In the light of a new day I find myself rambling down the path from my little cabin in the meadow. Again it is the time of year when nature reveals her mystery from beneath the ground where the seed has been hidden from us throughout the coldness of the winter. Now as the sun climbs to its morning perch, just above the trees with their new leaves waving a howdy-do in the morning breeze, I am as if it happened just overnight, amazed at the beauty that unfolds around me with each step towards the hidden hamlet of Ballengee. I am not surprised, as a hint of the coming glory was displayed yesterday in the rose garden around the WW II memorial at the center of the court-house yard. There loosely knit rose buds of red and yellow promised to burst open at a second’s notice. Again sharing the marvel of spring passing throughout the peaks and valleys that surround the hidden treasure of Ballengee beside the winding Greenbrier River. It is in that blessing I ponder forth, God’s gift, spring, a rebirth of both nature and the hearts of man, that I once again find myself excited to be alive.

I cannot help but admire the meadow, as I wonder down the path, how the rhododendrons have taken residence beneath the tress on the lower side of the meadow. They’re colorful flowers of pastel purples, yellows and whites, and the velvety deep red ones that command the bunch. There in the now green grass, waving in the spring breeze, blossoms of violets have rose above to herald their arrival. What meadow would be complete without the king of weed the Dandy Lions, which now are speckled about with their golden-yellow heads standing tall. The air now flavored in the perfume of Honeysuckle, and the bees have come out of their winters hiding, and now busy themselves drinking the sweet nectar of spring’s generous drink. I do think that spring is a promise from God that life shall go on for a spell longer and that someday we will return to a Garden of Eden.

At work in the feed store I miss the sounds of the children playing in the schoolyard across the street. The screams and laughter as they play volleyball or run about in a game of tag. The school bell ringing to call them into class or an announcement over the loud-speaker. They now enjoy the time of spring break and will soon return to finish the year before their summer adventures begin. Some now find themselves along the banks of the Greenbrier with a long pole in their hands hoping to catch a bass or trout. Others sit on the shore and dangle their feet in the cool water dreaming of a soon to come summer romance. Perhaps a meeting of their hearts at the 4-H summer camp where many of the children will spend time during the summer vacation.

For most, the older children at least, find themselves on the farm helping with the plowing and planting of spring. Filling the soil with the seeds of corn, pole beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and melons. Sowing the fields with hay for winter feed of the livestock. I am amused that the very soil we are so quick to wash ourselves from produces the food we need to survive. We bury our seed within the furrows and patiently wait, as we pray for God’s miracle of life to appear. One day soon from the mystery buried beneath our view tiny sprouts arise from the soil to provide us with our substance for the coming year.

Yet in the silence of the playground still Gordy stands at his post, as he does every day of the year except for Sundays. He is faithful to his task in our small community and not once have I noticed him absent from the corner standing next to a stack of newspapers. Every year that my memory shelters finds Gordy standing on that corner selling the Ballengee Record. One never really appreciates the dependence we have on each other until they are no longer there. Each day from my view at the feed store, I see the same folks stop a buy a paper from Gordy. I wonder what they would do if one day he was not there. In Ballengee I am sure his absence would become a topic of concern, as the balance of our lives here would be tipped. Yet taken for granted his presence causes not a stir but his absence would be the news found in the papers he sells. Strange as that is, a truth is found that each of us, great and small, are needed while less appreciated. I too cross the street each day to receive the Ballengee Record, exchanging a greeting with Gordy and wishing him a good day. Where would, I wonder, find a copy of the Ballengee Record if Gordy was not there?

Gordy is a portly fellow of small stature and I imagine that as a boy he was not the handsomest of lads. With his round head and high cheekbones that arch down to support an overbearing round and often red nose. His cheeks are indented I suspect from the loss of teeth to support them. Yet his front teeth are bucked and causes his upper lip to overlap the lower, which is a disturbance to his speech. As a result Gordy is a man of silence with few words that pass through his lips. Gordy is also what we call slow and seems to comprehend well enough but is unable to express that which he has learned. His cloths are as worn as the years that have gathered upon him. Not many know, but I do, that Gordy lives in the basement of the Ballengee Record in the cold and damp of winter and the stagnate heat of the summer. But Gordy is never dirty and his eyes are always bright.

Children can be the grandest of angles and the worst of devils and have picked up on Gordy as an object for their amusement. At Gordy’s expense he is fun for the children, as they taunt and tease him each morning and afternoon on his corner by the schoolyard. I am sometimes angered that the children have forsaken their manners and have such little regard for Gordy’s feelings, but Gordy never seems to mind. In fact, in a sad way, the children’s abuse is the only attention he receives. It is a sad thing that we as people need the attention of others so much that we even find comfort in their contempt.

