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.

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Starry Night (from Kathleen’s Memoir of The Great Depression Part 1)

imageLike most of the people we knew, we didn’t have an 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.

to be continued