How To Win Every Social Media Argument Ever

[A post on internet kindness, updated from the archives.]

win the internetOne thing I’ll say for the secret to winning the Internet captured in that meme – “I just assume that if someone disagrees with me it’s because they misunderstood me. If they understood me, how could they not agree?” – is that it avoids the need to argue over anything. I just assume that if anyone disagrees with my brilliance it’s because I’m misunderstood and leave it at that, moving on to another conversation. I’ll know the people in the next conversation understand me if they agree with me. If they don’t, then they are merely misunderstanding my brilliance too.

Of course, some on social media appear to think that any disagreement must be met with repeated efforts to convince the other person they’re wrong. And when I say repeated, I mean re-pea-ted. The phrase ad nauseum was made for situations like that.

I confess that I’ve ad nauseated plenty of people on the Internet.

So what are we to do? Paul gave some great Internet advice 2000 years before computers were invented.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:10, 14, 16-18.)

There it is: humility, gentleness and making the effort to bring peace to every Internet interaction. OK, so maybe that picture above doesn’t quite capture the secret to winning the Internet. But Paul sure did.

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It’s OK to Like Yourself

It’s OK to Like Yourself 2

The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.
(Psalm 145:9.)

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Quick Comma Quiz

Quick Comma Quiz

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A Half Birthday List Is Better Than None

I had no idea half birthdays existed until I met the woman who would become my wife. She not only celebrates people’s birthdays but also the point in the year half-way to their next birthday.

Well, as someone who thinks birthdays should be celebrated for at least a week anyway, I thought this idea of adding even more celebration in between was great. So we celebrate half birthdays at our house.

T0 celebrate mine today I’m offering some lifetime-learned observations. Twenty-eight of them, in fact, because that’s half the number of years I celebrated at my last birthday. (And who am I kidding? No one wants to read a list as long as I am old.)

The links in the list go to posts where I expand on how I learned my lessons. If you have more life lessons, please feel free to add them in the comments. I can use all the help I can get.

1. It’s OK to stop and pull your socks back up.

2. Don’t worry about gray hair. Be thankful you still have hair.

3. Speaking of hair, don’t be afraid to try a new haircut.

4. When you feel the urge to text your spouse (or other important person) just to say hi and see how they’re doing, give in to that urge.

5. If your teenager walks into your bedroom and wants to chat just as you’ve turned the light off to go to sleep, turn the light back on and chat.

6. Saying “No” is wonderful. Then again, learn to say “Yes” to some things you haven’t done before.

7. Don’t look for reasons to dance. Just dance.

just dance

8. Encouragement is encouraging! Go out and do some!

9. When it comes to new food, if there’s a culture somewhere on the planet that features whatever it is as one of their regular dishes, give it a try.

10. Bacon. Yes.

bacon

11. Ask for help. You know you need it. Never asking for help is not OK.

12. The Bible is worth reading over and over and over again.

13. Getting up early to exercise won’t kill you.

14. Staying up too late will keep you from being able to get up early to exercise. Don’t be afraid to have a bedtime earlier than most toddlers.

15. My wife loves me, or perhaps I should say she knows me really well and loves me anyway. That alone is cause to give thanks to God.

16. When given a choice between chocolate and vanilla, say yes.

17. Parenting is an adventure.

18. Never pass up the opportunity to say a kind word to someone.

19. Try something you’ve never done before, even if you know other people will be a lot better at it than you.

20. There are a lot of people with fascinating stories in this world, more than you could ever listen to in a lifetime. Listen to as many as you can.

21. Help comes from the most unexpected people sometimes.

22. Some things you never outgrow, and some of those things are really embarrassing at times.

23. People need you.

People Need You24. There are some really hard parts of the Bible.

25. A glass of cold water is usually more satisfying than whatever you first started reaching for.

26. It’s good to be friends with people who are different from you.

28. You never know what’s coming next.

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Women, Men, and Language: Four Easy Steps to Better Church Leadership

Naming Rights – what’s in it for women and men?

Which of these sounds most natural to you:

  • Women and men.
  • Girls and boys.
  • Ladies and gentlemen.

