A Hog Day Part 19


Between the two of us, Billy and I complained bitterly about having to march in like a row of ducks to  line the pew every Sunday.  No other kids our age sat with their parents.  We looked like real doofuses.  It was a social disaster.  Finally, I decided I’d have to work up the nerve to ask permission to sit somewhere else.  After the super ball incident, there was no way Billy would ever bring up that topic again. I knew I had to approach the subject delicately or there would be big trouble.  At our house, a question could reap consequences as serious as an actual sin.  It showed intent. I suppose it followed the same principle as “having lust in your heart.” Not only that, but whenever Daddy got news that a neighborhood kid had done something horrible, We got a preemptive lecture, just because. “Your FRIEND, Eddie, was smoking and burned down the preacher’s barn last night.  THAT’s why I don’t let you …….”. It didn’t matter that I’d never spoken two words to Eddie and despised smoking, only Daddy’s total dedication to lecturing and haranguing kept me on the straight and narrow.  But for his rigid control,  I’d have been smoking, drinking, and fornicating on the back pew every Sunday.

Not knowing how to broach the subject, one Sunday morning, I revolted.  Instead of following Daddy into pew three, I brazenly slid into pew four, right behind him. Billy followed me.  The sky didn’t fall.  Lightening didn’t strike.  The world kept spinning on its axis.  Daddy just turned and gave me a warning look, but I could tell I’d won my prize.

I pondered my victory in my heart as I sat smugly in pew four.  I found out that day, God has a sense of humor.  When we stood for a hymn, Daddy had a wedgie.  Have you ever had to spend time in church standing behind someone with a wedgie?  I experienced eternity that day as Daddy stood right in front of me with a wedgie.  Billy and I looked desperately back and forth at each other each time Daddy and his wedgie stood. I thought about reaching up and pulling it out, but feared there might be a Biblical injunction against it.  “Thou shalt not unwedge thy father’s wedgie!”  I might be turned into a pillar of salt.

I spent the next three years trying not to see Daddy’s wedgie as he stood in the pew ahead of me ever Sunday.

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 13

With eons of sermons stretching out before me, life looked grim.  Occasionally, there was a bright spot.  Sometimes the preacher told a joke.   I truly enjoyed church music, especially if it was something lively, like “Onward Christian Soldiers” on the hymn list.  I sung along enthusically, though lots of the words did’t make sense.  For the life of me, I couldn’t fathom why we sang about laundry, as in “Bringing in the Sheets (Sheaves).” There was also a Christmas carol about laundry.  “While shepherds washed their socks by night (watched their flocks by night.)  I thought it odd, but so much adults did seemed odd.

One special Sunday, God had a startling surprise in store for me.  Mrs. Simmons, the pianist, brought her brother Eddie, a handsome young man, along to play the organ.  His boogie-woogie style hymns were a vast improvement over sedate hymns.  I could see some of the old ladies exchanging shocked looks, but  I was entranced.  I was practically bouncing in the pew when suddenly he dropped to the floor in a seizure.  Mrs. Simmons shrieked and rushed to his side.  He rallied and they trooped out, along with the rest of her family.  I was so jealous.  The preacher made an anemic attempt to salvage the service, but his flock was clearly anxious to get out and enjoy a good gossip.  I genuinely enjoyed church that day.


My Brief Career as a Religious Educator

Image result for flies on dirty dishes


Despite my parents’ earnest efforts, I never developed a taste for church. Church required dressing in starchy clothes, a miserable Saturday night hairdo session, major shoe polishing efforts, memorization of Bible verses, claiming to read my Sunday School lesson, and worst of all, not getting to spend the night with my heathenish cousins who didn’t have church inflicted on them.

It probably wouldn’t have been such an issue had my older sister not been the poster child for Christian kids. She could be mean as a snake all week, then nearly kill herself to be in church every time the doors opened. In all fairness, it is possible her meanness toward me was a result of torments I’d heaped on her, but if she was such a great Christian, you’d expect her to be thankful for the opportunity to turn the other cheek, like the Good Book says.

