Archive for February, 2011


Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

Do they still have those cellophane bags of Valentines for grammar school kids to exchange with everyone in their class?

I seem to remember that there were about 30 some-odd little greetings, most of them heart-shaped with sweet-as-sugar expressions like “Be Mine,” or “Your Secret Admirer,” or “My Heart Beats Only For You.”

And usually in every bag, there would be one with the standard Valentine poem like the one I heard Cindy McKee read at a Valentine dinner the other night.

I’m sure you know it. It begins with “Roses are red, violets are blue.” Then, on the next two lines, you fill in the blank with your own personal message. That’s where you can get creative. And that’s what Cindy did with her poem. And it was sweet indeed.

But from the fertile mind of a farm boy growing up at Route 4, Seneca, SC, that standard old Valentine poem might read something like this: “Roses are red, violets are blue, my feet stink, and so do you.”

But back to the main road. There was one particular ‘take-a-bag-of-Valentines-to-school Day’ that I’ll never forget. It’s painted across the canvas of my memory like a sunset splashed across the Western sky.

It must have been about the fourth or fifth grade. A lost-in-the-fifties farm boy (and not the 1850’s as my grandchildren might imagine!) didn’t have two nickels to rub together. But I had managed to squirrel away enough of my cotton-pickin’, hay-balin’, egg-sellin’ coins to participate in the Annual Valentine’s Day Exchange with my classmates.

I had kept that small fortune, probably about eighty cents, safely hidden from the sight of my brothers in a Country Gentleman cloth tobacco bag, with a yellow draw-string, that I had found on the side of the road. Thrown away, no doubt, by a roll-your-own cigarette smoker.

Growing up on a farm, loose change was as rare as hen’s teeth. If a rich uncle and aunt gave you a quarter for your birthday, Daddy would say, “Boy, don’t let that burn a hole in your pocket.” I never knew what he meant by that ‘cause I already had holes in my pockets anyway. But, wait a minute. Here I am chasing rabbits again.

That particular Valentine’s Day, I didn’t dilly-dally around on the way home from school with that cellophane bag of love-notes from my class. Changing clothes as quick as a wink, I headed straight for my secret hiding place in the barn loft to read all those love-grams.

Of course, everyone had signed their name in their newly-found cursef handwriting where all the letters in every word had to be connected. And every one of them was signed. EXCEPT ONE! It caught my eye and my country school-boy heart. It was un-signed, but I’ll never forget what was scribbled inside – from yore specal gril friend!

Well, I’m here to tell you – that got my heart pumping like a steam engine train going uphill. I was so dizzy and light-headed, I could have floated right out the door of the barn loft instead of climbing down the ladder! Never mind that the writer of that little ditty would have failed a second grade spelling test. I did not care.

Instead, I carefully folded that little red, heart-shaped piece of paper and kept it in my Osh Kosh overalls for days and weeks and months. Until one sunny Spring day at recess, somebody let the cat out of the bag. Their names have been omitted to protect the guilty. But, long story short, there was no ‘specal gril friend.’ Just a Valentine’s Day trick played by some grammar school boys who couldn’t spell worth a lick!

Is there a point in here somewhere? Thank you for asking. While I still remember in detail that childhood Valentine’s Day, it can’t hold a candle to the one now etched into my memory of Valentine’s Day 2011. On Feb. 13th this year, the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, a giant of a man, Rev. Houston Hawkins, slipped through the shackles of his earthly body into the waiting arms of the Savior that he loved and served for some 60 years.

See, Valentine’s Day is all about love. And no matter how many commercials about flowers and candy we see, hear, or read about, I believe the love that makes God’s heart swell up with pride is the enduring kind. Maybe sacrificial at times, but always unconditional.

Through thick and thin, in sickness and in health, through the good and the bad, till death do us part. Every minute of every day of every week of every month of every year, love that lasts. That kind of love can be traced all the way back to Calvary. It’s expressed best in John 3:16.

And that’s the kind of love Preacher Hawkins lived every day of his life. In his 28 years as pastor of Poplar Springs Baptist Church, in Walhalla, SC, he preached thousands of sermons with his lips. And untold thousands more he preached with his life. How appropriate is it that it was on a Sunday morning that God said to Preacher Hawkins, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come now and receive your reward.”

And this is just me thinking out loud, but I believe Preacher Hawkins probably still had that ever-present big ol’ smile on His face as St. Peter waived him on through the Pearly Gates. For it was on Valentine’s Day 2011, his second day in Heaven that Preacher Hawkins was re-united with Miss Mary, his special girl friend that he had steadfastly loved for 65 years, “in sickness and health, till death do us part.”

And now, they’re together again for all eternity, never more to be separated, like newlyweds again on this Valentine’s Day and all the Valentine’s Days that ever will be! If we could hear Preacher Hawkins in his new pulpit today, I think we’d probably hear him say, “Heaven! Don’t miss it for the world!” Right about here would be a good place for a “Hallelujah,” or an “Amen.”
Preacher Houston Hawkins
A Man of God
1918 – 2011



Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

Our neighborhood friends Buddy and Susan have some of those cute little solar-powered lights in their front yard. I see them every night as I turn off the main road and head for the house. You know, the kind that store up the sun’s energy, and then light our walkway when the sun goes to China or India or somewhere else on the other side of the world.

Oh, they’ll never be used to land airplanes at night. In fact, their glow sorta reminds me of those lightning bugs that we used to catch on warm summer nights, and put in a mayonnaise jar with holes punched in the lid. But last night the glow of those little ankle-high solar lights took me back home to Route 4 and the twilight scene around the old barn and farmhouse.

