Darkness covered everything except the small halo created by my headlights as we sped along mountain roads well before dawn. The roads got narrower, rougher and curvier as we neared the Smoky Mountain National Park. My destination was the Big Creek Ranger station where I was to meet a man named Mark driving a brown Subaru and give him $75.
I had talked to Mark ten days before and arranged for him to pick up me, Adam, and Greg Stritch at the ranger station at six AM and drive us to where we would start our Appalachian Trail section hike. As I sped through the darkness hoping to reach the rendezvous in time I worried about the fragility of the relationship. I didn’t know Mark’s last name; he may not know mine. No credit card number had been given, no confirmation received. All I had was his phone number and all he had was my promise.
In the first miracle of our day, I found the ranger station at exactly six, and as I turned into the parking lot headlights appeared in my rear-view mirror. Mark had been as true to his word as I had been to mine.
He had silver hair tied back in a ponytail–the aging hippie look–and was gently friendly in his questions and advice about hiking conditions. He had been raised in southern California near one of the places Greg had lived as a boy. They had surfed the same beaches. Mark restored old guitars, as did Greg. He biked and swam as I did. Common ground expanded, and we seemed to bond in our hour-and-a-half journey to Newfound Gap.
As we neared Gatlinburg, he talked about the fires last winter and the drought that proceeded it. For ninety days the area was without rain–unheard of in that area–then the forest around the ironically named Chimneys section of the park exploded in flame. The fire raced down the mountainside, through the valley and into Gatlinburg where homes and businesses were destroyed by the hundreds.
Literally as the smoke cleared, Mark and his wife reassessed the water supply to their own home a few miles away and came to the conclusion that they needed a new well. Yet, they had no idea where to dig. Neighbors had dug wells four hundred feet or more in depth, some of them still dry. His wife had heard of a “water witch.” They called her, and she told them she would be glad to help.
She was an elderly woman living alone in the mountains. They picked her up and started to drive back to their property. She rather suddenly made Mark stop the car when she saw a peach tree. “Onliest thing to work would be a peach branch,” she said.
Thus armed she made short work of finding the optimum spot for a well on Mark’s property. Mark’s wife, fascinated, tried the peach wand, too, and felt its power. Mark, still skeptical, tried, felt nothing, and wondered if this was a group-think con job like a Ouija board.
“I see you need a little help,” the water witch said, and she walked behind him, reached up, and touched both earlobes.
Mark’s hands began to tingle with a sensation he could only describe as electrical and the peach wand pulled him toward the same unseen water source with a force that he was unable to resist. Convinced, he decided to dig the well on that spot.
The woman chuckled. Mark offered to pay her. She refused. “If I took money for what I did, the water would be no good,” she said.
They dug the well and found plentiful water at forty feet.
Whenever I hear a story like this one I want to jump to one of two conclusions: the story is untrue, or the story is true but the powers are satanic. But I couldn’t make the jump with this one.
I believe Mark’s story. He is the kind of man who loves the outdoors and music. He makes things with his hands and he keeps his word to a stranger to make a rendezvous in the dark based on a single phone call. He is not a teller of tall tales.
And if his story is true, what could possibly be satanic about an elderly mountain woman carrying a peach branch as she volunteers to help her neighbor find water?
I choose to think that God has imbued this woman with a special gift, given her a special tool–the branch of a peach tree–and a willingness to share her gift.
Though unique, she is not alone. God gives each of us a special gift to use to bring the Kingdom to the Earth, here and now. Then He gives us a tool to use that gift. And He gives us an opportunity to share our gift and encourage others to use it.
For a long time I had a gift–or a calling–to heal. My tools were sometimes a pen and a prescription pad, sometimes a scalpel, sometimes a drill or a microscope, and sometimes exotic instruments that are beyond description. The lame walked, the blind received their sight, those on death’s doorstep lived–in a sense, magic every bit as powerful and amazing as the ability to find water with a peach branch. And every time I consulted with a colleague we learned from each other, commiserated with each other, and encouraged each other–though I don’t remember taking hold of anyone’s earlobes.
Today I have a gift–or at least a calling–to be a witness. My tool is a computer. I don’t often get to see the magic, but I trust it happens out there somewhere when somebody reads a story and recognizes something familiar, or sees a new truth, or opens their heart and mind to the larger reality of God.
