Saturday, August 31, 2013

Story by Big Dope


By Jimmie von Tungeln

 Mama used to say us girls picked on Eula Faye or else egged her on, but I can tell you that she gave about as good as she got. Like the time we stole her Bible verse. We all had a good laugh out of it at the time but we didn’t get ahead of her. No sir. Not at all.

Now there are those who wouldn’t think this little episode was important. They have never lived out at the end of the world where everybody you knew was either direct-kin or step-kin, or sometimes both. It didn’t take much to create a story that would last forever. Particularly if you were as poor as we were.

After Daddy died, Mama raised us as best she could. While she didn’t hold out much for preaching, or churches in general—I think it had something to do with the hardness of her life—she did send us off to church when we got to aggravating her.

Ever third Sunday Brother Elmer Tisdale would ride out from Caldron with his old mare pulling his wagon and hold services in Pleasant Grove Church. I guess this must have been about 1930. I couldn’t have been over twelve or thirteen, I reckon since I was married and gone by the time I was sixteen.

The church was nothing but a little frame building set off from a cemetery that went way back almost to the civil war. My granddaddy had been a charter member but he had died young so Mama could barely remember him. The church building rested under the shade of three enormous oak trees. We kids called them “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” but not around any grown-ups for they had no sense of humor whatsoever about religion.

We would gather up around nine-thirty in the morning and have an hour of Sunday School before the services began. So Mama made us leave early to get there to serve the complete sentence. Naturally she didn’t trust us as far as she could spit and I can still see her on the porch as we took off, threatening to cut a switch and wear us out if we didn’t get there in time.

The older ones were gone by then and it was just Sister and Jim and me had to go. Mama made us because she said it wouldn’t do us any harm and might do us some good. She was welcome to her opinion. We had our own, but we went just like she told us to.

We dawdled around as much as we could. Jim would usually cut us off some grapevines to smoke on the way and we would make up all sorts of imaginary trips that we were really going on. None of them included a church house. Hog Eye Bend Creek would be the River Nile and a clump of oak trees would be a pyramid. We used clouds for the Alps and the road we were on was the main street through Paris. For a bunch of country kids, we weren’t bad at making things up.

Anyway, Hattie Ruth Turner taught school up at Armistead so they had her teach Sunday School to the girls on preaching day. There were about seven or eight of us. Eula Faye was distant kin and her daddy had a pension from World War One. They also owned a grocery store out on the state highway, so they was about the richest family in the community. She was a round-faced thing with freckles ever place they had a spot to be in. Her mamma kept her hair done up in curls to tight I bet you could have played music on them. She kind of had this little bounce when she walked and we would giggle that someday she might just bounce off like a rubber ball. She would hear us and say that rich women in the city walked like that. We liked her okay, I reckon. We didn’t mistreat her. It was just that she would sometimes create the opportunity for a laugh or just create one on her own.

All the girls had to have a Bible verse memorized to recite first thing in Sunday School. This was supposed to help us into Heaven in some way, but it wasn’t real clear to us how and we didn’t care much for it. It might have been due to the lack of scriptural resources available to a bunch of little country kids. Some of those girls were from families that couldn’t even afford a Bible. We had one but our step-daddy wouldn’t hardly let us touch it. So we were in a constant of agitation about it. It sure wasn’t our favorite part of this whole salvation thing.

Miss Hattie, since she was a regular school teacher too, had to remember what side her bread was buttered on so she would always let Eula Faye go first. We would start to snicker even before she stood up. We met in the back of the church house and the boys in front. Eula Faye would make sure the boys were watching her and then when the room got real quiet, she would brush a hand across her hair and say it just like some movie actress.

“Jesus wept, John 11:35”

She got away with it ever Sunday.

Then we would have to stand up and quote some regular verse. And you weren’t allowed to repeat someone else’s choice. It got to where it played on our nerves.

Well this one Sunday, we fixed it up so Sister held Eula Faye up outside the door on some pretense and she hadn’t come in when we started. So Eloise Covington jumped up and asked if she could go first. What could Miss Hattie say?

Eloise was in on it, see? She stumbled around until she saw Eula Faye come in then Eloise shouted out loud enough for the whole church to hear: “Jesus wept, John 11:35”

You could just about see the color drain out of Eula Faye’s face when she took her seat. We swallowed our giggles until our stomachs started to swell, expecting to see Eula Faye have a nervous breakdown. But she didn’t miss a beat when Miss Hattie called on her. She stood up and took a deep breath. The boys knew something was up and had all stopped talking and were watching like a bunch of hounds at hog dressing time. She nodded to them as if they were her audience and then gave us her best “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet” look. Then she announced to the world, as if she might be telling the Red Sea to part.

“Moses crept, John 3:15.”

She said it real loud and then just set back and smiled the same as if she had just recited some long-winded psalm. We all broke up laughing until Miss Hattie stared it out of us. The boys didn’t know a Bible verse from horse-collar so they mostly just stared with their mouths all open. Then it was all over and we re-commenced our recitation period. Miss Hattie never let on like anything unusual happened at all.

That was the day we knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get something by Eula Faye. But Sister and I laughed all the way home over it anyway. Jim just smoked a grapevine and looked puzzled over the whole thing.

Now wasn't that cute? - C.W.

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