As a child I don’t remember much church because we, (my family) didn’t attend very often, in fact almost never. This was due to the polar opposites of my parents. My mother was a devote Christian and raised in a bible thumping, holy rolly Christian family. I once asked her what denomination she belonged to and she sort of looked at me strangely and stated she belonged to the Holiness Church.
In her day their family traveled by wagon to the nearest church when there was a circuit preacher present but most times their church was just under an arbor of branches or palmetto frons or a big shady oak. I think all of them were akin to the Pentecostal or Assembly of God because of their hair nets and black dresses and shoes. Sort of like the Amish like as I can best remember.
Now my dad was just the opposite. His shadow never crossed any church thresholds. I do remember him attending some tent revivals with my mother. I guess she coaxed him somehow as most women do to attend a service with her. I remember those nights like it was yesterday. In fact I was damn near scared to death at most of them. All the shouting and yelling. People standing up and yelling and speaking gibberish and falling down on the sawdust covered ground and shaking and slobbering (Heck! I thought they were foaming at the mouth with some kind of disease or possessed by some kind of demon) These were the old style revivals where they preached fire and brimstone , casting out demons and healing people.
I also remember this was a different era in that I could see all the black folk standing just outside the light in the shadows. Just forms and white eyes and the Amends and Hallelujahs that issued from the dark. It was still a segregated society in those days. Three bathrooms (His, hers, and colored) the blacks road on the back of the city bus and couldn’t eat at a restaurant downtown and all our schools were still segregated. It amazes me that we (Americans) have come so far over the last half century and now there is more social unrest and racial violence than ever. The blacks rioting today weren’t part of that era so why are they (blacks) so unhappy and discontented today? I have stated in previous articles that it's like a fever or contagion that has infected the black populace of America.
Getting back to my story, my mother didn’t attend church regularly because of the jealousy of my father. She once tried to attend the Nazarene Church down the block but my dad accused her of having an affair with the minister and beat the crap out of the preacher. My mother did attend bible studies and such at neighbor’s houses and also the gospel sings but I deemed her to be pretty deprived of any evangelical activities.
Needless to say she was raising four boys who were literally pagans and heathens for all the world knew. I know I never went to church during my youth. I only began attending after I got married and had a child. (It was the right thing to do)
I always had an appreciation for God but no knowledge (other than school; we actually learned bible stories back then). I watched my mother pray and read her Bible every day and thereby she planted that seed in me.
I remember visiting the Navy Chaplain while I was in Vietnam and participating in some praying because I was literally asking God to help me out and not let me get killed. It wasn’t until my second enlistment during the Carter Years that I turned my life over to God and got truly saved. Yea! God broke me down and showed me I couldn’t do it all by myself anymore and to trust in him and lay my problems at his feet. That was about 50 years ago and I have been in church and about God ever since. He worked his sweet magic within me and delivered me.
I suppose I am just rambling now and off point but I write how I feel and what’s on my mind. Tears well up even now as I recall my mother praying for us boys Out Loud! She once told me that she knew she couldn’t save any of us or change us so she just turned us all over to God and asked him to handle it for her.(God is faithful)
I will now get back to where I was going with this article. I remember everyone loading up and going to the woods for Easter. This was a holiday and this is the way my dad and we boys celebrated. We drove up to some isolated spot on some creek where all the boys ran the bank with our fishing poles and cans of wigglers. We always caught fish which Mama dutifully fried over a campfire in a black iron skillet. The fish were coated in cornmeal and fried along with hush puppies. I don’t remember all the food but I do remember those just right days, not to cold nor too hot, springtime with all the dogwoods in bloom. Mama would wipe our legs and ankles down with kerosene to keep the redbugs (chiggers) off. She would tell us to look out for snakes (Heck! We was looking to find one) we picked wild blueberries and ate chick-a-pins. (Wild nuts)We found the occasional wild persimmon but boy did they make you pucker. A day in the woods, what more could you ask for?
My mother seemed content with this because the woods and nature was also part of her upbringing. She told me about her family doing the same things. (maybe not on Easter)She told me that Grandpa Barrett always had a bee box with him. On any family outing, he and the older boys would capture wild bees. He did this by finding some ordinary flowers that the bees were working and being sure he wasn’t close to any bee apiaries. Mama told me he had a gourd with a flashlight lens or piece of glass glued to one end of it. The other end was open with a notch cut in the side. Mama stated he would cup a bee in his hand with the gourd. The bee wouldn’t sting his hand because it would fly upwards towards the light. Mama said he would then gently place the gourd next to a saucer of sugar water with the notch next to the saucer, he then covered the top of the gourd with his hand. It being now dark inside the gourd, the bee would crawl out next to the sugar water and feed and fly off.
In just a bit, the bee would come back with friends, after telling the hive it had found some food. The bees would begin working the sugar water and in a short while there would be a steady stream of bees coming and going while Grandpa just kept adding sugar water. He and the boys would then follow the line of bees to their hive which was usually in a tree. They then suited up and cut the tree down and robbed the honey. But first grandpa would sit down next to that swarm of bees and find the queen. He would gently pick her up and put her in the bee box he had brought. All of those angry bees would then smell or scent her and go into the bee box as well, leaving the honey behind. Grandpa and the boys would then gather the honey comb in buckets to carry home but would leave the bee box and the bees there.
In the fall, after the hive had replenished and reestablished itself, he would then return and pick the box up along with the bees and carry them back to his apiary. Mama said honey was the family’s only cash crop back then. They farmed and fished and hunted for their subsistence. So much for your education.
I always liked that story. Grandpa Barrett (Solomon Asa) and Grandma (Vannie Mae) had thirteen living children. Grandma had two miscarriages and one child (Lois) died young of fever.
I don’t remember Grandpa but my brother Gene did. Gene told me that Grandpa had so many grandchildren that he couldn’t afford Christmas presents so he gave all of them an Almond Joy candy bar for Christmas. My bother said Grandpa would pick him up and tell him he had a present if Gene could find it. Of course Gene found it in his shirt front pocket. Gene told me couldn’t remember any of the presents he got for Christmas but he remembered finding that Almond Joy. I have got to quit writing now, there are too many tears and I can’t see.