After eighteen months of writing, and a half-year of (ongoing) editing, we’ve set Saturday, October 3 as the release date for The King of Highbanks Road.
There is much to to share. The book’s foreword is set to be authored by a New York
Times best-selling author at the top of his game. We’ll have some commemorative ceremonies, but more about those things later.
Today, I’m happy to tell you that KOHBR will release as a traditional limited-edition hardback with a 500-volume numbered press run. That means you can get a “one and only.”
So I hope you’ll make plans to buy one one of these signed, limited-edition books now. They will be released for sale in two phases: first at a ceremony in the King’s hometown of Monette, AR; the second phase a few hours later via online order. Hardback copies will sell for $24 each, plus shipping. #1 goes to my mom. #2 goes to my wife. #3 through #500 are up for grabs.
Both unnumbered hardbacks, and paperbacks will also be available via Amazon. The paperback will sell in the $15 range.
I’m also pleased to report there will be an audio version of KOHBR, narrated by yours truly. More to come on that as well.
Stay tuned for future announcements. We’re not finished yet!
Which number will be on your bookshelf???
It’s worth noting at the beginning my sensitivity to this topic. It began in 2012 when a well-intentioned, but misguided church pastor literally walked away from my dying father’s request for baptism. There is no more anger. Over the years, I have understood this moment for what it was.
Fast forward six years.
Dana and I were working a three-month term of volunteer service at a facility in Santiago de Compostela, Spain known for its welcoming atmosphere, peaceful environment, and Christian foundation. This is not a place that pushes religion on you, but it ideally operates as if Jesus managed it. We often said we hoped visitors experienced Jesus when they walked through the door. It’s also worth noting that the founders of this facility were abroad on business during these three months, and had they been there, none of this likely would have happened.
As I mentioned, Dana and I were volunteers working with several full-time staff members. We greeted visitors, helped them with travel issues, helped them understand the city, and other basic needs. Volunteerism is a commendable thing, but you also have to remember your place. You are there to assist, not necessarily lead. You are on someone else’s turf.
Several weeks into our service, a young man from Portugal came in. After helping him with some logistical issues, he began a conversation along spiritual lines. The young man mentioned he’d been on pilgrimage for three weeks, stopped in three churches to request baptism, and was denied each time. He was confounded how this could happen.
“Can you baptize me here?” he asked.
I asked a few questions exploring his faith a bit more. My judgment was that he’d had a genuine experience out there that fully merited his request.
I should have handled it right then and there. It was so exciting. What a moment this will be, I thought. We will remember it forever. It even crossed my mind that this was the reason we were called so far from home. Yes, I should have handled it right there. Were it to repeat, that’s exactly what I’d do.
But in the moment, I decided the best protocol was to quickly explain the scenario to a full-time staffer and let him and others move this process forward. There was no question in my mind they’d do so, and it was the respectful thing to do.
So I led Carlito into a conversation with the senior staff member on duty and went back to the desk, listening intently, and excited about Carlito’s decision.
Carlito described his frustration with the three churches who would have no part in his baptism. He did not wish to be catholic. He wished to be baptized in the name of Jesus. I counted this a real sign of his understanding.
At this point, it might be helpful to explain what baptism is, and what it is not.
It is not:
•Membership in a denominational church
•A magical moment of conversion
•Even particularly necessary for one’s salvation
•A symbolic profession of faith carried out as a result of a previous experience
•Agreement that one believes in Christ Jesus, His deity as the Son of God, his death as atonement for sin, and his resurrection ,and place at God’s right hand today
•A milestone moment on which a Christian can reflect
Our staffer, a well-educated, deep-thinking scholar and Christian evangelical from Tennessee walked Carlito though conversation. I eventually heard him explaining how baptism is an act of community, and should be performed in community. He encouraged him to return home, find a church, explore his faith further and invest in a place where he could serve. There was so much talking, and so little acting.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It would be the fourth time Carlito was refused baptism. He left later that day never knowing the difference. I was sick to my stomach.
