Tag Archives: must read

Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every Turn by Melanie Shankle

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9781414371719_p0_v1_s260x420 (1)“Every mother knows the reason Robert Frost took the road less traveled is because he wasn’t traveling with children who needed to go to the bathroom every thirty minutes. Otherwise he would have taken the road paved with McDonald’s and truck stops with restrooms, covered by antibacterial hand soap and prayer. And that would have made all the difference.” –Melanie Shankle

The thing about parenting is that it is simultaneously the same and drastically different for everybody. Whether you have boys or girls or both. Lots of children or only one. There are things that are the same straight across the board. There are difficulties and joys, and we as Moms love to share both. We want to tell you all about our experiences, and in turn we want to hear just how you have handled the situations you have found yourself in. Reading Sparkly Green Earrings feels like you are just sitting down with Melanie and having a conversation about your day. Of course you don’t get to say anything, and the day in question actually lasts a few years. But it’s the kind of conversation we all need to have every now and then. The kind that makes you laugh. Not the mean kind where you’re  laughing at someone, but fun kind where you shake your head and say, “Oh man, I remember that!”

This is my favorite kind of parenting book. It’s not a list of rules and how to’s. There is no magic formula for having perfect children. It is just a simple story of one woman’s journey. She is willing to sit down with you (ok… she sat down a while ago… now it’s your turn to sit) and share the things she has learned as she parented her daughter through her first eight years of life. It is full of the honesty we expect and appreciate these days. Then, while you’re still holding your sides, and trying not to laugh so loud you wake the baby next to you, she drops a little revelation on you. Something about looking at your children through the eyes of their creator, or seeing yourself as you really are, or finding the meaning of grace and love and mercy simply by holding your newly born baby that very first time.

“We like to believe they are better versions of us, but the truth is, they are us. They are full of our selfishness and impulsiveness and pettiness. They want things to go their way just like we do, and they scream and yell and throw things when it doesn’t work out. The only difference between them and us is what my grandma would refer to as ‘home training.’

God gives us these raw little people, and we have to form them and mold them and teach them how to operate in society. And if we get a glimpse of all the ugliness that lies right beneath our own polished surface? Well, then, there’s a humbling lesson too. It’s those moments when I realize I have to extend grace to Caroline as she figures these things out by trial and error in the same way God lavishes me with mercy, even as I make the same mistakes over and over again.”

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Galloway by Louis L’Amour

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“There’s a saying that when guns are outlawed, only the outlaws will have guns.” -Flagan Sackett

It’s the kind of statement we’ve heard in our lifetimes too, isn’t it? Something I have learned from reading the Sackett  books is that the hearts of men don’t change. As Solomon once said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” No matter what the customs, or laws of the land are, there will always be men who stand firmly on the side of right, and there will be men whose thoughts and actions are motivated by evil. I have loved that L’Amour recognizes that and has touched on it in each of his books. As he recalls the relationships between groups of people, he comments on the fact that neither side is blameless in their treatment of each other. That the actions of men committed to honesty and fairness are undermined by those motivated by personal gain or malice.

This book has Flagan Sackett escaping from a group of Jicarilla Apaches. He is captured by them and tied up, awaiting torture. But, while he lays there looking for escape, he doesn’t hate the men holding him. He simply understands his situation as part of their culture. The Apaches had such respect for strength and courage that they would test the men they captured through torture to see how strong they really were. I know that I have not explained well the mind of an Apache warrior, but I also know that I do not have the capacity to explain it to you. I suggest that you read L’Amour’s books, and find a love for a people group that have historically been feared, resented, and guiltily pushed to the backs of our minds.

So, back to Flagan. He manages to escape the Apaches, but is unfortunately naked when he does so. To us, this sounds embarrassing. To a man alone in the mountains, naked is dangerous. It means no warmth, no protection for feet from sharp rocks, and no weapons for protection or for killing some much needed meat. But, as Galloway said, “We Sacketts don’t die easy, and Flagan is a tough man. He’s been up the creek and over the mountain. He’s fit Comanches and Arapahoes on the buffalo plains, and about ever’ kind of man or animal. He’s a tough man.” He makes it back to civilization, while on the way making enemies with Curly Dunn, a man whose actions can not be classified as pure.

“You’d better be careful. The Dunns will think you’re crowding them.’

‘It’s open range and there’s enough for all.’

‘That isn’t what they think, Mr. Sackett. There are six of the Dunn boys, and there’s their pa, and they’ve a dozen or more men who ride for them.’

