Sitting on the Steps of Life
By Timothy W. Tron
A few weeks ago, God took me to the front porch of the little convenience store in the town of Colletsville. There, as I sat on the steps of the modern day general store watching the world go by, I waited. The voice had told me to go there and wait for someone, whom I did not know. So, there I sat. One person after another got out of their cars, and either went inside the store or pulled up to the gas pumps to fill up their vehicle. My destination began with speaking to the workers inside, asking if they went to any local churches; neither did. I asked if they lived in the area, and they said yes, just up the road. It was then I realized that was part of the reason I had been sent. Pouring myself a cup a coffee, I then retired to the front steps where my story began and waited.
It didn’t take long, but soon an older man, scruffily dressed in overalls, pulled up in his pick-up truck and got out, calling out to me as he shut the door. “Fine day we’re having,” he nearly shouted from across the parking lot. I took another sip of the hot brew and nodded, “Yes, it certainly is,” I answered.
He stepped on the first step and started to climb but paused when I said, “It’s not quite as bad as it was last night, though.” The rough-hewn mountain man looked down at me, “Yea, that wind can cut right through you.”
The previous night had been a bitter cold sixteen degrees with winds gusting to thirty miles an hour. The chill was still in my bones; thus, the hot coffee was good after dinner. I took another sip as I nodded in agreement. I removed my sunglasses so as not to seem unfriendly and asked. “Do you know of any good churches in the area?”
“What kinda church you looking for,” he answered as he stepped backward off the step so that he now stood in front of me.
“One that preaches the Word of God,” I answered solemnly.
“Thems the best kind. That’s what I like,” he squinted as he checked me out. It was at that moment, that silent split second when you feel a connection to someone; someone you had never met before, but there in the moment, there was something that tied you together far beyond the mere seconds in which you stood. “Well, there’s the couple we have here in Colletsville,” he tilted his head in the direction of the two churches I had just driven past a few minutes earlier when I was checking out their starting times and denominational affiliations. “The Advent Church was started over a hundred years ago, when their preacher rode down from the mountains on a mule.”
“Wow,” I exclaimed.
“They’re all good folks.”
“I noticed they were pretty close together, the churches that is.”
“Yeah, the one used to sit facing the road but the flood spun it around on the foundation, and they just left it there after it was repaired.”
“The flood that took out the railroad tracks?”
“Yep, that’s the one.” He then stepped forward and introduced himself, “I’m Cecil Byrd.”
I reached out my hand and shook his firmly, “Tim Tron,” I answered, smiling back at him. I followed with, “You have the same name as one of my favorite uncles.” To that, he smiled extra wide.
“Yep, I guess it ain’t a very common name.”
“You take my brother, for example, his name is Daniel Boone Byrd. You’da thought they would’ve called me Davie Crockett Byrd, but no, they called me Cecil.”
“No, I guess not. Did they name you after a family member?”
“No, they told me my daddy worked for a man that he didn’t like. His name was Cecil.”
“Hmm,” I said biting my lip in curiosity.
“It don’t make any sense, but then sometimes that’s just the way life is.”
When I asked if there was anyone around that made string music, he told me, no, but his mother used to play the banjo.
“She was quite musical you might say. She played the banjo, guitar, and even the piano.” The pride in his voice was evident, but as he spoke, he seemed to drift off almost as if he was still listening to those ancient tones come back to life. In the distance, I could almost hear that relic of claw hammer sound echo off the mountain walls near us.
As our conversation continued, Cecil would welcome or call out to almost everyone that was coming and going in and out of the store. It was obvious he was the unofficial town Mayor. Some he would ask how they’d been or some would ask about a job he had just finished, which was putting a new roof on another church just down the road, not either of the two we had talked about earlier. He was a roofer by trade, putting on roofs for the past forty years. His father had taught him before he passed, when Cecil was only twenty years old. I shared with Cecil my calling and how God had brought me here. He shared with me more of his family history and how he had lost some of his siblings throughout his life. Soon a large black Ford 2500 Diesel pulled up which commanded all of Cecil’s attention. It had just pulled out of the school parking lot which was across the street from the store.
“Nice rig,” I remarked admiringly.
“Sure is,” he grinned, “That’s my boy.”
Cecil then left me and walked over to visit with his grandchildren who began pouring out of the massive, fully-loaded pickup, complete with a heavy duty electric winch fastened on the aftermarket painted black metal, Texas brush bumper.
I waited for the appropriate time so as not to interrupt, tossed my empty coffee cup into the garbage nearby as I headed for my car.
“Talk to you later Cecil,” I said, waving goodbye.
“You too,” he called back, waving in my direction. “Good talkin’ to ya.”
Behind the store, the Johns River silently flowed past as time and mankind came and went. Somewhere in the farthest reaches of a holler nearby sits a banjo covered in dust whose memory begs to come to life. Somewhere those memories are still alive, a heartbeat away.
Welcome to my new home.
Thanks be to God.