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Jody the Cobbler: Easy-Going Christian Mends Broken Soles and Feeds Hungry Hippies

July 1998
by John Tarleton

CEDAREDGE, Colorado — The morning after Jody Segura returned from feeding thousands of hippies at a Rainbow Gathering in Arizona, he was back in his home workshop, amidst the pungent smells of glue and leather, diligently mending broken soles, saddles, tents, trampolines and whatever else his neighbors in Cedaredge might bring by. Christian pop music ("Jesus is my deliverer, deliverer/I don't doubt his promise...") filled the room. Working alongside Jody was the woman who had once picked him up 25 years earlier when he was frantically hitchhiking down St. Charles Avenue in the middle of New Orleans.

Working with Care

Louise Segura was working on an elk skin vest. And Jody was repairing a pair of size 13 hiking boots while a barefooted wanderer looked on. In a world of mass-produced junk, the Seguras are the rarest of workers: village artisans who work at their own pace and know each of their customers as individuals.

Jody takes off at least one day a week to go fishing amidst the 300 or so lakes on the nearby Grand Mesa. "I've worked 8-to-5 jobs when I had to," he said. "But truth is, they suck."

Jody is a 49 year-old father of two (Scarlett, 18 and Isaac, 11) with a salt and pepper-colored beard and a loud, spontaneous laugh. 20 years after moving to Western Colorado, he still has a good, thick "N'awlins" accent. Louise is a helpful, energetic woman who has the infectious habit of saying things like "Praise the Lord" and "Thank you Jesus".

A Chance Encounter

Louise Lynette grew up the youngest of seven children in a Catholic family. She scarcely imagined she was about to meet her future husband when she saw a young man waving his thumb at her late one afternoon in December 1972 while she was driving through New Orleans. It was the Friday before New Year's Eve and Jody was hurrying to the bank to cash his paycheck.

"He looked so desperate and he was cute too. He had one of those big, long handlebar moustaches back then," Louise said. "He had to ride in the backseat because the passenger door was busted. It only took us a couple of minutes to get to the bank. We exchanged phone numbers and went out on our first date a few nights later. And we've been together ever since."

"By our second date,'' Jody said, continuing the story, ''I noticed Louise was special. I was seeing other good-looking ladies in those days. But they all wanted to see what they could get from you. Louise was different. She was always giving and giving.''

When they aren't in the workshop, the Seguras drive school bus nine months a year (''That's a ministry itself," he said) and cultivate a couple of gardens that produce carrots, beets, lettuce, sweet and Indian corn, bell peppers and garlic. Jody also hunts elk in the winter and tends six beehives that yield as much as 80 gallons of organic Rocky Mountain honey per year, most of which he and Louise give away as gifts to friends.

''I've always believed in that Scriptural saying that 'ye shall earn your living by the sweat of your brow','' he said.

Jody continued working on one of the tattered boots; removing the frayed, silver duct tape that was holding it together, trimming a piece of dark brown leather to size and gluing it over the worn-out toe. The sun streamed in through the workshop's open door. It was a warm summer morning; the ancient, snow-capped San Juan Mountains were faintly visible on the southern horizon, and the still air remained fresh from the previous afternoon's thundershowers.

The Long Search for Inner Peace

Before coming to Colorado, Jody made good money while working on switching systems for 10 years for the phone company in New Orleans. Always good with his hands, he bought and fixed up old, antebellum houses as well. If he had stayed another 20 years working a job he didn't like (as many of his friends did), he could have begun collecting a monthly pension this year. Instead, he and Louise took off for the clean air and water of the Rocky Mountains seeking inner peace and a safe, quiet place to raise a family.

He bought a five-acre piece of land and the log cabin house they still live in to this day as well as a couple of local businesses - a shoe repair shop and a feed store. Jody mastered shoe repair within a year. Unfortunately, his feed store went broke five years after he arrived in Cedaredge.

