The Hillbilly Heretic

If you evolve you never stop learning.

Archive for the category “Evolving Manhood”

To My Friends; Thanks for Sharing Your Dad With Me

For a kid growing up without a dad you sometimes find yourself, usually subconsciously, bonding with surrogates. Personally that was the case for me. The fact that I didn’t know my father growing up didn’t mean there weren’t strong, good men in my life. Even if they didn’t know it, each of them played a vital role in who I am today and who I am becoming daily.

One of those men was Ken Cooke.

Ken was the father of one of my middle/high school pal Patrick. Ken was one of those guys who you liked the moment you met him. It was his warm and sincere personality and ability to discuss just about any topic with ease. His genuine nature immediately made you feel welcome in his world, and around his family.


Living with my mom and grandmother in a very old and less than well maintained single wide trailer growing up was the outward sign that we didn’t have much. Extra activities weren’t always affordable and me ever wanting to have friends over was rare. Mainly things just weren’t good all-around for me at that point in my life.

Some of my fondest memories of Ken are the high school football games. I usually never went for various reasons, but Patrick invited me to go with him and his dad one Friday and I decided to do it. Ken drove all the way down to my house, which was completely out of the way for him and took me. This later became a regular occurrence and I don’t think he ever really knew how much it meant to me. Without those rides, I would have spent many more Friday nights by myself.

The memories though really aren’t about the games themselves, I don’t even remember the outcome of any of them. What I do remember are the conversations with Mr. Cooke. We would talk about almost every topic, he loved history and so did I so we really would go in depth on our theories and ideas from the past. He was an intelligent and well-read man, and his thirst for knowledge really did have an impact on me.

He loved his country, and I recall a particular night when the band was on the field and all the pageantry of a small town high school football game was on display. He looked out across the field then he said, “This Tis Americana!” I didn’t know why that statement stuck with me like it did until recently. I think he saw the purity of who we are as a nation. Beyond all the political, religious, racial and ideological differences, there are moments when none of that matters. That in those moments we are at our most basic level of people. People who don’t see color, or sex or socioeconomic status. We just come together to enjoy a Friday night as a community.


My friends back home are laying their father, husband, grandfather, brother and friend to rest today. I want nothing more than to be there to say goodbye with them. That just wasn’t in the cards. Ken’s struggles over the last decade proved to me what a fighter and determined man he was. The love for his wife, and his entire family was his strength. His courage came from their love and support for him.

So to Ken’s family, know that no matter what else he accomplished in life, he made a lasting impact on a poor kid from Corner. One that I will forever be indebted to him for. Thank you for sharing him with me. Thank you for sharing him with the world.

I love you Ken, goodbye my friend.


Also Published by The Good Men Project 


4 Painful Ways That Depression Destroyed My Marriage

Today I am happier than I have ever been in my life. That’s not exaggeration or hyperbole; it is the absolute truth. My wife and I communicate with each other about everything, nothing is off limits or held back. While I don’t think a perfect marriage exists, ours is pretty damn good. That wasn’t always the case.

In fact, for a while, I lost all of it.


Go back a decade, to a few years after we were first married. The honeymoon period was over, and life had begun to truly set in. We had just had our second son, and due to some complications with his birth the bills were adding up. Stresses were building, and trouble was brewing rapidly.

What should have been painfully obvious to me was somehow off my radar.I suppose, I had even developed a way to lie to myself. What should have been painfully obvious to me was somehow off my radar. I knew things weren’t perfect, but I wasn’t at all clued into how bad they were for her. to be honest, I don’t even know if she truly sensed what was coming.

We fought, a lot. Yet like a couple of stray cats, we just kept coming back. Who knows all the reasons but you can guess the main ones; kids, commitment obligations, family, and just good ole appearances. I just assumed that’s how marriage was supposed to work.

You know, live together miserably and then you die.

I am totally serious when I say that. I thought that a happy marriage was something that was only in the movies. I had never seen one. My parents fought constantly then divorced. My grandparents divorced. My aunts and uncles, my brothers, my friends, people at work, people at church. Everyone got divorced or seemed to live absolutely miserable existences. I ended up so jaded, that I ridiculed every marriage I ran across that “appeared” to be happy and normal. “No way!” I would say. “They have to be hiding something.”

Sometimes I was right.

