It’s that time of year again, when I think about this poem (which someone also used as their audition monologue for our Alley Theatre this last weekend):
WHEN the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then the time a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock…”
My mom used to quote this poem, by local Hoosier James Whitcomb Riley, to me when I was young. I never dreamed that I’d live in Riley’s part of the country, and experience the color of his words in this poem. Not only that, but I’m kind of surprised that many people here in Anderson don’t know that he lived here (yes, here in Anderson) and was a reporter/writer for the ANDERSON DEMOCRAT (the 1877 Anderson newspaper).
Riley was despondent over the fact that he could not get his poems published. And so this unknown poet wrote a poem, entitled “LEONAINIE” and signed it with the letters E.A.P. Another reporter from a rival newspaper in Kokomo linked the poem to the poet, EDGAR ALLEN POE and it was immediately and widely circulated as a “long-lost Poe poem”. This proved Riley’s point that only famous, published writers EVER got published, and those with just as much talent, but of no fame NEVER got published.
Riley announced the hoax after much national acclaim for “LEONAINIE” and was promptly fired from the ANDERSON DEMOCRAT, not because of the hoax, but because the Kokomo paper got all of the notoriety that Anderson thought it deserved. Someone, however, noticed the brilliance of Riley’s writing style, and gave him a chance…the rest is history.
Things have a way of working out. And although James Whitcomb Riley gave no claim to being a believer or follower of Christ, this story does remind me that Jesus also has a way of working through tangles that He Himself did not cause; through our own deception and convoluted lives to bring out something of worth, beauty, and quality.
When I look at the path we at CENTRAL CHRISTIAN took to get to the place we are now, I am astounded. I have no doubts that I “all things work together for good, for those and with those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”, but sometimes, in the middle of dark times, and frustrating times (as was the case with James W. Riley) when one KNOWS that they’re not doing what they were MADE to do…God seems somewhat distant.
I’m here to tell you that God has better things in mind for you then you could possibly realize, His plans are always perfect, His dreams are bigger than YOUR dreams, and it’s always darkest just before sunrise.
James Whitcomb Riley made his own plans to gain fame, to achieve the recognition that he thought he deserved. Sometimes I think like that also and rely on my own limited wisdom to move forward. But in the Kingdom of God, we should always realize that God has ALL the answers where we have few, God sees ALL things where we see but a little, God’s plan is perfect for EVERYONE involved, not just us.
So today, as you experience the “frost on the pumpkin”, think of Anderson’s own James Whitcomb Riley (who is rumored to have visited Central Christian Church with a local friend) and remember that you have a destiny, God knows your gifts, let HIM decide when the world should notice…
…and it will be perfect for everyone!