A Hog a Day Part 20

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I’ve got to end this series, since it is the basis of my next book and I don’t want to give it away but there are so many stories I want to share.  One is about a suicide and a mean Christian.

Mrs Rivers was as old as the hills. I believe she was born that way.   Widowed more than forty years, no one ever spoke of her husband.  It was impossible for me to imagine anyone could have ever wanted to marry her, as unpleasant as she appeared.  Still living in the house where  she raised her children, her son had built a house on her lot. My mother often remarked she’d be a trial as a mother-in-law as we drove  by and saw her dressed in a dark, long-sleeved dress and sun bonnet working her garden with a push plow. I’m sure she refused her son’s offer to plow her garden, because no one would have expected someone that old to plow.

Old Lady Rivers, as she was known, was a practicing Pentecostal, though she attended the Baptist Church just across the road from her house and interfered with its runnings as much as she was able.  While she didn’t have a vote, she did have opinions and battered the faithful with them as often as possible.  She was the first at services, wakes, and funerals, eager to share “how they took it” and why.  Never losing track of when a marriage was made, she was the first to predict should a baby appear to be coming “too soon.”

She was a skilled craftsman of gossip, eager to bear bad news or scandal. In the days before telephones were common in our rural community, it could be a challenge to get messages to people in a timely manner.   One sad day, a poor old gentlemen shot himself in the head out by his mailbox. His panicked wife called her son from next door for help.  The son covered his father with a sheet, but left the body lying awaiting the sheriff. A neighbor hurried to a local store to call the school principal to intercept his daughter, Alice Fay,  a school bus driver, before she left school with a bus load of children.  Sadly, they missed her by about fifteen minutes.  The principal summoned the coach and together, they hurried to catch up, hoping to spare her happening up on the grisly scene at her parent’s home, not realizing a couple of her stops had been eliminated.  He was behind her at every stop.

Old Lady Rivers heard the news before the bus was due.  She waited on the porch and puffed her way out to flag Alice Faye’s bus down.  The principal skidded to a stop behind the bus just as Alice Fay opened the bus door to see what the excited old lady wanted, Mrs. Rivers propped herself on her cane and announced, “Alice Faye, yore daddy done shot hisself in the head! God help him, he’s going to Hell for shore!”

Alice Faye reacted, as you might expect, erupting into hysterical tears as the principal and coach rushed up to comfort her and restore order to the traumatized children, three of whom were Alice Faye’s.  It was a horrendous situation.  The principal drove Alice Faye and her children home, and the coach finished the bus route on that awful day.  It was a shocking announcement of tragedy Alice Faye and her children could have been spared.

The Joy of Delivering Bad News

witch 2 Old Lady Borden was a saint! We had it on good authority, hers. She had been widowed longer than anybody knew. Hateful as she was, had I been her husband, I would have claimed to be dead, too. Though she was devout in another denomination, she was in attendance at our little country church every time the doors opened. Her own church was twelve miles away and she didn’t want to bother anyone for a ride to services so far afield. It was much more expedient walk a few hundred feet and stir up no end of trouble closer to home, inserting herself fully into all matters related to church business, be it financial, theological, or just some sinner in need of her hateful opinion.
Mother was very particular about our language. We would have never been allowed refer to Ms. Borden by the B word, but she turned a deaf ear when we referred to her as an Old Bat. Old Lady Borden played a vital role pointing out flaws that might have gone unnoticed for a while, a pregnant bride, a baby with a crossed-eye, a child who stuttered, a woman who’d gained weight, or was a bad housekeeper. She begrudged any good fortune coming to a neighbor, such as good crops, or getting a good job. They were “gittin’ uppity.” Should a church member appear too prosperous, they were probably “gittin’ in the c’lection plate.”
Old Lady Borden was the first to the home of the bereaved, making sure to crowd the younger women out at the kitchen sink, then complaining loudly about how “lazy them gals was. “ Any one unfortunate enough to be handed a drying towel would be treated to her acid tongue about what a pitiful job they were doing. Nothing excited her more than a tragedy. Long before the days of cell phones, or even many house phones in our rural community, the school principal got the word that Mr. Barnes, the school bus driver’s father had collapsed and died a few minutes after his daughter Becky left on her bus route. He got in his vehicle, hoping to catch up with her before she home and found a shocking scene. When she stopped to let off Old Lady Borden’s grandson, the old woman rushed out to meet her at the bus stop with the horrible news. “Becky, yore daddy just dropped dead. He’s still a’ laying out in the yard a’waitin’ for the coroner.”
Naturally, Becky and her young children were distraught. There were still a half-dozen other children, some of them relatives, on the bus who’d heard the whole thing. They became overwrought at hearing the news of Mr. Barne’s death. Becky had no idea how to manage till the principal caught up to comfort and relieve her. He had to finish her route with her and the upset children still on the bus, since there was no other way to get them home.
It was a shocking situation, but at least she had the pleasure of delivering the terrible news. She was the meanest Christian I ever met.