Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

To my left, to my right, straight ahead. There must have been at least 75 of ‘em. Maybe even a hundred. As Mother used to say back home at Route 4, Seneca, SC, ‘It was a sight for sore eyes.’ What was it, you ask, that has me all worked up? Thank you for asking.

It was a modern-day, old-fashioned Ice Cream Social in the parking lot at our church the other day. One churn of homemade ice cream is a cause for celebration. So, on this Fourth of July, we celebrated! Boy howdy, did we celebrate! I’ve never seen that many churns of homemade ice cream in all my put together.

Before you think I ate that cold stuff too fast, let me splani-fy my terms. It was an old-fashioned social around those churns of dippin’ delights just like we used to have in the gravel parking lot at the little white clapboard Return Baptist Church over 50 years ago. Folks were socializing all over the place. Have you tried this flavor? What’s your favorite? Have you had any of that muscadine ice cream over yonder? Actually, I just thought I’d throw that in right there. I’ve never seen any muscadine ice cream. But you can really dress up a hot-buttered, cat head biscuit with some muscadine jelly. How in the world did I get off on this side road?

Yes, it was old-fashioned. And it was modern, too. How’s that? Well, can you say, ‘Thank You, Lord, for electricity?’ Without that blessing, there would have been a bunch of skinny boys in short britches freezing their back sides off sittin’ on cold, wet burlap sacks while the big boys with strong arms would have been turnin’ the cranks on all those churns.

And you could tell from the variety of flavors that homemade ice cream has hopped a rocket into the future. Back home, it was usually just good ol’ vanilla made with rich cow’s milk, cream and all. Especially if the mailman had just delivered Mother’s annual shipment of Watkins’ products, which always included a big bottle of vanilla flavoring. Or sometimes we might have strawberry if we beat the birds and rabbits to the strawberry patch. Chocolate would have been good, but out of the question. Mother was saving that big box of Hershey’s cocoa powder on the top shelf of the cupboard for Christmas cake baking.

So you can just imagine the strain on my mental hard drive when I was standing there in the parking lot and heard questions like…where’s the Snickers churn….or has anybody seen the Cookies and Cream…or do you have any Milky Way ice cream? Some kids were a bit disappointed that they couldn’t find a churn of Butterfinger. But we did have a churn of Reese’s peanut butter ice cream. I’m not kiddin’ you one iota.

And besides that, we had a couple of churns of peach and a churn or two of banana…and even a churn of banana/butter pecan combination made by Sue Houston. I know she made it ‘cause Bill couldn’t stay out of it! The longest line, however, was for Brenda Gastley’s crowd-pleasin’ pineapple. It was so good, Gloria Day had to help Brenda serve it. Don’t tell anybody, but I have photographic evidence of Gloria tasting it before the crowd got there!

And while I’m on the subject of flavors, I need to run down this side road for a minute. What is the deal with some of my favorite foods being made into milkshakes at these fast food places? I saw a sign advertising watermelon shakes. Pardon me, but who would ruin an ice cold watermelon by pouring sweet milk or even vanilla ice cream on it? And birthday cake milkshakes? I’d like to see ‘em put sixteen candles in one of those cups.

And don’t even get me started on this one – banana pudding milkshakes. I haven’t had one and don’t plan to have one anytime soon. I just don’t believe they can duplicate the taste of that three-inch high meringue on Mother’s banana puddings. Next thing you know, somebody will be trying to come up with a mater-sandwich milkshake. Or a cornbread-and-buttermilk shake!

That’s far enough down that side road. Back to our modern-day, old-fashioned Ice Cream Social in the church parking lot. While Gloria was dishing out Brenda’s pineapple delight as fast as she could reach into the churn, I was standing there beside her like a knot on a log. Me and my churn were being totally ignored. Until the pineapple was all gone. And then the biggest blessing of the whole day landed right smack-dab on the top of my frosty-covered dasher.

I had a 50’s flashback when a little fellow about nine or ten walked up to me and said, “What flavor do you have, mister?” Trying to be real cool with the new generation, I replied, ‘It’s called Freeman’s Frosty.’ (I couldn’t just come right out and tell him it tasted just like a Wendy’s frosty.) Then, with an empty cup and a not-so-sure look on his face, the little guy said, “Could I just taste it first to see if it’s any good?”

No problem. I knew it was good ‘cause I had already tasted it. And as soon as that plastic spoon hit his taste buds with the first bite, his face lit up like the Fourth of July fireworks that followed the ice cream social. Smilin’ from ear to ear, he thrust his cup toward me and said, “You can fill my cup up with whatever you call that.” He must have told his buddies, because pretty soon my churn was empty like all the others.

While I was washing out my churn, a couple of thoughts went runnin’ through my head like a downhill bike ride with no brakes. Pretending to be insane, the psalmist David wrote some very intelligent words of advice. Taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8). And then, like a roman candle, the Holy Spirit filled up my cup with this question. If I’m the only taste of Jesus they ever get, what will He taste like to them? Will they lick their lips and savor the flavor? Will they be like the boy at my churn and want a cup full of Him after they’ve had a taste? And how will they know that He ‘tastes good’ if my face (life) looks like I’ve been eatin’ stewed turnips and boiled okra?

As the apostle Peter said (1 Peter 2:3), ‘now that you have tasted that the Lord is good,’ it’s time that I do what the lad did with my frosty ice cream. Go let my buddies taste how good it is.

And bring ‘em to the Churn that never runs out of good-tasting stuff.