A Hog a Day Part 16

I was always grateful when the preacher enlivened the service with a joke or was able to  come up with an interesting story.   I was blessed one memorable Sunday when a well-known evangelist preached to a packed house.  Brother Paine was hailed far and wide for his moving sermons. He was eloquent and erudite, a born speaker whose knowledge of scripture was legend, as he quoted long passages flawlessly, without opening his beloved Bible.  This was all wasted on me, a kid who zoned in and out and listened with less than half an ear.  I usually managed to notice the change in rhythm when a joke, a good story, or an interesting bit of Bible lore might be forthcoming.  Otherwise, I just tried to maintain consciousness enough to stay out of trouble with my parents.  I did find Brother Paine’s sermon a bit more interesting than the usual fare, especially when he got to the story of Baalam. He spun a tale of Baalam’s evil deeds stoking God’s anger. As Baalam’s faithful ass carried him down the road, only the ass saw the sword-wielding angel of God in their path, prepared to strike Baalam down for his wickedness. Three times the ass turned away, saving Baalam from the death-angel’s sword. Three times Baalam cruelly beat her for disobedience. Intending to make the point that God miraculously gave the ass the power of speech to rebuke Balaam for his cruelty, Brother Raymond paused dramatically, pounded on the podium and boomed out. “God spoke through Baalam’s ass!!!!”  He had our complete attention! Silence reigned as he realized his error.  Some of the teenagers and younger kids snickered first, then a few of the less pious joined in. The song-leader faked a few coughs trying to regain his composure, then snorted two giant snot bubbles.  We all burst into full-fledged, knee-slapping, undeniable laughter. Brother Raymond gave it up and church was done for the day. The final prayer was short and sweet.

If I’d had a quarter, I’d have put it in the love offering.

 

A Hog a Day Part 15

 

Against his better judgment, when Billy was about eleven or twelve, Daddy relented and gave him permission to sit with his friend Kenny in church one Sunday.  He’d always had an iron-clad rule that we had to sit together as a family way up in front on the third pew, but was somehow, Billy convinced him he could handle the challenge that day.  Neither had reckoned with the devil super ball hiding in Billy’s pocket as he ecstatically took a seat next to his friend about five rows back.  All was well till that devil ball started sending psychic prompts a few minutes into the sermon.  Billy took it out, inspiring awe in Kenny.  They passed it silently between them a few times keeping their eyes straight ahead.  No one was the wiser.  Temptation got the better of Billy and he bounced the ball between his feet, catching it on the return.  There was a small plunk, but no great disturbance.  He was emboldened by success and had to try it again.  The slight plunk on the hardwood was noticeable, but since the boys kept their composure and stared straight ahead, the sermon continued.  It was going so well, Billy bounced it another time or two.  Of course, luck finally ran out and the hard rubber ball bounced and rolled down the slightly inclined pine floor, bumping a few supports and bouncing joyously along the way.  Daddy knew immediately who the culprit was, turned, and shot Billy the “look of death.”  Kenny, who enjoyed much more casual parenting struggled to stifle his hysteria.

That ball rolled and bounced, bounced and rolled.  The sound seemed deafening, though Brother Robert, the preacher, never faltered in his sermon.  As the ball neared the dais, he stepped down, and scooped up the ball mid-bounce.  I had to admire the smooth move.  I could see he had some natural athletic ability.  Without hesitation, he continued the sermon, walking in front of the dais and bouncing the ball.  Brother Robert held my attention as never before. Never missing a catch, he pocketed the little ball and went straight to altar call.  I truly prayed for Billy’s life.  I couldn’t imagine what his fate might be.  We finished church as always, filing out to greet the preacher at the door.

Surprisingly, Daddy didn’t kill Billy as I expected.  Maybe it tickled his funny bone, though he never let on.  The next Sunday, Billy was in his usual seat on the third row, right next to Daddy.  He never got his superball back.