‘Well, there’s two of us Sacketts. That should make it work out about right. Of course, if need be, there’s a lot of us scattered around and we set store by our kinfolk.”

I love when a group of Sacketts come together. And this book has a great group. Logan and Parmalee join Flagan and Galloway in the fun and the fighting. Even with all the commonalities that the Sacketts share, there are so many ways in which they differ. Throw in a couple friends and you’ve got a crowd of characters matched by none, with conversations that can’t be beat. “We don’t have so many words as you,’ I told him, ‘so we have to make those we have stand up and do tricks. I never figured language was any stone-cold thing anyway. It’s to provide meaning, to tell other folks what you have in mind, and there’s no reason why if a man is short a word he can’t invent one. When we speak of beans that have been shelled out of the pod we call ’em shuck-beans, because they’ve been shucked. It’s simple, if you look at it.’

‘Learning,’ Galloway added, ‘isn’t only schoolin’. It’s looking, listening and making-do. If a man doesn’t have much or if he’s in wild country he’d better get himself to contemplate and contrive. Pa always taught us to set down and contemplate, take our problem and wrassel with it until there’s an answer.’ Pa taught them well, and that’s just what they did. And you are going to enjoy reading all about it. Well, if you’re anything like me, you will.

The Skyliners by Louis L’Amour

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The Skyliners starts out with quite the show. We meet Flagan and Galloway Sackett on their way into a town. And this is our introduction to them: “We were fairly out in the middle of the street when hoofs began to pound and a passel of folks a-horseback came charging up, all armed and loaded for feudin’ or bear fightin’. Folks went high-tailing it for shelter when they saw those riders coming, but we were right out in the middle of the street and of no mind to run. They came a-tearing down upon us and one of them taken a cut at me with a quirt, yelling, “Get outen the street!” Well, I just naturally reached up and grabbed a hold on that quirt, and most things I lay a hand to will move. He had a loop around his wrist and couldn’t let go if he was a mind to, so I just jerked and he left that saddle a-flying and landed in the dust. The rest of them, they reined around, of a mind to see some fun.” Of course, the fun they had in mind was to see their guy whip “a pair of green mountain boys putting on a show.” But, it didn’t take long for someone to recognize them as Sacketts and they decided that two Sacketts with Winchesters in hand were not something they wanted to take on while their guns were holstered. So, they drop their guns and prepare to leave with thoughts of coming back to even the score another day. And here is, possibly, my favorite part of the book. “They did as ordered, but Galloway is never one to let things be. He’s got a hankering for the fringe around the edges. “Now, Gentlemen and Fellow-Sinners, you have come this day within the shadow of the valley. It is well for each and everyone of us to recall how weak is the flesh, how close we stand to Judgment, so you will all join me in singing “Rock of Ages.”

He gestured to Black Fetchen. “You will lead the singing, and I hope you are in fine voice.”

“You’re crazy!”

“Maybe,” Galloway agreed, “but I want to hear you loud and clear. You got until I count three to start, and you better make sure they all join in.”

“Like hell!” Tory was seventeen, and he was itching to prove himself as tough as he thought he was… or as tough as he wanted others to think he was.

Galloway fired, and that bullet whipped Tory’s hat from his head and notched his ear. “Sing, damn you!” Galloway said; and brother, they sang.

I’ll say this for them, they had good strong voices and they knew the words. Up in the mountains the folks are strong on goin’ to meetin’, and these boys knew all the words. We heard it clear: “Rock of ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in thee.”

“Now you all turn around,” Galloway advised, “and ride slow out of town. I want all these good people to know you ain’t bad boys- just sort of rambunctious when there’s nobody about to discipline you a mite.”

Oh man, but I was laughing when I read that! Of course, as I copy it now, and am not startled into laughter by the comedy of it all, I am reminded of another thing that I love about the Sackett books. Even Black Fetchen and his boys know the words to the old hymns. Their Mamas dragged them into church when they were little. Of course, everybody has the chance to make his own choices about who they will follow and serve, but I love thinking about the fact that they were given all the details they needed to make an informed choice.

As you can imagine, they didn’t make any friends with the Fetchens that day, and they end up crossing paths with them again and again throughout the book. They drive cattle across the country, pick up a young lady to escort to her father, and fend off the Fetchens with the same relaxed attitude toward danger that all the Sacketts possess. This one is a fun book to read. Galloway and Flagan are such interesting guys. I’d love to hang out with them of an afternoon. Also, it was great to hear how one Sackett describes another. Since Flagan narrates the book, all descriptions of Galloway come from his thoughts, such as this one, “He was a soft-talking man, but he was tough, and so rough he wore out his clothes from the inside first.” It makes me laugh every time I read it!

