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My Brother Comes Home
By Annmuma This is my brother's story, but every so often I enjoy a trip inside of his head to share a thought or two. So, excuse me, while I become the mind of John. March 10, 1964. I stood at the gates of the Fort Polk, Louisiana army base, newly discharged and really no place to go. The government gave me travel pay all the way back to Suison City, California where I had enlisted, but I knew no one there. At nineteen, it wasn't the destination I cared about, but more the getting there. Duffle bag on my shoulder and thumb out, I did the backwards shuffle south toward Alexandria, about thirty miles down the road. With the help of couple of hitched rides, by three that afternoon, the Tioga city limits sign loomed in the distance. "Hey, Buddy, just drop me off here." The truck driver looked over. "Thought you said you were heading for Baton Rouge." "Never said that. Said I was going to Alex. But I've changed my mind. My daddy lives about a mile and a-half down that road. Think I'll surprise him." The trucker pulled over. I hopped out, and with a wave, I started walking again. Money jingled in my pocket and no structured plan skewered my thinking. I was feeling pretty good. The driveway led up a long hill, and I was about halfway up when Daddy climbed in his car to start down. He pulled over and lowered his window when he saw me. "Hey, Boy. Didn't know you were in town." "Didn't expect to be, but I'm here." "Well, I'm on the way to work. The house's not locked. Go on up and I'll see you later." The car began to roll while he was still speaking. I'd been gone better than two years. Some would expect a little more emotion to a homecoming, but that wasn't my daddy's way or mine. I waved, he drove off and I went on up the hill to make myself at home in an empty house. I hung around Tioga for almost a month before my money ran short. The ringing phone startled me out of my solitary thoughts as I sat in a rocking chair, counting my last twenty one-dollar bills. "Hello." "Hey, John? Is that you? I didn't even know you were home!" "Well, Olevia, I don't tell you every thing. I was just about to call you. Daddy's got your number written right here, BR9-5985." I laughed and she did too. "About what, John? I wish you would come over here. I want you to meet your nephew and you and Ronnie will really like each other." "Just so happens that's what I was going to call you about." 1
"What?" "Coming over there. I've visited with Daddy enough. Thought I might try Dallas. Daddy's been telling me how there are no jobs in Tioga. Think maybe it's time I move on." "Oh, John. I'm so excited. I'll come get you." "No need for that. Just give me your address and I'll see you in a few days." "I'm coming down there." With that, her voice turned to a dial tone. Olevia was a little hardheaded. As my older sister, she exercised the bossing rights she thought came with age. Anyway, I guess I really did want her to come get me, but it felt better when it was her idea. I knew she would be there tomorrow, so I called a buddy and we turned my last twenty bucks into a good time. After all, I didn't know my brother-in-law and life with him might not be to my liking. The six-hour drive to Garland was filled with Olevia's dreams. Ronnie would get me a job. I would help around the house. What fun we will have. Like we were now some big happy family. My thoughts rambled in a different direction. I had talked to the employment office in Alexandria and knew I could draw checks for six months. My DD214 and an honorable discharge guaranteed the money would come rolling in. Thoughts of some time off to get the lay of the land and enjoy life drowned out Olevia's incessant chatter. The next day, I signed up for unemployment funds and went home to wait. My brother-in-law's work ethic tied a knot in my plans. I pulled off my shoes and got almost comfortable before he started talking about jobs. Working was not on my six-month agenda, but life under someone else's roof was. So I listened. "John, I got a friend over at Republic Air Conditioning. Want me to talk to him about a job for you?" "Well, Ronnie, I don't have to go to work right away you know." "If I talked to him, I bet you could start on the same day you showed up." "That fast, huh?" Ronnie paid no attention to the sarcasm or maybe he just didn't notice. He plowed on. "I'm not kidding, and we can get you some kind of car to drive back and forth." Before I could stop him, I had a job and was in bumper-to-bumper traffic on my way down Inwood Boulevard to work on an assembly line. My job as brake press operator did not suit me at all, but suited or not, I was drawing $1.35 an hour making outside shells for air conditioners. On the same day I began working, I began planning my departure.
Getting Fired is Easy
By Annmuma About two weeks into the hell that was my job with Republic Air Conditioning, the Lead Man stopped by. "Hey, John, you gotta a minute?" "Don't know, Rosales. Leavin' this brake press unattended might be dangerous." Rosales glared at me. Seemed like people in Dallas lacked a certain appreciation of humor. I followed him to the back room. "John, Ronnie's a good friend of mine. That's why you got this job." "Really. I thought his friend was Walker in the front office." "You need to understand I'm the guy you want to please. I decide who works here and who doesn't." "And?" "Come Christmas, we lay off most everybody. I decide who stays." "And?" "Well, if a fellow brings me a cigar now and then. It goes in his favor. And I like Budweiser. When I'm making up that layoff list, I keep those things in mind." Working at Republic Air Conditioning didn't please me much anyway. My plan had been for a sixmonth vacation at government expense. Rosales just gave me a second chance to play for awhile. "Rosales, I'm not going to be bringing you any cigars and, when I buy beer, I'll be the one drinking it." "I don't think you understand, John... ." Before he could say anything else, I spoke. "Understand this." I walked over, punched out, picked up my lunch box and walked out. Looking back, I see a smartmouthed kid who lacked people-skills, but on that day I felt as if I had been named the heavy weight champion. I picked up a six-pack, visited the employment office and headed home with the vision of me sleeping in and staying up late. Geez, I underestimated my brother-in-law. This guy -- I had no idea and still don't know if he had some sort of on-steroids work ethic or if he just couldn't stand to see somebody else not 4
It was idleness that grated on his nerves. no one seemed to appreciate my humor. Within days. It pays minimum wage. At least it was close to home. I have a rack-pusher's job opening. Paul Hospital. I sat across the kitchen table from my brother-in-law who knew another thousand places eager to have me work for them. She continued. go on down to Resitol. I liked the people and enjoyed a feeling to being helpful.working. he noticed I was around the house too much. I'm okay for a couple months. off I went to the Resistol Hat Factory. I'll give him a call. When the money ran out. They are hiring and I'm sure you can get on. we are. "Know what? I know a guy in the x-ray department down at St. As luck would have it. The whole scene made me sort of mad. The interviewer was a tiny. Are you still at Republic?" "Nah. old. to change subject. Well. Don't worry about it. but he had never asked for a dime. Lucky for me. What are you looking for?" "Work. I got a case of needing-to-see-Louisiana. My chances of drawing unemployment were blown. The proceeds from my fourth check and my thumb got me to Colfax." "What did you do in the army?" "I worked as a physician's assistant. The Texas State Employment Commission should have hired him. I bet I said "Don't breathe. not exactly her couch. my dream vacation was distant memory. For whatever reason.could have contributed to the household. That's not the kind of job that suits me." The interview didn't go that well and. but I just didn't want to work. my welfare check -as my brother-in-law called it. not a smile. at least that what my DD214 says. "Hey. So. I did nothing to encourage them to hire me. the State of Texas will not pay you when you repeatedly take jobs and quit. But again. I was back on Olevia's couch. Within a week. "My brother-in-law said you were hiring." Again. My job was to take x-rays." That came as a cold shock to me." "Why would I want to work at a hat factory?" "Because you can't live here unless you work. Left to my own devices. breathe" a thousand times." I tried to make a joke or two. John. their unemployment rate would have been an absolute zero. my brother-in-law already had another job lined up. I can look around on my own. Are you?" "Yes sir. Groceries and a bed was all I wanted. "Today. I was broke and had to go to work. the hat factory. but you guessed it. redheaded woman. "John. Don't breathe. Okay. Not sure you would want me helping the doctor who was helping you." "Are the racks heavy?" 5 . he pressed on.
