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Age Of Reason Paperback by Thomas Paine with wartsI think of myself as a realist. A diehard realist. I believe I am truly a child of the Age of Reason.

But can reason explain all things, unlock all mysteries?

Don’t think so. My Uncle Lehman, for instance, my Aunt Mary Grace’s husband, could talk warts off.

As I write this, I can see you shaking your skeptical head.

Well, I didn’t believe it, either.

Nor did Meredith, my first wife, who once was his “patient.”

But he did it anyhow, and it couldn’t be called faith healing, for the subject’s disbelief was no deterrent to the cure.

You ready for this?

We go by their house one night in Augusta to see him and my aunt. While we’re there, Uncle Lehman notices warts, lots of ‘em, on Meredith’s hands. I’d seen the warts myself, of course. Ugly things. Horny growths. Blemishes on otherwise pretty, feminine hands.

“I’ve tried everything to get rid of them,” Meredith tells him, holding out her hands, turning them this way and that, so Aunt Mary Grace can see the warts, too.

“I can make ‘em go away,” says Lehman.


“Come with me,” he says.

He then leads Meredith out the front door and onto the front lawn, which was blanched in alabaster moonlight. I tag along, dubious but curious. Is this a prank of some kind? He always liked his little jokes.

About 10 paces from the front doorsteps, Uncle Lehman stops, takes hold of Meredith’s hands and, looking up at the moon, instructs her to look up, too.

Then he rubs her hands while murmuring something under his breath.

The whole exercise takes no more than a minute or two. Then back inside we go, the conversation turning soon to other things.

A week later the warts are gone!

And they never came back. Till the day she died, five years later, she never had another one!

“How’d you do that?” we asked Lehman next time we saw him.

“Nothing to it,” he said, smiling.

But he didn’t explain.

I guess he took the secret with him to his grave.

I forgot to mention that his wife, My Aunt Mary Grace, could talk the fire out of burns.

I hear you loud and clear:



Yes, I’d say the same things – if I hadn’t witnessed it with my own baby blues.

But that story will have to wait till next time. I’ve run out of space (and perhaps overstayed my welcome, too).

Till then, in case you think I’m pulling your leg, I leave you with the strongest avowal of truth-telling that I can muster. It’s borrowed from a love sonnet by the Bard of Avon, but is, I trust, adaptable to any situation requiring trust.

“If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ and no man ever loved.”


Image: "Age Of Reason by Thomas Paine with warts" is a composite image created for this story by
Robert Lamb

Robert Lamb

I grew up in Augusta, Ga., where I attended Boys' Catholic High. After a stint in the Navy, I attended the University of Georgia, majoring in English (Class of '61). I began my (wholly unexpected) journalism career on the old Augusta Herald, an evening paper, and went to work for The Constitution in, I think, 1976. I left in Sept. '82 to write The Great American Novel. That goal has proved remarkably elusive, but my first attempt (Striking Out, in 1991) was nominated for the PEN/Hemingway Award and my second (Atlanta Blues, in 2004) contended for an Edgar Award. My latest novel won no honors but might well get me nominated for a hanging. Titled A Majority of One, it is about a clash between religion and the Constitution over book-banning in a small Georgia town. I've also published a collection of short stories and poems: Six of One, Half Dozen of Another. Before retirement, I taught creative writing and American literature at the University of South Carolina and its Honors College, and feature writing in its School of Journalism. I maintain a now-and-then blog at and I walk my dog on the beach a lot at Pawleys Island, S.C.