When me an’ my brother Jim was boys, we heard they was gonna be having a camp-meeting at one of them snake-handlin’ churches up in the hills. Now we didn’ want nothin’ to do with snakes, but we thought it might be interestin’ to stir them church folks up a little. We slipped out with the Rascoe boys an’ caught us up some cats an’ a dog or two an’ had’em in tow sacks. We slipped up on the back side of the church an’ climbed up, pullin’ them bags behind us. With all that singin’ and testafyin’, and speakin’ in tongues, them church folks couldna’ heard the devil comin’ up the river in a sawmill, so we didn’ have a bit o’trouble once they got started. Them folks was naturally doin’ some carryin’ on!
Well, we give’em time enough to get to really git serious about their religion before we turned them dogs and cats loose on ‘em. Them cats tore outa’ them sacks, like their tails was on fire, screechin’ and spittin’, with them dogs right behind ‘em. Some of ‘em ended up bustin’ right up in the middle of them snake-handlers. I mean to tell you, they threw them snakes down an’ they all run outside screamin’ an’ carryin’ on about the rapture. You wouldn’a thought anybody that messed with snakes would’a got so stirred up about a few dogs and cats!
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Like most of the people we knew, we didn’t have a car, so we never went anywhere at night we couldn’t walk, except for once. Mama got the news that there was to be a brush arbor revival in Cuthand, hosting a guest evangelist! To my everlasting amazement, we were going! We put quilts in the back of the wagon, since we’d be getting home long after dark. We hopped up in the wagon dressed in our best, headed for the revival, in a holiday spirit long before dark. I had no idea what a revival was, but couldn’t have been more excited than a kid headed for the fair!
We pulled up to find dozens of wagons parked next to a brush-arbor in a clearing, a simple roof of branches on a make-do support sheltering rough benches. Though it was summer, a few small fires were smoldering, their smoke intended to discourage mosquitoes. Before long, the song leader got us fired up with a rousing rendition of “Onward Christian Soldiers.” The singing was wonderful, but eventually gave way to the Hell-fire and brimstone sermon, something that didn’t thrill me nearly so much.
It was late by the time the preacher concluded the altar call, releasing us. After visiting a bit with our neighbors, we headed for home, long after the time I was usually in bed. I lay in the back of the wagon with Annie and John on the quilts, looking at the magical night sky. Travelling under its full moon and sparkling stars was a gift. A slight breeze cooled us, keeping the mosquitoes at bay. As the horse clomped along, Mama and Daddy told stories and talked amiably. With all those I loved around me, I never wanted this night to end.
This is from my book Everything Smells Just Like Poke Salad, available on Amazon. Click on link to right to purchase. I’d be grateful if you’d leave a review.
to be continued