"No. Come on back here and I'll show you." "You think I could do it?" "Sure." 6 . The secret is to satisfy the hat makers by having the right supplies available at the right time. A child could push them around.
easy to work and the ladies finish these fast. Her collar was buttoned. Her sleeves reached her wrists and her skirt fell just below the knees. Her smile filled the room. She introduced me to six women. "This one we call the eighty-nine." She extended her hand. That's the way to keep everybody happy. "I'm John." The hiring manager turned out to be my new boss lady. The rest of the hats are distributed in between the eighty-nines. "disgruntled" came through loud and clear. ma'am. shoulder-length blond hair and no make up at all set her apart. It's a typical hat. Perfect." "You can start now if you want. Their expressions mimicked each other’s and. She radiated goodness or something close to it. her aura of niceness took hold of me. you always begin with the first lady.Chapter 3 A Job Can Surprise You By Annmuma Resistol's hiring manager led me around the factory. based on appearances. Even though their features were hidden under an inch or two of make-up. Watch while I show you the ropes." "What do you mean evenly?" "Well. they had shared a breakfast of nails." "I'm ready. It's up to you to be sure these hats are distributed evenly. The sixth one was different." She picked up one of the hats and continued to speak. While there was nothing romantic or physical in the feeling. five of whom reminded me of toads." 8 . "You want the job?" "Yes." She showed me a stack of hats while explaining that the six women I had met were paid based on production. My name is Edith. "The more of these hat linings they sew in. Nice to meet you. gleaming white teeth. We completed the factory tour. Give her a rack of these easy hats and then she doesn't get another one until you've gone completely around the horn. Similar guttural noises followed my introduction to each of them and none ever looked up from their work. Your job is keep ‘em in hats. the more money they make. "Hi. Her chaste appearance caused me to want to make a good impression.
I was primed for the conversation we had on about my third or fourth day of employment. When they get through trimming the regular hats they've been assigned.' That's your signal to roll over a rack of these eighty-nines. I rushed over with a rack of eighty-nines and another of her next regular hat assignment. I told her about that experience and she listened to every word. "John. that's not what I mean." Had my post been located down the block and two streets over. Interaction with her included please. but I know we were scared. "I need hats. she spoke again." Each rack was about a foot wide. they will call out 'I need hats. almost hidden by racks of hats."What happens if one of them finishes a rack before it's her turn again. When that happens. She didn't hurry me along or try to change the subject. I reached the appointed spot in conjunction with one of the women yelling. John. My daddy and mama believed in God and stuff. Each hat hung on a little wire. At lunch she made small talk. We had raced to the bottom of a gravel pit and got stuck in that mud vacuum. maybe five-feet tall and had probably fifteen hats on it. It's not her turn." "I think I can do this. her yell would have reached me. She just listened and. The couple of mistakes I made were punctuated by the women's reactions. "Hey. I made a mental note that no matter how quickly she finished her regular assignment and the eighty-nines. Chester Cassell. Why don't you pay 'tention to what you doin'?" I apologized and corrected my mistakes as quick as possible. Where do I start?" She pointed to sort of box-like station. I spent my Sunday mornings in church when I was a kid. Gimme those hats. was with me and I don't know if it really was quicksand or not. she did not get another rack of the pass-outs until everyone else had their chance at the them. my sisters and I did. thank you and I appreciate it. Have you ever met Jesus?" I pondered that a few minutes. when I finished." 9 . ever give one lady more pass-outs than another. our whole family did. there's trouble. I don't think so. "That's where you stand. boy. Guess I had missed that for a while. My friend. Mama was sick and Daddy was usually at work. Might have just been some sucking mud. but meeting Jesus. So. plus the woman named Edith added a mellow tone to the whole atmosphere. But I could tell that wasn't what Edith meant. just listen and I'll explain it all. When she finishes those. "These number eighty-nines are called 'pass-outs' and you never. at least. Well. so I tuned in to the rest of her story. "No. she gets another regular hat batch." "John. My brother-in-law had made it pretty clear that I needed to keep this job. It seemed to want to eat us alive and we screamed while another schoolmate ran for help. A couple of construction workers pulled us out. I mean my family was a church-going family. not really. She exhibited interest in me in a mothering kind of way. have you been saved?" I thought back to a time I had gotten stuck in what I thought was quicksand. "No." She sounded a little short with me.
" "I could come get you. I'd like you to meet her. Edith." 10 . Would you come?" "I don't know." "No. that's not a good idea."Well. we're having a revival down at my church and I'd like you to come. My car's broke down again and I don't think I can make it... I need to stay around the house." "What church is it?" "Assembly of God." She interrupted my excuses. . My sister and brother-in-law are about to go out of town and. I'm Holiness. "I have a really pretty little daughter.
As soon as I got in the door. I sat on the steps and at seven-thirty. I didn't come home until my money ran out. never asked me to pay rent or buy groceries. He took us to church. I would like to come. That added a whole new dimension to the conversation. Edith. I gave up. it cost me a job because I got too comfortable lying on her mother's couch. Over the years. but I was. I started telling Olevia about Edith and how I was going to church. thirty minutes before check-in time." "Why?" 12 . "John. I had a girlfriend. Me working seemed to make him feel good. church is in Rosehill and the service starts at seven. What time will ya'll be by to pick me up?" "Well. I wasn't ready for that. At six-fifteen. I was antsy the rest of the day and made three or four mistakes in delivering those pass-outs. Edith came running in. I couldn't get my car started last night and had to depend on my husband. It seemed as if five o'clock would never come until it did. I paced in the yard. He never asked me to kick in on anything. took only thirty or forty minutes to get there. her mother liked me and even her brother seemed to enjoy my company. She was attached to me.Chapter 4 I Think I'm In Love By Annmuma An invitation to church -. but I never did. I stood on the porch. "Yeah. However. By six-forty-five. I'm so sorry. but he wouldn't come to get you. I showered. I had the feeling a whole new world was waiting around a bend that I was about to take. standing at my post. on that particular night. I'd like to say I finally came to understand it. put on my best outfit and waited. I alternated between anger and wondering what terrible tragedy must have prevented Edith from picking me for church. I don't know why I was so excited. I would probably be sole support. He just wanted me to work. She was a nice enough girl and pretty convenient. I was glad. if you know what I mean. Being without a car meant I walked home. We didn't have each other's phone numbers. My brotherin-law sat at the table and I must say he didn't exactly do any handstands because of my new interest in religion. going to meet her daughter and pretty much babbling. The last time I went to see her. Whether or not it made sense to me. but she lived in Louisiana.with a pretty girl attached. I've thought about him and how important it was to him that I worked. At six-thirty. Where do you live?" I explained how to get to my house and we decided that a quarter after six would be about right. We had no way to reach each other. I was in the market to meet a new girl. I was working and that meant I pretty much suited him for the time being. The women were snarling and my bosslady wasn't exactly smiling. I realized I didn't even know her last name and she didn't know my sister's. I was at work. The trouble was that I knew if I became part of that family. so I slept little that night.
