Can an Insect Change the Life I Love?

locustIn effort to avoid wandering around the store aimlessly by my wife, I picked up this months issue of Popular Science to peruse while waiting to purchase my pizza lunchables and spaggetti O’s. Midway through the issue, I came upon an article entitled “The Incredible Edible Insect” (Wired ran a similar article 2 years ago), that caused me to question the future of agriculture, ranching, and the life that I so dearly loved. It read:

“the global population, now at more than 7 billion, may grow to 9 billion by 2050. Already, nearly 1 billion people regularly go hungry. Insects–a source of protein that requires a fraction of the land, water, and feed as livestock–could help alleviate the looming crisis.”

Insects are the future of agriculture…which hardly makes sense because since the beginning of time they have been the bane of agriculture. Exodus reads differently if Moses is “bringing in the herd” (Exodus 10.1-20); the day of the Lord is less menacing and more all-you-can-eat buffet (Joel 2); and John the Baptist is only slightly less peculiar (Matthew 3.4) They devastated crops and land, leaving bareness in their wake and now we’re supposed to be raising them/

Should it prove true, that grasshoppers and insects prove to be the world’s solution to protein, what would become of cowboys? It’s not like they are going to become extinct. Cowboys are like cockroaches, they adapt, survive, and overcome. A pack of hotdogs, coffee, and a saddle is all that is needed for survival. Some can rub two pennies together and get a hundred dollar bill (Lucas Littles, Doug Reser) and others can do the same and end up with one penny (Me); but the story remains the same, the cowboy way of life isn’t in danger of dying, but think of how this insect thing could change it.

  • In terms of land use, three acres in Eastern Kansas would feed a cow…but how many grasshoppers. You could pack’em tight. That old saying “make your fence bull strong, horse high, and chicken tight” would have to be changed, but after all it is an old saying and old sayings sometimes need revision.
  • Working stock. The cowboy’s choice of tools has traditionally been a lariat, but like I said earlier, Cowboys are nothing if not flexible. A butterfly net might not look as punchy, harder to attach to a saddle, and not as cool to do tricks with, but it can be just as handy. It’s going to be tougher to look cool and a little more humbling, but I can catch butterflies better than I can rope calves.
  • Winters are hard on cattle herds (and I preface this by saying I’m not an entomologist), it seems like winters would be even harder on a grasshopper ranch. Feed bills would be lower, but all your stock would be dead so there really isn’t any headway.
  • I wonder how much priority will be placed on free range vs cage reared grasshoppers. Could one really tell the difference between a wild locust and a bug zoo locust? I bet you never hear someone say: “that grasshopper was delectable…not gamey like the free range one I had the other day. I mean the stress placed on the free range type really reduced the marbling of the thorax!”. I bet you never catch the comment: “I only eat the free range ones after that bad experience I had with the hoppers from the jif jars.”
  • FFA will have to now include insect judging. Instead of looking at cow and determining desirable breeding qualities, there will have to be 14 students huddled around a six legged insect trying to determine if the grasshopper is knock-knee’d. Who wants to listen to that debate. “I felt like locust one had a tendency to paddle with its front end because of its pigeon-toe-ed-ness” or “This locust will never be sound because it’s hind legs are too vertical” would be the standard arguments. See how silly this sounds.

Changes may be in store and I don’t know if grasshoppers will replace cattle in the future as the major source of protein to Americans, but I do know this: the second Doug Reser purchases bug zoo’s, I’m goin’ all in!



IMG_0935A few years back, I walked into a Walmart a few steps behind a young black man.  He had cut firewood with me and put up fence earlier that morning and we were stopping by after I had bough him lunch.  As any 8th grader would, he wanted to race me to the door.  He won by a few steps and walked in first.  His hood was up.

The door greeter told him to take his hood off.  Ordered was probably a better word.  He shot back a quick response and refused to take the hood of his sweatshirt down.  The greeter approached him as I quickened my pace to reach his side.  You could tell there was going to be a situation, so i grabbed the young man’s arm and pulled him to the right to have a discussion with him.

What I told him was this: “He lives his life in a world that doesn’t fully understand who he is.  Its unjust to ascribe fault…its no ones fault.  Everyone has prejudices and ignorance’s its everyones fault and no ones.  When asked by an officer, an older person, anyone of any color, he is to comply.  Unfair or unjust…that will be determined by breathing people later.  Sadly, he will live much of his life under suspicion because he is both a man and black.   (I nearly felt the tears welling up at this point)  I will stand by you if you feel you were unjustly treated, unfairly corrected, profiled, abused, or assaulted, but you have to be alive for me to stand with you!”

Six months later, driving through a rougher part of town with him in the passenger seat, I was pulled over.  The Officer approached my truck, we had a discussion, and I gave him my licensee.  A few minutes later, the Officer returned and explained that a truck similar to mine had been stolen earlier in the day and he was just making sure my truck wasn’t it.  I shook his hand, said “thank you sir” and went about my way.  The young man went off about how the officer had no right to pull me over, that I was too nice to him, and that I should have gave him a piece of my mind.  I pulled the truck over and tried to teach him another lesson.  I said:

The officer approached a dark, unfamiliar vehicle, in a rough neighborhood with no backup.  He had no idea what was happening in our truck.  All he knew was that one like it had been stolen.  Unjustly or unfair…it doesn’t matter.  If you are ever in this situation, keep your hands out in the open, keep calm and do WHATEVER they say.  The time to fight is NEVER then.  I care too much about you to have something horrible happen because you wanted to prove a point.

The death of Michael Brown in Ferguson hurts my heart so much because in this case I see Adonis, Daleon, Nysir, Calvin, Malachi, JJ, Larry, Dawud, Don’yell or Eric.  All young men that I have had the pleasure of speaking with, coaching, and working alongside.  When I see Michael Brown’s picture, I see the face of these young men.

I know many officers as well and they are some of the best men I have ever been around.  I would go to bat for any one of them.  I would trust their judgment and their decision making with my life.  So where does that leave us?

Of the two people who fully know what happened, one is dead and the other is on leave and has given his testimony.  I struggle on both sides of the fight but I have hope because…

In ministry, I have made so many mistakes, but my proudest moment, the thing that i constantly am reminded of and will always be moved by, is the investment in the lives of the boys above by men like Nick Ward, Officer Brad McCarter, Teacher Clark Boatright, and Jason Hildebrandt.  These are white men, men who have much in common with Officer Wilson of Ferguson, who were investing their time, lives, and resources into young men who have much more in common with Michael Brown than any of us.  I watched these men love and take care of their students.  I watched these students love and open up to their sponsors.   Wednesday night became my favorite night because of these two worlds colliding…and both leaving changed.

To you men (both young and old), I am forever grateful!

God, please be with the people of Ferguson and the family of both Michael Brown and Darren Wilson