Commentary from the boondocks. If it makes any sense, it is just by chance. email@example.com
Monday, December 15, 2003
I must take back something I said yesterday. I am not sure that the congregation in this story was a Missionary Baptist Church so let’s just call it the Shady Creek Baptist Church and let the affiliation lie where it wants.
It started innocently as these things always do. Mizz Ethel Mayfield and Mizz Mary Elizabeth Johnson were cleaning up after a Church supper and Mizz Johnson said that she had been to Church at the Methodist Church and it was nice to hear the piano playing and the nice singing. Now Mizz Mayfield was one who thought that women should not speak out in Church and she made sure that Luther her husband who was also a Deacon, said what she wanted said in Church as well as in the Deacon meetings. Mizz Mayfield was also one of the leading singers in the Church and if she had only been able to carry a tune, would have been a real asset to any singing group because she had a voice that carried across three counties. She was also highly offended by the fact that Mizz Johnson had been to the Methodist Church although she knew full well that it was to attend the funeral of her neighbor, but she was doubly offended by the idea that their Church needed an instrument of Satan to help in “making a joyous noise unto the Lord” since she herself was always right joyful in her noise.
There was quite a spat right there in the meeting hall as they lit into each other in a genteel lady like manner. “Why, Mary Elizabeth, I am surprised that you would say such a thing since the Bible plainly says that a piano is an instrument of the Devil." Mizz Mayfield wasn’t real strong on Scripture, but she made up for it by the strength of her statements. Not even Brother Elias Stone, the Preacher for 40 years since he was only 13, dared to question one of her assertions as he said privately to his friends at the Feed and Seed, there’d be hell to pay for crossing Mizz Mayfield. Now Brother Stone didn’t get any pay for his preaching, but a good bit of eggs and milk came his way and with younguns at home, he needed the extras to add to what little he could raise on his farm.
Mizz Johnson had spent half her life being civil to Mizz Mayfield and she liked piano music and had even learned to play a little while visiting an aunt as a child. “Why Ethel, I would have thought you would like to have a piano to help you keep your beautiful voice on key for a change.” As the saying goes, you could of heard a pin drop in the meeting hall. Several of the ladies actually ducked behind the pews waiting for lightening to strike since no one in their memory had ever talked back to Mizz Mayfield. Mizz Mayfield herself looked stunned and was speechless for a few minutes by which time a few other women had decided to come down solidly on the side of having a piano. By the time Mizz Mayfield found her tongue, about half the women of the congregation were solidly behind getting a piano and the other half were solidly behind staying on Mizz Mayfield’s good side. Of course, that half did include several of her daughters-in-law since about half the Church was her sons’ wives and kids.
Now as I said, the women in the Church followed the Apostle Paul’s injunction about women keeping quiet in Church, but that didn’t keep them from telling their men folk what for out of Church so that the next Sunday, Fred Johnson asked for a congregational meeting where he recommended that the Church buy a piano. Luther Mayfield was prepared and quoted at length from scripture to show that a piano was an instrument of Satan and the Methodists and should not be in a good God-fearing Baptist Church and furthermore, they had no money to buy one any way so it was one of those moot points. Mizz Mayfield read a lot and had coached him on that moot point business, but what Luther actually said was moo point which Fred Johnson took to be saying his motion was bovine excrement and he called Luther out for the rotten, filthy Republican he was. Now, in those days there was no worse thing you could call an Alabama man than a Republican, so Luther got up from his seat and started for the door. Now both men were in their seventies so a fistfight wasn’t a real good idea. Brother Elias Stone had been trying to stay out of the discussion since he could see several ways that he could lose, but he had to step in and stop the coming fight. Now the congregational meeting was only the men since the women and children were not allowed to vote. Since the women weren’t around (they were waiting in the wagons and listening intently through the open windows to what was being said) and Fred and Luther were no longer talking, one of the younger men suggested that they get up a committee to study the question. The recommendation was accepted and everything would have been fine except Brother Stone made the mistake of asking who was on the committee and when the recommendation was due. He knew the minute it was out of his mouth that it was a big mistake, but what’s said is said and all the mules in the world can’t pull it back. Well, the committee was set and told to report back in one month. The campaigning started.
