Home at 1010

I remember a columnist from years ago named Gladys Tabor. She wrote about her garden, seasonal flowers, about feeding the birds and digging pesky vine roots, pruning roses or picking berries. I’m not the gardener or the writer that she was but I’d like to take you around our corner and just shout out a few hallelujahs for the blessings God displays for us.

Our tubs of herbs along the outside of the back porch are green and luscious with rosemary, parsley, basil, lavender and mint. I hung a bunch of everything in the kitchen to smell good and to dehydrate. We bought two red geraniums for the porch which I can see from the den window. There’s something about red geraniums that makes me feel good all over. And Charles transplanted a patch of a dozen or so small purple iris around the maple tree south of the porch. The white ones in the same bed have done their thing and bowed out. The purple flags, as my mother called them, are smiling center stage.

The mulberry tree is at the height of its season, berries thick on the branches, the whole tree in motion with squirrels and birds feasting. The squirrels have had to find a new way to the mulberry since we cut down the two large oak trees which they had used as connectors in their super highway. We meant no offense in particular to the squirrels, just became concerned that at least one of the big oaks might land some windy night across our bedroom. They were both rotten and hollow. But Charles, in preparation for the tree felling, also took out a massive bank of old shrubbery–azaleas, wisteria, etc. So now, not only are the squirrels missing their highway, but they hardly have any cover on that side of the yard. They sneak across a wide open stretch either in one headlong dash, or, often, a few feet at a time, stopping to sit up erect like meerkats on the prairie before tackling another stretch. Once they scale one certain large pine they have it made–a leap to the cherry tree and then protection all the way to the arms of the generous mulberry. That pine is a giant stairway to freedom for hundreds of tiny squirrels’ feet.

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Mulberries are sweet even before they are ripe!

 

Charles’ sister Revonda came and sat on our porch with us Sunday afternoon. We talked about old friends they knew when growing up in Thomas County schools. Our cat, Sassy, brought a skink to the screen door and meowed for attention. We talked about her and didn’t rescue her victim which was all but dead. Birds flew in and out of the feeder area. Squirrels scaled the pine and leaped to the cherry tree limbs, then to the mulberry. We caught up on ours and Revonda’s grandchildren, then called the third sibling of the JB Graham family, Ronnie, up in Michigan. The temperature was forty degrees there to our very pleasant seventy. We’d forgotten about Sassy and the skink when suddenly we spied her lugging a baby rabbit up the driveway. She tried to settle in by the screen door to give us another show. But our sympathy was warm for that little bunny. Charles stepped out and made Sassy release it. We laughed with glee as the small “Peter Rabbit” took to his feet and made a very quick and bouncy exit. I knew for sure at that moment I was not married to a “Mr. McGregor.”

Along the front porch are knockout roses. When five-year-old Kaison spends the day with me, we include in our activities, “dead heading” the roses. He is surprisingly adept with the clippers and gets almost too much pleasure snapping the dead blooms off with an “off with your head” to each one. He and I fill the bird baths too. I chuckle remembering my father-in-law who used to call out to Mama Graham, “Elizabeth, here’s those pesky birds flopping around in the bird bath. They’re going to splash all the water out!”

When Charles and I walk around the yard in the evening, we always stop to see how our new blueberry bushes are doing. Charles has worked so hard testing the soil and preparing it then to blueberry specifications. There are berries now on each little tree and we’re hoping to have some soon enhancing our cereal. In a couple of years we’re expecting to make muffins, cobblers, and stick some berries in the freezer.

Brown thrashers are here. We saw a beautiful one at the feeder outside the breakfast room today eating voraciously. They only grace us with their presence during their nesting time but I greatly enjoy seeing them for those few weeks–flying in and out of their chosen bushes. The feeders are busy, too, with cute little black-capped chickadees, tufted titmouse, bright cardinals and purple finches. We woke this morning to the sound of birds singing from low bushes and high in the pines. A mockingbird trilled his thirty-minute repertoire from the cherry tree as if he would burst if he couldn’t sing. A few minutes ago we spotted our first hummingbird of the season.

I heard about a shrub called a “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” plant. We found one at Nesmith Nursery in Thomas County and just finished settling it into the soil near the butterfly garden. We’re told it blooms sporadically all summer and that on any given day there will be yesterday blossoms of pale lavender, today blossoms of almost purple, and tomorrow blossoms of white. We’re giving it to each other for Mother’s Day/Father’s Day, a fun new acquisition!