Any way, the summer after my junior year in high school, Mother came home from Sunday School with “Big News!” Mrs. Miner had asked Mother if I would take the primary class in Bible School. Mother assured her I would LOVE to, forgetting I wasn’t cut from the same cloth as my saintly sister. “Why, it was an honor to be asked,” Mother told me. “No one else your age was even asked.  Naturally Phyllis was also honored with an invitation to teach the juniors.  She was so excited you’d have thought the invitation was straight from God’s lips.

“I will not teach Bible School. I hate bratty kids and crafts, and I am going to enjoy the first year of my life not stuck in Bible School half a day.” I told Mother. This defiance came as a big surprise to her, since I normally went along with her. Daddy was so strict, that by the time I was that age, I’d pretty much given up on getting my way about much of anything, but this Bible School business was over the line. I’d had enough!

“Oh, yes you are,”. She insisted.” I’ve already told Mrs. Miner you would. Besides, she can’t get anyone else to take that class.”

“Mother, I hate Bible School. I won’t do it even if you beat me to death, and then I’d go to Hell for sure, getting killed over not teaching Bible School. Do you WANT me to go to Hell?”

Pulling out the Hell card was all that saved me. Mother considered and backed down. She’d made it clear on many occasions she had no intention of allowing any of her children to go to Hell.

Well, I didn’t teach Bible School and I didn’t have to go to Hell, but I got the next worse punishment. Mother gave up and taught “my class” but threatened me I’d better have the house spotless and lunch ready every day when she got in from Bible School. She was mad as hops for having to teach, which seemed odd when it was such an “honor” to be asked. Oh yes, I checked with my friends, all good Christians, and Mrs. Miner had unsuccessfully badgered them to take the class before she bothered cornering Mother about me. I guess they didn’t know what an honor it was.

That Monday morning the house was a real pigsty. Mother never was a meticulous housekeeper, but we’d had swarms of relatives in. Sunday evening supper was late, so the dishes waited for me in cold, slimy gray water ensuring they’d be as disgusting as possible for me.  I was always involved in housework, but this was the first time I was threatened with a job of this magnitude to accomplish alone in less than four hours.

Mother took pleasure in calling out over her shoulder as she headed off to Bible School. “This house better be spotless and lunch on the table when I get home…..and Oh, yes, clean out that refrigerator, too!”  The saintly Phyllis smirked as they got in the car.

I didn’t bother to tell her that she, Phyllis, and I couldn’t have gotten all that done if we’d been working like like our lives depended on it. It looked like a week’s mess piled up. I started in on the dishes, a Herculean challenge. All the countertops were covered, the stove, and a pressure cooker and several dirty pots waited patiently on the floor for their turn. Grandma apparently thought more pots was the answer to all Mother’s problems, so every time she went near a thrift store or replaced one of her pots, she sent her castoffs to Mother. Mother was a master of disorganization and grabbed a fresh pot for everything she cooked, tossing the used one on the dirty stack. A stack of crazily leaning miss-matched pots and lids always lined our counters, unless we’d just done the dishes.

I set in washing. The glasses, plates, and bowls went pretty fast. There were way, way more than the rack would hold, so of course, I had to stop to dry and put away several times. The dreaded silverware was next. I made fresh, hot dishwater to soak it during the drying and put away process. While they soaked, I tackled the refrigerator. It was a small, older model with few shelves. Never fear, those shelves were stacked two or three layers deep with ancient vegetables nobody wanted the first time, dried mashed potatoes, wizened onions, potatoes, and turnips with dirt still clinging from the garden. None of our bowls had lids, so leftovers quickly crusted over.  I scraped out the dried leftovers in a bucket for the hogs, and made a new stack to start after the silverware was done.

We didn’t have air conditioning, but our house boasted an attic fan.  For best effect, one closes the doors to unused rooms so the fan will pull a breeze though the areas in use.  I had the kitchen windows and back door open.  By the time I got the silverware done, a few wayward flies had worked their way in through a hole in the back door screen, not bothered at all by the cotton ball on the screen  that was supposed to terrify them senseless.  They didn’t share the family’s low opinion of the leftovers and were buzzing about them happily.  I took time out of my busy schedule to treat the hogs to that bucket of slop.  It’s impossible to climb up on the rails of a hog pen and dump slop into a trough with splashing some on yourself.  This just added to the fun.  A number of the flies journeyed with me to the hog pen, but a few slow learners lingered in the kitchen.  They were all over the slop I’d splashed on myself as soon as I got back in.  I didn’t have time for a showere, so I washed  my feet and legs with a washcloth.  The flies found a few spots I missed and pointed them out.  Of course, I had to swat them and sweep them up with the rest of the kitchen before I could continue.

