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By Timothy W. Tron

Burke CountyTim Tron Burke County


“And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.”                                                                                                               – Matthew 18:5

It was a gray, overcast day where the earth’s colors, the faded wood on the old barn, and the ground below all beckoned the mood from within. The farmer, in his early forties, walked ahead of the child that followed in tow, making their way across the barnyard, past the dark cave-like openings of the outbuilding. The little boy’s eyes focused on the ground behind the man, trying to keep up with his grandpa’s long legs. They reached the edge of the barn lot and stopped.  Earl pointed the child towards the opening in the fence line where a gate once stood. “Tobie, you stand here. I’m going to try to get this cow to go into the barn lot, but if she gets by me, she might come this way. If she does, I’m counting on you to keep her from going out into that pasture.” As he spoke, he pointed to the land that spread out across the vast expanse of a farm behind the frail little boy. To a child barely four years old, the vast expanse of land could have reached the edges of the earth. Yet, Tobie knew no fear, for he had no reason to believe he could be harmed when he was with his grandfather.

“Wave your arms like this; it’ll scare her and keep her from running past you.” Earl waved his outstretched arms in a frantic display of hope. It was his vain attempt to inspire his only grandson. The RedMan tobacco chew bulged out the side of his face, stretching his cheek tight, making him look like he was gasping for breath as he spoke. Not wanting to disappoint his grandpa, Tobie mimicked Earl’s actions, holding out his tiny arms, timidly waving them while smiling broadly at how silly his grandpa looked, flapping his arms like an oversized baby bird.

“Make sure you wave’em around real good so you can scare her. If she comes this way, she’s gonna realize that there’s an opening in the fence, and she will come running at you with a full head of steam. But don’t be scared. She’ll turn.”

Satisfied with his plan, Earl turned and disappeared into the barn several yards away.

Overhead, the dark, low clouds passed – a harbinger of things to come. Somewhere out in the pasture behind the little boy, a cow bellowed. A mockingbird flew past, landing nearby on a fence post. Tobie’s eyes followed, wanting to learn more about the bird that sang so many sweet songs. His mind returned to the previous Sunday when Earl drove Tobie and his grandmother to Church. It was a peaceful, joyous day, like every Sunday, that began with pancakes and gospel groups singing on the television. Then, they would all dress nice, load into the car, and drive several miles to town, where Earl would drop Tobie and his grandma off at the front of the First Baptist Church. Earl would drive away, as his grandma would say, “He has man stuff to do in town.” It made Tobie sad that his papaw couldn’t join them because when he asked about it, he could sense the pain in his grandma’s voice when she replied.

The lingering pain of that memory rested on the brink of Tobie’s thoughts even though his sight rested upon the thing of song and beauty. Yet, there was a growing sense of darkness overpowering his consciousness. The hurt growing more real. Unaware of the beast quickly bearing down upon him, the sound of Earl yelling broke the spell. Tobie turned to see the nearly 2,000-pound animal heading straight for him. Fear pierced his tiny heart.

“Wave your arms,” Earl shouted, “Wave your arms, don’t let her get past you!” But Earl watched in horror as the frantic animal raced ahead, barreling straight for his precious grandson. There was nothing he could do. The nervous cow had slipped past the open gate he had intended for her to take, instead racing past him in the barn. He suddenly realized that his choice to save time and use his grandson as a barrier was a horrendous decision. Any farmer knows that a momma cow with a calf being weaned was a formidable force. The separation of mother from child brought out an instinctual drive that had no match. As he ran, the image of Tobie disappeared from view as the cow’s body enveloped the picture of his grandson. His heart beat in his ears with the sound of a drum as his lungs struggled to keep up. Like a bad dream, the animal raced ahead of him straight for the helpless child. Meanwhile, out of his line of sight, the loyal child still stood shaking his stick-like arms against a prevailing force that he alone could not withstand.

Seconds turned into an eternity. Somewhere far away, the hand of time paused, holding its breath.