Thanks for wandering with me. (And thanks, Gladys Tabor of long ago, for your inspiration.)

So many blessings close by! With the psalmist, let’s say Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. (Psalm 103:1)

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Caribbean Contemplations

Here on our porch in South Georgia with birds singing and the nearest seashore more than two hours away, it’s hard to believe we actually sailed across the Caribbean last week. But memories are lingering of a wide blue sea that stretched to the sky with no shoreline in sight, no tall buildings, no sailboats, most of the time not even a bird. The night sky was black, pricked with stars. We were lulled to sleep by the gentle, yet constant roll and throb of the ship making its way across the undulating waves.

Our ship was the Miracle, a vessel of the Carnival line. We were traveling from Port Tampa Bay to Grand Cayman Island to Roatan Isle in Honduras’s Mahogany Bay to Belize and, finally, Cozumel Island on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. And then back to Tampa Bay!

Life on the ship was like no other experience. We had been on a couple of cruises before but each one is so different. With 2,300 passengers aboard, it seemed like a small town afloat. Nine hundred employees were constantly serving us in dining areas, in staterooms, on decks and giving us talented entertainment each night. We found ourselves in a fairyland. Everywhere we went these beautiful people from the Philippines, from India, from Indonesia and France and England knew our names and greeted us like well loved friends.

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Charles on our balcony

 

Our stateroom was very pleasant and comfortable and even had a balcony. We often sat there to read or just talk and watch the waves. One day, far out at sea, I saw a small white bird flying. I tried to point him out to Charles who convinced me it couldn’t be a bird. Okay, we both have cataracts so I suppose we can see things that aren’t there, as well as missing things that are. But then I spied the little bird again, flying close above the whitecaps. I was really worried about that bird. Where would it ever rest? Why was it all alone? Charles sized up the situation thus: “He’ll be a nice bite for some hungry fish.”

Whole days at sea were fun. There was a wonderful sea day brunch in the main dining room. There was time to visit the library, the chapel, the putt-putt golf course, walk the decks in a strong wind, warm up at the coffee shop, study pictures in the art gallery and still have time for sitting on the balcony and even taking a nap. We also enjoyed conversations with many people, some gospel conversations, as we call them. We had prayed ahead of time for opportunities to share news of our Savior, and God opened many windows.

The excursions we chose were not at all what our children and grandchildren would have gone for. We didn’t go snorkeling or scuba diving though Belize and Cozumel are famous for their beautiful coral reefs. We didn’t choose to swim with the dolphins. My granddaughter says, “What’s wrong with you? I would have loved that!” “I don’t swim that well,” I told her to which she said, “But the dolphins would carry you.” “Yes, but where?” I asked her. We didn’t go zip lining as we knew our son would do. In fact, a couple of ladies our age were going zip lining for the first time ever. But we chose activities that wouldn’t throw us into having back surgery. We did mind expanding treks through the forest and along the seashore, took opportunities to study plants of the islands and see the beautiful birds. And we did have adventures!

In Grand Cayman we climbed down into a semi-submarine to visit a coral reef. We could view coral like an undersea garden–fantastic formations in wonderful colors, tunnels, mountains, groves of soft and hard coral with fish enjoying every twist and turn. The fish came right to our windows. We saw two old shipwrecks also. Later, on Grand Cayman I held a plate-size young sea turtle at the turtle center.

Our bus waddled through a narrow street of one tiny village in Honduras where people in tattered clothes smiled expectantly only inches away. We wandered with our guide in the Cerambula Gardens smelling allspice and cinnamon leaves, identi-fying a royal palm, and tasting fresh fruit. Our bus climbed high on rough roads till we could see far out, the blue waters of the Caribbean framed by mahogany trees, flowering ginger and other lush growth. We arrived at a small chocolate factory where the delightful scents almost overpowered us.

In Belize we rode with four others on a high powered air boat. We skimmed across a shallow lake at a hair pulling high speed, then stopped suddenly in a tunnel of mysterious, non-negotiable swamp growth where our very funny guide helped us identify some of the birds.

