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A Lesson in Values from the Swamp Fox

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The Boyer Blog: A Lesson in Values from the Swamp Fox

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Lesson in Values from the Swamp Fox

I love being Uncle Rick.  I love reading the Scriptures and explaining them to kids. I love telling “example stories” to them to make character applications that, hopefully, will affect the way kids live their lives as they grow up and afterward. 
It’s a treat to hear back from the kids, too.  Last weekend a family from Delaware was visiting in our town and emailed ahead to ask if six-year-old Hannah could possibly meet Uncle Rick while they were here.  You better believe she could, and she did. And there’s little Michael from Alabama, who calls me every few months just to chat. Notes written in pencil on tablet paper and pictures drawn with crayon come every so often and make me feel like a celebrity. 

One of the deepest satisfactions of my role as Uncle Rick is knowing that I am introducing children all over the country to some great books that my grandparents may have read as children, but which have long since disappeared from library and bookstore shelves. I’m talking about the kind of books that people used to write for kids, books that teach values and morals and worthy character.  Fiction or nonfiction, there was a time when authors saw their job as not just entertaining young people, but inspiring them. I remember a few such books from my childhood, though they were getting scarce even then. Now we’ve found an online source for old books, and I get to revive these treasures and share them with a new generation of young Americans as I read and comment on them as Uncle Rick.
My most recent recording project was a book about General Francis Marion, the famous “Swamp Fox” of the Revolutionary War. Written in 1892, it’s a great true adventure story with action in every chapter.  But it’s also a window into the heart of a great patriot who sacrificed much and risked all, to win liberty for future generations.  

Let me share with you a condensed section of the book, which I recorded as “Uncle Rick Reads, Marion’s Men”.
In chapter 32, True Greatness, General Marion has arranged a prisoner exchange with a British officer and has invited the man to share dinner with him before leaving.  Finding that dinner consists of nothing but sweet potatoes roasted in the camp fire, the Englishman questions Marion on what might be the motivation for him and his followers to endure such lean rations as they fought a war.  What, he wondered, would men care about so much that they would wear rags, eat scanty provisions, sleep in the swamp and go without pay while daily risking their lives?  Marion gave an impassioned reply:
“It is a matter of principle, sir.  When a man is interested he will do and suffer anything.  Many a youth would think it hard to be indentured at a trade for fourteen years.  But let him be head over heels in love with such a beauteous sweetheart as Rachel, and he will think no more of fourteen years’ servitude than did Jacob.  That is just my case.  I am in love.”
“You in love, General?” asked the Englishman.
“Yes, I am in love, and I have the most beautiful sweetheart; her name is Liberty.
“Be that beauteous nymph my companion, and these wilds and woods have charms beyond London or Paris.  To have no proud monarch driving over me with his gilt coaches; nor his host of excise men and tax gatherers insulting and robbing me; but to be my own master, my own prince and sovereign, gloriously preserving my national dignity, and pursuing my true happiness; planting my vineyards and eating the luscious fruit, sowing my fields and reaping the golden grain; and seeing millions of brothers all around me, equally free and happy as myself.  This, sir, is what I long and fight for.”
The English officer had but seldom listened to such eloquence, simple yet grand, earnest and persuasive.
“As a man and a Briton, I must say your picture is a happy one.”
“Happy,” said Marion; “yes, happy indeed!  And I would rather fight for such blessings for my country, and feed on roots, than keep aloof, though wallowing in all the luxuries a Solomon could bestow.
“Now, sir, I walk the soil that gave me birth, and exult in the thought that I am not unworthy of it.  I look upon these venerable trees around me, and feel that I do not dishonor them.  I think of my sacred rights, and I rejoice that I have not basely deserted them.
“And when I look forward, sir, to the long ages of posterity, I glory in the thought that I am fighting their battles.  The children of distant generations may never hear my name, but still it gladdens my heart to think that I am now contending for their freedom, and all its countless blessings.”
The Englishman put out his hand.  “We are enemies,” said he, “but as a man I acknowledge you are right, and I would to God my country would let you go your own way.”
And the young officer never rested until he had thrown up his commission and left the British service.  When the clouds of war had blown over he told Marion that he never again could live under a monarchy.  He bought an estate in Carolina, and married an American.  Several of his descendants have at times distinguished themselves, and more than one has occupied the gubernatorial chair.  The seed sown by General Marion fell on good ground and bore most excellent fruit.
That book was written fifteen years before my grandfather was born, and is the kind of stuff he used to read as a boy.  Now, I have a little part in making it available to thousands of young people all across America, kids who otherwise might never have known it existed.  If I had never accomplished anything else in my ministry, these years would not have been wasted.
See why I love being Uncle Rick?

~Rick Boyer

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Blogger Amy said...

That sounds wonderful. Even though I'm only in my 30s, our local library had not purged a lot of these old books from shelves when I was young and I loved reading these old children's novels growing up. I'm thrilled to see so many of them being reissued now and I hope it continues.

September 22, 2011 at 9:29 AM  

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