This is the existence of Gordy, standing against the elements of nature, the abuse of children, while selling newspapers to very familiar strangers. I would feel sad for Gordy, angry with the children and annoyed by those familiar strangers who give Gordy no more than fifteen cents for a newspaper, if I did not know Gordy’s secret.

I have, in my own mind, supposed that most of us look about the way the rest of us live. We study their position and determine ours to be better or worse, we strive to have empathy for those of less fortune and admiration for those of greater achievement. A way to gauge our own advancement in life, to extract some pride or shame for that which we have accomplished. In my idealistic mind I believe for the most part we all work to be the best we can at our station along the way. And if we are happy in our labors then we have gained more than many and so I imagine it is this way for Gordy. He has achieved that which he finds satisfaction knowing that he fulfills a position that is important too many. Somehow I feel that if Gordy were to live somewhere else than Ballengee, we both, Ballengee and he, would be at a loss.

It may seem out-of-place to mention Christmas here at the arrival of spring. But it comes to mind, as I watch Gordy in the emptiness of his corner next to the school playground, absent of the children to taunt and tease him. As he stands there selling the Ballengee Record, I see certain loneliness in his stature without the children’s presence.

Each year Ballengee holds a community event that I think is unique to a town of our size. We are small enough that we can all participate without any being left out. There is a price in becoming a city in that we lose the wholeness of community. We become distant fractions of the whole and lose touch with all the members. But here in Ballengee we have been stagnate in growth, as few have moved in and too many have moved away. We remain a family of families living together and have stayed in touch with those that have sought their fortunes on distant ground. At Christmas the families of Ballengee come together to enjoy the gift and sharing we have for each other.

We are entertained with the beautiful music of the Bottoms Gospel Choir, which shares with us all that special music of the Christmas season. Each of the five Churches of Ballengee presents a short interpretation of the true meaning of Christmas. Of course, we feed ourselves well. The women of Ballengee spend the week prior preparing mountains of Christmas treats. Nolan Richardson comes down from his home on Eagles Perch with a dozen wild turkeys stuffed with the best dressing ever devoured by man. We listen to and at times join in with the Bottoms Gospel Choir’s caroling. Ponder the thoughts and words of our spiritual leaders, enjoy a feast that has no comparison, surround ourselves in the blessings of a community of concern for each other and watch the magic awaken in the hearts of our children.

It is, as all the children know, that somewhere before time to go back to their homes, Santa Clause will make a special visit to see each and every one. I am proud at that; even Saint Nick himself has realized the wonder that can be found here in Ballengee. We have been faithful to hold this event on the same day each year for as many years as I can remember. We should not want a mix up in schedule to cause Santa to miss our gathering. Santa has never missed; he has been faithful as well and has come to visit us each and every year. I remember the wonder of it myself as a child. Being hoisted up upon his knee, sitting there resting in his arm amid the winter smell of evergreen, sharing with him my hopes for the Christmas season and receiving a special gift made of carved wood. One year I received a Wooden Indian, which I treasure more than the other wooden gifts I had received. It has remained with me to this day upon the mantel along with other treasured childhood memories. When I look at it, I remember the joy I felt when Santa gave it to me. That I believe is the real gift that Santa brings, the joy, which is his magic.

All this comes to my mind, Gordy and Christmas, as I watch him selling his papers across the street next to the school playground. Knowing how the children treat him and how others view him. Yet I know him to be a man underappreciated for his gift to our little community here at Ballengee.

Several years’ back Newt Harper, who is the editor of the Ballengee Record, bought a little piece of ground near Barger Springs. Just off the hard road about twenty acres where Newt planned to raise some cattle. It is a nice piece of land tucked away in the woods. A good field of grass in the summer and is easy enough to get to in the winter. Newt came into Lively’s Feed store soon after that to buy some salt blocks and a large tub for a well he had drilled. He asked me to take it to the basement of the Ballengee Record for him, which I did. Junior, who handles the deliveries at the feed store, would need help with that tub so I went along to assist. It was a good opportunity to get out and see the folks about town.

We arrived at the Ballengee Record and carried the salt blocks down to the basement. Then we wrestled the tub down the stairs also and placed it along the back wall near the room that Gordy lived in. Junior rushed back out to get some air while I lingered just to catch my breath. After which I started my journey back to the street, but first discovered a very amazing thing in the room next to Gordy’s. The floor was littered with wood chips and the shelves were filled with wood carved toys. The truth of Gordy came to me quickly in that moment.

We go through our lives and notice those around us, as we do, and yet never really know who they are. We go along way on assumption and prejudice and seem satisfied with a shallow interpretation of those around us. The truth is it takes a lifetime to know a man and perhaps this is why God waits until life here is over before His judgment. We never really know who each of us are until we all have been. Imagine that, Gordy is really Santa Clause.

   Copyright: 2001 Thomas N Kirkpatrick

Durant Bible College


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