Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Pecan Picker-Upper...

It was just a routine stroll with Lisa through the garden section at Lowe's. Plants, fertilizers, pots, flowers, ant killers,...

And then there it was. And there I went. To a wonderful place I haven't visited in a long, long time...

I don't know what its official name is. I know what it's used for though. I actually haven't laid eyes on one in decades. It's used to pick up pecans. And thus, the instant trip to that wonderful place...But it's not just the place.

It was a neat place located on West Brunson Ave. in Enterprise, AL down in Coffee County in Southeast Alabama. The peanut capitol of the world; a small town with a monument to a pest--the boll weevil--rt in the middle of town. (A weevil infestation wiped out the cotton crop, at which point the locals planted peanuts which led to prosperity of a sort; hence the monument to a pest...) But again, it's not just the place. It's about who lived there, and made it a wonderful place filled with marvelous memories for me.

His name was John William Benton. A noble name, which is fitting for one of the more noble men to walk this earth. But that's not how I knew him. To me and my cousins, he was Papa.

Papa was a tall man who seemed like a giant to us, his grandkids. And yet, despite intimidating size, he was incredibly gentle.

He moved slowly and deliberately. He was a wise man; the kind of wisdom born not so much in education, but out of innate God-given clues and experience. He was a man of few words, though they were profound.

He loved his wife and his children (one son, followed by four daughters). His beloved Martha taught junior high history. His five children all attended Papa's beloved University of Alabama. (One grandson did too...*smile*) Papa treasured them so very much. When the youngest of the four girls got married, Papa's love showed up in the sweetest know the part where the minister says "who gives this woman to be married"? Well, on this day in the early 1960s, the minister asked...and got no answer. He asked again...and got no answer, until Martha, John's wife finally spoke up and said "her father & I do"...and thus began my Aunt & Uncle's wedding ceremony. I *LOVE* this sweet part of family lore!

But as much as Papa loved his son and daughters...he also dearly loved us grandkids. Before the first of us was born, Papa had a dream. In this dream, he saw himself playing with five grandsons. It was a very vivid dream to him. I was the fourth of those boys...and the next two were also grandsons. There's a great picture somewhere of Papa with us first five, all wearing matching cowboy outfits he had purchased for us.

Somehow, it still matters greatly to me that I was dreamed about and greatly treasured by my Papa before I was even born. And it also matters greatly to me that he treasured we arrived on the scene.

I remember when we would drive up to visit that great place in Enterprise, Papa would come out & greet Mom, Dad, Jim and me. And then, sometimes before we went inside, Papa, Jim & I would walk around the corner to Goodson's store to buy a bag of peanuts. (I still *dearly* love a bag of peanuts from a country store...parched or boiled, either is fine, but none of this spicy nonsense. They didn't serve that at Goodson's, and they didn't need it!)

I also recall Papa strolling around the yard while we grandkids had a blast picking up pecans with the pecan picker-uppers. We thought we were having a blast...I now think we didn't have NEAR as much fun doing that as he did watching us.

Papa loved listening to a Bama football game on the radio, although like at least one of his grandsons, he got VERY emotionally involved in the game's outcome. So much so that his Doctor ordered him to stop listening to games on the radio because it was bad for his heart. He would take a long, leisurely walk around the neighborhood and through the woods behind the house on Saturday afternoons to avoid the temptation to tune in.

Papa's great heart gave out in the late winter of 1965 when I was only in first grade. I am quite confident that he is now part of the great throng in glory worshipping the Lord that Papa loved, and enjoying the company of many of his family and friends and other saints.

I know I miss him, as do my cousins, some of whom have even fewer memories of our beloved Papa than even I do. And as do his four surviving children, the four girls, each one of whom were the apple of his eye.

I'm so very thankful for these memories that were sparked by a tool in the gardening section at Lowe's. And for a memory lane worth strolling down now & then. And for a rich family heritage well worth celebrating...

Perhaps one day some grown-up little boy(s) yet unborn will have such fond memories of me, their Papa...


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