We both have chosen our excursion to Mayan ruins outside of Cozumel as our favorite. We had an excellent guide who lectured us most interestingly on the forty minute ride from the city to the ruins, as well as throughout our discovery of this 1,000 year old religious compound. Jorge, our guide, is himself 50% Mayan, his mother being full Mayan, his father Mexican. He is passionate about letting visitors know all they can about his people. For instance, the ruins are called Tulum, so named by a man from New Jersey. Tulum, he said, means “stinky place.” But Jorge says the Mayans call it Zommer (hope I got that right, Jorge!) which means sunrise. This is the first place in Mexico to receive the sunrise each day.

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Brenda and Charles hiking a cliff trail at Mayan ruins

 

We sat with the same folks each night in the formal dining room. It was fun getting to know Jay and Winnie Luckett from North Carolina and Edward and Madeline Noriega from Tampa. We all six enjoyed talking with our servers each night as we tried to choose the best appetizers and entrees–and desserts! The atmosphere was always charged with holiday spirit as we shared what we had done that day and what the next plan included. We shared pictures of our families on the last night and exchanged e-mails like happy campers.

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Our new friends the Lucketts to our right and the Noriegas to our left

 

The morning we approached Tampa coming back, I awoke to different sounds, ship whistles, a train in the distance, and, yes, water lapping the shore. Water lapping the shore was such a sweet and comfortable sound like Grandma sipping tea. I sat up quickly to look out. Sure enough, lights glistened on the shoreline. We stood on our balcony watching the drama of our ship’s docking.

Contemplations of the Caribbean–a thousand different shades of green and blue water, bright flowers, lovely dark faces, nimble fingers weaving palm fronds into baskets, sounds of music and dancing, throb and lull of the ship as it carried us safely through the nights, strangers who quickly became friends…..

My summary: God is good all the time and everywhere. In the words of Robert Louis Stevenson (but not as a requiem!) “Home is the sailor home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill.”

 

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Skeins of Love

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My visit with Skeins of Love

I’ve been quite envious for years of my two sisters who are part of a lively knitting group in Clarkesville, Georgia. They meet once a week and chat as they knit scarves, shawls, hats and more. But the other day I was in the area with the right time frame and was able to drop in on them.

Both my sisters, Jackie and Suzanne, were there, as well as my dear niece Freida whom I seldom see. And there were several more ladies, knitting needles or crochet hooks clicking away. I met KK, Edith, Yvonne, Cheryl, and Carol Ann.

This group, Skeins of Love, meets in the Ministries Building of Clarkesville First United Methodist Church. They have a large open area where they with their knitting bags can circle up and see each others’ faces as they talk, as well as observe each others’ progress on their projects. Adjacent to this area is a nicely stocked supply room. It looked just like a little yarn store with cubbies for skeins of yarn in various colors and weights. But at this “shop” knitters don’t have to pay for supplies, although some do bring their own. The church and many donors keep them stocked in yarn, needles, all they need. Suzanne thoughtfully chose yarn for her next project, a prayer shawl. “It’s always fun,” she says, “to pick the color you want to work with, and live with, for a while.”

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A peek into the supply room

 

Also, in the supply room, was a bulletin board covered with thank you notes from many of the recipients of scarves, shawls, hats, etc. from this busy bunch. They literally send them to all corners of the globe as they learn of needs, although most go to folks in the general area. Blankets and scarves were sent to soldiers in Afghanistan. They knit hats for cancer patients, blankets for babies, scarves for cold people everywhere. They send shipments of knitted pieces to veterans’ homes, to orphanages, to hospitals, to homeless shelters, and hand deliver to many nearby, including individuals who just need the hug of a prayer shawl.

One lady told me she makes four-inch squares with a cross or a heart design in the middle. “For patients,” she said, “just to feel of and find comfort.” She knows how much something small can help because she was a cancer patient herself not long ago.

Another lady remembered an instance when someone wrote that they had found a blanket such a help. This recipient had rolled the blanket up tight and used it for a pillow. That information inspired some of the knitters to start making pillow covers of various designs. The pillows themselves are sewn by one or two who, in addition to their work in the group, also like to sew. Like Yvonne, for example.

