Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

There’s been a lot of talk lately about health care. From the halls of Congress and the nation’s capitol, to the state house, to the barber shops on Main Street USA, it seems like everyone you meet has an idea about health care. Large portions of almost every newscast you watch or hear are devoted to this health care plan or that health care plan. Committees meet for long hours every day trying to come up with a health care plan that everyone can agree on. If you’ve paid a health insurance premium lately, been treated by doctor, or had an extended stay in a hospital, you probably still need some more medicine for your ‘sticker shock!’

What’s the answer? I’m not smart enough to figure that one out. But here’s one thing I do know. Back home at Route 4, Mother and Daddy raised nine kids on a dirt-road farm, and I can count on one hand how many times they had to take us to see a doctor. I don’t even have to take off my shoes to add that one up.

One time I remember that we needed a doctor was when brother George, being the elder son, felt it was necessary to pass along to us  young whippersnappers the art of the two-minute bath. Of course, like most boyhood activities that led us down the path to the woodshed, this happened while Mother and Daddy were gone to town on Saturday morning to pick up the few groceries that we couldn’t grow on the farm.

One of our chores while they were gone was to draw enough water out of the well to fill up the Saturday night bath tub, sit it in the sun behind the house to warm up before all of us had to ‘pass through the waters.’ I didn’t know it at the time, but I guess that was our first use of solar heat on the farm.

But back to the bath tub. After, it was filled, George would show us how to  back up about fifty feet, get a running start, and jump into the tub full of water, landing like a cannon-ball in the tub and spraying everyone within ten feet. Sounds like great fun, right? Hey, don’t knock it. It beats watching the business end of mule all day long, or hoeing okra till the hoe handle rubbed blisters on your hands! Besides, Mother had already confiscated my Red Ryder bb gun for shootin’ Wade in the seat of his pants.

Anyway, George’s show-and-tell landed him in the doctor’s office when he caught his big toe in a tree root about a foot in front of the bath tub and landed with arms out-stretched squarely on the rim of that galvanized tub. The cast on his broken arm prevented him from any further water sports for the rest of the summer.

Another trip to town to see the doctor began one day when I woke up a tooth ache. It got steadily worse all day long. The more stove wood I cut, the more the tooth hurt. Get out of work because of a tooth ache? “Something else will hurt, boy, if you don’t get that wood cut and split.” But by late afternoon, the pain had become unbearable. I mean squawling and bawling and rolling on the ground. Just ask Wade sometime. He  witnessed it all. And still gets a good laugh when he thinks about it.

Daddy wasn’t home so Mother sent for one of our cousins, I think it was Melvin Nix, to carry me to the dentist. Now, I had never seen the inside of a dentist office. The sight of that chair and all those drills and all that other tooth-pulling equipment almost cured my pain. The only dental equipment we knew about on the farm involved Daddy tying one end of a string to a loose tooth and the other end to the door knob on an open door. And then slamming the door shut.

But, after poking around inside my mouth for about ten minutes with his sharp-pointed, stainless steel, over-sized tooth pick, the man in the white jacket delivered the verdict. “Young man, you’ve got a big ol’ abscess on that tooth. I’m going to have to take it out.”  I didn’t know an abscess from recess. I just knew I had to have some relief. If you’ve had any experience in ‘the chair,’ you know what I mean when I say that relief didn’t come for several days after that tooth was out of my mouth!

We probably ate enough dirt in our childhood to grow some nice pole beans and squash. And, if you had a similar childhood, you’ll agree that growing up on a farm is not exactly living in a sterile, green-house, lab-experiment kind of environment. And with those double-blade, razor-sharp axes, cross-cut saws, and other assorted farm tools, it’s only by the grace of God that our limbs didn’t get cut off like the tree limbs.

 Health care on the farm involved a lot of castor oil; Vicks salve, the mentholated miracle; and mercurochrome, the infection-fighter that left a brown stain running down your arm for two weeks after Mother poured a bottle of it on a briar scratch. But what was it about raising nine kids on a farm in the fifties with such primitive health care?

This is just me talking, but I believe that Mother and Daddy subscribed to the Heavenly Health Care Plan. To the best of their ability, I think they believed that if they raised their kids in ‘the fear and admonition of the Lord,’ He would provide health and safety for that bunch of country boys and girls when they had done all they knew how to do. Probably a pretty good health care plan, don’t you think? I think about God’s health care plan whenever I read about it in the Bible. Where is it in the Bible? Thank you for asking. Spend a few minutes with Psalm 92:12-15.

Here’s the Route 4 translation. The righteous will flourish like a palm tree and grow like a cedar tree when they’re planted on God’s Farm. Those tender little shoots will survive the storms that blow across the farm, and grow up to bear some pretty nice fruit. And while they’re doing it, they’ll be fresh and green. All because The Rock, Jesus Christ, paid the premium for our Heavenly Health Care Plan. Our spiritual health care plan cost Him His very life. But it’s paid in full. No more premiums to pay.

A real health care plan. That’s what I’m talking about!