Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

It does my ol’ heart good to see folks bow their heads and give thanks when they’re eating out at restaurants. More often than not, though, they just dive right in as soon as their plate lands on the table. That would have been ‘dangerous to our health’ back home on the farm.

In the first place, there was not a single restaurant or café on Route 4, so we had never heard of eatin’ out. To a bunch of farm boys, eatin’ out meant taking a couple of Mother’s sausage biscuits and maybe a cold baked sweet potato that she had packed in a Dixie Crystals sugar bag, with us to the field when we went to plow. Sometimes eatin’ out meant finishing supper on the back porch, especially if Daddy caught you using your ‘boarding house reach’ to grab the last biscuit on the plate.

Who would have ever thought you could drive up to the back of somebody’s store, holler into a squawk box, and tell somebody somewhere in the store what you want for supper, pay for it at Window Number One and pick up your food at Window Number Two? Fast food? At the farmhouse supper table, fast food was what we did with our cornbread and milk when we were so hungry we thought our stomach was gnawing on our backbone. And the split second that Daddy said, ‘Amen,’ you start gobblin’ it down as fast as your elbow can get your spoon to your mouth!

But a couple of questions always come to my mind when I see those folks ahead of me at the drive-thru take that big bag of vittles from the window and pass around its contents to three or four kids in the car.

First, I always wonder if they’ve had a hand inspection. And, secondly, I wonder if they took the time to say thanks before devouring their supper in a Styrofoam box? You didn’t sit down on one of the benches at Mother’s supper table before she asked, “Boys, did you wash your hands?” And even if you’d been in too big a hurry to get to the corn-on-the-cob and cat head biscuits, you’d start doing the pretend hand-washing routine.

That’s when you rub your hands as fast as you could on your britches and hope that most of the red dirt comes off by dry cleaning. To be sent back to the wash table for a second try while your brothers ate and laughed at you was torture in the first degree.

And, even if you passed Mother’s hand inspection, you didn’t dare reach for the cornbread before Daddy gave thanks for the food we are about to receive. It only took a couple of trips to the woodshed before you learned that you better not be quicker on the draw than the grownups. That’s not good table manners. And wondering out loud if the reason that the Lord gave us so much cornbread and milk was because Daddy thanked Him for it night after night after night, well, that brought on another lesson at the shed.

The psalmist knew how to give thanks. Check it out in Psalm 100. The sub-title, ‘for giving thanks,’ gives us instructions on how to be thankful for all things, including the food we are about to receive at the supper table. In fact, I think it would be a good idea if we memorized Psalm 100, only five verses, to give thanks for our daily bread and all the other blessings that God bestows on us, the sheep of his pasture. He has made us and we are His. Not because of anything good that we have done or will ever do. But because He alone is good. And because His love is forever and covers all our mistakes.

And this wasn’t something that God started yesterday. I have a feeling that even my Daddy’s great-great-great grand-daddy made his boys bow their heads and give thanks before having their cornbread and milk. God is, has been, and always will be faithful through all generations (v.5). That’s reason enough for me for all the earth to shout for joy and worship the Lord with gladness.

Like Mother always said – wash your hands, give thanks, and pass the fried chicken. Hold the okra, please!