Menu

Buffaloes and Butterflies: December 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Before Joey and I were married, someone gave us a stack of books to read. The one book that was most helpful was If Only He Knew by Gary Smalley. The complementary book for the wives was For Better or For Best. What impressed me most was the illustration he used to describe the differences between men and women. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1972, p. 29)

“Let me first draw your attention to the general differences (between men and women) and how they affect your relationship. The best example I can think of to illustrate these differences is to compare the butterfly with the buffalo. The butterfly has a keen sensitivity. It is sensitive even to the slightest breeze. It flutters above the ground where it can get a panoramic awareness of its surroundings. It notices the beauty of even the tiniest of flowers. Because of its sensitivity, it is constantly aware of all the changes going on around it and is able to react to the slightest variation in its environment. Thus, the butterfly reacts with swiftness toward anything that might hurt it. (Try to catch one without a net sometime.) If a tiny pebble were taped to its wing, the butterfly would be severely injured and eventually die.

The buffalo is another story. It is rough and calloused. It doesn’t react to a breeze. It’s not even affected by a thirty-mile-an-hour wind. It just goes right on doing whatever it was doing. It’s not aware of the smallest of flowers, nor does it appear to be sensitive to slight changes in its environment. Tape a pebble to the buffalo’s back and he probably won’t even feel it.

The buffalo isn’t ‘rotten to the core’ just because he goes around stepping on pretty flowers. In fact, the buffalo’s toughness is a tremendous asset. His strength, when harnessed, can pull a plow that four grown men can’t pull.

The analogy should be obvious. Your husband is the buffalo (Don’t say amen too loudly!) and you’re the butterfly. He may tend to ‘plow’ through circumstances, while you ‘feel’ life and your surroundings with much more sensitivity. The ‘pebble on the butterfly’s wing’ may take the form of a sarcastic remark, a sharp criticism, or even an indifferent attitude. Whatever it is, it can hurt and even crush you, while he may not even notice what he’s done.” (Used by permission)

Along this theme, I found a card that gave advice from a Bison.

Stand your ground.
Have a tough hide.
Keep moving on.
Cherish wide-open spaces.
Have a strong spirit.
Roam wild and free.
Let the chips fall where they  may!

With that in mind, allow me to tell you about our year.

The boys raised twelve pigs. Previously, we had raised eight pigs at a time. With twelve, we never had enough slop for all to taste. Jonathan (16) suggested giving used gum to the pigs, “So I ca chew it twice.” Jonas (13) was supervisor, making sure all went well. It was not easy for Jacob (11) and Josh (7) to go in the pen at feeding, worming ad shot giving tie to control their activities. Josiah (17) had some unusual training when one pig showed symptoms of tetanus and he administered medicines, complete with IV, with the help of the vet. In spite of the treatment, we lost the pig. “Standing your ground” was essential when the boys had to push the pigs around to get the slop buckets and give medicines.

Buster, our Schipperke, watchdog and ‘hunter of vermin’, was put down after faithful service. When we returned after the vet left, the first thing josh asked was, “What kind of gun did he use?” Buster showed Bison qualities, trying to prove he was top dog even though he was one-third the weight and size of the other dog. He did the buffalo thing of standing his ground.

Jacob had pinned for his own dog. He found a one-year-old black lab that had enough energy for him, for me and for everyone else as she bounds over the land. Because she is a bird dog, and we do have chickens, Jacob has worked with her to guard against misplaced killings. Jacob is learning to be strong and stand his ground as his dog tries to change the rules.

After fighting with Josh about having the last word, his challenge was not to say anything even though his face would turn blue, green and red trying hard not to say the last word. Is that the buffalo thing? Competition? Jonas would say under his breath when Josh walked into the room, “Last word. Last word.” Sure, did not help one buffalo or for that matter the butterfly. Have tough hide.

Blossom, our milk cow, died within an hour of Jonas checking on her. Don’t know the why’s. Jonas mourned quietly and stoically. Then he went back to business to replace the milk cow with a bred Dexter cow, Lolly. After much delay, she calved a heifer, Little Anne, a spitt’n image of her mother. Jonas would haul the, the Highlands and Blossom’s calf, Henry to neighbors’ yards to stake them out on grass. Jonas’s persistence paid off with good ilk, butter, and cheese that he makes regularly. When buying a bull at the auction, when artificial insemination didn’t take, he told which bull he wanted. Joathn bid and Joey was there to pay. Buffaloes conquer problems. They keep moving on.

