The Idle American: He’ll Do to Ride the River With

Todd Kaunitz, pastor of the New Beginnings Church in Longview, Texas.

Surely they weren’t serious about ridding the Amazon of a few alligators.

Many Texans–and no doubt some abiding outside our borders–have used the expression for years: “He’ll do to ride the river with.”

We give little thought to its origin, but typically it is used to convey the highest praise for others in whom we have confidence–whether we’re fording a river, or even if we don’t have a horse underneath us.

They say it originated a century and a half ago when cowboys herded cattle to northern railheads. Obstacles included crossing rivers known for their rages, so cowboys counted on each other to get the cattle, their horses and themselves safely to the other side….


   Visiting speaker at a luncheon honoring widows at New Beginnings Church in Longview, I overheard a deacon saying of a lead pastor: “He’ll do to ride the river with.”

With that, I figured the parson to be “A-OK.”

The immediate assessment was that he’s the kind of guy I’d want to be at my side–or to “have my back”–in these tumultuous times when much else has joined treacherous rivers in ever-growing currents of rage….


   Chatting with him during the meal dampened my confidence–ever so little, I quickly add–in “river-riding” with him. Turns out, Todd Kaunitz is at least “one up” on me, since he and 17 others from his church had just returned from a mission trip to Brazil.

A highlight was a boat ride down (up?) the Amazon. The rickety craft was only slightly longer than an alligator. (File the word “alligator” away; you’ll see it again within the next few lines.)

Todd wasn’t humming “Cruising Down the River.” Instead, he chose “Faith of our Fathers” as he took his seat….

Don Newbury

He assumed their hosts were “kidders” earlier around the campfire. Surely they weren’t serious about ridding the Amazon of a few alligators. The method they described seemed like one they’d have a few centuries ago.

They spoke of paddling alongside the prey, and stabbing them with what Texas Aggies might call “giant gigs.” At the risk of providing too much information, he said the pronged weapon makes the ‘gators mad as “Old Billy,” and they flail about greatly before being hoisted into the boat.

But the locals weren’t kidding. Soon they were on the big river, ready to “gig.” He wasn’t sure there was room in the boat for even one alligator. Todd remained stoic, however, not wishing to offend the denizens of the jungle with whom he and his fellow missionaries hoped to engender friendships….


   “Thankfully, they ‘got their ‘gator,’ and no one got hurt,” Todd said. “But we’ve only just begun in sharing the message of Jesus Christ. Some other groups who have hacked their way back to the Brazilian villages have attempted to convince them that God is mad at them all the time.”

Todd and his bunch presented a refreshing alternative, citing God as one who loves. And they’ll revisit the area someday, whether or not they go “alligator gigging.”

In the meantime, he, his staff and church leaders will continue the work they are called to do. And that calls for helping folk to lean on God for guidance in a world that grows darker by the day….


   I found much to admire about this church. ‘Course, they had me upon my learning that they truly wanted to honor their widows. Some two dozen showed up and were showered by many acts of love and kindness. The church went “above and beyond” the scriptural instruction to care for the widows.

It was a day that sparkled with leaves and blossoms of re-birth in beautiful East Texas.

I hope to see Todd and his flock again, even for some “river talk.” I’m confident that he is accomplished in riding rivers “crossways,” too. We all need help in fording that “one more river we’re bound to cross.”…


   Dr. Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” round about. Comments or inquiries to: [email protected]. Ph.: 817-447-3872. Web: Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury.

Don Newbury is the author of the inspirational, humorous, and autobiographical When the Porch Light’s On. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.


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