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THE WAY TO WISDOM– PROVERBS 9:10

February 20, 2017
wisdom

 

  1. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom:

and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. (KJV)

 

  1. The reverent fear of the Lord, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome, is the beginning and the preeminent part of wisdom.

And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding and spiritual insight. (AMP)

 

  1. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,

and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (NIV)

 

  1. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,

and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (NRSV)

 

  1. To be wise you must first have reverence for the Lord.

If you know the Holy One, you have understanding. (GNT)

 

  1. For the reverence and fear of God are basic to all wisdom.

Knowing God results in every other kind of understanding. (TLB)

 

  1. Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom.

Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. (NLT)

 

  1. Skilled living gets its start in the Fear-of-God,

insight into life from knowing a Holy God. (The Message)

SPRING TRAINING

February 19, 2017
honus-wagner

The college baseball season is under way. Major League Baseball’s spring training is about to begin. As a new season begins this week for the Boys of Summer, I have fond memories of a trip I took with my grandfather in 1960.

When I was in the tenth grade, Pappy drove his green Oldsmobile to Spartanburg High School. He blew the car horn repeatedly until Dr. Spencer Rice, the principal, came out to see what all the fuss was about. Of course, Dr. Rice knew my grandfather.

“Mr. Neely, is anything wrong?”

“Nothing wrong.  Send that boy out here.”

“Which boy?” asked Dr. Rice.

“My grandson, Kirk.”

Dr. Rice paged me.  “Please send Kirk Neely to the office.”

That’s the announcement every tenth grader dreads.  I walked slowly to the principal’s office wondering what I had done wrong.

Dr. Rice explained, “Kirk, your grandfather is here.” I was both relieved and worried. I went outside.  Dr. Rice followed.

Pappy had moved over into the passenger’s seat. “Get in here, boy, and drive me.” I got behind the wheel.

“Mr. Neely, are you taking Kirk out of school?” Dr. Rice asked.

“No, I’m not taking him out of school. He needs his education.”

“When can we expect him back?”

“In about a week.”

“Do you have an excuse?”

“No! No excuse. We’re going fishing!”

Pappy turned to me, “Take Highway 56 south toward Augusta.”

In the rearview mirror, I could see that Dr. Rice was stunned. Pappy stunned a lot of people. My mother told me later that she thought that being with Pappy for a week was an educational experience, more valuable than a week of school. She was right.

We did not talk much. We drove to Daytona Beach, Florida, and we fished for a week.

Because he had already suffered two heart attacks and a stroke, Pappy didn’t drive well. In fact, he had relearned to drive using his right foot on the brake pedal and his walking cane on the accelerator. Needless to say, his driving was erratic. When other drivers saw him coming they gave him a wide berth.

I earned my South Carolina motor vehicle license when I was fourteen. After that I became Pappy’s designated driver.

Pappy’s doctor had told him that he could fish only every other day and rest on the days in between.  Pappy chartered a boat for fishing. On the off days, we drove all over Florida, going to spring training camps for major league baseball teams, probably not exactly the rest days Pappy’s doctor had in mind.

Pappy especially wanted to visit Art Fowler, a native of Converse, South Carolina, a regular customer at the lumberyard, and who, at that time, was pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their training camp was in Vero Beach, Florida.

We were able to find Holman Stadium near historic Dodgertown. Art, then nearly thirty-eight years old and nearing the end of his career as a player greeted us. After a brief conversation, Pappy and I headed back to Daytona Beach.

Pappy was a true baseball fan. Because he grew up in middle Tennessee, his favorite team was the St. Louis Cardinals. He had never seen a major league game except on a black-and-white television. Pappy talked about the old time baseball players. Cardinal players like Rogers Hornsby, Dizzy and Paul Dean, Red Schoendienst, Grover Alexander, and Walter Allston who, at the time of our trip, was the manager of the Dodgers. There were other players as well. The Georgia peach, Ty Cobb, who had the sharpest spikes in Major League Baseball, was on Pappy’s list. So, too, were the great Yankee players like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

One player on Pappy’s list that surprised me was a shortstop known as The Flying Dutchman. Honus Wagner played in the National League from 1897 to 1917. Though he was noticeably bowlegged, he possessed superior speed on the base paths. Playing in what is referred to as the dead ball era, Wagner was an outstanding hitter. Perhaps his fielding, especially at shortstop, was the reason Ty Cobb called Honus Wagner, “the greatest star ever to take the diamond.”