None of that, however, was at the root of why my marriage was falling apart. Society, work pressure, or even money troubles had nothing at all to do with it. Sure they added to the stress and magnified the problem. They even gave an excuse to be more miserable than I already was. They legitimized the fights I started with my wife and made them worse. But they weren’t the problem.

Unchecked, and uncontrolled depression and anxiety were truly at the heart of my marriage’s issues.

Unchecked, and uncontrolled depression and anxiety were truly at the heart of my marriage’s issues. Every thought that went through my mind, everything I heard, or thought I heard and saw, passed through the filter of depression. It could warp the simplest statement or action into something offensive to me. And it was destroying me and my marriage.


1. It shut down communication- One of the primary defense mechanisms of my depression was to completely shut down. When there was a problem, perceived or otherwise, I would make it known I was upset. Unfortunately, I was the master of doing that without saying a word. I then had the uncanny ability to start an argument, turn it into a raging war, then go silent without resolution. I allowed so much to fester inside of me that when it did erupt, I would say things that simply couldn’t be taken back with “I’m sorry.”

Today I know that when there is an issue that needs to be addressed, I need to clear the air immediately. Don’t let shit roll around in your head. Irrationally making yourself angry until you’re ready for a fight that is not only unnecessary but basically stupid.

2. It made my home a prison- I am naturally an introvert, there is no denying that. My wife, on the other hand, is quite the extrovert. She likes to be around people, experiencing things and enjoying life. Depression made it, so I never wanted to leave the bed, much less the house. In turn, it caused her to be isolated and virtually imprisoned because I wouldn’t participate in outside activities. When I did relent and go, I usually ended up making her miserable by my overreactions and stresses.

After I started seeking treatment for my illness, I have found it much easier to become part of society. I still prefer my recliner to big crowds but I also now enjoy experiencing new and exciting things with my family. The universe isn’t going to get you, meeting new people isn’t the end of the world.

3. I was emotionally blind- One of the biggest thing men seem to miss early in marriage is how much their wives need them to be their emotionally. Women mainly need to know you care and that you will be there for them. Deep down we all need that but for women, it is an absolute core necessity. I just couldn’t give it, and rarely could I accept it from her. I would spend hours scanning the internet, playing games, or mindlessly flipping the remote. All while my wife sat just a few feet away, silently begging me for interaction. Needing conversation, needing closeness, needing me. I was oblivious and simply incapable of giving her what she needed most.

I assumed sex was all that was needed. Now I really understand much more the dynamics of a successful marriage and why simple things mean as much as they do. It’s about respect, caring, and putting the most important things first.

4. It made me forget what was important- When we were moving toward divorce, I became nothing short an angry monster. Understand that we both had fault however from my side all I saw was her transgressions. I forgot that I did love her, I forgot that we had two beautiful children together. I forgot all the reasons I married her in the first place. It just made me hate, not only her but myself as well. The hatred for myself manifested into vengefulness and vitriol.

Depression and anxiety made me impulsive and reckless. I would do and say things without regard to the consequences or ramifications. Mostly without thinking of the impact on the person at the other side. I was abrasive to coworkers, employees, family, my children and mainly to the one person who had truly loved me the most, my wife. No amount of anger or frustration justifies that. Now focussing on the important things makes the peripheral bullshit less noticeable.


My wife and I divorced, and spent some time away from each other. Fortunately, neither of us ever let go completely. With the realization of our errors, and a commitment to work through them we began to put the pieces back together. We both accepted our mistakes and made amends.

The biggest part of the journey afterward wasn’t the apology but the project of repairing ourselves to be better spouses.

The biggest part of the journey afterward wasn’t the apology but the project of repairing ourselves to be better spouses. For me, that meant confronting my mental health and accepting that it was a problem. It meant treatment and developed coping mechanisms. It had to be about taking my life back from these demons known as depression and anxiety.

In taking back my life, I also took back my family.


This article was also published by The Good Men Project

In a World of Bullies, be a Real Man

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for me. Indeed it has been a time that I continue to be disappointed in my fellow men. Not the generic word man as in “mankind” but the very specific “male,” variety of our species. I keep asking myself the same question, “when will we grow up?”

