Freddie Barnwell and his wife were hosting a get together last weekend at their place. Freddie was at his best telling story after story. Everyone from the kids to the old timers were already sore from laughing when Freddie told this story about himself and his wife, Jessie. Farmer Barnwell, as Freddie is better known, went to a cattle auction with his neighbor, Arthur Horseman, over in Knoxville, back in 1953. Farmer Barnwell didn’t plan to buy anything that day but did want to see what kind of prices the various livestock and farm equipment were bringing, as well as enjoying the company of his neighbor, Mr. Horseman.

As it turned out, Farmer Barnwell saw a bull that he really wanted and could hardly believe the low bids being offered at the auction. This deal was just too good to pass up.  He bid on the bull, and much to his delight, won the bid.

Farmer Barnwell told his neighbor, Mr. Horseman, who had just finished loading some cows on this truck, to go ahead back home. He would send a telegram to his wife, Jessie, for her to come with the truck and get the bull. When Farmer Barnwell went to send the telegram he suddenly realized, after he had paid for the bull, he only had one dollar left. He was shocked to find telegrams cost $1.00 for the first word and 20 cents each word thereafter.  Therefore, he could only send a one-word telegram.

Freddie was trying to figure how he could get word to his wife Jessie that he needed her to drive their truck to Knoxville, so they could get the bull back home, over 100 miles away. 

 Inasmuch as he had only one dollar left and could only send a one-word telegram (his neighbor Arthur Horseman left before he realized his predicament), Farmer Barnwell was deep in thought. How could he let his wife know he needed her to come get the bull using only one word? Farmer Barnwell prayed the good Lord would give him the one word he needed that day. The Lord, who had blessed Farmer Barnwell with a sharp wit, gave him the answer to his prayer.

He paid for the telegram with the one dollar he had left. Then he wrote down the word he wanted the telegraph operator to send to his wife. The telegraph operator asked him how in the world was a one-word telegram going to help him?  Farmer Barnwell told the man that his wife Jessie was really sharp.  Jessie’s mom had died when she was only 9. Jessie had to drop out of school to help her dad with the farm and tend to her two younger brothers and her sister. 

What Jessie lacked in formal education she more than made up for in experience and Godly wisdom.  Not having had any formal education was the reason Jessie had to carefully sound out each word, saying the words slowly as she read.

Farmer Barnwell sent his one-word telegram and sure enough Jessie came to Knoxville with the truck that day to get the bull. Just about everyone who was there spoke up at the same time. “What was the one-word telegram you sent?” they asked. Farmer Barnwell had a little smirk on his face when he said – “COMFORTABLE!” Emma Downs, who lives across the road from the Barnwell’s had a quizzical look on her face when he said the one-word telegram he sent that day was comfortable.

Farmer Barnwell said his wife Jessie, being a slow reader, sounded out the word real slow – COM FOR TA BLE. The laughter could be heard for a country mile that evening with Farmer Barnwell himself leading the way.

If the God of Creation, maker of Heaven and Earth, and all therein – in all of His power, majesty and glory, was to send a one word telegram to you today letting you know that no matter what your burden, sorrow or care might be, He loves you and wants you to come to Him, what one word telegraph could He send you, whereby you might understand what He is trying to convey?  Little Madelyn spoke up and said, “Jesus?” Farmer Barnwell smiled and said, “Yes, that is exactly right, Jesus! God sent His only son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved! As it says in 1 John 5:4-5, “Who is He who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the son of God?””

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Christian Short Stories