This is Ruby and that's her daughter. "Hey. I leaned in the front passenger window. Ruth. Leah Fay was friendly and laughed at everything I said. There stood what looked like an angel to me: less than five-feet tall. John. he don't like church much. I could tell Edith wasn't too pleased. "Come on. I'm sorry. He'll take me and kids to church. a car pulled up in front of the house. I felt sorry for him and I was the one left standing on the porch. I didn't think long before I replied. but. in the back. but the Lord hasn't seen His Way clear yet to give it to me. but she didn't say anything until we got out of the car at church."Well. but he won't go. Ruth is shy. "Leah Fay is nice a girl. blond hair that almost reached her waist. mournful way. Leah Fay. John. is your car working now?" "I think so. I began to think I might be the funniest guy around. Edith." At six-fifteen. "I'll be on the porch at six-fifteen. My heart did an instant flip and I stared. She went on to explain." She said 'sinner' in such a sad." She pulled me aside. Will you give us one more chance? Come tonight?" "Well." She seemed so completely apologetic and I did still want the chance to meet her daughter." She pointed toward the front of the church. "Oh. Climb in. My boy put in a new battery last night. by the time we got to church. I'll borrow one of the sisters' cars. I've prayed many a night for his conversion. but she's a little forward. if it breaks down. It got me to work this morning." 13 . not moving. He's a sinner. "John. Come over here and meet my daughter." I climbed in the backseat and. I promise I'll pick you up tonight. so take it easy." "Hey. I didn't care if Edith's daughter was there or not. a tiny little thing that looked as if she could sit in the palm of my hand. Edith wasn't driving.
” The audience began to tap their feet. His suit fit fine. He started singing a song about testifying. sweeter.” “They won’t testify. the guitars. First to my notice was the pack of Camels protruding from my front shirt pocket. without any break in the action. The perfect grooming added to his smooth look. There weren’t any. “It gets sweeter. “Pharaoh’s got my people. I thought: Doggone. the tambourines kicked in and then the mandolin. He had a pudgy face and you could tell he hadn't missed any meals. She was dressed modestly. one had a banjo. and Ruth seemed at peace just sitting there.” 15 . let’s turn to page 150. Almost without warning. I touched it. Everybody clapped their hands and before I was ready they were all singing. About five to seven. It wasn’t long before I relaxed and began to enjoy the show. I was careful to lay them where they would not get crushed and then I returned to Ruth. some carrying tambourines. A mouthful of perfectly straight teeth enhanced his smile and his hair was oiled back. The fat guy slid into another song. as the days go by. He’d sing the first line and the congregation would respond with the next one. these folks are singing from memory. some activity began on stage. Instinctively.” The world stood still for several seconds as I mentally counted my shortcomings." Not so with this group. about half way up. We went into church and found seats near the aisle. Smoking is a sin. but snug. I’d like you to meet Ruth. That’s how taken I was with this girl! “It’s nice to meet you. I looked around for a songbook.Chapter 5 The Tambourines Kick In By Annmuma The illusion of loveliness stood quietly on the church porch as Edith and I walked toward her. and two kids. They took their seats on the stage in conjunction with the entrance of a fellow whose healthy appetite was apparent. My church experience included a song leader who might say. John. Several young men came in. "Okay. Ruth noticed them too.” I agreed it probably was and took the pack back to car. some guitars. the very definition of chaste and smiled like a heavenly being. he broke down on that instrument and started to sing with the voice of heaven. the banjo and finally the spoons. had spoons. maybe ten or twelve years old. I was too nervous to talk. so vividly apparent in the presence of this girl. folks. “Please don’t take those into church.” She held her hand out like some sort of princess and I was tempted to kiss it. The steel guitar in his hand piqued my curiosity. Just thinking about it makes me feel poetic! “John.
a couple of women jumped up. You know. I forgot about cigarettes. Finally the revival preacher walked out on stage and things quieted down a little. the more the man testified. almost whispering song. I might have thought I could sing if he had pointed at me. The preacher eased into another song that skips my mind right now. “Pharaoh’s got my people. I was hoping he didn’t notice me at all.” This went on for several minutes with increasing intensity. To tell you the truth. “Pharaoh’s got my people. I was absorbed by the scene around me. Everybody sat down and waited for act two. That was not the experience I had." Mary began to sing before she even left her seat. you there in the second row. I forgot about everything outside.” When I walked into that church. The more he talked. the more excited he got and he began to do a little soft-shoe dance." Song after song. I expected an hour of wishing the service would be over and wanting a cigarette the entire time. so I felt safe since I had never seen him before. shouting and dancing and praising the Lord. They were both dancing and the preacher and the audience continued their quiet. Everybody stood up when he began singing "came to town and prayed the glory down. That was the atmosphere we were in." 16 . folks. Everybody in that room must have been able to sing because not one hesitated when he invited them. toe tapping and testifying. These people were dead serious and I knew it. testimony after testimony and I want you to know I was enjoying myself. Everybody joined in and there was more clapping. The gist of it was about a day those people came to town and prayed the glory down. The more he danced and shouted. he commenced to preach. He danced right out from behind the bench. but I wasn’t complaining. Neither was anybody else.” I joined in and the more we said that. Suddenly a fellow jumped up to tell what God had done for him. Praise Jesus. "Mary. the louder the people clapped. After forty-five minutes of his song service.” “They won’t testify. But he knew the names of every person he called. He met Paul on the road to Damascus. They walked to that stage and belted out a song. Now the preacher was singing in a low voice and the congregation whispered their reply. He preached for two hours. Give us a verse or two of That Great Gettin' Up Morning. into the aisle. one would holler and then the other one would shout back. He manned the pulpit and requested a couple of songs he liked. Jesus will meet you where you are.” “They won’t testify.“Pharaoh’s got my people. "You know. dancing. I loved the way he preached. Lord. Lord. As he began to lose his breath.” “They won’t testify. He pointed to a couple of different people and asked them to come down front to sing for us. It had something to do with some strange folk who practiced dancing and shouting. Their testimonies were done in conjunction with each other.
in my state of mind. kicked. made sense to me. Shouts of ‘Amen. I began to smell the tobacco on my clothes. “Preach on. I thought about the last cold beer I had. and hollered."Amen. danced.” This church had something I had never seen before and I was surprised to find myself disappointed when the service drew to a close. People jumped up." "He'll be there in the dark times and when the sun's shining." "Amen. He knows you are a sinner. 17 . Brother. I was thinking hard and he was preaching hard. Was I really interested in the church or was it Ruth that made it so addictive? I had a feeling I would find out before long. brother’ came from all sides. brother. Brother. preach on. But Jesus will meet you where you are. I thought about all the things I had done wrong in my life. You know you are a sinner.” What he said that night. My mind exploded with questions.
but my conscience bothered me now. Edith's directions were clear. I'm Not Smoking By Annmuma It was almost eleven when we walked out of church that night. As I rolled into Resistol's parking lot on Friday morning. “Hey. Their house looked propped up and could have used a coat of paint. What do you think?” “Sure. if you know what I mean. when I went into the liquor store. Everybody else went about their business. she's shy. The service had not been what I expected and. I looked around to see who was watching before I paid for my beer.Chapter 6 Well. I guessed that was the reason no invitations were extended to me. it’s running. but nice and. Ruth. what did you think of the service?" “Never seen anything like it. In fact. I made every night of that revival meeting.“ Conversation was non-existent on the way home. Thought I might ask Ruth if I could pick her up. “Come on. Edith noticed me and turned away from her group. Edith finally spoke. Or maybe. I wondered if I was in the right place when I reached the end of the last dirt road. As luck would have it. I stood off to the side. She smiled in my direction and spoke to Ruth. 19 . Edith's husband was dropping her off for work.” “Are you coming to church Sunday morning?” “Planning to. I parked my Fiat and was crawling out when three boys came running out of the house. not expensively.” I replied. acting the same as the people I’d seen leave my own church. Several weeks passed and I hadn't been back to church. There was a sad look about the place. John. I found a little Fiat that ran more often than not and was easy on gas. We’re going to take John home now. The yard was dirt and there were a couple of dogs under the porch. And for now. most Sundays. but didn’t light one up until I was in the house. Edith's car was not in good shape and. I figured they lived in a middle class neighborhood. by myself. As we pulled up to the curb in front of Olevia’s. I wasn’t sure where I stood with these people. ma’am. She walked in my direction and spoke as I got out. I was a little shook up. But you better call her first. It surprised me because Edith and Ruth both dressed well. feeling a little lost --perhaps a lot lost. You can ride with us. The changes were subtle but noticeable to me. The cigarettes didn’t taste quite as good and. she had to bum a ride. chatting. I hadn't changed my ways. I picked up my cigarettes from the floorboard. Remember. but I didn't know where I was going. gotta new car?” “Yes. "Well. I was trying to figure out where I stood with God.” Sunday morning rolled around and I said an extra prayer that my car would make it to Ruth’s house -already I was having alternator problems. I was pretty much into my own thoughts and I guess they were too. I started to watch the papers for some transportation I could afford.
