Living in God’s Country

Two campers with gear hiking through Bear Moun...

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With a title like the one that I have chosen, I might just be leading you astray… a least a little bit.  Maybe not.  Your thoughts on what God’s country is could very well be what I am thinking about right now.  Likewise, they could be very different.  But even so, I still understand why you would think that.

Many people in the United States, especially during the first half of the month of July, refer to the whole country as God’s country.  There is a feeling of patriotism, loyalty, and superiority that bring along an attitude of this land being divinely set apart to be a land above all others.  For other people, those feelings of patriotism and superiority last all year long.

I’m not saying that people feeling that way are wrong.  In fact, I share in those feelings.  But that is not what I am focusing my topic on today.

I have travelled all over the United States.  In pretty much every place I have been I have met people that love their hometown (or some location not far from their hometown) so much that they refer to it as God’s country.  I take that back.  Even on my trips to southern California or the New York City area there has been someone that has referred another area of the state as God’s country because it is so beautiful.  They don’t say it about anywhere in SoCal or NYC, but I have heard it said about the upstate areas of those two states.

Montana is where I hear it the most.  And I think I have to agree more with those folks than with others.  Have you been to Montana?  Specifically, have you been in the western half of Montana?  That is some great looking real estate.  Let me clarify… If you like wide open places with mountains and valleys and a cowboy feel to them, Montana has some great looking real estate.

But so do Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and Nevada… all for the same reasons.

If you have been to Hawaii, you might think of it as God’s country.  Well, maybe if you worship the Sun god, or the Sea god.  Maybe it is because you are a guy and worship the Hawaiian Tropic goddesses.  But I won’t count Hawaii right now (even though I have been to Maui and thought it was beautiful) because it isn’t part of the 48 contiguous states.  And for the same reason, Alaska isn’t included.  If someone wants to send me on an all-expense paid trip to Alaska so that I can experience the state, I will be glad to add it to my list.

I live in Utah.  I have lived in Utah my whole life, minus two years that I lived in Brazil, and 18 months that I lived in Houston, Texas.  Tomorrow I will be going on a backpacking trip in some of Utah’s mountains.  I will be going camping in God’s country.

I enjoy the mountains.  If I could buy one, build a cabin and live there for the rest of my life, I would be in heaven… or at least a little closer than the rest of you (hello, the elevation difference alone put’s me closer to heaven). For me, camping in the mountains is the most enjoyable way for me to enjoy all of God’s earthly creations.  There is flora and fauna (I still remember the term from my 4th grade Utah History class), there is clean air, and other than the sounds of nature, there is quiet.  To me, this is the place where I can feel more at one with God, where I am more in tune with Him, where I can feel more of His influence and watchful eye.

From a religious point of view, mountains are sacred ground to me.  And they must be sacred to God too because of how much he used them while interacting with man.  For example, Moses went up onto a mountain and received the Ten Commandments.  Abraham was told to go up onto the mountain to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Mountains were an integral part of religious teachings as shown in the Old Testament.

I will be going on this hike with five other adults and six teenage boys.  My son is one of them.  The fact that there are teenage boys coming along may cause it to not be as serene as it could have been, but this campout is for them.  They will get to experience something that not many teenagers get to experience.  It will be good for them.  It will be good for me to be with them.

If you don’t have mountains near where you live, find a place where you can experience the tranquility that the back country wilderness can give you.  Spend some time and rid yourself of stresses that come from life.  Try to become a little more attached to nature.  Get yourself away to your own version of “God’s country”.  It will do you some good.  And if you want to load a fifty pound pack on your back, camp out for four days, and do it with a teenage boy, you will get an even different point of view about life.  I just hope it is a good one.  As for me, I will enjoy this opportunity.  And when I get back, I may just write a travelogue and let you know what you missed… or have to look forward to.

Just another view from a Palmtree.

News that we almost missed…

Have you ever read the Odds & Ends news stories in your local newspaper or on the local TV stations website? These news stories (and I use the term “news” loosely, but they are definitely stories) are some of the best entertainment you could possibly read each day. I don’t want anyone to miss them, so I decided to write about some items I recently came across. After all, they are news-worthy events and we will all be better people for knowing about them.

