by Richard W. Webb

Jonny Pace war a whittler. All day long he made wooden figgers, n if ye ast em, folks round bout’d say jus how good he war. "They’nt none better," folks might say. "They’nt none even clos’t."

Jonny’d heard tell oncet bout some famed statue makin feller, from Itly or some airs, had oncet bin ast how he made his statues so good. This year statue feller, he said sumtin bout how he jus knockt off tha stone what warn’t suppose ter be thar, n tha statue jus worked itself on out. Or sumtin like thet.

Jonny, he knowed jus what tha statue feller was talkin bout, cause thet’s just what he done with his whittlin. He jus took all tha wood outen tha way thet shouldn’t a bin thar, n when he’us done, well, thar it war! An he knowed by lookin at a piece jus what it had in its side. Might be a owl, or a horse, or a one a them nights in a shinin armory or sum sech sumtin, but when he looked at tha wood he knowed, n he was allus a right cause what he thought was in thar is what turned up when he’ud be a done whittlin.

Ever so of’n Jonny’d load up his ol Ford wagon n cart his whittlins inta town ter sell em off at tha flea market. He’us allus able ter sell em all off n head back home with all tha food n stuff he’d be a needin, n some fresh wood, n on tha rare occashun’d get him a new knife. Way back when he’d started whittlin he’ud only whittle when he warn’t workin as a handy man bout tha county, but now he din’t hafta work no more, n he could jus whittle eny ol time he liketa. Way back he uster hadda cut his own tree branches fer whittlin wood but now he used store boughten wood n his figgers was jus as fine as ever, if’n not more so. Ever one round wished they was Jonny, leastaways sum times.

* * * * *

Now Jonny he lived by hisself, way up tha county, n wasn’t no one round ter watch im whittle, n he liked it jus fine like thet. But one day young Bryson Briggs, he war a ridin his bike out tha county ter fish some, n he up n runs by Jonny’s place like sum times, only this pertickler time Jonny was outn tha front step a whittlin away at a chunk a wood like Bryson hadn’t never seen him do afore. Now Bryson he fished a lot, n he could do so mos eny day in tha live long summer, but he han’t never seen Jonny whittle afore, so he up n stops his bike out by tha gate n leans his bike up ter tha fence n walks hisself on up ter tha front step n commences ter watchin Jonny a whittlin.

Now Jonny, he’us a bit narvous a first, what with he hadn’t never had no one a watchin him whittle afore, but then he figgered it wouldn’t hurt none. It was jus thet Briggs young’n, allus passin by headin fer tha fish hole, jus stoppin ter watch him whittle. "What, giss I kin handle sum young’n a watchin me whittle, sure I kin," he said ter hisself. An thet’s what he done.

He’us workin hard on a big ol chunk a wood thet had itself a elefunt inside a it. He knowed elefunts from pitchers he’ud seen in a book at tha preacher’s house oncet or twicet when he set n talked with preacher on a Sattiday when he din’t feel like whittlin sum times. Tha preacher had hisself a whole box a books, n sum had pitchers in em, n Jonny’d spot him a intrestin pitcher a sumpin n ast tha preacher what thet war he was a starin at, n preacher allus knowed bout them things, n he was a nice feller n allus tole Jonny jus what it war in tha pitcher.

So when Jonny first picked up thet chunk a wood n stared at it a whiles like he liketa do til he figgered out what war in its side, it warn’t long afore he saw hisself a elefunt, n proceeded ta commencin ta get tha elefunt from tha inside ter tha outside like he liketa do. An thet’us what he war a dewin when young Bryson come up on tha step n ast him what he war a dewin.

"Bryson," he tole tha young’n, "this chunk a wood’s got a elefunt a comin outa it. D’ya know what a elefunt is, do ya boy?"

"Yessir, I seen me pitchers a elefunts n stuff at school." Bryson looked down n run his squat tung round his lips like they was dry as cracker juice. He tried ter be quiet but couldn’t hold his peace no longer. "But, Mr. Pace, sir. . ." He hesitated, n when ya do thet ya gets lost, they say.

Anyways thet give Jonny a chance ter pipe up n say, "I allus knowed me what it is in tha side a a chunk a wood, yessir I does, young’n. I allus does."

"But Mr. Pace, sir," Bryson said, then hurried on ter finish, "thet jus don’t look like no elefunt ter me, sir. I mean," n he run his tung round tha lips oncet more, then gushed on, "I see it more as a pony." Course Bryson he couldn’t see inta tha chunk a wood like ol Jonny could. He’us jus a seein what he wanted ter see, n he wanted ter see a pony, so’s thet’s what he seen, n thet’s why he said it war a pony n not a elefunt.

