Monday, April 11, 2016

These hands

Have you ever taken a good look at your hands? Hands hold subtle clues that can tell the story of your life.

This came to mind yesterday when I went to war. Not with a third-world country or people who talk funny but an enemy much closer to home. Privets.

After a long afternoon in the trenches, my hands were full of briars from blackberry bushes
that thrive among the privets out back.

After a warm shower to wash the blood from my arms and the weary from my bones, I went to the medicine cabinet for my splinter kit.

Before I began digging the tiny barbs out of my thumbs and fingers, I knew I’d need visual aids. The only time I have to wear glasses is when I want to see. But even reading glasses didn’t bring the briars into focus. Opening my office drawer, I pulled out a magnifying glass.

The magnifier showed every spot and wrinkle on my hands. It made the briars in my hand look as big as railroad spikes sunk to the hilt in the flesh. Once the needle started digging in, I whimpered like a scolded puppy.

After all the briars were out and the antiseptic applied, I picked the looking glass up again to have another look at my hands.

On one knuckle I saw a scar from when I was a kid helping my dad and brother put up a fence around a new chicken pen. A round faded scar on the back of my hand is where I clawed a patch of poison ivy until it bled and got infected.

I got the thick callouses on the tips of my left hand when I was in the eighth grade. Those tough fingertips allowed me to painlessly play chords on a steel-string guitar.

I then started thinking about all the jobs these hands have done throughout my life.

One of my first jobs was picking cotton. This was before farmers picked cotton from the air-conditioned cabs of their tractors.

The going rate in those days was three cents a pound. My next-door neighbor, Mrs. Plunkett, who was a skilled cotton picker, gave me some valuable advice. “Pick hard when you first jump off the back of the truck because cotton is heavier when it has morning dew on it.”

I worked as hard as I’ve ever worked and after a long day of dragging a nine-foot cotton sack, I had picked 101 pounds. My paycheck for that day was $3.03. I quickly learned that cotton picking would not be a vocation I would pursue.

During the summer of my junior year in high school, I caught chickens “professionally” for a few months. The work was at night with a crew of chicken catchers. We’d herd the squawking birds to one end of the chicken house and grab four fowls in each hand before lugging them back to the 18-wheeler truck for their last ride. Each morning when I got home, my arms and hands looked as if I’d wrestled a bobcat.

After a few months, I marked catching chickens off my list of potential careers as well.

I could go on, but suffice it to say I’ve done a lot of things with these two hands.

My mother used to say, “If you keep your hands busy, you won’t have time to get into trouble.”

There was more wisdom in those words than I understood back then. I took her words to heart. If you don’t believe it, just look at my hands.


  1. Rick as soon as you started writing about your handsituation I thought about mine and the scars and where they all came from... memory lane ... I also laughed about you realizing cotton picking and chicken catching were not for you :-)

  2. A great post with perspective. Hands are a great gift that we don't always appreciate like we should.

    Every spring I trim a very thorny rosebush and no matter how careful I am wearing leather gloves I get some thorns in my hand somehow. I have this old jeweller magnifying glass that I put close to my eye and it magnifies everything so big. It's almost like looking at my hand with a microscope.

    Farming give me calluses on my hands too. I have a blacken nail on my right index finger and have lost several nails from jamming my fingers in gates trying to stop a heifer from escaping but the nails grows back and it's all forgotten. My hands have bathed soft baby flesh and nursed kids boo boo away, I've picked rock and drift wood from the fields, dug in the dirt and made yummy bread. They are now a bit snarly and wrinkled and the skin is a bit on the thin side but they are a thing of beauty just the same. They are made for service and that's what I do best.

    Your mama was very wise and would be pleased that you took her advice seriously.
    Have a joyful day.

    1. I don't make bread with dirt, haha.

  3. There is no cotton in this part of the country. Detasseling corn was the tough seasonal job here. I also weeded gardens, both flower and vegetable, for people who liked having a garden but not doing the work. I rang bells at Christmas in freezing weather. I set pins in the bowling alley before there were automatic pin setting machines in our bowling alley. We have certainly earned our scars.

  4. I don't think my hands have much character, and I have the stubby fingers of Homer Simpson.

  5. And I use my hands for this post. Clap...clap...clap!

  6. So true when you think about our hands. They have done so many wondrous thing!

  7. Anonymous8:26 AM

    Aren't you glad God invented hands?

  8. I understood most of the scars, but I had to laugh at the one from'catching chickens'. A friend of mine raised chickens. A new farm agne stopped by the farm late and asked to speak with Mr. Tucker. His wife said, "He's not here, he's catching chickens."
    The agent responded, "Did they get out?"
    I wonder if he remembered that after he had been around farms awhile?
    Loved the entry. And yes I did look at my hands.
    PS: I'm still singing John Denver's stuff to my wife's chagrin.

    1. John Denver! That's funny. Make sure you include Thank God I'm a Country Boy. I used to quote ABBA songs on my nephew's Facebook page. I think I drove him to drink.

  9. Ah, what a lovely post. My hands are soft and beautiful. Some people have told me they are the hands of a person who has never done a day's work. I'm glad I've kept them in good condition, but never done a day's work? I guess changing diapers and washing people in a nursing home doesn't count as work. These hands washed the feces from bed linens night after night. These hands held my babies to my breast as I fed them. These hands played at piano lessons for years. These hands are right below arms covered by ugly scars. These hands stirred dough for bread and cookies.These hands have been busy for years.


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  11. They have these new commercial hand dryers in a local store here named Winco. The air comes out a smaller hole at a higher pressure. When I put my hand in the air, omg how the skin just moved here and there that it was like I was looking at my hands while on LSD!


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