For a number of years I have been writing about war and why I hate it and why I think it is wrong. Yes, maybe it helped me by getting those words out, but now, I want to write about other things. So, I am starting with a story that an 80 year old friend told me about something he went through as a youngster.
The Fig Tree
Eight years ago Wanda and I moved to rural Madison County, Florida. We bought a house and a few acres, and I started building out-buildings. My first project was a potting shed with a fenced-in garden. Neighbors call it the Doll House. It is tiny with a peaked shingled roof, and it has a little porch on front. It was so fun to build because it was small, and I could do everything by myself.
Next, I needed a woodworking shop for myself. I knew what I wanted, but it wasn’t a one man project. I asked around for an experienced carpenter to help me, and I found 80 year old TC Hudson to be just the man I needed. TC was an African American from the South, a life-long carpenter, and I am a white guy from Minnesota, a life-long woodworker. Strange as it may be, we hit it off and became good friends. That common interest in working with wood bridged totally different life experiences.
At first TC thought I was deaf, because I kept saying, “What?” every time he tried to tell me something. The truth is, I couldn’t understand his speech patterns, and TC spoke real fast until he realized we were both speaking different languages. He slowed down, and I guess I paid closer attention to what he was saying.
Well, after I got the shop done, I asked TC if he would be interested in helping me build a tree house. He laughed and laughed until he figured out I really wanted to build a tree house. Then he said, “Why not? I think I can figure out how to help with that.”
So, about the time we were starting on the tree house, our fig tree was filled with ripe figs, and I walked out to where TC was standing by the two huge oaks I had picked to put the tree house in. I said, “TC, you ever eat figs?” to which he said “I have.” Well, then I told him that he could have all the figs he wanted off our tree. To which he said, “Let me tell you about eating figs.”
TC went on with, “When I was about 8 or 9 my cousin and I went over to my aunt’s house and she had a fig tree and said we could eat some if we wanted. Well, we didn’t get any candy bars when we were young and those figs tasted oh so sweet. Well the two of us just kept eating and eating them. Something bad happened after I had eaten a mess of them. My tongue started to swell up, and I got scared. We didn’t have a doctor or a clinic we could go to, but there was a man in town who would help us out when somebody got sick or hurt. My aunt ran over to his house and told him what was wrong. It didn’t take long for him to get over to me and in his hand he had silver dollar size piece of beef tallow about a quarter inch thick. He told me to put that on my tongue and to leave it there until it dissolved or my tongue went back to normal. It takes a long, long time to dissolve a piece of beef tallow, but by the time it was all gone, my tongue was back to normal.”
Then TC looked at me and at our fig tree and he said, thank you for you offer, but every time I think of a fig I can taste that beef tallow, so I’ll pass.”
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