Yvonne enjoys sewing simple, useful bags, as well as pillows. My interest was piqued as to what other endeavors the rest of the ladies apply themselves to. I went around the circle and found a treasure trove of talent. Edith, for instance, writes poetry and songs. Two of the knitters are artists and have expressed themselves through their paintings for years. At least two of the members volunteer at the local Soup Kitchen. Suzanne and her husband raise and can some eight hundred quarts of vegetables each year for their large, burgeoning family. Nearly all have grandchildren who become subjects of stories told in the circle. Several are members of the church where Skeins of Love meets. Some are from other churches.

As I chatted with each one and looked at their varied work, each piece unique as the knitters themselves, I was excited about the immeasurable difference these ladies are making in the lives of others. A knitter knows that simply to knit is wonderful therapy. Knitting, or crocheting, or quilting along with friends is even better, a healing, soul-satisfying thing. And then to be able to send those finished pieces out far and near is wonderful indeed.

Skeins of Love has been active for seven or eight years, though no one seemed to be positive how long they’ve been knitting together. Marilyn, their leader, was absent that day. The knitters do occasionally go by church bus to deliver things to a nursing home. And they might enjoy lunching together on rare occasions. But most of the time they can be found on Thursday mornings stitching away at the church.

I expressed my sorrow that I don’t have a knitting group near me. One lady responded, “Why don’t you start one?”

Good question.

Someone said it was time for prayers. Suzanne prayed a dear plea for the Lord to bless the knitters, the work of their hands, and the folks who will receive the scarves and shawls.

Before I left, we all sang one of Edith’s songs, a beautiful song to lift one’s spirits and point us to the Great Creator.

God the Father knows all about knitting: For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Everything’s New

IMG_0242Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I Peter 1:3-4

When Charles and I were students at the University of Georgia our campus minister invited a Rabbi to come to the Baptist Student Center a few days before Easter. The Rabbi and our campus minister, Brother Dick Houston, presented a combination Passover meal and Lord’s Supper, correlating the two. There were bitter herbs to taste with explanations of their meanings. There was meat from an unblemished lamb. Then there were wine (or grape juice) and unleavened bread with a graphic explanation of how Jesus came to fulfill the prophecies of old and became the perfect Unblemished Lamb to pay for our sins.

I don’t remember what all the herbs were and certainly not all the words, but I remember being so thankful that Jesus died for us, that we no longer need stumble along offering strange sacrifices that we hope will “work,” but instead can know without a shadow of doubt that we are “begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

These verses from I Peter tell me five things to help me celebrate Easter:

  • We can bless God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by worshipping Him.
  • He has saved us according to his abundant mercy.
  • He has begotten us “again,” re-created us who already were made in His image.
  • We now have a lively hope, not an insecure possibility, a “lively” hope.
  • Because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we too can live.

Springtime is full of symbolism pointing to the new life in Christ. Flowers are bright and beautiful, sprung from the brown cold earth. Trees are budding. Grass is so bright and green. Birds are full of song, starting new families. I’m reminded of a friend years ago who, every Easter, very deliberately bought new clothes, “from the skin out,” as she put it, to represent her new life in Christ.

Eggs, little chicks, baby bunnies, all are examples of new life. As Easter Sunday approaches, I’m thinking about the dozens of eggs we’ve colored over the years and the hidings of eggs in jonquil bunches, beside tree trunks, perched on forked limbs, disguised in a ruffle of leaves. I remember the squeals of the children as they race to find the eggs, how some children focus completely on good hiding places and methodically fill their baskets, while others watch fellow hunters to see where they’re finding them and pass right by some real beautiful specimens.

And always there’s at least one lost egg. Invariably. We hiders make mental notes and all but swear that this year none shall be left unfound. But it always happens. We just recently found half a plastic egg in the back yard.

And now it’s almost time to hide them again!

I like to color with crayons at least a few eggs with symbols of the true meaning of Easter on them, a cross, a fish, a Bible verse. Not only is it a joyful exercise for my soul, but it takes me back to the old, old days when crayons were all we had, no food coloring or “magic” sheets, no plastic eggs.

Easter is the most joyful celebration of the whole year. Our church’s music last Sunday, under the able direction of Cameron Crapps, set the stage for us to worship with bursting hearts. I can hear some of the phrases singing in my head: “I will rise again…” “That’s when love broke through…” “Let the grave be opened.”

When Christ’s love is allowed to take over, Everything is New!

Happy, blessed Easter!

Come worship with us at Cairo First Baptist Church Easter Sunday at 10:30. You will be glad you did!

