Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

Ed. Note: Four years ago today, Jan. 1, 2010, we went to the Woodshed with a childhood memory entitled “Collards and Hog Jowls.” Then and now, it remains one of the most commented upon of all our remembrances of growing up on Route 4. Each succeeding January 1st, in 2011, 2012, 2013 and now 2014 (or as I’ve already seen it written twenty14), we’ve changed the dates a bit, but basically repeated the story. Today is no different. For the fifth consecutive year, that love ‘em or hate ‘em relationship with something that you have to hold your nose to get ‘em in your mouth is the subject of our visit to the ‘shed’ on this first day of 2014.

Confirmation that we should stay the course on this ‘smelly’ subject came recently in the form of an email from our good friends, Cathy and Randy Williams. Searching through the mental database, it’s easy to remember Cathy as that cute little first-or-second-grader who rode the Bus #8 that I drove in my senior year of high school. And, I might add, she was one of what seemed like an endless stream of children that had to be accompanied by ye ol’ bus driver to a nearby house the day that we were stuck in the ditch for about half a day. A good bus driver never leaves his passengers, even when Mother Nature calls. Cathy is at the keyboard now and, with her permission; I’d like to share some of her comments as a preface to our original entry.

“Well here we are again. New Year’s Day and guess what we have cooking?” (I really don’t have to guess, since that smell will burn the paint off houses as far away as 50 miles!) Cathy continues, “Randy got a late start today washing and preparing our greens for the wonderful meal we will partake of later this evening and they just now got up to speed and the instant I smelled that wonderful smell that has suddenly filled our home, you, Freeman, were the first thing I thought about because I remember how bad you dislike good old collard greens. Hope they bring us some good luck this year.”

Well, Cathy, I hate to bust your bubble, but there’s one thing that this ol’ dirt-road country boy has learned in too-many trips to the Woodshed, and almost three-score and ten years that God has allowed me. If you have to put a clothes pin on your nose to get something past your lips, that’s bad luck already. And there’s another superstition that’s as hard to digest as the collards/hog jowls prediction. It goes something like this – whatever you do on the first day of the year, you’ll be doing all year long. Can you just imagine the scene at hospital emergency rooms across the South as thousands of people are brought in every day of the year for stomach-pumping treatment?

But I’m sure that most of us, at one time or another back in those Camelot days of youth, that had something put on the table in front of us that we turned our noses up at. But, like the Williams boys, we were taught to eat ‘whatever Mother put on the table’ or go hungry. And without a lot of griping or belly-aching. By the way, that commandment was what led to my teaching our cocker spaniel to eat that slimy green stuff that was coming to him through the knot hole in the floor under our kitchen table.

Whatever you do or don’t get out of this, don’t miss the message that I’m afraid is sorely missing in this year of twenty14 that we’re plunging into today. There probably wasn’t a lot of griping and belly-aching from the Williams clan or the Martin clan or the Nix family or the Morgan’s or the Brown girls, or the McKee’s or any other Route 4 country boys about whatever their Mother put in front of them. It’s all about respecting our elders, especially our parents. And that, my friends, is a lesson taught at Return Baptist Church and reinforced at the Woodshed on more than one occasion. You see, Woodshed Wisdom was an effective teacher, no matter if you lived at Route 4, Route 2, Route 5, or even on an avenue where my MHB (mill hill bride) came from.

So, Randy and Cathy and all you others who feel it’s necessary to ‘eat what stinks’, enjoy your collards and hog jowls today. Personally, I hope you finish ‘em off today. I’ve run out of Lysol and my neighbors are beginning to wonder what’s going on down here in our neck of the woods.

On a personal note, please allow my MHB and I to express our undying gratitude for your support of Woodshed Wisdom, Vol.1. Many of you have bought books for yourselves and given them as gifts since our national release date on Jan. 15, twenty13. With much gratitude, we are awed, overwhelmed and humbled by your many acts of love and encouragement as God is opening doors to opportunities for speaking at Senior Adult groups and sharing our testimony about what He has done. Some of you have told me that you’re using the book as a daily devotion. Others have said you started reading and couldn’t stop till you finished it in one sitting. And because of your Barnabas encouragement, we’re excited about the publication of Woodshed Wisdom, Vol. 2 sometime in twenty14. And while we wait, please spread the word – there are several more copies of Volume 1 stacked up like stove wood in the woodshed. To that end, I say with gusto, “May God alone be honored and glorified.”

Now, with a few date changes, herewith is COLLARD GREENS AND HOG JOWLS, PART V.

It was just a little wooden sign about two feet high by the side of the road. But it might as well have been one of those double-decker lighted billboards. It was in the shape of an arrow pointing down a dirt road. And painted in red on the sign was one word. Collards. Funny thing about words. You see or hear the right word at the right time, and before you can say ‘hog jowls and black-eyed peas,” you’re in another time and another place.

