“If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.”
(image of a “stump hole” or the remains of a decayed tree / rural west Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014)
And no, this has nothing to do with moonshine.
I knew that’d get your attention.
A stump hole, by best definition, is the hole which forms once a tree has died and decayed.
Legend has it, as there is probably more truth than myth to this story, moonshiners / bootleggers would use these “stump holes” to hide their jars and bottles of illegal liquor–resulting in what is known as stump hole whiskey.
The woods are full of such.
They are not easily seen, hiding under the leaves and debris, and can be the bane of anyone trekking though the woods.
I should know.
It was mid afternoon, just the other Sunday.
Finally a decent day–no rain, snow, ice or howling wind–simply a nice day to be outside.
It was still chilly as it was the end of February, but the sun was in its full regalia and I was happy.
Traipsing behind my husband, as he was surveying some property in the middle of nowhere Georgia, I was following close behind as we made our way through some uncharted woods. Of course I had my trusty camera in hand, snapping images as we dodged the thorns of sticker bushes and saw briars, all while ducking under limbs and vines— suddenly, and rather violently, I found myself knee deep in a stump hole.
The hole, which was covered up with the remnants of years of fallen leaves and sticks, was just waiting for an unsuspecting victim. The hole was about 8 inches in diameter, just big enough for my boot to rapidly descend downward–or sucked downward if you’re into that whole middle earth thing with creatures lurking about in order to pluck downward unsuspecting earthlings, but I digress.
With one leg suddenly sunk to my knee as the other leg remained firmly planted on terrea-firma, my entire body violently lurched forward, with me now being oddly askew, as my face planted nicely in the leaves and muck.
My husband, hearing a muffled yelp, turned only to survey his wife sprawled face down flat on the forest floor. Knowing the danger of such holes, which have left many a would-be woodsman with a broken ankle or leg, he was relieved to see no protruding bone.
Aggghhhh, I moaned as I pulled my leg out of the hole. My jeans muddy with a now widening area of red moisture seeping down my pants.
I brush myself off.
As I pull up the leg of my jeans, I see that most of the skin is no longer on my shine bone.
Otherwise I quickly surmise that I am in one full piece. Lest we forget our little broken cookie last spring, eh?
Since my husband is old school, he reassured me, as he called out over his shoulder while he continued onward, “you’re okay, let’s go.”
Are you kidding me!?
My jeans are not only muddy but now bloody, plus I have a gash on my shine and a giant goose egg growing out of my leg.
“No broken bones, you’re good”
“You’re lucky you know, those holes can be nasty. . .”
“Ya think” I simmer in my head.
“Humph” I snort as I continue to bush myself off.
My husband is of the school of thought that one should just “get up, rub a little dirt on it, spit on it and go on”
This coming from a man who played high school and college football, in the late 60’s, with a helmet whose padding consisted of stings and rope.
Maybe that’s what’s wrong with him to this day, but I digress, again. . .
Long story short–
My jeans washed up nicely, no rips thankfully.
My leg is now turning a lovely shade of yellow green from the black and blue of two weeks ago and there is of course a moral to my tale. . .
The moral of the story is first– one should indeed be cautious and watchful while out walking in the woods, but secondly and more importantly, we must all be mindful that when we least expect trouble, trouble will usually find us.
As inconvenient as it is to be blindsided by most anything, it is the fiber of our inner being which will always see us though such moments. Life does not promise us anything but death and, for most of us law abiding folks, taxes. The pitfalls along the way, and there will always be pitfalls, are the fires to the furnace in which our “metal” is tried, tested and forged.
If we breathe, we will eventually find ourselves stepping in, or even being pushed into, a stump hole.
It may be an accident, it may be an illness, it may be a job loss, it may be a death, it may be a divorce, it may be a break up, it may be a move, it may be devastation—but no matter what it is, there inside each of us lies an inner strength. We may never have known the strength to be there, but there it is—simply waiting to be called upon to do battle with the crisis at hand. It is how we handle landing in the stump hole which eventually defines us as a person. The politically correct among us will call this character.
To have faith in something greater than ourselves, indeed helps in those times of crisis–as we find ourselves knee deep in the stump holes of life.
God, the Creator of the Universe, does not promise an easy path free of stump holes as we, simply put, live in a fallen world.
This fallen world of ours is marked by a sea of stump holes, which often seem more like deadly land mines, scattered strategically throughout our journey.
What God, the Creator of the Universe does promise us however, is to always be by our side, to love and to care for us as long as we travel this earth. He does not say that it will be a painless or easy walk.
And much like my husband, He’ll tell us to pull our legs out of the hole, to get up, to brush ourselves off and to hurry along in order to continue our walk with Him.
No, we are not guaranteed a neat clean journey, nor will it be free of trouble, but it is a journey never taken alone.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”