By DAN WHITTLE
Daddy Whittle was a farmer, a real good farmer.
And Mother became a good farmer after Daddy's fatal car wreck in 1950. She did this, despite not knowing how to drive a car or use a telephone in that era.
I've always admired good hard-working farmers ... dating back to the first day when Mother attached a flour sack to my shoulder and told me to fill it up with cotton ... my first and last real job. Because, in adult life God, has let me have a career that I love!
I've always shared the creed, it ain't "a job" if you love what you do for a career.
You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to realize picking cotton (before machines) was torture to your spine, knees and bleeding hands, and the damnable heat could make a devout Christian "go to cussin'."
On her death bed in 2003, Momma Whittle asked. "Can you recite your cotton patch prayer from that first day of picking cotton when it was more than 100 degrees?"
"Momma," I bragged, "I can recite my cotton patch prayer word by word: 'Big God, this is Little Danny Whittle, if you don't mind, don't make me no cotton picker when I grow up, because it's hotter than hell out here today.'"
After saying she should have "whipped your little butt" for 'cussin'," my farm-tough Mom chuckled ... the last laugh we shared before Mother passed the next day to where Godly-good farmers go.
How tough was she? She survived seven years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. So remarkably tough doctors used her as an inspiration to other sick folks!
And I still pray regularly to "Big God" because farm neighbor of my youth, Mommie Gowen, always called Him that.
I've never had a real job since I stepped out of the cotton patch into my first newspaper office as a cub reporter, one of the nicer names the gnarly-seasoned and -tough old editors often called us.
"Whittle, if you love what you do, it ain't work," instructed salty editor Bob York, who typed in a blur with only two fingers. "And Whittle, when you 'assume' something in a news story, you'll generally make an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me.'"
Since those early hot cotton-picking days, I've had the best job in America. A craft I'm still honored to do as I enter my 7th decade of life as a newspaperman.
What other job would literally pay me to travel while interviewing some of the most interesting people on the planet?
Probably the smartest person I've interviewed was the late great radio commentator Paul Harvey.
I loved it the day I heard Mr. Harvey recite the words to "So, God Made A Farmer" on local radio stations such as WGNS and WBRY in Murfrees-boro and Woodbury respectively.
"And on the 8th day God looked down on his planned paradise and said, 'I need a caretaker!' So, God made a farmer."
Upon hearing those fateful words in Mr. Harvey's unique cadence and delivery, I thought reflectively back to my own farm mother, a true caretaker of God's Mother Earth.
Mr. Harvey's recitation inspired me so much, I copied the words and passed them to country music star Marty Stuart for a possible future song.
Upon hearing "So, God Made A Farmer," I thought of Tennessee mule farmers I'm honored today to have as friends, including newly-weds Jeff and Cindy (Haley) Odle, Buddy Black, Jimmy Simpson, Danny Fraley and the late great Bill Smith, who was about age 10, when his farm daddy first trusted him with a team of powerful work mules back on their Cannon County farm.
"I need somebody that can shape an ax handle, shoe a horse ... 'So, God made a farmer," Mr. Harvey continued on the radio.
At the other end of my not-so-famous people trail of newspapering, I've interviewed colorful and yes, wholesome God-fearing people on earth, such as the late C.L. Vickers.
It was one of life's highest honors when I was asked by C.L.'s family to eulogize his life at the Smith Funeral Home.
It had been an even higher honor when C.L. and wife, Sandy, issued a special invitation for Pat and me to be in attendance the Sunday night C.L. was baptized at his local country church.
You could see the galluses on C.L.'s newest Liberty brand overalls swell with humility and joy when he popped out of that holy water. Amen!
In my heart-felt eulogy, I described C.L. as one of life's bona fide best friends while the late great Woodbury physician, Dr. Leon Reuhland and his legions of farm neighbors, such as mule man Grady George, knew C.L. as a locally-famous vegetable garden-growing farmer.
"And I loved C.L.'s sense of humor," I eulogized. "I was there when one of C.L.'s neighbors asked him for 10 pounds of his new-dug potatoes: 'I ain't cutting up one of my taters, for a mere 10 pounds,'" C.L. boasted with an impish grin.
I broke out in a heart guffaw, when C.L. told another farm friend his corn crop that year, had yielded about 35 gallons per acre. I think C.L. was "just joshen."
When C.L. and I first became acquainted, the regional newspaper I worked for at the time had about 110 paid subscribers in his native Cannon County.
After a few of my newspaper columns focused on C.L. Vickers, our circulation exploded from 110 to more than 1,250 faithful readers, due to C.L.'s popularity among his legions of loyal farm friends.
The pristine-kept Thyatira Cemetery was the righteous appropriate final resting place for C.L., who took great pride in life as the professional caretaker of his beloved Thyatira Cemetery near downtown Bradyville.
Woodbury Mayor Harold Patrick was present during the last newspaper interview I did with C.L. about his regionally-famous weather prognosticating about when to plant his garden.
"C.L., is this weather forecasting by the signs of Mother Nature a bunch of BS?" I inquired as I laid my pencil and note pad down on Mayor Patrick's desk.
"Mr. Whittle, I only do my BS (weather forecasting) one day a year. You do it (BS) every day in your newspaper columns."
As the late great Paul Harvey would say: "That's the rest of the story."