In 1936, the Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Wagner as one of the first five members, with Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth.

Honus was one of nine children born to German immigrants in Pennsylvania. He dropped out of school when he was twelve to help his father and brothers in the coalmines. In their free time, he and his brothers played sandlot baseball. Four of them would go on to be professionals.

Honus trained to be a barber before becoming successful in baseball. Even after he was a baseball player, he would sometimes give haircuts to his teammates in the clubhouse.

Wagner began his career with the Louisville Colonels in 1897. Legend has it that Ed Barrow, who had watched him throw rocks across a creek, signed him to his first contract.

Honus was a solid hitter from the very beginning of his major league career, hitting .338 in 61 games in his rookie year. By his second season, Wagner was already one of the best hitters in the National League. After the 1899 season, the NL was reduced from twelve to eight teams. Owner Barney Dreyfuss took many of his top players with him to Pittsburgh. Wagner would play the remainder of his career for his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates, 21 seasons in all.

In 1900, Wagner won his first batting championship with a .381 mark and also led the league in doubles (45), triples (22), and slugging (.573). Wagner played several different positions to keep his potent bat and speed in the lineup. He would eventually play every position except catcher, even making two appearances as a pitcher. But as a shortstop he played his best.

Babe Ruth said, “At short stop there is only one candidate for the greatest player of all time, Honus Wagner. He was just head and shoulders above anyone else in that position. Honus could outplay any other shortstop. He was the greatest right-handed hitter of all time.”

His career totals include a .327 lifetime batting average, 640 doubles, 722 stolen bases, and a career total of 3,415 hits.

The Honus Wagner American Tobacco card is the most famous baseball card ever produced. Known as the Holy Grail and the Mona Lisa among collectors, it is by far the most valuable piece of cardboard in existence. In September of 2007, a private collector paid $2.8 million for a card with the likeness of the famous Pirate’s shortstop printed on it.

Very few of these cards are believed to be in existence. One theory for the card’s scarcity is that Wagner requested the production of this card be halted since it was being sold to market tobacco products. At the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, one of the cards is on display. A plaque states that while Wagner was a smoker, he did not want children to buy tobacco products to get his card.

Though the steroid era has tainted the sport, baseball still has a place in the hearts of the American people. One of the reasons is our collective memory of players like Honus Wagner. No wonder Pappy had him on his list of great players.

Former President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, told a story. “When I was a boy growing up in Kansas, a friend and I went fishing. As we sat there in the warmth of a summer afternoon, we talked about what we wanted to do when we grew up. I told him I wanted to be a Major League Baseball player, a genuine professional like Honus Wagner. My friend said that he’d like to be President of the United States. Neither of us got our wish.”

LOVE NEVER ENDS: A STORY FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

February 12, 2017
love-never-ends

The two met as teenagers at church. Their first several dates were sitting together during Sunday evening worship services. Then he asked her to go to a movie, the picture show, as he called it. Their love for each other continued to grow into a long-term marriage. For me, the two would become Mama and Dad.

After high school Dad finished a two-year degree at a junior college. He returned to Spartanburg to work at the family lumberyard the summer before Mama enrolled at Winthrop College. Dad drove to Rock Hill, South Carolina, almost every weekend to visit his sweetheart.

On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and the United States entered World War II. Because gasoline was rationed, Dad often siphoned fuel from a lumber truck to fill up his 1936 Ford before making the two-hour trip to Rock Hill.

Mama wanted to drop out of college and get married, but Dad insisted that she finish her degree. He had wanted to complete a four-year degree, too, but World War II made that dream impossible.

On June 10, 1943, two weeks after Mama graduated from Winthrop, she and Dad were married in the church where they first met. They moved into a four-room house that Dad built himself, and I came along fourteen months later.

During Mama and Dad’s fifty-eight years of marriage, they had eight children and forty-five grandchildren. Their home and their lives were filled with love.

Late one night in April 2001 Mama woke up with a terrible headache and took two aspirin, strong medicine for Mama. Dad helped her to the bathroom and suggested calling EMS, but Mama refused, instructing, “Just lie down by me, and help me get warm.”

With some hesitation, Dad did as Mama asked. From her extensive antique quilt collection, Dad chose one of her favorites and covered her. He hugged her close to him, wrapping his arms around her. They both drifted back to sleep.