If you say the last one, you are probably in the majority of English speaking people. The other two are written in the reverse order of their usual appearance, in that we usually hear or read Men and Women or – perhaps not quite as consistently but still predominantly – Boys and Girls. (Don’t get me started on Ladies and Gentlemen; that phrase carries its own baggage we should dump at every opportunity.)

For the sake of God’s people – women and men both – it’s worth coming out of your comfort zone with language about men and women.

language on women and men.jpg

Tips for doing that well in church are coming up a bit later in this post. First let’s take a look at how this plays out in another venue – the courtroom.

Putting the right person in charge

Toward the end of a trial in my courtroom I tell my jurors that the first thing they should do in the jury room is select a Presiding Juror to oversee deliberations.

The jurors might then wonder, “What is a Presiding Juror?” So I explain that this person is what we once called the jury foreman – the man who is in the fore by chairing the proceedings. Why a man? Because if you go back far enough in history there was no need to call the person anything other than foreman because women weren’t allowed on juries.

Then came the time when women started serving on juries. That was a good thing, but we still called the position “jury foreman” regardless of who held it. That was not a good thing.

Then came the time we recognized the propriety of accurately reflecting who is taking the lead and we started calling the person who held the position either the foreman or the forewoman.

So far, so good. But then we added a new word and started calling the position the jury foreperson, and frankly when you say it out loud it gives the impression that there’s a four-person committee running the jury.

Which means Presiding Juror is not a bad evolution of the title.*

Naming right is doing right

Women and men, girls and boys.

Men and women, boys and girls.

Is there anything inherently wrong in either word order? Perhaps not. But there is something inherently wrong in a persistent choice of word order.

One thing we learned in law school is the effect of primacy: people remember what they hear first. That’s why it’s important to lead with a strong argument in court.

It works with word order as well. In a two word list, people often read and hear the first word as being the primary word.

Think of a person leading a church service consistently using the word order Men and Women during a sermon or announcements. That’s not hard to picture, is it? This is how it is usually expressed, after all.

But it carries a subtle message.

Men, then women.

Men first, women next.

Men in the lead, and women follow the men.

This is about more than mere word order, though. It’s about those who have leadership positions being faithful to God and honest with his people.

It’s not hard to do it right.

Four easy steps to better church leadership

1. Start mixing up your word order:

Say women and men at least as often as you say men and women. The same goes for girls and boys for boys and girls. It might take some effort and sound awkward at first, but eventually everyone will stop noticing and then it won’t even take conscious effort on your part to keep mixing it up.

2. Use a Bible translation that accurately reflects the place of women and men in the church:

There are passages in the Bible that obviously refer solely to men or solely to women. There are others that refer to and have application for women and men alike. Those passages are best translated into English in a way that reflects the universal application. Compare these two translations of Romans 12:1, first from the ESV and then from the NIV:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

and,

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

No one reading that verse in the context of the preceding passages would take it to apply only to men and not women, and it is no excuse to say that you are only speaking the word as it was written. Translation means choosing the right words to get the actual meaning across.

3. Teach and preach how Scripture applies to women and men alike.

I’ve heard sermons where a passage such as Romans 12:1 is read with only the word “brothers” and then the preacher goes on to expound on it without even mentioning that Paul also meant to include women. (Even the ESV has a footnote saying it could be read as “brothers and sisters” but the preachers have glossed right over it.)

If you must use a gender-exclusive translation such as the ESV to teach from, then your preaching should also take the effort to explain that these verses apply to women and men alike. Otherwise the sermon is not honestly presenting the word of God.

4. Learn from the experiences of women and men both.

Anyone who is teaching both women and men needs to get to know both women and men. For those teaching the Bible and leading in church ministries, this requires learning from both men and women as well. Seek out people who are authorities on your subject, or have experience with it, or who have written well on it. Rely on people you know personally and on those you know only from their written words.

But don’t rely on just women or just men. That would be as if I tried to make a cheese omelet with just just cheese or just eggs. I might get something edible, but it’s nowhere near being as tasty as an omelet. (For anyone who thinks that food analogy is odd I point to Psalm 34:8 “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” which is another passage that applies to both women and men.)

