Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Greatest Influence In My Life

It is great to be home from the hospital and back on my computer. God has really been working in the shadows as I have delved into some great subjects here in my blog space. I have just finished a series of writings about men who had great influence on my life. The title today is about the greatest influence in my life. Of course the greatest influence has been my lifelong relationship with Christ. I can look back on all that has happened in my lifetime and it is clear to me that God has been busy shaping and molding me. I do believe that He uses many things to accomplish His purpose in our lives. Primarily though, I believe He uses those people He surrounds us with to do His work. This brings me to this final post about the great influencers in my life. Today's subject is not a man but a mother, a son and a daughter. If you haven't guessed it by now, the greatest influence in my life has been my wife, my son and my daughter.

As I have mentioned from time to time, Sharon and I were married at the tender age of eighteen and nineteen, she being the older woman. We really grew up together and over forty years later we are happier today than ever. We were blessed by the birth of our son Jason in 1973 and our daughter Holly in 1977. These kids were truly a gift that God gave us. We really never felt that they were a burden and we did not want to see them grown and gone as I have heard many people say about their kids. Seldom does a day go by that they don't call home. This was the case long before I was diagnosed with cancer. Both Jason and Holly are married and have children of their own. They are both dedicated to their mate's and their children. I can truly say that Sharon and I are so proud of them both and we feel they are exactly where God desires them to be even though they are not here in Atlanta with us.

Sharon has been a true champion for me as I go through this journey with cancer. We have sat in the doctor's office and heard some pretty tough news concerning my health. We have held one another and shed tears together and prayed through these difficult times. We have learned to cherish each day we have and we have now been on this journey with cancer for over one year now. She has been by my side the entire time and has been the one who has had to deal with a wide range of my emotions from joy to depression. I pray and I know that she will have all the strength she needs as we continue down this path.

Our kids truly have been and are a great influence on my life. Jason has always been a caring man. He cares so much for his family and I know that he cares for Sharon and I as he has always been there for us both before cancer and even more since our diagnosis. He flew here last week with daughters Avery and Reagan for a visit. Unfortunately, I was in the hospital the entire time, but I know that he and the girls made the week they were here, a special time for Sharon during my absence. He brought the girls by to see me in the hospital and while it was a short visit, it made my week so much better. Jason's boyhood almost seems like a blur to me as I spent a lot of time on the road. I am thankful that I was there with Jason when he shot his first deer, caught his first fish, made a hole-in-one during our club championship and many other highlights. Jason never gave us a minute's trouble while growing up. He worked during the entire time he attended college and graduated with a degree in finance. He is in a management program with Home Depot and is on track to be a store manager in the near future. As stated earlier though, I am most proud of him as a dad. His girls are wonderful little girls and he puts them and their mom Jama first in all things. He truly has been an inspiration to me his entire life and continues to influence me even today.

Our daughter Holly came along when I was twenty-six years old and a bit more mature as a father. She was a little fireball in all that she did. She love sports and it was something we shared together and still do today. Her husband Mike has told me on more than one occassion that he is amazed at her knowledge of sports and that he can sit and visit with his wife about most any sporting event. Holly accomplished much during her time as an athlete. She ended up holding the Arkansas state half mile record for several years and ran track and cross country for the University of Arkansas and Southwestern Baptist University.

While I am very proud of what she did athletically, I am more proud of her character. While attending the U of A, she was around her team and when traveling the girls like to go out after a meet and do what most college kids do. These girls liked to party and I can say without a doubt that Holly never participated in the parties. She received some ridicule for her stance as some of the kids thought she was saying be her actions that she was too good for them. Her real reason was that she was a committed christian and felt uncomfortable in those situations. Before she left the U of A, many of these girls were attending a Bible Study and Holly had truly earned their respect for her unwavering position. Her mom and I were truly proud of the testimony of her life. Today she is a mom of three little girls and she is a great wife as well.

