Our lumbering school bus bustled past the many farm fields and tiny estates on the way home from our school. I watched as we passed every street and house, observing that no changes had occurred. But, as we reached the corner of our street, the old Victorian that sat dead center of the road was charred and burned flat to the ground. Astonished, I looked all about and saw no evidence of fire trucks or boot prints, just one set of footprints that went in toward the house and out of the house as I had quickly observed while the bus was stopped. “How did the fire go out? Did everyone make it out safely?” I wondered. Soon the bus was at my house and there in our driveway was my grandmother waiting patiently for me. Exiting the bus, I ran up to her, hugged her, and told her what I had seen. “Let’s head inside,” she said. “I need to shuck some peas for ham hock soup and while I work, I will tell you a story that was similar to what you saw.”
In the town of Donbridge, was a small cobbler shop sandwiched in the middle of town. There, a shoemaker named Linus Tillman worked endless hours cobbling shoes, repairing saddles and fixing bridles. Linus was quick at his craft and most of the people who left him a project in the morning would have their repair completed by lunch. But for as fast as he worked, Linus had an oddity about him that set him apart from most of the other Donbridgians. Even though he was a cobbler, he refused to wear shoes. Even in the coldest of winters and muddiest of springs, Linus could be seen barefoot, without a care in the world. When Midwife Sutton asked him one day why he refused to wear shoes, he simply replied, “We weren’t born with them, so why have them on?”
One spring afternoon, a thunder and lightning storm broke out over the countryside. Lightning flashed across the valley of Donbridge and thunder echoed against the mountain peaks. Rooted streams of lightning could be seen in the sky as the storm stretched for miles. Lightning struck trees, splitting them in two, and all the while, Donbridgians hid away in their homes, leaving the town barren. Linus, having a desire for working long hours, kept right on working while others hid from the storm in their homes. When the clock in the tower struck midnight, the storm seemed to be coming to an end, but one last giant crack of thunder could be heard and a bolt of lightning seen by the orphanage which was next to Linus’s shop. The lightning bolt struck the building, and soon the building was ablaze. Flames rose from the windows and no townsfolk seemed to notice the fire as so many had ignored the storm’s thunder and lightning. The building continued to burn, but all the while a miracle was at work.
The next morning the town awoke to the astonishment that the orphanage had burned flat to the ground. Sadness filled the hearts of the Donbridgians who mourned the loss of the children, but then from the back of the charred building, Maggie Blum, the town baker, shouted out, “They’re here!” Maggie then waved the townsfolk to the back of the burned orphanage and they saw upon the ground row after row of children asleep with ash upon their faces. Each child was safe and accounted for. When the townsfolk looked about for an explanation of how the children were brought there, all they found were footprints in a single path leading from the orphanage to the field and next to each child was a brand new pair of shoes.
When my grandmother finished her tale, she went to the stove to light the burner for her soup. Soon a man knocked at our door. “Hello, Jules,” he said as my grandmother let him in. “I better not come in. No shoes and soot-covered feet make for a dirty floor,” he said with a chuckle. “I have your boots for you, right on time,” he proclaimed as he handed them to her with a smile. Feeling compelled to look down at his feet, I saw he was wearing no shoes and his toes were covered in mud with a hint of soot. The man saw I was staring at his feet and said, “Like I said, we weren’t born with them so why have them on?” My grandmother just smiled as we watched the man disappear down the road, leaving little doubt he was off to help someone else in need.
Split Pea and Ham Hock Soup
1 small ham hock or ham bone
1 cup chopped onion
5 cups shelled peas
2 tsp. of salt
1/2 tsp. of pepper
1/2 cup of carrots
1 clove of garlic
1 tbsp. of butter
In a large soup pot, simmer ham hock bone along with peas. Make sure that water is covering all of the peas at the base.
Simmer for 1 hour or until peas have begun to break apart. Remove the bone, clearing all meat from it and then discard the bone. Add the carrots, onion, butter, salt, pepper and garlic. Simmer for 25 minutes more. Let stand for 15 minutes. Serve.