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I'm not sure when my first memories of being in the world truly imprinted themselves on the wrinkles and folds of my mind. For that matter, were those memories more of the heart and less of the mind? Were they really my memories, or were they the memories of my parents, grandparents or older siblings woven together with flashes, glimpses of true memories of my own? Even those memories were subject to the influence of time and often "flavored" by our own experiences, vague recollections, dreams and wishes.
Still, just as the oral legends of history are full of the hyperbole of retelling and embellishing of parties to the event, our tales are more-often-than-not mostly truth. That's what I have tried to do with this, my story. I don't presume to say I am a legend, far from it. It's just that I don't believe anyone's life is meaningless. I know that there is a plan for our lives. I hope that you will find some truths in these "tales" that will ring true for you. Maybe you will see some of yourself in these experiences and apply them, laugh at them (and me, if you like), or simply make a connection to that Truth. Which reminds me; I had a professor once who jumped up on a table the first night of the course and yelled to the class,
"There is no truth with a capital T!"
Oh, really? That's not what I have learned in my life. If you don't believe in The Truth, maybe this glance into life of one True believer will convince you that God is real and that Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever!
"I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us. We can't be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces,"
Romans 8:38 (Gods Word 1995)
Some would have called me "accident prone."
Others did say,
"Aw, he's just all boy."
Fact is, regardless of what they thought, I did have more than my share of accidents—mostly self-inflicted. I can't remember them all. I lost count how many incidents occurred, but here are a few examples: shot in the back of the head by a kid with a B-B gun, fell out of who knows how many trees, with resulting broken arms, the "bicycle incident" with broken shoulder blade and collar bone on my left side and broken wrist on the right. I missed several days of school over that. I was doing well in school at that point, and feel sometimes this incident was part of the catalyst for my first drop-out year.
But I digress. Back to Mr. Venable. Someone asked me once what his first name was. Best I could come up with was, "Mister?" Dad and the venerable Mr. Venable were chatting across the fence on our common boundaries. As was often done by fathers proud of their sons, the conversation turned to sons—for Dad, that was to me. I must certainly have been in a recent incident, because it was fresh on his mind about what happened. His comment was,
"James," he said. (He called my dad James.)
"You know what I think?" he continued.
"Nope," said Dad, who was a man of few words.
"I think the Good Lord has something really special in store for Freddy," Mr. Venable observed. (Yes, that's what they called me.)
"Oh, why?" asked Dad.
"'Cause the devil sure'nuff has been trying to kill him," our neighbor concluded.
If Mr. Venable could see me now, he would probably have the same feelings, except with even more evidence of my plight in life. What he could possibly miss, is how many spiritual lessons have been evident throughout those formative years. I guess the best lesson I learned in this process, was to always be aware of those around you. Your life is a living example of Christ, or should be. Mr. Venable knew our family well enough to make an observation of our belief in God and His power to heal and protect.
Life Lesson Learned: God is working in and through and for you and has been since before you were even conceived. Too many times in my life, I have seen evidence of His miraculous works borne out in consequences of my action (or inaction). God has a plan. I have learned to accept that, and to wait on Him to reveal that in His time, even if that time is never.
Biblical Truths: "(God) Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." —2 Timothy 1:9 (NKJV)
"But we do know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." —Romans 8:28 (NKJV)
It didn't snow very much where and when I grew up. Of course, it snowed more and bigger than it does today. (Global Warming theorists would love that!) At least that's what I remember. Still, many things were bigger then. Maybe because I was much smaller. Besides, the facts seem to bear out that nothing much has changed except in my mind and memories. This memory involved a bitterly cold, grey, overcast day in January. I don't remember the year, but it had to be before I was age four. I was almost four when we moved to 17th Street.
Mom and Dad wouldn't let us go outside. (We were just four in number at that point, Jimmy, Donald, Pearl and me. Donna and Judy didn't come along until much later.)
"You'll catch your death out there," Mom said to us. I guess she wasn't as concerned about Dad. He donned his warmest and layered a couple of flannel shirts, his coat, and (I think.) a long towel substituting as a muffler around his neck. As I have already pointed out, there was precious little snow on the ground, maybe two inches. It was just a dusting by experiences I would have in later years, in much colder climes. That didn't deter my "deter-mined" dad.