When Dad woke up the following morning, Mama had died during the night. Death could not have come any more gently. Swaddled in a quilt at home in her bedroom, with the love of her life holding her, was the way she chose to die.

Dad’s grief following my mother’s death was profound. None of us realized how much she had become dependent on him.  In those last years of her life, Mama’s health was failing. Her eyesight had dimmed, and she developed congestive heart failure. Dad came home every morning from the lumberyard about nine o’clock to fix her breakfast. He stayed with her until she had showered, dressed, and gotten settled.

Mama died the Wednesday after Easter 2001.

As Christmas approached that year, Clare and I met Dad for supper at Wade’s Restaurant. During the meal we had a memorable conversation.

After the meal that December night, I told Dad that Clare and I had to go to Wal-Mart.

“You don’t have to hurry, you know,” he said. “They stay open all night.”

“Have you been shopping at Wal-Mart in the middle of the night?”

“Yes, I have. I don’t have much trouble going to sleep at night. When I wake up though and your Mama is not there, that bed is the loneliest place in the world. I get up, take my shower, dress, and go to Wal-Mart. That’s when I’ve done all of my Christmas shopping. I’ll tell you something else, Waffle House stays open all night, too.”

“You’ve been going to Waffle House in the middle of the night, too?”

“I sure have! If I wake up at two or three o’clock in the morning, missing your Mama so bad I can’t stand it, I shop a while at Wal-Mart. Then I stop by Waffle House for breakfast. I can still get to the lumberyard by five o’clock.”

“No wonder you don’t have any trouble going to sleep at night!”

“Nope. I read the Bible, say my prayers, and go right to sleep.”

When Mama died, Dad was eighty years old. Except for his gimpy left knee, he was in good health. But Dad was bereft, adrift, lonely, and vulnerable. Widows swarmed around him like gnats on a sweating horse. Some were unbelievably forward in their pursuit.

Dad made it clear that he had no intention of taking up with another woman. “I had the best wife any man could have. There will never be another woman for me. I’ll never get married again.”

And then there was Ruth.

Ruth and her husband, Ray, were members of the church I pastored.  Two months before they celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, Ray was diagnosed with cancer. For ten long months, Ruth lovingly tended her dying husband in their home.

Though Ruth almost always had a smile on her face during her vigil, strain and fatigue were evident. I saw in her expression her sorrow and her devotion to Ray.

In the early morning hours of May 11, 2002, he died.

After Ray’s funeral service a few days later, I walked with Ruth to the family car. Arching across the cloudy sky that afternoon was a full rainbow.

Dad, who attended the service, later said, “I saw Ruth with a broken heart. She was standing under that beautiful rainbow. I knew exactly how empty she felt because I still felt that same way. I just wanted to take Ruth in my arms and comfort her.  I knew then that I had feelings for her.”

As the months passed, I knew Dad and Ruth were falling in love. I saw them sitting together in church. Dad quit making rash promises about how he would never remarry.

A year later in May 2003 Dad and Ruth were married. I, along with the five other ministers in our family, officiated at their wedding.

Love the second time around is not easy. Two weeks after the wedding, Ruth’s daughter, Kathy, died after an extended illness.

“The more people you love, the more grief you must endure,” Dad said.

Ruth knows.She would also loose Dad.

Ruth recently said, “Though we were only married for seven years, sometimes I feel like we were married for a long time. It’s wonderful to be married to your best friend and your soul mate.”

To celebrate their third wedding anniversary, Dad and Ruth went to an inn in Tryon, North Carolina. At dinner, they held hands across a candlelit table to say the blessing.

The young waitress commented, “This must be a special occasion.”

“Yes, it’s our wedding anniversary.”

“Congratulations! How long have you been married?”

“We’ve been married one hundred and twelve years,” beamed Dad with that familiar twinkle in his eye.

“A hundred and twelve years?” the waitress asked.

“That’s right! I was married to my first wife for fifty-eight years.” Then nodding to Ruth, he explained, “She was married to her first husband for fifty-one years. And we’ve been married to each other for three years. That makes one hundred and twelve years.”

After seven years of marriage to Ruth Dad died on Sunday, April 3, 2011

This past December I officiated at Ruth’s third wedding. She and he husband, Bill, have a beautiful marriage. The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, “Love never ends.”

To verify the truth of that scripture, just ask Ruth.