Sharon and I have been truly blessed by our kids and their lives. God gave me a great life and the greatest gift of this life has been my wife. Sharon has truly made my disease bearable and she means more to me at this moment than ever before. She was a beautiful blonde girl when we met and today after forty some years together she is still a beautiful blonde girl (with maybe a small tinge of gray). I thank my God each day for her. We do not know what tomorrow will bring. We do know that God is with us and He is our hope and our strength comes from Him. We pray that God will deliver us from this cancer but at the same time we pray that His will be done.

I close by again saying thank You Lord for my wife, my son and my daughter. They have been and are the greatest influence in my life.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Men of Influence Part 8: Bob Smith

I can imagine God holding a staff meeting back in 2004 and asking the question as to what are we going to do with this guy Baskin? He needs a job and his background is in the poultry industry. One of the staff guys laughed and said "you know it would be fun to have him go to work for this guy Bob Smith in Cumming, Georgia. Imagine this southern boy with a tinge of red around his neck working for a bonafide yankee from New Jersey." God grinned and said, "you know that might be fun for both of these guys."

So a working relationship and a good friendship began in 2004. Bob and I worked pretty closely on a wide variety of projects. Bob was a CPA who found great joy in auditing everything that came across his desk, including your work. I am not an accountant but would describe myself as more of a generalist in the work I do. I can say that I enjoyed my work years from 2004 through 2011 than all the years I had worked in the past. Bob probably taught me more about how to analyze a project than anyone I had worked with in my thirty plus years of working. He taught me about the books of the world and really just plain old common sense analysis of some complicated issues. I thank him for making my work interesting and for sharing his knowledge with me.

In addition to our work, Bob and I enjoyed many conversations on a variety of subjects from politics to religion. Bob had a sense of humor that you had to learn to understand. We enjoyed reading and sharing what our latest book might reveal. We also enjoyed golf together, probably because we were neither very good at it. Bob probably enjoyed the mental aspect of the game and getting under my skin than any part of the game. On more that one occassion I would be leading a match with say five holes left to play and Bob would pose the question, "how many strokes are you up?" The next thing you know the match was over and he won by a stroke.

Bob has retired and I am battling this cancer each day but we still speak to each other frequently. One of my goals is to visit him in his new retirement home this year. I thank God that he brought Bob Smith and I together, even at the end of our careers as he made my past few years full of learning and at the same time fun. Bob would rank as one of if not the smartest guy I ever worked for. He taught me more than I could have imagined and I thank him for taking his time and sharing his knowledge with me. I really look forward to sitting in a rocker on the porch with Bob and sharing a few stories in the near future. Once again, thank you Bob for being my friend and influencing my life.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Men of Influence Part 7: Ed Rice

Well there is little doubt that any of you know or have heard of Mr. Ed Rice. Outside of my dad and my family there would be no reason for you to have heard of Ed. But this man was my first boss who really had a major impact on my life in that he taught me most everything I know about poultry husbandry. Ed was a geneticist with a company known as Vantress Pedigree. This company sold day old breeder chickens all over the world. These were the best of the best chickens and are the grandparents of the broiler you buy in the store. Ed was a native of Ft. Payne, Alabama and was a close cousin of the vocal group Alabama. He moved the Vantress operation to Bear Hollow, Missouri (close to Jane,Mo.)when Tyson purchased his company. Ed hired me to replace his farm manager after the farm had been operable for about one year.

I was a twenty five year old, inexperienced young man who had no business being in the position I was in. I had some limited experience on chicken farms but primarily my experience was with a shovel. I was hired because of the reputation of my dad in the business and my knowledge of some key people at Tyson. So here I was with sixty chicken houses, a hatchery and about forty of the roughest mountain folks you can imagine. It was all mine to manage. Thank God for Ed Rice.