My oldest son has been dealing with a group of bullies at school for the better part of a year. They tease him with cursing and insults. Calling him a “fag” and telling him he isn’t good enough to go out for sports. They gang up on him in a group, like a pack of jackals circling a gazelle. This past week we made the decision to move him to another school that, from our research, seems to have a better handle on such issues.

Oh, I have heard all the jargon about this type of situation. “Toughen ’em up!” or “Let him kick their asses!” All that sounds great until you realize that, number one that isn’t how the real world works. Number two he was outnumbered and could have ended up in an even worse situation. My son is a good looking intelligent kid. He is an accomplished swimmer and an extreme extrovert. Yet, he was targeted.


Bullying isn’t about just going after weaker victims; it’s also going after those you view as a threat. It’s a defense mechanism of the insecure and unproperly trained. Unfortunately, it begins at home and is fueled by parents who are either themselves bullies, or unable to see any fault in their own offspring.

I never really had a problem being bullied in school. Sure there was the occasional jerk you had to deal with but not to the extent I saw it happen to others, or to the degree that it happens today. I am well aware of those around me who had a much worse experience.

Social media is the new hunting ground for these predators.

We’ve not grown at all as a country in this area. No matter what we say this problem is increasing. Social media is the new hunting ground for these predators. Every picture posted, every status update, every tweet and opinion in public view open you up to attack from the faceless trolls who never grew out of middle school.

We live to attack those who are different from us, be it based on skin color, sexuality, religion, atheism, weight, political views, or even socio-economic status. This country seems to thrive on it. Go to a political rally, especially this year, and listen. Not just to the speakers but also to what is being said in the crowds. We have no respect for each other, and we have no restraint in voicing those opinions.

I have had an acquaintance who’s son committed suicide at 11 because of bullying. And seeing stories like this are becoming all too common. When a kid is left feeling that his only option is to “give up” and take their own life, it is an indictment on the entire civilization.

Bullying isn’t just an issue that is relegated to the male of the species either. Girls are victims and participants as well. We however rarely tell our daughters they should “suck it up and deal with it!”


Then today as I am scrolling Facebook I see this article from David French, and I realized, we may never grow up.

French goes on a long diatribe about how we are a culture that is no longer raising men basically because we don’t enroll them all in gym memberships. That because we don’t make them change oil or build porches, they aren’t able to develop masculinity. He states that we should “never ever underestimate the positive effect that raw physical strength can have on a young man’s development.”

While all that sounds great, and it hits on the key points of a Trump testosterone driven movement. It’s bullshit!

To simply focus in on this generation and claim that we are in some extreme moment of de-masculinity is to ignore human history. It’s also an argument that has been used in previous generations. It’s an argument that again, says women aren’t equal and can’t compete. It’s an argument against education, technology advancement, and innovation!

Mainly it’s an argument used by bullies!

Do we tell someone that doesn’t do manual labor for a living, say a writer for the National Review, that he is less of a man because of his chosen profession? We shouldn’t, but apparently that is what we are supposed to do. Do we tell a physically challenged male that he isn’t really a man? I mean after all his grip strength may not be on par with a coal miner from 1935!

I would ask Mr. French to compare his requirements as a youth to that of his father’s. Then compare his father’s to his grandfather’s. They aren’t equal for a couple of reasons. Technology, and intelligence. Human’s are intelligent, we are constantly looking for better, and yes easier, ways of doing things. When is the last time you saw a farmer plowing a field behind a mule? When is the last time you heard of a logging company that only used axes and hand saws? They don’t because that would be inefficient and stupid! But according to French’s argument, using a chainsaw, or riding in an air conditioned tractor means you’ve been brainwashed by militant feminists, hellbent on putting you in a dress!


French makes an argument against the instant oil change. While I do like to change my oil and my sons do help me occasionally, the argument has a problem. Who do you think is doing the oil changes at the local quick lube? It certainly, at least so far, isn’t done by robots. For the most part, it’s younger men, and yes some women, who are working entry level automotive jobs to learn a skill.

The article also ignores another fact of generational difference. Humans get smarter with the passage of time. I suppose we should harken back to a day when we died of chickenpox, but we could bare knuckle fight a bear.

What do bullies say? You’re not as strong, you’re fat, you’re slow, you can’t do what I can do! Those types of beliefs lead to things like 13-year-olds taking their his life because he didn’t think he could ever fit in. A belief he would never measure up to some trivial standard that “men” should reach.

