The White Succaberry Tree
(A short story)
I stood back and listened intently to an old gray man, with a long scraggly beard in need of a trim. His hair was thin and pulled across a bare crown: skin wrinkled, deep caverns worn into his forehead. He wore a tan quilted canvas coat, pocket torn at a corner, flapping down, rendering it useless. Large splattered spots of coffee, mud, and many years of life, were stained permanently, never to be forgotten. He had long yellowed fingernails with dirt caked beneath the tips. Overalls in denim were stained, as if to match his coat. The holes and rips were memories of long forgotten chores and days of blood, sweat, and life. He was seated on a tree stump, whittling on a piece of wood. I never figured out what he was creating and he never offered a clue. This old gray man spoke in a southern back-woods drawl, but with an air of confidence, almost rehearsed, as a professor would educate his pupils.
All the world disappeared, as he opened his mouth, speaking timeless words of wisdom just for me to hear. He offered me a seat on a neighboring tree stump, but I chose to stand at attention and memorize every utterance that promised to free my soul from its modern-day, stressed-out state. And finally, he spoke...
"Thays a White Succaberry tree down to Taylurs Crick...sits on tha edge of tha wess side...twixt some Pee-can trees. Can't miss it...cuz iz gotta bent, right smack dab in tha midda secshun. It bents right on ova. Been dat way long as I kin recaw. And evaday, I saw dat Succaberry tree...on my way ta tha Kella place to draw fresh watta. See...tha Kella place is tha only watta-in hole within say'um-teen mile of home. An evaday, I'd make my rest stop ova to Taylurs Crick. In front of dat Succaberry, I'd sit a spell, an refleck. See...iz a good fie to six mo mile ova to tha Kella place...an bout fie to six mo mile back home, totin' a hevvy load a watta. Taylurs Crick iz bout tha haff-way, an widdoutta doubt, tha perfik restin spot. An evaday, I pondud what a fine tree was dat Succaberry. Cuz evaday, dat tree bowed befoe tha Lord in respeck an praise. An evaday, I'm remined, dat I should give thanks an praise ta God. Sumhow...dat lawng hawl, dint seem nary as hard jist knowin I'd see dat White Succaberry tree. So...ya see...I'm eva so thankfull for dat White Succaberry tree. Why..Ya know...eva thin God made has iz own way of skoolin us bout sumthin. Iz a gift, straight frum tha Lord. Ellswize, we'd all be plum ignant. An ignance...well...it ain't neva made God smile...neva. Heh heh. Ya shore ya don't wanna sit a spell?"
I looked at the old man. He'd be considered a dumb old hick by lot of city folk. And what a misjudgment that would be. I thanked the old man for his words of wisdom. And I thanked God for allowing this unrefined but scholarly disciple, to be my professor-giving me a valuable education-Free of Charge.
©Copyright 1997-2002 Wendy R. Mitchell