Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Going to Church in the Old Days

It must have been about three miles from our house to the little white church. Sometimes most of us children walked to church, sometimes it was just some of us. I do not remember a time when we all went at the same time. My brother just older than me usually went every Sunday. It was hard on the little girls to make the trip but they did very often.

(In my early childhood, I remember us all piling into the '48 Ford and going to cottage prayer meetings. I always got the space over the back seat under the big back window. Even earlier than that, I remember going to church on a wagon with no bed but it had rubber tires and was pulled by mules. But back to my story.)

The road was dusty with dried out clay. I think it was what they used to make the roads passable in those days. That stuff was two inches of dust in dry weather and two inches of sticky yellow mud when it rained. Usually the cars would make two tracks in the wet clay and it would be a hard packed place to walk but you had to keep your balance. When a car came along, we'd have to get out of the tracks. Since cars did not always stay in the tracks, we got off in the trees until they passed. By that time, we would have sticky mud on our shoes which we had spent some time getting clean.

We tried to wipe them off with pine needles or leaves but inevitability we would get to church with mud on our shoes and half way up our britches' legs. It dry weather we'd be covered with dust from passing cars.

Walking into church we would always be greeted with smiles. The thing I remember most about church was the beautiful singing. I was really shy so I seldom went to the choir. I loved to hear the ones who did go though. Another thing I remember was the smell of gas from the gas heaters. There is just a certain smell from gas heat whether the heaters are on or not. Then there were the wasps that would start to swarm when the church building got good and warm. That was usually about the time the preacher got going good. Sometimes one would get stuck in a lady or a girl's hair and us boys would sit and try to decide whether to grab it, knock it or just watch it. You might get stung by the wasp or the girl if she thought you were flirting.

Going home was always an experience. Sometimes we would get a ride. One lady had a T-model pickup and we would pile in the back or hang on the running board. Others had regular cars and would sometimes give us a ride. Once we rode home on the back of a pulpwood truck, loud mufflers and all. It had no bed so we just hung on to whatever we could. I had the pleasure of hanging on to one of the girls who sung in the choir and to a cross member on the truck. When she lost her hold on the truck, I was holding me and her both to keep us from falling in front of the dual wheels. As much fun as it was, I was never so glad for a vehicle to stop.

There were many times when we walked all the way home in the dark. Sometimes there was a moon, sometimes we walked by the outline of the trees beside the road. We had to walk beside a pasture fence part of the way. We often heard some critter walking along beside us just on the other side of the fence. We later discovered that there were panthers in those woods beyond the pasture.

In the following years, because we seldom had a working car, I still walked to church but often it was alone. At one place we lived there was a dark woods on both sides of the road most of the way home. People had to go to work the next morning so mostly I walked home after church. I remember that after this last patch of woods there was a long stretch where there were no trees and I could see the porch light that Mama left on for me. I always looked forward to seeing that light. It did nothing to light my way but I knew that I would be home soon. It seems now, that I am growing old, that I am in that last patch of woods looking for the porch light.

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