It’s always exciting to return to Camden, TN. It is packed with memories and friends. The highways into the city are not spectacularly scenic except for Highway 70 from Waverly. It takes you over the main channel of the Tennessee River. Whether you look north or south, you see a body of water that can transition in a few minutes from a gentle dark blue, almost silk black blanket to thousands of shark heads reading their white capped teeth to take a chunk out of any prey that passes within their grasp.
But, even the brief presentation of the peaceful or angry river and lake cannot hide some of the not so pristine sights approaching the town.
Today, I am not coming to see anything particularly; this trip is to visit old friends. It has been nearly three years since we left the town for San Jose, Costa Rica and language study. As I leave Waverly, I turn to WFWL at 1220 on my radio. Three years have past since I heard the familiar announcer, but I will never forget the station’s willingness to host my first radio program.
The first spot catches my interest. “Benton County residents—Pay attention because this is day three of Patterson Jewelry’s ‘Guess the Secret Friend and Win a Diamond.’ Just stop by Patterson’s and make the correct guess and you will be the recipient of $500 diamond ring.”
Instantly, I thought, “I know the winner.” But just as quickly I realized I could never win the diamond because everyone would suspect someone’s dishonesty. My guess was a lady that I was certain could keep a secret, but she was also one of our family’s greatest friends. I knew that Mr. Patterson would seek someone just like Mrs. James.
But, I couldn’t help myself. I drove directly to Patterson’s Jewelry. I glanced at the diamond case as I walked toward the owner’s office at the back of the store. He knew me because of my radio program and all the hoop-to-law when we left town as missionaries to Colombia. He invited me into his modest office. After a little small talk, I said, “Mr. Barker, I think I know the name of the secret friend.”
“Yeah, so have a lot of people.”
“But, I have a problem. I know I can’t claim the prize because Mrs. James is one of my very best friends and no one will believe that she didn’t let the secret slip. But, I just wanted to stop in and see if I was correct.”
Mr. Patterson smiled and said, “You are right, Bob. But, I believe you. I think you guessed correctly. You should have the ring!”
I sat quietly, ever so tempted and then replied, “Nope, I can’t do it. It would put Mrs. James in a horrible position. I am not even going to tell her. So, please, let’s make it our secret.”
He replied, “Ok, that will have to be your call.” And, I took my leave. Oh, I saw Mrs. James the next day, but never mentioned the secret friend dilemma.
One year later, on Valentine’s Day I received a special delivery package from Patterson’s Jewelry. It contained stunning diamond ring and a brief hand-written sentence, “Honesty pays!”