As I’ve had more birthdays, I’ve come to realize just how much my folks actually knew and just how much I miss them. See, years ago when I wore a younger man’s clothes and my parents were still …
Thanks for reading Chatham County’s leading news source! Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing to the News + Record – you can do so by clicking here.
As I’ve had more birthdays, I’ve come to realize just how much my folks actually knew and just how much I miss them. See, years ago when I wore a younger man’s clothes and my parents were still around, I was — like Mark Twain said about his father — convinced they were both pretty ignorant about most everything and probably needed help coming in out of the rain.
The interesting thing I’ve discovered since they’ve been gone is, as Twain also said about his father, how much the old man had learned by the time the son was 21.
In some ways, I was an only child. I have two older brothers I love very much, although it might be hard to prove that since we don’t see each other all that much. There’s probably enough blame for all that since the roads run both ways but as much as anything, I think chief among the reasons are our other parents – Mother Nature and Father Time. By the time I came along, both brothers were in school and doing all that comes with that so I had Mama pretty much to myself during the day.
We did all kinds of things then like sharing Pepsis and dividing the candy bar I’d get from Sam White’s store just up the road from our driveway. She fed me throughout my childhood — really well — and took care of me when I’d get sick and let me sleep in her big ol’ bed when that happened and listen to Bill Jackson on WPTF on her bedside radio and give me homemade tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches to get me well.
She taught me things — things like “yes, ma’am” and “yes, sir” no matter if you were black or white or had 14 green heads. If you were older, we were to show respect. I learned “please” and “thank you” and “may I...” I learned to open doors — buildings and otherwise — for folks. I leaned not to stare at someone who might have a physical blemish but instead to treat them as any other individual. Now before you think all this is a love letter to me from me, let me hasten to add that I didn’t always do those things and even today I find myself sometimes stumbling but the lessons were there.
I say all that to point out that there are life lessons all around all the time and our instructors can take many forms. They may be our mama; they could be a friend; they could be our grandma or grandpa; I hope as I’ve moved into that last role that somewhere along the line I’m sharing a thing or two that’s true and helpful.
But the other day I observed a life lesson about human nature from an unusual teacher: my dog. At our house, the room I call my “study” serves a number of purposes. I do go into it to read and pray and meditate about Sunday morning sermons and such. I also go there to read, or at least look at, the collection of books I have about baseball and the War Between the States. There’s also a big stack or two of unread newspapers, some travel cases of cassettes and untold amounts of memorabilia. And occasionally, I may take a nap there.
It’s also where I go to pound out this column and anything else that may see the light of print. From where I sit, I can look out two windows since I’m in a corner. One side is the front yard but the other looks out on the pasture between our place and our son and daughter-in-law’s homestead. There’s a gate a few feet from that window and the dog comes and goes at will between the two places by crawling through a low place under the gate that she and her predecessors have wallowed out by such activity.
The other day, as I lounged in my desk chair seeking inspiration for either a sermon or a column, I heard the dog laying a really good barking on someone or something. Looking out the window, I saw she and a cow were nose to nose on opposite sides of the fence, thankfully. That happens often, although we’ve had the dog for some time and she’s seen the cows many times before and, by breed, she’s a “cow dog” — a shepherd — and ought not to be upset when she spies Bossy. But sometimes she’s not the brightest bulb in the box.
Anyway, after several minutes of barking, the dog lay down in front of her fence passage but was reluctant to try to get through because the cow was still there and because the hole was full of water from our recent rains. That seemed to upset her but the cow didn’t seem to object to anything. I watched all that and wondered if we humans didn’t sometimes (often?) act like that. We bark and make a fuss at something that doesn’t go our way and then just lie down and quit while the “problem” still faces us. That continued for about 15 minutes until finally the dog said, “Hey. What the heck?” and slid through her hole and made her way to her objective. I watched her trot across the pasture and up the hill. She got to the other side, slid through another gate and went on her way. As I observed all that, I noticed that the dog had gotten dirty as she went through the water hole but she got what she wanted.
And there you go. How many times are we afraid to try something, afraid that our problem stands in our way, or afraid we may get dirty in the process?
In the absence of Mama, I’m starting to pay more attention to the dog and what she does.