THE PRICE OF A HAIRCUT

February 9, 2017
bush

When I saw former President George H. W. Bush and his wife Barbara wheeled to the fifty yard line for the coin toss just before the kickoff of the Super Bowl last Sunday night, I, along with many others, were amazed. They had both recently been hospitalized. But there they were, cheered on by the thousands of fans in attendance as well as by many others watching on television. It brought to mind something that occurred twenty years ago in Spartanburg.

Stay with me here. This is a good story.

When Clare and I lived in Winston-Salem, I won a drawing at a Boy Scout fundraiser. The door prize was a styling at a local hair salon, Delilah’s Den. Though I had always gone to a regular barbershop, I decided to try it out since it was free.  The resulting haircut was just fine, but Clare quickly informed me that Delilah’s Den was forevermore on the black list of places to get a haircut. Delilah, the stylist, struck her as matching too closely the description of the Biblical Delilah, the one responsible for the downfall of Samson.

Samson had the most expensive haircut on record!

Contrary to the familiar refrain, “Shave and a haircut, two bits,” I have never paid less than fifty cents for a haircut.

When I was a freshman at Furman in 1962, one of the seniors worked as a barber out of his dormitory room. He charged half a dollar per customer for a haircut that conformed to Army standards.

My dad used to give similar haircuts to my three brothers and me.  In our garage, using neither comb nor scissors, his only tool was an electric trimmer with a buzz attachment. The resulting hairstyle was just short of bald, allowing our mother to spot a black-legged deer tick at twenty paces.

My first flattop came from Bob Martin when I was in junior high. I used a product called Butch Hair Wax to make the unnatural arrangement stand up. Its effect didn’t last long. A flattop and a baseball cap are incompatible.

Nowadays, barbershops are diminishing in number.  Salons are replacing many. The folks who actually cut hair are no longer named Bubba or Sarge.  They refer to themselves as stylists rather than barbers. They may be people who speak with a foreign accent or women named Delilah.

I remember the barbershop as a house of mirrors. Opposing mirrors in front of and behind the row of chairs created a series of reflections extending to infinity. The barbershop was a place filled with clouds of cigar smoke mingling with the fragrance of talcum powder and shaving lotion. A barber from my teenage years chewed Redman Tobacco. His brass spittoon would now be considered an antique, a disgusting relic from a bygone era.

The local barbershop is among the last of the all-male institutions to fade from the American scene. A barber pole and the cigar store Indian were, for years, symbols of welcome refuge for the American male. No more.

The first time I remember a woman entering a barbershop, the intrusion brought a pall of silence settling over the establishment. It was as if we had experienced a close encounter of the third kind.

She was a mama who wanted to be sure the barber treated her none-to-happy son gently and, at the same time, cut the child’s hair to suit her.

While she was in the shop, there were no jokes and no fishing stories. There was no banter and no barbershop quarterbacking. The lady did most of the talking.

After the mother and her child departed, a whole lot was said!

Now, if I enter a barbershop where I am known, I am often greeted with, “Hey, Preacher!” followed by the same awkward silence.

After fifty plus years as a pastor, I recognize the alarm when it is sounded. Barbers and patrons alike are immediately on guard. Language is sanitized. The best barbershop jokes are censored. It is too high a price to pay for a haircut!

Once I decided to dash into an unfamiliar barbershop for a quick trim while Clare did some shopping.

When I next saw her, she was horrified. “What happened to your hair? It looks like a lawnmower ran across your head!”

That was the day I finally lost the privilege of choosing my own barber.

I used to get a haircut at least once every three months whether I needed it or not.

Since Clare started making the decisions about where I am allowed to get my trim, I have a standing appointment with the same stylist who does her hair. Jeff is a great friend. He gives an excellent haircut. His price is more than fair. Best of all, Jeff is a Green Bay Packers fan who enjoys talking football.

He comes from a long line of Georgia barbers. His fine heritage is evidenced by a pair of his great uncle’s straight razors framed in a shadowbox on the wall of his shop. When I visit his place of business, the magazines are Vogue and Cosmopolitan. There is not a Field and Stream or Sports Illustrated in sight. That is a high price to pay while waiting for a haircut.

Several years ago, while Clare was shopping in historic downtown Inman, I strolled into a barbershop around the corner. The customer in the only barber chair had an Elvis-sized head of hair. The barber worked on the shiny black ducktail while exchanging turkey-hunting stories with the next fellow in line, a man who was almost completely bald.