Meanwhile, Louise had nearly died of internal bleeding while giving birth at home to their first child. As she was being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, she made a promise to God.

''Alls I remember is telling God that if he allowed me to live and raise this daughter, I would serve him,'' Louise said.

Sinking deeper into debt, Jody found himself searching for answers. Still propelled by a partying lifestyle of drugs and alcohol, the inner contentment he sought seemed more elusive than ever. He couldn't escape himself.

''It was almost as if Louise was waiting for me,'' Jody said. ''I was hurtin'. I was $38,000 in debt and alls I had was a $250 a month drivin' school bus. I had read up on Eastern religions and things like Transcendental Meditation. But I knew I needed a personal God in my life. And that's when I turned to Jesus ''

"We've Never Been More in Love than Now"

Jody needed nine years to pay off all his debts. And just after he made the last payment, he got the chance to buy his current shoe repair business for $1,000.

''It was the Lord blessing us," he said. " It was like he was saying 'your books are cleared'."

Jody has been in business again for five years. He owns everything he has and disdains credit cards. He owes nothing to no man. "I've learned my lesson," he said.

He runs only one small advertisement in the county newspaper. Word-of-mouth brings additional customers from nearby towns like Delta and Hotchkiss. Moving out of the shop to sit on a nearby tree stump, he continued working on the pair of size 13 boots. Woodcocks, robins, meadowlarks and morning doves chirped and warbled in the elm trees that encircle the house. A steady trickle of area residents drove up the crunchy dirt and gravel driveway to drop off items for repair.

Jody worked at a brisk, steady pace with thread and needle. "20 years of practice," he joked. He only stopped to give the owner of the boots tips on how to run a stitch through the newly-made toe cap and the rubber sole. "When you can't see the knot on either side, it's good," he said encouragingly.

Even in the lean years, Jody and Louise continued giving; opening their home to foster children, abused wives and many others who were in a tough jam. They both became active in the Cedaredge Assembly of God Church and he joined the Promise Keepers as well.

"Man, Jesus totally transformed my life when he came into me," Jody said. One of the first things he remembers doing is throwing most of his record collection into the burn pile outside his house. "Our marriage is better than it was 10 years ago or 20 years ago. Our sex life is better. Everything is better. We've never been more in love than now."

On the Rainbow Trail

Jody found a new direction for service when the annual Rainbow Gathering rolled into Paonia, Colorado in July 1992. The Rainbow Family of Living Light is an informal "non-organization" of peaceful anarchists who, much to the consternation of the government, gather in a different national forest every year to pray for world peace. The Gatherings attract upwards of 20,000 participants, many of whom are young and scruffy. While many frightened Paonians hid in their homes, a group of volunteers from area churches banded together to form the Bread of Life Kitchen. Many of the volunteers were former hippies now raising families while still living lives of voluntary simplicity. And Jody was among them.

"Christianity idn't about puttin' on suit and tie and goin' to church on Sunday," he said. "It ain't no plastic Jesus on a dashboard. You've got to live it. It means goin' to the kind of people Jesus would've gone to."

The Bread of Life has since expanded and returned to serve at four more annual Rainbow Gatherings in Wyoming (1994), New Mexico ('95), Oregon ('97) and Arizona ('98). It has gained a reputation as the cleanest and one of the most prolific of the dozens of kitchens that show up at Gatherings. Jody wrote passionately of his experiences at Rainbow in a letter to his church from the 1997 Oregon Gathering:

"There is something that happens in you as you give out the food. A joy flows through you - each eye contact - each smile - each portion you give out. Our kitchen is the cleanest, our food the best - but still there is something else - a flow - you can feel it....a gospel is being preached without words. The people are hearing it and rejoicing. it's, it's the Love - we have fallen in love with these people and they know it....It's so neat to be serving in line - have a punker come up (all in black - tattoos everywhere - earrings in the strangest places), you smile at him, look him in the eyes and say 'I love you'. It does something that no words can explain. It preaches a Gospel that no Roman road could ever do."

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