With wide eyes, the little farm boy frantically waved his tiny arms the best he could, but it was to no avail. He was nothing to the momma cow that wanted to be reunited with her calf. A minute human that was smaller than her own was all that stood between her and the reunion she had been wanting all night. Not slowing, the angry cow bellowed a frightful growl as she put her head down, running straight for the child. At the last second, fearing for his life, Tobie closed his eyes, hoping that if he couldn’t see the angry cow, then she would go away. It was at that moment that Tobie felt someone pick him up and move him from where he had been standing. As he softly fell back to earth, eyes still closed, he felt the air move past him. He didn’t see the hooves, the mass of destruction hurdle through the spot where he had just stood. Confused, Tobie opened his eyes, not understanding what had just happened. He was sure that it was his grandpa who had lifted him out of harm’s way, yet he was nowhere near.

The hands of time exhaled, and the second hand began her eternal dance forward.

In what seemed a separate reality, the beleaguered cow ran past, kicking up her heels with satisfaction after clearing the opening, quickly disappearing over the ridge. The sounds of a calf and the welcoming call of its mother could be heard echoing from the valley beyond.

Picking himself up out of the dust of the barnyard, still trying to understand what had happened, Tobie stood looking at the angry man fast approaching him. Now, he was even more confused. Unlike the gentle hand, the man before him now began to curse a string of words he had never heard the man speak before. Their vehement tone pained the tender heart. It was as if the evil within the cow had leaped into his grandpa as ugly, hateful voices spewed out of his mouth. It scared Tobie even more than the raging cow. It hurt more than the thought of what might have happened had the momma cow run him over. Tears started to form in his bright eyes, knowing that whatever he had done was not what his grandpa had wanted. Yet, the man before him wasn’t the comforting man he once knew. Somewhere, beyond what he could see, was another comforter he had never met, yet had been there for him when he needed Him most.

Like a man in a trance, Earl could see and hear himself railing against the child. It enraged him to see this man berate this innocence that stood before him. As helplessness flowed from the child’s eyes, the horror consumed the man’s soul, overflowing from a dark abyss within. His anger was at himself, not the beloved grandchild – his heart sank. The helplessness that resulted from his lousy decision had nearly cost him one of the only bright spots in his life. The sheer thought of his grandson being trampled to death made tears begin to form, and an ache from the depths of his soul began to consume him. As his rage slowly began to fade, Earl realized he had made a colossal blunder. Before him, dressed in his matching overalls, stood his only grandson with tears streaming down his rosy cheeks. Earl realized that he had mistakenly judged how little his willful grandson was of a deterrent to a mother cow and her calf. He could have been killed. Even more painful was knowing how his verbal outburst and demeanor had inflicted pain upon his grandson. Yet, somehow, he was tossed out of the way. How, he couldn’t say. The body of the cow had blocked his view of the child. Fearing for the worst, he couldn’t see how the unseen force picked up the child and set him out of harm’s way. All Earl knew was that by some miracle, his grandson was spared.

Earl thought of the times that he had spent dropping off Evelyn and Tobie on Sunday mornings, only to go into town and meet up with the boys in the back of the Green Tavern, where they’d play cards, laugh, and smoke cigars while telling crude jokes until the town’s Church services were over. Most in that congregational iniquity felt they had outsmarted those religious types, saving themselves the shame and contemptuous feelings they encountered when attending. It hurt Earl to know that he had knowingly betrayed his loving wife and grandson, selling them out for vulgarity and false bravado only to pad his self-esteem. Again and again, he hated himself to the innermost depths of his soul until a conviction unlike anything he had ever known began to come over him.