"Gerald." Gerald dragged the mutt off and I walked up to the porch. it's really not necessary to polish the door handles." Before I could say anything else. we didn't 20 . John's here. As we walked over to car." "Well. "How old are you?" "Fifteen. Who are you?" "Gerald. Your daddy's taking us to church." "Well. "Boys." "Sounds good. ma'am. "You got any plans for this afternoon?" "No. get that dog off John. but the boys followed their mother. you're not riding with your sister."Are you Ruth's date?" one of them asked." As usual." Her smile melted my heart. Ruth's my sister. two of her brothers followed us until Edith noticed them. I closed the door and went around to the driver's side. There was not much chit-chat on the way to church.. "Is Ruth about ready or should I wait out here?" "Ruth. As I started the car. "Guess so. I'm used to dogs.." "Don't matter. She looked so young and so innocent-even to me and I was only nineteen. my attempt at humor fell flat. ." All three boys were siblings. I opened the Fiat door and Ruth seemed to just appear on the seat. She sat so close to the door as to be leaning on it. ma'am. Ruth walked out the door. giggling all the while. In fact. I'm making fried chicken if you want to come back after services. now that you know I don't bite." "Is this your first date?" "Yes. I looked up to see Edith had come to the door. Come on. Her gracefulness made even climbing into a Fiat effortless. He's alright. Don't let him mess up his suit." There were some complaints. "And now that you know I don't take hints. I looked over at her. you can stop dropping them." Edith called inside and continued to talk to me.
I'm so glad. The alternator on my car is not working. I enjoyed dinner and had no problem getting along with her dad. Ruth continued her spiel. I'm just not smoking. I could see it wasn't going to change much unless I got a new alternator and. the sinner." My joke had an audience of one: me. "John." "That's not the same! You have to get saved. I liked to see it and hear.talk a lot that day even though we spent most of it together. I'm not smoking. Can't drive around after dark without lights. My Sunday routine quickly became: pick up Ruth. I got a new alternator on the car. "Going so soon. Ruth radiated peace in a way that made being in her company enough. Same time as this morning?" "I'll be ready. I wasn't even sure what she said and what went through my mind was: Let me outta here right now. I would really like to hear him." All week long." I turned to Ruth. The day passed quickly and I had to head home." "I don't have my shoes on." Geez. Can't wait? What night?" I guess I sounded a little short with her." She did not move. when are you going to get saved?" "I think I'm pretty close now. Back at her house. Church was loud. go to church. sanctified and filled with a separate in-filling of the Holy Ghost with evidence of speaking in unknown tongues." "Oh." 21 . "Walk with me out to the car. "I might do all that stuff someday. within a couple of paydays. I mentioned it to Ruth one Sunday morning. I had one. It starts at seven. I liked this girl." "Okay. Let's go Friday night. John? Are you coming back for service tonight?" Edith asked. There's a powerful preacher supposed to come over to Davis Street auditorium. Would you?" "Sure. have dinner with their family and go home. I liked her church too. lively and strangely disturbing as always. "No. though I had to be careful not to savor his company too much. "The preacher's name is Gene Ewing. but I doubted I'd ever do it. I thought about going to church. but her whole life seemed to surround church. I'll pick you up at six and we'll get a hotdog on the way. ma'am. "Will I see you next Sunday?" "I'll pick you up. hardly ever have a beer and you are the only girl I'm seeing. loved the music and even took a shine to the jumping and shouting. "Guess what? We can do some night-time visiting. but for now. That thought was quickly followed by: I like this girl and I think I can get around this religion thing.
He said that God’s music would help us open our hearts to the Holy Spirit.” Friday night. he returned to center stage and the men with the baskets sat down. Out of nowhere. mopping his brow. we’re here tonight for an anointing. Brother Ewing preached for several minutes before he reached Malachi 3:7-12. He said there was somebody in the room who had stomach trouble. I didn’t smoke when I was around her. at all. He welcomed us and told us to prepare for an anointing that night. Some members were picking a little blue grass. by six-forty-five. shouted amen and generally enjoyed themselves. instead of not smoking. Break our hearts so we can hear the word of God. Once again calm. About fifteen hundred. He hollered and shook his fist. “Let’s pray. More bluegrass. The band’s rendition of "There’s Power in the Blood" replaced the quieter organ music and they finished up with "What Hast Thou Done For Me?" Those baskets were emptied and refilled more than once. a fellow came running up one of the aisles and the man of God touched him. I know I was feeling right good. I threw in a couple of dollars. A band was setting up on the stage. God. “Are you about ready? It’s six-thirty and we’ll want to get a good seat. To actually give up my cigarettes seemed unnecessary. Technically. Amen. Make us open vessels waiting to be filled with your Holy Spirit. I was away from Ruth far more than I was with her. I wasn’t lying when I said “For now. A lot of hushed voices could be heard and an air of expectancy filled my nostrils as I passed through the doorway. I forgot to leave the cigarettes at home. passing straw bushel baskets to anyone who wished not to rob God. some ordinary country gospel and what might be called Christian Rock today shook the walls.” She slid out of the booth and. we entered the Davis Street Auditorium ready to see the man of God. “Will a man rob God? Will a MAN rob God?” The organist played "Who is On the Lord’s Side?" That cued about ten men to stand.Chapter 7 A Come to Jesus Meeting By Annmuma I still liked to smoke even though I now knew it to be a sin. Brother Gene Ewing stepped from behind the curtains and a hush fell over the audience. On the spot. Before we left the Dairy Queen on the way to Davis Street. while others played what sounded like the blues. They wandered among the crowd. After about forty-five minutes. We found a couple of seats and didn’t wait long before a lead-man came out. Brother Ewing told us about the devils in the room. I’m not smoking. Brother Ewing had taken a moment to regain his composure and was side stage. I slipped off to the bathroom. Gene Ewing. maybe two thousand. myself. So. people were already in the arena. A 23 . the afflicted man fell backwards and appeared to pass out. He said it was cancer and God was describing that person to him. but I decided not to make any snap judgments.” That sounded a bit strong for me. People sang. Convict us of our devil ways. slid the pack down in my sock and came back to the table.