Ed had a unique way of training. He and I would sit in his office with a huge coffee pot(48 cup)and we would discuss every aspect of our work and he would answer every question I had. This happened at least two days each week. Our work would then move to the field. Ed taught me how to select future breeders based on multiple traits. We also took chickens apart and Ed taught me how to diagnose various diseases that are common to poultry. I never heard him raise his voice with me (though I probably deserved it). He was patient and I guess you would say he was a true mentor to a young man. I can say without a doubt that I would not have been able to succeed in this first job without Ed by my side and I will be forever grateful.

Ed breathed chicken dust and cigarette smoke for over forty years and he died from lung disease. He was a short man, probably 5'6" and weighed about 200. He was always on a diet that he never kept. Sharon and I lived on the farm about 100 yards from our office and Ed and I had lunch most everyday at Sharon's cafe, so this also hurt any chance of his dieting. Ed had rosy cheeks and heavy blonde hair and always was surrounded by laughter. He could walk into any room and people would gravitate to him. I was a blessed man to be able to spend my first seven years in the poultry industry with Ed. Things I learned then are still with me today. I truly received a college education during my time with Ed.

I owe Ed for the foundation he gave me. I only wish I could have been the kind of mentor and friend to folks who worked with me during the past few years. Ed, I really miss your familiar laugh and again I thank you for investing in a young man with no experience.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Men of Influence Part 6: Dad

I probably have had a few readers wondering when is he ever going to recognize his Dad? As I have mentioned in prior posts, the order of the men I have written about are in chronological order. I chose this particular post to tell you about my dad. Part of the reason for now is that I have just graduated from High School and at a way too young age I also was married the same year. So basically I finished high school and married and left home later in 1969. Dad had done about all he could in shaping me as a man, or so I thought. The real truth is that even today he continues to influence. Dad is now 83 and I am 60.

I am not trying in anyway to gloss over our relationship. It has not always been the perfect father/son friendship or relationship. I think part of this was because it was life and we both were and are imperfect beings. I have thought a lot about dad and where we were and where we are today. As a young teenager, I once told dad that I dreaded seeing him walk in the door each evening because he was always negative and always finding fault in me. The truth is that I probably deserved the criticism and dad was there to dish it out. Even though it has been over forty years since I made that statement to dad, I can still remember the sadness in dad's eyes when I told him that I dreaded seeing him walk in the door each night. That was a truly callus thing to say and dad, if I haven't asked for your forgiveness, I ask you now to forgive me.

Many years have passed since that happened and I fast forward to the past few weeks. For the first time in our lives, dad and I talk every week via phone. Neither one of us can travel with ease due to our illnesses, etc. What I have noticed that when we get on the phone, our conversations have grown in the length of time that we simply just want to talk. The subject matter is not always about my cancer or his various ailments. Sometimes it is about our beloved Razorbacks or the latest things happening in my old home town. Dad keeps me posted about our family in Arkansas and I keep him informed about his grandchildren and great grandchildren. I guess that this awful cancer has done more to heal our relationship than any other thing.

So how do you come up with all the ways that your dad influenced your life? There is not a list of items to check off. Dad was never an extroverted person. He kept everything to himself and did not open up to folks about how he really felt. So my thoughts are that dad let his life do the talking. He is a man of integrity. He is honest to the core. I remember the last few years of my mom's life. It was a time of trials everyday in how to care for her. Dad did not take her to a nursing home. For the last couple of years, he did hire a couple of ladies to help him in caring for her. He also has some dear sisters who helped him all they could. Dad devoted himself to her care during her last couple of years. He bathed her, lifted her, cooked all of her meals and his life was all about meeting her needs. I don't know that I could have done what he did.

I can remember on more than one occasion that mom would tell me that your dad loves you guys so much but he just can't express that love and you need to know that you and your brother are the most important people in his life. Dad introduced me to the poultry industry and helped me land my first job in that field. I spent twenty years working for the same company that he retired from. I am convinced that dad's superior performance for that company probably helped me get a job I was not qualified for. The people who hired me probably said that if he is anything like his dad, we should hire him. I remember that I thought dad was one of the smartest men in our industry. Every time I would be in a conversation with someone in our company or industry, they always said that my dad was one of the best at what he did. Dad had several hundred people reporting to him in those days and they truly respected him.