So much theology!
It doesn’t take a special set of circumstances or a certain environment to profess your faith in Christ. Jesus doesn’t care if you are fully immersed, or sprinkled, or if you are in a church of five thousand, or with a friend in the woods. Jesus cares for the condition of your heart, and asks that you take a step in faith to know Him.
Our faith has never been about the rules, or the guidelines, or the principles. Just as it is not about your resume or list of achievements. We come to the place where we realize that we are not enough, and we need a helper. A simple decision, not a ceremony.
Don’t overthink Jesus.
Did you read Pilgrim Strong? I could use your help.
We need 36 reader reviews to reach 100. The Amazon gods are saying magical things happen to a book’s visibility at 100 reviews. All our reviews are legit. We’ve never attempted to pad our page with fake reviews for the sake of numbers. But if you”re a reader, and can take a moment to help with an honest opinion, we’d be grateful. You must have an active Amazon account in good standing. Here’s a sample, and thank you!
Some time around 2014 my phone rang and showed an unknown number. The caller identified himself at Keith Richardson and said he’d found a blog site where I mostly wrote about our adventures building a house and living part-time in Ecuador. He wondered if I had time for a few questions. I said, sure.
Six years later, Keith and I are close friends. He is a man I admire. Smart as a whip. Moral. A learner. Compassionate for those less fortunate. A giver. Both a lawyer and a minister by profession. We communicate frequently as friends and consider ourselves traveling companions. We’ve spent a week together in Ecuador, and last year logged about four thousand miles together on a round-trip, road trip to Nova Scotia. I consider Keith a part of my inner circle.
Beth’s name began popping up in my social media feed during my 2015 pilgrimage on the Way of St. James. She and her husband had walked just months earlier and she re-lived her experience through me, though it was quite different from hers.
Writers pay attention to how others write, even on social media. I immediately
recognized her as a skilled and thoughtful writer, one of the best around. That alone drew me to her as a friend. Little did either of us know we’d both spend the next couple of years writing about the walking experience. Her book is Walking to the End of the World. Our friendship also became a professional relationship. I’ve consulted with Beth on several writing projects, and she is the lead editor for The King of Highbanks Road. Beth blogs at caminotimestwo.com and bethjusino.com. She is one of those people whose opinion is important.
Annie introduced herself to me the same as Beth. Social media comments here and there during pilgrimage. Because the pilgrim population is a tight-knit group, I knew of Annie’s work on a developing documentary called Phil’s Camino. It was an honor having Annie in the conversation.
I’d actually first seen Annie in her own documentary, Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago. The film captured Annie’s physical pain with several miles yet to go. She was
genuine, authentic and raw in that film, and I knew I’d like her immediately.
We became close enough friends, and Annie identifies with my writing enough, that I asked her to write the foreword for Pilgrim Strong. She was the perfect person in that moment. Our names are forever intertwined in that relationship.
We get to hang out occasionally. We spent a day together at the Hot Springs Film Festival and watched the total eclipse together near Kansas City in 2018. Annie is an incredible artistic talent.
He is the rock star of the pilgrim community.
Phil Volker is the focus of Annie’s film, Phil’s Camino, the story of a man who overcame all odds to walk the Way. Phil, too, followed along as I walked in 2015.
He is one of the most inspiring men you’ll ever meet. My favorite Phil Volker quote:
“There is a difference in being cured and being healed. At this point in life I’m focusing on the healing which means all the important things in life are reconciled like my relationships with my family and with God.”
It was one of my greatest pleasures walking with Phil on his camino in 2018, and I’ll see him later this year at a gathering now known as Philstock. Yes, he has his own annual gathering. That’s how much people love him.
Susan & Kym Gardner
Another Camino connection. Susan and I were first connected until I met both her and her husband, Kym at the Gathering of Pilgrims in Asheville last year. This North Carolina-based couple is kind and generous, and have found a way to use their resources for the greater good.
