The air is hot and muggy today, as an impending storm draws closer. There is a low rumble of thunder in the background, and the little Jack Russell terriers crowd closer to my feet. Minnie is especially scared of thunder, and trembles at the sound. When we were youngsters, lightning and thunder were one of our greatest fears.
We were attending Hagar Grade School, when a sudden thunderstorm rolled in. Our school was located on a slight hill, and a huge oak tree spread overhanging limbs on the roof. There was a bank of windows facing the tree, and Mr. Hinkle, our principal, shut the windows before the rain arrived.
In a few minutes, the rain arrived with a tremendous crash of thunder and a lightning bolt that hit simultaneously. Lightning had hit the oak tree and traveled down the walls of the schoolhouse. All the children were screaming, and a ball of fire shot out of an electrical outlet and rolled down the aisle between two rows of seats.
I remember Rosalie was hysterical, and was screaming for "Mommy!" "Eugene!" We were all shell shocked, to say the least, so Mr. Hinkle dismissed school and let us go home early. For years then, we were terrified when it looked as if a thunderstorm was brewing. Mom had an old treadle Singer sewing machine, which she used constantly. Somewhere we had read that feather pillows wouldn't conduct electricity, so we would pile feather pillows all around her and the sewing machine and crowd closer to her.
When a storm came in the night, we would tremble in bed with the covers pulled up over our heads, sweating and suffocating. It was years before I overcame that fear, but now I love to sit on the front porch and watch a thunderstorm approach.
All day long Daddy has been on my mind. It's that time of year, I guess, with Father's Day behind us. Many years have passed since God took Daddy home, yet time has not dimmed his memory to me. There are times when I can almost feel a tangible presence near me, and it seems that I can almost reach out and touch him. It is comforting.
There seems to be a special bond between fathers and daughters, and also between grandfathers and granddaughters. I have noticed this with my own husband and our daughters and granddaughters. It is not that the boys are loved any less, but there seems to be a more protective feeling toward the feminine sex.
I grew up thinking that everyone had a home like ours—with a loving father and mother, and love for all of us. Sadly, I realized later that there are homes without a mother, or no father, and worst of all, homes without love. We were so blessed. Not with worldly goods, or a fine home, or fashionable clothes—but blessed by the things that count. We had a father and mother who loved each other, and loved us.
I have tried to recall my earliest memories of Daddy, but it is hard to distinguish between what I actually remember and what I have been told. It is probably impressions other than actual memories that are retained in early childhood. Yet, the little house on the bank of the creek is clear in my mind. A tangle of red rambler roses grew behind the house all the way to the very edge of the water. I remember the babbling of the water as it flowed over the rocks there, and how it would lull us to sleep.
Daddy taught us many things—a love and an appreciation for nature that many people take for granted. The glory of a sunset streaked with amethyst, crimson and gold thrilled him beyond words. Many times after a summer shower he would call us out in the yard to see a rainbow arched over Pilot Knob. We learned early the pleasures of the outdoors—camping along a trout stream, eating our breakfast from a tin pan as the swift water rippled and sparkled in the sun.
The most important thing that Daddy taught us was God's love for us. That is why a father is so important. In learning to love and obey our earthly father, we learn how to love our Heavenly Father, and we comprehend in a better way God's pure love for us. Daddy taught us, by word and pure example, the worth of our own souls. That was an inheritance worth more than silver and gold.
Daddy was known as a prayer warrior. He had a secret place of prayer, down in the woods where a spring of water flowed out from under a big rock. He called it his "little patch of red brush," and we could often hear him praying and talking to God. After God took him home, on the 4th of July (Daddy's day of freedom!) I went down to that special place.
I could almost feel his presence, and when I called softly, "Daddy?" a songbird on a limb over the rock whistled. It seemed that his tears and prayers lingered there.
JUST O'ER THE HILL
Once when I was a little child,
Father walked o'er the hill;
The western sun was sinking low
In ev'ning calm and still.
I watched and wondered as he went
Into the shadows fair,
But not for long for well I knew
He sought the place of prayer.
On carpet green, just o'er the hill,
He knelt on bended knee
Where he and Christ talked heart to heart.
I knew he prayed for me.
He had no earthly treasures here,
But they could ne'er compare
With carpet green, just o'er the hill,
When Father knelt in prayer.
A little place, that patch of green
But, oh, the blessings wrought!
Wonderful things it's done for me –
This hallowed, lovely spot!
When he returned with smiling face
And courage, not despair,
I knew the Savior, tenderly,
Had lifted all his care.
The faith and grace he there received
Were helping him prepare
For pastures greener in that land
Where there's no need of prayer.
And as the years went flying by,
He loved it better still—
This place of prayer on carpet green—
This spot just o'er the hill.
Just as he lived he also died,
One ev'ning calm and still.
In pastures green in far-off land
He lives—just o'er the hill.