Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

The other night after a delicious family birthday supper (that’s Route 4 language for the evening meal!), I made the remark that it sure would be nice to have a churn of homemade peach ice cream. After a chorus of “Oh, Yes” from the family gathered around the table, I climbed aboard the Mental Time Travel Pickup Truck and raced back in time over fifty years to Route 4 with this comment, “And it just has to be from a hand-cranked churn!”

 Well, a certain twenty-something member of the family who shall remain anonymous for her own protection said, “Oh, no, just forget it – can’t deal with it if it’s not electric!” Too late – I’m already sitting on that cold, cold, churn under the big oak tree in the grass-less yard at Route 4. And one of my brothers, either Ollie or Wade, is cranking the handle. Probably Ollie, because Wade always liked to show up just as the cranking was finished!

 But, hold the handle for just a moment! To get to the churn, I have to plow a couple of rows in Daddy’s way of thinking. Early on a Summer Saturday morning, he would say, “Boys, if you get your work done before dark, and do it right the first time, we just might have us some homemade ice cream when you’re finished.” For some reason, I always heard that “us” part! I think Daddy loved that homemade ice cream more than us because it was the “us” who did the work!

 But this was not a committee meeting. Daddy was just making a statement. It was not up for debate. There was no vote to be taken by a three-judge panel. If I could have voted, my vote would have been to knock off work about dinner time (that’s Route 4 language for the noon hour) and have the delightful frozen treat about two o’clock in the afternoon. But life back home at Route 4 was never a democratic society. And, looking back now, I’m thinking it probably had to be that way for survival.

 For those not fortunate enough to have been a part of a two-man homemade ice cream team, I must explain. Daddy would already have gone to the ice plant in town and brought back a huge block of ice for us to chip off with the ice pick into pieces small enough to use in the wooden ice cream churn. He would pour the rock salt around the cylinder holding Mother’s heavenly mixture and we would load it up with those small pieces of ice. Then the two-man, or should I say, two-boy, team of alternating crankers and sitters would take over.

 You see, someone had to sit on the burlap fertilizer bag that Daddy brought out of the barn to cover the ice while the other half of the team turned the crank. Then, when the sitter’s backside was turned to a popsicle, the sitter and the cranker would swap places. And so the rotation would continue until the combination of the ice and Daddy’s generous portion of rock salt took effect. And it never failed. Somehow, I always wound up in the cranking spot as that handle got so hard to turn, I thought my 12-year-old, noodle-for-a-bicep arm would surely fall off!

 Then, after Daddy had said, “Give it one more turn, boys,” and when we couldn’t, he’d always say those words that our mouth-watering taste buds hated to hear, “OK, boys, let it settle for awhile.” (The girls didn’t have to sit on a wet fertilizer bag- that wouldn’t have been lady-like!) But, I never have understood why homemade ice cream had to settle. Not to belabor the point, but Daddy NEVER passed out the secret ballots. So, after the passing of about twenty agonizing minutes, we watched as Daddy ‘taste-tested’ to be sure it was OK, and then we enjoyed the fruits of our labor!

 And so it is in our Christian life this half-century removed from Route 4. First the labor, then the joy. I think theologians might call it God’s Promise and Reward System. Just like Daddy’s homemade ice cream system, if we are obedient and follow God’s plan, He promises us great delight. And He has never failed yet to keep every single promise He has ever made!

 David, the shepherd boy turned king, probably never tasted homemade peach ice cream. But in his first words he talks about how happy is the person who delights in following God’s instructions (Psalm 1:1-3 NIV). Read it again today and enjoy.

 Sometimes in life, we have to be the ‘sitter’ and sometimes we have to be the ‘cranker.’ But always, if we follow the rules, there’s a bowl of homemade peach ice cream waiting at the end.