For a long time I pondered the name in my heart, wondering why the Friday on which Christ was nailed to an old rugged cross on Golgotha could be considered good. I wondered why it wasn’t called Black Friday. After all, they always draped the crosses in front of the local churches in black on that day.
Long ago, however, when I figured out how remarkable it was that the same God who would send his only son from heaven to die for the sins of a wretch like me, assuring me eternal life in Heaven once this earthly existence is done, I realized that Crucifixion Friday was — and is — a very good Friday indeed.
Now I told you that to tell you this.
Throughout my childhood, Good Friday was always the day upon which my daddy would pronounce it safe to plant anything that anyone intended to plant in the North Georgia Piedmont. My dear friend, Mary Dennison, tells me it was the same way in Southern Mississippi, as well.
Porterdale was a mill village, understand, not a farming community, but we always had a patch of this and that out behind the house. Tomatoes and peppers were standard, as were cucumbers and squash and a few pole beans. My daddy had a friend who still plowed a mule, even up into the mid-60s, and he would always show up a few days before Easter to break up the ground behind our house.
Daddy also had friend who owned chicken houses and some springs he would work chicken guano into the freshly plowed dirt. We had the foulest smelling yard in the village on those occasions, but the prettiest vegetables of the summer.
We had a big garden, too, lest you think my grumbling about hoeing and weeding springs forth from an insignificant little garden spot the size of a standard flower bed. Daddy’s friend Tom Brown, a black man, had a big farm out on Rocky Plains Road. I mention that Mr. Brown, which is how I always addressed him, was black for the sake of folks who aren’t from around here and were raised believing that every white Southerner had a robe and hood hanging in his closest.
Mr. Brown always plowed a few extra rows for us to plant — peas and butter beans and row crops that needed more room than we had in the back yard. When I say rows, Tom Brown had rows, understand — long, long rows.
But we never put a seed in the ground before Good Friday because Homer Huckaby insisted that to do so would be a colossal waste of time. He insisted that you could always count on a pre-Easter frost to nip any young plants in the bud that might have been enticed out of the ground by a warm spring sun.
I was reminded of the Good Friday rule last week when a lot of my younger friends on Facebook began posting about all the things they had planted in their respective yards. Having not been asked for advice, I offered none. I wish more people would live by that simple rule, by the way.
But then a young lady who was about to make her first foray into back yard farming made a public inquiry as to whether or not it was time to plant. A surprising number of people assured her that warm weather was here to stay and chastised her for waiting so long. They bragged about the plants that were already peeking at the world through the topsoil and how soon they would have fresh homegrown vegetables.
I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to offer the sage advice of generations past. “Don’t waste your time planting before Good Friday,” I posted. “Plants that are already up will be nipped or won’t really grow until the ground warms up. Folks that have planted will have to replant or cover up — or both — and won’t have any advantage over you in a few weeks time.”
I looked to be a sage when the temperatures dipped into the low-30s in midweek. I wasn’t. I was just observant of old folks, who have always known a lot more than we have given them credit for.
It amazes me that people are “discovering” things everyday about the world that my grandmother was putting into practice 60 years ago— and learned from her grandmother. I think Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.”
And although it took me a while to figure it out, folks have been knowing what was so good about the Friday before Easter for a long, long time.