Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

I had to go shopping the other day for some new walking shoes. My feet were beginning to hurt. I didn’t want to, and probably waited too long, but my goodness, have you priced new walking shoes lately? I mean the kind that really give you support and make you feel like walking a couple of extra miles. And there are so many different kinds. Some built for speed, others for made for endurance. Some with gel, others with air. What ever happened to the old ‘black, high tops?’

Back home on the farm, there were two kinds of shoes. You had your Sunday shoes for wearing to church that you ‘painted’ with black liquid polish on Saturday night. And they started cracking and peeling before the last Amen on Sunday morning. But as soon as you got home from church on Sunday, you better remember to take off your good shoes before the first inning of cow-pasture baseball, if you know what’s good for you! 

Then you had your brogans with their metal hooks that you laced up around your ankles to keep the chiggers out. You wore those when it was time to go plowin’ and cuttin’ fire wood and stove wood. These work shoes were hand-me-downs that George and Oliver had already worn out. But they were good for one more winter with some strategically-placed pieces of cardboard over the holes in the soles. Holes in the soles (souls) – whoa, boy – I almost took a side road right there!

Speaking of side roads – I remember one Sunday afternoon my buddy, James McKee and I were walking down Red Hollow Hill near Route 4. And we got a ticket for walking on the wrong side of the road! Can you just imagine what would have happened when we told Daddy that we got a ticket from the Highway Patrol for walking on the wrong side of the road? Bless Mother’s heart! That was one time when she didn’t say, ‘just wait till your Daddy gets home.’ Instead, it was her opinion that we make this our little secret just between the two of us.

Besides, it was just a warning ticket, anyway. But, you know, that patrolman taught us a minor woodshed lesson that Sunday afternoon on Red Hollow Hill. For you own safety, he said, always walk on the left side of the road facing the oncoming traffic. And while the Broderick Crawford-look alike wrote the tickets, James and I were shaking like two oak leaves in a hurricane in the back seat of that patrol car. I could hardly hear him talking for the sound of my heart pounding in my ears! But what he said next taught a life lesson to a couple of scared-silly country boys. If you see what’s coming at you, you can deal with it.     

Anyway, back to the farm. You just learned that you didn’t show up for plowin’ duty wearing your go-to-church shoes. If you did, you’d hear Daddy ask, “Son, what are you doing wearing your Sunday shoes out here?” It didn’t take but one trip to the woodshed to learn that “getting’ ready to run away from here” was not the answer he was looking for.

Do you remember the old cars and trucks that had a starter button in the floor? For those of you not privileged with this experience, to start the old jalopy, you turned on the switch and stepped on the starter button. Well, my shopping trip for new walking shoes immediately turned into a trip back home to Route 4 when another potential customer in the shoe store stepped on my starter button by wondering out loud – “Do they make these with steel toes?” His reasoning was that ‘somebody’s always stepping on my toes.’

I guess my question for all of us, you and me, today is this – is somebody or something stepping on your toes? While we’re walking through this world, that’s bound to happen. Just par for the course if you’re around other people. Especially if we’re walking on the wrong side of the road where something can come up behind us and blindside us before we know what hit us. Which side of the road are you walking on today?

Jesus was the greatest Walker of all time. And He probably wore sandals. But His instructions to us for walking down the right side of the road of life are as clear as day. When somebody steps on your toes, the world would have you to react like David’s Old Testament prayer (Psalm 3:7) for God to ‘bust ‘em in the mouth and knock their teeth down their throat.’

But Jesus said turn the other cheek and keep on walking with people (Matthew 5:38-42). In fact, get some new walking shoes if your old ones are hurting your feet. And go an extra mile when somebody asks you to go one mile. Do more and give more than the minimum. Ever heard the expression ‘they’ll give you the shirt off their back?’

That’s someone who understands about walking the extra mile. About giving till it hurts and then keep on giving (walking) till it quits hurting. Especially when somebody whacks you upside the head and hurts your feelings. Like Mother always said when I felt like taking a stick of stove wood to one of my brothers, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Jesus said by walking like this when we’re with others, they will know ‘that you’re walking with me.’ That takes some real good walking shoes. Like those that I tried on at the store that have gel and air, too. If your feet hurt you to walk like that, maybe it’s time to turn in the old black, high-tops.

If somebody messes up your shoe shine today,  just remember, there’s never a traffic jam on the Extra Mile.