrew was having a small party for his Academic Challenge Team at the lake house and wanted me to take the group out to see the sunset so I headed back. As I rounded the bend I spotted an old boat with three men paddling. The "Good Samaritan" in me told me to make sure they were ok and didn't need help. As I got close enough to see the men in the boat, my hand went down to check for my pistol. They looked like stranded pirates! They said that the propeller fell of their boat motor in the middle of the lake and would be most grateful for a tow. I expected that they lived across the lake in Hawg Heaven and was shocked to learn that they wanted to be towed to the trespasser's camp. My elementary math skills told me that five men plus three men equals eight men and then my mind flashed back to the scene in "Deliverance" where the city boy was tied to the tree and forced to squeal like a pig.
My cell phone rang. It was Steve who had called the State Game Wardens as backups and they were on their way. I said Steve, "Remember 'Deliverance'? Well there are eight of them and I am heading into their camp. This may be the last time you hear from me.
As we neared the shore, the five men came up to the bank to help tie off the boats. For some reason I suddenly felt calm and at ease in their presence and scolded the men on shore for sending the others in the boat out without a propeller, in my best East Texas dialect: "How come you boys to send these poor fellers out in the middle of the river in a broke down boat so that they have to row back to shore?" "That ain't very nice of you."
I could have left without going on shore but I felt compelled to make friends with these men and find out who they were, who told them they could camp there, where they were from. They said they had been camping on that spot for nearly 30 years and called of a long list of name I had never heard of indicating all of the succession of people who had allegedly given them permission to camp. I said, "Well a church bought this place and made it holy ground. It's now the Holy Trinity Wilderness Cathedral and every part of it is sanctified as an important part of God's Creation."
They listened intently and then one asked, "Does that mean we have to break camp and leave tonight?" I replied, "Well that depends. I hate to throw you off tonight but the game wardens are on their way 'cause I didn't have enough bullets in my gun to shoot all of you and feed you to the gators."
At that moment I looked beyond the men standing in front of me and saw that one of the men was kneeling in front of a rough slab of cement with a vase of flowers at one side of it. The cement had writing scrawled on it. I walked over to the man. He looked up at me with tears on his eyes and said, "I really wanted to be able to spend some more time here with my momma--she's buried here--her ashes that is." A bearded man with tattoos on his chest, said, "That's right, we sprinkled his momma's ashes here just last April--she was my wife--and that feller over there is my daddy--and this feller is my brother-in-law", he continued while introducing me to the others by gesturing with his hand.
Immediately my mind raced back to the previous week and to the eagle which had flown over this exact spot and to our discussions about how Wilderness Cathedrals could serve as the final resting places for the ashes of those souls who's spirits were in unity with the spirit of God in Creation, and I described our conference and what we were trying to accomplish in reuniting the human spirit with the spirit of God as reflected in His Creation. I then asked them to tell me their story. It was the husband of the deceased who spoke. His story went like this.
"Fer thirty years we have been coming to this spot to fish. Momma always come with us. When it was time to go home she would always beg to stay longer or fer us to jus' leave her here 'cause it was so purty. She loved this place so much that she made us promise to bring her here when she died so that she could always be here with the trees and the flowers and the birds and the animals that made her happy."
"When we brung her ashes here last April after she died from the cancer, it was the most amazing thing--we looked up in the sky and we saw the most beautiful clouds and then they opened up and it looked like a stairway to heaven."
I recalled my experience with the clouds at the Wilderness Cathedral last summer and told them that there must be a reason that we had met in this way.
I said, "Well brothers, it looks as if you do indeed belong on this sacred ground. We will consecrate this spot as your family cemetery and when your time comes to return to the promised land your ashes can be brought here to be with those of your wife and mother and sister-in-law and daughter-in-law", I continued as I looked at each of the relatives.
With tears welling up in his celestial eyes, the father asked, "Does that mean I can be here with momma when I die"? I replied in the affirmative but added, "There are conditions and rules which you must follow." "Only immediate family members and their guests may camp and fish here. You must become Deacons in the Ethician Church and vow to work toward the protection and preservation of God's Creation and if you win the lottery you must help pay of the debt on the Wilderness Cathedral."
They all vowed that they would and then started telling me about all the animals they had seen and how much they loved them including a water moccasin, an alligator and even how beautiful a coral snake they had seen at the campsite was.
I anointed them all as Deacons, shook their hands, and went to the lake house to pick up Andrew and his friends. We then went out into the lake where we enjoyed an extremely beautiful sunset.
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