But, as is true with all the Sackett books, funny is not all there is to it, there’s thoughtfulness and reflection and loyalty. To remind you of that, I leave you with this last thought.

“We had come a far piece into a strange land, a trail lit by lonely campfires and by gunfire, and the wishing we did by day and by night. Now we rode back to plant roots in the land, and with luck, to leave sons to carry on a more peaceful life, in what we hoped would be a more peaceful world.

But whatever was to come, our sons would be Sacketts, and they would do what had to be done whenever the call would come.”

The Sackett Brand by Louis L’Amour

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“For a hundred years my family had told stories of Sacketts

who came running to help Sacketts, often men they had never known.

It was the way of our kind, the way of the hills in which we were bred.”

-William Tell Sackett.

This book has the largest gathering of Sacketts ever seen. Unfortunately, it is because one of their own is in trouble. In the beginning of the book, Tell is out scouting the land when he is shot. He falls down a cliff into a river and is able to escape the men hunting him. Then he returns to his camp to find his wife Ange, their wagon and all of their gear missing. He knows he is in the right place, but there is no sign that the wagon was ever there. This leads him to the conclusion that an evil act is being covered by the guilty conscience of a man. Sadly, he is right.

Then, he searches for his wife, for the truth, and for the man responsible. When he finds his wife, the truth is revealed, and the man responsible receives the full weight of his anger. There are obstacles, however, as 40 hired guns are brought in to kill Tell thereby silencing him. But, these men have never been in a fight with a Sackett and very badly underestimate him. As all the Sacketts are coming into town, one of them comments, “‘He couldn’t be so ornery. Not even a Sackett could be so down-right ornery. He don’t dare let us be late.’ ‘Ornery?’ ‘He couldn’t be so ornery as to kill all forty of ’em before we get there.'” Only a group of Sacketts would worry about one guy finishing off 40 others before they could get in there to help. As Tell said, “None of us Sacketts were ever much on missing out on a fight. It was just in us to step in and let fly.”

This book has such a sad story. The beginning just breaks your heart, but the fighting and the “all-in relational aspect” that is the trademark of the Sackett line makes you forget about the sadness and really enjoy the story. As I look back over the book, I am realizing that it is so sad, and I am trying to figure out why I thought the book was so good and fun. Before you judge me for so thoroughly enjoying a book with such a tragic beginning, read it for yourself, you’ll see what I mean. My best explanation is this. That in the end what you’re left with is what we are all really longing for. A large family that loves you so much they will drop everything, risk what is most important, and run, not walk to join you when you most need them. Someone who loves you so much that they will search every dangerous path to find you. Who will then stand strong against your enemies until they are defeated. Unconditional love. These are the things you will remember from this book. And I can tell you that you will enjoy it. A lot.

Mojave Crossing by Louis L’Amour

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“Every man is born with death in him,” I said. “It’s only a matter of time.” -William Tell Sackett

Mojave Crossing is another William Tell Sackett book. This book finds him escorting a beautiful woman across the Mojave desert. She is running from some sort of trouble, and he can never quite shake his first image of her when he describes her as a black eyed witch. Not that he’s being especially unkind, he just sees some sort of ulterior motive in a beautiful woman who sets her sights on a “big raw-boned mountain boy, rougher than a cob and standing six feet three inches in my socks, with hands and shoulders fit to wrassle mustang broncs or ornery steers, but no hand with womenfolks.” As with all Sackett books, this one is filled with a host of colorful characters. Good guys and bad guys alike fill the pages nicely.

At one point, Tell stumbles into an outlaw camp. He is invited to come in and have a bite. One of the guys around the fire is teasing him, and he replies, “You just stack your duds and grease your skids and I’ll whup you down to a frazzle… After I’ve been fed.” I love a character who is sure enough of himself to jump into a teasing conversation in any crowd. Tell is an honest man who has the look of one who can, and will take care of business. As such, he is accepted into almost any crowd without having to change his character. Only those who directly cross him don’t enjoy being with him.

When he does get mad, you don’t want to be the one to have caused it. He says, “Until then I hadn’t been mad, for we Sacketts, man and boy, are slow to anger, but when we come to it we are a fierce and awful people. Another thing Pa had taught us boys was that anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before- it takes something from him.” Oh that Pa was a wise man. I bet when you heard that anger is a killing thing you immediately thought of the person who had angered Tell, possibly with pity. But, he is talking about himself. He is warning us of the dangers to our own hearts if we walk around getting angry all the time.