It’s not only an incorrect argument Mr. French; it’s dangerous.

So while David French may not agree, I am raising men. Three of them. Men who will respect their fellow “man”. Who will judge people on the content of their character and not by how much they can bench. Men who will be secure in their masculinity enough to know that women in the workforce aren’t a threat if you’re willing to work and compete on an equal playing field. Men who can lay their heads down at night knowing that all they’ve received in life was earned, not because of their sex, but because of their drive.

Then I will be able to sleep at night knowing, in some part, I contributed to the betterment of society. Not just from my own actions, but through the legacy of real men that will follow me.

That, Mr. French, is what real strength is.

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Photo: Getty Images

5 Steps For Guys To Regain Career Happiness

The story is the same for many, you graduated, started a job, it turned into a career. You’ve been successful, and you’re good at what you do. You provide for your family, you’re respected, and you are depended on. It seems you have everything under control and everything you want in life. Awards, recognition, and an annual raises are all regular occurrences in your life. 5careerhappiness

The problem is you’re miserable.

This certainly isn’t the faults of our families, and it isn’t the fault of the companies.

Where did we go wrong, when did this happen, why do we feel trapped? I’ve done everything I thought I was supposed to do in life; worked hard, provided for my family, and started planning for my retirement. For many men, we find ourselves doing only what we think we are required to do. Our personal happiness is often left on the side of the road somewhere to make ourselves feel like providers or protectors. 

This certainly isn’t the faults of our families, and it isn’t the fault of the companies we have dedicated our lives to. The issue isn’t finding fault at all or even a place to lay blame for our unhappiness. The key is to find out why are we really unhappy and find ways to solve it. There will be no relief for anyone if we continue to wallow in our self-pity and feelings of unfulfillment. The unhappiness is there, and if you don’t find a solution, it will continue to eat at you, maybe even to the point you do something detrimental to your career and the livelihood of those who depend on you. 

The answer may simply be finding happiness in what you are already doing. This isn’t what most of us in these circumstances want to hear. The easy answer today is to say, “find freedom” “create happiness” “live your passions” and nobody wants to face a reality that sometimes it isn’t the job, it’s you. Believe it or not, even in today’s society of living for yourself and an almost cult-like following of self-centeredness responsibilities still exist. Those responsibilities don’t go away because you decide that you should have become a magician instead of an investment banker. 

So you’re unhappy, you’re unsatisfied, and you’re ready to quit your job. How do you reignite the passion you once had and find the desire to continue to be the best you can be? It’s not easy but there are some steps to take that can help you get there.


Identity what the real issues are— Every problem has a root cause, you don’t suddenly wake up one day hating your life and your career. It’s a set of circumstances that build up over the course of months or even years that convince you that your chosen career is not only unfulfilling but meaningless. There is an unhappiness that has built up, usually in several areas of our lives that push us to the point that we decide we have to do something drastic to get our lives under control again. 

Eliminate as much debt as possible— From my personal experiences, the times I had the feeling of restlessness and unfulfillment in my job were when I had allowed debt and monthly bills balloon out of control. Nothing will make you believe that you are in the wrong line of work like being underwater in debt. The sinking feeling is unbearable, and when panic sets in, we begin to think irrationally. In our minds, we decide that to get out of this debt, we need a new better job that will pay more. So obviously we have to make wholesale changes in our lives, and that means a career change. 

Recognize the good you do provide— I’ve heard it many times, “what I do doesn’t matter to the world” meaning they don’t feel they make a difference. I have had that feeling a few times. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter what you do in life; somehow it touches someone else’s life. In some small way, you have the ability to make someone’s life better by what you do, you have to identify that and understand that without you and people like you then the world isn’t a better place. 

Reevaluate your life outside of work— What are you filling your spare time with? Do you have real quality time away from the office? Coming home kicking off your shoes and flopping down in the recliner seems wonderful at times, and occasionally isn’t a bad idea. However, if all there is to your life is work and television, your sense of fulfillment is going to be pretty empty. Find a hobby, get involved with your children’s schools, take your wife on weekend adventures. Whatever it is, find something away from your job that helps shape who you are as a person. 

