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This is Not Your Grandma’s Chevrolet 

I was doing what you are supposed to do in the slow lane – driving slowly!  If I had been poking around in the fast lane I might have understood but I was in the proper poking around lane unless, that is, I had been passing, turning left, or saw a blue light beside the road.  Definitely, do not fail to move over for a blue light, especially on I-16 in Bullock County Georgia but that’s all I have to say about that! 

 I was headed to work, and ahead of schedule, so I was taking my own sweet time.  I was listening to Rick and Bubba on the radio and minding my own business when suddenly I looked up in my rearview mirror and what should appear, but a little red sports car about to hit me in the rear.  (I must be one of those poets that don’t know it).  At first, I thought he must be some student who was late for class.  Then I thought, no, he is some guy who had always dreamed of racing in the NASCAR circuit and he is drafting.  When I looked back in the mirror again I saw blond hair – lots of long blond hair.  That was my first suspicion that he was not a “he.”  My second clue was that she was so close I could smell her perfume!  I knew if I slammed on brakes we would both be late for work.  I sped up slightly.  She moved up slightly.  Finally, she got the chance to pass.  She flew by me like Usain Bolt jacked up on Mountain Dew.  As she passed, I read her vanity license plate.  It said Gunny.  That raised the question that many vanity plates raise; what does that mean?  I thought, “Well, maybe she is a gunnery sergeant in the United States Marine Corps.”  They are sometimes called “Gunny.”  I didn’t really get a good look at her in the rear view mirror, and certainly not as she broke the sound barrier passing me, but as best as I could tell, she didn’t look like a Marine.

 I was doubly surprised when I pulled beside her at a red light.  I was surprised that I had caught her and surprised at who she was, or actually what she was.  She didn’t appear to be a Marine or a student late for class.  She appeared to be a grandma!  The long blond hair had thrown me.  My granny didn’t have long blond hair.  Mine had short blue hair with a beauty shop permanent.  I’m glad older ladies don’t get their hair dyed blue anymore but I’ve noticed much younger ones these days dying theirs blue – or pink, lime green, and even purple.    

Maybe Gunny is a nickname for Granny.  If so, she certainly is not like my granny was.  She didn’t look like my granny, she didn’t drive like my granny, and that car certainly was not my granny’s Chevrolet.  Now that I think about it, I don’t believe my granny ever learned how to drive but that didn’t stop her from telling grandpa how to drive. 

I guess grannies have changed, but before I get myself in too much trouble, I’m not saying that is necessarily a bad thing (unless you are trying to run over some poor grandpa in the slow lane).  I might better add we grandpas have changed too.  In fact, the only one who has not changed is the One who does not change.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever but then why would perfection need to change?                 

                                               

I’ve Had That Surgery

Occasionally, someone will ask me how many times I’ve been in the hospital.  For a little fun, I often reply, “Oh, I’ve lost count, but probably thousands of times.”  They usually look at me like I’m either crazy or just plain lying.  Then I explain that I’ve been there as a minister, not as a patience.   Jean’s recent stay in the hospital caused me to reminisce about some of those hospital experiences. 

Some people love to show off their battle wounds and scars, even when they shouldn’t!  With thirty years of pastoral experience, I’ve seen it all – whether I wanted to or not!  One older gentleman showed me a pill bottle that he had filled with gall stones – his gall stones.  The doctor had given them to him as a souvenir.  I rammed my hands in my pockets in fear that he might pour them out.  I sure was glad the doctor didn’t give him his gall bladder!

I approached an open hospital room door of a church member once, only to see her standing inside with her back to the door.  She wore one of those “tie in the back” hospital gowns, only it was not tied.  I ducked back quickly into the hallway, hoping they had not seen me.  I heard her daughter say, “Mama, someone was at the door and I think it was your pastor.”  Her mama said, “Well, if it was he just saw my....”  Well, never mind, you get the picture.  I came back later for an awkward visit.  Neither of us mentioned that I had been by earlier.

