Editor’s Note:

The following Woodshed Wisdom was originally posted on Mar. 10, 2011 to honor the memory of the late Jake Robinson, South Carolina Highway Patrolman extraordinaire. It details the first contact Jake had with a trio of red-dirt, Rte. 4 country boys – James McKee, Ralph Nix and yours truly. The three of us were practically inseparable throughout boyhood. When you saw one of us, the other two were not far behind.

But while the memory is fuzzy about why Ralph wasn’t with us when we met Jake that Sunday afternoon over 50 years ago (he might have been in a hot game of Cow Pasture Baseball), the details of the meeting are crystal clear as posted in the original account. The purpose of this re-post is not to re-tell that story, but to report the second meeting of Jake Robinson and our boyhood buddy, James McKee. This meeting occurred as James grabbed the hand of our Lord Jesus yesterday and took the Hallelujah Exit off this ol’ road we’re all traveling on.

But when James and Jake met again yesterday, it wasn’t on a two-lane, tar-and-gravel country road. And Jake didn’t give James a ticket this time for walking on the wrong side of the road. Instead, I believe Jake probably met James with one of his patented strong-as-steel handshakes and walked with him down Gloryland Boulevard, the street that’s paved with pure gold and where the air they’re breathing is equally pure and healthy. Neither Jake nor James will ever be sick again. And to me, that’s a ticket worth writing about.

James Olin McKee

To all our Woodshed friends: Please pray for James’ wife Nadine, and son Anthony, along with Elizabeth, Michael and Cindy, and the rest of the family. And, if you think about it, please include the other two Boyhood Buddies in your prayers. God Bless.

Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

As I rounded a curve in the Georgia two-lane blacktop, my thoughts of supper time at home were jarred by a multitude of flashing blue lights. I slowed down to about forty thinking that there might be a bad wreck just ahead. But then, I realized that I didn’t see any red emergency lights. Just a bunch of those flashing blue light strobes that must have sent the squirrels to the very top of the nearest tree.

The next thought that popped into my noggin was to ask one of the officers if Jesse James and his gang had been spotted somewhere out here on Highway 63. Why else would there be so much commotion? The interstate was ten miles in my rear view mirror. And it was another good eight miles or so into Homer. There’s nothing out here but pastures and pine trees.

But then another thought sent that first one about the James gang right out the window. I might not be the brightest light bulb in the pack, but I had no intention of paying a visit to the Banks County ‘woodshed’ with cornbread and milk and pinto beans waitin’ on me at home.

Of course, this was a license check! And that realization sent my heart rate up about forty beats a minute. Had I let my tag run out? Can I find my registration card? Are both head lights working? Has my license expired? Since we only renew every hundred years or so, I can never remember when it’s supposed to be done. Does this ever happen to anybody except me?

I waited nervously for about thirty minutes (in reality, it was only a couple of minutes) while the officer checked everything out. Then he said what my up-tempo pulse needed to hear, “Thank you, sir, and have a good evening.” Another confirmation of my decision to take the two-lane when I have a choice of two roads to take on the way home.

I never go through a license check without thinking about the first ticket I ever received from a highway patrolman. I can’t say I was pulled over because I wasn’t. Wasn’t even old enough to have a driver’s license. See, back home at Route 4, Seneca, SC, there was a stretch of the main road that everybody called Red Hollow. Probably goes back to when it was a red dirt road.

Anyway, my buddy, James McKee, and I were out walking on a Sunday afternoon. I don’t remember that it was Sunday, but it had to be. Otherwise, we would’ve been chopping and totin’ firewood and stove wood or drawing water, or some other chore around the ol’ farmhouse. And I don’t even remember why Ralph Nix, the third member of our little countrified version of The Three Amigos, wasn’t with us on this particular caper.

Anyway, there we were, strolling along through Red Hollow, talking about whatever 11-or-12-year-old boys talk about. Probably lamenting how long it would be before we could get our license and start driving. Then, from out of nowhere it seemed, a South Carolina Highway Patrol car pulled up beside of us and stopped. Our hearts jumped up in our throats and our mouths went as dry as a bale of hay.

Out of that patrol car stepped a man who blocked the sun when he stepped over to where James and I were standing on the side of the road with our knees knocking like sledge hammers! He was about 7-feet tall, broad at the shoulders and narrow at the hips. And that gun! It looked like a shotgun hanging down one side. And what appeared to be a 10-foot nightstick on the other leg. Many times since that day, I’ve always thought that guy should have played the part of Buford Pusser in ‘Walking Tall.’ Or Broderick Crawford in the TV show, ‘The Highway Patrol.’

When he said, “Boys, come over here and get in my car,” James and I fell on top of each other in the back seat. This highway man could have picked each of us up with one hand and flung us out in the briar patch if he had wanted to. So when he said, “Get in the car,” he didn’t have to repeat himself. While I was praying (we learned to pray back then at any early age!) that Daddy wouldn’t come by and spot us in the back seat of a highway patrol car, I heard the Highway Man say, “You boys know why I stopped you?”

I tried to speak first but no intelligible sound would come out of my throat – just a stutterin’ nnnnnoooo, sir. Before James could test his voice box, the Highway Man answered his own question. “You boys were walking on the wrong side of the road.” By this time I was beginning to get some oxygen back in my brain. And I thought, “Well, it’s not exactly the five o’clock rush hour here in Red Hollow, so what’s the big deal?” Notice I said thought, not said.

Did I mention he was also a mind-reader? As he was writing our warning tickets for “improper walking,” Highway Man explained. “You are always supposed to walk on the left side of the road facing oncoming traffic.” I started to say, “So the right side of the road is not really the right side of the road.” But as James clamped his hand over my mouth, Highway Man said, “If a driver loses control, you’ll see it in time to jump out of the way and not be hurt.”

Years later, I was privileged to get to know and become friends with the Highway Man. And many times during our friendship, I’ve asked Jake Robinson why he gave two country boys tickets for walking on the wrong side of the road. And he’d always smile and say, “Have you ever been hit by a car that was out of control?” We’d both have a good laugh and he’d shake (more like crush) my hand. And I’d have to say, “No, Jake, I haven’t.”

When I learned last week that Jake had passed away, I could almost feel that powerful vise-grip of his strong right hand and hear him say, “That’s because you learned what the real right side of the road was.”

And now I just wonder how many other youngsters (walkers & drivers) he might have shown the right side of the road during his 40 years as a South Carolina Highway Patrolman. Truth be told, at that age, we all probably needed to be shown not only the right side of the road to walk on, but also the right road to walk on, period.

I guess that’s why I choose those two-lane black tops even now, more than fifty years removed from that ‘improper walking’ ticket, when I have a choice of two roads to take on the way home. Because of Jake Robinson, I feel more secure on the narrow road versus the wide interstates.

There’s another man who’s been teaching us for over two thousand years the difference in the two roads of life. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus reminds us once again that the road to trouble is wide, and many people go there. But the road that leads to joy, peace, and happiness is narrow, and only a few find it.

The wide road is fast and almost anything and anybody can go there. And there might be some potholes in the narrow road. But then again, I’ve never seen a 15-car pileup on a two-lane blacktop. The life lesson here is as plain as the nose on my face – as we’re all walking down the road of life, on our way Home, walking on the left side of the right road, is a good travel plan. Like the sign at the old country church said – Get Right or Get Left!

This is just me, but I believe that when the Highway Man made it home last week, Jesus told him, “Good job, Jake Robinson. You not only showed ‘em the right side of the road, but you also showed ‘em the right road.” And Jake probably just smiled and gave Him one of those knuckle-crushin’ handshakes.

Jake Robinson
The Highway Man