Transcribed By Pamela Vick
April 6, 1950
* CAL’S COLUMN *
After having so many requests for the resumption of our “Colyum,” we again return to our musings or whatever you may call them.
In our last article we dealt with some of the things of pity that use to run through our little mind. We related the killing of our only harmless bird, the little ground sparrow, and other incidents. One of the hardest problems we have had in life is to find the middle of the road between extremes and stay there. In fact, we have never been able to stay right in the middle of the road on all things; that is not to go too far to one side or the other. This holds true in virtually everything with which we have to come in contact in this life. Take our sentiments along the line above mentioned and go too far on the side of sentiment and we are rendered largely useless in a way in a world of hard realities. As a child, we regretted to see a tree cut down, even in its old age, and wondered then if there were such a thing as thought or regret or trouble or sorrow in the heart of the tree. We wondered if the tree had any sort of knowledge, and this kind of thinking was induced in a measure by the efforts of trees to put out sprouts when they had been cut down. Our father had had in one of his fields a small number of persimmon trees. For about 15 years we cut down those sprouts or rather dug them up deeply with a common grubbing hoe, going down as far almost as we could into the earth to get out as many of the roots as possible. Of course this much of an effort on the part of a farm boy was not voluntary, but our “pappie” had ordered it done and we dared not to evade or refuse to carry out his orders. But back to our ”digging.” We dug those small trees or sprouts out of the ground year after year, and still they persisted in coming up again next year. In our childish mind we wondered if the trees had some sort of knowledge that made them come back year after year. And we still do not know. The same held true of may other varieties of trees that would put out sprouts year after year. Among the most prolific sprouters were black locust, sassafras, and persimmons. Some trees do not put out any sprouts, so far as we know, when they have once been cut down. The cedar is one of them.
But by way of parenthesis, we might say that within recent years since we became a sort of hill billy preacher, we had one of our finest lessons on the resurrection from that lowly clump of persimmon trees that stood in our father’s field just below the present Mace’s Hill church house. Although they have been cut down repeatedly for more than half a century, they have not been exterminated. Our cousin, Luther Gregory, who now owns our father’s old farm, informs the writer that they are still in his field, putting out their branches and buds and leaves each year even though they have been “grubbed” or cut down for more than half a hundred times.
Our lesson of the resurrection as set forth from the little trees comes from Job 14: 7-9, in which the following words are found: “For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground, yet through the scent of water it will bud and bring forth boughs like a plant.” The argument deduced from this scripture is that no tree was ever made in the likeness of God, but man was; that trees were among the lesser creations of the Almighty, and man was his highest on earth; that if God calls forth the cut-down tree from the earth, will he not call for the man cut down by death, man made in his image and likeness, and his highest earthly creation? Surely man means more to the Creator than do the trees. Surely God never gave a soul to a tree, but he did to man. If the cut-down trees come again and again, why should man not have a resurrection from the cold earth to which his lifeless body has returned? Surely the readers’ dead were better than a tree, a black locust, a persimmon, or a
sassafras. And do you not agree with the writer?
But to resume on the line of too much pity or things of that nature. The middle of the road in this respect is hard to find. When we go too far to the side and let pity or sympathy have too big a place in our lives we get to the place where we might refuse to cut down a tree even to keep warm in the dead of winter. We may even refuse to clear ground on which to grow crops to keep our loved ones from being hungry. We might take this even farther and have so much pity for the hungry pest life as to do nothing whatever about the devastation which, in turn, leaves us without beans, potatoes, and other crops on which pests feed and from which they derive their living. Eventually we would feel so sorry for all food, animals, and fowls that we would refuse to kill a pig, sheep, or a goat, even for hungry human beings is still a job for those whose hearts are tender and whose sympathies are peep and pungent. The cries of a goat about to be slaughtered lingers with the writer even 40 years after the animal paid the supreme price. Hogs we have fattened have become “personal” to us and we could hardly bear to see them butchered. We have kept cows that did not pay their way, because we did not like the thought that they would soon be made into sausage or some other form of food. We put a cow on the market some time ago that had been given to us by our excellent friend, M.M. Oldham. She ceased to be worth her keep as a milker and we asked Mansfield if it would be alright with him for us to sell the cow he had given us some years before. He replied that it would be perfectly all right with him. Well, we sent that cow to the market by another party. We had occasion to go to the sales yard that day. As soon as we reached the stock pens, that old cow recognized her former owner and “lowed” in a very plaintive way that made the writer wish he had not sent her to her down. Secretly, he would have taken her back home if he had had a good chance. Then the little veal calves that go to market in the very morning of their lives have pulled our heart strings in a way that we can hardly describe. So young, so innocent, so little of life lived, so near death, and yet life has been only a few weeks long. Then their becoming hungry and hungrier on the long, long, trip to market, which, part of the time, has been in one of the eastern states, with almost constant calling for “ma-ma-ma-ma,” and yet there there was not an answer, we confess, has made some sort of a lasting impression upon the writer. We might go a bit farther and confess that we felt some sort of guilt as we used the milk for which the baby calf had cried for so many hours and cried in vain. Then we had some sort of strange and uncomfortable feeling as the mother cow looked for her baby, calling for her calf in the only language she knew, and searched and searched for her missing child even though it was but a veal calf.
No, we have not gone off into the sea of sentimentality and too much pity. But one can easily see how many, many things there are to pull at tender heart strings, even on the farm and in everyday life among our herds and flocks. We know the needs of humanity must come first, even at the sacrifice of our live-stock. We must have food and our children must eat and so must all mankind. We have thought sometimes that we have to take the life of something continually to eat. When we cook the lowly pinto, we destroy the life that is deeply imbedded in that bean. The same holds true of the corn that is ground into meal, of the eggs we eat, of the potatoes we devour; and in fact, nearly all finds of food we must have to survive. Truly we live in a world of “killing and eating.”
We think of the animal’s that had to be destroyed to provide clothing for our guilty foreparents in Eden, of millions and perhaps billions of animals slain upon Jewish altars in the long ago. Then we think of One who gave his own life for us and are again reminded that natural life can be maintained here only through the death of those things that are in a way innocent and whose death is necessary to our living or life on earth. And neither can eternal life be ours except One who was Himself the Son of God, the Lamb of God, gave all He had for our souls.
We wonder if it is not better to be too sympathetic or full of pity than to become so hardened that the cry of the suffering, the call of the needy, the anguish of the dying, the cries of the broken-hearted awaken only a sneer on our part. We confess that it is to us, at least, a far more preferable thing to be without this hardness of heart and to be changed now and then, that we are too easily touched, that we are too emotional, that we “cry too easily,” and other kindred accusations. Maybe our sympathies have made us easy marks for the unscrupulous at times, maybe we have been duped by some who took advantage of our sentiments, maybe we have been too sentimental; but we pray that we may be delivered from that hardness of heart and that lack of sympathy that closes our eyes against the needy, that stops our ears from hearing the cries of the helpless, that makes us forget all others except self, that makes us live here with not a thought of sorrow, or pity, or compassion. If our Maker should deal with us after that order, we must some day lift our cries for help in a world where there is neither sympathy, understanding, pity, love, mercy, nor compassion. “Have mercy on me, O my God, and I shall try to be merciful to those with whom I come in contact.” Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”