Michael (4) told me after a meal, “That is disgusting.” You know this butterfly did not stay squashed too long before retribution was forthcoming. Buffaloes have a tough hide. Butterflies do not.

Jonathan (16) was giving someone a ride on a horse when the grandma was admonishing carefulness and alertness. Jonathan wanted to respond, “Ma’m, nothing in this world is safe…your grandson is in grave danger.” That is not what you tell an anxious butterfly.

Joey tried twice to take the boys skiing. They spent some ‘quality time’ in the car for eight hours waiting an avalanche blocking the road. They returned without skiing. Buffaloes usually just plow on: keep moving.

When getting Michael dressed for the day, I’ll lay his clothes out ad say, “Underwear goes on first.” Joey thought that I was just talking (???). When he heard Jonathan say to Michael after he was dressed, “Michael, underwear goes on first.” Joey looked over and he was completely dressed holding his underwear…I don’t make these commands up for my benefit….The buffalo has a strong spirit. It is the everyday “wear out my wings” routine.

Jonathan, Jonas, Jacob, James (10), Josh, Michael (4) and I participated in the Civil War Reenactment, both in March and October. Jonathan has tried soldiering but doesn’t like to be told what to do. (Are we surprised?) Recently he tried to add an authentic rounder’s game (precursor to baseball) complete with the older rules. He found most participants were busy being soldiers. He also apprenticed to a gunsmith and a blacksmith. Buffaloes cherish wide-open spaces. 

Jacob stepped on a nail; the same day, Michael fell on the cement receiving an ‘egg’ by his eye. Buffaloes have a tough hide.

Michael informed me that he should be a mom. “Why?” “So, I could boss.” Well, we are finally making progress. Buffaloes have a strong spirit.

The tradition has been set; Jacob requested sowbelly again for his birthday dinner. Let the chips fall where they may!

James incubated eggs--turning them faithfully every day. A hen will turn them 50 times a day. They require turing at least three times a day. His motherly instincts turned them most days at least 15-30 times with carefulness, excitement and anticipation. Buffaloes can be gentle.

If he could cover our entire property with chickens, James would do it. We finished butchering five of his roosters. Before the feathers were off, he had his magazine in my hands to show me the next batch of chickens that Dad had permitted purchasing, once the roosters were gone. This buffalo certainly roams wild and free crowing joyfully.

Jonas researched about driving horses with carts. He practiced various training drills with his horse. Finally, he purchased a cart. His horse spooked and bucked. Lthough sorely disappointed in the results, Jonas put his dream aside for a time. Let the chips fall where they  may. But keep moving on.

Michael told us, “When I grow up I’m going to be Maggie’s Mom (a friend of ours.)” This Bison has a strong spirit.

Baseball took priority for a short time. Jonathan played in Sanger again. Jacob, James and Josh played up here. Jonas helped Joey with umpping. We had some good friends that helped car pool when we had to be two different places at one time. During baseball, we eat, live, and breathe baseball. At dinner, as we were discussing (can you believe) baseball, Michael said, “Guess, I won’t be a lion when I grow up, I’ll be a zebra.” (Now that was a relative comment.) I told him that he had better learn to eat his grass then. Buffaloes…one-track minds (depending on the track); stand their ground.

Jacob has been learning taxidermy. He completed a duck, a coot, and a squirrel. He seems to have a gift with all that dead stuff. As Joey John said, “That stuff really seemed to come alive with Jacob.” At the beginning of the year, I was breaking the car for animals---dead ones, until we had accumulated several huge raccoons. After trying to skin and tan them, we allowed his instructor to provide the birds. This saved my freezer from…the unknown. This also saved one buffalo from being overwhelmed with too much. Having a tough hide is not always good.

Michael again in his predictions stated, “When I get as young as mommy, I will….”

We gleamed cherries. Jonas commented, “The cherries were good up until the 100th cherry, then they weren’t so good.” I forgot to warn them of the consequences of too many cherries at one time. Picking blueberries went better. We left for the orchard at 5 AM with our neighbor. When the sun came up, we were already hot by 8AM. Now we’re enjoying the fruits of many buffaloes’ labor. Buffaloes roam wild and free.

Josiah worked his lawn business this year again. Jonathan stipulated when he  helped that he would do absolutely no weedwacking dog kennels. Jonas worked when he was available. Joey John also found the weeds, in spite of his allergies. Jonathan and Joey John also helped when needed with water pumps. Jonathan found jobs hauling with his truck. My buffaloes have strength. They keep moving on even in the heat.

