The Bible in the Barrel

Fall, 1988—While surveying nearly 800 miles north of the 49th parallel in Canada’s wilderness, time swallowed an abandoned homestead. Vacant sounds that once teemed the soil and timbers—like a still-shot from a ghost town, a lonely and staggered cabin held on from memories of a past love and dead dreams. No sounds of children nor echoes of ranch-work, only a flutter of birds escaping the hollowed rafters broke the silent still as we approached. The crew, focused and shuffling lodes across the the clearing slowly woke the silent void of near twenty years.

Behind the try, a rusted steel barrel leaned un-statuesque, gently yearning for the earth to bring her home. I loosened the ring and pounded off the rusting lid to look inside.

My survey crew was a pretty rough bunch at the time. José, our resident Latino catholic thought it was left by god—for us”. He said, (in his Mexican accent) “no matter where you go jefe, no matter how far, Dios lo ve todo, mal jefe!” “It’s probably still there because they ran out of matches”, I fired back! Either way (or maybe another) we were in the possession of the holy bible for the night. We made camp and The crew passed a bottle. Chuck had mothering duties for the day, so he got a fire and some food on the grate as darkness fettered us in a cloudy, moonless night. It was cavern black looking beyond the fire—we faded to sleep.

Hoards of black crows broke the morning silence at dawn. We all stumbled around to get our bearings, stoked the fire and coffee’d up for what was supposed to be a long day, but, curiosity piqued us into a more human task, and by chance, or maybe drawn-in by an unsettled past, we started our day with a quick look around the homestead. Chuck, still half unzipped in his sleeping bag, shouted, “hey boss-man, look at this”. He was thumbing through the Bible looking for a good passage to quote me—he liked disingenuous humor at my expense, but this didn’t seem too funny by the look on his face. Flattening the creases he unfolded a paper in his hand and started to slowly read, like a translator.

“This cabin and 40 acres is claimed by me, William Granger. I came here in the summer of 1964 and built this cabin with the tools I could carry. In ’65 I returned with my wife Carol, our son Eli and daughter Caroline. Abandoning my loves and home is cowardly hard to do, but all that is left for me is to save my own life from one last unknown tragedy. My boy disappeared in ’66. We never found him. He would be 14 today, if this is September 14, the day of my departure”.

“We all came here with a trust in god. I and my colleagues convinced my wife of the lords providence—by faith we would thrive. This book you are holding is the last thing on earth I would impart to a decent man. Its only task now is holding this note in hopes it can at least do that until somebody finds it, should I fail to return. While many of the words are poetic and wishful, the promise of healing and signs that follow them that believe with the lords bounties are false premises only an untested fool would believe. You all survive down below because of people. Nothing more. My horse was killed by wolves while he was on the line. Then my hogs. My wife and daughter I love are in deep graves just east of the clearing. I moved them out after the spring thaw to their permanent rest. Look east between the two tallest cedars if they’re still standing. Two small rock piles mark the spots. I leave them here and plan to return as soon as I can. W. Granger, 1970″.

Humanity took over our crew. We looked around for the day, found some odds and ends, toys and tools and tack, but nothing of importance—That, lies between the cedars that stand guard. We cleaned up the grave sites and packed our gear for a short move. Another 20 years it will all be forgotten. I took it Mr. Granger got sidetracked, lost, or died in his failure to return—I guess the road home has forks in it too—I’ll see if I can locate this Mr Granger.

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Author: jim-

One minute info blogs breaking the faith trap.

52 thoughts on “The Bible in the Barrel”

  1. Jim, wow. You’re such a great writer, and both stories had me enthralled. One of your believing commenters wrote:

    “Proverbs 22:3 says, “The wise man sees trouble ahead and plans for it, but the fool plods on and is destroyed.” We all have our untamed wildernesses that we want to plod off into. Then, when things turn disastrous, we have God and/or the church to blame.

    First of all, how incredibly insensitive this is toward those who have experienced tragedy and loss, and it is reflective of a lack of compassion and empathy, which I saw so much of in the church when I was a Christian. When I lost my husband, it was because of “sin” in his heart, opening him up to demons, rather than the actual cause – a traumatic brain injury which was responsible for his neurological disorder and hallucinations. In his fragile mental state, he believed them and he ended his life.

    Then when I experienced identity theft and cyber fraud which left me penniless, Christians informed me that it was because I had left the church and came out from under god’s umbrella. I was under god’s judgment, they said. At the time, I was still a believer in a creator but had left Christianity just shortly before this happened, and not because of tragedy or hardships. However, there were several in the church that I considered dear friends.

