Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Looking at some stains on our driveway, my friend Chris said, “A little Purple Power and a hose pipe ought to take care of them. But you might have to use a pressure washer.” And just like that, my ticket was punched and I heard the conductor holler “All Aboard! Our next stop, Route 4.”

Yessiree, neighbor, stains were as common as cornbread back home on the farm. But, hang that thought on the fig bush. We’ll come back to it in a jiffy. But a stain on the driveway? How do you stain dirt? It’s a stain by itself, I think. A dirt road has a dirt driveway. Pure and simple.

I’ve seen pictures of beautiful long and winding driveways of concrete or asphalt, lined on each side with dogwoods and oak trees and perfectly manicured grass, leading to the country estate of a real estate agent’s dream.

First of all, I guess they had real estate agents and brokers back there in the fifties. But we never heard about them. And besides that, anybody coming down the Route 4 dirt road, axle-deep in red mud after it rained, would fit into one of these three categories. They would be kin to us. Or they would be lost  ‘cause they took the wrong turn back up at the main road. They sure wouldn’t be looking to buy a piece of that rocky, red dirt paradise. Or it would be the mailman.

And even he skipped our place sometimes in the hardest days of winter. But when he did have to come to our mailbox to deliver our new Sears and Roebuck catalog, he’d stop in the driveway at our farmhouse, catch his breath, turn around and try to make it back to the main road. And nobody was worried about any oil leaks from his car staining our driveway! As I said at the top, it’s hard to put a stain on dirt!

But let’s get out of the driveway for a minute and talk about what Chris called Purple Power. Have you ever seen so many ‘miracle’ cleaners? And every one is supposed to work even better than the others. And they have all these “creative” names, like Grease-B-Gone or Ka-Boom! Or about a dozen or so others. I even have a little ‘stick’ with soap inside it that Helen told me to keep in the dash of my car. She said it doesn’t look good when people can look at my shirt and see that I had hot dogs with extra chili, ketchup, and mustard, for dinner.

And whatever happened to the friendly little scrubbin’ bubbles that ate up all the stains on my bath tub like a pac-man video game? And if all these modern miracle cleaners work so well, why do they have to have those screamin’ and hollerin’ pitch men on their television commercials that have forced me to become close friends with the mute button on my remote control?

OK, so now I’ve poured on the purple. What now? According to Chris, just grab the hose pipe and wash your troubles away down the drain. Excuse me, but I just have to take this side road. Get this picture. You’re a ten-year-old, soon to be eighteen, lost-on-a-farm-in-the-fifties, country boy. One of your main jobs is using a long rope with a bucket tied on the end to get water out of a big hole in the ground that you either toted to the house for drinking and cooking, or you ran it down to the barn to water the cows, mules, and chickens. What, pray tell, would you do with a 50-foot piece of rubber tubing?

Hose was what Grandma wore to church on winter Sundays to keep her legs warm. And a pipe was what carried the smoke from Mother’s wood-burning cook stove out the top of the house. Now, why couldn’t I have been smart enough to put those two words together and come up with that long green tube to hook to your spigot and water your flowers?     

Here’s a bonus question – worth ten points. Is water a noun or a verb? If you ‘water’ your lawn or flowers, you spray them good with life-giving moisture, right? Or pour a bucketful around their root system. Then tell me, why did I wind up at the woodshed back home when Daddy told me to go water the animals? I guess I got into trouble for using water as a verb and throwing it all over the mule’s head and back. Instead of using it as a noun, and giving it to him to drink. See, kids, why it’s so important to pay attention in English.

But, anyway, back to the stain that we ‘left hanging on the fig bush’ earlier and the purple power cleaner. Stains come in lots of different colors, especially around the farm. Who can ever forget the sight of Mother scrubbing our overall britches till her fingers bled red? Trying to get out those green reminders of ‘sliding into third’ during the cow pasture baseball game. And, if third base happened to still be ‘fresh,’ well, there’s another shade of green stain. Yep, green was a leading color of farm stains. Then you had black – as in how your fingers looked for a week after picking the blackberries for Mother’s cobblers. I guess if I had had a hose pipe and some purple stuff cleaner, I wouldn’t have had to be teased so much. But an extra helping of cobbler took care of that! And then you had red for a popular color of stains, as in red mud. Like our clothes were covered with when James McKee came home with me after church and we dammed up the ditch beside the road when it rained and we had us a swimming ‘pool.’

So we’re all familiar with stains we had while we were growing up. But do we carry any stains around with us after we’re supposed to be grown-ups? Let’s look at the evidence. And it’s as plain to see as the mustard and ketchup on my shirt. Or the Nehi grape drink that Helen spilled on my white pants on our first date! I don’t remember what she told me to bring home from the store last night. But I do remember that Nehi grape. And that was about fifty years ago. At the Time-In. Back when they had curb service.

But what are some ‘life stains’ that are so easy to see but so hard to remove? The Apostle Peter carried a stain for awhile. It had something to do with a rooster crowing three times. But it was removed by the greatest miracle stain remover the world has ever known or will ever know. The spilled blood of Jesus Christ. When we allow it to go to work in our lives, it washes away even the toughest, set-in, dried up, permanent stains. Check ‘em out (1 Peter 2:1).

Peter used the word therefore’ at the beginning of this verse. Meaning that since Jesus has given his very life’s blood to create this miracle stain remover, we’re supposed to use it, like a hose pipe on the driveway, to wash away “all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” from the fabric of our lives.

And what a ‘wonderful washday’ that is when we take off the mustard-stained shirts and grape juice-stained pants and dump them in the life-changing cleansing power of the blood of Jesus. No soaking needed. It goes to work immediately! And that’s what I call a Miracle cleaner, with a capital M, with the color of red.

The Scriptures say that the angels in Heaven throw a party every time even one sin-stained child of God uses this Miracle Cleaner. And there’s a line in Elisha Hoffman’s great old gospel song, “Are You Washed In the Blood,”  that gives us instructions for using this Cleanser. ‘Lay aside the garments that are stained with sin and be washed in the blood of the Lamb.’

Revelation 7:14 shows what our lives look like after that washday. “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Anybody need a Tide Stick?