Her smile turned to a blush when she realized she wasn’t dreaming. Dean was here, and here was 50 miles from home. What was he doing, how did he get here? She had so many questions.
He looked tired and dirty. Olive was glad to see him; she needed a dose of home. She had to leave home to take this job. They were in the middle of the depression, she was the oldest of five girls, and her daddy just wasn’t his best anymore. Her shift at the watch factory had just ended and the usual group of gals was heading for the boardinghouse. She had made a couple friends right away and was grateful they were all staying in the same house. Missing her sisters was less painful with girlfriends to spend the evenings, listening to the radio or ironing uniforms. However, she would spend this evening with Dean and catch up on home and find out what he was doing up here. Maybe the men’s jobs had finally opened.
Thankful to be putting his arms around his best girl, Dean snuggled her in tight, “I’ve just had the train ride of my life. I can’t wait to tell ya about the preacher in that empty freight car.” Dean paused for a moment, sorting out what he intended to say. “I knew how important it was to you that I got to know Jesus. I was so afraid that I would lose you because of my unbelief, but I jumped the train, anyway, there at Cyrus, ya know the bend where they are always ablowin’ that stinkin’ whistle?” Maybe, I can find him again, if ya say yes--”
“Dean Shelton, what are you talking about? Did someone hitcha over the head when you jumped into that train car? What were you thinkin”? That yard bull, Stan, is the meanest guard in the state, you know that!”
Holding up a hand to regain control of the conversation, Dean continued. “Hold it down, will ya? This is important, I jumped that train right into a sermon, and boy, that preacher can hold a meetin’. At the end, after some fine harmonica, Pastor Beardsley –“
“Pastor who?” Olive looked shaken to the bone. “Beardsley at least that’s what I thought they called ‘im, anyway what does it matter? He asked me right there on that train if I knew the Lord, and ya know what happened?”
“He led you to Jesus?” that precious sideways smile was back. “There was a Pastor Beardsley at church when I was a girl, everyone wondered where he’d gotten off to, I’d forgotten all about him. He was the preacher that dunked me.”
Dean looked puzzled, so she continued, “He was the preacher that baptized me, dunked me in that cold water, at church, I hated it, everyone watchin’ all the blubberin’ and blowin’.”
“Ahhh”, in mock disappointment, Dean continued, “And I wanted to tell you myself. It was the most feelin’ I’d had in a long time. My head was hot from his hand layin’ there and my feet were freezin’. I shoved that Bible—“
“Is it red? The one he gave me that day was red. I still have it.”
“I sure wish that you’d let me tell this story. Yes, it is red. Here, see! I shoved that “red” Bible into my shirt and buttoned it to the top, and jumped back out. With all that huggin’, I almost missed your stop. Now that I know Jesus, I can ask ya. Olive Jarvis, will ya marry me?”
“Marry a crazy man—“
“Crazy ‘bout you—“
“To a man who breaks the law, jumpin’ a train car just to get saved, just so I’d I say yes to his proposal? Well crazy man, my answer is yes, but with one condition. Can you find this preacher again so he can baptize you and then read us our vows? Daddy don’t care much ‘bout church and the girls will forgive me eventually. We can have Mrs. Pennock make us her brown sugar cake, the girls like that, and daddy can think he’s so smart to have saved money not having a big weddin’. This time of year, mama’s cuttin’ garden is lookin’ so nice, I wish she was still here, she just loved weddins.”
Up goes the hand again, this time to wipe a tear from his beloved’s eye “Just say it one more time, a bit slower, please.”
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