By Reba Phelps
If you were raised in the Deep South or even have relatives in the South then you are aware of the summertime rituals that pepper the memories of most southerners. These mental snapshots most likely include some type of family member, a porch and some type of vegetable that needed tending to.
My summers were no different.
While my family never had a garden to tend, we always seem to have an endless supply of the goodness that came from God’s green earth. Snap beans. Purple hull peas. Tomatoes. Squash. Okra. Corn. These are just a few of the vegetables that became our chore during the heat of the summer.
When my siblings and I were much younger it produced many hours of joyful entertainment. As we grew older we discovered there were many more summer pleasures that we were missing out on because we were too busy being part time farmers. Farmers with permanently purple stains on our fingertips and under our nails.
We were interested in anything that did not include shelling, shucking, blanching or Zip-Lock bags.
One particular summer my parents left us in charge of shelling what seemed to be four mountains of purple hull peas. They had to be shelled and washed before we were allowed to partake of the lake activities with our friends. We felt like we were in a purple hull hell. Why did we need so many peas? It was never ending.
I called one of my friends and advised her of the terrible pea situation and that we may be late leaving for our date to soak up the rays at Saline Lake. Being the good friend that she was she explained that she had access to a pea sheller, a small machine that will shell these peas for us in a record amount of time.
What? There is a machine for this? I was in utter disbelief of this black magic. Of course, we took her up on her offer of salvation from the purple hull mountain that we were facing. When she showed up, she also brought another friend. This pea sheller did not disappoint.
We had formed an assembly line.
We had two friends force feeding the peas in the sheller and three of us washing and cleaning up the mess. When we were done there was nothing standing between us and our summer shenanigans. We proceeded to the lake even though, I just had a suspicion that we cheated the system. Our fingertips lacked the purple dye that normally accompanies the shelling. Something just felt off but we would have to worry about that later.
We had a lake, friends, baby oil and iodine waiting on us.
The water at Saline Lake seemed to be more beautiful than ever that day. The sun was beaming perfectly and not a cloud in the sky. There was even a small but helpful breeze blowing. It was a perfect day and I wish that I had realized at that moment that it would be the last time I saw the lake that summer.
When we arrived home, both my mom and dad were waiting outside for us as if to deliver the bad news that someone had passed away. But, it wasn’t a somber look. I recognized this look. It was a look that can only be delivered from the angry face of parents who love Jesus but will go ham on their children at the drop of a hat.
We slowly exited the vehicle as our parents waved goodbye to our friends. It was the last time we saw our friends that summer.
Apparently there is an art to operating a pea sheller. You were only supposed to feed it only a few at a time. Therefore, due to our lack of research we smashed more than half of that crop of peas as we fed the machine handfuls at a time. I tried to explain that we were never advised to not use an electric pea sheller. If you don’t set expectations then that’s when things may go awry.
My poor explanation bought us eight weeks of sitting at home to think about our lazy and selfish ways. Looking back I do firmly believe that the Holy Spirit was trying to warn me by saying, “Hey sis, you are cutting corners and this will end poorly for you.”
I should have listened to that still small voice.
Cutting corners has never worked for me, even though I give it a try every now and then. It seems as though I am most successful when I remind myself daily that everything we do we should act as though we are doing it for the Lord. Hard work always pays dividends in the end.
These days my purple hell peas come from the frozen section of the grocery store or a local farmer who has already done the grunt work. The great thing about buying peas already shelled and prepped is that there is no purple dye left on my nails for days. The sad thing about buying peas already shelled and prepped is that there is no purple dye left on my nails for days.
The best life lessons were learned on a porch in the heat of the summer with some vegetables.
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us. yes, establish the work of our hands”