My Grandfather was a Methodist. My Grandmother was a Baptist. Not just any kind of Baptist, but a devout, tee-totaling, bible-reading, underlined in red, scripture quoting, hard-shell Baptist. She went to the New Hope Baptist Church every Sunday morning. They called her Aunt Ollie. When they had dinner on the ground, she cooked the best chicken and dumplings.
My Grandfather tried to be a Baptist. He just couldn’t go all the way.
I mean, he put on his church clothes and he drove the car. He got to the front steps and that’s about as far as he would go. I can’t remember him going inside, sitting on a hard, red pine, hand-made pew, singing the hymns and praying with all the others. He would hold the door open for my Grandmother and those of us with her. But, he stopped at the threshold. He said “I’ll just sit out here on the front steps. II can listen to the preacher, hear what he’s got to say OK from out here.”
My Grandfather liked to be on the outside. Maybe, he got more out of the sermon than the rest of us.
Back in those days, on some Sundays, there were a lot of men who sat on the front steps of the church, letting the preacher do his work on the inside.
The preacher was busy with saving the women and children. The Baptist preachers back then, out in the country, talked a lot about hell fire and brimstone. They got serious, shouting at the congregation at times. I remember, I was there.
“Make no mistake,” they would preach, “if you’re not washed in the blood, if you’re not a true believer, Hell is waiting for you.” That kind of talk scares the bejeebies out of a little boy sitting next to his grandmother.
The white-haired and bald-headed men sat outside, holding their own service, spitting tobacco juice on the grounds, rolling Prince Albert cigarettes, striking matches on their pants leg. One or two used a pipe. They talked about what happened yesterday and the day before. The preacher didn’t scare them, they were outside.
Of course, they didn’t have telephones or television, for some, electricity was still a few years away. The outside world came to them from a battery powered radio, after dark. They wanted to hear what their friends had to say.
Every day during the week, they had a day’s work ahead of them. Stove wood and a fire to start the morning. Then feeding the cows, hogs, a few goats and some chickens. I never saw my Grandfather milk a cow. He fed the hogs and the chickens. He kept a garden. That took time also. And, he had about a hundred head of cattle out behind their house.
On Saturdays the men went to town. It was a day’s trip, going to Brookhaven. Half a day when they went down to Bude.
On Sundays was when the men talked. They learned who was having trouble, they learned when the new seed was coming in and who got caught up in compromised positions. They laughed on the steps of the church, but not too loud, there was serious religion going on inside and laughter on the outside would not be welcomed.
Sometimes they just sat and nodded their head in approval or shook away a thought in disgust. There were times I wished my Grandfather had let me sit beside him, outside, on the steps of the church.
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