Understand risk— I certainly don’t want anyone to think I don’t believe in chasing dreams or following your hearts. What I am saying is that you should never go into anything uninformed. Too often we only hear the positive stories of people who have taken risks and decided to follow new paths. The biggest thing most of those success stories have is people that were prepared, educated and a sufficient backup plan. You must understand for yourself and your family what the entire risk of such a decision is. Knowing the goals are easy, to understand what happens if you fail, is altogether different.


The truth is, all of us have in us the ability to be successful at anything we put our minds to. I know that our heart has to be in what we do to be fulfilled. For many of us, though, uprooting an entire life’s work is not always the answer. When so much time, energy and effort have been put into building a foundation for a career, we have to be willing to, at least, evaluate the situation on a much broader scale. 

Happiness doesn’t always have to be out of reach.

– See more at:

4 Things A Man Battling Depression Can’t Say

Over the course of my life especially before I started to get treatment I have had times that depression and anxiety would almost completely shut me down. I was still able to appear alive and well but inside there wasn’t anything but what could only be described as terror. The kind of fear that only allows you to see doom and everything in life ending badly. It’s not a great feeling at all, but the effect it had on those around me was just as difficult for me to take.

My wild mood swings put strains even on the best relationships. It was usually written off as moodiness or just a generally bad mood, but it was so much more. Those of you who have struggled with this terrible affliction will understand. The problem, however, is that for those aren’t cursed with this disease sometimes have a difficult time accepting that it is out of the control of the person affected. What seems minor to you gets blown way out of proportion to us, and reactions seem so overblown and out of line.

In my worst moments, I was a horrible human being, that couldn’t be reasoned with or comforted. I would throw out all the common decency that I had and unleash hell on whoever happened to be there. If you made the slightest mistake or said the wrong thing at the wrong time you saw a different side of me, one that I am not proud of.

Those times were difficult for everyone, especially me. In my mind even while they were happening I was screaming at myself internally to stop, just stop! But I couldn’t, I didn’t know how, and sometimes I wondered if I really even wanted to.

There were a lot of things that I said in those moment, most of them I regret but the problem was all the things I couldn’t say. The things that simply wouldn’t or couldn’t come out of my mouth. My brain wouldn’t allow it, my feelings held them in place my depression locked them in a place that I couldn’t access. For a lot of us, men especially it is difficult to fully express our emotions, feelings and thoughts. When you mix in depression and anxiety those things become a near impossibility.

In those moments, there were things I simply couldn’t say no matter how hard I tried. Many men have the same struggle and it’s important to recognize when that is the case.

We can’t say what’s wrong– When someone is in a bad mood, or seems to be upset about something many people want to try to fix it, especially wives. The only way they say they can help is if we tell them what’s wrong. The problem is we don’t know, we haven’t the foggiest idea what the hell is wrong. We know deep down that whatever the trigger was probably wasn’t the real issue. We really want to be able to say what’s wrong, we want to calm down and get over it but we just can’t.

We can’t say we’re sorry– In the heat of the moment in the middle of an episode of depression or anxiety we probably say hurtful things. We may have even made you cry, and we are sorry we just can’t express it. At least, for me, it was a defense mechanism to somehow prove to myself that I was right about whatever illogical thought was running through my head. The apology usually comes later, and even then it’s difficult and usually comes in some other form. The problem is that it’s usually too late and the damage has been done.

We can’t say we need space– I never could anyway, even when I knew I was in a bad place mentally I could never express that I needed some alone time. This is actually when the most hurtful thing I could say came out. It wasn’t that I meant any of it, it was that I needed to be left alone, I needed space and I needed time to gather myself I just couldn’t say it. I know that sounds ridiculous and somewhat childish but it’s true the more I was pressed the most vicious I could become until I had pushed someone away.

We can’t say we need help– This is all too true for many men with mental health problems. We still live in a society that looks differently at those who admit that there may be a problem. Our culture is changing but it is changing too slowly. We are taught at an early age not to show weakness and this only exacerbates the difficulty searching for treatment. When we finally do admit to ourselves that something isn’t right, we are still unable to express that to anyone else. It took me a very long time, too long, to be able to admit to anyone and seek treatment. The time I wasted cost me some really great experiences and opportunities. The regret will always be there.

I am certainly no mental health expert, and I don’t claim to have all the answers. I do know how this awful disease has disrupted my life and the life of my family. It’s not something I am proud of and the hurt I have caused may never be fully forgiven. All I can do moving forward is to take care of myself and work to get better every day.