One church where I served had a number of retired pastors in the congregation.  A couple of them liked to visit the hospitals with me.  I enjoyed their company but one of them, whom we will call Bro. Jones, liked to compare notes with the patients.  I suppose he thought he was comforting them but sometimes he was anything but comforting.  He told one patient that his twin brother had the exact same thing he had and had died from it!  Once he went with me to visit a lady, who was scheduled to have a hysterectomy.  I thought Bro. Jones and I had discussed the nature of her surgery but evidently something got lost in translation.  Right before we prayed and they wheeled her down to surgery, Bro. Jones patted her on the hand and said, “Now sister, don’t you worry about a thing.  You are going to be fine because God is going to take care of you.  I know, because I’ve had this same surgery three times and it is a piece of cake!”  Mrs. Jones didn’t say a word and I quickly said, “Let’s pray.”  I stammered and stuttered as I searched for something to say after that.  I said amen, grabbed Bro. Jones by the hand, and practically ran out of the room dragging him with me.  I wanted to laugh but at the same time crawl under the bed.  In the hall, I asked, “Bro. Jones, do you not know what surgery she is having?”  He said, “She’s having kidney stones removed, isn’t she?”  I answered, “No!  When I told him what she was having, he turned red and said, “I’m going back in there and tell her that I’ve never had that one.”  I said, “No you’re not!  I’m pretty sure she knows that without you telling her.”

There’s an old children song that says, “O be careful little mouth what you say.”  Solomon once said, “Do not be rash with your mouth.”  Sometimes silence really is golden.

--written by Dr. Bill King for the Opelika Auburn News and other newspapers across Alabama.  To schedule Bill (or Billy Bob) to speak, story, sing, or for supper contact him at bkpreach@yahoo.com   

 

She Was Always There

When I was growing up the one person who was always there for me was my mother.  I was born in the old DeKalb General Hospital, in Fort Payne, Alabama.  Guess who was there.  Well dah, of course she was there.  I wouldn’t be here without her!  Her face may have been the first one I ever saw.     

She was a stay at home mom for my first fifteen years.  Both of my parents were hard workers.  Dad owned and operated a business and Mom owned and operated our home!  Dad was rarely home, especially the last two years of his life.  Mom on the other hand was always home up until the time when Dad died.  She was the one who saw me off to school each morning and welcomed me each afternoon when I came home.  I remember coming home on wash day.  She washed out clothes early in the morning and then hung them on a clothesline outside to dry.  By the time I came home from school, supper was on the stove and she was ironing while she watched her “stories.”  I think it was “The Edge of Night” about that time each day.  I usually went to help Dad in his place of business each afternoon but only after I finished my homework.  I had my own tutor – Mom.  Neither She nor Dad had completed high school but she fully intended that I would do so and do so with good grades. 

I was fifteen when Dad died.  Mom was forty-eight.  For the first time in her life she was hired for a job.  We made quite a team.  She had never learned to drive so I, at fifteen and with no license, drove her to work each morning before I went to school.  I picked her up each afternoon.  Without the firm hand of a father I made some bad choices over the next couple of years.  I have no doubt that there were times when she wanted to kill me.  Instead, thankfully, she talked to God about me and talked to me about God.  At the time I had rather she had simply talked to God and left me alone but she refused to do so.  These many years later, I am thankful.                 

    She has been gone for almost fourteen years now.  She gave me the gift of one more time with her before she made her way to heaven.  Mom had contracted Guillain-Barre Syndrome but the doctors back home could not determine her exact problem.  They transferred her to a hospital in Birmingham but they had waited too long.  We had planned to make the trip to Birmingham the next day but I simply had not peace about waiting another day.  When I arrived at the hospital I discovered she had been moved to the intensive care unit and was not conscious.  A nurse told me I could see her but that she probably would not know I was there and would not speak.  Mom seemed to be waiting for her children to arrive.  As I stood by her bedside, took her hand, she opened her eyes, looked at me, smiled and said, “I love you, Son.”  I returned the love and kissed her forehead.  That night she was gone.  I will always give thanks that I went, that she waited, and for those four words. 

I usually bring you a laugh in my column.  While this one may seem like a sad story I have a smile on my face.  Thank you, Mom, being there all the way to the end.  I’ll see you later.

What is that in the Swimming Pool?