While working, Jonas received a bee sting his finger and arm swelled up to his elbow. When Josiah was stung two times on the hand simultaneously by meat bees, he too had to take some time for recuperation. Shortly afterward, Joey John received a bite. When Joey John, Josiah, Jonas and Jacob scrapped waterweed out someone’s over-grown pond, Jacob came  home with welts covering his legs. Jacob gets poison oak by just thinking about it. Once incident, his eye swelled shut. Another time, he had his entire face covered. I got it a week later, each time--despite washing his clothes and bedding separately every day. Ever notice that buffaloes cannot admit to any weakness even if they are (shall I say it) weak? Buffaloes have a tough hide and keep on moving.

The boys took a singing class for a short time in the spring. The teacher was individually instructing my boys in order to let them hear the pitch of the notes--so they could match it. When I asked Jacob what he was doing, he jokingly said, “He was teaching us how to hum.” A buffalo views the finer things.

We celebrated Josiah’s graduation. Joey John (20) told him that he knew too many people, “If you’d be more like me, we wouldn’t have all these people coming.” Josiah (18) was quick to reply, “Joey, if you would get out more and actually talk to people, you would know them like I do.” Buffaloes let the chips fall where they may.

Josiah’s garden brought pounds of potatoes, tons of tomatoes (after 160 quarts of tomatoes I stopped counting), green peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, turnips, corn, radishes and squash. His dirt was so full of earthworms that it looked like it moved when we harvested the potatoes. This buffalo cherishes the wide-open spaces, but wants the chips to fall in certain places.

Josh asked about taking communion. When we explained what it meant and why he couldn’t participate until he was part of God’s family, he asked to know God. Michael, later that week, asked, “If God could save me?” Sometimes we see our fruit….Buffaloes with a strong spirit, submitting to their Creator--an answer to our prayers.

We camped with some friends. We took our three horses to ride in the Sequoia’s. It was a short trip, while Joey had army duty. I took the younger boys fishing. Most of the boys have given up fishing, because we never caught anything. That morning, we arrived at the lake before 6 AM. Several fishermen were already settled and reeling in the fish. They helped the boys  have success. By the time we left, we had 19 fish. I think that the trick to that success was to find a fisherman who would give us half his caught fish, most of his bait, help us tie the knots and instruct on reeling them in. Jacob is in his element when doing this. He helped Josh with his tying. Later, I asked someone upon reheating the fish for leftover-lunch, “Is that your lunch, or the cat litter box? Oh good, it’s your lunch.” (Goes with my sensitive nose---ask Jonathan about the story to that one…) Buffaloes roaming wild and free cherish the wide-open spaces.

Jonathan worked for his required six months for his driver’s license. As time for his test arrived, he found his dream truck. It had to be diesel, Ford, long bed, under $5000, manual, 4WD… It was back East. Joey went back to his cousin’s army retirement ceremony. Joey John and Jonathan went with him. They looked over the truck and purchased it. Joey had to fly home to get back to work. Since Jonathan only had his permit, which required someone 25 years or older in the vehicle, Joey John drove the truck the 1000+ miles home. Someone asked Jonathan, “How does it feel to buy a car and not be able to drive it?” Now not only does he have wings but also wheels. If you catch him home, he is in between jobs or sleeping. This butterfly wishes sometimes to pull of his wings and make him homebound for a bit. Just to give this butterfly a rest. Buffaloes keep moving on, roaming wild and free.

This year required us to know the mechanics very well. Our excursion had its engine replaced, (it is the only vehicle with 4WD almost big enough for us), Joey’s work truck had its transmission replaced, Josiah’s and Jonathan’s trucks overheated requiring water pumps to be replaced. We fixed several windshields from overzealous weedwackers. Jonathan’s truck and the excursion also required ball bearings and axle work. Josiah’s truck had an exhaust leak. Buffalo’s machines require heavy maintenance. Buffaloes keep moving on.

Joey had the boys tell me in the morning that he was taking me somewhere August 17 and to be ready. He took me to San Francisco then drove up to Ferndale, a Victorian Town with an authentic old town general stores and village. He arranged for us to stay a few nights at a Bed and Breakfast. Threw this butterfly into some wild loops and whirls before she could enjoy the uncertainty of it then enjoy her buffalo.