Take for example the story out of South Africa regarding sushi. First of all, is sushi common in South Africa? I thought bugs and wildebeests were the common food there. Maybe that is their type of sushi. “Yes, I would like to order the grub roll with wild boar sashimi. Oh, and some larvae paste on the side.” I just can’t picture it.

Fortunately, that is not what the article was about. No, instead the article was about an announcement made by the governing party of South Africa. The announcement made it clear to everyone: eating sushi off the body of a model in a bikini is politically incorrect. Really? I can’t tell you how many times I have been to a Japanese restaurant and ordered a few California rolls with some yellow-fin tuna and salmon only to have it delivered on the belly of a bikini model. I thought this was common all over the world. Well, I guess there was the one restaurant that I didn’t have that happen at. They didn’t need to deliver it on a bikini model…instead of tables they just had the bikini model lay down between the booth seats and when they brought the food out on trays, they just transferred it to her body. But I stopped going to that restaurant when the booth I got was furnished with the 400 pound bearded lady. She was moonlighting from the circus.

Not to worry, after dining there, and getting sickened (for obvious reasons…I don’t think the fish was fresh that day), I decided to take a drive to Wyoming because I had to try out a burger joint that I heard about. What…doesn’t everyone go to Wyoming to try out new burger joints? They have buffalo in Wyoming, and those make the best burgers. You should try it.

Anyway, back to the subject. Rulon Gardner, you know, the gold medalist from the 2000 Olympic Games for Greco-Roman Wrestling, well he has used his fame (and the money he got from his pawned-off gold medal) to open a burger joint. And since it is in Wyoming, he aptly named it the Burger Barn. Well, apparently winning the gold medal wasn’t everything…he wanted to outdo himself. So what did he choose to do? Double his weight. He went from 265 lbs. in 2000 all the way up to 474 lbs. in just six years. And how did he do it you say? Eating at the Burger Barn.

I don’t blame him for wanting to eat there. First of all it is in Afton, the heart of Star Valley, one of the most beautiful places on earth. You might actually forget to eat your food because of all the wondrous beauty you have to look at. But Rulon didn’t. Fact is he owns the restaurant and he loves his restaurant so much he created a burger named after himself…the Rulon Burger. Rulon is a big guy, mind you, so the burger has to be big too. But this isn’t your normal, run-of-the-mill, double-cheese burger. Nope, this thing is the whole cow ground into six patties.

The thing I like about this story is that it mentions how unselfish he really is. He wants to share his high cholesterol with you and anyone you would like to see dead. Just eat one of these 24 oz. burgers with a basket of fries and a 44 oz. soda and you could win a free trip to the morgue. But at least you get to go out of this life with an autographed “Rulon Gardner Olympic Champion” t-shirt and your name on the Gardner’s Wall of Fame. If you forget to tell him your name before you die, don’t worry, he will just post the obituary.

Now I know why he is competing on the Biggest Loser. Next thing we know, those Rulon Burgers will contain ground turkey. There will still be six patties, comprised of a couple dozen ground toms, but it will be healthier, especially when you eat that basket of baked-not-fried fries. Don’t forget the diet soda.

Before you start to devour that meal, you need to make your funeral preparations well known. If you want to be cremated, make sure everyone knows not to take you to the funeral home in Utah that caught fire earlier today. They can still take care of the funeral, just not a cremation. Why? Because it was the crematorium building that caught fire. I have to tell you, the headline definitely caught my eye. In fact, there is a bit of irony in a crematorium catching fire. I started to think of all the funny things that I could write just on that one subject. But I choose not to at this moment because there was damage done to a business that now has to recover, and it won’t be cheap I am sure.

Plus, somebody could have been burned in that building. Oh wait, that is what was going on. It was the previous patron from the Burger Barn. The fire jumped from the furnace to the walls because of a few grease splatters from those six patties.

I guess that teaches us a lesson: wildebeest sushi with a side of larvae paste may be the best thing for us.

Just another view from a Palmtree.