“Prosper: A Place Where Everyone Matters” – Town motto
“Dad, I wish I had someone to hang out with. Just one real buddy”. – Braden
“You were loved and your life meant a great deal to others and still does. We will never stop missing you“. – Braden’s Mom, Dad, and Caitlin
According to Wikipedia, Prosper, Texas is… “an affluent suburban town located in Collin and Denton Counties within the state of Texas, United States. The Town of Prosper is located within the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, the population was 9,423; As of 2019, the estimated population was 28,039. Prosper High School cost $113.5 million to construct and is 590,000 sq ft.”
If you’re thinking, “Holy cow, that’s a large school by any measure”, you’d be correct. It’s like a mall, right down to the Burger King and Chick Fil-A in the cafeteria. We have another school the same size set to open in the Fall of 2020 and yet another just a couple of years beyond. Expect there’ll be another mega football stadium to throw in there too.
Local farmers had a large cotton yield in 1902 and initially wanted the town’s name to be “Richland” but since that name was taken they went with “Prosper”. Land was being sold at only three bucks an acre. Now Prosper is more synonymous with being the land of plenty but not just cotton. I bet those old prosperous cotton farmers are laughing all the way to the bank, counting their money from us city folk.
This post began after a very full Sunday afternoon with my brother, his wife, and our family shopping for Christmas. Yes, I know. It now starts before Halloween… Although our family often has full Sundays lately, it’s too often that Sundays can be particuarly down days for many. It may be biological but more likely it’s psychological.
Kris Kristofferson wrote about it, “On A Sunday Morning Sidewalk”. What a depressing yet honest country song about a guy who’s got no family and no one to call a friend on a day when people typically enjoy fellowship with both. One such Sunday in 2018, our son was experiencing that sort of a “down” day when he asked if we could do something together.
As I’ve mentioned in prior posts, Braden had a passion for shooting or blowing up things just to see what would happen. He hand built a catipult and potato gun. He loved shooting his crossbow, pellet guns and a Marlin .22 gold trigger I gave him along with a Remington 12-gauge shotgun. We often went to the Frisco gun club for target shooting.
That Sunday he wanted to just get out of the house. He’d had his fill of video games and social media, both being full of empty. He just wanted someone to share his time with, preferably a buddy to go “do nothing” with. As often was the case, that day he’d have to settle for his dad.
We loaded the car with guns, ammo, clays, and targets, headed west for a location. As a teen in west Texas I could always find an open field most anywhere outside the city limits of Brownfield. Very few fences or “No Trespassing” signs existed there. However, leaving the Prosper city limits was quite a different story. We drove a few miles west looking for open fields but everything was marked for suburban land tracts soon to be built out.
First Street becomes a black top road named Fishtrap and the first dirt road I could find to leave civilization was one named Legacy. I’m sure it’ll be a six lane thoroughfare by the time Caitlin graduates.
We headed north about a half mile and pulled into a grassy field to set up targets where we began destroying things. Just then, a flashy black SUV approached. The driver rolled down his window and waved me over. Expecting to be busted I asked if it would be ok to shoot targets. Pleasantly, I was surprised at his response. “Absolutely, just don’t shoot each other”. He was a very nice gentleman who manages land investments for the Cowboys’ owner, Jerry Jones.
We talked about our sons. We shared about the trials and joys of being fathers. He had taken his boy out shooting years earlier and we agreed that open land is becoming harder to find. We talked about how our community’s growth was both a blessing and a curse. How in such a small town, growing this fast we were watching quaintness becoming chaos before our very eyes. How businesses, roads, and the schools were bursting at the seams as a result of the boom.
In May, 2019 around Braden’s birthday, I found myself on Fishtrap Road again. This time I wasn’t carrying a trunk filled with guns and targets. It was just me. Along with memories. To save my life I didn’t know why I was going out there. Later, a friend told me it had to be that I wanted to be near my son and that’s where we felt close.
I drove slowly westward and stopped to stare at the sign where we’d turned north onto Legacy. Parked the car in the same place we always parked. The ruts of my tires long plowed under for plots where young families would soon be building new homes for fresh starts and new beginnings.
Then, I began to think. “There must be something here to remind me of his being here”. All remnants of our memories had to be buried six feet in the freshly broken ground. Still, I kept looking. After just a few minutes, I stumbled onto a spent shotgun shell. A Remington 12-guage shotgun shell.
I picked it up and sniffed for that familiar powder smell we both loved. But the scent was long gone. Just the hull remained. However, I could remember the smell and I remembered my son. That empty hull remains with me today as a reminder of our son and of his legacy to help others. Although he could never be convinced, his life ultimately had purpose.
That evening as the sun faded and I stood alone, I thought how far we’d come since October 30, 2018. The longest year of our lives. How many positive changes have been helped forward in the wake of that horrific October day. Perhaps how many like him have since found hope. Before leaving our shooting field, I spoke aloud, “Braden. I miss you, buddy. I hope you’re proud”.
Legacy is defined as something with value transmitted by a predecessor or from the past. When we hear of even one person who postponed or elected to stay instead of taking their life, I can’t help but think of the word, legacy. It’s not the way any of us would have chosen, but we don’t always get that which we seek.
This upcoming weekend, we join our friends and family for a suicide awareness event called, “Walk Out of Darkness”. Ironically, we will be walking within less than one mile from Fishtrap and Legacy in a subdivision filled with new families, making their new beginnings.
Funny how God maps out things when we don’t even realize we were lost.
A note from a parent to parents:
1) Love your kids unconditionally. Tell them you are proud of them but most importantly model it and confirm that their Heavenly Father loves and is proud of them. Remind them no one’s opinion of themselves has more weight than their own.
2) Spend that time with them you don’t think you have. Time is what you make of it. Don’t give too much of it to your employer or to your business.
3) Make sure YOUR legacy is one your children and family will always remember and know they were more important than your work.
Thank you Lord for allowing us the brief opportunity to borrow the special spirit we called Braden Thomas Speed. We pray his brief time in this world will play even a small part in your greater plans. That’s what he’d want.
For those who are alone or struggling in this moment, we say a special prayer for peace and strength to stay the course. Grant them a sense of hope and encouragement. Tomorrow is a new day of hope. In Jesus’ name. Amen