Clyde: Sticks and stones may break my bones

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 20, 2022

By Clyde

Still wondering why you got a lump of coal or a handful of switches for Christmas?

The coal will keep you warm and those sticks may just be about the best things you could ever pick up. The Chinese make scaffolding out of bamboo sticks to build steel skyscrapers.

Whirly-gigs and gee-haw whimmy diddles are simply carved sticks. How many summer days were filled with a stick drawing in the dirt driveway to play marbles, hide-and-seek, hop-scotch or just the finish line? Mumblety-peg is no competition to video games. Homemade kites are two sticks. Stilts are two long sticks with steps until you need two more sticks – crutches.

You could whittle on a stick all day with your Barlow, Case or Old Timer. Anyone who has ever “carried in” firewood knows what rubbing two sticks together can do for you. Charles Forester gets the award for recycling: While working in a shoe peg factory in 1869, he came up with toothpicks. Stick that in your mouth and smoke it.  

Staffordshire spill vases held curly shavings used for match sticks. Good pine kindling called “fatback” or “lightwood” by people living in the sticks is hard to come by. Not so with chopsticks, skewers, swizzle sticks, popsicle sticks, golf tees or teepees, tomato stakes, fences, trellises or houses with spindles and bannisters, corbel brackets or barge boards and mutton legs. They’re all now replaced with plastic.

A stake in the heart was a sure cure for most haints.

You don’t see too many wooden spoke wheels, spoke shaves or draw knives in our car-centric world. Splints and shims went the way of dovetails, pegs and chucks. Heck, think back at the tick-tock clock of the pecking, scratching feckless duck run amuck – with a lack of much luck he would be stuck in a junk stock pot, dumb cluck.

What would any festival be without food on a stick? Drumsticks, kabobs, candied apples, corn dogs, lollipops called suckers, creamsicles and cotton candy. So, put those sticks to work for you. Pick ‘em up. “In the wilderness they found a man that gathered sticks upon the Sabbath day” says Numbers 15:32.

Make an Indian trap for food — a box, a string and, you guessed it, a stick. Keep one around to ward off danger, train snakes or to point out Yankees. Like a leper, you can lean on one. Late in life, your walking stick becomes your best friend — you don’t go anywhere without it. The ubiquitous blackthorn, found only in England, makes the prettiest canes. People collect them.  

Sitting around in our warm houses, with calm and sweet repose, we can brave the winters of our lives that cause the barren brown twigs to shake and rattle our broken bones. A tribute to E.A. Poe: “As branches scratched upon my window sill, softly scratching, yet ever still, I looked out through the dingy glass, and saw a shadow slowly pass.”  

Although God’s world is not all right, right now, the thaw will come to pass and on the first warm day we will notice the tiniest bright yellow green leaf emerge from the seemingly dead branch. 

“For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” says Isiah 61:11.

If winter comes, can spring be far behind?  If we can just stick it out a little longer.

Clyde lives in Salisbury.

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