    When Jean and I bought our current house it came with a giant hole in the back yard.  Jed and Granny called theirs a cement pond.  I have called mine a number of things and have been tempted on a couple of occasions to fill it full of cement!  My family loves that thing dearly, and I love my family dearly, so I have not called for the cement truck yet.  I must say though, at my age I am too old to have a baby and that swimming pool is about like taking care of one. 

When I was a boy we didn’t have to do anything to our swimming hole but move the cows out of the way and jump in!  The water was always a lovely shade of green.  The one thing that our pool has in common with the creeks and ponds I swam in is the creatures I find in it.  I have found almost everything in it except fish.  So far this year I have pulled out three turtles, one snake, one chipmunk, and numerous lizards, salamanders, and worms.  Frog season has not even arrived yet but I have already fished out (or should that be frogged out) about a dozen.  Before long I’ll be plagued with more frogs than Pharaoh was when Moses was trying to get him to let his people go.  I’ll have tree frogs, bullfrogs, and toads.  When my daily frog count gets to about fifty I’ll be the one wanting to go somewhere!

 Over the years that we have lived in this house with the hole in the back yard I have removed other creatures including squirrels, birds, mice, moles, and one black Labrador retriever.  No, the dog didn’t drown and actually I didn’t remove him, he removed himself.  One nice summer day as I stood by the pool this unknown dog walked down the steps of our deck, down the steps into the pool, swam about two or three laps, walked back up the steps, shook himself off really well and headed on to wherever he had come from.  He didn’t even say, “Thank You!” 

There are also the non-breathing items that find their way into the water.  Even though we have few trees in our yard, I always manage to have a pool full of them each fall.  My neighbor’s leaves have no sense of property lines.  I posted no trespassing signs but those leaves pay no attention whatsoever.  Some of the trees shed these little squiggly things that look like worms each spring.  One or two of the trees are Sweet Gums.  Have you ever stepped on a sweet gum ball with your bare feet?  That will cause you to say, “Glory,” but not “Hallelujah!”  That flash flood we had back in December washed mud across my yard, into the pool, and turned it as brown as a cow pond.  Did Moses send a mud plague on the Egyptians?  Pollen in the spring, and enough little boys in the summer, turns the water yellow.

Around the first of June all that work and attention will pay off.  No, not because I’ll dive in.  I must have gone swimming 93,398,887 times as a boy so I guess I burned out.  The thrill for me now is simply watching my family have so much fun in that hole in my back yard.  It is work to maintain but it is a labor of love.  Whether it is for God, family, friends, or country, the things we do for the ones we love should bring us a blessing!            

--written by Dr. Bill King for the Opelika Auburn News and other newspapers across Alabama.  To schedule Bill (or Bill as Billy Bob Bohannon) to speak, story, sing, or for supper contact him at bkpreach@yahoo.com.  www.brobillybob.com

The Ugliest Pants I Had Ever Seen

In last week’s column I mentioned that my mama once bought me a pair of pants from a traveling salesman.  Do you remember when peddlers used to show up at your door hawking things like shoes, brushes, and encyclopedias?  Much like those sack shirts and dresses, traveling salesmen, as well as some of the things they sold, have all but faded away.  I recently removed my old set of World Books from my bookshelf and boxed them up to give away (if I can). 

Anyway, back to the pants story.  A salesman traveling in a car full of clothes knocked on our door.  When I came home from school that day Mama grinned and said, “I have a surprise for you.”  She pulled out what had to be the ugliest pair of pants I had ever laid these two brown eyes on.  She said, “I bought you a nice pair of school pants today.”  I thought they might be nice but they certainly were anything but pretty.  They were cotton pants, much like khakis, but they were not khaki colored.  I thought, maybe, hopefully, under more light they might look better.  They did not.  They were a putrid shade of yellow.  When I tried them on I was elated to find they were much too large for me.  I breathed a great sigh of relief and said something like, “Well, that’s too bad.   I guess we’ll have to give them back to the man because they don’t fit.”  My heart sank when Mama said she believed she could “take them up.”  To add insult to injury, she did so by sewing pleats in the front of them.  Now I know that Cary Grant and Fred Astaire wore pleated pants back in the day, and they’ve been in vogue a time or two since then, but I had never seen any of the boys at Plainview Elementary School sporting a pair.  I doubted that my wearing those pants to school would land me a spot on the best dressed list.  I had no doubt in my mind that my Mama had set out to ruin my life with those pants.  I think that was about the time when I had begun to notice girls in a new light.  I sincerely believed if I wore those pants to school the girls would notice me but not in the light I wanted!  I figured I probably had learned about all I needed to know by that time anyway.  I saw no other option so I decided I had gone to school long enough and needed to wrap up my education half way through the fifth grade.  Mama and I did not see eye to eye on me dropping out of school or my refusal to wear those pants.  Since she cooked most of our meals and I have always enjoyed eating, she won.