You have to understand at this point that my dad was not an educated man. He didn't finish school. He was a victim of his generation and the farm life, and by some evaluations today, may have been a little slow. But, his ingenuity was amazing. Why, he once killed a six-foot rattlesnake, with a two-foot piece of crabapple tree sapling. He had a picture to prove it. But that's another story. Maybe I'll use it in another book.
Now, back to the buckets. He found a washtub, a keg and an upside-down bucket, with the bale as a chin strap, and stacked them. He began to daub snow around the makeshift form. It didn't take long. It may have seemed longer to Dad. We fogged up the windows trying to see him work on the snowman. It wasn't perfect when he finished. It wasn't even completely finished. I didn't count how many times he went around the house looking for "clean" drifts to add to the "snow" man. I know there is a picture somewhere. Doesn't matter, I have a head full of the whole event and somehow, he looked pretty good. Yeah, Dad too.
Life Lesson Learned: First, if you don't have everything you need, make the best of using what you have. My dad was a genius at it. I think my dad was the inventor of bubble gum and bailing wire and duct tape was invented by him and his CC Camp roommate, Al Gore. It really hit home when my own children made the observation that if Mom couldn't sew it, then Dad could glue it. Secondly, you can't measure love by the bucket, but a bucket and barrel and a tub can hold a whole lot of love.
Biblical Truths: "But as God has distributed to every man, as the Lord has called every one, so let him walk." 1 Corinthians 7:17 (KJ 2000)
"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us ... let us use it in proportion to his faith." Romans 12:6 (NIV)
Remember, David used a slingshot and a smooth stone to slay Goliath. Sampson used the jawbone of an ass to defeat an army. Noah made an ark out of gopher wood. Jesus used a little boy's lunch to feed a multitude.
While my brother will probably tell you this story differently from the way I tell it, this is what I remember. I couldn't have been more than three years old. We lived on Small Street. Both of my brothers were older, Donald was plus four, Jimmy plus six. At three, I only wanted to be more like them. That was my first mistake. Let's just say they were both quite adventurous. I don't know how they acquired them, but they had new yo-yos.
In the back of the house (We really couldn't call it a yard.), on the northwest corner, stood an old tree. In the tree, about 10 feet off the ground, on the first limb large enough to support it, was a small platform made of scrap lumber—Jimmy's and Donald's "tree house." It was where I learned my first life lesson that I know made an impact on my life.
The boys had been lying on their stomachs in the tree house and yo-yoing over the edge of the platform. I remember thinking,
"That's cool. I can do that."
I tried. I don't know how I got up there. I guess I was just a natural climber. I even got on my belly on the platform and hung the yo-yo over the edge. I don't remember many details after that until my mother had my head over the sink washing away the blood and trying to get it stopped. It was my first ambulance ride. My nose was broken. Yes, I had fallen face first on a pile of weathered, packed-down, hard-as-concrete drywall. It was my first of many broken bones, lacerations, bumps, bruises and abrasions.
Fifty years later, Jimmy confessed to me that he had pushed me over the edge. Something about it being his yo-yo.
Life Lesson Learned: Several. Know your limitations. I'm not certain I actually applied this to my life at the age of three. I'm quite certain I didn't, as evidence would prove throughout my life. Too many times I knew my limitations and pressed on anyway. I think that is part of life, being able to learn our limitations and when to test them. Sometimes, the error and learning to correct it turns out to be the right thing to do. In the natural, folks would call that "The School of Hard Knocks."
I also learned that being someone else is not only not really possible, but also not as much fun as you think. Although it was a process, I think this is where I began to be me. As far as trees are concerned, I know that climbing them was probably not the smartest thing to do, I still did it; to my detriment more than once. I won't elaborate here, but suffice to say that I lost count, over the years, the resulting number of broken arms and just as many concussions, abrasions, lacerations, and bumps and bruises. Finally, I learned that you need to learn who you can trust. I know now, after 50 years, that sometimes I can't even trust a blood relative. However, I also know I can trust in the blood of Jesus Christ.
