Roswell, Georgia was once a textile town. A farming town. A town where cattle grazed, hens scratched, and cotton was grown, picked, ginned and sewn into every imaginable article of clothing.
It was a small town.
A town where you went to church with your neighbor. You helped your neighbor when his ox got in the ditch; and, you honored your parents by holding onto their property with everything you had.
Not too long ago folk put down roots, built a home with their bare hands, and stayed put until Jesus called them home.
Which brings me to Mr. Coleman.
My Coleman has been with Jesus for several years. He passed suddenly as do many of my friends, or so it seems. My point of talking about him today is to celebrate his gift of growing, and writing. That boy (who was twice my current age); could make a stick sprout leaves; and, he was quite the poet.
Really, he was.
We have a tendency to judge older folk, toss them aside like discarded coffee cans. But Mr. Coleman had stacks and stacks, boxes and boxes of “writing’.” And I mean profound writing. God-given writing, that I would love to have just a single sheet.Truly, if I owned one sheet, I would frame it and hang it on the wall.
The perimeter of his home was lined with stick-laden coffee cans. He’d pluck a hydrangea, poke it in a coffee can full of dirt, them sit the can on the banister and repeat the process until half the house looked like a recycling center.
Some folk were bothered by his junk.
I was only troubled by the snakes. Lawd a mercy.
If you’ve read my first book, In the Garden with Billy, you know a bit about Mr. Coleman, but you don’t know that I was in possession of something priceless, a stick- in – a can. A fig tree to be exact. No one could sprout a tree like Mr. Coleman. I’m telling ya it was nothing short of miraculous, which is why I had to give the tree away.
This Facebook friend who – at the time – didn’t really know me from Adam’s housecat, toted her two littles to my book launch for Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She waited in line under a sweltering sun and then after purchasing a copy of my book, she asked permission to sniff Mr. Billy’s fig tree. She wanted the fragrance to transport her back just a bit, to a time when her people were still with her, when life wasn’t so sorrow-filled.
Just writing this makes me tear up.
Mr. Coleman would sniff trees, and while I’ve never seen him hug a tree I am confident that he did; because a friend once told me that Mr. Coleman would stand in his front yard and proclaim, “Look at this beautiful day. Just look at the day the Lord has made for us!”
My Appalachian folk have raised me to believe that the more you have, the more you give. Since I have Mr. Coleman’s memories tucked in my heart, my precious friend needed Mr. Coleman’s tree nestled up against her house. She needed to sniff the tree. She needed a bit of Mr. Coleman, a little bit of goodness, a little bit of the old days whose roots began in a rusty coffee can.
What little bit of goodness do you have to share? Plant the gift of friendship in someone’s heart today.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Order signed copies or, email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.