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“Keep A-Goin'”

May 3, 2007

Clare and I went to Cooley Springs last week.  We traveled a circuitous route, ambling through the northern part of our county. Near Lake Bowen, we saw a box turtle meandering across the asphalt pavement. The critter tucked himself into the safety of his shell as we rumbled past in our pickup truck. No more than a hundred yards further down the road, we saw an Upstate cottontail rabbit scamper across the highway, heading in the same direction the terrapin.

Aesop’s fable about the race between the tortoise and the hare came to mind. “Slow and steady wins the race,” I mumbled, recalling the moral of the ancient Greek tale.

“Then, maybe you should slow down a little,” my wife chided, seizing the opportunity to make her own point.

Strawberry Hill on Highway 11 at Cooley Springs is one of our favorite places to visit.  Breakfast at the restaurant is especially appealing, but a visit to the produce stand is beyond compare.  Last week, featured items were Vidalia onions, bags and bags of the sweet Georgia onions.  There were tomatoes imported from somewhere south of the Savannah River, offering the promise that homegrown ripe, red fruit is just a few weeks away. 

Best of all, there were buckets of plump, sweet strawberries, grown on the hillsides of Cooley Springs. 

James Cooley was seated on his forklift.  I’m not sure why.  He didn’t seem to have any heavy lifting to do.  Most of all, I think he just wanted to give his little granddaughter a ride.  He stopped for a moment to talk with me.  Through several of our members, James has connections to the church I serve as pastor.  He is related by blood or marriage to some of Morningside’s finest. 

I commented on how good the strawberries looked. 

“Wait ‘til you taste them,” he said, “they are as sweet as they can be.”

Our conversation continued.  “I heard you lost all your peaches.”

“Preacher, we lost a lot of peaches, but not all of them.  We’re going to have some peaches.”

“I read that South Carolina had been declared a disaster area because the cold weather at Easter had completely wiped out the peach crop.  In fact, I heard one fellow say that he didn’t think there would be a single peach out of South Carolina this year.”

James Cooley sat up straight on his forklift, “I’ve been telling those old boys to quit poor mouthing.  We’re going to have some peaches.  Not as many as usual, but we’ve got some varieties that are going to do real well.  Besides, I’ve got a friend down in Johnston, South Carolina, who told me I could get as many peaches as I wanted from him.  If these fellows keep complaining, people won’t even try to buy peaches from us.  They’ll just go to the grocery store and buy fruit that has been grown somewhere else.”

James Cooley is a remarkable man.  In October 2002, he and his daughter, Brooke, were in a motorcycle accident.  Both were injured.  James nearly died.  Then, for a while, his doctors wondered if he would ever walk again.  While his limp still shows the results of the accident, his spirit is indomitable.  His attitude about the peach crop is a reflection of that same resolute perseverance that brought him through his physical trials. He is a living example that slow and steady wins the race.

Such enduring persistence is a trait to be admired in others and cultivated within ourselves.  It is derived from, and undergirded by, faith in God who said to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9)

Discouragement is an enemy of the soul.  It will beat you down, knock you for a loop, and drag you out.  The way to overcome is through faith.

At a funeral I conducted recently, the bereaved family requested that I read “Keep a-Goin’” by Frank L. Stanton (1857-1927). It was an apt description of the person we were memorializing.

The poem reminds me also of James Cooley’s persistent optimism and steady endurance in the face of personal physical difficulties, or even a killing freeze.


If you strike a thorn or rose,
Keep a-goin’!
If it hails or if it snows,
Keep a-goin’!
‘T ain’t no use to sit an’ whine
When the fish ain’t on your line;
Bait your hook an’ keep a-tryin’–
Keep a-goin’!

When the weather kills your crop,
Keep a-goin’!
Though ’tis work to reach the top,
Keep a-goin’!
S’pose you’re out o’ ev’ry dime,
Gittin’ broke ain’t any crime;
Tell the world you’re feelin’ prime–
Keep a-goin’!

When it looks like all is up,
Keep a-goin’!
Drain the sweetness from the cup,
Keep a-goin’!
See the wild birds on the wing,
Hear the bells that sweetly ring,
When you feel like singin’, sing–
Keep a-goin’!


Take time to drive to Cooley Springs. Eat a good breakfast at Strawberry Hill. Buy a bucket of strawberries and a bag of Vidalia onions.  And look forward to tasty tomatoes and Spartanburg County peaches. 

Along the way, you may see a terrapin or a rabbit, visual reminders of the value of persistence. If you get an opportunity, speak to James Cooley.  It will do you good and encourage you to keep a-goin’.

-Kirk H. Neely

© H-J Weekly, May 2007

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