I saw the basket men were wandering again through the crowd. but not when I was with these folks. For three hours. Throw your cigarettes into God’s basket. We left. Can He trust you?” I reached into my sock to retrieve my almost full pack of Camels. She knew I lied to her. “There’s somebody out there who has the nicotine devil. He said He will deliver any person from the nicotine devil if that person will just trust Him. I smelled it on my clothes. now he was talking to me. that man rose up under that sheet. Brother Ewing continued to share with us God’s plan for our lives. Some of the people who had thrown their cigarettes into the baskets now ran down the aisles. He touched some and they fell to the floor. I expected her to fall to floor. but everybody was taking it all in stride. I started to picture a nicotine devil every time I flipped my Zippo lighter. I thought there might be a riot right there. I looked around to see if anyone was concerned. One woman was in a wheelchair. the preacher got more excited and the more excited he was. I had decided the nicotine devil had robbed me of Ruth. Brother Ewing told us all that the man was healed of his cancer. kicked. M’s and bought a pack of Camels.” “I had cut down a lot.” Ruth’s eyes met mine. In about thirty seconds.” Sounded a lot like gibberish to me. I had picked up another pack on the way to work. Every time it happened. I was caught up in everything that was going on when Brother Ewing looked in my direction. By the time I punched the time clock. I heard “Can He trust you?” That nicotine devil had a hold on me. They’re gone now. “Can He trust you?” I smoked more the night before and that morning than I usually did in a week. but I kept right on sucking those cigarettes. “God has spoken to me. some they didn’t even know they had. I liked the smell. God says ‘Trust Me. brother. Most of the time.’ Show Him TONIGHT that you believe His Holy Word. shouted and spewed forth more of the unknown tongues. he was right as rain that I had it. then stopped by Mr. Rather it had me. I got ready for work the next morning. He touched her. In fact. If nicotine was a devil. She knew I was possessed by 24 . “You told me you had quit. jerked her out of that chair and kicked it off the stage.couple of men came from behind the curtain and threw a sheet over him. God is waiting for you to trust Him. but I didn’t feel as well as I usually did. I threw them to the nearest basket and someone shouted “Amen. Without giving it one more thought. but eventually things seemed to come to a natural ending and everyone found their way out of the building. I hadn’t slept much. the more uncontrolled the audience became. I kept hearing that preacher say. but she danced and shouted herself right back to her seat. Show God you trust Him. He was crying and talking in what Ruth told me was “tongues. one right after another. He touched some crippled folks and then he took their crutches and threw them away. Brother Ewing leaped from the stage and met them halfway. People were cured of all sorts of diseases.” She smiled. Brother Ewing told us what we must do. Out of the corner of my eye. Every time I inhaled.” Uh-oh. I dropped Ruth off at home.
I thought to myself: Lord. lit up a cigarette and read that letter. right next to those cigarettes and the nicotine devil. Nobody was home when I arrived and I couldn’t stand the empty house. Ruth said ya’ll enjoyed the service last night. having bad thoughts and then good ones.” I nodded. 25 . The nicotine devil was working on me. He was going to free me from the nicotine devil and He was going to save me. I was physically ill. “Well. I spent the rest of the afternoon in agony. muddy driveway. I put the note into my pocket. About that time the whistle blew and we had to get to work. Every time I cupped my hand to light a cigarette. I was as nervous as a cat. my throat burned and the cigarettes were not setting right. I was clicking my lighter open and shut and pretty soon those clicks started to sound like “Can He trust you?” I was in a bad way when five o’clock came and Edith said good-bye in the parking lot. I talked to a couple of the sisters. It was two and one-half pages long. sometimes. She closed by saying she would pray all day for me. so she knew I was going to be saved. I was sweating. I ain’t got no number eighty-nines yet and you done gave her two racks. “Wonder why you still have those cigarettes in your pocket?” “No reason to deny it. Come Sunday morning. I went up to Jupiter Bowling Alley and hung around the snack bar for a while. don’t forget we’re praying for you. I had indigestion. gave too many "pass-out" hats to the wrong woman and the one next to her screamed. I couldn’t sleep for several days. He had His work cut out for Him because I could not imagine myself shouting or dancing or speaking that gibberish. I waved to Edith and went over to stand at my post. my Fiat and I skidded and squished up Ruth’s long. I would think I wasn’t. what in the world has Jesus done! Most of the time I thought I was doing a little play-acting.” She reached for her purse and took out a folded note. I threw ‘em away last night after Brother Ewing said God would deliver me. The nicotine devil has me in his clutches. shaking. God can’t lie.” “Brother Gene Ewing was powerfully good. She said Jesus could do anything except lie. even though I wondered if it ever would and. Jesus made those promises to her last night after she told Him she thought she was in love. I knew something was going to happen today.” I apologized and tried to concentrate. I’d look over at Edith to see if she was watching. John. I finished my cigarette.” “Ruth sent you a letter. Now.something stronger than me. I thought I might be having a nervous breakdown. I sailed out to the parking lot.” She glanced at my shirt. She knew God couldn’t trust me. Lunch came. Ruth’s talking to Jesus about me and eliciting all sorts of promises. ground it out on the pavement and went back to work. but I didn’t know what to look for. She said she had prayed for me all night and that Jesus spoke to her. sleep-deprived and nauseous. God is going to deliver you from sin because He promised. climbed in my car and drove home. Then I bought more on the way home. Well. I made it through the week. “Look at whatcha’ doing. “John. When I wasn’t smoking.
Her brothers ran out when they saw me coming. Several people got up to testify. “Hallelujah. you devil you. Everybody shouted “Amen” and “Hallelujah” as they walked back to my pew. laid down their purses and walked to the front. you." Edith would say “Heaven” and Ruth would reply with “Supernal. Finally. I was man associated with so many devils and she was pure of heart. “Sister Edith. rolled on the floor and slid into the aisle. Nonconversation was our travel companion. This is God’s House. you ready?” “Yes. Fight that devil!” He fought it up and down the aisle.” It was the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard. I was as proud as if I had done the singing. “Now. “I won’t take it no more. I’ll find it. Hallelujah!” 26 . He'd almost get to the door.” He turned to the congregation and hollered. He yelled and stomped and the people's hallelujahs encouraged him on. Edith said a few things to the guitar man and I heard him reply. but what could I expect. you dirty. When he finally reached the door. People shouted. “Just start it. He knocked the door open and kicked his leg high in the air.” “Hey. hallelujah. It was always the song service that got me first. Brother Maxfield preached that Sunday. do you reckon we could get you and Sister Ruth to sing a special song for us this morning?” They didn’t even hesitate. “Hallelujah. We stood and talked and played with the dogs for a few minutes. Don’t you ever come back in here again. Ruth came out. but the service seemed to be dragging when Brother Drawhorn jumped up. He sat directly behind me and I turned to see what the commotion was. “Good morning. then mine and we started to church. They had a way of acting as if I were the smartest guy in the world and that always cheered me up. when it would drag him back in. They hit a bench. Once inside.” He looked as if he were wrestling with an imaginary person. He had it in a headlock and then it would get the best of him. praise Jesus. you get out of here. and I was eager to find a church pew to rest in. brother. lowdown devil.” They sang a song call "Heaven.” She seemed a little standoffish to me. but first he stood turned toward us. he held his hand as if he were holding something by the collar. He was hollering at something. the church leaders fired up their regular song service. I closed her door. just stood up together.