About eleven-thirty, I realized it was way past time  to get lunch going.  We weren’t baloney and cheese sandwiches kind of people  We were big meal in the middle of the day people, a meat, dry beans, and two vegetables and biscuits or cornbread.  I couldn’t have made a quick lunch if my life depended on it.

In a panic, I perused the refrigerator and found nothing but a couple of eggs and a package of frozen sausage in the freezer.  Desperately, I scrambled the sausage and made a pan of sausage gravy and biscuits.  We often had biscuits and gravy for an emergency meal.  Just as I pulled the biscuits out of the oven, I put away the last dish away and finished mopping the kitchen as they got out of the car.  The rest of the house was untouched, but the kitchen sparkled.  “Don’t come in the kitchen.  The floor is wet!”

Even though the rest of the house still looked like a disaster zone, the kitchen looked good.  Mother looked self-righteous, but somewhat mollified till she asked what was for lunch.

“Sausage gravy and biscuits.  I forgot to put a chicken out to thaw and put beans on.”

Mother was furious.  It was summer.  I guess she’d thought I would somehow found time to gather and prepare okra and tomatoes from the garden like she would have if she’d been home.  “I can’t eat biscuits and gravy!  I am on a diet.  I have to have vegetables or I’ll put all that weight back on!”  In a huff, she went out and got tomatoes and radishes, and ate them with two fried eggs.

It still beat the Hell out of teaching Bible School,

Praise the Lord and Save Your Kitties From the Heathen

Our little church held periodic revivals. For the benefit of those not blessed with a Southern Baptist upbringing, a revival is a series of nightly evangelical preaching services culminating with a baptismal service on Sunday for converts. There was a good bit of Hell-fire promised, so a quite a few errant souls joined up. Our small church had no baptistry, so baptism was conducted in a creek, exciting business for kids.
Dressed in old clothes, a stark contrast to usual his usual church garb, a stalwart deacon led the candidates to the preacher waiting in waist-deep water. After a few words and a prayer, the preacher dipped the candidates for baptism backwards in the murky water, then raised them up a moment later, gasping, sputtering, and cleansed of sin. It must have been quite a workout for the preacher and an unnerving experience for the baptized. Seeing the redeemed folk led from the water with their clingy garments served as a pretty good anatomy lesson for us kids, as well. Afterwards, the crowd quickly dispersed, out of concern for the soaked.
I chafed, all through the prayers and scripture, awaiting the creek side baptism, anticipating an outing with a picnic and swimming. Verily, there was no swimming for us, only baptism for the redeemed. Though Mother had warned me not to expect such a party, I’d thought perhaps I could engineer the opportunity to fall in the creek, resulting in a swim, after all. Lo, it didn’t happen with the death grip Mother had on me and Billy. My major impression of the day was disappointment.
My brother Billy and Cousin Evil Larry took the opportunity to put all they’d learned in practice the next morning. Our cat had hidden away a litter of kittens, but apparently not well enough. Billy and Evil Larry rounded up those sinful kitties and went to work on redeeming their mewing, little souls. After dunking them in the repeatedly in the water trough, a couple of them straight to Heaven, assuming the baptism worked. Mother caught the boys and saved the rest. I guess she just wasn’t into religion.

On Melvin

fire and brimstoneOn Melvin’s good days, he was eccentric.  Other days, he tipped toward fanaticism.   While he was in the army in Korea, he wrote home asking Mama how she’d like a Korean daughter-in-law.  Mama wouldn’t like that at all.  Answering her it was just a joke; that was the end of it.  After mustering out, he came home and married Maggie, a young widow with a son.  Almost immediately, they had a son, then a year later, a second who was born with birth defects.  Melvin became was inconsolable and melancholic, sure his child was being punished for his sin of abandoning the woman and child in Korea he’d not having the courage to marry and bring home to his disapproving family.

