To say Hoover Jones was sitting on his upturned tin suitcase alongside US 281 would be a mischaracterization. He was slumped upon it like a melting plop of vanilla ice cream beneath the mid-morning sun. The big bus with the streaking dog on it, the one you could set your pocket watch by, had failed to show. In all of Hoover’s eighteen years, right up to this day in 1957, he had never known that to happen. Surely, he thought, he had not misunderstood God’s command to “Go.”
So intent was he pondering life’s calling that he didn’t notice a familiar sedan stop on the shoulder of the road until the sound of a car door closing startled him. He looked up to see Pastor Clem’s smiling face.
“Hey, Hoover. They say you can’t keep a good man down on the farm but, it looks like you missed your bus.”
Hoover shook his head from side-to-side, his pomaded, sun-bleached hair quivering not an iota. “Didn’t come. Don’t understand it.”
“Well, climb in and I’ll give you a ride home. I need to go by Miss Sadie’s first, and take her that block of ice on the bumper before it melts. Were you going on a family visit?”
As they got in the car and pulled back on the road Hoover asked, “Brother Clem, has God ever given you a wrong signal?”
Clem looked at the big freckle-faced farm boy slumped in the passenger seat. “What’s going on, Hoover?”
“I put the fleece out last night.”
“You did what?”
“Yesterday I put all my sins, so to speak, on an old jacket and beseeched God to take ‘em away. I was going to Hollywood to get a job and plant seeds in the crowd hanging around that Elvis fellow. You know, ‘Elvis the Pelvis.’ He’s making a movie out there. The jacket was gone this morning. I was sure it was a sign from God.”
“Could be it was, Hoover. Or maybe it was just deacon Taylor’s dog Judah that got your threads. I saw that hound in the barrow-ditch with his head held high, like he had a prized possession, dragging something corduroy-looking. Might a been your coat.”
“You don’t think God could use a dog to take my sins away?”
Pastor Clem scratched his chin with several twitchy-strokes of a forefinger, pondering the mysterious ways of God. “You said seed planting? You were going to plant seeds?”
“The vision came when you preached that sermon last week. You know – the one about the fields being white unto harvest. You made the point about workers being needed to reap the fields. Remember?”
“Course I do. So, you were going away to reap.” Pastor Clem, slapped the steering wheel and chortled, “Hoover, I wish everyone had gotten that message and was going with you. Or, into the community to...”
“No sir, that ain’t the message I got.”
“It wasn’t? Then …”
“Don’t you know anything about agriculture, Preacher? You have to plant seeds to have a harvest. I was going to plant…”
“Missing that bus threw a monkey-wrench in your plans, didn’t it Hoover? But, maybe it’s a God thing. Look at the setbacks Joseph had, and Job. And yet, God’s timing is perfect. Why, missing that bus might just mean you’re backing up for a running start. If I was you …”
“Hold it, pastor. You passed the lane to Miss Sadie’s.”
It took a moment or two for Clem to stop, back up, and turn down the rutted track, easing along slowly to keep the ice, wrapped in an old blue towel, on the bumper. All the while he was thinking.
“Hoover, it seems everything hinged on that bus showing up on time. It’s mighty strange it didn’t. But don’t throw the towel in on God. You be sitting there again tomorrow morning and I’ll bet you’re on your way to L A. Maybe God wants to see persistence.”
“Pastor, I don’t know if I can do that. I just knew the bus would be there. The coat was …”
“Well, maybe it’s a sign. Fact is, Miss Sadie’s four kids could benefit from someone like you taking an interest in them. They only live a good rock throw from your place. Sadie’s looking to hire someone to work her fields, too. I’ll bet …”
“She is? I mean, needing a hand?”
Pastor Clem patted Hoover on the knee. “God’s at work here, Hoover. Pay attention.”
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