 

A Hog a Day Part 14

Communion charmed me.  It pained me to see the perfect little glasses and morsels of wafer in the gleaming trays pass me by.  I suspect Mother’s thoughts weren’t sacred as she warned me off with dark looks and head shake.  It seemed wrong to waste communion on adults when those cups were obviously child-sized.  Glenda Parker boldly reached in and took two tiny cups right under her mother’s eye.  She slurped the juice from one cup, then poured the juice from the other back and forth a few times before spilling it.  Her mother sweetly wiped up the pew with a dainty hanky, never shooting her “the look.”  With my head bowed during prayer, I saw Glenda stack and restack those cups and slip them in and out of the little slots on the back of the pew in front of her while her mother piously bowed her head in prayer.  Why couldn’t God have given me to a good mother like that?

Baptism was even more interesting.  The first baptism I witnessed took place in a pond.  The congregation gathered around as the preacher led the candidates in one by one and dipped them backwards into murky water.  I yearned to get in that line, but had been warned not to move from Mother’s side.  The next baptism took place in our church’s new sanctuary.  The curtains behind the choir loft opened to reveal a glass-fronted tank before a lovely mural of the Jordan River.  The preacher stepped  in and spoke a few words before assisting Miss Flora Mae down the steps into the tank.  Miss Flora Mae’s full-skirted white skirt ballooned on the surface of the water as she descended, revealing chubby legs and white panties, an unexpected thrill for me and other less-holy onlookers.  A few even snickered as Miss Flora Mae struggled to recover her dignity.

By the next baptism, the baptistry’s glass front had been painted.

 

 

 

A Hog a Day Part 10

Art by Kathleen Swain

Cousin Carol married a sorry guy.  He wasn’t crazy about working.  In fact, he was pretty much averse to it. He had better things to do, hunting, fishing, sleeping and making babies.  He and Carol had three babies in record time.   It worried Daddy’s brother terribly that Jerry didn’t provide for Carol and the kids.  As a favor to him, Daddy had Jerry meet him at the house one day after work.  “Come with me and we’ll go get you a hog so Carol can have something to cook for the kids.”  Jerry was all for free pork.  They went to the pen, got Jerry a nice-sized pig, and he was on his way.

A few days later, Daddy showed up to check hs traps mid-morning and surprised Jerry at his pen with a 22 rifle in his hands.  He’d just shot a pig and was getting ready to load it in his car.  Daddy was an imposing man, very six foot three.  He slapped Jerry to the ground.

Billy was Daddy’s shadow, making every step he made, whether it was hunting or socializing, which were often one in the same.  One evening, they were sitting with several of the guys on logs around a fire telling tales. Billy had worked hard to keep up with his new orange hunting cap all day, only too aware of how lucky he was to have it. It was late. He was tired. He’d nodded off a time or two, leaned up against a big log next to Daddy when he was startled to see Runt Rider, the crotchety owner of the fish camp wearing his cap. His hand flew to his head, finding it bare. Sure enough, Runt had his hat! The other fellows teased him routinely, but Runt was an old grump, who’d never even spoken to him. There were even stories that he’d stabbed a man!

He’d been set up. The guys were all waiting, watching for his reaction. The more he studied the situation, the more outraged he became. Finally, time for action. He bounded across, grabbed the cap off Runt’s head, and was rewarded by an explosion of laughter from all the guys around the fire. Runt was not happy at being laughed at. His face turned fiery red. He spit, sputtered, cursed, struggling to maintain control, clearly infuriated. Billy calmly put the hat on his head, walked to Daddy’s truck, and got in, feeling vindicated.

Daddy walked over to the truck. “Son, why in the world did you grab Mr. Runt’s hat off his head?”

“He had my hat. I had to get it back.”

“Look on the seat beside you.” Beside him on the seat, undeniably, lay his own hat. “I guess you’d better give Mr. Runt’s cap back. Billy took off the cap, returning it to Mr. Runt, with an apology. Mr. Runt was ungracious, but at least didn’t stab him.

Hard Time Marrying Part 30

 

Mary Elizabeth Perkins and Roscoe Gordon Holdaway Wedding Pictu

My grandparent’s wedding picture, though this is not their story.  I am posting an extra story today as an early Christmas gift.

 

The situation Joe had most dreaded had come to a head at Anya’s most vulnerable time.  Making a run for it with two little ones and a newborn would be futile.  He’d just have to face this situation straight on.  No one was going to hurt Anya and rip his family apart after they’d struggled so hard to be together. 

