Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Easter Egg hunts were never one of my favorite activities back home on the farm. For several reasons. Number one being that since all us brothers couldn’t agree on where we’d hide the eggs, Daddy would settle that argument up front before it ever began. He’d stake off the territory with an imaginary line setting the boundaries.

Upper side of the dirt road only. From the barn to the chinaberry tree. All the way around the house, up to the muscadine vine at the edge of the woods. Swing out around the crab-apple tree, then behind the pear tree and the fig bush.

From there, the line hugged the back of the smokehouse so as not to get too close to the facility with the crescent moon on the door. I could never prove it, but I think that was always Daddy’s vantage point to be sure we played by the rules. Anyway, from behind the smokehouse, the line made a big loop around the woodshed (you learn to avoid that place if possible), and back to the barn.

That was about a five-acre egg-huntin’ ground, give or take a little, to search for those delicately designed eggs that Mother had spent most of Saturday afternoon boiling and drying and dipping and dying. She always let me help and I liked opening that box of PAAS Easter egg dye that she had brought home from the A & P.

Mother showed me how to take that wax crayon out of the box and draw invisible patterns on the eggs. Then she’d let me hold that little wire dipper that came with the box of dye. And she would very carefully place one egg at a time on it, and I’d lower it into the dye. And with a steady hand, I’d lift it out of the dye, being very careful not to let it drip all over the kitchen table. Once the egg dried, the invisible patterns came to life like a Polaroid picture developing in your hand!

And after a little experience, I learned how to put a secret little mark somewhere on the prettiest one of all. That was the prize egg. And even though I couldn’t look while Daddy hid ‘em, I knew what to look for to find the prize egg.

And if Wade or Oliver or Eddie and me spied, at the same time, what we thought would be a good hiding place for the prize egg, look out! Don’t get in our way. There’d be skinned knees and elbows at the very least. See, whoever found the prize egg was exempt from doing night-time chores on Easter Sunday.

As you can imagine with a bunch of country boys, many an argument ensued over who had the prize egg. To settle the argument, we’d all take our discoveries to Mother who was waitin’ on the front porch with iodine for our skinned knees! And after she pointed to the prize egg, usually in my blackberry-pickin’ basket, the rest of the band of country brothers would go off sulkin’ and poutin’. And peelin’ and eatin’ their eggs. Or so I thought!

I had to learn the hard way to stay on the front porch for a while till they cooled off. If I went back out in the yard too soon, that’s when the Easter Egg War started. And I don’t have to tell you what was used for ammunition. What followed after Daddy broke up the fight was an Easter Sunday group experience at the woodshed!

But the emptiest feelin’ of all was when we couldn’t find the prize egg. One of two things caused that. Either Daddy peeled and ate it while he was hidin’ the eggs. Or, most times he hid it so well that even he couldn’t find it! Not at all like our grand-daughter Sarah-Parker, who likes to spread the eggs out in the front yard in plain sight of anybody walkin’ by! Her joy is seein’ our joy when we find the eggs. And a little child shall lead them!

Anyway, it’s easy to understand now how Daddy could forget where he hid an egg or two. Including the prize egg. Especially after he had to break up the egg-throwin’ fight and head us all toward the woodshed. By the time that was over, it was time for us to do our chores.

And another thing I’d like to know. Who started all this nonsense about the Easter Bunny? If Peter Rabbit had come hoppin’ down the bunny trail at Route 4, I’m reasonably sure he would have met the same fate as his country cousins who decided to check out the inside of our rabbit boxes. From there, he would have been field dressed, rolled in flour, and fried in Mother’s cast-iron skillet. And served with lots of saw mill gravy and cathead biscuits. A country boy’s supper to die for!

To die for – there’s a phrase that’s thrown around way too casually in today’s world. Have you ever noticed that we use that phrase a lot when somethin’ is really special? Like a coconut cake that’s so moist you have to eat it with a spoon.

Or a gorgeous new Easter outfit, complete with bonnet and matching colored patent leather shoes. Or a banana puddin’ with three inches of golden brown meringue topping. All very special in their own way. But “to die for?” I don’t think so.

The only thing that’s special enough to die for is what you saw in the bathroom mirror this morning. Yep, you guessed it. You and me. And most of the time we’re not as pretty as a prize egg. But that’s what Easter is all about. Every single person ever born is so special and dearly loved that Jesus chose ‘to die for’ us (John 3:16).

He is indeed the One and Only Prize Egg of life. But, unlike our egg-hunt prize back home on the farm that we sometimes found three days later, His Resurrection on the third day provides the sweet fragrance of hope and help for all the dark Fridays of our lives.

And what does He require in return for His special, to-die-for love? Only that we believe, trust, and obey Him. And like our special and dearly loved grand-daughter when she ‘hides’ the eggs, we should put Jesus out there in plain sight of anybody walkin’ by us. After all, it’s like the sign at the country church.

He chose to die for me. The least I can do is live for Him.