Like I said, Bryson couldn’t see inside like Jonny could, but tha damage was done, n Jonny, he couldn’t quite see a elefunt in thar no more. He couldn’t see him a pony, neither. Fact was he couldn’t see in its side a’tall. But he kep on a whittlin anyways, but slow like, cause he din’t know no more which way he was a goin with thet chunk a wood, n he couldn’t figger out what part a tha wood should be a stayin n what part should be a goin. He jus kep on a whittlin slow as could be until Bryson fin’ly got bored n decided it war a good day ter fish after all.

"Well, gotta go, sir," Bryson up n says, n runs down ter tha gate n grabs his bike n off’n he goes, a fishin. Jus like thet he war gone.

Jonny, he stops a whittlin, n jus sits thar awhiles, starin at tha chunk a wood n wonderin jus what it war after all, n then he fin’ly says to hisself, "Guess it ain’t nothin worth whittlin bout, no ways," n he chucks it off tha side a tha step. First time in he couldn’t member how long he’d a done like thet.

* * * * *

Thet war on a Friday, if’n I member, n so’s I reckon tha next day was a Sattiday, too, n Jonny he din’t feel much like whittlin none thet day. An so he off n visits tha preacher.

"How ya dewin taday, Jonny?" asts preacher, a watchin Jonny come up tha walk n pull up a chair aside him. "What, ya mean ya not a whittlin taday?"

"No sir, preacher, I ain’t a whittlin taday, n I ain’t so sure I’m a gonna be whittlin eny day soon."

"What, how kin thet be, Jonny? Why, ya bin a whittlin long’s I bin a knowin ya, n ya ain’t a stopped yet more’n a day or so. Let tha woman get ya sum sweet tea n tell me all bout it."

So’s Jonny tells tha preacher all bout how he was a whittlin a elefunt outen a chunk a wood n thet Briggs young’n come by n leave his bike by tha gate n come up n tell him he ain’t a whittlin no elefunt no how but a pony, n how he couldn’t hardly tell after a bit what he’s supposed ter be a whittlin no more, no ways.

"Wall," says tha preacher, "what cha think it all means?" Thet’s jus like preacher, astin ya stead a tellin ya, so’s ya kin think it through yer own self.

An thet’s jus what happened, only not right off. Took maybe three sweet teas n twicet as many I’m-a-guessin’s afore Jonny fin’ly figgered it out. "I’m a guessin maybe it warn’t so bad thet tha kid was a tellin me sumthin I knowed wasn’t sumthin I knowed. Seems more like jus dewin my whittlin in front a summon made me think I had to whittle out what they was a seein n not what I was a seein.

"Guess it’s kinda like thet sermon ya preached a while back, bout how we shouldn’t be a tellin summon what we think they’s a dewin wrong in front a a whole bunch a other folks, cause then we up n want ter make them other folks think we’s sumthin we’s not n go tellin more’n we should, makin like we’s a knowin a whole lot more’n we’s a knowin. It’s like we take out a knife to carve summon jus a little, set em straight bout sumthin, but we start carvin off summit too much cause we’us a showin off ter tha other folks, n then sum times we don’t know when ter stop. Guess I was tryin ter impress tha Briggs young’n with how good I kin whittle, n I got ter cuttin off more’n I shoulda."

Then Jonny he set back n ast tha preacher what he thought.

"I’m a thinkin," says tha preacher, "thet ya’ll probly be a whittlin sumthin agin real soon. ‘At’s what tha good Lord made ya fer, n at’s what ya should be a dewin, Jonny. Ya jus gotta member who ya’r dewin it fer."

"Tain’t young Briggs, I reckon not. An I spekt ya’r a tellin me it ain’t my own self, neither?"

Preacher, he jes leant on back n sipped his sweet tea.

Copyright © 2002, 2003 by Richard W. Webb
Published by SoaringSpiderSongs
All Rights Reserved



Matthew 18:15 — Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.*

James 3:8-12 — [8] But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. [9] Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. [10] Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. [11] Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? [12] Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

Proverbs 18:21 — Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.

*AUTHOR’S NOTE on the scripture cited: Yes, I realize that Matthew 18:15 is followed by verses 16 and 17. But the story shows what can happen if the verses are taken out of order. Verse 15 is the first course of action to be taken, to be followed by the actions expressed in verses 16 and 17 only as necessary.