The Farm Chronicles: Obedience rather than sacrifice

Farm work was never finished. As the snow receded and spring sprung in about my nineth year, my Dad came up with a project to clear brush on the western-most side of the property. It was a low-lying area where there was once a saw mill. It had gone wild with thorn trees and general brush over the years and Dad wanted to encourage grass to grow for more grazing land for the cattle and horses. One Saturday morning, he got me up early. Mom had fixed a nice breakfast of eggs and potatoes, and over a cup of tea, we discussed the plan for the day. Little did I know, it could have been my last.

We gathered up the axe, hatchets and chain saw, some rope and a couple of cans of gasoline; tossed it all in the bed of the pickup and headed down the road to the sawmill sight. I got out of the pickup and opened the old gate made of rough-sawn timber. You know, the kind that you have to lift up off the ground because it weighs too heavy on the hinges. Dad pulled about halfway down the old log trail and we began unloading. There were a couple of really old dead trees that were hollowed out. Just the year before, my buddy Sonny and I had caught a opossum in one of them. Dad decided to burn them out, so he lit a real slow fire in the hollow.

Meanwhile, we would cut the fallen wood in 24-inch lengths and stack it to sell for firewood or to use in the pot belly stove that warmed the milk house and kept the water pump from freezing in the winter. The rest of the “brush” was pitched on a huge bonfire that we had created out in the open space. Dad was no stranger to building a bonfire—probably where I got my pyromaniac tendencies of building huge bonfires for various gatherings of family and church. So we had a bonfire, which served as a consumer of the brush and a warmer of the body. We had two hollow trees that were burning out at the base. And I was busy marking timber every 24 inches and gathering brush as Dad was cutting up the fallen trees into firewood.

It was a regular work camp. Fire burning. Hollowed out trees smoking. Both of us working to keep warm. Dad had moved ahead with the chainsaw and was about 30 yards away buzzing loudly on some fallen tree. I was concentrating on gathering some firewood and stacking it. When all of a sudden the chainsaw quit and my Dad yelled, “Get out of there!” I heard him, and even before I could think about it, I ran. I didn’t know where I was running, or why, but I was sprinting away. Suddenly, the hollowed-out tree that was burning crashed to the ground in the very exact place I was stacking wood. 1 Samuel 15:22 says, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” No doubt. I obeyed or I might have been the sacrifice.

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Bill Wilson