It’s getting to be THAT time of year… The holidays… When I’ll be packing my clothes, my dog, and my laptop into my car and going downeast to spend massive quantities of time in a single-wide trailer on our four acres at my Great Grandparents’ farm. Recently, I’ve been pondering the possibility of doing a series of posts about lessons I’ve learned by growing up country. When I tweeted the idea and asked for opinions, the answer was overwhelmingly YES! So, I’m going to begin by reposting one that I originally posted back in April. Enjoy! And come back soon for more interesting stories on the characters that I refer to as my family and friends and the things that they’ve taught me…
I think it’s obvious from my love of all things country that at least part of my pedigree comes from off the farm. In fact, in the early 1900’s, my Great Granddaddy Salter built a large farm on Clubfoot Creek in Eastern North Carolina. For now, my parents have a singlewide trailer down there where they will one day build their house and retire. The farm is much smaller now than it was a century ago, but it’s the place we call “home.”
Several years ago, my Dad took me exploring in a part of the farm that I’d never seen. He took me back behind the cow pasture, beyond the pecan orchard, past the tobacco barn, and into the woods to an area referred to as “The Gut.” Back in the days before you could pay people to pick up your garbage on the side of the street– and even before landfills– when farm equipment, household appliances, or vehicles stopped running, my Great Granddaddy Salter would take them deep into the woods and abandon them there. “The Gut” was pretty much like a dump. Anything that couldn’t be used and couldn’t be burned would be taken there and left.
To be honest, when I first ventured into The Gut, my initial reaction was, “Oh, my gosh! What kind of rednecks did I come from?!” But as I walked through, I began to feel like I was visiting some kind of sacred museum. My Great Granddaddy lived during a time that there really was nothing better to do with his rusty old relics. And I, years later, get to see what a bit of his life was like. My shock quickly turned to amazement… And the amazement turned to a sense of adventure as I began to climb up on half-rotted running boards and truck axles to see what I could see. My mom followed, snapping pictures that were far too ugly to make The Family Photo Album.
What amazed me most about The Gut was that these trucks and tractors have been there so long that the trees have grown up into them and around them. The branches run through the axles and into the engines– literally. These skeletal pieces of metal have become a part of the landscape of this piece of forest– a piece of land that is a part of me. The only way to get these old junky pieces of trash out of there now would be to cut the trees down. And that would destroy the forest– and would hurt me, too.
Somehow, about ten years ago, my family dubbed me “Family Historian” and began passing to me all of the pictures and documents that they don’t want thrown away, but that they don’t want to make space for in their own attics and offices. Recently, while looking for a picture for a cousin, I came across two of these ugly old pictures that we took in The Gut. All over again, I was captivated, but I couldn’t figure out why. I took the two pictures and propped them on my desk, next to my computer monitor. I guess I hoped that eventually, I’d figure out why the pictures feel so significant to me. I even prayed about it: “Lord, what it is about these pictures of old junk? What is it that they say to me that’s so important that I can’t put the pictures away?” And for days, they’ve sat there– in my way– but I still couldn’t make myself put them away…
Last weekend, I judged creative writing for a statewide competition. The winner of the non-fiction category was an 18 year old homeless, high school drop out. For the competition, she wrote her testimony of being born to a crack addict and abandoned at birth. Her mother didn’t even name her before disappearing. On Saturday, I made a point of going up and meeting this amazing young woman. When I told her that her story had touched me, she smiled the biggest, brightest smile. Today, as I stumbled across a spare copy of her manuscript that was on my desk, the Holy Spirit dropped a thought into my mind: She was thrown away, too.
I froze, closed my eyes, and willed the phone on my desk not to ring as I listened to the Lord. John 15 rang through my mind as I dug a Bible out of my desk and flipped it open. I love this scripture. It’s one of my absolute favorites. In that chapter, Jesus tells His disciples that He is the vine and we are the branches. I love the visual image that this paints in my mind of tightly interlaced vines–like wisteria. He’s the vine. We’re the branches. And we’re all bound and tied up into each other. This makes me feel so secure! To cut me out of Jesus, one would have to cut Him, too. That would hurt Jesus so much– and it would destroy me. The world often throws people away. It writes us off as useless, worthless trash. Looking at these pictures of The Gut, I’m reminded of how Jesus wraps His arms around us and makes us a part of Him.