The Swains lined the third pew from the front on the right side of the church. Daddy insisted on it. I might be a better person today if I’d gotten to sit on the back pew and write notes and giggle with my friends. I had a lot of time over the years to study those in front of me, the only thing that kept me from going bonkers during the long service.
Brother Deck, an ancient deacon sat in the middle of the front pew, wearing ancient suits, heavy black, wool in winter and gray gabardine in summer. The gabardine had been pressed so much it was thin and shiny. Should it be hot enough for him to remove his jacket, we were treated to a view of a gray, gabardine wedgie, which somehow, he never seemed to notice, though I was always puzzled at how he could tolerate it. Though the poor old man was stone-deaf, he never missed a service. He nodded off to sleep as soon as the sermon started. His anal sphincter must have relaxed as well since he punctuated the sermon with occasional farts instead of “Amen!” It was nice comic relief to sermons. I was fascinated with Brother Deck, anyhow, since he left the bed in a spooky old farmhouse with his two reclusive old sisters. The kids told tales that they were crazy, but that didn’t discourage any of us from accepting the wonderful newspaper wrapped pears they passed out every Halloween. They couldn’t have been nicer the few times I saw them.
Mr. and Mrs. Bob Lincoln sat at the opposite end of the pew in front of us. Mr. Bo was on the school board and Miss Mary Lincoln a retired teacher. They appeared quite prosperous and were much admired in the community. I had plenty of time to observe Mr. Bob, and one day noted he was wearing BVDs. I had no idea what BVDs were at the time, but could clearly see a cross-cross strap pattern through the back of his his thin dress shirt. Not only that, he wore fancy silky black socks, with alternating sheer and slightly heavier woven stripes. I always felt a bit like a voyeur sneaking peeks at the sight of his nearly naked ankles through those dashing socks.
Miss Bonnie sat in the middle of the front row of the choir, next to her sister Miss Ozell, whispering and giggling silently, her shoulders heaving with poorly concealed mirth. A mountain of a woman, that pew must have suffered under her amusement. I always anticipated the collapse of the pew, but my evil thoughts were never rewarded. One memorable Sunday, the minister preached with an unzipped fly, holding everyone’s attention. It’s really hard to keep your eyes on someone’s face while they’re tromping around with an open fly.
One fine Sunday when Daddy worked, my brother Billy took convinced Mother to let him sit with his buddies. They slipped into a back pew at the last minute. When the sermon started, Bill pulled a super ball from his pocket to amuse himself and his friends. Clearly, nothing good would come of that. Predictably, it wasn’t long before It bounced to the sloping hardwood floor. It was amazing how beautifully it entertained as bounced joyously to the front, not even waiting for the altar call. As it neared the altar, the minister stepped from behind the pulpit and deftly scooped it up and put it in his pocket without a pause in his sermon. Bill vainly hoped his ownership would remain secret till the minister returned it as he exited the church.
The next Sunday we all lined the pew.