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From liquor to lyrics
Hartselle Meals on Wheels client's drinking days are done after finding God

By Paul Huggins
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2395

HARTSELLE — Frank Childers said whiskey filled most of his 65 years until a life-changing moment when his wife died 2 years ago.

Now, instead of liquor pouring into the Hartselle resident's body, poetic verse flows out through a contagious smile.

"I used to be a hard drinker," Childers said. "If the truth be known, I've drunken as much whiskey as any man my age."

The drinking ended Aug. 7, 2002, said Childers, a six-year Meals on Wheels client, when he accepted Jesus Christ. He said he has no craving for the hard stuff anymore, and for the first time in his life poems pop into his mind and serve as spiritual encouragement.

"I've never been able to memorize anything," he said, "but I can remember these poems."

He has written a dozen or more, and he said they generally follow a pattern of how his life changed. For example:

I was just an old drunk, everybody knows,

I drank the filth wherever I go,

Until one day while under a tree,

The Lord came down and spoke to me.

He said, "There'll be no more drinking.

There will be no more wine."

Aren't you glad, brother, he's always on time?

He lifted me out of that terrible mess,

And said, "Now, brother, you're one of my best."

The simple poetry sheds light on Childers' life, growing up near Eva and spending all of his years in Morgan County. He never attended high school because he, like his six brothers and sisters, had to work to keep the family alive.

"Back then, everybody had to work," he said. "When I was 7 or 8, I was picking cotton. That was about the only way to make a living. And if you lived at home, that's what you done. The rest of the year, you just did whatever odd job came available."

His family raised its meat, milk cows and chickens, and his parents went to the store only for sugar, flour and coffee, he said.

Childers started logging when he was a teenager and stuck with it until about 12 years ago when asthma forced him onto disability. Logging was physically hard work, he said, noting that in his day they still used mules and chains to haul each log to the lumber truck.

"I reckon it gets in your blood," he said. "I wish to God I was able to do it right now."

Religion, on the other hand, never got into his blood, Childers said, despite going to church regularly as a child. He attended only occasionally as an adult, he said, until after the death of his wife of 32 years, Lucy.

Overcome with loneliness, Childers said, he started going to Holiness Church of Christ in Decatur with his daughter-in-law. Initially, he kept returning simply because he enjoyed being around other people. Then, he said, out of the blue, God spoke to his heart and he asked for forgiveness.

Childers said he still misses Lucy terribly, "cooking breakfast and a thousand other things that are hard to explain," but he concedes that if she weren't gone, he wouldn't have found Jesus.

Meals officials and delivery drivers say Childers smiles bigger and more often than practically anyone on the route.

Childers said meeting the Meals delivery driver is always extra reason to smile.

"It means a good bit to me because I feel bad much of the time," he said. "My legs and feet hurt. So when I don't feel so good, I just have to open my front door and I have a meal. It's a blessing, man. It's a blessing.

"And as long as I got plenty to eat and a place to lay down and a car to drive me to a fishing hole," Childers concluded, "I reckon I'm satisfied."

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