No test for the Tin Horn

By Mark Thompson
Special to The PREVIEW

I was nervous.

Not the “getting my teeth cleaned” kind of nervous. More like the “I decided to ride over Wolf Creek with a scary guy in an old car with bald tires, and now he is driving about 30 miles an hour too fast, rattling about a one-world government, and insisting on looking me in the eye the whole time he is talking” kind of nervous.

I was going to meet a gentleman that I strongly hoped would be my father-in-law someday. My girlfriend and I had not been dating long, but I already knew that this was serious, and I was hoping for a future with her.

First, I had a very big obstacle to overcome. You see, Becky adored and respected her Dad. I would go so far as to say that if he didn’t like me, she would have a conversation with me starting with, “I really want to be friends”, or perhaps, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

I want you to have a sense of the setting as we pulled up to her Dad and Mom’s ranch outside of Wetmore, Colo.

First, we drove by the barn, where a bear pelt was hanging.

Next, we walked through the gate, the one with the sign that tells us to beware of the dog.

Then, we walked in through the front door. The first thing I noticed was the corner behind the door, where there were about five rifles leaning. At this point I was about as rattled as I could get and still be in my right mind. In that moment, her Dad appeared.

He was a bit older, having had Becky in his later adult life, and looked as though he had lived a full life. He limped up to me to shake my hand. He had lost a leg in a farming accident, but for some reason his walk put me in mind of a pirate, preparing to tell me to walk a plank.

We exchanged a few pleasantries, very few actually, and then he drilled me with a strong and unsettling look.

“You look like you like interesting things”, he said incongruently.

Unsure of how to respond, I went for the high road. “I sure do!” I said, with a little too much enthusiasm.

“Hold on, I’ll right back”.

Within a minute, Alden was back, holding a small object. I was looking at a miniature bugle about three inches across. There was a tiny mouth-hole to blow in and a tiny bell at the end of the 360-degree circle of brass tubing.

“Give that a good blow, and listen to the pretty sound,” said Alden.

He seemed a little keyed up, like he was feeding on my anxiety. I wasn’t about to mess up this little test. I blew. Hard.

My face was covered in a cloud of baby powder. My Inquisitor and his lovely daughter could barely stand because of their laughter.

“Of course,” I thought, “this is the big test.” It was clever, simple, and maybe a little devious. I kept my sense of humor; I grinned, letting the joke be on me. I was sure that Alden felt his future son-in-law had to be flexible, able to roll with the punches, keeping his head in any circumstance.

I knew I passed!

Sure enough, in a short time, I asked Becky to marry me. She approved, Alden consented, and the match from heaven was made.

Here’s the funny deal. That was twenty-two years ago. It is only in the last few months, as I have reflected on my relationship with Becky’s Dad, I have realized there never was a test. Alden wasn’t going to reject me because I couldn’t take a joke; he just loved jokes and wanted to share one with me. In fact, his little girl had already been talking to him about me, so he had already decided to like me. What I now know is that the “love language” of Becky’s family is practical jokes. Alden was giving me the great courtesy of expressing love and acceptance, before he even knew me. If I hadn’t fallen for the gag, or if I had gotten angry about the mess, Alden would have laughed and gone on accepting me. He would have just known that Becky didn’t pick me for my tolerance for tomfoolery.

It is a cool thing for me to recognize Alden’s unconditional love and acceptance. What is more cool is that I am recognizing his love and acceptance was only a shadow or type of the love and acceptance the heavenly Father holds for me. In fact, Romans 5:8 expresses this idea, “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Before I knew Him, God had already expressed unconditional love and acceptance. It only remained for me to notice, and respond to Him. There is no test. He just loves me.

Readers’ comments 

Write about your faith — 500 to 800 words. Send to

This story was posted on March 28, 2013.