“It’s time to quit patting the mule and start packing the wagon,” my grandfather would say, and I’d know it was time to get back to work.
Like many of his time, and particularly those from a rural background, he had a lot of entertaining sayings. Some were colorful, some pointedly descriptive, and some morally instructive.
Listening to him and others talk around the stove at the store, you’d hear things like, “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise” about future plans, or “mean as a sack of wet cats” about some unsavory fellow.
A burly guy could “hunt bear with a switch.” A lazy person could have been “born in the middle of the week, looking both ways to Sunday.”
Aphorisms like “Ifs and buts butter no bread” and “every pea helps fill the pod” didn’t require any explanation.
Adages like “If you don’t say it, you don’t have to unsay it” or “a bad workman blames his tools” were short parables.
Responses such as “every path has its puddles,” “a short cut is a wrong cut,” or “never cackle unless you lay” summarized a moral and postulated a truth.
Some of this can be traced back to the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee, some back to Germany or Ireland.
But if you really want to pursue it, you can find a lot of it in the Book of Proverbs, part of the “Wisdom” section of the Old Testament.
With no mention of prophets or covenants, Proverbs deals in daily experience and its lessons for living life.
“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips,” and “deep in water are the purposes of human hearts” have a familiar ring.
According to Proverbs, wisdom demands an attitude that trusts “in the Lord with all your heart ... and He will make straight your paths.”
It reminds us that “the heart of the intelligent acquires knowledge.”
In relationships, it advises that “a mild answer turns back wrath,” that “love prospers when a fault is forgiven,” and that “as iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another.”
We are admonished personally to “let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you,” “ponder the path of your feet,” and “defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Today, the Book of Proverbs is still fresh and timely. Read it.
I think you’ll find, as my grandfather used to say, “Now you’re digging where there’s taters."