    Their true tribal colors came through, and I must tell you, that realization was the hardest part I had to sort through which required a grieving process, taking several years to work through. I know there are some genuinely caring Christians, but I initially learned through this experience that so many had lost their humanity in the hopes of eternal life.

    I know you are aware of some of my history, but I wanted to share again, for I know you have believers including devout believers following your blog. They need to prepare themselves for considerable disappointment and even heartache should they question and doubt, especially if they live in religious communities. I’ve made peace with those experiences, but because of them, I know how important it is to be a support for those considering leaving the faith or have. It can be a very lonely time.

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    1. Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. I’m almost done with the book version. It’s been a fun recall. Bad things happen to everyone, but since my deconversion I’ve had a good string of luck—and I know that’s what it is. Luck. I certainly had my share of misfortune as a believer, and more to come as an atheist. Be interesting to know if your surgeons were Christians when you had yours? That would be an ironic diametric wouldn’t it?
      I’ve had a great time catching up today. Thanks Victoria. It’s been a great day to see you.

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      1. I don’t know if my surgeons were Christians, but the staff was and every time I saw the doctor they told me they were praying for me. One of the teams, a surgical nurse, if I recall, was at my side as they were rolling me into the surgery room, and said she was praying for me. I suppose she thought it would comfort me just before I went under.

        It’s funny looking back because the doctors were so sure I had cancer before the surgery, but as you know, the pathology report came back negative. When I went back for my follow up, one of the staff told me “it’s a miracle” as though she and other’s thought their prayers had been answered. Little did she and others know that I was a heathen. Hehe. Would they have offered prayers had they known?

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        1. This story happened in ‘04 when I was a medic. “SEATTLE – An Everett woman who underwent surgery at a Seattle hospital to repair a brain aneurysm died after she was mistakenly injected with a highly toxic antiseptic solution, a television station reported. She was a good Christian woman involved in charities and well liked in the community. I guess Jesus just needed her home. She was just too good for this world. No matter who you are, terrible things happen and has nothing to do with anything but luck. Good or bad.

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          1. Indeed. That’s reality.

            But if you’re Christian and bad things happen to you, you’re told it’s god’s will. But if you’re an ex-Christian, and bad things happen to you, it’s god’s judgment.

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            1. Christian brains have a “god block” and most are incapable of seeing life as it truly is. To accept that things just “happen” simply doesn’t compute.

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            2. Studies show that those with increased gray matter volume in the right amygdala (fear, anxiety) have a significant need for certainty. Since Christianity uses fear tactics to gain followers, having a “god block” doesn’t surprise me.

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    2. Also, isn’t it just insanity that people will turn on you over a friggin belief. Talk about substance of things not seen! I made this up the other day. If your in a group because of belief, the group will turn on you because of belief.

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  2. Proverbs 22:3 says, “The wise man sees trouble ahead and plans for it, but the fool plods on and is destroyed.” We all have our untamed wildernesses that we want to plod off into. Then, when things turn disastrous, we have God and/or the church to blame.

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    1. Hi ICT. Did you perhaps like the story? The only thing that saves us is people, imo, but you’re a bit right too. Life is no guarantee, especially when you put a bit of faith in something that won’t help you.

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  3. Good stuff. Survival never used to be a given. It still isn’t by any means, but ‘lectricity, doctors, and antibiotics have sure made it easier. Still… so many people these days wouldn’t survive a 3 day trek in the woods without having to call 911 for rescue by day 2.

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    1. Agreed. They call 911 for a hell of a lot less. I really have had some great opportunities for some long spells in the wilderness. I was completely alone 3 weeks 2 times in the cascades. Be nice to squeeze in a full year some time. It’s in my list!

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  4. Growing in the north woods of Maine, it takes a lot of skill and knowledge to simply survive. We had black bears to watch out for, and moose. I doubt that simply calling from God would be enough. Unless, you used that calling to become skilled in wilderness survival before going into the wilderness.

    I read Christian romances in my spare time. Some of the authors pound in the idea of “This is all God’s plan. Turn it over to God. Get out of the way, and let God do his thing.” Of course, they all have happy endings.

    Just a side note – many Christian romance authors are dealing with rape and spousal abuse in their plots in a very realistic way. In those books, they stress that it is NOT a part of any plan. They stress ego-strength instead. Very odd.

