There was no thermometer in sight. It was not needed. Some
things, in their extreme, can be measured without instrument. Such was the case
on this day.
The morning broke with no hint of the oppression that was to
come. Any hint of the heaviness of air later to be experienced was swept away
by the gentle breeze that sang prelude to the sunrise. That sunrise was
majestic, a translucent orange, immersing the dawn in its glow.
They ignored the magnificence of the opening day, seemingly
unaware of reports of the warmth that was to come. There were deeds to be done,
adventures to be experienced, life to be celebrated. Every day was good, free,
filled with promise, and no amount of atmospheric nadir could mar the promise
of what was to be.
The first indicant of what was to come whispered its way
through the forest where they began to explore at ten that morning. The stream meandering
under the wooded canopy belied the climbing mercury. Yet, had they realized,
such was the determination of the trio intent upon their mission, it would not
have hindered them. Beads of perspiration dotted foreheads and cascaded down
bare chests. On the explorers moved with determination toward their goal.
Noonday brought a halt in the journey. Brown paper bags were
brought out and opened, their contents removed to allow the bag itself to
become tablecloth on the moss covered rock. Three sandwiches, two kosher
pickles wrapped individually in aluminum foil, one boiled egg likewise wrapped,
eight Oreo cookies, and one canteen of water comprised the combined feast.
Flies and gnats kept free arms circling about perspiring
bodies as the food was consumed, half sandwiches being swapped as each sampled
the preparations of another’s mother. Meal completed, the bags wadded, stuffed
into pockets, and the trek resumed. Sweat poured with every step taken.
Around one in the afternoon the destination was reached. The
pond covered three to four acres, formed by a natural obstruction to the
stream’s course. Three young bodies plunged into the cool waters; three
muscular bodies executed the Austrian crawl through the waters in imitation of
Tarzan knifing through a jungle river. Laughter echoed along the bank of the
far side when they pulled themselves out, huffing with labored breath. Some moments
of recovery were spent on a rock which refused to be comfortable. The sun now
beat down like it had yesterday and the day before.
So hot was that sun their bodies quickly dried and torsos
began to heat and life became miserable in the open out from under the shade of
the trees. They plunged back into the wet making their way back to their shoes
in a lingering dog paddle, attempting to shun the sun’s blistering heat. A
snake swam across their path slowing their progress even more in an attempt to
avoid the intruders.
On shore again they agreed to turn toward home. Retracing
their steps toward their beginning as the forest sheltered them from the sun
but not from the heat. It felt more intense now with the comparison of the
cooling pond. Leaving the forest they headed up the hot, sticky, asphalt road
and, then, separating entered their houses, adventure over, seeking relief with
the hallway ceiling fan.
Mail retrieved from the box the parson walked back up the drive thru
the ninety-seven degree heat and into my air-conditioned abode having
remembered a day when it was really hot.
The parson kept his sweat shirt on despite feeling warm. The air in which he stood was frigid, especially for one accustomed to Georgia temperatures. The parson’s warmth resulted from the labor in which he was involved.
One major goal of the parson was to get the side of the “mountain” on which he lived landscaped before he departed this earth. With the passing of each year a slower rate of result intensified the desire for completion. Thus on the first day in a long while without rain or snow, the parson re-engaged his efforts.
After a few hours work, a railroad tie was being wrestled into place. After dropping the uplifted end the parson sucked in air, removed his hat and wiped the sweat from his forehead. As he bent over to square the tie with the one below it a car horn blew.
Looking toward the street the he saw Carson Rawlings, one of the wealthier men in the community. Carson did not attend church, but he and the parson had become friends through their mutual involvement in homeless issues. The parson headed toward the street to greet his friend.
“You’re a bit old to be dragging railroad ties about, Parson,” said Carson.
“Tell me about it,” responded the parson. “And I’m getting older every year.”
Carson stepped out of his car. He looked up the hill toward the parson’s house to take in the fruit of the parson’s labor.
“What are you planning to do with that bank you’ve dug out?” asked Carson.
“Well, I’m hoping to put a small water garden there with a waterfall just in front of the front porch.”
“And over there?” asked Carson pointing to the opposite side of the driveway.
“I’m going to terrace that bank and hopefully put a different variety of roses on each level.”
“I hate to put you in touch with your mortality, Parson, but do you honestly think you’re going to finish this before you die with only a wheelbarrow, pick and shovel, and elbow grease?”
“Well, you know the saying, Carson,” the parson smiled. “It’s not the destination; it’s the journey.”
Carson chuckled. “Look, Parson, how about I assign a crew to come over here and get this finished for you. You could show them how you want it and they’d take care of the labor.”
The parson thanked Carson but told him he couldn’t accept that.
“Parson, we both know I’ve got so much money it’s a sin; and in ten years you’re going to be as old as God. So, let me do this for you. I watched you lugging that railroad tie up that hill. Letting me send a crew actually would help me because I have to keep them on the payroll but work’s slow. And, good gracious, when you lie down every night from doing this you must really feel the pain.”
The parson smiled at his friend. He patted him on his arm. “That’s exactly why I can’t let you do this for me, Carson.”
“I don’t understand.”
“If I let you do this for me I’d miss the joy that always follows the pain.”
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