These four tips can be a starting point, and one that I hope everyone can use – whether a church as a whole or a preacher, writer or speaker – to make sure no one is excluding half the church merely by unnecessary word choices.

I invite readers to add their own constructive ideas in the comments.

Women and men both.

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* The United States Marine Corps recently acted on the importance of accurate language:

Nearly six months after the Pentagon opened all military combat roles to women, the Marine Corps is making the change official in name — doing away with the word “man” in nearly two dozen job titles … .

The word “man” will be replaced with “Marine.”

The job titles that are changing include: basic infantry Marine, light-armor vehicle Marine, basic field artillery Marine, reconnaissance Marine, antitank missile gunner, field artillery fire control Marine, field artillery operations chief and armor Marine. (NBC News – Marine Corps Is Taking ‘Man’ Out of 19 Job Titles to Create Gender-Neutral Names.)

Their example is one the church – and particularly those in leadership – should follow.

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Jesus and the Mystery of the Third Cousin, Twice Removed

Jesus and John the Baptist were related through their mothers. What was the exact relationship between them all? Good question. More on that later.

First, let’s note that yesterday was Cousins Day (a holiday celebrated every July 24, apparently). Happy day to all my first, second, third and so on cousins, and to those who have been removed. But just what is a third cousin, and why would you ever remove one?

When cousins are from the same generation, they are known as first, second or third cousins. … On the other hand, when two people are not from the same generation, their relationship is described by adding the word removed. (Fun Holiday.)

For those still wondering what on earth third cousin twice removed means, here’s a chart I made. (It will come in handy when you get to Jesus and John a little further on.)

Cousins

Here’s a PDF version

The chart shows how your relatives are related to you (you’ll find yourself halfway down the left-hand column). First cousins are relatives who each go up one generation to find siblings. Second cousins are those who each go up two generations to find siblings, third cousins go up three generations, and so on. The items outside the parentheses show the person’s relationship to you, while the items in parentheses show the relationship from one group to the group immediately to the right. You can ignore all these parenthetical items if you don’t care how those other people are all related to one another.

Here are a couple of examples to show how to use the chart as a tool for determining cousin and removal numbers.

Example A – Cousins: Find 3C on the chart. You and your relative each count up three generations to the siblings – your great-grand parents’ and great-grand aunt’s or uncle’s generation. You and your relative are third cousins.

If cousins do not go up an equal number of generations to find siblings, there is a removal. The way to determine removals is count the generations up for each person to find siblings; the lower number is the degree of cousins, and the difference between the two numbers is the removal.

Example B – Removed Cousins: Find 3C2R two steps down from 3C. You again count up three generations to the siblings, but your relative 3C2R counts up five to get to the same generation of siblings. You are third cousins based on you getting to the sibling generation in only three steps, but twice removed because there is a two generation difference for your relative to get to the siblings. (Your third cousin twice removed is also the grandchild of your third cousin from Example A.)

Bible Cousins

Luke 1:36 says that Mary and Elizabeth are related. That might mean they are first cousins or it might mean they are relatives of some other connection. Let’s assume for a moment they are first cousins.

That means that Jesus and Elizabeth are first cousins once removed as to each other, and the same for Mary and John. Using the chart above, can you then determine what the relationship between Jesus and John would be?

A fabulously illusory and nonexistent prize* will be awarded for every correct answer!

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*Not only is the prize illusory and nonexistent, but it’s valueless as well!

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Everyone Has a Choice: fear and love

Don’t Give In to Those Who Motivate by Fear

Fear of the other, fear of those not like us, fear of the strange and unfamiliar – these can be strong motivators when wielded by people with an agenda.

Don’t follow the agenda of fear.

Follow Jesus.

In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear … .
(1 John 4:17-18.)

Everyone has two choices: become what you fear or become what you love.

You become what you fear by thinking you can oppose it by mirroring it. Do you fear something or someone hateful? You can try to keep them away by hating them back. Are they filled with anger and spite? You can be spiteful and angry too. Are they spewing vitriol and lies? You can spew your own vitriolic lies.

