Excerpts from Preacher's Creek, pg. 2
This excerpt has the Carter family in church, some unwillingly. The pre- Sunday school song service is ending, and children are preparing to head to children's church in the basement.
During prayer, I prayed my own prayer that Sunday School would start soon; the pews where we sat were not meant for a short scrawny girl sitting on metal netting. My Mary Jane shoes dangled several inches above the floor, allowing the netting to work with the Laws of Gravity.
During the final song, I looked over to the right side of the church where the old people usually settled in, enjoying the warmth of the morning sun seep into their aged bones. Most of them smiled back with big genuine smiles. These old folks loved us, on the church side of the door and on the sun shining side. They didn’t hang up their Monday through Saturday skins on a hook when they walked in the church on Sunday. They wore their Sunday skins all week long. They gave us cookies, sat on the porch, and told us stories about their dead relatives lying in Hunter Cemetery and up on The Hill. We skirted around their yards in return.
Praise be to God, we were sent to the church basement for Sunday School. There was a stampede of miserable children going down the basement. Ties were loosened or even tossed, top buttons were nearly torn off. Girls scratched the back of their legs, expecting to find blood seeping from the diamond etching from their own netted petticoats.
Ah, the calming effect of the church basement! Cool and dark, the basement was made for a bunch of sinners like us. The benches were the right size, and I planted my Mary Janes square on the concrete floor. A nice lady named Gretchen always had Kent and me sit in front; I could look straight up into Gretchen’s nostrils. She had a magic way about her, telling Bible stories with flannel graph Bible figures on a flannel board. The Bible men always had full long beards and long flowing hair. The women were pale-skinned and beautiful. My own mother had a deep tan by the end of May, so I always wondered about those Bible women: Who planted their gardens? Tended their sheep? Mowed the lawn? Maybe they paid servants to do all that.
After the Bible lesson, which was timed perfectly to my attention span, Gretchen would tell another story. The one which has impacted me to this very day was about a mother hen and her baby chicks. At night Farmer had shut up the chickens up in the coop, and went to bed. That night the coop caught fire, and Farmer slept through the whole thing. The chickens were trapped. The mother hen called the baby chicks to her, and spread her wings over and around them. In the morning, the stupid Farmer discovered that the coop had burned down, and the chickens had all died. Saddened, Farmer began cleaning up. When he got to the mother hen, he heard little ‘cheep, cheep’ sounds. He lifted the mother hen, and discovered all the baby chicks, alive. The mother hen had given her life for her babies.
Well, Gretchen had me. With tears in my eyes, I thought of my own momma and how she never failed to pull us out of danger, how she loved us when we certainly didn’t deserve it. With masterful skill, Gretchen pulled the allegories into a tidy package and told us about Jesus, how He died for us, so we would not burn in the fires of Hell. Did we want to go to Hell, and burn up like all those chickens? Oh, NO! we did not want that! We wanted to go where Jesus was! Then Gretchen sent us to our classes where other ladies had us color pictures that went with the stories. If we had the right teacher, we would also get cookies and juice; it depended on the lady and if she knew anything at all about kids.