It was late June and the heat was so bad it hurt to breath. The whole family was engaged this time of year, along with friends and neighbors, to harvest the cotton. You had to drag a burlap sack behind you filling it with cotton as you went. With each step, it got heavier and your hands got cut and scratched. Gloves were worth their weight in gold during harvest season a luxury few of us could afford.
I would always look at Daddy’s hands. He had farm rough-hued hands with many lines and scars. He would soak them at night in hot water and salt to get the swelling down. Often, they were so bad that he couldn’t close his hands into a fist.
You could see the pain in his eyes but if he would see you looking at him he would bring a smile to his face and say “boy take care of your hands. They are the tools we use to get what we do done.”
He would flex his hands and wash them with an old grey soap call Lava. He swore by that soap and would laugh and say it made them soft, so he could hold hands with momma.
Daddy had been spending weekends in Myrtle Beach building cabinets for Uncle Grant and one Friday afternoon he asked me to go with him. Momma’s birthday was coming soon, and money was tight, but I knew something was up when he asked me to go. He said that he had something to show me. I was excited and off we headed down the dusty dirt road. I told him he better slow down because momma had sheets on the clothesline and she would be mad if he got dust on them.
He was happy on the ride there; the windows were down, and Hank Williams was singing Jambalaya. Daddy was singing and playing the beat on the steering wheel. It didn’t seem very long before we were pulling up to Uncle Grant’s workshop. I couldn’t wait to get there as there was all sort of blocks on the floor that were mine for the taking. I sat down with my toy soldiers and started building a fort.
Daddy called me inside with a big smile on his face and said he wanted me to see what he had made for momma. He opened a locked cabinet and took out something wrapped in a towel. Daddy slowly pulled the towel away and showed me the most beautiful cedar jewelry box I had ever seen. It had brass hinges and a small lock with a key. The inside was red with brass rails dividing the compartments. I knew momma would be so happy. He gave me a rag and told me to buff it, so it would sparkle. Daddy had a tender heart and he truly loved my momma.
Point Of View
Those rough farm-hued hands that were covered in cuts and calluses could chop wood and pick cotton and yet they could design and create the most beautiful jewelry box for momma with delicate hinges and locks. He could be rough, and I saw him stand up to men twice his size, but he had this gentle side and in all, we did together he always had a lesson for me, something to teach me about life and the proper way to live it. His words always seemed to be just a whisper away, a gentle guide or nudge heading me on the path I would walk on my journey. He didn’t always tell me about the dangers and hardships, but he did give me the tools to meet life head-on without fear.