As the first man paid the usual amount for his haircut, the bald man took his seat in the chair. “Surely, you’re not going to charge me the same thing you charged him?  I should get a discount!”

The barber responded with a line he must have used many times before. “Yes, you’ll get a discount for the haircut, but I’ll have to charge you a finder’s fee.”

Sometimes the price of a haircut is just too high!

The truth is, nobody wants a bad hair day.

The salon where I get my hair cut and where Clare has her hair styled, are one and the same. Their telephones ring constantly. Making appointments, changing appointments, doing whatever must be done to accommodate the clientele is the nature of the business.

Here is the story about George and Barbara Bush.

One October day in 1997, Pam returned a phone call. A regular customer wanted to make an appointment, but this time it was not for herself.

“Pam, former President and First Lady, George and Barbara Bush, are in Spartanburg. Could you do Barbara Bush’s hair tomorrow?”

Pam agreed. After the call, she blurted out to everyone in the shop, “Y’all, I’m doing Barbara Bush’s hair tomorrow!”

For the rest of the day, the shop was buzzing. Everyone who came in had a comment about the former First Lady.

“I just loved her book about her dog, Millie’s Book.”

“You know, she’s a grandmother. In fact, she’s everybody’s grandmother.”

“The thing I like about her is she speaks her mind. She’s just a plain person like all of us.”

I teased Pam about her opportunity to trim the Bushes.

Later in the day, the telephone rang. Pam heard the same voice again. This time she answered immediately.

“Pam, since you’re coming to fix Barbara Bush’s hair, would you have time to give the former President a trim, too?”

No chance that Pam would be speechless!  “Oh my gosh! I would be honored!”

When Pam arrived at the Milliken Guest House, she was nervous. The Secret Service Agents didn’t ease her discomfort.

Pam had on a new outfit. Barbara Bush wore a terrycloth bathrobe.  As Pam styled Mrs. Bush’s lovely snow-white hair, they talked about their children, just as any two mothers would do.

Pam had almost completed Barbara’s hairdo when the former President came to the door wearing a matching white terrycloth robe.

Pam said the former president put her at ease. “As I cut his hair, I remember thinking, these are just ordinary people.  There was no air of superiority about them.”

George Bush offered to pay Pam. Pam declined, saying it was her honor. The former President insisted, paying the usual fee for both Barbara’s styling and for his haircut.

In that case, the price of a haircut was just right.

FOR SCOUT DAY

February 8, 2017
boyscoutslogo

Today is the anniversary of he Boy Scouts of America.  This has been an important organization for our family as well as for thousands of scouts.

The Scout Oath and The Scout Law are the two guiding documents for he Boy Scouts of America.

The Scout Oath

On my honor

I will do my best

to do my duty to God and my country

and to obey the Scout Law;

to help other people at all times;

to keep myself physically strong,

mentally awake,

and morally straight.

The Scout Law

A Scout is

trustworthy,

loyal,

helpful,

friendly,

courteous,

kind,

obedient,

cheerful,

thrifty,

brave,

clean,

and reverent.

A PRAYER FOR TODAY

February 5, 2017
praying_hands

O God:

Give me strength to live another day;

Let me not turn coward before its difficulties

or prove recreant to its duties;

 

Let me not lose faith in other people;

Keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of

ingratitude, treachery, or meanness;

Preserve me from minding little stings or

giving them;

 

Help me to keep my heart clean, and to live so

honestly and fearlessly that no outward failure

can dishearten me or take away the joy of

conscious integrity;

 

Open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see

good in all things;

 

Grant me this day some new vision of thy truth;

Inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness;

 

And make me the cup of strength to suffering

souls; in the name of the strong Deliverer,

our only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

-Phillips Brooks

Reposted from forwardmovement.org

EULOGY FOR A GROUNDHOG

February 2, 2017
groundhog-ii

One cool day in the early fall Clare discovered a dead groundhog. The animal was lying near our mailbox next to the four-lane road in front of our home. Though I am not a crime scene investigator, the immediate cause of death was apparently a close encounter with a motorized vehicle of some sort. My best guess is that he was dealt a blow by a truck hauling petroleum products.

The plump fellow was flat on his back, his small feet tucked into his body.

