TITLE: The Backwoods Preacher
By chandra mathis
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My Papa was a preacher, most folks around here called him a backwoods
Bible thumper. It was just another word for an uneducated preacher.
Anyhow, down here in Mississippi, a little place called Rolling Creek is where it all began. We lived way back in the woods where there were no neighbors close by. My Papa , Mama, and me had to walk to church, if we wanted to go.
I knew we would not miss Sunday meeting, cause my Papa was the preacher there.
My Papa, he was a man of determination. I would watch him from the window or the front door as he would walk down that winding dirt road. Long strides as he went. He was always wearing that same old suite.
It was thread bare for sure and the pants were to short, cause the bottom of them came just to his ankles.
My Papa was a tall thin man, with a sharp chiseled face. He had eyes that were black as coal. My Mama said, that's where I get my real fine looks, I got them from my Papa. What a blessed child I am.
My Papa was a third generation preacher. This means that his Grandpa, and his Papa were preachers before him.
We were living in some hard times back then, I remember when my Mama made potato salad out of soda crackers, why those folks at Sunday meeting didn't know the difference, cause they were so hungry. They ate every bit of it too.
Me and Mama would walk to the Doctor's house about five miles down the dirt road to do a few chores for them so we could make a little money. As I walked, I would look for Papa's footprints on that red dirt. I would place my feet in them and walk along pretending to be my Papa going to visit sick folks or going to Church to preach Sunday meeting.
I remember thinking, I wanted me a bible just like his, but we could not afford another bible. Paw had the only bible in the house, and believe you me, he was not letting that one out of his sight.
Once, my Papa was going to see some sick folks, I watched him head off down the road,and as soon as he was out of sight, I ran into the house and picked up my Mama's Sears Roebuck Catalog. Off I went down that road stepping into every foot print I could see toting my Sears Roebuck Catalog, pretending it was a bible just like my Papa's.
One morning, I heard my Papa and Mama fussing with each other, I got my ear against the door so I could hear what they were saying. Mama called it ease dropping. Anyway, I heard my Papa say he was concerned about the family tradition. He said, he had no son to take his place when he was gone. I was hurt deep by this, cause it made me feel Papa did not want me, cause I am a girl. I cried so hard that my eyes felt like they were going to jump out of their sockets.
That night, I laid there in bed and was saying my prayers. I told the Lord, Please Lord make me be a boy so my Papa would be happy. Then the Lord told me, "no I will not make you into a little boy, you are perfect the way you are." I will cause you to take your Papa's place one day." " You will be a preacher just like him." I was so happy, cause I wanted to be just like my Papa.
The next morning I rose early, cause I wanted to practice before my Papa got up. I picked up my Sears Roebuck Catalog and off I went, step by step, down the winding dirt road. Stepping in every foot print with long strides trying to keep up. Here I go, going to see sick folks with my bible in my arm. The future seemed bright.
Five years later , The Lord spoke to me again, this time he told me that he was going to send me to bible college.
Lord, you know I can't afford no bible college. Then the Lord said, "I will make a way for you
just wait and see." I was surprised, I never planned to go to college. That very same day,
our neighbor came down to visit, and she was the town gossip. She told my Mama, "did you hear about that college professor who's coming to Sunday meeting to tell about college?" "I heard that this man had a reputation for taking in poor kids and paying for their
school." I knew then that God had opened the windows of heaven for me.
When Sunday came, I couldn't wait to get to Sunday meeting fast enough, why I believe I missed one or two of Papa's foot prints along the way.
I was sitting there in Sunday meeting, this college professor said, he was taken on a couple of students that year and pay for their education.
I was so excited, he said, "after Sunday meeting, I will have a paper for you to sign and then you will be informed by letter as what to do."
After Sunday meeting was over, I went up front and told this man, I want to sign up. He told me, "Why little girl, you can't go to college, this is a man's world." " Go now and sit down with your Mama." No, mister I have to do this, The Lord say's so. Then the college professor stopped and turned his face to me and said, " I tell you what, I have an opening for kitchen help there at the college, if you finish your work and have the time, you can take some of the college courses, but only if you prove yourself to be a worthy student." I will, I proclaimed.
The next morning, I had to break the news to Mama and Papa, I was scared. I knew that they were going to jump out of their skin.Here goes, Mama and Papa, I have something to tell you, "What is it dear child?" Mama said." Go ahead and just spit it out girl," Papa said.
I want to go to that college and work in the kitchen. "Well, that's great news," Papa yelled out.
There 's more to it Papa, I want to take bible classes too." What girl?"
"Did I hear you say bible classes?" " What on earth for?" So I can be like you Papa." Like me?"" What made you want to do that ?"
I want to be a backwoods bible thumper like you Papa. I left running into my room, crying again, cause my Papa didn't look to happy about it.
That night , I heard the door squeak open, Then I felt a tall presence leaning over me, I turned over and looked, it was Papa.
Papa what are you doing here? I asked. Then Papa sat down on the bed with tears in his eyes, he took my hands and placed a few coins in them .
He said," your going to need them for your trip ,sorry I wished it could be more, but it's all I got. I love you dear, get a good night sleep, cause tomorrow
you will be leaving for college."
The next morning , I got up and joined my mama and Papa for beakfast.
Things were quiet at first, Then Papa said, "girl you go and do your best to fill your Papa's shoes and The Lord be with you." Mama kissed my cheek, and sent me on the my way.
Out the door I went , walking down the dirt road stepping into every foot print that was Papa's, singing out loud, yes I am going to visit sick folks and preach at Sunday meeting, just like you Papa, just like you.
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