Even now, decades later, we’re still trying to figure out how one day could produce that many “oopses.”
Was it a mistake to invite a Methodist preacher to speak at our Baptist Camp Meeting near Sawtooth, Georgia that July? Maybe it was a classic case of water and oil not mixing, and which was only exacerbated when our pianist, Miss Lucy Ledbetter (or Miss Bedwetter, as the kids called her) asked the guest preacher if he’d like to be baptized like all real Christians were, in some place like Big Muddy Creek behind the camp meeting’s pavilion next Saturday.
“If baptism by immersion was good enough for Jesus, it ought to be good enough for us!” Lucy harrumphed. Rev. H.B. Stoddard kindly explained that baptism is symbolic, and it doesn’t matter if you are sprinkled, sprayed or submerged; just so you are baptized.
“Is that all the Baptists ever think about?” he pondered. “There are other things besides the sacrament of baptism in the Good Book, for (St.) Pete’s sake.”
He grinned knowingly an hour later when Lucy played the piano for the morning service: “Shall We Gather At The River.” The congregation sang lustily while Lucy glanced surreptitiously at Rev. Stoddard.
Worth honorable mention that awful “Oops” day was the theft of Rev. Stoddard’s 1940 Ford Woody Station Wagon, the Deluxe Model, no less. After four pimply-faced teenagers were caught driving it through the town of Sawtooth at breakneck speed, they were given a police escort back to their parents at Baptist camp meeting.
Standing there, digging his toes into the dirt road, young Ralph Sink explained, “OK, so, Oops. I made a mistake, Daddy. I thought it was your car.”
“Sure you did, son. Have you looked at our twelve- year- old battered, beaten-up Ford lately? It’s rusted badly on the trunk and three of the four hub caps are missing. The left back window has been broken for nearly a year so we keep replacing the tape. I can easily see where you’d mistake my car for Rev. Stoddard’s spanking new 1940 Ford Station Wagon with paneled sides and leather interior.
“Yessiree, Ralphie, I’d consider that a real “oops” moment; an honest-to-goodness mistake. Arrest him, officer!”
No one could accuse the Baptists of mollycoddling their camp meeting guests: the roads weren’t paved, everyone slept in tents, three meals a day were served in the large open-sided pavilion which quickly morphed into a church replete with crude wooden benches for the morning, afternoon and evening services. Showers were in several wooden stalls placed randomly around the tent area as were the men’s and women’s outhouses.
Immediately after the 3:00-4:00 pm service, Rev. Stoddard entered the men’s four-seater outhouse closest to the pavilion. He settled onto one of the middle seats.
He heard voices behind the outhouse but paid them little mind. Likely they were part of the grounds-keeping crew.
Suddenly, he felt a gush of water from a large fire hose shooting up from under the crude wooden seats. Someone was hosing out the outhouse! Water was coming at him through the three empty wooden holes as well as from under his own seat.
“Stop! Stop!” he screamed, but his voice could not be heard above the roaring, gushing sound of water being thrust through the huge fire hose.
He wasn’t only being covered with water but from other “debris” as well, so grabbing his pants twisted around his ankles, he opened the door and flung himself out on the grass.
Suddenly, one of the men from behind the outhouse appeared, emitting the loudest “OOPS!” in the history of “Oopses.”
“Carl,” he demanded of his fellow worker. “Didn’t you check to see if anyone was in there before we turned on the hose?”
“No, I thought you were going to check!”
“I’m very sorry, sir,” he called to Rev. Stoddard. “Would you like me to hose you off?”
Rev. Stoddard quickly thought of several appropriate responses, none of which would be welcomed at a Baptist camp meeting.
Speaking nary a word, Rev. Stoddard pulled his trousers up and walked directly to nearest shower, ignoring the gasps of adults and giggles of teenagers.
When Rev. Stoddard didn’t show up to preach at the evening service, no one asked why.
The camp director issued the following statement:
”Despite rumors to the contrary, let it be fully understood that today’s unfortunate incident involving our guest speaker, Methodist minister Rev. H.W. Stoddard, is NOT (I repeat, NOT) an approved method of baptism.”
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