Every New Year’s Day since I was old enough to eat cornbread without gettin’ strangled, that’s what we had for dinner (the noon meal) back home at Route 4. Black-eyed peas, hog jowls, and collards. And if we turned up our noses at this ‘finger-lickin’ feast, we’d get Daddy’s standard speech. Something about coins and greenbacks and good luck. But a farm boy can only take so much ‘yuck.’ So, one New Year’s Day, I got brave. Or just plumb dumb. On hindsight, it might well have been the latter.

I think it was Jan. 1, 1955. There probably were a lot of problems in the world back then. But the only problem this country boy could think about was how he was goin’ to be able to digest this stuff that you could smell down at the barnyard when Mother started cookin’ it in the kitchen.

The problem was that we didn’t just have it on January first. Daddy could grow collards on that red dirt farm where kudzu wouldn’t even grow. And if he thought that two rows would be enough, he’d plant half an acre. “Just to be on the safe side,” he’d say. And I’d pray, “Lord, please let the worms and rabbits eat every bit of that stuff.” But it didn’t work. Wrong kind of prayer!

So, collards and hog jowls made regular appearances at our table. Maybe that’s why on that particular New Year’s Day, I should have been eatin’ instead of thinkin’. As Daddy looked down both benches at the kitchen table and saw nothing but facial expressions that resembled pretzels, he goes into that speech for the umpteenth time about how we needed all the good luck and coins and folding money we could get. And he emphasized every single word by pointing his fork at each and every one of those pretzel faces!

When he stopped long enough to get another mouthful of collards, I should have done likewise. But I just couldn’t help myself. “Daddy,” I said, “if that good luck story was true, we’d be rich by now.” You could have heard a pin drop in that kitchen. Except for Mother choking on her collards. And Daddy gettin’ up out of his chair like he had been shot out of a rocket.

On the way to the woodshed I was privileged to hear his other speech about how we should be thankful for having a roof over our head and food on the table. I didn’t interrupt this speech, but I’m thinkin’ that I really was thankful. So very thankful, in fact, that we didn’t have any boiled okra on the table.

So, today is Jan. 1, 2014. Don’t know how long it will take me to get used to saying ‘twenty-fourteen.’ Hey, I just thought of something. Six years from today, the Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll be saying ‘twenty-twenty.’ That’ll be neat. Easy for us senior citizens to remember.

But it’ll probably be sometime in February or March before I stop writing 2013 on everything. But there’s one thing I do know. There won’t be anything green cookin’ in our kitchen today that the neighbors can smell out on the main highway. Heartburn and indigestion I can do without as we begin a fresh new year.

But before we get too deep into twenty-fourteen, let’s take a quick look at how we did in twenty-13. We chewed on a bunch of problems, didn’t we? This world is in a mess. And I’m not talking about a ‘mess of collard greens,’ either. Seems like everybody you run into these days is in a ‘stew’ over something or the other. Like Mother used to say when we’d complain about something, “If it’s not one thing, it’s half-a-dozen.” But the current heartaches, hurts, and hunger are very real and seem to be reaching epidemic proportions.

What’s the answer? I don’t know what it is. But I do know where we can look. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask Him to give us our ‘daily bread.’ And we readily accept the bread that feeds our physical needs. But what about the Bread of Life? This just me, but I believe that way too many folks in the world today, some of ‘em in high places, have twisted their faces and turned up their noses at the Bread of Life – God’s Holy Word.

We get choked by chewing on problems instead of potential. While we could be getting daily nourishment for the soul by ingesting and digesting daily doses of His Word. Everybody I know would love to get rid of bad memories and tough circumstances that the world has seen in 2013. Don’t raise your hand, but I wonder how many people in the free world will actually read the Bible every single day of the New Year beginning today. Talk about a New Year’s resolution! There’s one that could change the world if we’d just stick to it. Call it a r-e-v-o-l-u-t-i-o-n, not a resolution were the instructions from my pastor Rev. David Gallamore in a recent sermon.

In the first chapter of Proverbs this morning, I found some bad news and some good news that I had not seen and/or heard before. First the bad news. Just when we think we’ve heard and seen all the evil that the devil can produce, something else happens to further convince us of the depravity of mankind.

Proverbs 1:29-33

New International Version (NIV)

29 since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD.
30 Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke,
31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them;

Some preachers in some churches don’t use the word ‘revival’ much anymore. Back home at Return Baptist Church, you could always count on at least two Revivals a year – one in the Spring and another one in the Fall. And they lasted for seven days, I might add.

God is a gentleman. He won’t stay where He’s not wanted. And in this great nation founded on His principles, we used to want Him in our family, in our schools, and at work and play. And if there’s ever to be any hope for a return to the America we once knew, that hope goes by the name of R-E-V-I-V-A-L. And that’s the promise we find in the last verse of Proverbs, chapter 1:

33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

Life doesn’t come all wrapped up in pretty paper with bows and ribbons, but every day is still a gift from God. How we choose to use it for His honor, glory and pleasure will determine whether or not we leave a stench in His nostrils like three-day-old collards and hog jowls. God, please bless America in twenty-fourteen! Give us enough good ol’ horse sense to be revived and not continue to be mule-headed stubborn.

Now, butter the cornbread and pass me the black-eyed peas. But send your collards and hog jowls to Randy and Cathy Williams.