This is not a very noble word. Yet it has a rich history. Not many people would know of the origin of this word which is a small bed usually made of canvas stretched on a wooden or metal frame. Since most of our English words come to us from Latin roots, we might hazard a guess that this word also came to us through the Latin language. But we would be wrong. I’ll tell you later, just from whence this term is derived.
Hurricane Dorian is in the forefront of the news, and no one knew on this Monday, its exact tract up the coast. We all watched it closely. The governor has issued a mandatory evacuation for the low lying coastal counties here in SC. That began Monday at 12 noon. Many will evacuate, but many will stay. The caveat to staying under a mandatory evacuation is if you get in real trouble with the storm and need help, the authorities that could help you will not come. Of course with my having lived in Georgetown here on the coast and down in Florida as well, I am very familiar with hurricane season.
However, the main point of this week’s column is to talk about one of my escapades with… yes the lowly cot and my encounter with it due to a hurricane that had already passed through. It was quite an encounter, the cot won. Let me explain. While pastoring in Florida, I and a group of men from the church went over to help another church repair their roof and do some remodeling due to damage from a hurricane. We were going to sleep in the church and take our own bedding for that purpose.
I borrowed my daughter’s sleeping bag and was going to take a foam pad which was every bit of three quarters of an inch thick. One of the teenage boys in the church who also was going on the trip called and informed me that he had four cots that were available if anyone needed them. He was going to use one, so I asked him to bring all four and reserve one for me. This he did. “Great,” I thought, “I won’t have to sleep on a thin pad on a cold, hard concrete floor.” I was right about that, but little did I know the surprise that literally lay in store for me with that cot!
To protect the innocent I will only use that young man’s initials, Josh Cerwin; I know I used his name. I said to protect the innocent, I would not use their name… he is not innocent. He brought the cots. That young man is now in his mid to late thirties, probably with his own unpredictable teenagers to make his life interesting.
But back to the story, I set the cot up, placed my foam pad and sleeping bag on it and that night was ready for a great rest. The cots looked wonderful. In fact they looked brand new. Little did I know what awaited me.
I was so tired that when I first lay down on the cot, I did not realize how LOUD the cot creaked when I got on it. As I began to settle in for the night I began to move a bit, adjusting my position, just getting comfortable. The cot creaked and groaned in very loud protest. I began to notice that this cot was a bit noisy, but thought that it would settle down once I got settled and it stretched a bit on its frame under my weight. I was wrong.
I heard strange noises coming from the room next to me where the other three cots were in use. It was a very loud and disturbing noise, so I got out of my cot to see what the matter was. My cot protested loudly as I got up. I was amazed to find that two other members of the team had cots just as noisy as mine. But what really caught my attention was the perpetrator of all this noise, Josh, had his cot folded and leaned against the wall, while he had his sleeping bag laid out on the hard floor. Josh knew. It was funny. We laughed.
Somewhere around 3:00 AM I was no longer laughing. Every time I turned over, or literally picked my head up and put it back down, my cot squeaked so loud as to wake me up from my sound sleep. The first few times I did not know what had awakened me so suddenly. I lay alone there in the dark, not moving, listening with every nerve on edge, straining to hear the noise that had awakened me. Then I realized as I rolled over to go back to sleep that it was my cot. The next night I was the only one with a cot not sleeping on the floor. By the end of the week I was ready to grease it down. Josh, I know you said you didn’t think about the noise level of those cots… why can’t I believe you? Oh, well, the life of a Pastor. It’s true what they say, you know, “It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for.” Of course that applies to people, not to cots, obviously.
Now I need to tell you, as I promised at the beginning of this little story, where the word cot comes from. You might assume that there is nothing particularly exotic about the word cot. The British first encountered the cot, a light frame strung with rope in India around 1612. The word cot, comes from khât, the Hindi name for the contrivance. It’s a good thing Josh did a good job on that roof in Milton, he just might have found himself left there at the end of the week. He wouldn’t have been lonely either… we would have tied him to his four cots! Thanks for the memories Josh!
Brad Morris, a retired minister, originally from Georgetown, served as a pastor and then as a missionary in Costa Rica and Ecuador, can be reached at email@example.com. He has been in ministry for 50 years and a columnist for 17 years, 12 of which have been for the Times.