The committee members quickly grew to rue being on the board. It was apparent that whatever the suggested would make half the Church hate them and that wasn’t a good thing in a small community. The pro-piano group talked about going over to the Methodist Church, but they all knew that people who baptized babies, and sprinkled at that, couldn’t be real Christians and besides the Methodists had their Bishop and that sounded right Catholic if you thought about it. It soon became apparent that they had to work out a compromise. Mack Fletcher finally came up with the solution if only Brother Stone would agree to preach two sermons each Sunday. Brother Elias was mighty obliged to agree since he could never get what he wanted to say into a mere hour. As he saw it, if anyone wanted the whole sermon, they could just attend both services.
The compromise was to buy a piano and to build a case for it so the anti-piano folks would not have to look at it during their service. All the men agreed and they duly split the congregation in two. The piano was bought, the case built and all went as planned for three weeks when Mizz Mayfield had Luther put a hasp and padlock on the case so that the “Satanist’s” couldn’t get at their piano. Several of the piano church broke up the case and when the “true believers” arrived for their service, the piano was out in plain view, obviously in violation of the agreement. Mizz Mayfield pitched a hissy fit and demanded that Luther do something. He called his boys up front and they picked up the piano and started to carry it out of the meeting hall. Several of the piano church men had guessed they would try to remove the piano and they were waiting with shotguns and made the Mayfields put it back.
Brother Stone could see that things had gotten way out of hand, so he took charge and suggested that maybe the church should split entirely. No one objected and they agreed that the antis could keep the meeting hall, but that they would help build another meeting hall on the other half acre of church property. Mizz Mayfield made Luther object to that since his Daddy had given the property to the church, but the old man was still living and was pro-piano having never cottoned to her singing so Luther’s objection went no where.
In due course the building was completed and it sat about 75 feet away from the original. Brother Elias saw to it that it was built to the exact same plan. The anti-piano church had voted Brother Stone out as preacher because his wife was the sister of Mizz Johnson’s sister-in-law. Luther Mayfield explained that he thought that would make it hard on him to remain as their preacher. The Mayfield’s oldest son Harold suddenly received the call and Mizz Mayfield started calling him Brother Paul since Paul was his middle name, something none of us had known.
The antis found much to disapprove of in the new congregation besides the piano. Fred Johnson suggested they start paying Brother Elias a few dollars a week and it was a scandal since everyone knew that he should do the Lord’s work just because he was called. On top of that, some of the women attending the piano church started to wear their hair in down rather than up in buns and that surely was the work of Satan and Mizz Mayfield spent a lot of time on the road spreading the word about how Satan was at work in the community and the next thing you knew, Judas himself would show up looking for work. Oh, she had a good old time being in her element criticizing others and having an appreciative audience.
Between the congregations themselves, things went pretty good until spring arrived and the doors and windows were opened. Mizz Johnson was the pianist and she had “Amazing Grace”, “The Old Rugged Cross”, “Life is Like a Mountain Railroad” and “Father Along” down pretty good even if she was having a fit trying to get the timing of the notes down what with not being able to play with her right and left hands at the same time. But she was on key and loud. This mixed not well with Mizz Mayfield’s off-key but loud and in time renditions of the same songs from next door. Words were spoken and the next week, Robert Earl Jones brought his shotgun and took a shot at the piano through the open window. Robert Earl was given to drinking so he missed the whole building, but the fight was on. There were several guns present and everyone was doing the Lord’s work. By then time the Sheriff arrived (fortunately he lived within hearing distance of the Church and it wasn’t the Sunday for the Methodist Circuit Rider Preacher to be at his church), several windows had been shot out. The Sheriff arrested Luther Mayfield for disturbing the peace and took everyone’s gun telling them they could have them back the next day. He arrested Luther because Mizz Mayfield was raising such a fuss and wouldn’t shut up when he told her to and since Luther was supposed to be in charge of his family by Mizz Mayfield’s own teachings, he made Luther spend the night in jail and got him back home the next day in time for plowing.
