“I threw a rock into the air, tossed with very little care. It hit a limb I did not see, conked my wife who then conked me.”
If you think that’s bad poetry, you should have seen the original version. The first draft was written when I awoke during the night with an idea for a column. Some of my best ideas come when I should be sleeping. Some of my worst ideas come then also. It’s too early to know which category this column may end up in, but it struck me that when a man hits his wife in the head with a rock, their story should be told.
It was a nice afternoon in early March. The weather was still cool enough that snakes were mostly dormant, or at least sluggish enough they’d be slow to strike. Jane and I went to our favorite woods to take a walk by a spring-fed stream, planning to clip some unwanted nandinas and palmettos which keep spreading. We first stopped at the edge to cut a few kudzu vines. Clipping won’t kill kudzu but will at least aggravate it, making the pest renew its quest for more territory.
Jane was leaning over while using a pair of hand clippers at ground level. I had a battery-operated hedge trimmer for vines, briars, and such. There were a few scattered rocks in the area, none of them large, which I decided to toss toward a pile about ten feet beyond my wife. Two perfectly arched pitches sailed well above her head and landed exactly where they were supposed to. The third, however, didn’t cooperate. It ricocheted off a limb I hadn’t noticed and hit her on the head hard enough to bring tears. I think she cried too.
She didn’t really conk me back. She didn’t even pout, go rest in the truck, or agree for me to take her home. We had just begun an afternoon of something we enjoy, and Jane was determined to stay. Her head hurt badly enough it would have stopped me from working, but she kept clipping as I kept apologizing. It’s an awful feeling when your carelessness leads to someone getting hurt. If it’s someone you love, it feels even worse.
The pain of Jane’s headache was slightly relieved by the opportunity to rib me a bit, reminding me then and several times since of the knot I put on her head. For over a week I was on my best behavior and did a commendable job of catching up on long-delayed projects around our home. Then the lump disappeared along with her headache and life returned to normal. It was a good day on Coley Crossing.
No lasting harm was done, so things worked out okay. But our misadventure poignantly reminded me of how quickly accidents can happen, of how tempting it is to throw stones without giving much thought to where they may land.
In early childhood I broke a kid’s tooth by accident. It happened at Lake Blackshear at a joint church social of Harmony Baptist and Smyrna Methodist. Our congregations were separated by fifty feet and a little water but joined by friendships, a love of fried chicken, and a common Savior.
Our group of rambunctious boys was rambling through a pine thicket when I reared back with my right arm to throw an empty drink bottle at a tree. What I didn’t know is that Neal Horne was right behind me. How the bottle missed his lip while chipping off half a front tooth I don’t know. Neal was a forgiving soul who didn’t point his finger in blame or offer to loosen a tooth of mine. He didn’t even complain.
There have been other careless things I’ve done, and I may not be finished yet. But what I’m guilty of more often is recklessly tossing words around. Whether said with intention, such as an angry retort, or purely by accident, like a shot of humor that misses the mark, the pain is still real and leaves scars which are slow to heal. Rocks made of words leave wounds in the heart. Internal injuries are sometimes the most challenging to repair. So, I added more verses to the poem, hoping it will remind me to be more cautious when casting stones of any kind.
“It’s best to look before we throw, to see which way our stones may go. When rocks are thrown into the air, they never fail to land somewhere.
The same is true of what we say, words can make or ruin a day. Before we speak it’s wise to ask, what if these words are my last?”