This article was originally published on Foxworthy Outdoors. Dec. 13, 2012.
John Roy Lightfoot is a rough old soul. At 55 years old, he could easily pass for 70. It’s amazing what three packs of cigarettes a day, mixed with a dozen beers and who knows what else will do to the body…but, it can’t be good. Yeah, John Roy had a rough life…a self-inflicted, rough life. Ten years in the pen for a pot farm didn’t help him either.
John Roy lives about five miles from our farm. He and his wife live in a small frame home surrounded by ten acres. They are poor folks who struggle to get by. Mrs. Lightfoot sells vegetables and canned goods to help support John, who doesn’t work.
We bought our farm here in the foothill-mountains of Clay County, Alabama, in 2005. Our old home was built in 1918. One of my first visitors was John Roy Lightfoot. I saw him drive up in a 1969 Dodge pick-up. There was the biggest, baddest looking pit bull in the bed of his truck. Dang…at first I swore it was a wart hog! A large, bearded, dirty man in overalls stepped out of the truck and immediately started cussing the bulldog for chewing off a tail light. Well, I tucked a S&W 38 hammerless, snub nose in my front pocket and met the stranger at the front door.
“Good morning,” I said.
John Roy barked back, “Morning Cap. I’m John Roy Lightfoot, as he reached his hand out to me.”
Let me explain……I worked for Helena Chemical in Florida before I became the National Sales Manager for Tecomate. While in Florida, I also captained my own 35 ft. fishing boat on Saturdays in the spring out of Pine Island, Florida. I have a Captains license. Now John had gotten this information through the rumor mill and thus the name “Cap” was given me from Mr. Lightfoot.
John Roy was crude, foul-mouthed and usually barefoot. He was a great hunter….you see he hunted anything at any time on anyone’s land.
“Cap, you sure got a fine old home place here. You got many deer?”
I replied, “A few.”
He took a long drag from his Pall Mall and looked at me with hard eyes.
“I hunted this land all my %$#@?* life – any time I took a notion,” he said.
I replied, “I guess those were the good old days.”
His eyes hardened tighter as smoke blew out one side of his nose. Then the bulldog jumped out of the truck and ran to the front porch. My right hand eased into my pocket for the wart hog pistol, but I immediately realized that the big bulldog came in peace. It started dancing all around me, petting my hand with his loggerhead.
“%#$% Cap, Ole Duke loves you. @$%&#, that dog don’t love nobody!”
The whole time Duke was trying to climb up in my lap. On a cold December morning in 2005 I sat on our front porch talking to a man and his dog that I had just met...a total stranger who lived only a few miles away…a poor man, with a bad past.
“Cap, I shoot a Remington 740 auto in 30-06…a finer rifle ain’t never been made,” he said proudly.
I replied, “John it’s a fine rifle, keep it clean and it will last three life times.”
John took a deep drag from his fourth Pall Mall.
“Cap, you ever heard of a $%#@# named Trudo Parker?”
I told him I did not know this man.
He continued, “Well, Trudo is a mean drunk, a thief and a bully.” Ol’ Duke here took off one day and travelled several miles from my place…whipped Trudo’s bulldog in a bad fight and Ole Duke came home…hardly a bite wound on him. Then Trudo called my house and says he’s coming over and goin’ to shoot my dog. Cap, you know what I told that old skank?”
I told him I did not know.
“Well, I told that cross-eyed son of a *&?# %, that if he showed up on my property and got out of his truck that I would blow his guts out his back!”
Well, that did it…I broke down in laughter. “John Roy, I don’t believe I have ever heard that term used before.”
I was also looking up the road wondering what a passer-by might say with me here sitting in a rocking chair with a seventy pound bulldog in my lap.
“Get down, Duke,” I ordered as the dog jumped to the porch floor.
On another day, John Roy showed up at the house and limped up to the front door. I looked down at a big toe that looked like an orange.
“Cap, a big ole copperhead hit me on the big toe.”
The toe was four times bigger than it should have been.
I asked, “John Roy when did this happen?”
He replied, “%$%@*, I don’t know Cap…four days.... maybe a week ago. %$@@%, I don’t know Cap.”
Kathy and I couldn’t get him to go to the doctor, but amazingly the toe healed up in a couple of weeks. John Roy is a tough old bird….awfully lucky too.
Mr. Lightfoot has been a monthly visitor for many years now. Mild changes have taken place; he has cleaned his mouth up, especially in front of Kathy. He tries hard to act like a gentleman every time he visits.
Last winter, John drove up our rock drive, jumped out of his truck and yelled with excitement, “Cap, come out here and look at what I’ve done shot.”
I approached the truck and in the bed was a very small, very young four point buck.
With disappointment I said, “John Roy, he’s awful small….maybe you should have let this one grow.”
I then lectured him in proper deer management.
John Roy looked to the ground, then back at me with soft, gentle eyes. “Cap, I really wanted to shoot a doe, but couldn’t find one, when this buck came out. You see…my wife and I are hungry.”
Looking back down in shame, John softly said, “I haven’t worked in years since the car wreck in 1990….we’re hungry Cap. It’s Christmas and…this is our Chirstmas deer.”
My heart was broken. How could I have been so arrogant? How could I have been so condescending and ignorant of a neighbor’s needs? I could see the shame in John Roy’s eyes, as my own shame convicted me, and I stared at the ground.
Long seconds passed, then I said, “John Roy, on second thought…you know…this is a fine young buck, fat as he can be. He’ll eat well, John. Come on in and eat lunch with us.”
John looked up from the ground and shame turned into a smile. He followed me inside to have lunch with me and Kathy. From that day on, I treated John with the upmost respect - as I should have from the beginning. I became more aware of his problems in life. Kathy started sharing baked goods with him and his wife. I gave him old clothes and hunting books.
But I did something else…I started sharing God’s word with him…something I should have done years earlier. You see… God puts the John Roy Lightfoots in our paths for good reason. It’s ever so easy to cast a stern eye at men like this, when in reality there is a little John Roy in every good man and there is also a little good in every John Roy.
Kinda like two dogs living in your heart…a good dog and a bad dog. It’s up to you to choose which dog to feed. It is up to us to lead by example and to be unafraid to speak of Jesus in public. I think of my friends at Foxworthy Outdoors – they are truly good people. I think of Jeff Foxworthy leading a Bible study to homeless men in Atlanta. I think of David Morris with Tecomate praying with a customer fighting cancer out in the middle of a crowded parking lot.
You see folks…sometimes we get too caught up in ourselves, our work and even trophy deer and forget the real trophy in life. Two thousand years ago, a little baby boy was born in this world. A child-King; not born in a palace with great riches, but in a barn with farm animals looking on. A humble birth and a humble beginning….a humility that maybe I need to demonstrate in my own life and be more understanding with others – like with John Roy’s Christmas deer.
Like John, I have my scars too…I am a sinner. It’s the birth of that little baby, His life, His death and His resurrection that could save a man like me. My prayer is that you have a blessed Christmas. May God bless you, your family, your health and prosperity. And may God bring this country back to its Christian foundation.