You become what you love by mirroring it as well. Do you love kindness and peace and graciousness and compassion? Do you love wisdom and strength of character and perseverance in the face of hardship? Be like the mirror which receives light and reflects what is borne in the light so that others see it as well.

You reflect this in your actions, in your choices, in your thoughts and in your words.

You have a choice. Become what you love.

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Everyone Has Two Choices

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[There are usually more than two choices of course. This post is about when someone is finding themselves deciding between the two particular areas of fear and love. Also, it should not be taken as giving glib advice to people suffering under oppression, abuse or other dire hardships; that would be a completely different blog post with much more situation-specific advice.] 

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Cowboy Gets Bushwhacked – the Cowboy Saga, part five

I tipped my hat down over my eyes as we rode into the sun dropping lower on the horizon. The trail boss did the same.

“We’ll be able to go to church tomorrow morning,” he said.

“Is your cousin Cath… Is Miss Elliot going to be there?”

“I expect, her father being the preacher.”

“Her father?”

“Uncle Frank’s been the preacher there since before I was born.”

I’d already had second thoughts about taking the trail boss up on his invite. Now it was third thoughts galloping right along to fourth, fifth and sixth thoughts too. It made my head hurt.

“C’mon, cowboy.” He turned in his saddle and fixed his eye on me. “Don’t tell me you’re thinking about backing out now.”

“Well, I … umm … it’s just … ” I reached down and fiddled with a strap on the saddle that didn’t need fiddling.

“We need you. My father’s place may not be big, but he said he needs a couple of hands to fix up the summer lightning damage before winter. That’s me and you. Good thing this year’s trail drive ended early.”

I liked working with the trail boss, that’s why I signed on with him again this year even if we weren’t heading as far north with the herd as last year. But the pay wasn’t as good on account of the short drive and I needed more work, so here I was riding my horse Pete alongside the trail boss just a couple miles from his folks’ place.

“Anyway,” he said, “you were asking about church tomorrow morning.”

“It’s nothing.”

“Does ‘nothing’ have something to do with my cousin?”

Not a word out of me.

“I saw that wink she gave you when you met her a couple months back.”

Still not a word from me.

“She doesn’t wink at just anybody, you know.”

Now I definitely couldn’t say a word, not with my throat starting to feel all closed up and the blood rushing up from my neck to my face as I turned redder than a sugar beet.

I fiddled with a couple more saddle straps.

***

We rode up to the ranch house. It was pretty country here, the house up against the foot of a low range of hills, the oak trees scattered around it, a small kitchen garden to one side and good pasture stretching off to the north in the twilight.

The trail boss was just telling me about the town being five miles further along when a woman came running from the house.

“Tom, you’re home!”

“Truer words were never spoken, Mother.” He jumped off his horse, grabbed her in his arms and swung her up off the ground all in a whirl, then made to do it again.

“Tom put me down, put me down!”

“All right, I suppose I should be mannerly and introduce you to my friend here.”

His friend. He’d never called me that. He was always the trail boss to me. Friend.

“Well, any friend of yours,” a deep voice boomed behind us, “is worth being introduced to.”

“Hello, Pa.” There were big handshakes between them, and even bigger grins on their look-alike faces. The only difference was the years from father to son.

His father looked back at the half-ruined barn he just stepped out of. “God bless us all; you’re home, Tom.”

***

The family took right to me, I don’t know why. After we’d brushed down the horses I asked the trail boss where the bunkhouse was so I could throw my things down. He laughed and said I’d be staying in the house.

We walked inside to a table already laid for supper and a stove full of food just ready for serving.

“How’d you know we’d be home in time for supper, Ma?”

“We didn’t. We’re having a sort of dinner party.”

I turned aside to the trail boss. “I don’t mean to intrude, boss” I said under my breath. “I can ride into town for supper.”

“Into town? My mother always makes enough food to feed twice as many as are fixing to sit down to eat. Let’s go wash up.” He led me to the basin and towel hanging in a back room with a couple beds. “It’s time you stopped calling me boss, too. We’re both just my father’s hands now, and Tom’s fine.”