For the last two years, they’ve organized groups that are part of a long-term project to carry a young man named Gabriel across the Way. Physical limitations confine Gabriel to a wheelchair. The experiences they’ve shared as part of Gabriel’s camino are amazing.
Some people are just extraordinary. Brien Crothers is one.
Though we connected through pilgrimage, I am most impressed with Brien’s adventures as an endurance athlete. He’s run several ultra marathons across several deserts on several continents. He’s complete the Western States 100 on multiple occasions, and he’s just a super nice guy. He allowed me to tag along last year, observing an aid station around mile 70 of this spectacular event.
Brien and his wife, Kathey, opened their home to me in 2019 during a book tour through California. We have the same eccentric qualities with an interest in many things and Brien is steadily working on his writing craft.
I never realized how many friends I’ve developed just because of pilgrimage. Roni is another.
Her comments on my social media thread in 2015 struck me much in the same way Beth’s did. Roni was clearly educated, thoughtful, and articulate. I eventually learned she was closing in on her doctoral degree in communication and was studying how the use of technology impacted pilgrimage with people who used it. I was the perfect mouse in the maze to observe on that topic.
She’s since completed that degree, frequently demonstrates an amazing flair for photography across rural Oklahoma and the world, and she travels. Roni’s headed back to Camino in just a few weeks.
The only person on this list I’ve not met personally.
Suzan and her husband’s work in travel writing first caught my attention back around 2010. They were writing a lot for a publication known as International Living, and Ecuador was a frequent topic. Their writing piqued our curiosity enough that Dana and I made a 3-week exploratory trip to Ecuador in 2012. It’s a long story after that, but Latin America has since become a big part of our lives.
I was on a train to Pamplona when Suzan wrote and asked if I’d consider writing a story about pilgrimage for International Living.
I ultimately learned Suzan has considerable roots in Arkansas and an impressive list of writing credentials. She is one of those folks with a solid world view based on real experience.
If you have a wooden sign in your home about your pilgrimage experience chances are this Minnesota man made it. Tom has a great Etsy business making commemorative camino signs and he’s one of the kindest men you’ll ever know. After reading Pilgrim Strong, Tom sent me several pieces of his work as “thanks” for the book.
When Tom passed though Arkansas last year, he and his wife spent a night with us. We made him an honorary citizen of Wynne, AR, just forty miles south of here.
It was my first literary gathering – The Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference in Asheville, NC. A particular book in the bookstore drew me toward it and I began flipping through. The voice from behind is one I’ll never forget.
“My mother just LOVES that book,” the voice said. And I wondered who this strange man was, and why he was talking to me.
He was the author! What an honor!
I followed Jim’s career from that moment. A New York Times best selling author, he’s achieved the highest awards in the world of Christian fiction. And he’s an amazing person.
I attended his Rubart Academy last year just so I could get to know Jim better. It was time and money well spent. I’m hopeful I’ll get to say more about working with Jim in the next few weeks.
Old cypress barn north of Oil Trough, AR.
Its legal description is Roundbottom Pool Estates, an approximate 50-acre land tract developed in a spectacular river valley near Mountain View, AR in 2007. When a one-hundred-year flood passed through a year later, it derailed plans for everything. Today it is the site for about seven homes, most of them vacation homes for people living full-time elsewhere. It is also the home of our Tranquility Base Writer’s Retreat Center. Outside the trickle of the White River and an occasional eagle, you can hear a pin drop there.
From Mountain View, you travel about five miles southeast and downward following the White River to reach Roundbottom. Not uncommon along the drive are deer, turkey, and all kinds of wildlife, not to mention the occasional hillbilly. The Herpelites (those hillbillies living along Herpel Road) are the biggest challenge as they fly around blind corners in beat up pickup trucks (think Deliverance) with no regard to possible oncoming traffic. A Herpelite can kill you in a heartbeat. Watch out, and drive defensively for Herpelites.