Originally posted on The Good Men Project




Five Ways to Tell You’re Not a Complete Screw Up as a Dad

Five Ways to Tell You’re Not a Complete Screw Up as a Dad

Most nights I come home from work and the house quickly erupts into chaos, if it isn’t in that shape before I get home. Three sons all under the age of 13 tend to bring that type of atmosphere. A full-time job and a wife that is heavily involved in the kids school and sporting activities means we are all busy and at times overwhelmed. Then add the fact that we are currently hosting an exchange student from Italy and you understand we are a busy family. Finding quality time for each other at times is hard, finding personal time for ourselves is a near impossibility.

Few nights go by that someone doesn’t cry, or go to bed upset. A lot of nights it’s me! So through all the chaos and hurt feelings, and occasional screaming fits, again usually me, I sometimes look at myself and my family and think I am a complete failure as a dad. It’s at these moments I really have to take a step back and look for things I am doing correctly.

So in those times, I have observed some things about my sons that give me hope that I am not completely and totally wrecking their lives. Hopefully others will be able to find these things in their own households. These are the five things that help me believe I am not a total screw up as a dad.

My kids tell the corniest jokes— They tell the dumbest most ridiculous jokes in the world, but they find them hilarious and so do I. There’s nothing better than an eight-year-old trying to tell a joke while laughing at himself because he knows the punchline. Sometimes it’s just a word that makes him laugh, usually it is something like booger or poop.

They have a firm grasp on sarcasm—This one tends to be more subtle but when you realize they are becoming students of the art of sarcastic expression, you can rest assured you’ve done at least something right. In a sick sort of way, I get a great deal of pride and pleasure when one of my kids cuts me to the bone with a sarcastic remark.

Negotiation skills are finely honed— You know that your job as a parent is progressing toward success when you realize that through the course of a conversation with your son, he somehow persuaded you to change your mind. This can be achieved in different ways usually depending on age. The two-year-old, just screams at us until we relent. The eight-year-old usually employs the sad face and the faux act of surrender by slowly walking away, slumped down with the occasional glance over the shoulder to see if we’re watching. The twelve-year-old, has developed a hybrid approach that include a combination of the skills learned at the younger stages, however now he uses his own brand of preteen logic to convince or simply confuse us into an agreement.

They love their mom— I as a dad find myself much more liberal in my approach than the generation that raised me. I tend to let things slide that would have found me sentenced to the Gulag. Those are usually things that in the grand scheme of life won’t matter tomorrow. One thing I wouldn’t tolerate is disrespect and especially disrespect to my wife. I am fortunate though that I have three sons that do their very best most days to show their love for her. I know that my kids love me, and I know that my relationship is different with them than with their mother. It does however warm my heart to see one of them curled up next to her on the couch or simply wanting to be near her while she is in the room.

They love each other—Sure they fight, fuss and scream at each other. They go out of the way to annoy each other to the breaking point. They live to torment one another, and each of them would rather die than allow one of their brothers a millisecond of peace. However the moments when they don’t know you’re watching, and you see the love, be it a kind comment, the sharing of candy or even the occasional I love you, I know that something has gone right, that day at least.

I know I have made a lot of mistakes with my kids, I’ve said things I shouldn’t have, I have ignored them when they needed me and I’ve been a general ass to them at times. Overreaction sometimes is my middle name, and complete freak outs have been heaped upon them. Many of us have made those mistakes, and while we can beat ourselves up about the missed opportunities or the mistakes, we should never forget to recognize the things we have done right.

With each passing year, it becomes painfully clear how little time I have to influence their lives. I know that soon they will be on their own and dad’s advice won’t be something they are required to follow. I can be encouraged now however when I see the positives and be that much more diligent in dealing with the negatives. I have to remind myself occasionally that I am not a dog trainer or a computer programmer, I am a parent. I can’t train them into obedience, and I can’t program them to be perfect. Many of life’s lessons will have to be experienced, what I can do is prepare them to be ready for those moments.

So when they are grown and hopefully making good decisions and living a positive life happy in who they are. I will be solidified in the knowledge that I did something right.


Originally seen on The Good Men Project



Good Men Article from Christmas #2

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