“You sure?” I said through some soap lather, trying not to let it get into my mouth while letting the words get out.

He nodded from under the towel he was rubbing across his face.

“All right … uh, Tom.”

We went back to the front room. The house had a parlor-like room to one side, and the kitchen and a huge table to another, and from what I could tell there were a couple more rooms in back besides the one we washed up in.

“So who’s in the dinner party, Ma?”

“My brother and his family. Set places for you two, won’t you Tom?”

He pulled plates from a sideboard and asked me to grab two chairs from the parlor room. His mother went back to the stove while his father went out with a bucket for some water.

“You know what this means?”

I shook my head.

“You won’t have to wait for church.”

“Wait for church for what?”

“Wait for church for Catherine,” he said. “Don’t play dumb.”

“I’m not … I mean she, she probably doesn’t even remember meeting me.”

“We’ll see.” He turned to the kitchen. “Ma, did Kitty say anything about that time I rode into town for supplies a couple months back when I was still on the trail drive?”

“She sure did.” His mother looked right at me. “She said you had the nicest cowboy with you she’d ever met.”

I about hoped the ground would open up and swallow me.

***

Dinner was a blurry time for me. Tom didn’t make me sit next to Catherine, or Kitty as she made me call her. He sat next to her and had me sit across the table. From her, not from him. I stared down at my plate most of the meal because every time I looked anywhere else I was looking at her and I tried that a couple times and food dropped into my lap both times.

After dinner his father and Uncle Frank stepped out onto the porch and invited us to join them while his Aunt Polly and Kitty helped his mother with cleaning up.

The cool evening air was a relief to my face.

“Son,” his uncle said, “tell me a bit about yourself.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you. Tom’s letter said you read the Bible?”

“Some, yes sir. I don’t know much about that sort of thing, but the trail … but Tom’s been helping me understand more.”

“Are you book-learned, son? Does reading come easy?”

“I have schooling.’ I didn’t want to tell him how much. That got embarrassing sometimes. “But I haven’t been a church goer, not since my mother died when I was 14.”

“She was a church woman?”

“Yes sir. When she died it was just hard to walk into a church any more.”

“I understand that. Do you think you might be able to walk inside church tomorrow?”

Now I was put to it. He’s the preacher, and family to Tom, and Kitty’s father. “I hope I might, sir.”

“Well I hope you might too, son.” He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a book. “Let me read this to you. Tom, grab a lamp from inside, if you please.” He adjusted his glasses and angled the book toward the light Tom set down by him.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

“I’m preaching on that tomorrow, son. From what Tom wrote, you’ve been asking and seeking and knocking. I’d like it if you were there to hear.”

“I’d like that too,” a soft voice said beside me. Kitty stood in the doorway.

***

Moonlight splashed along the floor in that back room.

“You know what happened tonight?” Tom asked from his bed.

“What?”

“You got bushwhacked.”

“What, you mean you set this up?”

“Not us. We’re not that clever of a family.” The bed springs creaked as he shifted to face me. “I think you know who set this up. Coincidences like this seem to be a specialty of his.”

“You think God cares that much about what’s going on in my life?”

“I know he does, and I think you’re starting to know that too.”

The springs creaked again. I lay there thinking and wondering and trying to come up with a way to convince Tom that I wasn’t important enough for God. But before I could come up with anything I heard snoring across the room.

So then I figured I might as well try to tell God directly that he didn’t need to concern himself with me, but I fell asleep before I could come up with anything that came close to convincing even me.

***

Cowboy’s story began on Monday with Counting Canyons, then continued with Cold Canyon on Tuesday, Cowboy and the Preacher Shake Hands on Wednesday, and Cowboy Gets a Crush on Thursday. Today’s story is the latest installment of the Cowboy Saga. To read the earlier posts just go to this blog home page and scroll down to Monday and read up from there.

