Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Of Fires and Attack Beagles

The above picture is of the fire that burned in Yellowstone National Park in 1988. I’ve been to Yellowstone a couple of times and with every visit I was struck by the destruction that took place.
That fire burned 793,000 acres (36% of the park) and the firefighting effort alone cost 120million dollars.
To me this serves as a great and terrible reminder of the destructive potential of our words. I draw this parallel because of what is written in the 3rd chapter of the book of James.

James 3:5,6:
5So also the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A great forest can be set on fire by one tiny spark. 6And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is full of wickedness, and poisons every part of the body. And the tongue is set on fire by hell itself and can turn our whole lives into a blazing flame of destruction and disaster.
(The Living Bible)

I remember when I was about ten years old and my faithful beagle and I ventured into the woods across the road, armed with a budding killer instinct and a Red Ryder BB gun. We were on a seek-and-destroy mission for some renegade squirrels that had been seen cavorting around the neighborhood.
As we made our way through the woods we were surprised to find that the woods quickly turned into someone’s back yard. Even more surprising was the arrival of the owner of said yard.
She angrily asked what I was doing, obviously intimidated by my weapon and attack dog. I had trouble answering her because my beagle was doing what beagles do best – barking incessantly. Somehow I cracked under her Gestapo-like interrogation skills and divulged the purpose of my mission.
This sent her into a rage because she had been aiding and abetting the vermin by providing food for them. She took this opportunity to explain, in detail, the moral and social evil of my mission.
Now, I really wanted to listen to her sermon on squirrel etiquette but my attack beagle continued to dominate the conversation with her barking.
Maybe it was the stress of being discovered behind enemy lines or maybe just the psychological weight of my mission, but in a moment of exasperation I shouted out – “SHUT UP, LADY!”
A look of horror washed over the squirrel-lady’s face and I suddenly realized that she had no idea that my beagle was named “Lady”.
I had to do some fast talking to explain, hoping she would find the humor in the situation. She didn’t find any humor in the situation but she did release Lady and me on our solemn promise that we would never carry out squirrel missions within her demilitarized zone again.
And we never did.
The moral of the story is that you can never know the full weight of your words until they get out, but then it’s too late. So speak wisely and sparingly.
I’d say it’s best to mince words…
They’re a lot easier to swallow that way, if you have to eat them later.


Terri Blair said...

Good memories and good advice:)

Creative C said...

well said!

Anonymous said...

That's a great story. I loved those missions.