Seeing Anya’s joy in Rose Anya was bittersweet, knowing what he’d have to tell her, but he could let her have this day unmarred.  Emma had left a pot of soup bubbling on the hearth.  Joe decided to do nothing but necessary chores and store up the joy of this day.  When Anya wasn’t holding Rose Anya, he was.  The little ones played happily in the warmth of family.

Joe didn’t allow himself to think of the preacher and sheriff’s impending visit.  The sheriff didn’t wait a few days, just showed up with the preacher the next morning, probably to avoid the problem of having to pursue them.  Joe greeted them gruffly.  The sheriff was a definite threat, and Joe had never known kindness, only judgment from church folk.

“I know why you are here.  I ain’t gonna let you make trouble for us.  My wife just gave birth to an early baby and she ain’t strong

“We need to talk to her.  I just need the preacher to say if she’s the same woman you married.  We won’t take much of your time.” The sheriff stood his ground.

 The preacher rocked back and forth with his hands clasped behind him.  “Lord knows we hate to bother you, but the sheriff says this has got to be done.  I’d be obliged if we could get it over with so I can get back to town.  I got a couple that wants marrying.”

Grudgingly, Joe showed them in.  “Anya, this here is the sheriff and the preacher what married us.  I know you remember him, even though you was so sick.”

Anya’s eyes widened in fear, taking the situation in.  “Why shore I do.  A woman don’t fergit her weddin’.  Welcome preacher.  I cain’t git up cause I’m nursing my baby.  She’s a mite early an’ I don’t want to jostle her.  She ain’t strong an’ needs to nurse.”

“Why shore, Ma’am.  Good to see you again.  That baby is a tiny little thing.  I wouldn’t want to unsettle her. It’s good to see things working out so good for you.”  Anya took heart from his kind words.

The sheriff took his cue.  “Ma’am, I’m sorry I had to bother you, but I needed to git the preacher to identify you.  I am glad ever’thing worked out so good.  Joe, you take care of this fine woman an’ that purty, little baby.  I got to be going.”

“Sheriff, if you can wait a few minutes, this little one needs christening.  It’s a long trip to town an’ I can git the job done as long as I’m here,” the preacher addressed the sheriff.

“Why shore.  I’ll just wait outside.” He left them alone. 

The preacher faced Joe and Anya.  “I don’t know how I done it, but I realized after y’all left that night I never gave you a certificate.   I’d like to marry you again an’ make sure ever’thing’s right before I christen that baby if that’s alright with you. I disremember the date, but you can help with that. Then we can git that little feller taken care of.  The Lord wouldn’t want me to leave a job half-done.”

A giant load was lifted off Joe’s heart.

Hard Time Marrying Part 29

Early the next morning, Rufus rattled up in the wagon with the children just as Emma’s biscuits in the Dutch Oven browned.  Sally was ecstatic about her new sister, but Little Joe wanted a puppy.  “Well, if you are a good boy, maybe we can git you one of Fred Mason’s brown and white puppies, unless you decide you want another sister.” Joe teased.

” No, no.  I want a puppy.” Little Joe insisted.

Joe brought Anya a plate of gravy and biscuits and a glass of milk.  “Now you eat all of this. You got to feed that baby.”

“I ain’t never et this much.  You must think Rose Anya is a baby pig.”  Emma and Rufus chuckled at the happy couple.

They lingered long over coffee while the children played and Anya nursed the baby. While Emma tidied up, Rufus asked if Joe had a part he needed for his windmill.  Once they were out of earshot, Rufus passed some news on to Joe.  “You remember my boy, Melvin, come up on that peddler somebody knocked in the head.  The sheriff come by late yesterday asking some questions.  A feller come to Talco saying his brother was supposed to meet him in Amarillo and never showed up.  A couple of fellers told him they’d seen had seen him with a blonde woman west of Talco.  The sheriff was asking me if I knowed of a blonde woman that showed up around here lately.  I told him I didn’t know of none that was unaccounted for.  He asked about Anya an’ I told him you wrote off for her and picked her and the kids at the train station and married her before you left town that night.  The preacher told him that was the way it happened.  He said he might want to come talk to y’all, anyhow.  I told him Emma was over helpin’ Anya birth her baby right then and he said he’d wait a few days before stopping by.  I just thought you ought to know.”