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Hollow Tail–a riding shotgun story

Instructions for treating a cow with hollow tail were not given at UGA School of Veterinary Medicine. However, it was certainly addressed as a condition a veterinarian might hear about along with such things as hollow horn, troughitis, and Miss-a-Meal Colic in horses. All humor aside, farmers had through the ages had to figure out their own remedies for whatever ailed their creatures. For the most part, Charles learned to ease around these “old farmers’ tales” with gentle suggestions that this or that new methods had been discovered and would work much better. But there did come a time when Charles perceived the importance of seeking aid from a self-appointed hollow tail expert. The memory of that occasion came back to him as he read the obituaries recently.

Charles reads the obituaries both in Thomasville Times daily and in the weekly Cairo Messenger. There are two reasons for this practice.

He became committed to reading the obituaries regularly because of a “raking over” by a client one day. Ever the cheerful one, Charles arrived at the Tyus farm to treat a cow, hailing Mrs. Tyus with a wave and “Good morning!” Opening his black bag and chatting as he did, he asked, “Where’s Mr. Tyus today? Gone into town maybe?” Whereupon Mrs. Tyus began to weep. “Doc, don’t you know? He died last week.” She then proceeded to let him know she thought it was pretty shabby of him not to keep up with things any better than that.

Charles determined he would try never to be so unfeeling again.

The second reason he keeps up with obituaries is to try to know who is kin to whom. His longtime partner, Gene Maddox, somehow always knew the relationships of everyone in Grady County and beyond. He could readily list a person’s cousins, ex-wife and relatives, along with ancestors and occupations. The knowledge of all branches of families was a great source of help when he left veterinary medicine to go into politics. But Charles, too, wanted to be able to keep up with family connections. Studying survivor lists in the obituaries helps a lot.

So when he read that an old friend and client had died he listed for me his survivors as well as those relatives already deceased. And right quick when he read Babe’s name, he remembered the hollow tail scene.

The cow was down,  Jersey heifer, expected to become the family’s milk cow. “A cow down” is a medical condition with various causes and remedies. When a call comes to treat a cow that is down, the possibilities range from grass tetany in the spring to pneumonia to malnutrition to mysteries galore, including poison and other dire causes. Of course a common problem is related to calf delivery but that wasn’t the case with this one.

Charles had already given this “down cow” the shots he perceived she needed, including IV calcium. But he couldn’t offer much hope for survival. She was pretty low and not showing good signs of response. Babe wandered up to join the onlookers just as Doc said the chances weren’t good for this little cow.

“Looky here, Robert,” said Babe to the owner, “we could do a hollow tail job, you know. Iffen Doc’s through, of course.”

Charles, grabbing a good opportunity by the horns, said “Sounds like a good idea, Mr. Babe. (The nickname “Babe” had stuck with this fellow from childhood, but his gray hair demanded of Charles the respect of “Mr.”) “Why don’t I stay on and watch?”

This was where Mr. Babe began hedging. “Well, now, I don’t know about that, Doc. I ain’t done one in many a year.”

Charles looked at Robert, the owner. “What do you think? Want him to try it?”

Robert looked a little dubious but Mr. Babe was his neighbor. So he nodded.

Mr. Babe stuck his hands in his pockets and shuffled in the grass. “Don’t even have my knife with me.”

“No problem,” said Charles. “You can use mine. I have a nice sharp scalpel.”

Mr. Babe had turned very shy. “Guess I’d better not,” he said. Then, brightening with a new idea, he said, “Why don’t you do it, Doc?”

“Well, I don’t know.” Charles looked around at the gathering of neighbors now watching expectantly. He saw Robert grin and give him a nod. “Ok, then, if you’ll give me step by step directions, we’ll just kind of do it together. So, I guess, Miss Eleanor, we’re going to need some salt and pepper. Right, Mr. Babe?”

This request was to let Mr. Babe know Doc wasn’t completely ignorant when it came to hollow tail.

Mr. Babe’s shoulders visibly relaxed. “That’s right, Doc,” he agreed.

So that’s how it was that Charles palpated the tail, located the area at the end of the bone and the beginning of the twitch. Mr. Babe agreed he’d gotten the right spot.

By then Miss Eleanor arrived with salt and pepper.

