Monthly Archives: February 2017

War On Stumps

It was sprinkling rain. But when I pointed that out to Charles (as if perhaps he hadn’t noticed the dampness on his back) he said it was keeping him cool! The big goal of the day was to succeed in digging at least one of the two huge dogwood stumps out of the ground and carry it away. Ulysses was here to help and the two men were taking turns chopping, digging, pounding away on roots that were so hard the mattock bounced back from every lick.

Charles and I had made the decision to cut the trees down last summer realizing that they were more dead than alive. It was really hot then. Charles said he’d wait until winter to dig the stumps out. Here it is nearly the end of February and he hasn’t found a truly winter day to work on those stumps. So this rainy dark morning would have to suffice!

After digging for a while and exposing several roots, Charles positioned the truck for pulling them out with a chain fastened to his trailer hitch. Ulysses attached the chain to a muddy stubborn root, Charles pulled forward slowly and out came the root to be thrown into the waiting wheelbarrow.

When I took my knitting (which seemed a nice job for a rainy morning) to the living room, I could hear the men calling to each other: “Whoa, Doc! OK, move up a little” or “Whoopee, there she comes!” or “Snub your chain tighter, Ulysses, we’ll try her again.” (Have you noticed that when men are working, any hard and stubborn thing is called a “she”?)

The wheelbarrow was getting full and there was a deep, wide hole now where the stump still presided.

Of course we’d rather by far have the two beautiful dogwoods on either side of our front yard blooming like white angels in March and April. But the dogwoods have been struck by Dogwood Anthracose (caused by Discula destructive), a disease¬†first identified, I believe, in New York in the 1970’s and creeping since then steadily south through the Appalachian mountains and down the eastern seaboard. We were so hoping maybe the disease wouldn’t get this far, but here it is. Dogwoods until recently brightened our yards and woodlands with white blossoms in the spring and brilliant red berries and leaves in the fall. But now more and more of them have turned to stark leafless silhouettes.

So here we were making a war on dogwood stumps that were wide enough on which to serve a small teaparty. But, Charles declared, these stumps only have lateral roots, no taproot. “We will whip one at least by noon,” he said.

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Sure enough, well before noon, I heard a shout and hurried to the door. The stump was out! I went down to take pictures, wiping raindrops from my iPad. The great spidery lump of a stump rolled and bounced behind the truck as Charles pulled it to the debris pile.

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Stump #1 was out and where it came from was a gaping hole. After they filled the canyon in, only a bare spot remained. Charles will tease the grass back over that with his patient sprigging. I closed my eyes and tried to picture the lawn as it had been when those two beautiful dogwoods offered their gracious shade in the summer, their color in fall and winter, and their display of white in the spring.

Somehow, the following verses from Psalm 103:15-17 come to mind:

The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.

 

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Fanny Crosby, Child of Tragedy?

 

God creates awesome good out of horrendous tragedy. Joni Eareckson’s diving accident left her with no feeling below her shoulders, yet she inspires millions with her testimony, art, and songs. And then there was Fanny Crosby…

Frances Jane Crosby was born March 24, 1820 in the village of Southeast, New York, the only child of John and Mercy Crosby. While their doctor was away, little Fanny, only six weeks old, developed a bad infection. A young quack treated the baby by applying hot mustard poultices to her eyes. The baby survived, but soon her parents realized she could no longer see. Within the year, a second tragedy hit this family. Fanny’s young father took a chill and died.

Fanny’s 21-year-old mother had to go to work as a maid leaving her baby for long hours with her mother Eunice.

Fanny’s grandmother took her job very seriously. She did not just keep this blind baby comfortable and safe. She stimulated her senses with awareness of her surroundings. As the child grew, she and her grandmother walked and explored. She played with other children. The grandmother spent long hours describing details of leaves and sunsets, rocks and rills. She read to her. She taught her to memorize. By the time Fanny was fifteen she had memorized the first five books of the Bible, the book of Psalms, Song of Solomon, and the four gospels.