There is always so much more that I wish I could fit into this format but you would probably tire from a too lengthy expose. I have not tried to leave out the bad parts and as stated earlier, I was not trying to gloss over our relationship. It was always real, not always pretty, but very real. Dad, I am who I am because you were who you were. My own children probably have some baggage due to my life but when they someday reflect on their dad, I pray they can sort out the good from the bad and that the good will far exceed the bad. Dad, I just want you to know that I am truly thankful that God chose you to be my dad. You and I did not have a perfect relationship, but I think I can say that I am closer to you than ever before. I said at mom's funeral that you were my hero and I still say that same thing today. Thank you for influencing my life in a mighty way and for being my dad. I love you dad and I look forward to those weekly phone calls.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Men of Influence Part 5: Grandpa Watkins

This series of writings has been about the men who influenced my life. They are not in order of influence but in chronological order. Today I want to write about my Grandpa Watkins. His given name was Bruce and he was born in 1891. How I wish I could sit down with him today to ask him about his early years, but this cannot be done. I do have a photo of him on the wall of my office and he is pictured with his familiar overalls and is wearing a coonskin cap, tail and all and he is sitting with his favorite dog.

To my knowledge, Grandpa Watkins never learned to drive a car. My mom told me that Grandpa would come home from work and get his shotgun and dog and take off to the woods. This was a walk of five or more miles to reach the woods and the family depended on his efforts in order to have meat to eat. His game might be squirrels or coons and the family was not picky as this was meat on the table during the depression and the war years. I can remember going fishing with Grandpa and we always caught fish for dinner. He would bring in the stringer of fish and drop them in the kitchen sink for my Grandma (bless her heart) to clean and prepare for dinner. To say the least, he was an outdoors man of necessity. I am thankful that he was as I think I inherited my love of all things outdoors from him.

I know that he was a master carpenter and that he helped build Fort Chaffee in Fort Smith Arkansas. He would catch a bus on Monday to Ft. Smith from his home in Stilwell, Oklahoma and he would work all week for about $1.00 per day and return home by bus on Friday night. I don't remember him going to work during the times I spent a week or two in their home, though I am sure he did. He also sharpened tools and saws for a fee. He and Grandma grew a big garden and nothing was wasted. I have his handsaw and a wooden sheath he made to cover the blades. He also was a very talented wood carver. He carved with his pocket knife which was razor sharp. He would hand carve bean flips for us and he would practice with that bean flip all the time. He once carved twelve monkeys from peach seeds and placed them around a table he carved and he said that it was the supreme court.

He and grandma would come to our home in Arkansas and stay a few days with us from time to time. Dad and I would take Grandpa fishing. We always went night fishing for crappie. I can remember that Grandpa would never trust a rod holder. He would hold his rod so that he did not miss a bite. Many nights we would get home around three in the morning and I can remember Grandpa waking me up at seven, saying it was time to go fishing and we would go to a local lake and catfish the whole day. I do not know where he got the energy, but he could last much longer than us without sleep. He simply loved the outdoors.

My dad always loved big cars. He once bought a Chrysler Imperial. It was purple and featured gigantic fins on the back. It was loaded for those days and one feature was a radio that would change stations when you hit a switch in the floor with your foot. Grandpa was riding in the front seat with dad on a trip and dad started changing stations with his foot and continued until Grandpa could no longer take it. He said "Bob, you've got a problem with the radio that you need to get fixed."

There are so many stories I could tell you about Grandpa, but time and space will not allow. I remember one instance when he was cleaning his 12 gauge shotgun in the living room of their home. He was a very safe hunter but for some reason he left a shell in the old gun and as he was beginning to clean the gun it went off and tore the pages of the family Bible and blew the leg off of the coffee table. I don't think my Grandma was too happy.

