Cotton Burrs and Railroad Spikes

Psalm 127

My dad was raised on a farm, so he believed in hard work. He also believed in training his children to do hard work. Daddy was especially fond of having large mounds of something or other delivered to the house, so we kids could distribute it evenly upon its desired destination.  I have previously mentioned that one of these large mounds was dirt from the new septic tank that Pennye had to distribute over the back yard as recompense for the sin of driving without a license.

I vividly remember the afternoon I got off the school bus and saw a large pile of… something in the front yard.  When I went in the house, my dad was sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee. (I have acquired his habit of drinking coffee at all times of day or night.)  I asked about the mound, and he replied, “Those are cotton burrs, gin trash! It’s good fertilizer, and I want you and David to start spreading it over the yard after your homework.” I didn’t talk back and I didn’t complain, at least not out-loud. I did, however, apply myself more dutifully and diligently to my homework that night.  My math took much longer than usual, and I proof-read my English assignment three times. Maybe that was part of his plan all along.

gin trash

In that part of West Texas, getting a lush lawn is difficult, but Daddy knew all the tricks. One such trick was collecting the scrap railroad spikes from the tracks across the road.  He had us drive them in the ground all around the trees he had planted because the iron produced, as they slowly rusted, would provide nutrients for the saplings. Just two weekends before, he had us digging in the bar-ditch.  He showed us how the Bermuda grass was growing nice and thick because of the water that had collected in the ditch.  He had us dig up layers of it to be moved to the bare spots in the front yard. Now, it needed to be fertilized, and the cotton burrs were just the thing. It would need to be spread thinly over the entire yard. He wanted the yard of the parsonage to reflect his good stewardship of the living quarters the church provided.

The Psalmist said sons are like arrows in the hands of a warrior. To my dad, hard work was the bow that shoots the arrow straight. The Psalmist goes on to say “They shall not be ashamed.” He wanted to teach us to take pride in caring for things we are responsible for. While being proud is to be avoided, taking pride shows respect. As an adult, I practiced what I learned from him.  In each parsonage, I worked to make sure the grounds were always presentable. I used his thrifty, common-sense practices to maintain and enhance the landscaping.  I never had to be ashamed of what passers-by saw.

That summer, armed with shovels, rakes, hoes, and other  instruments of horticulture, we spent the following weeks digging, moving, spreading, and watering. When we finished, it looked like there had been a blizzard followed by a sandstorm. The whole yard was a dirty white. By the end of the summer, though, it was deep green, and our shoulders and arms were dark brown. We had one of the nicest yards around, and on a pittance of investment.  Healthy trees, healthy grass, and healthy sons are hard to dispute.


Published in: on June 11, 2018 at 8:51 am  Leave a Comment  

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