Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

This may sound like a dumb question. But I’m going to go ahead and ask it anyhow. And just hope that you haven’t had a belly-full of dumb questions today. It’s a what-if question, so at least my grandchildren will like it.

What if we couldn’t load up and head over to Cracker Barrel for some cathead biscuits floatin’ in saw mill gravy and hemmed up on our plate by a couple of slabs of skillet-fried country steak and mashed taters? With green beans on the side like Mother used to cook. And, maybe while we’re waitin’, a bowl of protein-rich pinto beans with hunks of ham in ‘em. Soakin’ up a chunk of hot buttered cornbread. And some peach cobbler for dessert.

Now, I know what you’re thinkin’. Your cholesterol and triglycerides must be through the roof. Would you believe that I never heard those two words in my life until I was over 40 years old? And I guess if I still worked like we used to work back home on the farm, I still wouldn’t have to worry about cloggin’ up my arteries.

And here’s a little side road. If we still grew red-hot peppers like mine and Ralph Nix’s daddies used to grow, we wouldn’t be bothered by sinus and hay fever and allergies, either. You could almost see the smoke coming out of their ears. I’m tellin’ you, they’d make your eyes water from half a mile away!

But here’s my point. And, yes, I do have one! What if we had to go back to the Route 4 way of life where you ate what you grew? If you didn’t grow it, you didn’t eat it. You wanna create wholesale panic at your house. Just tell your kids that all the drive-thru, order-your-food-from-a-speaker-box, pick-it-up-at-the-second-window places have closed up shop. No more biggie-size fries and half-gallon cups of cola to wash ‘em down.

Just try wakin’ ‘em up in the morning with this. ‘OK, boys, time to head for the garden. We got a lot of plowin’ and plantin’ to get done.’ No use to bother the girls. They wouldn’t be caught dead in the  garden. Might mess us their white-tipped, manicured finger nails. But the guys would say, ‘OK, Dad, just give me a few minutes to download a few more tunes on my I-pod.’

The only pod I ever heard of grew on a stalk and made your arms itch when you got within a hundred yards of it. And it turned all slicky and slimy when it was boiled. Don’t make me say the name of it. I’ve already got chill bumps just thinkin’ ‘bout it!

OK, I’ll get to the point. In the Route 4 way of life, good stuff on the supper table came from the garden. Now don’t get me wrong. Drive-throughs are handy. And the five-star, written up in Southern Living, reservations-required, fine dining establishments are nice. But if we had to go back to the garden, could we survive?

So, let’s go see my friend, Justin Case. You know Just-in Case, don’t you? Like Mother always told us. Stay with your brothers just in case it gets dark before you get back to the house.

Just in case we have to go back to the garden, here’s a little self-help manual. I did not say “Gardening For Dummies.” Two important rules to remember. Number one, it’s a lot of back-breakin’ hard work. Number two, nothin’ good happens till you plant some seeds and throw some dirt on top of ‘em. Not enough to bury them, but just enough to start the growin’ process. Unless you’re plantin’ that stuff that starts with an ‘o.’ About two feet deep will be OK for that!

And for goodness sake, don’t expect red-ripe watermelons to come up over night. Show some patience. You can’t just throw some seeds in the dirt and sit back in the shade drinkin’ ice tea. You gotta tote water for the soon-to-be sweet cantaloupe seeds to drink. And nourish ‘em with some good fertilizer. And keep the weeds and briars pulled up from around them. Didn’t I tell you that growin’ the good stuff was hard work?

Now I’ll be the first to admit. With my old sore back and arthritis knees, I’d starve to death if I had to grow what I eat. So, don’t think for a skinny minute that I’m not thankful. And the next time you’re in the rockin’ chair on the front porch of Cracker Barrel waitin’ for your name to be called, chew on this.

The same instruction book can be used in the garden of life. Plant some seeds. Then water, nourish, and cultivate. And don’t worry if you get a little dirt under your finger nails. That’s the good kind of dirt. In the garden of life, if you’re slingin’ mud, you’re losin’ ground! And that’ll get you to the woodshed faster than you can say ‘pass the maters, please.’

Our old friend Joseph from the Book of Genesis is a perfect example of bloomin’ where he was planted. Consider what happened in his garden of life. Thrown into a pit by his brothers. Sold into slavery. Taken down to Egypt by some strangers. Rose to prominence doing what was right taking care of Potiphar’s stuff. Thrown into prison for runnin’ from an evil woman. Became supervisor of all the other inmates while he was in prison. Brought out of prison at the age of 30 to serve the king of Egypt. And became second-in-command to the king using his God-given wisdom.

I highly recommend you read the whole story in Gen. 41:41-57. Could I just say this? Like those butterbeans, squash, and other goodies in the garden back at Route 4, a little dirt thrown their way actually helped start the growin’ and bloomin’. Joseph didn’t ask for all the dirt thrown in his garden of life. But he didn’t let it stop him from bloomin’ where he was planted!

There’s just a very small difference between bitter and better. So what are you plantin’ and growin’ out there in your garden today?

Sweet yellow corn or red-hot peppers?