“Now you got to make the cut, Doc,” instructed Mr. Babe.

“You sure you don’t want to do it, Mr. Babe? No? Well, is it all right if I trim the hair away?”

Mr. Babe nodded.

“All right if I smear some alcohol on the spot?”

Another nod.

“Okay, here goes.”

The audience was quiet as the inch long cut was made. Charles commented to all that he saw the hollow and Mr. Babe grunted his assent. Then there was a shifting and a sigh from the crowd as Doc sprinkled the wound with salt and pepper.

“Okay if I wrap it in gauze?” asked Charles, well aware that usually the wound would be wrapped in a piece of sheeting or whatever was available.

Mr. Babe nodded, then said, “That’d be good.”

“Okay, then,” said Charles when the deed was done. He stood up, scratching his neck. “We’ll see how she does, Mr. Robert. Thanks for your help, Mr. Babe.”

They shook hands with each other and with the owner and Charles told Robert he hoped all went well. “Call me if you need me,” he said as always.

Several weeks went by.

Charles happened on Mr. Babe at one of the country stores. In those days, the 1970’s, the country stores were lively on many crossroads throughout the county, ready for the farmers and others who needed their soda break, some conversation, a gas refill and even a few groceries. Charles often stopped at whichever one was along his way mid-morning or afternoon, whether Hollingsworth Store, Portavint’s, Powe’s at Pine Level or Ward’s at Pine Park. He could use a lift after a hard calf delivery and he greatly enjoyed dropping in on neighborly conversations.

That day he asked Mr. Babe how the hollow tail had done.

Mr. Babe shifted in his chair and then hung his head. “Doc, she died. First one I ever lost.”

Charles laid a hand on Mr. Babe’s shoulder. “Well, it wasn’t the first I lost and probably won’t be the last. We do the best we can but we can’t win them all.”

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Old country store now closed at Calvary, Georgia

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One Little Shoe

IMG_0168We were going camping with our two young teenage children. So we went to Sears to buy a new tent. It was when we unfolded the tent in our rec room that we found the shoe.

The tent had been folded tightly to fit into its bag. All the way inside was this little, and I mean very little, blue tennis shoe. It was a well-worn blue shoe. The sole was worn almost through. The four of us caught our breaths when we saw it. It was as if suddenly before us we could see the family who had worked making this tent. A family in Korea whose living, probably, depended on what they made from creating tents to be shipped to America.

At least one member of that family we could very well visualize. A small dark-haired child playing about as his/her parents worked. The little one could walk. This shoe appeared to have walked and run, pivoted, danced, whirled all about. In fact, it was so well worn it might have been worn by more than one child. It might have been the hand-me-down from an older sibling who, by then, was also helping make the tent.

What should I do with this little shoe? I laid it down and became involved in packing for vacation.

We did go camping. We made a lot of memories. Some might not have seemed like the ones you’d want to save,  like: “Are we almost there?” “There’s something black and white eating our eggs.” “Wake up. I think we’re floating.” But there were the swimming times, the discoveries of star fish and hermit crabs and even baby octopus. And there were stories in the dark and castles in the sand and throwing Frisbees and eating ice cream. Lots of laughter and teasing.

When we got home, there, on top of the television was the little blue shoe.

Should I just throw it away? It could not return to its owner who probably now had outgrown it anyway. And what good could one little shoe be to us? Even if we’d had a child that small.

But my heart was drawn toward this little child in Korea who had lost his shoe. I couldn’t throw it away. It kind of drifted from one spot to another, atop the bookcase, on a low table, on the mantel, here and there. I decided I would pray for the child who’d worn that shoe. I wasn’t very consistent but over the years I continued to stop every now and then, handle the little shoe and say a prayer.

When we moved four years ago I again had to make a decision whether or not to save the little blue shoe. I couldn’t discard it so here it is perched in front of some books in our den. Our children are grown with children of their own. That little child is grown, I hope, with children, too. I’ll never know what his life has been like, what kinds of troubles he’s faced, what dreams she had and whether they’ve come true or been forgotten. And he or she will never know that in America someone was praying for them. I pray that the one who wore that shoe now knows Jesus and is walking in His steps.

I know you’re expecting some kind of touching end to this story and I don’t have one. It isn’t ended yet. I still have the shoe and I’m still praying.

