Compleat Redneck

Commentary from the boondocks. If it makes any sense, it is just by chance.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006
In a comment to Cletus’ story about the great date, Osray mentioned that he was really looking forward to reading about snakes, snakehandlers and other such religiosity stuff since we are , after all, located in the heart of snakehandler country. The truth is we are on the edge of said country. You have to drive at least 20 miles to find any serious concentration of such people. Anyway, Cletus searched his memory and came up with a short tale of snakehandling although it is not exactly what one would expect.

Back 50 years ago, the neighborhood where Cletus, Bubba and I grew up was split pretty much evenly between Church of Christ people and the Holiness. Religiously, neither group thought much of the other although both looked down on the moonshiners. I guess this story kind of involves all three but I can’t really say since the protagonist, or antagonist depending on where you happen to have been sitting, never did admit to any moonshining activity other than general knowledge that some people might do such a thing. We’ll call the hero of this story “Grover” mostly because that was his name.

Anyway, it seems that Grover was out “hunting” one Saturday when he came upon a big ole rattlesnake that by later guessimates was at least twenty feet long. Grover himself said it wasn’t an inch over 5 feet and only had only 12 rattles but you know how people exaggerate. Grover was going to shoot the snake when he remembered that the next day was the first Sunday of the month and the day the Holiness had their meeting just down the road from his house and also on the way to the Church of Christ meeting house where he himself was a fairly regular attender and a future Elder. Grover found a tow sack which just happened to be nearby left from when he had carried some corn on a previous “hunt”, trapped the snake with a forked pine limb, put it in the sack and carried it home when he finished “hunting”.

Grover had grown up with the Preacher and most of the members of the Holiness congregation. He had even attended a couple of their meetings that involved snakes which had convinced him that the Church of Christ people were probably right about salvation.

Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny, quickly heading toward 90 degrees arriving there right near the time Grover started his walk to Church a couple of miles down the road. A half mile into his Sunday stroll, he arrived at the Holiness meeting house where all the windows were open and the members were fanning themselves vigorously with Butler Brothers’ Funeral Home fans. The Holiness didn’t believe in insurance, so there were no Butler Brothers’ Insurance fans. (At this time, I have to say that his story falls apart just a bit since the Holiness meeting house was not on the way to the Church of Christ meaning that Grover didn't happen to just "pass by".)

The Holiness folk met only one Sunday each month, but they started early and went late on the Sunday they did meet. At 1030 AM that Sunday, they were just getting into the singing if you could call two hours just getting started. Old Brother Eli was singing a rousing spiritual with backup from his seven daughters when Grover opened the door and tossed in the snake which arrived in the middle of the aisle a bit stunned and not just a little upset. The snake looked around at all the people and started crawling toward the pews rattling and hissing as it went. There were screaming people and a mass exodus out the windows all while Bother Eli was trying figure out what was happening. The snake noticed Brother Eli, who by then was then only one left in the Meeting House, and started toward him.

Brother Eli took one look at the angry rattler and bailed out a window himself. Grover looked the situation over, got another forked stick, caught the rattler, stuffed it back in the tow sack and headed off to Church whistling as he went. Brother Eli caught up with him a few hundred feet down the road. He was an older gentleman and a bit winded by the run but he lit into Grover right smart about how he was an instrument of the Devil and was bound to burn in Hell and not a minute too soon to suit Eli. Grover listened for a few minutes and then said:

“Eli, I’m surprised you’d say such a thing to a feller who was just trying to help out your meetin’!”

I’d like to say they all laughed about it later, but forgiveness is the Lord’s province not Man’s or at least that was the subject of Brother Eli’s sermon once they got back together that day. For you who are not familiar with a country Preacher of the old school, anyone who couldn’t preach at least three hours on a “sin” pulled randomly from a hat wouldn’t make in most rural Churches.

The Holiness people posted a guard at their door until the day Grover died and they all prayed for the Lord to take all the local sinners as soon as the hotter corners of Hell were available although to be fair, I have to say that they also prayed that the Holy Ghost would see fit to touch those what remained lost. In their heart of hearts, the least tolerant converted to being secret Calvinists who were convinced that Grover was an eternal reprobate.

At Grover's funeral Brother Eli Junior was heard to say that he suspected it was a lot hotter where Grover was than August in Alabama and Grover’s Daughter was heard to say she hoped there were a lot of big rattlers wherever her Daddy was.

