Cheatham County Exchange

Jack McCall: Everyone should grasp these golden ropes

Dr. Kenneth McFarland was one of America’s premier platform speakers in the closing years of the last century. I never had the privilege of hearing him in person, but I certainly heard about him.

Eventually I was fortunate enough to track down a set of his cassette tape series titled The Eagle has Landed. After listening to his speeches many times, I felt as if I knew him. One of his best speeches was titled The Ropes of Gold.


The speech was based upon a poem of the same title which, according to Dr. McFarland, he had made “a prodigious effort to find.” He confessed he finally found a copy of the poem at a Buick dealer somewhere in New England.

The poem was penned in colonial times when great ropes were used on sailing ships. And true to the times, the poem bore the subtitle, A Discourse on the Nature of Freedom.

The Ropes of Gold, according to this writer, is a classic poem much too valuable to be lost to the ages. So, I have chosen to share it with my readers.

“Our lives must be anchored by golden ropes,

that give us purpose, meaning, hopes.

Know the ropes.

Know the ropes and you’ll be free.

To know them not means slavery.

What are these priceless, golden stands,

freedoms, unknown in other lands?

These, friends, are the ropes of gold,

that all our precious freedoms hold.  

To look around at a distant star.

To look ahead to horizons, far.

To look upward through the dawn.

To trust in God and carry on.”

Over the years of my life, I have often heard people say, “He really knows the ropes,” or “She really knows the ropes.” I wasn’t sure what that statement meant. I thought it might mean a person knew how things worked – the “hows” and “whys,” the “ins” and “outs” of business – what works and what doesn’t.

Then I discovered this poem, and the wisdom that lies within its lines.

“To look around at a distant star.”

I am convinced that most human beings go through life half asleep, never fully awakening to the wonder which surrounds them, never fully aware that a life’s value is not in its length, but in its depth. In the words of author, John Powell, never becoming, “Fully Human, Fully Alive.”

“To look ahead to horizons, far.”

I was blessed with a wonderful memory. And I often write about the past. But I don’t live in the past. I think it’s very important that we never forget from where we came, that we stay in touch with that which made us who we are. That grounding provides the stability and confidence for us to face the uncertainties of the future. It is important to keep looking ahead, to know the best is yet to come.

“To look upward through the dawn.”

Someone has said, “If you don’t like the outlook, try the up look.” Blind Helen Keller, said, “If you look into the sun, you see no shadows.” I love those who are always saying, “Things are looking up!” Paul, the Apostle wrote that “love always hopes” (looks up expectantly.)

 “To trust in God and carry on.”

The founders of this great nation understood. It’s on our coinage – “In God we trust.” Every human being trusts something – money, power, personal influence, collective intelligence, the government. The list goes on and on.

These are certainly interesting times. Best we know the ropes.

Jack McCall is a motivational humorist, Southern storyteller and author.  A native Middle Tennessean, he is recognized on the national stage as a “Certified Speaking Professional.” He can be reached at Copyright 2023 by Jack McCall.

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