This June 2011 submission by

columnist Frank Newell is reprinted from our archives.

Among the most valuable assets to a community, area or country are its natural resources, and among the most valuable natural resources are its good people, the citizens who live there.  Consequently, and undoubtedly, the worst liability to an area is one or more bad citizen. The key word here, and just about everywhere, and in everything else is “natural.” Something natural trumps any and everything artificial every time. Man has never, and never will, improve upon nature. He only makes things worse and delays the inevitable.

A good example is the system of levees, earthen banks that were designed to control and restrict the waters of the mighty Mississippi River as it flows across the heartland of this country. Constructed by man many years ago and for a long time seemed to serve their purpose, they provided what I know to be a false sense of security for those many people who live, farm and carry on their lives on the back sides of those levees.

Anyone who knows a little bit about nature knows that man cannot control or contain such a powerful force of nature forever. It would have been a much better thing for people to have built their homes, farms and lives around the Mississippi than to attempt to conquer it and change it. Nature didn’t build those levees, man did, and they will not be there forever.  It all comes down to what I’ve said many times. Every problem facing the world today is caused by an overpopulation of humans and domestic animals on Earth.  Good people know and respect things natural. Bad citizens care nothing about nature, only their own personal gain.

The Roanoke River, Lake Gaston and Warren County make up my homeland. Somewhere under the waters of Lake Gaston, the Roanoke still lives, and the memories of so many wonderful boyhood adventures and lessons of nature learned live on with me. But right many years ago, the time came for me to stop clinging to the past and to accept and enjoy a different set of natural resources that was emerging. The resources of which I speak came literally from all over the nation and some foreign countries, and they are the people who came to make their homes and spend their lives at Lake Gaston and its vicinity.

Just as I learned as a boy to understand, respect and love the original natural resources of the Roanoke River, now, as a man, I have come to have the same feelings for the current ones. Just as the Roanoke has been replaced by Lake Gaston, the wild creatures have been replaced by a population of good people, citizens who are an asset to the land. Ever since the arrival of these good people, the land has been alive with incidents of people helping people and the upgrading of social life and activities, something that was badly needed in this area. I know of many incidents involving human nature, some funny, some serious and some somewhere in between among lake people.

One such incident involving lake people occurred several years ago. One afternoon a friend of mine who lived near the shore of Lake Gaston was called outside by a neighbor who yelled, “Get your gun and come with me, quickly!” They rushed down to the water’s edge and saw two men standing face-to-face, just about to come to blows, one older and larger than the other. What had happened was, the older guy was fishing from the bank with a brand new and very expensive rod and reel. He had it propped up and the fishing line running out into the water, and he was sitting back waiting for a fish to bite the bait. The younger fellow came by in a motor boat, got too close to the shore, and the propeller on his boat’s motor tangled in the other guy’s fishing lone as he sped by, pulling the rod and reel into the water. The younger fellow didn’t know what had happened until he looked back and saw the guy waving his arms and jumping up and down. He pulled his boat onto the shore, and the altercation commenced, getting hotter by the minute.

My friend was standing there listening to threats flying back and forth, when he looked at the back of the boat and saw fishing line tangled in the propeller. He began to pull on the line and continued to pull until he finally pulled the rod and reel onto the shore. The two men were still in verbal combat when he handed the rod and reel to its owner, who hurried away.

Another time I was called to the lake home of a young couple being troubled with raccoons coming up on their porch at night. I was immediately impressed by that family. I made several trips over the next few days as I caught the family of raccoons. I never saw the man, but the lady and her three young children had a healthy glow on their faces that I assumed came from the outdoors at the lake. And they all had exceptionally good attitudes and smiling complexions. But there was a little something more on the lady’s demeanor. It was a glow or shine that I had once or twice seen on devout Christians.

During the course of my several visits, I came to know the lady and her three children quite well. On my last visit, I told her that I sensed she was of much faith. She replied that she loved her husband and children dearly, but if Jesus were to come to her and tell her to leave behind all of her earthly possessions and her loved ones and go with Him, she would do so willingly. That lady, to my way of thinking, is a real natural resource and an asset to her community.