Monday, January 23, 2006
Cletus found a little time and told the great religious story he talked about last week. As he said then, it involves his friend Billy Ray, the Methodist girl Billy Ray invited to church with him, the "charismatic" church where Billy Ray's Mama was the preacher, old Mizz Alvie, the Holy Ghost and leaping over pews.

Billy Ray was the best player on the high School football team (not saying a lot) and as such, he figured he should be able to date any girl he wanted. That was pretty much true except for the one cheerleader who was really pretty. This was back in the days when cheerleaders were elected by the students and they were usually the more attractive young ladies, but this girl was in a class of her own. Cletus says he remembers her as being an unusually pretty girl and very nice. She was also smart and didn't cotton to Billy Ray even if he was a big time football player.

Now Billy Ray was really a nice guy. He had just let the football stuff go a bit to his head but after several weeks of trying to get a date with her, he was pretty much determined that she would go out with him. It didn’t help that his buddies were starting to laugh at him (and a couple of them had gotten dates with her). One of the lucky guys let slip that Janice was a real religious girl and that they had gone to her Church on their date. Billy Ray had his opening. His Mama was a preacher and had her own Church which she had founded.

The Church had about 80 members and was a bit in the charismatic spectrum of Christianity (okay, a whole lot in that direction). Billy Ray figured that since he had taken a lot of grief about his Mama the preacher, it was okay to use the fact to get the date he so much desired. He casually mentioned to Janice that his Mama was a preacher and would she like to go to Church with him sometime. She took him up on the offer and they made plans for the next Wednesday.

The big day arrived and Billy Ray tried his best to get to the Church before the back pew filled up, but he was horrified to see that Mizz Alvie and her clan had beaten him to the good seats. Now Billy Ray’s plan was to sit on the back row out of the line of fire and hope for the best, but under the circumstances, he used his gift of prayer and prayed that God would let him get by with using Church for carnal reasons just once.

Alas, it was not to be.

Billy Ray told us that every thing went pretty good through the sick and shut-in announcements and the singing. Things started to go down hill right soon after Mama got into her sermon. Mizz Alvie was one taken to being struck by the Holy Ghost without a lot of provocation. She had been known to be touched during the opening prayer or during the singing of “The Old Rugged Cross”. Billy Ray knew he was in trouble when Mama’s subject was “gifts”. He couldn’t believe it. Wednesday nights were supposed to be easy going with a light sermon, prayers for the sick, rousing renditions of half the dozen songs the pianist knew, closing prayers and home to supper. But no, Mama was preaching on “gifts”. He could see disaster coming.

As Mama got wound up good, Billy Ray looked over at Janice expecting her to look bewildered, but she was paying rapt attention to the sermon. She didn’t seem to have noticed Mizz Alvie’s “amens” at wildly inappropriate times or her gasps and moans. In fact, Billy Ray seemed to be the only one who was noticing. He started an earnest prayer promising God to never again sin and that he would even become a preacher himself if God would only help out here and not let the Holy Ghost descend fully on Mizz Alvie. God wasn’t negotiating that night.

About five minutes into the sermon, the Holy Ghost” hit Mizz Alvie full strength. She jumped up from her seat, started shouting in tongues and got everyone’s attention. Now, the Holy Ghost’s effect on Mizz Alvie was pretty well known by the congregation. Only one person was surprised when she gave a banshee like scream, gathered up her skirts and leaped completely over two pews landing in the one in front of Billy Ray and Janice where she commenced to shout and scream about sinners and repentance.

Billy Ray was watching Janice and she seemed to be taking it pretty well except for a look of mild shock. He thought that things were going to workout okay until he noticed a yellow stream running down the pew toward him.

Yep, Mizz Alvie had scared the pee out of Janice.

Cletus and Mary Ruth were off to a wedding this weekend. Cletus says it was beautiful. There was lots of long, blonde, flowing hair, classy tuxedos, shiny shoes and that was just the groom's party.

The bride was pretty, too.

Cletus says he doesn't have time to tell us his Church story today or the one about his Aunt Flora who hunted coons and possums for dinner, found and sold ginseng for cash and made an occasional gallon or so of distilled spirits for medicinal purposes. She was a great old lady and to top it all off, she used to let us drive her 55 Chevy before we had licenses. As Bubba said, she didn't have a high regard for the law but she could shoot real good.