As I stepped into the entryway of a new house, it looked as though cream and globs of chocolate had been poured on the floor in the adjacent kitchen and living room. The polished floor looked good enough to eat.
I learned that the floor was made of hickory and that I was expected to take off my shoes before entering.
As a boy, I took off my boots and shoes before entering our farm house whose nondescript wood floor was clean but unpolished. This made sense because we worked outdoors with chickens and livestock.
As I walked on the new floor during the July 4th holiday, I thought a lot about hickory because those trees grew in the Ozark Hills of Southern Missouri where I spent a dozen years of my life.
Hickory, as you know, is hard, stiff, dense and shock resistant. My first set of drumsticks were made of hickory, and we burned hickory to cure and to flavor meat.
I also had a close encounter with hickory while I attended fifth grade in a one-room rural school. You probably have heard the song about “readin’ and ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic being taught to the tune of a hick’ry stick.” Well, I misbehaved during a picnic outing, and I believe the teacher gave me a licking with a hickory stick.
Baseball bats once were made of hickory. I figure that the bat used by Robert Redford in “The Natural” movie was carved from hickory because it didn’t break. Today, professional players use bats made largely from ash, which often splits. Hickory outweighs ash, which suggests that ball players are more wimpy today than when the Babe swung a bat.
As this year’s Fourth of July holiday wound down and as I watched an aerial display of fireworks, I thought about our nation’s history and about the people who are and have created that history.
Granted, selfish, deranged and dangerous people live among us, but at the core, we’re more like hickory than like ash. That’s why I stand and take off my hat when the flag passes by and why I count my blessings every day that I live in such a great country. The bonus, of course, is that I also reside in Douglas fir country but appreciate hickory enough to take off my shoes when I walk on it.