It has been quite some time since we gave you an update on progress at Duck River. For the uninitiated, Duck River Ranch is a property about an hour north of Birmingham, Alabama. We have been developing it for more than a year. (You can read the introductory blog here.) During that time, bulldozers have crawled the property on a kind of search and destroy mission, contractors have come and gone regularly, and little by little a vision has taken shape.
Yes, there is a vision.
Our goal at Duck River is ministerial, and it is this: once you pass the wrought iron gates and travel down the almost mile-long driveway, that you find yourself in a place of peace, beauty, and safety, sheltered, if only for a little while, from a brutal world. Lauri and I enjoy providing hospitality for others, and Duck River is our modest effort to do just that. In time – if we don’t give up first! – the ranch will be used to host Fixed Point Foundation events. Indeed, it is already being used to that end on a small scale.
In the months since my last report, a guest cabin has been constructed; a driveway laid; trails developed throughout the acreage; water lines run (boring, but a necessity); old buildings demolished and burned; and rodents, marsupials, and Cingulata killed by the score.
This last bit has been partly annoyance and partly knee-slapping fun. When we took possession of the ranch, which had been unoccupied for three years, rats and mice had made themselves quite at home. Borrowing some rat poison from Nick Saban, we wiped out enough of these disgusting creatures to circle the earth at the equator. We then formed hunting parties (the fun part) to flush out opossum (marsupials, I have discovered), armadillos (Cingulata), and skunks (Mephitidae).
This consists of arming people with .22 rifles, loading them into a side-by-side (or UTV if you prefer), and driving through the fields at night while someone uses a spotlight to locate these pesky critters. Yes, mine is a life full of such glamourous things as television, radio, writing books, traveling to romantic and adventurous destinations, and hunting rural Alabama like Jed Clampett.
Why kill them? If you ever live in the rural South, you’ll soon dispense with Disney’s quaint notions of the circle of life and want to strap on a flamethrower instead. Trust me. So troublesome are these pests – and a danger to our horses with the holes they dig – that I have at times wanted to go full Carl (Bill Murray) in Caddyshack or Lieutenant Col. Bill Kilgore (Robert Duvall) in Apocalypse Now. One of these days, I’ll wake up and say, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning … it’s the smell of victory.” (Some of you will get these references. Others will simply roll their eyes. Please indulge those of us with sophomoric humor momentarily.)
We thought we were winning this war when a skunk carpet-bombed our German shepherd Ranger and our cars a few weeks ago. (It’s a long story.) Ever tried to get rid of the smell of skunk? Impossible. We have tried everything from professional detailing and special shampoos to vinegar and tomato juice. Useless. When the Lord set out to make something stink, by golly, he knew how to do it.
On a serious note, no sooner did we complete the cabin than it was immediately occupied by Nigerian bishop Jwan Zhumbes. This was not our intention nor was it his. As many of you will know, we brought him to the United States for a brief visit to speak on the issue of persecution. Well, it turned out that he had stomach cancer. That was five months ago. He has been with us ever since while he receives chemotherapy treatment. So, it seems the Lord had a plan for that cabin.
Projects like this one are alternately rewarding and stressful, and we are at a time in our lives where we are looking for less stress, not more. Even so, we have plans for the continued development of Duck River Ranch, and so long as we find the project enjoyable, we will press on. No, our humble 43-acre ranch is neither Dallas’s Southfork nor is it Bonanza’s Ponderosa – man, I am dating myself here – but, napalm aside, it is a place of peace and beauty, and we figure the world needs a few more havens like it.
Once Duck River Ranch is further along in its development, we hope to host many of you there.
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