Fanny was, by her own testimony, a happy child. She refused to be pitied. At the age of eight she wrote these words:

“Oh, what a happy soul I am, Although I cannot see! I am resolved that in this world Contented I will be! How many blessings I enjoy That other people don’t! To weep and sigh because I’m blind, I cannot and I won’t.”

Because of her mother’s and grandmother’s diligence, Fanny Crosby was enrolled in the prestigious New York Institution for the Blind when she was only fifteen. One can only imagine the wonders this imaginative young woman explored as she learned braille, interacted with teachers and students and continued to grow as a poet. She was a student for ten years, then stayed on at the Institute as a teacher for ten more years during which time she fell in love with fellow teacher Alexander Van Alstyne who also was blind. He and Fanny both loved music. She learned to play piano, organ, harp and guitar.

Fanny and her husband had only one child who died in infancy, another tragedy in Fanny’s life.

Though she was always religious, Fanny actually became a Christian secure in trusting Jesus for eternity when she was thirty-one. Her poetry became markedly more spiritual after that.

Very likely the most prolific hymn writer ever, Fanny didn’t seriously begin writing hymns until she was in her forties. She met Robert Lowry who teamed with her, writing music for her lyrics. Bigelow and Main Publishing Company published much of her works. By many reports, she received a dollar or two for each hymn. She became so well known for writing hymns that sometimes a musician would bring music to her and ask for lyrics. In one such case, Doane played a tune for her explaining that he needed the song completed in thirty-five minutes. She wrote the words right then to the hymn, “Safe In the Arms of Jesus.”

Fanny wrote 8,000 hymns. Hymn books of many Protestant denominations are full of her them. Here are only a few: “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross,” “To God Be The Glory,” “Pass Me Not, Oh Gentle Savior,” “Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine,” and “All the Way My Saviour Leads Me.”

Yes, Fanny was blind. But she couldn’t praise her Saviour enough! At one point she is quoted as saying that perhaps if she hadn’t been blind she would have been too distracted by everything around her to have written all those hymns.

Her hymns of praise have lifted the hearts of millions. Remember the chorus to “Blessed Assurance…”? “This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Saviour all the day long; This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Saviour all the day long.” Even as I type these lines, my heart beats faster at the joy resounding in those words.

Remember revivals when we’d sing so jubilantly, “Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus our blessed Redeemer! Sing, O earth, His wonderful love proclaim!”

But Fanny expressed her dependence on God too. She would have agreed with Joni Eareckson’s quote: “There is nothing that moves a loving father’s soul quite like his child’s cry.” So in “All the Way My Saviour Leads Me” we sing her words,¬†“For I know whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well; For I know whate’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.”

She writes of her devotion in “Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross”: “Jesus, keep me near the cross, There a precious fountain, Free to all a healing stream, Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain. In the cross, in the cross, Be my glory ever, Till my raptur’d soul shall find Rest beyond the river.”

In “Rescue the Perishing” Fanny shows her compassion for the lost and, more importantly, His compassion: “Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying; Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave…Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.”

When Fanny was asked about how her blindness had affected her life, she said that even if she could have chosen as an adult to have sight she would have turned it down. She didn’t want to miss the close walk with Jesus. “His will be the first face I will see!” she said. She used that thought in “My Saviour First of All”: “I shall know my Redeemer when I reach the other side, And His smile will be the first to welcome me.”

Fanny saw her Saviour’s smile face to face when she died February 12, 1915, just short of her 95th birthday.

Both Joni Eareckson and Fanny Crosby have been heard to say they were blessed beyond measure as tools of the Master because of their handicaps. Tragedy hit them–but it could not win!

NOTE: My interest in Fanny Crosby was renewed by a recent article in Mature Living by Greg Asimakoupoulos. You might want to check out the February issue! Also, for further reading there are several books by Fanny Crosby and about her. One is titled, “This Is My Story, This Is My Song.”

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Wild Hog and Mountain Oysters

Survivors eat some pretty strange things–slugs, scrambled worms, and such–but I had not aimed to be that kind of survivor when these less than delightful meals were thrust upon me. I did dream of adventure, just not quite like this.