There is enough mystery in this book that I don’t want to tell you too much about the actual story because it will possibly reveal things that are more fun discovered as L’Amour intended you to learn them. Just know that I really liked this book and I think you will too.

We meet Nolan Sackett here and I’m hoping he has his own book somewhere down the line. He could be fun.

Sackett by Louis L’Amour

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Sackett tells the story of William Tell Sackett. He showed up just briefly in The Daybreakers and I was excited to meet him because I had heard that he was some people’s favorite Sackett. But, we didn’t really get to know him until this book. And let me tell you, it was worth the wait.

On his way home one day, Tell comes upon a string of old markers that lead him to a gold mine. An actual gold mine, not the figure of speech we use today. It is hidden in a hard to reach valley and requires skill and daring to bring the gold out. Lucky for him, he was born a Sackett and skill and daring are something they have plenty of. While he’s in the valley, he gets a deer and hangs it in a tree overnight. When he comes out in the morning, most of the meat is gone. His response is this, “Hanging the meat up again, I went out and killed and dressed another buck. I hung it in a tree also, and rode away. I wanted nobody going hungry where I could lend a hand. Whoever or whatever it was would have meat as long as that buck lasted.” If only we as people could actually live this way. Instead of getting angry when we are wronged, understanding that the person on the other end may actually need more help that he is able to ask for. And then, giving that help where we are able. In this case, the person needing help ended up to be a beautiful young woman, who, in the end agrees to marry Tell.

I always enjoy L’Amour’s depictions of parents. They come to us through the lens of childhood memories, and they are loving and respectful. Here Tell speaks of his father, “At hunting time Pa doled out the ca’tridges and of an evening he would check our game, and for every ca’tridge he’d given us we had to show game or a mighty good reason for missing. Pa wasn’t one to waste a bullet.” In this one memory, we see a father who teaches responsibility as well as independence. He teaches boys to respect the resources around them as well as how to provide for themselves and their families.

And of his mother, “There’s folks who don’t hold with womenfolks smoking, but I was honing to see Ma, to smell her old pipe-a-going, and to hear the creak of that old rocker that always spelled home to me. When we boys were growing up that creak was the sound of comfort to us. It meant home, and it meant Ma, and it meant understanding… and time to time it meant a belt with a strap.” What a better world we would be in if more of us could recall a spanking in the same thought as understanding and home and Ma. I love this passage that says that the Sacketts understand discipline as a part of love. No wonder they grow into such great men.

In and among the great thoughts and fancy shooting was the humor that I’ve come to enjoy so much in L’Amour’s books. This was a great book and I had such a fun time reading it.

Lando by Louis L’Amour

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“There was pride and courage there, and something that told me that when trouble came, this man would stand.

This I respected, for of myself I was not sure. Every man wishes to believe that when trouble appears he will stand up to it, yet no man knows it indeed before it happens.” -Lando Sackett

This book took more effort for me to get into, but by the end, I loved Lando Sackett. Lando’s father left him in the care of an ill-advised man who stole the money left to him and didn’t care for young Lando. As a result, Lando ran away and raised himself in the cabin he and his father had occupied when the former was still around. Since he was not raised by his father, he doesn’t have the same skills and knowledge that most Sacketts possess. What he does have is the ability to think and plan and the courage that seems to be bred into the Sackett line.

Not having tested his abilities, Lando is hesitant to get into a fight, especially a gun fight. At one point, he and his travel companions are set upon by bandits, and he convinces them, through a bit of honest trickery, to leave instead of fight. I love what is said after, “Did you ever see the like? Looks right down a gun barrel and talks them out of it.” There is so much I admire about Lando. This is the decision he makes when he begins to see men who can use a gun quickly, “The first shot must score, and I must shape my mind to accept the fact that I must fire looking into a blazing gun. I must return that fire even though I was hit.” Again, I think that this is a good mentality, because we can’t all be great at everything. Some of us aren’t even going to be good at many things. But, we can fashion our minds to think that we will use what we have to the best of our ability. Also, to be realistic in what we can do. Don’t expect to win if you’re fighting/playing/racing someone with better talent or size than you. But, know how you’ll do, and plan from there.

But, my favorite thought of Lando’s is one that I have had so many times, but have never heard anybody else say. I loved to hear it, especially from a Sackett. If for no other reason than this, I will always have a special place in my heart for one Lando Sackett:

“Trouble with me was, I was a mighty poor hater. There was satisfaction in winning, but winning would have been better if nobody had to lose. That’s the way I’ve always felt, I guess.”