These hands of mine

Jennifer Cohron
Posted 4/10/16

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. …

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These hands of mine

Posted

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.

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Changes is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@homefolkmedia.com.