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  5. Amazing story Jim. Thanks for sharing. I can’t help but feel this is a much more realistic story of Job in the bible. When we love, I do think there is only so much loss we can take, and the only reasonable conclusion in the face of so much loss is that if there is a God he doesn’t care too much about your feelings, or that there isn’t really anybody there. The theist will try to argue this away by saying that this Granger and his family were defective believers, but this is nothing but a lie to comfort themselves. The truth is, good and bad fortune happens to people, and for some they get a bigger helping of one or the other. This is exactly what an indifferent universe looks like without, at the very least, a personal creator. Kindness and love for each other will take us much further than deity worship. Granger’s words are wise. It’s too bad he paid such a cost to realize this.

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    1. We survive the hard times and catastrophe because of people…and luck. Had someone been there to help them, god would get the credit. Funny he can’t find his way into the wilderness.

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      1. That’s the irony isn’t it? Had such tragedy not befallen him, he would thought all that was happening was a confirmation of his beliefs. Fortunately there are other ways to reach such conclusions, but it involves teaching critical thinking at an early age over religious indoctrination.

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        1. Today its sound bites and snippets of opinion at our fingertips. Give the kids a novel more than 160 pages and it’s like a punishment. I’m concerned that the easy road will never be the road less travelled. You see a wide variety of young adults. Is it any better at the college level? Here at the high school everybody want to watch fun videos and text like crazy. My daughter (who is miles ahead of the pack here), hates working in groups. We were talking about this last night. Everyone just sits there with their minds elsewhere, then they want to just copy her, or just use her idea for the projects—every time.

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          1. No it’s not any better at college, but then again I don’t teach at a top notch one. There are certainly a lot of problems with the way we do education, so it’s more than just having an education system, but making sure the content and pedagogy is maximizing learning. School in this country has turned into a business model. Education is only valuable in so far that you can go and make money. Education has value far beyond the monetary cost, but this isn’t what people tend to care about who make decisions about education, and its hurting our children. When you couple that with how hard parents have to work just to make ends meet, you have a lot of kids just babysat by their phones and video games. Money is what drives this country…perhaps an equally detrimental fiction to live our lives by…maybe even moreso than religion. At least in the Bible Jesus helps the poor. There is no creed in capitalism to do things for other humans that don’t directly lead to profit.

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      1. Oh. Thanks. I’m going through this… anti-social phase (I guess). Ha ha. Maybe indecisive phase is better… where I don’t know what to do with my blog(s).

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        1. Also.. I have the same feeling as you stated in a blog post. I have a private site as well with a collection of stories from my life. Really it’s for the kids when I “go dark” too, but it has been fun, and some are quite good imo. Fun to have another outlet where you can actually leave something behind.

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          1. Oh that is very cool!

            My previous blogs see-sawed between preachy and mean-spirited. Certainly not anything I wanted to be remembered for. And I don’t think I’m cerebral enough to make new and exciting content. Writing stuff down has definitely ordered my thoughts somewhat and made me wonder what I would leave behind. So now I imagine my blog more of like a home school… what would I tell my kids if I had to teach them… stuff. Don’t know if that makes sense

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            1. Sure. That’s a great idea too. It’s hard to sift through the information in the world. At least your way could spark some interest one day.

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  6. what a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing that one. Makes me think of all of the abandoned homesteads that used to dot the landscape around here. Some family farm failed, they moved out, abandoned house and out buildings. The land got bought up by a bigger farm that left the buildings stand because it wasn’t worth tearing them down. Always made me sad to see those places slowly rotting away because once those falling down buildings were once someone’s pride and joy and hope for a better future.

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    1. Thanks Grouchy. It is a sad affair. We have them here as well, and in my time exploring the backcountry, it surprises me where you find some of these homesteads. “How in the hell did they get all that stuff here.” Mining equipment, windows, hand cut beams and homemade everything. It was a pretty cool time. The stamina of the men and the fortitude of the women and families that put homes in some of the damnedest places is remarkable. All because of a dream to live like they wanted.

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  7. Is this based on a true story, Jim? Just wondering, cuz I live aother 2 or 300 miles north of where you were. The town I live in was a trading post in 1964, when Daniel Granger would have arrived at his homestead. Do you remember what province you were in?

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    1. Alberta/B.C. Border area. It is based on a true story, I’m not positively sure on the name from 30 years ago, but I think that was it.

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      1. Would it have been somewhere around Grande Prairie, AB, or Fort St John, BC? Your story is one a historical society would probably love to hear. I did.

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  8. I’ve seen quite a number of abandoned homesites in my wilderness travels. Burned-out, rotted, run-down and desolate where once the dreams of life thrilled.

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  9. Wow. That is a story so very well-told. I enjoyed reading it and me thinks Jim has more telling to do. I might have tagged ‘humanist’ or maybe ‘humanism’ because it is such a compellingly human story. Thanks, Jim.

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