I thought the church would fall down with all the shouting. It was pandemonium. I just know when I opened my eyes. I don’t know what happened to me and. I could hear every bad word I had ever said and I knew every bad thought that come through my mind. clapping. That’s when something came over me. I could see every bad thing I had ever done in my whole life. Happy Millionaire. “Hallelujah. singing and testifying. I’ll be here. Brother Drawhorn was about fifty years old and I worried for his health. John.” My eyes searched for Ruth and she spoke. You are saved.” The preacher spoke to me. several sisters stood over me.” The crowd quieted a bit and joined into the song. Will you come back and tell us about it tonight?” “Amen. My Father’s rich and I am His Only Heir. I could feel Him. “Brother John. He was real to me and I started squalling and acting a fool. Praise Jesus. you had an experience this morning. Brother. The preacher began to sing “I am a Happy. I had never seen anything like that. I didn’t want any more cigarettes. as God’s my witness.” 27 . I don’t remember what I did.When he did that. Jesus answered my prayers just like He said He would. I just wanted to get acquainted with Jesus. Praise Jesus. “Praise the Lord. fanning me. I didn’t want any more beer. smiling and shouting.
Do you think I haven't heard about Jesus?" "I know. Jesus. Ruth and I drove back to her house and I stayed all afternoon. I was just like you. Praise Jesus!" "Amen." "John. The food tasted better. But me.. it was a powerful meeting. Brother. Once he walked out. tonight. speak to me. right here. "Praise Jesus. Before I could follow him. I could smell the change in the atmosphere as the musicians played a few warm-up tunes. and we did just that. I live with Edith and Ruth. the sinner. pretty soon. The little boys seemed amused by the whole scene and. Ruth and I took seats near the front of the chapel and talked quietly between ourselves while we waited for show time.Chapter 8 Maybe Preachin's My Game By Annmuma All Sunday afternoon. Hallelujah. but now I know Jesus. I want to talk to you about Jesus. Praise Jesus!" "Amen. I got my chance at the evening service. would you stand up? Brother John met Jesus this morning. "Earl. I thought of nothing except the life-changing experience I had that morning. I know. Brother John -Brother John. I watched every detail involved in the pre-show set up. right in this room. Lord." "Praise Jesus. Hallelujah. right there on the spot. He's going to tell us what it was like to meet Jesus in the depths of sin and be washed as clean as the driven snow. Lord." I nodded." "Well. We can pray for him. Amen. It's good to see every one of you in God's house tonight. Ruth's dad. Good People. "Tonight we have a special treat in store for us. ." 29 . "John. Brother John is going to give his testimony. from when the band members first came out to the congregations' response to the ballooning excitement." The response was almost programmed as if a "Praise Jesus" or a "Hallelujah" required an "Amen. I couldn't really calm down. they went outside as well.. the audience was almost palpably handed over to him." The worshipers answered. pacing the floor and talking about what I had to share with people. sharing the gospel. was my first victim. no use talking to Daddy. I absorbed the most minute particulars of the song service as the crowd was prepared for Brother Maxfield to take center stage." Earl took his chair and went outside to sit. the sun shined brighter and I needed to be telling people. Ruth came over. Edith even joined us.
I testified for a while. Brother. At any lull. The next Sunday. Millionaire. Your son. Lord. eleven and twelve year olds. I took over again. but because I needed to share the good news. I was living to bring souls to Jesus. the Juniors. The guys would play and I would preach. "Dear Daddy. I wanted the whole world to know Jesus and it puzzled me that so many people would not listen. Praise Jesus!" "Amen. Daddy. I hate it happened where it did. I don't remember ever being refused." I got an answer within a week or so. It was a wild afternoon and I walked into my bedroom at eleven o'clock that night. I was just like those other people I had watched with a jaundiced eye when they spouted their religious experiences. I had a lot to say and the more I said. but I'm glad that is where you 30 . They brought their guitars and we'd ask one of the merchants to let them plug in the amplifiers. I'd get together a few of the brothers to accompany me to a downtown Garland street corner. one of the deacons asked me to teach a Sunday School class.I was squirming on that pew. Jesus is my Master now. not because I was nervous. but exhilarated. We shook that building. I had a love affair going on with Jesus. the more the people joined me in creating an emotional frenzy. I think they even played "I am a Happy. The more into it I got. before Brother Maxfield had time to invite me to join him. I was becoming a man of God! I wrote a letter to my dad. John. we shared our material wealth with God when the plates were passed. I didn't know what had happened to me. My Father's Rich and I am His Only Heir. I couldn't stop talking. I always told you about that stuff. I bounded toward the podium. soft-rock. Brother Maxfield even asked me to hold a couple of revival meetings there at the church. it was KSKY. I have to tell them. "Dear John. Then somebody jumped out of their seat and gave their own testimony. After some Sunday morning church services. I wanted everybody to know Jesus was ready. I love you. The nicotine devils and alcohol devils don't control me any more. I still could not sleep. I said "yes" immediately. I didn't understand. gospel tunes almost as if we had planned it that way. Brother Maxfield met in the aisles with the lucky congregants who were sanctified and filled with the Holy Spirit. I don't want to tell these people what happened to me." Brother Maxfield took a seat next to the deacons. exhausted." Somewhere along the line. The band chimed in with loud. So. and Jesus does too. effectively handing his crowd to me. but I knew I had to tell everybody how good I felt. That was the night I began to read the Bible. I'm preaching the word of God. willing and able to save them from an eternity in Hell. Happy. I didn't read anything except the Bible. I've been saved. The Holy Ghost grabbed me this morning and shook the devil out. the more excited I got. the religious station. testifying and thanking Jesus for saving my soul from eternal fire. If I listened to the radio. "Brother Maxfield.
It was studying the Bible that produced the fly in the buttermilk. plus a few good nights' sleep. 31 . but studying it. I loved praying.are. Dad" I kept on keeping on. I loved preaching." Love. I loved not just reading the Bible. well. Ain't none of it bad. that.
“Well. Ruth?" 33 . At least.Chapter 9 Will Marriage Make Me Worthy? By Annmuma “Study to show thyself worthy. I did not know that Earl was Ruth’s stepfather.” “I know mine. as soon as I scoured the scriptures for deeper meanings. I can tell you right off my daddy won't sign anything like that for me.” Edith offered the financial solution.” But.” “I’m afraid my car won’t make it to Mississippi. I know a guy there named Meazel. "Okay. everything was fine.” Edith suggested. but I think we both know our hearts. He don’t do such as that.” The apostle Paul said that and good advice it is. As long as I approached my Bible reading with attention to the surface words. but I don’t have the money to do that. Everybody. alarm bells went off in my mind. Take Edith with you and be back in less than a week. Besides. That’s where we need to go so you two can get hitched. we'll go to Mississippi on July 6.” My mind raced. I know you won’t be sixteen until next month. “$100 would do it. the cloudier the issues became.” Earl spoke up. Ruth would be sixteen in just a few days. I said “Praise Jesus” and the crowds answered “Amen. saved by the blood of Jesus. “I’ll sign for Ruth. but it didn’t make any difference. If I can get that $100 on July 5. No use in anybody having to lie about ages. Until then. John. but the more I studied. “Mississippi. Let’s go over to First National of Garland. I took it as such.” A lot had happened to me in the year since Fort Polk was seen from a rearview mirror: three or four jobs. I prayed to marry a preacher. Jesus answered my prayer. “Ruth. including her biological dad provided amen’s to our decision. Maybe I was alone too much to see things clearly. How's that for a birthday present. I preached those lessons and we all felt good. slain in the spirit and now I was the answer to somebody’s prayer! That very night we talked to Edith and Earl. I'll go with you to sign for Ruth and the age for majority there is eighteen for men. The Texas age of consent law frowned of marriages such as ours. I’m lonely. I think Jesus knows our hearts. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. “You can use my car.” Edith had the answer. but we still had a couple of hurdles to jump. He’ll okay a personal note as long as I vouch for you.” “That sounds good.
