Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Whenever I have a few minutes to spare, I like to stroll through the lawn and garden section at one of those big box stores. And I can’t help but smile when I hear snippets of conversation between the clerks and the part-time farmers. Saturday mornings are ripe for these kind of opportunities. That’s when most of the part-timers take their cups of latte and go pick out just the right plants, poisons, and power tools for their gardens.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not eavesdropping. I’ve never dropped any eaves, so I wouldn’t know where to start. But my funny bone gets tickled when I hear the questions asked by these gallant gardeners who’ve never known the feel of a freshly plowed furrow between their barefoot toes.

Herewith are some of my favorites. “Does this cute little begonia like the sun or the shade?” That always reminds me of Wade. That boy had more tummy aches than a dog has fleas. ‘Cause he knew Mother would always say, “Just go lay down in the shade for a while till you get to feelin’ better.” What she didn’t know was that he had just swallowed about two pounds of powdered milk straight from the box. And the hot sun in the garden was about to turn it into buttermilk!

And I almost laughed out loud when I heard a lady ask, “How often do I need to turn on the sprinkler system so our dainty daffodils won’t get thirsty?” I had to bite my tongue to keep from telling her about our sprinkler system back home at Route 4 that involved four or five boys totin’ a bucket of water in each hand from the branch. It’s just as well that she didn’t hear that. She probably would have thought we had dinosaurs out in the pasture behind the barn.

But the one that made my back hurt was when a grown man in flip-flops and short pants asked the clerk, “What kind of weed killer do you recommend for those pesky little dandelions?” The only weed killers we ever knew were all us boys (the girls didn’t get their hands dirty!) on our hands and knees pulling up the ragweeds and crabgrass by the roots. And don’t you even think about not getting’ all the roots.

Daddy believed in having the cleanest middles ever known to mankind. For my non-farming, mill-hill, city slicker cousins, the middles in the garden were those spaces between the rows of corn, beans, maters or whatever. I always thought that back-breaking job was just to keep us busy. Only later did I learn that the ragweeds and crabgrass needed to be pulled up by the roots to keep them from choking the life out of the tender corn or bean plants.

Daddy always liked to wait till we were ready to dig into a platter of hot, buttered corn-on-the-cob and some fresh, vine-ripe mater-and-mayonnaise sandwiches. Then he’d say to no one in particular, “Boys, just remember how this smells and tastes the next time you’re on your hands and knees pulling up those ragweeds and crabgrass.” But, of course, we’d still gripe and belly-ache every time we had to get our hands dirty cleaning the middles in the garden. And that would prompt Daddy to declare that we wouldn’t work if we had a job in a pie factory!

Any time my mind wanders back to the garden, I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 15 when some Pharisees and other learned folks looked down their noses at the disciples because they didn’t wash their hands before they ate supper. Now I’m a firm believer in ‘washin’ up before supper,’ as Mother reminded us every day of our life on the farm.

Jesus was givin’ these folks a woodshed lesson that day when He told them that it’s not what goes into a person’s mouth that makes him dirty; it’s what comes out of the mouth that makes a person unclean (Matthew 15:11). Some of the Pharisees got their feelings hurt when they heard this. I guess Jesus stepped on their toes too hard. Anyway, that’s when Jesus taught them about ragweeds and crabgrass (v.13), “every plant that’s not planted by our Heavenly Father will be pulled up by the roots.” That’s the only way to keep the middles clean in the garden. And give tender young plants the chance to turn into something good.

God works the garden of our hearts every day. And sometimes he finds stuff that He needs to get rid of so what He has planted there will have a chance to grow and be something good. Maybe we could give Him a hand today by going to our knees and gettin’ rid of those briars, wild onions, ragweeds and crabgrass. Just pull ‘em up by the roots.

It’s the only way to keep ‘em from spreadin’.