Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

On a recent trip to the shed, we talked about all the good stuff we used to eat back home at Route 4. The ‘maters and ‘taters. The hot-buttered corn on the cob. Green beans cooked with ‘white steak.’ The cat-head biscuits and sawmill gravy and fried rooster for Sunday dinner. And for dessert, Mother’s homemade blackberry cobbler topped with those lattice-work strips of golden brown crust covered with sugar.

And for the holidays, Mother would bake thirteen-layer cakes. I don’t remember why they were thirteen layers, but I do remember how good they were. Especially the coconut cakes. One slice would cover your whole plate. And you didn’t mind washing and drying dishes after one of those. And I don’t mean putting the dishes in the dishwasher and hitting the rinse cycle, either. Never heard of dishwashers till I was married!  And then I became one. But I had many years of experience on my resume. Seems as though middle kids were good at that.

And paper plates? I don’t think they had even been invented then. In the first place, they don’t make ‘em big enough to hold a summer-time  plate full of fresh vegetables from the garden. And then, I can just imagine the scene when a paper plate started leaking or folded in the middle just about the time Daddy was covering his cat-heads with a couple of ladles of sawmill gravy!

Back to the main road! I loved helping Mother make those cakes. I  can remember hand-grating that fresh coconut till my hands cramped. I haven’t seen one of those hand-held aluminum kitchen appliances in a long time. I guess they’re all in antique stores now! It had fine teeth on one side and larger ones on the other side. And sharp as knives, too. No electric slicing and dicing food processors in her kitchen! She raised nine food processors and lined us up on two benches every night at the supper table to ‘process’ that cornbread and milk.

Even though I was partial to the coconut, Mother also made lemon cakes. And if you had grating duty, you had to grate the lemon peels! Now, I liked grating the fresh coconut ‘cause when it got too small to hold on the grater, it was a delicious treat. Sorta like licking the bowl that she mixed up her cake batter in, or the long-handle spoon she used to stir the batter. Hanging around the kitchen could be advantageous back home on the farm when Mother was baking cakes. But deliver me from eating those lemon peels! Yuck!

And to go with the thirteen layer cakes, Mother always made a five-gallon bucket full of ambrosia. Or it looked like five gallons in her big ambrosia bowl. It had every kind of fruit imaginable, each one marinating in its own juice. Throw in some bananas and raisins and and cherries and other secret ingredients and cover with a layer of that fresh coconut that I had grated. Then you wait. Yes, she always made ambrosia a couple of days ahead of time and let it age while it ‘tortured’ us country boys to look at it and smell its delicious aroma. You could probably talk me into eating boiled okra right now if you promise me some ambrosia! I think Estelle has Mother’s secret ambrosia recipe. Hope sis is at the shed today!

Our neighbor, Cindy, was at the shed the other day, probably droolin,’ as we recalled those days of eatin’ anything we wanted without worrying about the latest health report. Cindy sent me a one-line email question – “who’s your heart doctor?” She stepped on my starter and cranked up the truck with that question. And I raced back to Route 4 where scenes of plowin’ and plantin’ and pickin’ are forever etched in my memory. Along with cutting firewood and stove wood. And building pasture fences with cedar fence posts planted three feet deep in holes dug with hand-held post hole diggers as big as the skinny country boys using them. I guess it was that four-letter word called work that kept us healthy back then. As Daddy used to say when we complained about how hard it was, “If it don’t kill you, it’ll make a man out of you.”

I guess that’s why we could sit down to a breakfast of scrambled eggs, three or four slices of bacon, and the afore-mentioned catheads and gravy without giving a second thought to heart health. Saw a restaurant menu the other day that had little red hearts by several entrees. Being heart healthy is important these days simply because some of us still like to eat like we’re back on the farm without working like we used to work back home on the farm.

So, thank God every day for the miracles of modern medicine and the doctors who have the God-given gift to keep us heart-healthy. Helen and I have the best heart doctors in the world. You’ll believe that, too, if you ever have the occasion where your cardiologist saves your life. We have all these cat-scans and EKG’s and cardiograms and echo-grams and heart caths and other procedures. And our doctors have been given the gift of discernment to look at some squiggly lines on a piece of paper and tell us what we need to do to take care of the physical heart muscle.

But when’s the last time you had a ‘spiritual ct-scan?’ David prayed for God to perform ‘open-heart surgery’ on him (Psalm 139:23-24). He was asking God to give him one of those tests where they look inside your heart and know everything there is to know about it. Except that David was praying for God to take a spiritual x-ray of his heart and see if there was any offensive attitude or thought that would do harm to his walk with God. Maybe it’s a cold heart. Or an indifferent heart. Maybe it’s a tired, discouraged or depressed heart. Could you have a hard heart or broken heart? David knew that it’s what’s on the inside that counts. And he knew the One Heart Doctor that could make him heart healthy. I saw a church sign the other day that said “Exercise your faith muscle by walking daily with the Lord.” And, if I could add, keep your spiritual coffee mug clean with daily Bible study.

So, I replied to Cindy’s email. Don’t you just love email? It’s like the six-party line phones that brought ‘new-age’ communication to Route 4. My reply simply said, “Dr. Jesus!”

Call Him up today and talk to Him. He accepts new patients. And you don’t need a referral.

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