Even after a hard day’s work in the field, there were still chores to do before gathering around that long kitchen table to enjoy a bowl of Mother’s cornbread and cow’s milk. And now that I think about it, we would be so tired from working in the field that we couldn’t remember how to put one foot in front of the other. But, boy, just get me to the house and let the games begin.

See, there were no nightlights, street lights, and for sure, those cute little solar-powered walkway lights had not been invented yet! Although we did have solar-powered bath water. We didn’t call it that, but that’s exactly what it was. Fill up a wash tub with water on Saturday morning and sit it behind the house in the sun all day. When it came time for the Saturday night bath, you had warm water.

But back to the main road! About dark-thirty every night when the chores were all done, it was time for SCAREDY CAT! You know, fear of imaginary monsters in the shadows can make you run fast. Let me explain. The farmhouse was not equipped with lights on timers, dimmer switches, or even fancy on-off switches mounted on the wall. A long string with a washer tied on the end was our on-off switch.

And we always knew when Mother pulled that string in the kitchen to fix supper, the glow of that 40-watt bulb would shine just far enough out in the yard to make perfect shadows for a game of Scaredy Cat. And the goal in this game was to see who could stay out of the house the longest as the velvet blanket of darkness covered the farm.

And I have to tell you, as the shadows grew larger and larger, the imagination of a ten-year-old boy seemed to increase in direct proportion. Monsters were everywhere! In the trees, under the house, behind the barn, in the smokehouse – green-eyed, two-headed monsters everywhere you looked! Speaking of the smokehouse, one night I thought I had found the perfect hiding place.

Ollie was always hungry, so he was waitin’ in the kitchen for Mother’s cornbread to come out of the oven of that ol’ wood-burnin’ cook stove. Younger brothers Wade and Eddie (Wendell hadn’t been born yet), had already accepted their loser status as Scaredy Cats by joining the girls in the kitchen. Well, there I was, hiding in the dark in the smokehouse, feeling pretty good about winning my first game of Scaredy Cat. When all of a sudden, something moved over in the shadow of the corner! First, I heard it move. Then it bumped into me!

Call me Scaredy Cat if you want to, but you could call me Speedy Cat that night! After I was able to un-freeze my legs and feet from the spot where I stood, I probably could have set a new land speed record for the forty-yard dash to the house! Especially after a hand reached out and grabbed my arm as I flew out the door of the smokehouse.

After a couple of weeks, I was able to calm my nerves enough to play the game again, but I gave up my hiding place in the smokehouse. And, I never knew for sure, but Daddy always had a funny look on his face, and looked straight at me, when he asked, “Who’s the Scaredy Cat tonight?”

Silly little games that children play, right? Well, most of us, if we’re honest, become real scaredy cats when we’re faced with the shadows of life. And make no mistake. We all have to face them.

Is there anything that you’re afraid of today? Do you have any fear and trembling when you look around? Anything waitin’ in the shadows just down the road to reach out and grab you? Monsters in the shadows such as disease, death, debt, divorce, doubt, or depression?

As a shepherd boy, the psalmist David spent many dark nights taking care of his sheep, protecting them from the wolves and other monsters lurking in the shadows. Was it scary for this young boy? I’d bet my cornbread and milk on it! He didn’t have the cute little solar-powered lights energized by the sun. He only had the Light of the Good Shepherd to guide him through the valley of the shadow. And to make him feel safe, secure, and protected.

Drawing on that experience, David penned the 23rd Psalm, one of the most well-known scriptures in the Bible, and one of my personal favorites. It was with confidence that he wrote in verse 4 that, because the Lord was his Shepherd, he wouldn’t be scared of the monsters and all other evil, even when he walked through the valley of the shadow of death.

David knew in his heart that the Good Shepherd was there with him to protect and comfort him. Just like He’s there with you and me today in our valleys.
Two words in that verse 4 just echo through my consciousness every time I read them. David wrote, “even though I walk through the valley…..” This is just me, but I take that to mean that it’s going to take some time to get through most valleys of life.

Walking is slow. It takes time to find your way in the dark. If I become a scaredy cat and try to run, I might trip over something, fall down and break my neck. So, our steps in the shadows are slow, but they are sure. How do I know that? Thank you for asking. It’s the word that comes after walk – through! Not in, but through. We won’t stay in the valley forever. If we put our trust and confidence in the Good Shepherd, He will lead us through to the other side!

In saying that, I humbly ask you and everybody you know to pray today for my boyhood pal and lifelong friend, Ralph Nix. Ralph, his daughters Chandra and Sherri, his four grandchildren, and all the members of the extended Nix and Brock families are “walking through” the valley today following the home going yesterday of Ralph’s wife, Brenda.

I think it’s safe to say that Ralph has probably made thousands of trophies, plaques, honors, and awards for other people during the many years he’s been in business. All bright and shiny and glistening like a new penny. But if you put them all together, they couldn’t hold a candle to the ceremony that honored Brenda yesterday when she heard her Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come now and enter into your eternal reward.” (Matthew 25:21)

Ralph and Brenda have trusted the Lord throughout their lives. And today, she can run up and down the Streets of Gold if she wants to. Following her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, she’s made it through the valley of the shadow of death.

Somebody say AMEN!

Ed. Note: Originally published on Aug. 24, 2009, revised and edited in memory of Brenda Brock Nix, 1943 – 2011.