Biblical Truths: Anything in life that is good, truly good, can be easily supported by God's Word. I think that Truth has been the most important life lesson. It's good to know that even when we have limitations, Christ is the source of power.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phi. 4:13 (NKJV) This clearly defines the source of our strength and capabilities. It's not of our own strength.
"... for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ..." Psalms 139:14 (NKJV) God doesn't want us to be someone else. He made each of us special and unique.
"But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." Matthew 10:30, 31 (NKJV)
As for the trees, Zacheus climbed a sycamore and ended up having a meal with the Master. Jesus said to him, "Zacheus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house." Luke 19:2-8 (NKJV)
One of the worst "bad habits" I had as a child stemmed from the fact that I was adventurous, what would be called in the '60s "a free spirit." My mother wasn't buying it. She was probably right. I really should have stayed closer to home.
The first such episode happened on Small Street. I only remember it vaguely, but with reminders over the years, it has certainly stuck with me. Johnny (I don't remember his real name.) was a friend who lived about two doors down on the other side of the street. I snuck out and "ran away," as we called it, to play.
When I had been missing for several hours, my mom sent my siblings (There were three of them at the time, Jimmy, Donald, and Pearl.) and my father to find me to face the music. They found me. Not without some snooping, and a little grilling of Johnny. He finally "ratted" me out and showed them the cabinet I had hidden in so I wouldn't have to quit playing and go home; especially knowing I was facing a serious spanking from my mother.
She was the main disciplinarian in our family. I got more than my share, but, as you can see, I'm sure I earned most of them. And, I don't think it affected my psyche in any way but positively.
Mama's uncanny talents in keeping tabs on us children knew no boundaries. I know mothers don't really have eyes in the back of their heads, but it sure felt that way sometimes with Mama.
Life Lesson Learned: Again, it's not easy to just name one. One thing I learned was that you can't hide from God—and my mother. She had a very close relationship with God. She always had a way of finding me. She even sent the police to find me once. I came home in a squad car eating a lollipop. My enjoyment of the ride and the lolli were short lived when Mom met the officer at the curb. That was not the last time I ran away.
It took much longer to learn that lesson and only after plenty of maturing to break the habit. Eventually it sunk in. And the spankings? It took becoming a parent to learn that in many ways, "This is going to hurt me more than it does you," really was True. (With a capital T)
I also learned that corporal punishment, administered with love, is a powerful tool for parents and it really didn't "warp me" for life. As a matter of fact, I have found that in rearing my own children, I have been less likely to use corporal punishment on them.
We nurtured them with the love of Christ and tempered it with the rod—only in extreme situations. And, while they may have erred in judgement on occasion, they have brought up our grandchildren in the same fear and admonishment of the Lord.
Biblical Truths: "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account" Hebrews 4:13 (NKJV)
"There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known." Luke 12:2 (NKJV)
I think Mama must have had a direct line to God. She always seemed to see and hear all the things we thought we were hiding. We knew we had to obey or suffer the consequences.
"But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out." Numbers 32:23 (AKJV)
If we kept the same pace 50 years ago that we do today, we would have burned out a long time ago. Even back then, we sometimes had to get away from the "rat race." It's a little cliché, but we needed a long cool draught of country life and breathe the smog-free air, filled with the buzzing of locusts in the mesquite trees. (And Grandpa had more than his share of mesquites.) Life was just different. Some may have said it was a better life—depends on your point of view. On balance though, folks just didn't rush things. I think the things I remember most fondly fall into three areas.
1.) Sleeping Arrangements—There is not much room for beds in a house that was as small as the old Lemme place. The two "bedrooms" contained four beds, three in the west room, and grandma's bed in a small space between the kitchen, bathroom and living room. But, on a clear night, we would sleep on old rusted iron beds with open springs and stained and musky cotton mattresses. What a great adventure—until the mosquitoes and blister bugs attacked in the night.
Excerpted from Hard Knocks Consequences by Fred G. Dickenson Copyright © 2012 by Fred G. Dickenson. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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