Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

There’s an old country saying that if you shake the tree, you better be ready for what falls out. Back home on the farm, we did a lot of tree-shaking. When the apples were ripe, a good strong shaking would cover the ground. You could eat apples till your belly hurt.

Then carry some to Mother for her homemade apple pie with the criss-crossing lattice-work dough covered in sugar and baked to a golden brown. Now, you didn’t want to be standing under the tree when it was shaken. That juicy Golden Delicious or Winesap would put a knot on your head when it fell from the top limb.

And when the shells on the pecans turned brown and Daddy shook it real hard, you’d think we were under attack. But a big ol’ piece of pecan pie would make you forget about the pecans hittin’ you in the head.

But with the pecan or the apple tree, it didn’t matter how much you shook the tree, the fruit didn’t fall till it was ripe.

In fact, if we got caught shaking the tree before the fruit was ripe, we’d earn a trip down that familiar path to the woodshed. According to Daddy, too much shaking before the fruit was ripe would upset the delicate buddin’ and pollinatin’ process. You see, it was his theory that every single apple or peach or pecan had its own growin’ and ripenin’ schedule. Some bloom early. Others come along at their own pace.

And I’m beginning to think that’s the way it is with the family tree, too. I hold absolutely no claim to being an agricultural research scientist or a genealogical expert. I’ve always heard that an ‘ex’ is a has-been. And a ‘spirt’ is a drip under pressure. So, if I ever claim to be an expert in anything, you can just call me a has-been drip.

But let’s plow a little deeper right here. If it’s true that genes skip a generation, then we’re all products of and inherited certain characteristics of our grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents. And so forth and so on.

I never got to know my grandparents on the Brown side of the family. Or my great-grandparents on either the Brown or the Martin side of the family. But you could ask most anybody around Route 4, Seneca, South Carolina, in the Return Community, and they could tell you about Mr. Hayne L. Martin and Miss Emily Compton Martin. Or Granny and Grandma as we knew them.

Even as a skinny, tow-headed kid in short britches, I could see that Granny was a hard worker. He dug up enough dirt to dam up a branch and built the spillway for a pretty good sized fish pond. All by hand! Just a pick, a wheelbarrow and a shovel. And that was after he wasn’t able to farm anymore.

And Grandma knew the Scriptures as well as any seminary graduate. But she was a school teacher. Back in the days when a teacher could put a little Scripture in her students. I think she knew the Bible from front cover to the maps. And when her eyesight failed, she insisted that we sit on the front porch while I read it to her.

Truthfully, I’d rather have been down there helping Granny build that fish pond. And when I would ask her, “Grandma, why do you want me to read something to you that you already know,” I think she was reading my mind. She’d say, “Read me that story again about Jonah and the big fish that swallowed him.” Well, she had me hooked right there!   

I guess that’s why we love to spoil our grandchildren, don’t we. You know that grandchildren are God’s reward for not moving off and leaving your children. Just when you think you couldn’t love your children any more than you do already, along comes the grandchildren. You know, those young’uns that make you good at filling in the blanks. As in, ‘Poppa, could I please have a (here’s where you fill in the blank)!   

But children and grandchildren are a lot like those fruit trees back home at Route 4. Some bloom early. Others come along at their own pace. That’s why the job of grand-parents and great-grandparents and great-great grandparents is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

You just never know what kind of ‘fruit’ those young buds are going to turn out to be. You might think they’re never going to blossom. But you just keep on nourishing and showing ‘em how it’s done in this orchard called life. And one day they might just surprise the daylights out of you!

Take our friend Joseph, for example. As we wind up our January jaunt through the Book of Genesis, you might call it the end of the beginning, since Genesis means the origin or the beginning, according to Mr. Webster. Joseph’s early life was less than spectacular. Sold by his brothers to some Egyptian slave traders when he was 17, it took a few years for him to begin to blossom.

His parents thought he was dead for a long time. He was in and out of prison for the next thirteen years. What did people think? This was Joseph of the royal line of Israelites. Abraham had a son named Isaac who was a miracle boy himself. And it was Isaac’s son, Jacob, who was Joseph’s daddy.

When you think about that blood line, you just know that Joseph was intended to do something special in God’s kingdom on earth. In fact, he was always under the watchful and protecting eye of our Heavenly Father. Because, when the time was right, God did indeed have a special job for Joseph, the saving of many lives. And forgiving his brothers for throwin’ him in a hole. Just thought I’d throw that in right there!

But I’ll bet during the famine in Egypt, Joseph’s grand-daddy Isaac, and his great-grand-daddy Abraham were his biggest cheerleaders in Heaven. And, you know, that’s our biggest job as grandparents. Cheer ‘em on. Nourish and protect. And be the cheerleader they can count on.

So what if they’ve got a cow-lick the size of Alabama on top of their head. Or they couldn’t tie their shoes strings in the first grade. They’re yours and God has given you the privilege of showin’ ‘em around the orchard for a few years. Until He’s ready for them to come to work for Him.

Joseph was 30 years old (same age, by the way as Jesus when he started his ministry) when he went to work in King Pharaoh’s palace. And the rest is history. And his reward was that he got to hold his youngest son’s great-grandchildren on his knee before he died at the age of 110 (Genesis 50:22-23). I’ll bet even Joseph, himself, couldn’t have dreamed of living that long or seeing his great-great-grandchildren when he was in a hole at the age of 17.

Grand-children – you gotta love ‘em! And I say, let ‘em shake the tree if they want to. I just pray that our three, Kirby, Casey, and Sarah-Parker, will keep on shakin’ the family tree. Even though the fruit’s not ripe yet, they’re really beginning to blossom.

And I can smell an apple pie for a country mile!