Jonas said, “I am not going to do anything this year, so I won’t be in the newsletter.” In addition to the cows and horses, he took over the care of the rabbits, seeking to breed them several times. He also researched bee keeping and acquired the necessary starter equipment. We tried to ‘steal’ a swarm of wild bees by pheromones but will have to resort to purchasing them in the spring. This buffalo has great plans and finds a way to make them happen. Buffaloes with a strong spirit keep moving on.

We all took Josiah up to Shasta Bible College the last weekend of August. Jonathan came home to pass his driver’s test on Monday. Joey John left for Milwaukee School of Engineering on Tuesday. Jonathan was preparing to leavae for Canada that Thursday to help my sister on their farm--with the big equipment for two weeks. Joey came home Tuesday to tell me that he was to be deployed. We also found that my sister has M.S. That following weekend we went to L.A. for a funeral. The change was too much for this butterfly. She is still just trying to fly.

Plans shifted as we anticipated Joey’s deployment. Invitations came to see Joey before he left and preparations shifted with our emphasis. Joey left October 17 for a year overseas. I do miss my buffalo.

The Mennonite Community  knew of our need for a new roof. They provided all the labor to de-shingle, and then re-shingle our entire house roof, in record time. We had stopped using our swamp cooler in June after a leak through the kitchen. It was a necessary repair, but without Joey, I didn’t know how we were going to accomplish it. All the boys at home were able to help with various jobs. Buffaloes on the roof---made my wings beat a bit more. Bison that need to stand their ground.

Jonathan informed me when a certain room was to be cleaned by three people, “There are too many Indian chiefs and not enough squaws in that room.” These bison definitely stand their ground with no give makes this butterfly weary.

Joey John is seeing more relevance of his classes this year and getting in the flow of his studies. His professors seem to be more engaging than last year and he is able to understand before the test rather than after the test. His buffalo’s singleness of purpose carries him to persevere to the end. This buffalo stands his ground.

Josiah is enjoying his classes, working yards on weekends and singing in a traveling group. This buffalo keeps moving on.

Jonathan is wondering why he can’t be a high school drop-out and work on big machines. He just likes to plough on through…This buffalo needs the wide-open spaces that allow him to roam wild and free. 

Joey had planned for us to travel back to Indianapolis at Thanksgiving to see my family. When he deployed, he desired that we still go. All my family (some that we haven’t seen in several years) would be there. Jonathan drove us the three 12-14 hour days to arrive. We camped overnight at friends along the way. Joey John rode the train from school down to Illinois where we picked up him and Rachel, his girlfriend. Then we drove to Indianapolis. Family spoiled us. Our time was precious. Al but Joey and Josiah (his Thanksgiving break wasn’t long enough to fly there) were present. Two days of two-man touch football was great for the buffaloes. A week of news filled up the butterflies. As we began our return trip, we stayed a few days at friends. Our return trip took 14 hours the first day and 24 hours the second day--arriving 3:30 AM. Just in time to return hom when the stomach flue hit Josh and the coughing, congestion hit several others. We are indeed home. Both buffaloes and a butterfly were content and ready to be home. Roaming wild and free needs some rest.

When I think of this year, I could question how this butterfly is suppose to fly undamaged around a herd of buffalo, but I also wonder how this butterfly can stay focused without the strength of her buffalo. I told one of the boys that I wasn’t sure those hymns that say, “We’ll understand it all bye’ and bye’” are right. That implies that we can understand God’s ways. Isaiah said, “For (God’s) thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways (God’s) ways.” (Isaiah 55:8) “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men: yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end…I know that everything God does will endure forever, nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) Even in heaven, God’s ways are so far above our comprehension. We will not be asking the same questions as we do here on earth. The turmoil we experienced now will be insignificant. We will be with God. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)

During Christmas season, when I think, “God became an and made His dwelling aong us. We have seen His glory; the glory of the One and Only Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Luke 1:14) I cannot help but remember Micah’s words, “God has shown you, O man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, ad to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

This butterfly is slowing learning to accept His ways, desiring to see His glory and wanting to know better the Immanuel ‘which means--God with us.’ (Matthew 1:22) She is striving, somehow, to show her herd of buffalo the ‘kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, who continue in His kindness.” (Romans 11:22) So that together we may ‘come near to God and He will come near to us.” (James 4:10)

May you, too, strive to really know the Ianuel Who brought God with us--whether you are a buffalo or a butterfly.

Joey, Sonya, Joey John, Josiah, Jonathan, Jonas, Jacob, James, Joshua and Michael



I'd love to hear your thoughts on this article. Share below in the comments!

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

To receive weekly updates, enter your email address below: