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MenOld Pete Farley
By William Bateman

He was a sprightly old guy. He was loud and he was funny. And the few times he was not actually voicing his opinion about something; he would be juggling a sunflower seed somewhere between his semi-toothless smile and flapping tongue.

He called himself Pete. Oh, I am sure that is what his parents named him seventy years before, but for some reason it just makes more sense to me thinking it was he who named himself. Pete was that bold about things.

At the beginning of my hike along the Appalachian Trail; I religiously signed each and every journal that came across my path; the ones stuck in boxes nailed to trees; the ones left behind in shelters (called "Lean-tos" by "real hikers") by researchers, students and fellow hikers and the such. I signed each and every one of 'em the same way:

"Spanky was here... (Date) Psalm 139"

Not much to look at I suppose; but, Pete noticed.

Pete had a routine. All hikers do, I suppose. He may have been loud. He may have been brash. But, he was organized. Like a fine tuned clock, Pete would set up his tent, unfold his folding chair, break out the sunflower seeds and then read for hours. When satisfied that he learned something from that book he was reading, he would wake me up to explain what I thought his book meant.

Pete's book was a big book... full of thoughts and theories about who the "historical Jesus" was. The author sure spent a lot of time trying to prove that this Jesus fellow was just a man not the God He claimed to be. I think Pete would have been fine with that, if it weren't for the fact that he noticed I signed all my journal entries with "Psalm 139."

It was an epic clash of the reading titans. Pete on one side, welding that big book full of human wisdom; and I on the other side, letting the Bible answer his challenges. The Pete-provoked debates would go on late into the night and when he was satisfied, he would abruptly say, "Good job Spanky! Time to get some shut eye!" and just like that, would fold up his folding chair, turn off his headlamp, duck into his tent and within minutes be snoring away.

I would lay there staring up to the stars and wonder what Pete was looking for...

"For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it. (Psalms 139:1-6 NKJV)
William "Spanky" Bateman is a father of eleven; veteran long distance hiker, author, speaker and mentor to youth in south Florida. He is preparing to hike more than 4,400 miles from Cape Gaspe', Canada to Key West, FL on behalf of fathers and the children who need them! His Hike4Fathers website can be found at: www.abovetheclouds.cc His Hike4Fathers Blog can be found at: hike4fathers.blogspot.com
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