Grandpa lived to the ripe old age of 85. They said he died because of smoking. He did love his tobacco. He smoked Prince Albert, roll your owns and eventually he switched to a pipe. I confess that I also loved tobacco and I probably came by this love from Grandpa. I can remember smelling that pipe and it smelled like heaven to me.

Grandpa was a good man. He loved kids and he always had time for us. He could tell great stories that would have us all laughing. He was an artist. He could make wood come to life with his little pocket knife. I doubt he received any education after grade school as times were hard as he grew up, but he was as smart a man as I ever met. I am thankful that I knew Grandpa Watkins and that he shared his life with the little children. I was twenty five when he left this earth and I regret now that I did not spend more time with this very talented man. I would urge my readers that even if you are older to seek out an elderly person from whom you may learn. Time on earth is short. I thank my Grandpa Watkins for always having a story for me and always teaching me about the outdoors.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Men of Influence, Part 4: My Grandfathers

I am back at work on the blog. Having just spent a few days in the hospital, I had plenty of time to think about this post. As I stated in an earlier post, I am trying to approach this project from a chronological basis. So today, I am in my early teenage years and during this period, both of my grandfathers had passed away, but they both left a stamp on my life. They were really different men and I think this difference really broadened my perspective on life and living.

I will first write about my Grandad Baskin. We called him Grandad to distinguish him from our Grandpa Watkins. We would simply refer to Grandad or Grandpa and everyone knew who we were talking about. I cannot remember my Grandad ever working for a company. I had heard my dad and others talk about him working for a trucking company but I think this was a short lived career. What I can remember is that he always had a farm. This was a small farm by today's standards. He and my grandmother hand milked a few cows and I can remember the dairy picking up a few cans of milk each morning. He also had four or five small chicken houses. These were not automated at all. When we visited the farm we were able to help hand feed the chickens from wheel barrows and hand water via jugs. Later I can remember automatic waterers, only because they would stick and flood the house and we would clean up the mess afterward. Grandad might have an old horse and plenty of yard dogs and cats. I have no idea if he ever made any money in the farming venture. I have my doubts that it was profitable.

Some of the things I remember about Grandad are that he was a hard shell baptist deacon. He would not allow the girls to swim in anything less than jeans and a full blouse. He was always a member of the same church while I was growing up. He must have been held in high esteem as the district missionary would drop by the house just to say hi. His name was Doctor Best. I don't know if he had a doctorate but this is how people referred to him. One day I remember in particular, Duane (Granddad's youngest son) and my brother Steve and I were playing cards around the kitchen table. The game was probably war and was not harmful, morally or otherwise. I heard my grandmother scream at the top of her lungs to get rid of the cards as Doctor Best was pulling in the drive. We did not know what to do so we simply threw the cards in the air and they landed behind the old radio (a huge upright model) and luckily they all fell in behind the radio and out of sight. I always wondered what Doctor Best might have done had he seen the cards? I could imagine him bringing us ten and eleven year old boys before the church for punishment. It was our good fortune not to find out about his wrath.

One of the things we really loved about visiting granddad's house was that on a hot Saturday afternoon, he would load all the kids up and take us to the Blue Hole, our favorite swimming hole. As I write this I can't help but remember the smell of that water. It was clean as I know we swallowed large mouthfuls and I can't recall any of us being sick from the water. After swimming we sometimes dropped by Claude and Zell's grocery store in Tontitown, Arkansas and Grandad would pick up a pound of Dog (Bologna) and Grandmother would normally have a pot of pinto beans ready when we arrived home. That was a great meal and still is today, though I am sure it is enjoyed by few. My kids would run from a pinto bean while I still love them today.

Another thing I really enjoyed was fishing with Grandad in the various creeks and rivers in the area. We fished the Osage, the Illinois River and many other streams or small ponds or lakes. He was not a great angler but gosh we had fun. He would bang on a pipe driven in the ground and up came the earthworms, or we would catch big yellow grasshoppers for bait. Later when I was probably eighteen, I had the pleasure of taking Grandad fishing in my boat and I'll never forget he and I getting caught in a bad storm on the lake. I drove us back through blinding rain and he looked like death warmed over. I don't recall him ever asking me to take him back fishing, though we did catch a really nice string of Crappie that day.