Watching the Korean children perform so beautifully during the Olympics, my eyes went to the corner where the little blue shoe sat, empty and still. I could just imagine a little child, the owner of that shoe, growing up–dancing, singing, skating, flying across the ice.

God knows all about the owner of the little blue tennis shoe.

 

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An Iron Kettle

image000000I was at an estate sale when I saw it. It wasn’t one of the things I bought but I wanted to. Just because of all the warm memories.

I bought an old hymnal, an edger with dried clay on its blade, a tiny Hispanic doll made of woven straw from Ecuador, several tiny memo pads with colorful bird pictures, and a marble topped foyer table. I didn’t know where I would put that heavy black kettle and I left it there amongst various other iron pieces–corn stick pans, irons, a waffle iron, several skillets, etc.

That iron kettle had so many stories to tell, I’m just sure. It was larger than the one I remember, probably held a whole gallon of water. The spout was generous, the handle a little crooked from some escapade. I could imagine mornings of long ago when that kettle stayed on the back burner all day long, ready for producing hot water. The iron was a bit ashy looking as if it had only recently come out of hiding in this modernized electrically equipped house. Some restorative measures might have made it perkier.

But then a big iron kettle like that isn’t intended to be perky.

Mamma’s iron kettle was almost a part of her wood burning stove. If there was a fire in the stove, the kettle was humming, steam issuing from its spout. Whether it was time to prepare a dishpan for after-supper clean up, or make a pot of tea, or hand wash some laundry, the water was ready. But there were times when the need for hot water was more dramatic.

I’m guessing that kettle supplied the hot water for the births of eleven babies my mother delivered at home. I don’t personally remember those times, although the eleventh birth brought me my dear little sister and I do remember the occasion very well. Not from the perspective of the kettle but from the perspective of a three-year-old wanting Mamma to tuck her in bed and not understanding why that night was so different from others. The doctor and my Dad were very kind to me that night when they finally let me see my Mamma with an incredibly small pink wiggly bundle beside her.

Then there were the times Daddy prepared to drive the old Packard and it wouldn’t crank up. There was a hasty call for hot water and someone would take it on the run to pour in the cold radiator. Sometimes a push-off was required also before the motor “turned over.” I’m told my older brother Charlie, when he was a little tyke, lined himself up with the rest to push the Packard. But when the rest let go as the car picked up speed, Charlie was still holding tightly to the bumper, his little feet flying over the ground. Big sister Pat ran to rescue him!

When Mamma opened a little block of yeast for making bread she’d reach for the kettle and pour hot water over it in a bowl to dissolve it. If Daddy had lumbago Mamma would send someone to fill the hot water bottle to apply to his back. On cold mornings when Mamma gave us kids a quart of cocoa to take to our woodland schoolhouse, she’d heat the jar first by pouring hot water over it in a pan–so it wouldn’t crack when the hot cocoa came in contact with the glass.

If Mamma or one of the girls needed hot water fast and the kettle had gotten low, they’d take a griddle off the stove and set it aside, then set the kettle right next to the flame. Soon the water would be boiling. I can remember, too, the white enamel pan with a red rim we used for what we called “spit” baths, or just to wash our hands and faces. Mamma declared war on dirty faces. She said she hoped her mother had dirty faces to wash in heaven or she wouldn’t be happy. I think she hoped that would be true for her too because she sure liked to make our faces clean.

When Daddy killed a chicken for Mamma to dress, she depended on a good full kettle of hot water for scalding the chicken in the de-feathering process. If I hated the killing of the chicken in the first place, I also hated the smell of scalded skin and hot feathers. I was amazed recently to hear one of the grandchildren talking proudly about how she’d helped de-feather some quail.

When brothers brought in the milk morning and evening, the girls would strain the milk and then wash the milk buckets, ending with scalding them good with water from the black kettle.

I’ve seen my handsome father shaving in the kitchen with a straight razor and, of course, water from that kettle.

Amazing, isn’t it, how many pictures you can see in your mind prompted by one simple object. Now I wonder if I should have bought that black kettle. I can just see its face drooping a bit when I finally turned away after considering it for the second or third time. I hope someone else finds it who can give it another life.

Hey, I saw this Bible reference on the Piggly Wiggly sign this week: Romans 15:13. I looked it up. Here it is: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

That’s my prayer for you!

 

 

 

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