Like a man spared from an eternal death, Earl fell to his knees and began to weep. Here, he had once more allowed a vile rage that crept within his soul to surface, flooding into his consciousness, blinding him from the love for his grandson and, in turn, endangering the life that was so precious to him and his wife, Evelyn. From the depths of his being came a voice of repentance, seeking forgiveness from the God he had kept away for so long. The back room gambling in town, the strong drink, cigars, and vulgar talk, all part of that façade he wanted the world to know, suddenly disgusted him to the point he felt sick to his stomach. Deep within his bowels, Earl felt the sensation of fire begin to burn within, rising like the coffee pot percolating on the wood stove, steam rising until he could feel something evil escaping his body. Not far away, a Mockingbird began to sing, rejoicing in the moment’s glory. Earl looked up as the clouds parted, and a shaft of sunlight flooded that tiny patch of land upon which he knelt. The warmth of yellow light upon his face warmed the heart within. A tingling began to overwhelm his soul as the Master’s hand touched his frame. Suddenly, Earl felt a change overcome his being, something palpable yet spiritual. He opened his eyes to see the tiny frame of Tobie standing before him, eyes still wet from the dew of compassion only a child can possess.

“Papaw, …I’m sorry.”

Earl’s heart was breaking as he tried to speak. But the words were garbled by emotions which now tried to hinder his loving response. “No, my son, you ain’t done nothin’ wrong…” His voice trailed off as he bit his lip, trying to regain his composure, “It’s me that needs to say I’m sorry. Your papaw is so, so very sorry. I should have never put you in that position. More than that, I’m sorry for being so ugly to you. That is the last thing on this earth that I ever wanted you to remember me by. It’s not who I am.” Earl paused as the boy walked up within arm’s reach and spoke.

“It’s okay, papaw,” and from the lips of a child, a precious song began to timidly flow, “Jesus loves you this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

The floodgates opened as Earl spread his arms wide. Tobie leaned into his embrace, and he hugged the child as if it were the first time in his life.

The following Sunday, Tobie awoke to the smell of bacon sizzling in the frying pan and the sound of his papaw and grandma carrying on in the kitchen. The sleepy-eyed boy found his way, walking through the living room, past the television playing the Chuckwagon Boys Gospel hour, as he rounded the doorway to the kitchen. There, happy as a couple of songbirds, were Earl and Evelyn, glowing as if they had just met. Tobie’s face told it all as he smiled ear-to-ear. After they had filled themselves with pancakes and bacon, they dressed up as usual and took the drive to town. However, unlike before, when Grandpa dropped them off, the car didn’t just sit along the roadway in front of the church. Instead, papaw pulled into the parking lot and stopped the car.

Curious, from the back seat, Tobie had to ask, “Don’t papaw have man things to do today, grandma?”

Before she could answer, Earl turned, facing Evelyn, “No, my son, today your papaw ain’t messing around with the man’s things to do; he’s got bigger things to take care of.” With that, he ceremoniously got out and walked around, opening Evelyn’s door as Tobie climbed out of the back. Earl gave Evelyn a wink as he graciously closed her door and tenderly took her hand and, with the other, Tobie’s. Then, together, with a look of joy that only the Grace of God could explain written on his grandparents’ faces, they all walked into the church for the first time in a little boy’s life.

Somewhere nearby a Mockingbird sang a sweet, sweet song. Across the road from the church, a cow softly mooed. Inside a little country church, as the choir sang “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know,” there wasn’t a happier child on the face of the earth that blissful Sunday morning.

Thanks be to God.


Timothy W. Tron lives in Collettsville, NC. with his family. He is currently the Systems Administrator for the Computer Science Department at App. State. Timothy is the former Director of the Trail of Faith in Valdese, where he still volunteers and helps with tours. He is the author of a new Christian series, “Children of the Light”, with the first book being, “Bruecke to Heaven”, revised as “Bridge to Heaven”, and his recent book, being the second, “The Light in the Darkness”. He is an active blogger, artist, and musician. Timothy also has a BSEE from UF, and is a Lay Speaker. He is currently acting as the Faculty/Staff Liaison for the Ratio Christi campus ministry at App. State. He can be reached at  You can visit his website at // or see more of his writings HERE