Isolating himself, Melvin gave his life to God becoming an evangelical, Hell-fire and brimstone preacher in a sect of his own concoction.  Sadly, his fanaticism made life on his family so hard, poor Maggie left when he tried to force her into following his fanatic beliefs.  Eventually, his membership abandoned him to preach to an empty church, which he still does.  He brushed the divorce aside, insisting that “What God had put together, no man could put asunder.”  Though she could barely tolerate him, he considered himself still responsible for Maggie under the eyes of God, visiting her periodically and providing her with things a man should provide a wife, clothes, assistance with upkeep on her house, and money.  She wasn’t afraid of him and really needed his financial help.

He was unyielding in his beliefs, demanding that his children follow rules he lay down, disowning his adult son, a fine man, for drinking beer, alienating the second with his bizarre demands of fealty.  Eventually, he “adopted” a family of immigrants who were faithful to his religious beliefs, cutting his own children off.  He eventually got so deep in debt supporting the family, that he filed bankruptcy.  At the age of seventy-eight, he still works full-time to pay off debts he co-signed for them.  Maggie has since died.  From time to time, I still see Melvin, standing on the rural roadside, holding up his Bible, hoping to find someone to preach to.

I feel for this lonely man who has alienated himself from society and everyone he loves for what looks to me like to be an unnecessary sacrifice in the service of God.  I hope there is a blessing for him, sometime, somewhere.



Y’all Got a Snake in Y’all’s Tree!

eve and serpentIt’s not everyday one hears a dynamic statement like this! Melvin was the ex-husband of Mother’s old friend, Maggie. A good man, he’d gone just a bit “off the rails” and Maggie, had reluctantly left him as a result of his increasingly fantical religious leanings. Mother and Daddy had long been faithful congregants of their church, only missing services if unable Continue reading

29 Childrens’ Misunderstandings of Biblical Proportions

In the first book of the bible, Guinessis, God got tired of creating the world, so he took the Sabbath off.

Adam & Eve were created from an apple tree.

Noah’s wife was called Joan of Ark.

Noah built the ark, which the animals came on in pears.

Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt by day, but a ball of fire by night.

The Jews were a proud people and throughout history they had trouble with unsympathetic Genitals.

Sampson was a strongman who let himself be led astray by a jezebel like Delilah.

Sampson slated the Philistines with the axe of apostles.

Moses led the Hebrews to the Red Sea, where they made unleavened bread, which is bread made without any ingredients.

The Egyptians were all drowned in the dessert.

Afterward, Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the Ten Amendments.

The first commandment was when Eve told Adam to eat the apple.

The Fifth Commandment is humor thy mother and father.

The Seventh Commandment is thou shalt not admit adultery.

Moses died before he ever reached the UK. Then, Joshua led the Hebrews in the Battle of Geritol.

The greatest miracle in the Bible is when Joshua told his son to stand still and he obeyed him.

David was a Hebrew king skilled at playing the liar. He fought with the Finkelsteins, a race of people who lived in the biblical times.

Solomon, one of David’s sons, has 300 wives and 700 porcupines.

When Mary heard that she was the Mother of Jesus, she sang the Magna Carta.

When the three wise guys from the East Side arrived, they found Jesus and the manager.

Jesus was born because Mary had an emaculate contraption.

St. John, the Blacksmith, dumped water on his head.

Jesus enunciated the Golden Rule, which says to do one to others before they do one to you.

He also explained, “Man doth not live by sweat alone.”

The people who followed the Lord were called the 12 decibels.

The epistles were the wives of the apostles.

One of the opossums was St. Matthew, who was by profession a taximan.

St. Paul cavorted to Christianity. He preached holy acrimony, which is another name for marriage.

A Christian should have only one wife. This is called monotony.

Y’all Got a Snake in Y’all’s Tree!

eve and serpentIt’s not everyday one hears a dynamic statement like this! Melvin was the ex-husband of Mother’s old friend, Maggie. A good man, he’d gone just a bit “off the rails” and Maggie, had reluctantly left him as a result of his increasingly fantical religious leanings. Mother and Daddy had long been faithful congregants of their church, only missing services if unable Continue reading