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Binary Thinking – a short humor post

binary thinking***

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Cowboy Gets A Crush – the Cowboy Saga, part four

“She’s pretty, that’s for sure Pete.” There was no one but me and Pete riding out on this side of the herd. “You saw her. I think she smiled at me. Not sure. Could be. What do you think?”

I could trust Pete to never tell anyone what I’d just said. Horses are good that way. Lots of listening and no talking.

“Anyway, she smiled whether it was at me or not. She’s got a pretty smile.”

***

The trail boss introduced me to her when we went into town for some supplies and to post some letters the hands had written for families back home – wherever that might be. Most of us were a long way from home out there on the range. Not the trail boss. He rode into home when we rode into town, getting a lot of nods and a couple “Hey look, Tom’s back!” He smiled and waved easy at them all.

We tied our horses up in front of the general store so we could buy a small keg of salt. Cookie said we had plenty when we started out but it all got ruined last night. That’s what happens in snake country.

No, snakes don’t ruin your salt but if the salt barrel is next to the camp stove and a snake comes sidling up to the fire to get warm and a greenhorn on his first cattle drive doesn’t see it until it’s sliding over the top of his boot, nearby salt barrels tend to get kicked over.

So the trail boss and I rode into the nearest town the next morning while the herd moved slowly north. Normally he’d have just sent a couple of us hands in to get it, but seeing as how the next town we came to was his home he wanted to come himself. Nobody blamed him, even the fellow that would’ve come with me if the trail boss hadn’t.

I carried the little keg of salt outside while the trail boss paid, and held the door for a young woman on her way in. The door closed behind me but not before I heard her say, “Tom! When did you get into town? Wait until I tell my parents you’re … .”

I strapped the keg behind Pete’s saddle and reached for the letters in the bags hanging down his flanks so I could take them to the post office. The trail boss stood in front of the store by the time I got back, the young woman on his arm.

They were a handsome couple. Striking, you’d say if you saw them yourself. She looked up at him and he looked protective over her.

“Here he is, the one I was telling you about.”

I took my hat off.

“I thought you said the cowboys you rode with were not well-mannered,” she said.

“Now don’t go getting me into trouble, Kitty. I said that riding the range was no place for fine manners. But the men I ride with are good stock, and this here’s one of the best.”

I twirled my hat around as I held it in front of me.

“Oh, you’ve gone and embarrassed him, Tom. Be nice and introduce us proper.”

“I thought I was being nice. All right, all right, stop poking my rib like that.” He gave her my name and said, “And this is Miss Catherine Elliot.”

“Pleased to meet you, Ma’am.” I put my hat back on, pulling it down lower than usual.

That’s when she smiled at me. Or at something. But it was in my direction.

And what a smile it was. My heart took up residence in my throat and my mouth got drier than Oklahoma in summer.

“Please tell your mother I couldn’t stay to visit this time, but the drive will be over soon and I’ll be back once we get the herd sold at the stock market.” He gave her a peck on the cheek. “But don’t tell her until I get a ways out of town or she’ll run me down and tell me I’m a worthless good-for-nothing for not stopping by the house myself.”

“She’d do nothing of the sort, Tom, and you know it.” She gave me a wink – a wink! – and said, “My mother might think those things, but she’s too much of a lady to say them out loud.”

***

By mid-afternoon we saw the herd in the distance.

“You’re awfully quiet, even for you,” he said. “Not a word since we left town.”

“I was just thinking a spell.” I checked the straps on the salt keg, looking for something to do. “You and Miss Elliot known each other long?”

“All our lives, why?”

“I could tell is all. The way you two looked together. And how you seem to know her mother so well.”

“I should,” he said. “Aunt Polly’d tan my hide if she knew I came to town without stopping in to say howdy. I’ll have to make it up to her when I come home for the winter.”

***

“She’s his cousin, Pete, not his sweetheart! Can you believe it?” Pete swayed beneath me as the herd moved along beside us. “And she winked at me. Maybe that smile was just for me too. What do you think of that?”

Pete didn’t answer, but he didn’t need to. I had my own opinion on the subject.

***

Cowboy’s story started on Monday and continues through the week, ending with part five on Friday. Come back tomorrow for the final installment.

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