Grandad died of Pancreatic Cancer while in his sixties. I was a teenager and now as I face my own battle with Cancer, I can't help but remember his battle. He was a tough man but at the same time a gentle man. I don't remember him ever showing anyone a lot of affection but you knew he loved you. His generation just did not let anyone know how they felt. I know that He is looking down on me today and his hand is probably extended ready to help me on my journey home when my time on this earth is over. I look forward to seeing Grandad and having a time to remember our time on earth together. I think he gave me some of my backbone that I now use to full advantage in this battle I wage against Cancer. Thanks Grandad, I'll see you in a little while. My next post will be about my Grandpa Watkins. I think you will really enjoy it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Men of Influence, Part 3: Uncle Duane

Today I continue in my writings about men who had a major influence on my life. I am trying to do these in chronological order. Today's man of influence in my life was my Uncle Duane. Duane is only one year older than me. He turned sixty one on April 23rd of this year and I will be sixty, Lord willing on April 30th. It is interesting that his mother (my grandmother) was pregnant just a year prior to my birth.

Duane always lived in the country while we lived in town (my hometown was not really a city). One of the thrills I enjoyed as a boy was visiting Duane's house in the country. Officially the area that he grew up in was known as Brush Creek and while he moved down the road a piece to Harmon, Brush Creek is still there. About the only sign of the community is the church where Duane attended as a baby and still attends sixty one years later. Today he is a leader of this church and has seen it through the good times and the bad.

One of the major influences he brought to my life was that he was always steadfast. He never wavered in his faith from his childhood until today. He amazes me in that he still lives in the same area, attends the same church, etc. I can remember as a young boy that he and I were tempted as all boys are and for the most part he always did what was right. I did say for the most part....once as young boys we decided that we would have the first yard sale ever. We started bringing all of my grandfathers tools, etc to the big front porch and set up a store. Needless to say the sale did not last long after my granfather came home. I think we sold an ink pen or two and that was about it. Another time we decided that we would cuss. It just came to us that we should cuss any and everything we saw that morning, from the blue jays to cars driving by. This also did not last long as we became bored with this activity. This was about as bad a thing as we ever did.

I mentioned in a post many months ago that Duane was my first boss. We started a lawn mowing service when I must have been ten years old and Duane was eleven. He was the foreman because he was older and because he had a big red Yazoo mower while I had a little green lawn boy. We would either push the mowers from job to job or sometimes we would ride our bikes and drag the mowers. Duane always went to the door to ask about the job, primarily because he was older, taller and had the big professional mower. Once the job was secure, I would come out with the little lawn boy to do the finesse work while Duane and the Yazoo tackled the tall grass. We made some pretty good money for a couple of young kids and had a good time. People did have us back so I guess we also did a pretty good job.

As we grew older, Duane always had some work. He ran his own hay hauling crew, worked in grocery stores or anywhere he could earn a few bucks. He of course had a car when he was old enough to drive and through all the teenage years when the pressure is on kids, he stood by the stuff. He was a great example to me as a young boy about how important it was to live an upright life. Duane was and is a great Christian influence in my life. He and I have discussed and digested the Bible together on many a night.

Today his children and mine are grown. We both have grandchildren and we are both married to the same woman we began our journey with. While we don't get to see each other too often, I still think about Duane each April during our birthday season and I thank God that Duane was there to provide a great influence too me. Most all the kids I was around growing up had no clue as to how one should live his life and Duane was that one that God brought my way so that I could see how one should live.

As I write these words on this Easter Sunday, April 24th, 2011, I again say thank you God for Duane and his impact on my life....even today.


About Me

I am a husband, father and grandfather to 5 beautiful little girls. I am a follower of Christ