Would you believe that the very first time I wore those pants to school I “accidently” fell on the playground and burst a knee right out of one leg?  No, that was not what I intended.  I intended to burst out both knees!  I was one happy boy when Mama patched them and said, “I guess you’ll have to wear them for play clothes.”

Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.  I still don’t know how, but I guess Mama really thought those pants were pretty - or could it be that she simply got them at a great price?  In the eyes of your heavenly Father you are beautiful too – even if you, or anyone else, don’t think so!

 

Homemade Sack Shirts

My parents lived through the great depression.  Dad was thirteen and mom was seven when the market crashed in 1929.  They knew the feeling of doing without.  Their families grew most of their food, including vegetables and meat, so they didn’t go hungry.  They rarely had store bought items such as sugar, tea, and coffee.  Bananas were unheard of and oranges might be under the Christmas tree, along with a stick of peppermint candy, but not much else.  They owned few clothes and only one pair of shoes at a time.  When warm weather arrived they went barefoot.  Most of the clothes they had were home-sewn.  Many of those were fashioned from cloth sacks. Back then items such as flour, sugar, seed, feed, and fertilizer came in cloth bags.  In the south cotton was king so cotton cloth was common and cheap.  Many companies packaged the goods they sold in cloth sacks rather than the wooden barrels or crates that had been used in earlier years.  Poorer families fashioned shirts and dresses from these sacks.  When companies first began to use sacks, back in the 1800s, they were mostly white and may have had the company name on them.  I can imagine a girl wearing a flour sack dress that had Martha White Flour written across it. 

By the 1920s mills began to make sacks in printed fabrics.  Suddenly fashion rose to a new level!  The number of sacks required for a shirt or a dress depended on the size of the wearer.  A dress might require material from two or three sacks.  Mamas hoped to get the same print each time.  If a young lady had put on too many extra pounds someone might say, “I’ll bet that dress took five sacks – bless her heart!”  If the dress was too short someone might say, “She should have waited for one more bag of flour for that dress!”

I did not grow up with wealth but I must confess that I have never worn a sack shirt or any other article of clothing fashioned from cloth bags.  My clothes were store bought, mostly from one of the Williams brother’s stores.  Well, there was that one time when a traveling clothes salesman came by our house but that’s a story for another column. 

Billy Bob’s Bohannon’s Uncle Lonzo had grown tired of wearing those sack shirts.  He saved up enough money to go into town to buy a shirt.  He put on his best homemade shirt and strutted into Ned Jenkins General Store like he owned the place. He told Mr. Jenkins he had come to purchase, “A factory made store bought shirt.”   Ole Mr. Jenkins asked, “Son, what size shirt do you wear?”  Uncle Lonzo didn’t have a clue as to his size.  Eventually he said, “I guess about a three sacker.”  Mr. Jenkins grinned as he picked up a shirt, looked at the label inside and said, “This one is a 16.”  Then Uncle Lonzo said, “Oh,” then looked on the inside of that fertilizer sack shirt he had on, and said, “This one is a 13-13-13!” 

Some people may have viewed those sacks as worthless and threw them away once they had emptied them of their contents.  Others realized the sack’s material could be reused and fashioned into something worthwhile.  Kind of reminds me of myself. There was a time when I was little more than an empty shell but then God refashioned me and made me into something brand new – a new creation – one bought with a price.

--written by Dr. Bill King for the Opelika Auburn News and other newspapers across Alabama.  To schedule Bill (or Billy Bob Bohannon) to speak, story, sing, or for supper contact him at bkpreach@yahoo.com