Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Valley (08/10/06)
- TITLE: The leaning outhouse
By dub W
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My grandparents are buried in the cemetery next to the church, along with more of my relatives. They are joined in a holy congregation of multiple generations of area families. A few years ago, the highway department moved several graves. The new highway ripped several yards of earth from the church property. I don’t know which families were moved, I imagine the families were upset, but there was little to stop the progress of the highway.
Church still happens at Salem church. Once a month, a traveling pastor comes by and delivers a message. He serves Holy Communion on that Sunday. Miss Mildred used to keep the communion cups at her house. My guess is that her daughter or granddaughter is the keeper today.
I haven’t attended Salem church since the fifties; I probably should some time, for no other reason to say this is my foundation. However, I’d rather remember my own years, when we would drive up out of the river valley to the little white washed church. We would park on the lawn with the dozen or so other pickups and cars, and enter the sweet smelling building. My memory of the smell, I think, has more to do with my uncle’s pipe than the shellac of the pews. The older men usually stood on the porch and smoked, there they would determine the fate of the world, discuss the crop, and describe the weather. Youngsters were guided to a corner of the church to gather around the old piano and learn church songs or hear stories about Jesus. My aunt Floreen always led the youth, she was also the piano player.
When church started I usually sat with my grandfather or uncles. We sat on hard pews coated with years of shellac. On a summer’s day I could lean forward and my starched white shirt would stick to the pew back and make a ripping sound. My uncles never saw the humor in that act. My grandmother and aunts sat together in another part of the church.
On many Sundays, the preacher would raise his hand and ask everyone to move to the river. We returned to our cars and drove down into the valley, to where the 102 tributary stream, which we simply called the “hundred and two,” meandered toward the White Cloud river. When we arrived, the preacher would be standing in the water, and several folks dressed in long white robes would one at a time walk into the water, then the preacher would grab them and dunk them in the stream. My grandfather told me this was baptism of the spirit – a washing of sin away. Many years later I understood the concept, I wish I had been baptized in the hundred and two.
That same Sunday we would all go back to the church and have a giant picnic right there in front of the outhouse. As evening crept in on the congregation, everyone would go back into the church to listen to Aunt Floreen play “Old Rugged Cross,” or “Down in the Valley.” The preacher would preach a little more, then the congregation would all shake hands and head back down into the valley for another farm week.
I attend a big ol church in the village now. It doesn’t have a leaning outhouse.
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