You have a gift, too; I am sure of it. I don’t know what it is. Maybe you haven’t called it a gift or recognized a calling, but if you stop and think about it for a moment, you will know what I mean. You have a toolbox, too. A stove if you’re a cook, a car if you’re a driver, a voice if you’re a preacher or a singer. That’s your peach branch. You can find living water for seekers in a way that is beyond your power or their power to resist, and you have a passion to share it.
Mark dropped us off at the trailhead about 7:30 AM, the place where the Appalachian Trail crosses the crest of the Newfound Gap road. Darkness had given way to the flat, gray light of dawn. Wisps of clouds and mists drifted through the mountaintop forest, lending a mystical quality to the morning. Anything could happen; Brigadoon could appear.
We bade Mark good-bye and I shouldered my pack. Before I walked away I screwed together the two parts of my aluminum hiking stick. It has a strap and a foam handle and, on the very top, a knob of some kind of wood. On that morning, I chose to believe it was peach. As I started walking, I began to think about earlobes and tingling hands.
10 thoughts on “Peach Trees and Gifts”
I think about the gift of the Holy Spirit and how power is given to us upon receiving it as mentioned in Acts chapter 1. If anything, this elderly mountain woman made me think out of the box. Whatever the reason or how she got her gift.,There are powers and principalities surrounding us.
Totally agree, Christela. Well said.
Dean & Adam thank you for your spiritual mails. I enjoy them all. Would you please pray for me. I have a pounding in my head for 3 years 8 months. I have seen several doctors but no help. Please ask God to give me a sign of what to do. I pray daily for the holy spirit to heal me.
Again I enjoyed these very much
I’m glad you like the posts. That’s a long time to suffer headaches in addition to all the other issues you have gone through. I will pray for you now, and put you on the list for my prayer partners to pray for on our conference call Monday.
Dean – Insightful observations. It is important to understand that many, if not most, true gifts are clearer to others than they are to the possessor. I like to think that God is revealed to the beneficiary and observer not only through manifestation of the gift but also by the manner (hopefully in humility) with which the gift is handled/exhibited by the host. What an awesome responsibility and blessing!
So right. But it is so easy to listen to the world that tells you your gift is a little thing, or it is harmful, and you should keep it to yourself because it’s so embarrassing…yada,yada. God gives us gifts, even weird ones like water dowsing, and whispers in our ear. I just want to encourage people to accept the gift and listen to His voice.
Another one of your gifts Dean, is the gift of writing. This ‘story’ really touched my heart. I have a hard time “thinking out of the box” but try I must. The gifts the Holy Spirit has given me I use to honor Him and all that He has gifted me with as well as those I come in contact with. May you continue to be used by Him in your daily life – Adam and your family as well.
I know. We all have a hard time “out of the box.” That was my first thought when I believed Mark’s story: What am I going to do with this? It didn’t seem like “church,” but it did seem good, and if good then it must be from God. Thank you for your prayers and good wishes.
What memories you stirred up! In 1986, I had a contractor build a beautiful home on our farm in rural Kentucky. All systems “go” and the project was almost completed after 5 – 6 months. Then came the stunning question from the contractor: What are your plans for water in the house? There was no county water system at that time – no place to hook up. He made provisions for sinks, tubs, showers, etc and now it seemed it was my responsibility (or God?) to bring the water forth! A well was considered at an additional expense – also well water was rated as “hard – very hard.” Someone who worked on the 800 acre farm suggested using a proper tree limb and seek water as a “water witch.” Why not? Just above our new “dry home” that twig turned from upright to down. A back hoe dug about 5 feet deep and an artesian spring was hit! Frankly, it was so powerful, it reminded me of opening a fire hydrant. The spring never stopped flowing. Was so much water, we had a bypass installed and what we did not consume went into a small spring fed lake for fishing and swimming! Afterwards, I had to deal with people asking “was the water witch procedure Satanic – or a gift from God?” (We lived happily from thereafter – and drank such sweet, soft water). Thanks for the memories…….
What a great story! Thanks for sharing. It seems like such a gift from God that it’s hard to believe it’s Satanic. And therefore such an experience makes me more careful in who or what I believe Satanic. After all, we should recognize those sent from God not by their words (labels) but by their fruit (or water in this case).