© JoAnn Reno Wray
During my youngest years, my family rented an old farm house about five miles east of our Ohio hometown, a farming community and the county seat. Many happy hours were spent at that somewhat white clapboard house with its full lush maples, oaks, the sweet scented grape arbors, and helping out with the garden. This help was mostly depositing the harvest directly into my mouth to save Mom from having to cook. However, it was there some of my first fears were also faced. Like many fears in life these often proved to be more noise than reality.
Beneath maple trees shading the yard, I commandeered my brothers to play tea party while I acted as the grown-up and they ignored me to trap ants under my tiny tea cups. We had no indoor plumbing there. I can clearly remember how frustrated Dad became when he had to carry one of us to the outhouse in the middle of the night. This was especially true in weather where not only would Jack Frost nip your nose but also give your backside an icy sting as well!
My bedroom was upstairs with a little dormer window. The sound of the crickets and frogs chirping during the night floated in like a summer symphony. The soft summer breezes billowed the white eyelet curtains making them dance like ballerinas.
My brother, Dale, shared my room, his crib situated on the far wall. This was what caused a quite a battle between Dale and Dad for a while. After learning to walk, Dale quickly learned to hold onto the side bar and vigorously shake his body back and forth to locomote the crib across the floor to my bed. The entire time I’d stage whisper encouragement to him, “That’s it, come on, Dale! You can do it!” Once the crib was next to the bed, he’d climb out, giggling and crowing triumphantly, then jump all over me to my loud shrieks and whoops of laughter.
This event happened several times a night and continued until Dad grew tired of climbing the narrow steps to push the crib back in place, wrap Dale like a mummy in his blanket, and in a deep grump, order us both to get to sleep – or else!
Dale would always lay down so peacefully and even convinced me he was asleep – for about fifteen minutes, then bam! The great crib marathon race began again – squeak, rattle, squeak, rattle – with Dale trying to wiggle the crib to the bed before Dad made it up the stairs. Maybe a week passed before Dale was put to bed with me each night instead of the crib, which was fine because brother number two, Jackie, soon arrived.
At night the noise from the farm’s sizable herd of cows, kept in a field across the road from the house, would often echo ominously in the darkness. For my brothers and me it was a frightening sound. We imagined ghosts and other ghastly creatures waiting to grab us and cart us away from home. We’d pull the covers tightly over our heads, not daring to stick out even a pinkie finger as the moos continued long into the night, especially when the cows were restless or spooked. And then we’d wail at the top of our lungs for Mom or Dad – or both.
One fall night as the moon shone like a pale gold balloon, just out of reach, all three of us kids were forced to confront those cows. Dad, carrying Jackie in his arms, herded Dale and I across the road. There we stood next to the fence, almost face to face with countless black and white cows in full moo, their warm breath frosting the air. Half-asleep, I was having a hard time figuring out why we were standing in our Pjs and slippers next to the road instead of in bed.
Dale was all questions. “What’s this?” he asked, sticking his hand through the fence to grab a cow paddy. Dad almost dropped Jackie to pull Dale back a step. “Why is that cow’s tail sticking straight out? Will they eat us?” Dale’s last question caused our young eyes to grow rounder and whiter in the moonlight.
“No, they won’t eat you, I promise,” Dad said smiling and patting Jackie on the back.
Jackie was so scared, he’d screamed and cried so hard he caused hiccups, now muffled as his face burrowed into Dad’s neck. His loud wails were why we’d all woken in the middle of the night. Now there we stood in our jammies by that fence, fearfully eye-balling a herd of loud bossies. Jackie, frightened by their moos would cry even more. The cows bawled back, the noise intensifying by the minute. To be truthful, I was terrified too, but tried, with teeth chattering, to be brave as the oldest child.
Dad had brought all of us out so we’d understand that there was nothing to fear. It was just a bunch of old, fussy bovines. After what seemed like forever to me at age five, Dad finally persuaded Jackie to put his timid fingers on one friendly cow’s nose. Jackie laughed – deep and loud as if expelling all his fear. Dad’s deep chuckle played bass to Jackie’s tenor song of joy.To this day whenever I hear cows lowing in the field, I remember that night when Dad chased away the fear of his children by helping us face the thing we feared but couldn’t identify. I can clearly hear Jackie’s triumphant lagh and Dad’s deep chuckle once again bringing to life God’s promise in 2nd Timothy:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear;
but of power and of love, and
of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)
What a lesson from that night almost fifty-five years ago! It still causes any fears I’ve entertained to evaporate like warm breath on a cold, clear fall night.
We come to you with hearts open wide. Help us to face our fears head on and trust in your strong hand to guide us through every obstacle and frightening encounter we meet. Teach us to discern the evils in this world while also placing our confidence in the salvation of Jesus and His full armor placed upon us by Your own hand. We offer thanksgiving and praise with grateful hearts for Your promises given so freely and generously.
Amen and So Be It!
Melody of the Heart Online Magazine Update:
Watch for the re-launch of JoAnn’s Melody of the Heart Online Magazine in early 2010. Guidelines for writers will be posted soon. Advertisers are welcomed. Sign up for the Melody Mailer Newsletter which arrives in your email box periodically with inspiration, news you can use, recipes, helpful hints, and more. Just go to the magazine’s web URL at http://epistleworks.com/HeartMelody and fill out the subscription form to join our mailing list. No email addresses are ever shared, sold, or distributed to others at any time.