The conclusion of the five-mile drive down into the valley on our River Valley Road is take-your-breath-away beautiful.
Last Monday, Dana and I spent an hour researching real estate records at the Stone County Courthouse. After some digging, we identified the lot owners immediately west of our 1.2 acre property. The kind clerk gave me directions to the owner’s house and we drove there. The owners kindly invited us in to their amazing mountain cabin overlooking our valley and I asked about his willingness to sell his property adjacent to tranquility base.
“I’d love to sell it,” he said. My heart jumped.
After a couple of days of negotiations, I’m happy to say we’re purchasing another 1.2 acres that will double the size of our sanctuary, providing room for more wildlife habitat, a walking trail and lots of breathing room. It also brings our river frontage to just more than 200 feet.
We’re hopeful that construction will begin on March 1.
Some time back around 2010 I was getting desperate. I hadn’t worked in two years and chronic depression had settled in, seeming it might never go away. Dana and I were still relatively newly married and I wondered why she even stuck around.
One morning my mom called and explained a potential opportunity with a family that owned one of those elder care businesses with several satellite offices across Arkansas. They needed two people for their Mountain Home office and they needed them soon. I drove up a few days later and they offered us the job on the spot. The emotions were mixed. The money would be a relief but leaving “home” never felt right. I made the decision that we’d make the move despite gut feelings that said it was wrong.
Time passed. Not only were the owners downright tyrants, they were an emotional bunch who lived out most aspects of their lives without discretion. Husband and wife arguments right there in the office, the kind of family dynamics that have no business in the workplace. These people were mean. Mean and depression don’t mix well. Dana and I were miserable at new depths.
And I felt completely trapped.
We’d made the move, though we’d not sold our house back home, and the money paid the bills. We weren’t being a burden to anyone, but the work experience made us so physically sick we came home every weekend, happy to spend time back in our house with no more than a couple of lawn chairs and a blow-up couch. One Monday morning before we made the three-hour drive back to work I had a complete spiritual meltdown, one of the lowest moments of my life.
As the weeks passed, the experience took its toll on us physically. Dana, strong, and typically full of energy became sick with a level 10 sinus infection. She stayed home from work that day, but the owners were relentless sending her email and calling her at home to carry on with her work.
Dana returned to work the following day, still sick but overwhelmed with so much work responsibility. Staying home was no relief.
Looking back, it was also the day that we reclaimed our lives and started living again.
That entire morning, the owners, now working in an office several hours away, pounded Dana with work assignments via text, email, and phone call. Still sick and feverish, she handled it well. (Dana is MUCH better at this stuff than me.)
At the end of a command from one of the owners, Dana replied with a simple, “Gotcha.”
The owner’s reply?
“Never reply to me with a ‘gotcha.’ Your correct response is ‘the task is complete.’”
I’d never seen anything like it. The task is complete. That’s the response she commanded.
We finished the day and went for cheap fast food at a Hardees. As bad as the day had been, we feared tomorrow might get worse. And the next day, and the next.
Dana looked at me. I looked at her.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” I asked.
“I think so.
“Let’s blow this joint.”
That evening, we dropped our keys in a business mailbox, went home, slept like babies, got up early and packed to go home. We never spoke another word to those maniacs. And we literally cheered and sang and celebrated the drive home.
We reflect on it as one of the pivotal moments in our marriage. Solid. Together. One.
Sometimes you have to follow your gut.
- AstroTurf. AstroTurf hit it big in 1966 when the company was tapped to turf the newly opened Houson Astrodome.
- Best Buy.
- Doritos, only the world’s best snack.
- Fresca. So refreshing for 54.
- Quaker Instant Oatmeal. Bring me a variety pack to the old folks home each year at Christmas.
- Toyota Corolla. Probably all made in 66 are still going!
- Super Bowl I. The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills 31-7.
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
- Star Trek