We had nothing in our furnished student apartment big enough to hold a wild hog. We owned two pressure cookers, one small and one smaller, wedding gifts. My mother had given us a cute little sauce pan, too, just big enough for boiling four eggs, not too big, she noted, for our tiny kitchen cabinet. Then there were one or two odd little pots and an adorable Corning ware teapot of which I was particularly proud. There was nothing big enough in which to cook a wild hog.

But Charles and two of his UGA Vet School buddies had acquired a wild hog, whether one shot it, or what, I don’t remember. They butchered it somewhere at the vet school. But where to cook it? Charles proposed we would cook it and the others would come help eat it.

We measured the tiny oven and went to Krogers to buy an aluminum foil roasting pan. With all pots and the roaster, the hog might be squeezed in. I insisted on our getting some potatoes and carrots, too, which wiped out our grocery budget. But we had to have something to go with that hog. This was our first dinner party, after all. Charles said it was just the guys, not to worry. I said we had to have potatoes.

As the upstairs apartment filled with the smell of that hog cooking, I was very glad we’d have vegetables, too, though it would take some ingenuity to work them into the cooking agenda on that tiny stove. The smell became more and more intensely offensive as the Saturday rolled into the afternoon.

We opened all the windows. I went for a walk but never seemed to shake that smell. This was not a nice smoked ham, mind you. It was a wild hog, specifically a wild boar. If you’ve never smelled one cooking, you have no concept of how bad it was. No words can describe it.

About 5:00 we began testing portions with a fork. The meat was tough and unyielding. Charles called the guys and told them to give us a couple more hours. We had to shift pots back and forth to give each a chance at heat on the three available eyes. I cooked potatoes in the teapot.

We finally sat down at our little table. Our two guests were big fellows. Either one could have used that table for a plate. They grinned like Hoss on Bonanza and tried to figure out what to do with their hands.

Charles always has said very good blessings and that was no exception. He thanked God graciously for the free meat and for good friends with whom to enjoy it.

Carter took one bite. Seaborn took one bite. They each drank a big swig of tea. Next thing we knew they were heading for the door.

“You mean they’re gone?” I asked in horror. “What will we do with all this meat?”

Charles was quite cheerful. “We’ll eat it. Can’t waste free groceries.”

We learned to eat slices of “the meat” cold. It didn’t smell nearly as bad that way.

All through the years, whenever we saw those guys at veterinary conventions (one became State Veterinarian Carter Black, the other a practitioner and farmer Seaborn Harden), we remembered that night when they wouldn’t stay and eat that tough odorous meat. In a way, I never forgave them, although I did laugh with them. They both admitted they thought they could eat anything, but not that.

One more time Charles landed me in a cooking situation that was less than pleasant.

We’d just moved to Cairo, Georgia where Charles was practicing veterinary medicine with Eugene T. Maddox. Charles announced at lunch one Friday that we were going to cook mountain oysters for Gene and a few of their clients. I think the phone rang before he got around to explaining what mountain oysters are. Anyway, mountain anything sounded good to me, I was so homesick for the hills.

I knew by then that in South Georgia you serve grits, baked beans, and cole slaw with any kind of seafood. So I prepared happily for this occasion. Charles said he and the guys would fry the oysters which seemed real nice.

It was while they were frying the little things and making a horrible mess of flour and grease when I overheard one client say something jovial about his hogs making such a noble contribution. Danger signals went off in my head. What had Charles gotten me into this time?

I trapped him behind the kitchen door and made him explain. Then I excused myself to other parts of the house for the duration.

That Friday Charles had “cut” several young boars, meaning they would never be daddies. That resulted in a small pan of mountain oysters. I never told my mother this story.

The worst part of the oyster story is that I was very hungry, and the “oysters” smelled good! I almost gag at the thought that I almost ate one!

My Daddy used to quote St. Paul as saying (I Corinthians 10:27): “…eat whatever is set before you, asking no questions for conscience sake.”

Okay, I guess if I were starving……..!

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