My Granddaddy, John Salter, was one of 11 children. If you want to get especially technical, he was one of the 19 children of James and Effie Salter of Craven County, North Carolina. But in those days when there was little prenatal care and children were born at home, attended by eager grannies and aunties instead of doctors and nurses, only 14 of those children were born alive and only 11 lived to adulthood. One of these 11 was my Granddaddy, John. And of his flock of brothers and sisters, he had a sister called “Pretty.”
Now, certainly her given name wasn’t Pretty. It’s not what’s on her birth certificate. But it’s surely what she’s called. And as you read, make sure you keep the correct pronunciation in mind. For you non-country folks, that would be pronounced, “Purtee.”
I was about sixteen years old when my Uncle Dick (whose given name was James Gaston, but everybody called him Dick) came over one Saturday morning with it on his mind to tell some stories. We poured him a cup of hot coffee and he settled down into the orange and brown upholstered rocker with the wooden swans’ heads for arms—if you’re from the South, your Grandmama probably had one just like it—and started tellin’ his tales.
Now, you’ll have to forgive me—it’s been about sixteen years since I heard him tell it—but it went somethin’ like this:
This pasture here where your trailer is settin’ used to be Papa’s pasture. We had about a dozen cows. And we had one ornery bull. That dang bull wouldn’t let Papa get anywhere near him. But Pretty got it in her mind to make that bull her pet. And she did, too! Just about any given day, she would finish her chores and then head out to that field to ride that bull.
After I’d moved away from home and was driving the RC Cola truck out to Greenville, I ran into a businessman that knew Papa. He told me he got the shock of his life one day comin’ down here to visit Papa. He drove his slick car up that dusty ol’ road and there was Pretty—sixteen years old if she was a day—and she was out in the pasture ridin’ that bull in nothin’ but a pair of overalls!
Anyway, as sweet as that bull was with my sister, he didn’t want no part of Papa. That dang bull got loose one day and came right up to the house. Papa ran out to try to get ‘im back in the fence and that bull gored ‘im. Pretty had to grab the spoke from a wheel and beat that bull off of ‘im. I don’t think Papa ever did recover and I don’t recall ever seein’ her out there ridin’ that bull again, either.
One of the scriptures that made an impression on me during my teen years was Proverbs 6:27 which says, “Can a man take coals into his lap and not be burned?” And it has reminded me over the years that if I’m going to act like Hell, I’m going to face hellacious consequences.
Aunt Pretty thought she could tame the bull and at times, I’ve thought I could tame sin, but the plain truth is that the bull will only humor you for so long before he turns around and hurts you bad.
Today’s blog carnival is about “self-control” but I have to say I really don’t like that word at all. As a child of God, I don’t want to be self-controlled at all. I want to be Spirit-of-God-controlled. And as I surrender to the Spirit of God, I find myself less and less willing to play with the bull and entertain sin. And thankfully, each time I find myself heading back to the pasture, I have the memory of Aunt Pretty to remind me of the consequences.
This blog post is a part of the One Word at a Time blog carnival on “Self-Control.” This is only one post of many in this carnival and you can find them all at my friend Bridget Chumbley’s website by clicking here. Enjoy!