Using a shovel, I scooped the groundhog from the pavement and carried him to a large field next to the railroad tracks behind our house. The next day, I noticed several crows and two buzzards circling his carcass.

Reflecting on this drama, I wondered why our calendars include a special day, February 2, commemorating the groundhog. Why not have special days named for other critters subject to becoming road kill victims? Don’t possums and skunks also deserve days named for them? What about deer whose casualty rate is certainly on the increase? What about cur dogs and feral cats that come to a no-good end on a paved strip of asphalt? Why has the groundhog been the only creature afforded this honor?

On February 2nd the Christian holiday of Candlemas is observed. In the Roman Catholic tradition the day marks the end of the Christmas and Epiphany season. It was on this day that Christmas decorations were to be removed. Consider these four lines from “Ceremony upon Candlemas Eve,” by Robert Herrick (1591–1674):

Down with the rosemary, and so

Down with the bays and mistletoe;

Down with the holly, ivy, all,

Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall:

The name Candlemas refers to a priest’s practice of blessing beeswax candles for use in churches and homes during the coming year.

February 2nd is the midpoint of winter, falling halfway between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. If, on Candlemas, the weather was cloudy and overcast, it was believed that warmer weather was ahead. If, however, the sky was bright and sunny on that day, cold weather could be expected for another six weeks. Hence the rhyme:

If Candlemas Day is bright and clear,

There’ll be two winters in the year.

Therefore, if a hibernating animal emerging from his den casts a shadow, winter would last another six weeks. If no shadow was seen, according to legend, spring would come early.

The question remains, why the groundhog? Surely other furry animals cast shadows. Why should the groundhog be singled out for a special day?  Maybe this is rodent discrimination.  What about gophers, or squirrels, or rats?

Each year on February 2nd, the population of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, swells from 6,000 or so to well over 10,000.  Visitors travel to the small town sixty-five miles northeast of Pittsburgh, not for the blessing of candles, but for the celebration of Groundhog Day.

Maybe the groundhog was chosen because these animals enter a true hibernation period. Maybe it is because they have such a wide range of habitation – from Alabama to Alaska. Maybe it was chosen because they are so plentiful, reproducing in numbers similar to rabbits and rats. Indeed, farmers in some areas consider these marmots to be varmints.

Maybe the groundhog received this designation because, when frightened, he holds absolutely still, hesitates, and then scurries into his burrow. This might explain the legend that the groundhog sees his shadow, becomes afraid, and returns quickly to his den.

The groundhog (Marmota monax) is known by several names.  The name woodchuck, which comes from an Algonquian name for the animal, wuchak, has been made popular by a well-known tongue twister:

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck,

If a woodchuck would chuck wood?

A woodchuck would chuck all the wood

That a woodchuck would chuck,

If a woodchuck would chuck wood.

Another name for the groundhog is whistle pig. Outside their burrow these furry animals are alert. When driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, I have often seen several of these critters standing erect on their hind feet, motionless, watching for danger. If alarmed, they give a high-pitched whistle to warn the rest of the colony.

Of course, the one Clare found by our mailbox was also motionless. He apparently didn’t hear the warning.

Groundhogs usually live two to three years. Common predators include wolves, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, bears, hawks, and owls. Big trucks are also a hazard.

Country folks sometimes eat groundhog for supper. Stews with plenty of onions, garlic, and hot peppers seem to be the preferred recipes.

The groundhog has found his niche. Doc Watson and Pete Seeger have memorialized him in folksongs. Bill Murray and Gaffney’s own Andie MacDowell starred in “Groundhog Day,” a 1993 comedy film directed by Harold Ramis.

On February 2nd, businessmen, wearing top hats and tuxedos, will coax Punxsutawney Phil, the most celebrated of all groundhogs, from his stump. Phil will whisper his prediction to a Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle representative, and the translator will reveal the forecast to the national news media. Approximately 90% of the time, Phil sees his shadow. Phil’s ancestors started making predictions in 1887. Residents contend that their groundhog has never been wrong.

Meanwhile in Lilburn, Georgia, Phil’s southern cousin, General Beauregard Lee, will also emerge to see his shadow, or not. He will then give his prediction for the states below the Mason-Dixon Line.

What about the groundhog that died near our mailbox? Did he see his shadow?  I don’t know. I do know though that he did not see the eighteen-wheel truck that hit him.

On this Groundhog Day, may he rest in peace.