February 2008

Searching for Peace

Paul Miller discusses his involvement in the Faith and Education Collaborative.

Searching for Peace

By Paul A. Miller

My academic career, now some 70 years in length, built on a foundation that began in West Virginia. Surely was it seasoned by marriage and an early membership in the Spiker family. Memorable indeed are the happy gatherings on the porch of the family farm house; that venue remains rather sacred to this day.

As the career chapters wore on, my professional and personal concerns grew about the rising use of violence to resolve conflict by individuals, families, communities and nations. Of special note was the bad ending of the 20thcentury after 75 years of hot and cold wars, and, alas, the 21st century to begin badly as well.

Following the 1993 move of Francena and me to Columbia, Missouri, the University of Missouri provided new opportunities to explore such issues. Accordingly, the idea grew that there can be no peace in the world if we remain unable to achieve and practice it in our family, spiritual, community and national lives.

It's No Bull.......John Bob Spiker Risks Life and Limb

By Cathy Spiker Gregis

Buckin B Cattle Company and the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association held their first annual Championship Bull Riders event on the Spiker Farm in Jane Lew, West Virginia on July 28, 2007 at 7:30pm. Producer Matt Dejon and John Bob Spiker hosted the event that boasted 30 entries, with the top six in the short round. Complete with a Mechanical Bull, Mutton Bustin’, and, of course, the featured Championship Bull Riding, there was plenty of fun for everyone.

Bull Riding is the most recognized, popular and dangerous part of any rodeo event. A cowboy slips his hand into a slit in a rope (called a bull rope) that fits snugly around and behind the bull’s right shoulder. The bull rider uses his free arm for balance; he is disqualified for touching the bull with his free hand. Requiring balance, flexibility and coordination, the cowboy attempts to stay on the bull for eight seconds.

Facing down a two thousand pound bull takes as much mental preparation as it does physical ability. An often quoted saying about bull riding is “It’s not IF you get hurt, it’s WHEN.” Unlike a horse that will try to avoid stepping on a downed person, bulls go out of their way to attack anything that gets in their paths. Bulls compete for many years, gaining experience and enhancing their skills over time. They learn from their mistakes and change strategies to gain the upper hand. Riders are stepped on, have their faces shoved into the dirt or they are swung around like a rag doll.

At this event, one rider was seriously wounded after “Dash-Boarding”, a term used to describe the rider’s head hitting the bull’s head – in this case, it was head to horns. The cowboy is recovering in Pittsburgh, PA, doing well after having reconstructive surgery for massive face and head injuries.

Bulls are frightening. Cowboys are fearless. But it’s the bullfighters, clowns and barrel men that are considered by many to be the true heroes of the sport.

These fighters enter the ring before the bull is released from the chute. It is their job to distract the bull thereby allowing the dismounted rider to escape to safety. Bullfighters are in constant danger until the bull exits the arena. Our own John Bob Spiker and his bullfighter partner, Brett Carpenter, performed magnificently as they aided these brave riders

I was asked eventually to organize such ideas with reference to the local community. I did so with a paper in October, 2002. Those words proposed a Columbia Faith and Education Collaborative for advancing a culture of peace. After a “consultation” with local leaders in December, 2002, a community conference was called in early 2003 to speed the proposal onward.

From these sessions came a “steering committee” of co-chairpersons and members representing faith and educations groups, a tentative plan of work, potential sources of support, and three courses of action.

Second, invite representatives of all faiths in the community to join those of Columbia schools and colleges in devising a community-wide system for learning about each other and working together.

Third, develop and operate a “train the trainer” center” for religious and educational leaders in peace-making values and skills.

Once the Faith and Education Collaborative was organized and its program launched, continuing interest and support have grown since 2002.

  • A community wide conference is featured each year, to review progress, urge further steps for the Collaborative, and learn of special peace-making efforts by the several religious and education groups.

  • Forums (e.g., several joint meetings of Jewish and Protestant congregational representatives), workshops, “listening circles” and other dialogic methods, have developed and expanded.

  • Six major faith groups thus far (Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, and Protestantism) have cooperated with those from education on projects to advance mutual understanding of each other and/or work together to address community needs (e.g., to serve Habitat for Humanity).


  • Click here to view photos of the newest addition to our family – Evan and Jennifer Thrush’s son, Liam. (EDIT - photos no longer available after merge.)
  • Submitted by Bobbi Conley – Mother has spent four of the last five winters “vacationing” for several months at my home in Florida. This year, she limited her stay to only two weeks (deciding to spend the rest of the winter with her girlfriend in North Carolina). Making the most of her time here, I do believe that she may have set a new record – combining three months of activities into two short weeks!

    Escorted by Cathy and Larry in their motor home (a mode of travel that Mom now says is “the only way to go”), the trio was “on the run” from the moment their feet hit the sand at our home. They trotted through Sea World, cheered at the Arabian Knights Dinner Theater, flew across East Lake Toho in an airboat, enjoyed the turquoise blue of the Gulf and dined at some of the best restaurants that Central Florida has to offer. While Gary introduced Larry to the racing in Daytona and casinos in Tampa, I took Cathy and Mother on “girls-day-out” trips for manicures, pedicures, hair styling and souvenir shopping. The few hours actually spent AT our home consisted of shooting pool, playing darts, and viewing old home movies and photos.

    There is more to this story. Please check your e-mail for the next chapter of Mother’s trip to Florida.

  • As shared by Paul Miller, Melanie Fouse and Paula Nolan – We are sad to report that Forrest, Tom Miller’s delightful Sheltie dog, died about a month ago.

    Paul Miller told us, “Francena and I are crestfallen, indeed devastated is a better word, by the sudden death of our little dog, Forrest, whom you will recall. He was Tom’s beloved pet. He had some sort of strange ailment that struck him in the Spring, from which he recovered with medical help, but, even with the same aid this time, he did not make it. But we go on from here.”

    Melanie Fouse shared in their grief saying Forrest “truly was a part of Tom….Wherever you saw Tom, you saw the dogs. Just like children…They were always at the family reunion…They were family (too).”

    “It was incredibly difficult to lose Forrest,” added Paula Nolan, “and we are still adjusting to that. We still felt that we had a piece of Tom.”