ome of my fondest memories as a child are of Thanksgiving. Mom is a terrific cook and she has always put her considerable talent on full display each Thanksgiving. Her dressing and giblet gravy deserve to be in the “Cooking Hall of Fame.”
Before we indulged at the dinner table, Dad and I would get our shotguns and go rabbit hunting on Uncle Paul’s adjacent farm, some of the most beautiful Middle Tennessee acreage one could ever imagine. Rolling hills of cattle-grazed fields and woodlands so thick that Uncle Paul once operated a saw mill. Uncle Paul and I used to hike into those woods to a small, sulfur spring that he claimed Cherokee Indians had cut out of the side of a hill. It smelled like rotten eggs, but he would giggle, get on his knees and slurp it up. Then, grinning, he’d look up at me and say, “You oughta get you some, sulfur water is good for ya.” I passed.
Dad and I walked by that sulfur spring this particular Thanksgiving morning in 1966 looking for rabbits. I was 12 years old and the Christmas before had gotten my first shotgun, a .20-gauge Springfield. Daddy carried a 1927 Stevens .16-gauge DaddyHink (that is the nickname of his daddy, Ed Hinkle) had given him. Dad taught me to shoot with that old Stevens, even though it kicked like a mule, often leaving bruises on my right shoulder. I didn’t care. It was a special.
While we searched for rabbits, or so I thought, Dad seized the opportunity to talk to me about a subject dads have with their sons as they enter puberty (I’m sure you appreciate me sparing the details). After he finished, with considerable stumbling and stammering, he asked if I had questions. I had only one: Where were the rabbits? He just rolled his eyes.
In fact, we saw no rabbits. As I have aged and recalled that day, I’ve wondered if Dad really intended to take me hunting or was there another reason? I have concluded he was simply being Dad – and a good one, too. He knew I was growing up and he wanted to make sure that I behaved according to the faith in Christ we had both professed.
It was also a time to just be together – alone. Dad worked hard as a crackerjack mechanic. We had just built a new home on Uncle Paul’s farm and Dad and Mom decided she would stay home with me and my little brother. Dad often would not get home until 6 p.m., and by the time we had supper, a bath and homework, 9 o’clock arrived and with it bedtime. So we did not see much of each other except on weekends and holidays, making times like Thanksgiving morning special.
Being the first born, I think Dad was also learning how to be a father. He was only 22 when I was born. But he was made of the right stuff. Dad was a firm believer in Jesus, a long-time deacon who read his Bible faithfully and joyfully brought his family to church every time the doors opened.
Among the many books in my office at The Baptist Building is Dad’s Bible, one Mom and I gave have him Christmas Day, 1961. There are so many passages underlined. I would not dare pick one to highlight. All were obviously important to him. But tucked away in its pages is a slip of paper where he had written “The Roman Road.” Dad, who had quit school after the eighth grade to help DaddyHink, MammieHink and his four siblings pay the bills, made sure he knew how to lead others to Christ. It was intentional on his part because he took the time to hand write it all down.
Dad went to be with Jesus in 1989. I look forward to seeing him again. I am sure we will laugh and recall many special times. Especially the ones like Thanksgiving morning, 1966.
DON HINLKE / editor