By Larry B. Reinhold 


Today we hear much rhetoric about “footprints”.  Not the accidental stepping into wet concrete… nor the telltale signs of “Old Westerns” in that “they went that way”…nor those of walking along a sandy beach where the sand squeezes up between one’s toes and the imprint is only momentary due to the continual coming and going of the waves.


Now we hear of “ecological footprints” or “carbon footprints” or even “water footprints”. Generally these footprints are used to promote certain ideologies of special interest groups, political platforms and in many cases by academics that must keep churning out “new studies” to keep the funding coming in. The media loves the many different tenets that often create controversies because they fuel the many headlines that are needed in this “information age” where few read beyond the first lines, and sound bites can rock an entire nation.

I am a student of footprints. I have been a hunter…thus I have tracked wildlife at times over miles. I am a herdsman…thus I have noticed livestock behavior when no livestock are to be seen. But their actions have been recorded in the dust or in many cases here on the ranch, in the wet gumbo (heavy clay soil). I am a walker…thus I have followed paths created by many footprints. Much of the individuality has been erased by time and erosion, but all would agree that many footsteps etched the course of this path.

I probably have a more positive attitude about footprints than those who are discussing ecology, carbon or water. Granted there have been many who have not walked in a thoughtful manner or by biblical and Godly standards, but I love to witness the heritage and legacy that has been left for us. I believe that even footprints “in question” may prove to be beneficial, since we may have a keener sense of what lies ahead. Footprints can lead to discovery and if there are none…perhaps mine will lead the way. Foot prints can be as a map, and as Robert Frost penned, “… the one less traveled…” may be the path to consider.

Footprints are not always measured as in “Size 9”. Tangible remnants prove to be telltale signs, sometimes well hidden, but often in plain sight as well. Here on the ranch, I can take you to a grave. It is marked by thoughtfully laid out stones with a piece of what appears to be a wooden wagon wheel spoke at the headstone. For years hidden in the grass, the rocks covered with lichen and certainly no footprints around, one cannot refute that someone was here. I can take you to ruts in the prairie sod where teamsters and muleskinners had driven their wagons from Ft. Pierre to Deadwood. I once found a hook and chain that had obviously been forged on an anvil by a blacksmith of yesteryear. Not too many years ago we discovered three tipi rings where an earlier people set up camp for some time while hunting buffalo in the breaks near a waterhole. Again, sometime in the past, someone had worked to make a living on the open plains, but they also enjoyed the same “big country” views that my family and I enjoy today.

Years ago, my Dad would tell of a deadly plane crash over east. I could never find the location even though I consciously looked for pieces of wreckage. But after a fast moving prairie fire about four years ago, sure enough we found some pieces from a small plane, evidence that someone certainly had been there. Dad told me that one man lived and one man died in that crash. And now I know where it was. After that same fire, we also found a homestead sight where some early day settlers had tried to make a go of it. The prairie grasses and buffalo sod had hidden it for years, but after the fire we could see evidence of someone living there. Amongst the odds and ends that we gathered and dug out of the soil, a thimble that Rachel found. Let your imagination go on that one: footprints, in essence, of someone who had been there before.

I could tell you of many more…arrowheads, spear points, spent shell casings, fossils, bison skulls and geographical markers just to name a few. All with stories…some of which I can relate and many more that are open to the limits of practical imagination. One more that still baffles me, is the many clinkers from the burning of coal that are found scattered in the middle of what is now a wheat field. One day as our family was exploring that area and seeking more answers, we also found a lone large railroad spike. Who knows? We are a long ways from a railroad.

Proverbs chapter one tells about those whose feet “rush to evil”.  Obviously, those footprints would leave a tell tale sign, sort of like detective work in a “whodunit” mystery. The ending to these stories are heartbreaking and most could have been avoided. Certainly one must have made conscious decisions to abandon the moral high ground. Or they blundered into a situation due to blindness, ignorance, or the keeping of wrong company. In any way, the resulting path leads to certain foolishness and destruction.

That is not where I want to be. That is not the mark on society that I want to leave. 

Do I have higher aspirations? Perhaps.  However, I certainly have a higher calling. Goals that I set and ideals that I desire may often be ascertained in my humanity.  But I am also limited by my humanity. Certainly we have seen many good men and women “crash and burn” and to their amazement and those around them bring a sense of wonder to what went wrong. On the other hand, the high calling of God will not only bring fulfillment, but will also bring the wisdom and strength to succeed. Our Creator desires to be our sustainer in whatever is before us. Thus the legacy that we leave will reflect Him. How can we go wrong?

Since I am a follower of God, a “Christ Follower”, I can also walk in confidence since I know the One that will guide my steps. And with that assurance, I will not be mired down in philosophical “footprints” but will proceed. God has much for me to discover, to explore, to experience, to do, to accomplish.  With that in mind, may I follow footprints of those who have gone before me in a worthy manner, and may I leave footprints in new territory, as well, that exemplify my walk with the Almighty God. 

We all will leave footprints. In some way, we will impact the land, the community, the marketplace, the church. Members of our family will be imprinted by our actions. Much is at stake for years to come and even into eternity. Be obedient to the Call of God, and may all who come behind us find us faithful to Our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ

Larry Reinhold