Why I Wrote "Men of Renown"

Posted by rjagilbert on April 1, 2013 at 11:55 PM

When I was a kid, my dad brought home an old book titled “Lost Mines and Treasures of the Pacific Northwest”. This well researched book holds an extensive collection of legends about lost riches in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Dad ignored some of the more famous legends, such as the discovery of Crater Lake by an expedition searching for a lost cabin mine, the shipwrecked galleon buried beneath the sands of Nehalem Spit, and the famous Blue Bucket mine of Eastern Oregon. Instead he focused on all the strange legends that took place in our particular neck of the woods. On Saturdays, he’d load us kids into the car, pack some picnic food, a map, and his favorite travelling music, and we’d drive off into the wilderness to see these exotic locations described in the book.


Dad was also a leader in our church’s youth program for boys. Dad’s nine-seat VW van was no stranger to church outings and adventures, and it became only natural for our friends to join us on these Saturday outings as well. The kids might not have cared much about the old legends of treasure, but we sure had some fun at the swimming holes, rafting the rivers, hiking to the tops of mountains, and camping in the woods.


Dad’s ambition wasn’t always absent from these adventures. One year, Dad obtained a mining claim in one of the canyons deep in gold country, and though I don’t think we ever got a single scoop of panning out of the dirt, I still remember the adventures we had (and the colorful hermits who had staked their claims up and down the canyons). Once we were confronted by one of these hermits with a shotgun who decided we had parked our van too close to his claim (That adventure was in winter, and I don’t remember any kids from church being along for the danger). There were several times when we found old, abandoned mine shafts and went inside—never too deep, of course, but Dad wanted to see what was inside. I know, several times, I felt like our lives were in danger, but looking back, I am the man I am today because I have faced danger and Dad did not encourage me to run.


Sometimes I wonder if Dad was faking his lust for gold only to get us boys interested in the adventure. Sometimes I wonder if his real goal was to raise his boys into young men—men who were not afraid of a little hiking, of a dark cave, of a frigid swimming-hole with a natural waterslide, or of some class 4 river rapids. Last year I made contact with one of those old friends who had accompanied my Dad on some of our adventures. He still remembered some of the jokes we made up from the back, bench-seat of the old van. When that friend reconnected with another of the boys a few months ago, he mentioned my name. Instantly my Dad was brought up, and the two of them reminisced about our adventures together.


Dad is older now, and he gets around a little slower, but he still enjoys going on adventures with his son and his grandchildren. Of course, I try to avoid the dangerous stuff, but sometimes I wonder if that is wrong. Sometimes we bring other kids along, and oftentimes Dad is not with us. He has his own ambitions again that get in the way, and I understand that. He’s trying to start his own business, and he’s still involved in politics and lobbying for his social issues, and he has friends and relationships around the world that he needs to maintain. He still wants to change the world, though; I think a lot of men have that drive. Sometimes he feels discouraged in his efforts. Sometimes he suffers a setback and wonders if he is wasting his time. Sometimes he measures his success and realizes how small it really is in this big world. I just wish he knew how big an impact he has made in the lives of a bunch of boys who followed him into the wilderness on those Saturdays so many years ago. What he passed on to those boys now lives on in the next generation of men, and stands to pass on to the boys of the future for generations to come. That right there is the biggest difference a man can make in this world.


The story of Men of Renown is a reflection of Dad’s ambition. Like most men, Saph wants to feel significant. In a world full of celebrities whose lives are documented with songs, statues, and honorable titles, a man can feel awfully insignificant with his own, humble endeavors. Yet, this story is not about the songs and statues of Atlantis—none of which have survived the test of time. This story is about the man who made a real difference in that age—the man whose name is still spoken today. That man was not proud or ambitious. His heart was focused on the future—on preserving life and passing down his legacy for generations to come. There’s a powerful story there. And I hope that this story inspires its readers to follow in that man’s footsteps, as I have been inspired to follow my Dad in his.


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