Woodshed Wisdom
By Freeman Martin

My MHB (mill hill bride) was watching a news story on tv the other night while she was whipping up some sweet potato soufflé and cornbread dressing and chocolate éclair for our Thanksgiving Day feast. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about my pone of sweet cornbread being ground into smithereens for dressing. Anyway, the story on tv was about the White House turkey. Now, hold on just a cotton-pickin’ minute. I know what you’re already thinking. Just back the pulpwood truck up and put it in neutral. This is not about politics. It’s about the turkey on the Thanksgiving table.

The reporter on the news said that it was one of three turkeys that were sent to the White House for approval. One was unlucky. He was chosen to give his life for the cause. The other two were given a pardon and sent to live out the rest of their days in some comfy chicken coop somewhere in Virginia.

Hearing the story of these three turkeys flipped the country boy toggle switch in my mind and, before you could say ‘Gobble, Gobble,’ I was back home at Route 4. On the Martin farm, and please don’t let me hear you humming E, I, E, I, O – heard that all my life – we had six turkeys (boys) and three turkey-ettes (girls). And most days, Thanksgiving or not, one or more of us had ‘our head on the chopping block’ at the woodshed because of some misdeed, usually well-deserved, I might add. And you could just erase the word pardon from the hard drive when you got to the woodshed, if you catch my drift.

Now, see what you’ve done. I’m already chasing rabbits down a side road. Where was I? Oh, yeah, back to the Thanksgiving table. I’ve hit the search button on my ol’ dirt road data bank several times for Thanksgiving Dinner and I just keep getting the message, ‘no entries found.’ I cannot remember any Saturday in the Novembers of my childhood when Mother and Daddy came home from the A & P with a big ol’ Butterball turkey for dinner on Thursday. And that’s the noon meal. Nighttime meal is supper. The name of the picture in my office is “Last Supper,” not Last Dinner. Call me crazy, but if it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.

We did, however, occasionally have an ol’ rooster fried up for Sunday dinner. Especially if we were having company, like Rev. Dickson and the visiting preacher during revivals, or if we were having dinner on the grounds at Return Baptist Church. And catching that rooster on Saturday night was always a two-man adventure. He’d be hidin’ in a tree which meant that Ollie and me, or Wade and me would have to climb that tree together. One of us would blind him with Daddy’s flashlight while the other one grabbed our Sunday dinner and headed for the chopping block.

I remember one Saturday evening in particular when that rooster got away and we wound up in the woodshed, which meant we ate Sunday dinner standing up. Without Mother’s buttermilk-and-flour crusted, skillet-fried chicken. Get this picture. I was holding the aforementioned flashlight, shining it right in that ol’ buzzard’s eyes. He didn’t flinch a feather till Ollie grabbed him. Then you’d have thought that World War Three had broken out. That rascal started squawking like a bunch of hens when a fox sneaks into the chicken house.

Ollie got scared, threw him toward me, jumped out of the tree, and ran toward the house. I tried to hold the rooster and the flashlight, but after several cuts from his spurs, I dropped him and the flashlight. Long story short, I climbed down out of the tree, fell to my bleeding hands and knees trying to round up all the pieces of Daddy’s favorite flashlight. Out of nowhere it seemed like that pair of number twelve work boots just magically appeared right in front of my eyes. I don’t think I have to tell you who the only person was on our farm who wore number twelve work boots. Or whose goose got cooked that day. And that’s how I learned that fried chicken can be dangerous to your health.

But my MHB and me and the young’uns had a Thanksgiving feast that was fit for a king. It almost reminded me of family reunions of old at Uncle Tack and Aunt Lallie Vee’s house. After I had deep-fried a bird, our daughter Kim cooked for three solid hours. And when she was through, we had a gob of mouth-waterin’ stuff that I had never seen or heard about around Route 4. There was squash casserole, Georgia cornbread, onion casserole, cornbread salad, and green beans, too, to go with MHB’s dressing and gravy and sweet taters and cranberry sauce.

Then Jeff and Sarah-Parker and some special friends showed up with more good stuff like punkin’ and sweet tater pies, and more dressing, and more corn, and more this, and more that. My mind was in a caloric fog. I was so glad to see the teenagers-in-love, Casey and Hope, show up to help us be thankful for this bounty. Thank the Lord nobody showed up with okra. Raised them kids right. No okra in this house. I’m thankful for that. And you know what else I’m thankful for? We had something that tasted sweeter than all the tater pies and cakes and casseroles in the whole world. It’s called FAMILY! Thank you, Jesus, for family.

As wonderful as it was with all that around our house this Thanksgiving Day, it can’t hold a candle to the bountiful feast that’s being prepared for the family of God. And it’s all possible because God chose to pardon me and you by sending His only Begotten Son to die for us on an old rugged cross. Jesus chose to give His life for the cause that day on Calvary. And He endured all that punishment, shame and pain as a free pardon for all our mess ups, goof ups, and various and sundry other sins and shortcomings.

Jesus is still standing there at the door of our heart with our ticket in His hand. Today, while you have time, call on him while He’s near (Isaiah 55:6-7). His gift of salvation comes with a free ticket to that great banquet table in Heaven where there’s a feast every day. So pardon me if I feel like the writer of Psalm 95:1-2. Come on, folks, it’s time to sing and shout and come before Him with thanksgiving. All you have to do is open the door and invite Him to come in to stay.

And, believe you me, that’s a lot easier than climbing a tree to catch a rooster.

Editor’s note: Freeman Martin’s first book, Woodshed Wisdom, Vol.1, is now available. For an autographed copy, send $15.00, plus $3.00 shipping and handling to: Freeman Martin, 310 Andrew Pickens Dr, Seneca, SC 29678.