Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

To paraphrase an old, old Christmas poem, and with all due respect to Clement Clarke Moore and Henry Livingston, Jr., here are some words that have been bouncin’ around inside my noggin for way too long.

‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving and all through the land
People were staying up late with sales papers in hand,
Settled down asleep in my favorite recliner, I awoke with a fright,
To see my mill hill bride (MHB) making shopping plans for tomorrow night.

I don’t have enough brain cells to remember all of the original poem, but I do recall something about a clatter on the lawn, and somebody jumpin’ out of bed to see what was the matter, and they tore open some shutters and raised the sash. Now, right up front, I have to tell you that clatter and matter were words that we didn’t hear that often while growing up back home on the farm at Route 4.

Daddy had words like commotion and ruckus and racket. Like when the dogs woke him up, as well as the neighbors three miles away, he would say, “What in the name of Sam Hill is causing all that racket in the front yard.” One time when Daddy was outside checking on the ruckus, I asked Mother what Sam Hill was doing in our front yard. And she said, ‘Be quiet, child, don’t let your Daddy hear that.”

Anyway, we didn’t have a lawn in front of the old farmhouse at the end of that dirt road. We had yards. Like a barnyard and a front yard and a back yard. Swept the front yard with a brush broom. And hung clothes on the line in the back yard. And took our weekly baths in a number three tin tub every Saturday night in the back yard, whether we need it or not.

Also, back home at Route 4, the three windows in our ol’ farmhouse didn’t have a sash or shutters. They did have a window sill and some panes, which would cause severe pains when broken. When, not if, because I remember one time just about dark-thirty, I had outrun Ollie from the barn to the house and he got mad. Back then my skinny little legs could ‘pick em up and put ‘em down. Besides it was dark and I was motivated by monsters (scared silly).

Anyway, Ollie picked up a rock from the front yard and heaved it toward my head. Fortunately, I ducked at the last second. But not so fortunately, it broke 3 panes out of the window in the front room. Whereupon Daddy was heard to exclaim from the front porch, “Boys, what in the name of Sam Hill is all this commotion about?” Hence, the resulting pains that were heard being exclaimed from Ollie and me at the woodshed!

Did you know the devil is in the rock-throwing business? Oh, you say he hasn’t thrown any at you lately? Well, get ready to duck, my friend, cause if you’re doing anything for the Lord, chances are pretty good that a couple of fist-size rocks are getting ready to land upside your head. Case in point. Remember Black Friday from a couple of weeks ago?

Well, this is just me, but I think the devil was throwing some rocks in all that commotion. Let me splanify myself. They say it’s the unofficial or official, I don’t remember which, start of the Christmas shopping season. Except this year they started that madness on Thanksgiving Day! That’s why my MHB had to have all those sales papers the night before Thanksgiving. Can you believe it? What in the name of Sam Hill, stuffed turkey and Santa Claus were they thinking? I know I’m probably out in the backyard all by myself on this one, and I’ll probably take a few incoming rocks upside my head, but what ever happened to waitin’ till AFTER Thanksgiving was over to start puttin’ up all the Christmas lights, sales, displays, etc., etc., etc.?

Whoever was responsible for all this commotion (aka, the devil), had our women (my MHB included, bless her heart!) standing out in parking lots all over the country, in the dark, in freezing weather, just trying to be one of the first ten people in line to get the latest doo-hickey or thing-a-ma-jig when the sale started at ten o’clock Thanksgiving night. And then there was another sale startin’ at midnight. So let’s run get in line for that one, too. And, don’t forget about that one over at the other parking lot that starts at three am.

And did you see what happened? I may not be the brightest light bulb in the pack, but I read the reports from all over the country about people gettin’ hit upside the head with the devil’s rocks. The comments I read said it was a different atmosphere this year and people were so edgy. And tensions seemed to reach a boiling point at some stores on the biggest shopping day of the year.

There was violence all over the country. People gettin’ into fights and some of those fights were over ten-dollar crock pots! And did you hear about the woman in California using pepper spray to break in line when a store opened? They said 20 people got hurt in that one. And then there were reports of gunfire at a mall in North Carolina. A man got into a fight over some jewelry at a store in Florida. Another fight broke out in a store in New York and a man hurt two women. For what, you might say? So we can spend over $450 billions of dollars (that’s with a ‘b’) on Christmas this year? Oh yeah, I’d say the devil has his big ol’ bag just chock full of rocks.

And all he wants us to do is forget or lose sight of the real reason for the season – God showing his love by sending his son Jesus Christ into our world to save us from the rocks of the devil. Think about it. Could mankind, in our excellent ability to mess up, have made Christmas into something it wasn’t meant to be? Consider the evidence. We go into debt to show our love to family and friends. The pretty paper and ribbons, the presents, the lights and decorations, and the cookin’ and eatin’ will all be gone by the first week of January. And by then, some of us won’t be able to remember who gave us what; the decorations will be packed away or thrown in the trash; and some of us will need to lose some ‘holiday’ poundage.

But, you know what? A cousin of Jesus once had some pretty good advice for us. It’s not part of what we’ve come to know as the Christmas Story in Luke, chapter 2. That’s good readin’, too. But for right now, let’s all turn to 1 John 2:15-17. If I could translate into Route 4 language what John wrote in that passage, here’s what it would say. Don’t love nothin’ in this world ‘cause it ain’t gonna last. Instead, if you want to live a long time (and stay out of God’s woodshed), just do what God tells you to do. Pretty simple, huh? Easy to see why everybody back then said John was the disciple that Jesus loved. Which, in itself, is a miracle for first cousins, so be nice to your cousins.

And could I just say right here – it don’t mean a hill of beans who you are. The devil will rare back and cut one loose at anybody anywhere any time. Lately, he’s been throwin’ every rock he could find, in his front yard and backyard, at the ol’ woodshed, trying to keep our book from being published. But, compared to God’s strong right arm, the devil is nothing but a minor leaguer. He’s taken his best shot. He’s thrown a bunch of curves and some ‘chin music,’ those high-and-tight fast balls. And we’ve had to duck and back up several times, but he’s all washed up – headed for the showers. God, our starting pitcher, has gone the distance and won again. Praise His name!

Now, I know you’re wondering what in the name of Sam Hill all this racket is about. Thanks for asking. I’m happy to report that Woodshed Wisdom, Volume 1 is now safely in the hands of our publisher, all set for production in March and release in the Spring. Can somebody say AMEN besides me and my MHB!

Take that, devil! Country boys and mill hill girls know how to throw rocks, too.