He wore over-alls. Be twenty next month. Why would Woodville. man ambled through the door. had knee-high.She blushed and smiled while her parents nodded their approval. If it's not. We rolled into Woodville. he and one of the women conversed for a minute or two before she pointed in our direction. Ruth and I backed out of the garage in Earl's green. She'll need a permission slip signed. than sat. Guess that's a perk of having a government job. The Garland address on my license belonged to my sister and she was in 34 . There'll be three days to get this union annulled. need three women working at the courthouse? Surely. probably six-foot-tall. then this here is a marriage. I'll mail a letter to that address. black. "How old?" "Sixteen. I beamed and thought: Boy." He then turned to Edith. 1962 Chevy. he had left in the middle of a job. We headed to Mississippi with the A/C humming on high and I hoped paradise waited around the corner. Once there. son?" "Nineteen. but it did and still lingers there today." "Okay." That didn't concern me. Can you help us?" "Sure. Prove your age and to get an address. rubber boots and a long-sleeved white shirt that seemed out-of-place. apparently. Take a seat on the bench there and I'll call a Justice of the Peace. sir. Three women stood behind the counter. I don't know why that thought crossed my mind that morning. It looked like as good as any town for beginning a dream or ending a nightmare. "What part do you play in all this?" "I'm her mother. Once you're married." "And you?" He looked at Ruth. Mississippi. Mississippi. He motioned to us to follow him as he entered a small office to the right of the counter. slightly winded and his sun-worn face confessed years of manual labor. He walked slowly to the counter. I'll need your drivers' license. in the chair behind the desk. Today. I parked in front of the courthouse and we strode in. ya'll want to get married?" He more fell. "Yes sir. He was barrel-chested. At long last. as the clock struck nine that morning. all the while mopping his brow with a red handkerchief. We're here to get married. does life get any better than this! The sun had yet to peek over the horizon when Edith." I thought: Permission slip? Sounds like she's going on a school field trip! "Son. there's not that much municipal activity going on in Woodville." "How old are you." We sat for a thirty-minute eternity. "So. a middle-aged. You can take care of that. "Ma'am. It was July and.
I'm not really ready to go back to Texas yet. I just got married. but I wasn't listening too closely. you're all grown up now." "Married?" "Yes. I think. Daddy always had an eye for the ladies. "If ya'll don't mind. I should have been a happy fellow. "Well. Do you have a ring?" "No. Edith appeared more elated than either Ruth or me. Daddy was the engineer on the switch-engine that worked right in front of his house." Neither Edith nor Ruth objected. As he walked over to the car. Ruth. Shoving the papers to the side.. sir. sir. . he stopped the engine right there and leaned out. I handed over my drivers' license and he copied the necessary information before returning it. Congratulations and good luck to you both. You got yourself a husband and a good one." "What do I owe you. "We're stopping by Mrs. "Where are you going to stay tonight?" He asked before I introduced Ruth or Edith. he stood." "Fine. we were married. It so happened we got to the railroad crossing as the train approached. I want to stop by Tioga to see my daddy.. I guess we'll stay there. "Okay. Curry's. 35 . No one would complain or dispute the wedding." Daddy said something to his fireman. sir." Ruth's sad expression spoke volumes.Maine. sir?" "Ya got two dollars?" "Yes. Only take a couple of hours to get there." Things moved quickly and. his eyes lit up at the sight of Edith. A deep home-sickness enveloped my being. I'll skip that part. "What are you doing here?" "Daddy. I've got my wife and mother-in-law with me." "Give it to me and we're square." I handed over the two dollars as he gathered his papers and left. and then he climbed down from the engine." I answered. but instead "I pronounce you man and wife" sounded more like a verdict with a long prison sentence attached than the key to paradise. I slowed and waved. When Daddy recognized me. in less than ten minutes.
Yeager.if only I could figure out what that was! 36 . at five o'clock. Daddy's words did nothing to relieve the foreboding I felt toward the future. I hope the best for you." He gave Ruth and me each twenty dollars. . I don't know how many pair are in a case." He laughed. turned around and walked into the house. This was new to me and it felt strange. but. Then Daddy got a bit serious and called Ruth and me to the side. "Mr. I would be honored to cook us a meal. Why don't ya'll go on up there. I don't do much cooking. he scrambled up the ladder and into the cab." "Sure. They both giggled like teenagers or something. now. I didn't know if he liked my new wife." I smiled. After several minutes of chit-chat. Still. all smiles. make yourselves at home and I'll be there about five or so. Ruth and I loved each other and I was determined to do my best to be a good Christian husband . the only purchase he made that day. "I'm glad ya'll are here. "Ya'll are too young and you don't know what you've done. So. but Daddy clearly was taken with my mother-in-law. "I need some company.. I don't think he saw our waves as we headed down the road. He bought her a case of nylon hose. hugged me." He smiled."Oh. At any rate. The attendance was limited to the two of us because Daddy and Edith were occupied elsewhere. We had a good time that night and the next morning.where I was concerned. But you already done it. Just show me where you keep everything. Ruth and I had a little devotional. Ruth stared and Daddy and Edith seemed to have their own private joke going on. Sure enough. if that's okay with you. she needed plenty of stockings. Curry's for coffee and then settled in at Daddy's. They laughed and teased each other non-stop until we got into the car to leave. We listened to their chatter from the living room and waited for dinner." "Okay. introduce me to your new relatives. said it was gas money. Now.. We stopped at Mrs. shook hands and was the epitome of southern hospitality. My daddy was not given to emotional outbursts -at least not the kind that involved hugging. but that's a lot of hosiery He said since she was a church-going woman. He was back in his own world and left us to ours. no. more like the strangers that Daddy and Edith actually were. Daddy's black Chevy truck roared up the driveway and he hopped out. hugged them. He had the day off and they had gone shopping." Edith interrupted." "Well. he didn't acknowledge them. it does feel good to come home to a woman in the kitchen. She followed him into the kitchen while Ruth and I stood around. I live in an empty house.
He sidled up to my window.” He replied. God. I preached as often as I was asked and sometimes when I wasn't. this is no place for you two to park. there was not much else to do anyway. I've Got the Picture By Annmuma We set up housekeeping in a square building comprised of one bedroom. I still manned my Resistol post. the sinner. Unbeknownst to us. After dark. discussed every word. a television or the money for a movie. I was studying the Bible. two cups. at night. I had a couple of bucks left over. we sat up to discuss it. Ruth. Step out of the car.” “Not even to read our Bible?” I acted incredulous. we drove out to White Rock Lake for a breath of fresh air. This up and down activity went on for some time before a policeman pulled in behind us. The breeze on the lake is nice out here. we didn't mean to upset you none. two forks. a lot cooler than it is at home. He did not shake my hand and. we were worshipping in a popular teenage make-out spot. it was probably old Lucifer who made me enjoy the moment so much. holding my Bible in one hand and extending the other to shake his hand. we poured over the scriptures together. “Sir. Me and my wife. although there wasn't as much love in those plates as I needed to support us. the low light required that we lean-in close to see the text. Ruth read it while I was at work and. "I'm Brother John Yeager and this is my wife. we’ve got a love affair going with Jesus. one bath. The windows down. My Bible never left my side. regularly patrolled by the police. brought over a single bed and Edith gave us some sheets. but we manage. In the absence of a radio." I stepped out.Chapter 10 Okay. two glasses. Is there a law against reading the Bible in this park?” The cop stared for minute. the car parked in the shade near a street lamp. lights flashing. Edith's husband. buddy?" "Reading the Bible. two spoons. One hot night. not believing his ears or his eyes. The light’s not too good. have you met Jesus? I’d like to tell you about him. We read aloud to each other. and TG&Y got most of the other twenty in exchange for two plates. Once we read something. “Look. "What are you two doing. 38 . Every church I visited took up a love offering for my services and. and assumed the roles of the characters in our quest for greater spiritual understanding. but my heart was in spreading the Word and saving souls. a kitchen and a living room. Twenty of Daddy's forty-dollar donation paid the first month's rent." "Smart-alecks don't fare well with me. Ruth and I took the first steps of our journey together. a pot and frying pan. we began our meditation ritual. When I wasn't working or preaching. Sir. it helped smooth the rough places.
