After the funeral of my grandmother, I remember my mom and dad, aunts and uncles saying, “We’re the next generation to go.” They remembered the good old days and told stories that bored me when I was a teenager.
Now I’m the next generation. I’m the one telling boring stories about the good old days. It’s funny how time does that.
I remember going skinny dipping with my cousins in the swimming hole on Possom Creek near Hog Mountain Road on my grandfather’s plantation in Jackson County.
I remember going into the former slave cabins where the “hands” lived and telling my black friends that the city boy was here for a summer visit. They loved it when I came because we’d play marbles and they’d win my entire bag. One of them turned out to be a preacher, too, and helped me preach my stepgrandmother’s funeral.
I remember the black children walking up to the big house in the evenings and using the outside water spigot to fill up their buckets and take back to their cabins.
I remember trying to keep up in my grandfather’s footsteps as he plowed cotton with a mule, drawing water from Aunt Eula’s well near Pendergrass, and running out of her outhouse when a snake slithered under the door.
I remember building tunnels with my cousin in cotton piled high and saving his life after a tunnel caved in on him.
I remember going shirtless and shoeless throughout the summer and having feet tough enough to walk on gravel by the middle of June.
I remember the awe and wonder of the Gainesville Midland’s steam locomotive belching smoke as it chugged along in front of me.
I remember playing the trombone in band and striking up Dixie to celebrate when my high school football team scored a rare touchdown.
I remember saying, “yes, sir” and “no, sir,” “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am” to adults and watching Captain Kangaroo on our black and white TV, reminding us to always say please and thank you.
I remember protracted revival meetings and people crying as they came to the front of the sanctuary to get saved.
I remember getting dunked at 8 years old and Momma crying. I remember the Gideons giving every fifth grader a New Testament, Bible reading and prayer to begin each school day, and evangelist George B. Eager from Waycross, Ga., preaching at a high school assembly.
I remember Dad filling up the car on Saturday because nothing was open Sunday.
I remember driving around the courthouse taking four right turns. The state trooper said I could drive and gave me my driver’s license on the day I turned 16.
I remember working at Jackson’s Gulf Station cleaning the windshield, checking the oil and vacuuming the car of every customer.
I remember evacuating school in Civil Defense drills because of the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought us to the brink of a nuclear war.
I remember getting in a fight with Tommy Ogletree in the locker room. Coach McInturff brought us to the circle on the gym floor, saying “OK boys, have at it!” Suddenly, we forgot why we were fighting and couldn’t raise a fist. The big coach paddled us hard anyway. It was my first and last fight in high school.
I remember how the Lord has been there to pick me up when I stumble, to forgive me when I sin and to make something good out of my failures.
The yesterdays seem but a moment now. The Scripture says, “Life is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” So in the sunset, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
I know they are all there telling the old stories and waiting for me at the finish line, cheering me on, and with the good Lord walking beside me, I’ll finish the course that I began long ago in the faith that has been passed down to me for generations.
THE REV. DAN WHITE IS THE PASTOR OF NORTH COLUMBIA CHURCH IN APPLING.