For several years after that, the Sheriff sent a deputy out to keep the peace during Sunday worship services. When Mizz Mayfield passed on, no one could remember what the fight had been about and several of the young people had married across the line and it didn’t make a lot of sense to have two congregations so close. They recombined and turned the old meeting hall into a fellowship room and named it the Luther and Ethel Mayfield Memorial Hall. The choir loft was dedicated to Fred and Mary Elizabeth Johnson. The old piano ended up in the Fellowship Hall when they got an organ. By the time the congregations reunited, several of the women played the piano (their parents having gotten lessons in hopes of replacing Mizz Johnson someday) and the music was really quite good.
By then, Brother Elias Stone was in his 90’s. When asked about the great dispute, he always marveled.
“I think Mizz Ethel only objected to the piano because Mizz Mary Elizabeth suggested it. She dearly loved piano music and listened to it on her Gramophone and played her own piano a lot. She was really a pretty good pianist.”
“In fact Ethel Mayfield was the only one in the Church who could play a piano worth a flip.”
Cletus says that "Rednecks From Space" will be limited to one or two episodes a week as he feels the quality of the story is important and he can't keep it up at the current pace. Elroy said that if quality was a consideration, then Cletus should never have started the story.
I think Elroy is jealous because Cletus has gotten some nice comments and Elroy is still smarting from the lack of reaction to his story a few weeks back.
Elroy is convinced that he saw the old boys Cletus is talking about in his story come in the Emporium a few weeks back and that Cletus is not really being creative in his story, but merely repeating what he has heard from others. Cletus says he is thinking about going up to the Electric Coop and demanding they give him his share in cash since it is obvious that they employ idiots and he is bound to lose what little he has invested there. That started Elroy trying to explain the Coop theory, but I don't think he understands it all that good himself so now a whole bunch of peoole are on Cletus side and Robert Earl who is on the Coop Board has promised that he will give a talk in the Emporium backroom on Thursday evening explining Coop financing, but then Big Mack McClendon said that Robert Earl couldn't talk Coop business without the whole Board's approval and now they are in a big argument.
Good thing it is the season of peace and brotherly love or else we might be seeing gun battles here.
Speaking of gun battles, I think that tomorrow, I will tell you about the Shady Creek Missionary Baptist Church and the Satanic Piano.
“Mr. Narrator, don’t you think you are getting a bit far out there what with Elwood and Billy Mac being dressed as cats? Just how does that happen and it seems that they are cat size or else the boys would be running away from a couple of very large housecats and further more, isn’t a Persian totally out of place in rural Alabama?”
“Well, I guess I do need to stop and talk a little about the science involved (ala Clark and Azimov). See, the spacemen are really good at disguises. Each has a little black box inserted when he is born and with the right codes, he can look and act like just about anything. Their technology allows them to disguise their spaceships as 1982 Ford F250s or whatever they choose. The mass and volume is normalized appropriately”
“Doesn’t that violate a few of Newton’s laws?”
“Certainly, but then, having space aliens flying around kidnapping people violates a few of the laws of physics and that doesn’t see to be bothering you. As far as the transformation business goes, the most famous case in Redneck circles is when Curtis Turner got hold of a crashed spaceship in the 1960’s and used the transformer box to make his Chevy racer a 7/8ths scale and won a bunch of races before NASCAR caught on. Actually, my favorite Curtis Turner cheating method had nothing to do with spacemen. It seems he used the roll cage for extra fuel storage to increase the time between pit stops.”
Now back to today’s exciting episode of “Rednecks From Space”.
Elwood and Billy Mac were in a fix what with the crazy space policewoman Cindy Lou after them and a couple of young rednecks trying to catch them to tie cans to their tails. Elwood remembered that cats could climb trees and they ran up a big oak where Billy Mac managed to pick the lock Cindy Lou had put on their camouflage devices. Unfortunately, they were out on a small limb and when their full mass kicked in the limb broke. The fall was only about ten feet, but it did knock the wind out of them. The two boys came running up asking if they had seen a couple of cats. Elwood started to cuff them up side their heads but Billy Mac stopped him because violence teaches a child nothing worthwhile or something like that. One of the boys laughed and said: “Tell that to my Pa.”
Elwood suggested that they find the F250 and get the heck out of there before Cindy Lou caught them again.
Actually, Cindy Lou wasn’t looking for them just yet as she was having a good old time chewing on Warden Bailey who was beginning to realize that without Elwood and Billy Mac, she had no evidence against him. Things were looking up if only the idiots had the good sense to get their ship and get away.