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Rule #3 Build your own posse - Rules for Embracing Life in the 21st Century
Building a posse is like building a border. One brick at a time.

Building is a very Ivan word choice. He loved building. He loved old brick. His contribution to the garden was borders of bricks, laid end to end. He would lie on the grass, propped up on an elbow carefully choosing which brick fit next. Old bricks are never uniform in size, shape or color. It was an exercise in patience to get it just right.

The brick border, end to end, of different bricks that fit together to make a pleasing whole is how Ivan saw building his own posse.

Most of us know the word "posse" from watching westerns. Whenever the bank, post office, stagecoach or saloon gets robbed, shot up, terrorized, the evil doers gallop away on a dusty road. Hot on their trail are the sheriff with his mob of citizens willing to drop what they're doing and high tail it after the bad guys. The audience immediately know what to call the sheriff's faithful followers. It's a POSSE!

This rule isn't about that. Ivan wasn't thinking of riding after evil doers. He had the first Merriam Webster definition in mind: a large group often with a common interest. He spent his life building posses. One he was most proud of was in high school. At Hickman County High, he formed the International Club.

The posse you build doesn't need a size requirement as long it has a shared purpose.

The most vivid example of a shared purpose came at 1:36 in the morning of February 11, 2013. In the darkest hours of that morning, the Hickman County Historical and Genealogical Society's building collapsed from three stories into a pancake of bricks, dust and history. Jackson Purchase History Buried in Collapsed Building

Ivan had taken over as chair of the Society six weeks before the collapse.

Thousands of one of a kind records and artifacts lay in the pancaked building. A posse of excavation workers and volunteers quickly built with the goal of saving as much as could be safely saved before the rains started on Monday. . A space was provided for sorting and cleaning the salvaged items. Ivan later estimated that 90% of the documents were rescued. Historical Society Finds a Home

Building his own posse meant he joined groups with similar visions. He never wanted to be the head guy. His favorite role was as adviser and facilitator. That made becoming chair of the Historical Society unusual. He always joked that he was persuaded by a promise of his tenure being a quiet gig.

Don't be dismayed if not everyone in your posse becomes a friend. It happens. Ivan met new people at work through politics, volunteering who became friends for life. When he found such a friend, he cultivated the friendship by staying in touch years after the shared purpose ended. His address book was a who's who of long life. Keeping a friendship going takes effort and he was willing to put in the work.

He stayed in touch and they stayed in touch with him. At left, Karl Buss, Marie Edwards and Kelly Godby and Ivan ready for cake. Ivan loved the post office.

More often posse members were fellow travelers who veered onto their own path. Others stayed until the goal was reached. Then they went their separate ways. When he became ill and required multiple hospitalizations, he bonded with his caretakers and created Team Ivan. A few remained his friends to the end.

Working toward a goal doesn't mean it can be reached easily or quickly or ever. Preserving the environment is a battle with no end in sight. Ivan cared passionately about the natural world. He would often ask that I pull over so he could document changes in the roadsides we traveled. He documented soil erosion that created larger and larger ditches. More frequent and heavier rains are still digging out new runoffs.

Ivan believed that it was most important to build your OWN posse. There are a multitude of ready made groups that are good places to find kindred spirits - political parties, churches, charitable organizations. He joined many. And he left a few.

There is much written about the difficulty of making connections in the 21st century. But the trend began years before. Some pundits point to changes in homes that encouraged Americans to stay indoors. The demise of the front porch, air conditioning and in home entertainment, television, movies, televised sports, games, tech toys.

Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam published in 2000 sounded an alarm that the loss of clubs and teams, like bowling leagues, was leading to increased social isolation. Six years later, Bill Bishop's book "The Big Sort" took the theory farther. Not only were Americans bowling alone, but they were also moving to where the like-minded were most easily found.

Social media brings us together with posses we may never have found before. The pop music group, BTS, (now on hiatus while serving in the South Korean military) has millions of fans. The BTS Army does more than buy music and go to concerts. There's Taylor Swift, whose fans, the Swifties, are described as being highly creative, and fanatically engaged. Some are now going to NFL games because Swift has a football player boyfriend. She used her power to break with a seemingly unstoppable monopoly on concert tickets. Swift's encouragement of voter registration got young people to register to vote in record numbers.

Other groups have recruited members that never would have heard of them had it not been for social media. Political movements in Europe began with people making contact through social media. Human beings build posses.

Ivan and I were a posse of two. Now that he is gone, I am following his advice - building my own posse.

If I can do it. So can you.

Addendum: We found Ivan's Rules for Embracing Life in the 21st Century while going through the many pieces of paper he left behind. I was his editor, correcting his grammar, his creatively spelled words and his bureaucratic run on sentences. He didn't share these twelve rules with me so I am not sure when he wrote them or even what prompted him to write them. The rules have made me stop and think. They have pushed me to write again and to share thoughts on each rule and what I think it meant to him. And what it means to me.

The Rules were read at his Celebration of Life on April 6th. Since then, I've been sending copies anyone who requests them.


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