Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

One of my favorite flowers in the world is also one of the smallest. Pansies are so small they would almost seem to be delicate. But the opposite is true of these hearty little beauties. I’ve seen ‘em keep right on blooming through freezing rain and snow. And to me at least, pansies almost look like they’re smiling and excited! There’s a lesson right there for all of us. Be like a pansy. Excited about brightening up somebody’s day.

And pansies aren’t the biggest or the most exotic flower in the world. But, come what may, they just keep on keepin’ on. They just steadfastly endure and persevere, sometimes in not-so-pleasant conditions. They just keep on being what they alone can be. And doing what they were created to do.  

Ridin’ down the road the other day, a rainbow of color caught my eye. It was a huge assortment of pansies. In the brief flash of a glance, I saw colors that deserved a second look. Blues, yellows, whites, purples – you name it, they were all there. But it wasn’t so much the flowers as it was their container that scooped up my attention and hauled me back home to Route 4.

Like swatches of paint on the palette of the Master Artist, these pansies were adorning an old black wash pot! Now, we never had any pansies back home on the farm. Nor any other kind of ornamental flowers, for that matter. Anything that had a blossom better be producing something that was edible by either human beings or animals. Come to think of it, there wasn’t a whole lot of decoration at all around the old farmhouse. Unless you consider the chinaberry tree in the front yard.

But one thing we did have was a black iron wash pot. It was an essential piece of equipment on wash day for removing red dirt and green stains. From clothes and bodies. And here’s something from the woodshed ‘tablet of truth.’ You absolutely cannot work the soil without getting soiled. You can’t plow in the dirt without getting’ dirty. That’s not in the Farmer’s Almanac, but it’s the truth anyway.

I remember one hot summer day when we had one of those ‘passing showers.’ While it was passing, we decided to ‘catch and recycle’ the rain water. So we dammed up the ditch in front of the house, and when the sun came back out, we were splashing around in our very own swimming pool! By the time Daddy caught our little act, his only words were ‘you’re so dirty your own mother won’t recognize you!’

But that’s a side road. Back to the black iron wash pot. It was what was inside the wash pot that made it so essential on wash day – boilin’ hot water. To start off with, we’d usually find some old tin cans for the three little short legs on the wash pot to sit in. Then we’d get some strips of heart-pine kindlin’ wood and some dry oak firewood and build a fire under the pot. While the fire was catchin’, we’d draw water as fast as we could, pour it in a bucket and run to the wash pot. You didn’t want the fire to get too hot before the wash pot was full of water. Or you got to take a side trip to the woodshed. So, we took turns – four or five of us drawin’ and totin’.  

And, if we timed it right, the fire was just getting’ started about the time the water got to the top of the wash pot. Then, it was time to turn up the heat! Here’s another entry on the farmboy’s Tablet of Truth.  Red dirt ain’t a-coming out in cold water! Not good English, but true nevertheless. The so-called automatic washers in our homes today operate just fine with cold water. They’re ‘automatic’ as long as I separate the colors, load the clothes, pour in some Tide, and turn on the water. But not many people in today’s world come to wash day with tubs full of OshKosh overalls for nine kids that have been plowing in the dirt and playing in their red-dirt swimming ditch!

The trick to having clean bodies and clothes back home was to keep the fire hot! In fact, Mother liked it boilin’ hot when she dumped in our overalls and ‘other’ items. And after a few minutes of soaking in the boilin’ hot water, she’d stir ‘em for awhile with her big wooden paddle. Said wooden paddle also came in handy for other uses on non-wash days. If you catch my drift! But, if you’re taking notes, write this down. This Route 4 cleansing process only worked if we kept the water hot by keeping the heat turned up under the wash pot. Lukewarm water is not fit for drinking or for washing clothes. Only to be poured out in the hog pen. They’ll wallow in anything!

The effectiveness of boilin’ hot water came to mind recently when my friend and fellow ‘gym-rat,’ the Rev. Johnnie Rogers showed up to work out wearing a t-shirt that said “212 Degrees – Feel the Impact!” After huffing and puffing for awhile, I went to my computer and googled ‘212 Degrees.’ Isn’t my technology amazing! What’s more amazing is that a word that’s not even in Webster’s book is commonplace in our world today. If you’re looking for something – just ‘google’ it. What I found when I googled 212 Degrees was eye-opening and thought-provoking, to say the least. I highly recommend you doing this.

You’ll see a little short inspirational movie and some info on a book by Sam Parker and Mac Anderson. What I learned was that water gets hot at 211 degrees. But it boils at 212 degrees. And that one little degree makes a BIG difference. At home, on the job, in marriage, in serving the Lord, and anything else you care to mention right here. Boilin’ hot water gets a country boy’s overalls clean. It also makes steam. And steam makes a train run.

Even though I couldn’t find the verb ‘google’ in Webster’s book, I did find a word, I think it’s an adjective, in God’s Book that describes this situation. Revelation 3:15-16 might be the only place in the Bible where the word ‘lukewarm’ is mentioned. The Master says in those verses that some of us are neither hot nor cold – just lukewarm. That’s a condition that happens when our ‘fire’ simmers down. Ever try drinking a glass of lukewarm water? You can’t make a cup of hot tea with it, and you can’t enjoy a tall glass of iced tea, either. In verse 16, it says God is about to ‘spit us out of His mouth’ when we become lukewarm.

So, maybe it’s time to turn up the heat. One more little degree of effort in thought and deed can be a difference maker. In our own lives and the lives of others. So many people these days seem like the knobs on their burners are permanently set on simmer. How can we help? Thank you for asking! By turning up the heat of kindness, forgiveness, patience, love, praise, prayer, excitement, enthusiasm, and generosity, just to mention a few ‘washpots’ where that extra degree can be a lighthouse!

As Mother used to say, “If your kettle’s not whistling’, your water’s not boilin’!”