maybe it was a smirk. I walked into the church. one of Ruth’s friends told us she had been to Sister Casey’s church that morning.” “Well. “I bet she would call you to the front. If you are up here during the song service. because I hadn’t yet made a complete decision about the Bible’s teaching regarding a woman’s place in the church. I was a bit skeptical of Sister Casey.” I couldn’t say “no” to that and the following Wednesday night. He told you right. no less. “I understand that. John. You know. ma’am. I re-met myself in another. Brother?” The cop was pretty cool and I think I saw a slight grin. Just as I first met Jesus in a church service. The devil’s hands have covered your eyes and bound your soul. but Sister Casey intervened. Several of our church friends had visited another church.” “I don’t know if that’s a good idea. ask you to preach. “Are you Brother John? Don’t tell me. but something gnawed at my mind. put on my best I-pity-you. God’s telling me you are a preacher. She said she would like to meet you and asked me to encourage you and Ruth to visit her church. “John.’ my friend. You better move on along now. I know. had a more affluent membership and enjoyed many well-known visiting preachers.” Ruth and I headed over to sit on a front pew. it’ll be easier to give the crowd to you when I finish the introduction. there might be someone in that congregation waiting to hear about Jesus through you.” 39 . “The only word we are sharing is ‘Good-bye. though I don’t know why. cross his face. Ruth and I drove over to Centerville Road to meet Sister Casey. headed back to his car and Ruth and I drove home. With my Bible under my arm and holding Ruth’s hand.” He turned. Would you take the service?” “Yes.” “John. Can we have a word of prayer together. I’m John Yeager and I do a little sharing of the Word. I told Sister Casey about you.” “What about me?” “Well. my throat’s a little scratchy tonight. I’d be mighty glad to do that.“Not to do anything. Officer. Jesus loves you and he wants to loosen those ropes from around your heart. and God was working miracles through you. one pastored by a woman. I had barely passed the vestibule when Sister Casey spotted us. a-poor-sinner look and took one more jab. I guess I was happy. “Brother John.” Ruth joined in. I bought a new suit for that visit. One Sunday night. just that you were a new preacher.” I sized him up a little. Several months passed and the days seemed to melt into each other. Maybe I wanted to put my best foot forward because Sister Casey’s church was larger. Come on up on the stage.
" "He was radiant. He broke into another song and everyone joined in. I would have called him a surfer boy . but still an act. that night was a turning point for me. their actions. women and children sang along. he was God's dream. came in. He had a square jaw and his long hair was oiled straight back. He wrestled a lion. That was referred to as an "Action Sermon" because it usually produced a good crowd reaction. Acts 2:4: All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues. Without any introduction or preparation at all. Herculean strength. their dress." "Amen. A lot of souls could be saved in that atmosphere. Here was Samson himself prancing around." I studied the people. so no need to worry. Samson was not feeding my soul or anyone 40 . He walked directly to Sister Casey and I overheard him say he would take care of the song service. He would flex his muscles. Samson. Have you let God down?" I could tell the audience now saw this young man as Samson incarnate. a young guy. he stepped on the stage. But. It was a grand moment." "Amen." "And what did God ask from him? Just follow the rules: Let his hair grow. especially the ladies. already singing. I scrutinized everything going on in that room. and people nearly swooned. but a lot was going on and the temperature had reached a hundred degrees or better. his muscles reminded me of tiny mice running up and down under a sheet. blue eyes. as the Spirit enabled them. But more than that. "Study to show thyself worthy. A hush immediately fell over the crowd. It was pretty popular at the time. Every parent's dream. About a half-hour into his show. shouted amen and prayed aloud. and a dark tan that only comes from a lot of time enjoying the sun. I realized he was "an act. Paul's words echoed in my mind. Men. People were crying. about my age or maybe a year or two older. He was impressive to look at and I guessed he would be equally impressive to hear. Pretty soon. But I Call It God's Big Tears." The crowd melted. "You Can Call it Rain If You Want To. It made me uncomfortable. he had everyone eating out of his hand. smile one of those Elvis smiles. He was totally at ease and. I don't know if Jesus had gotten to church yet. As smooth as silk. He was mighty. Every woman's dream.I sat up there and I want you to know how proud I was. but I reminded myself I was the real deal. the people were shouting and crying and I knew in my heart I was scheduled act two of a scripted show." a really good one. and destroyed God's enemies with a wave of his hand. in less than five minutes. he sang a song called. Good looking. When he moved his arms. As I watched this fellow. no alcohol and avoid the devil's women. But he let God down. he went into a tale about Samson and Delilah. Probably used Root Creme. slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. their demeanor. Back in my sinning days. "A young man. Ruth was beaming at me and people were whispering about who I was. Blond hair. God bestowed special favor on Samson. My plan was to talk about the Day of Pentecost. This was the act I had to follow.a big put down when you come from Louisiana. I had a dab or two on my hair as well A Fender guitar dangled from his shoulder.
It comes from accepting. no alcohol. as adults. the One who meets you where you are. He wanted to talk about his God. all preachers and all worshipers. but I tried. 41 . Love trumps guilt as motivation and peace descends when we realize we are worthy. all students. I thought about Paul and his visit to Athens. It didn't take a rocket scientist to know I was physically fit. That's what I tried to tell those people that night on Centerville Road. God's there for us. He found a temple dedicated to "The Unknown God" and he revealed the unknown god to be his. to realize there is a balance in life. We grew up. I don't know how successful I was. Eventually. I made a promise to myself. He doesn't judge you by how high you jump or whether you speak in tongues. forgiving and loving yourself. He is God. but the law forbade speaking of new gods. He's not preparing a lake of fire for those who make mistakes or wander into unhappy lives. Nature has a balance. It doesn't matter how high we go or what our position in life is. looking at the statues of all the idols the people worshipped. We had three wonderful sons as we grew in different directions. He is not our enemies' enemy. We were still children when we married and. When I stepped to the pulpit. nor is He our friends' friend. I needed to get a grip on things. I spoke of the real God. to smite our enemies and promote our friends. we did not belong together as marriage partners. His love is not deterred by nicotine or alcohol. There is a peace that passes all understanding and I suddenly realized that peace comes with knowing yourself and being true to your best self. but He's not our whipping boy to take the blame for the ills in the world. Taking advantage of opportunities to live our faith takes precedence over preaching our faith. but my sermons didn't fit the program as well as they had in the past. Picking up a hurt puppy or putting your arm around a lonely kid may be your most important job. to truly get to know who I was and to find out if I liked what I found. We are all teachers.else's. but I was emotionally sick. The devils in this world are man-made. Ruth and I stayed married for twelve years. He's not there to be used as some miracle cure. At long last. He wandered through the city. and it's up to man to eradicate them. That night. no tobacco and preaching involved quite a workout. I continued to preach off and on for a couple of years. I stopped delivering them. It comes from accepting responsibility for who you are and where you are. I understood for me what Paul meant when he said: Study to show thyself worthy.
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