Joe felt a chill.  “I ‘preciate you letting me know.  It happened just like you said.  I don’t want him bothering Anya, none.  That there preacher can vouch I picked her and the kids up at the train and married her before I brung her home.  I still got the letter I wrote asking her to come.  It ought not to be no problem.”

 

 

 

 

Goats Pop the Top

imageThe visiting preacher came home with us for Sunday dinner. He had a just gotten a new car and spent most of Sunday dinner talking about it. His wife had a bad heart and lay down for a nap after lunch. He whispered “She could go anytime.” This did nothing to lighten the mood. It was clear the new car was the only bright spot in his life. It would look nice at her funeral. They were from out of town so we were stuck with them until time for the evening service. The afternoon looked long and hopeless. The kids escaped outdoors as soon as possible. Our house was on the edge of the farm, sitting inside a larger fenced area where Daddy raised hay and grazed cattle, horses, goats.  The driveway was several hundred yards long and fenced separately, enclosing several pecan and fruit trees, and space for parking. As goats will do, the goats had slipped through the fence and gotten in the drive. Brother Smith had parked his nice new car under the mulberry tree in full bloom. Goats love new vegetation and as it turns out, new cars. We saw several hop agilely to the roof of his new car. Before we could get to it, several more joined their friends standing on their back legs to reach the tree branches. There was a big metallic “Pop!!” and the hood caved in, leaving the goats in a bowl. They leapt off. Mother heard the racket and ran out just in time to catch the whole disaster. Her eyes were huge as her hands flew to her mouth. We hadn’t had a new car for years and now we’d be buying this preacher one. Not only that, his wife would probably drop dead on the spot and he’d have to drive a goat-battered car to the funeral.

God smiled on us. As soon as the goats jumped off, the hood popped back in the shape. This time we enjoyed the sound and flew to inspect the roof. Surprisingly, there was apparent damage. Mother got the preacher’s keys and pulled the car to the safety of the yard. Mrs. Smith lived through the day, and as far as I know, Brother Smith had a fine new car to drive to her funeral a couple of weeks later. All’s well that ends well.

Five Photos, Five Stories Day One Hard Time Marrying

Man and kids (2)Thanks Author S B Mazing for challenging me to join her Five Photos, Five Stories.  This is just the type challenge I love.  It stimulates me to do what I want to do.  I will be writing a series based on vintage photos.  This will eventually become a book.  I have four others in front of it.  Who knows if it might push itself further up the line? I don’t know the story behind this photograph since it came from an estate sale.  I just love it.  It hangs in my writing room.  I know I am not telling the true story, but at least I am giving my friends a voice.  Now, the best part, I’d like to challenge Mom, at Maybe someone should write that down to join me.  I just love her stories and pictures!

Hard Time Marrying

Their union had a bleak start.  Meeting at the train in the freezing rain, she clutched his letter.  They married minutes later at the preacher’s house, barely speaking as they shivered the two hours home in his open wagon.  In her letter, she’d not mentioned the two little ones, though with all fairness, the marriage was only one of need on both parts. They were proof she could bear the children he hoped for.  Burning with fever by the time they got to his homestead; dead by the next sundown, she left him with two little ones he had no taste for.  Barely reaching his knee, they toddled mutely in perpetual ,soggy diapers dragging to their knees, uttering gibberish only they understood.  As soon as he could get her wrapped in a quilt, he buried this stranger wife and headed back to dusty Talphus, Texas with the sad burden of her orphaned little ones.  The church or the town would have to do for them.  Loading them in a snug in a bed of hay, wrapped in a ragged quilt, hay heaped over them.  he pitied and grieved for them on the long trip back to town, knowing the hard life they faced.  Stopping several times to make sure they were warmly covered, he was relieved to find them pink and warm.

He hardened his heart against them, knowing only too well the life they were facing.  He’d never known family, just been passed from hand to hand.

to be continued