purple and white round ornament

When I was very young, I had an old­er cousin, Dale Medford, who would loan me books to read. That is where I dis­cov­ered the first three main­stays of my devel­op­ing years.

“The Three Musketeers” showed me how peo­ple, although very dif­fer­ent, could be friends, could enjoy each oth­er’s com­pa­ny while allow­ing each oth­er to lead sep­a­rate lives, and that friend­ship was not mere­ly a dec­la­ra­tion, but an active state of sup­port and protection.

“Robinson Crusoe” taught me the impor­tance of knowl­edge; that you could lose every­thing and sur­vival depend­ed on what you knew. So, I became a 4‑H mem­ber and a boy scout so I could learn how to build, make clothes, kin­dle fires, cook, and find my way through the wilderness.

“Tarzan” had only some child­hood books and a knife. He had no knowl­edge – just inborn instincts to keep him alive. Nature was a hard but car­ing par­ent that pro­vid­ed love, even among the beasts. I learned by instinct how to walk the forests with cau­tion, but with­out fear — and it is among the trees that I have found some of my great­est joys in living.

Dale once gave me a brown, round rock and then showed me how to crack it open. I learned about the mag­ic, secret jew­els inside geodes.

He has long since passed, but I still send him prayers of thanks. As cousins, we shared some seri­ous moments and some sil­ly moments, but the men­tal image that remains is his smile and a feel­ing of being in the pres­ence of liv­ing integri­ty. On a spir­i­tu­al path, I learned that you have no knife, there is no sol­id ground to walk on, and knowl­edge is mean­ing­less triv­ia; all you have is what you have made of your inner self. 

That is the naked hon­esty, the type of integri­ty Dale taught me by the exam­ple of his life and by his gifts. Thank you, sir.

  • Bernard Fraley

    Winchester native Bernard Fraley has worn many hats, includ­ing author, pho­tog­ra­ph­er, painter, poet, reporter, news­pa­per edi­tor, and more. Find some of his books on Amazon.