"Pass The Taters Please"
The heat from the hot asphalt road had formed a wave-like distortion. It was hot. Extremely hot! Hemingway S.C. was being scorched.
Uncle was driving leisurely down the black top county road. I was perspiring profusely. No car air conditioner in those days. Uncle was the pastor of a small rural country church. We were enroute to one of his parishioners. To the left and right were corn and tobacco crops. They seemed to be lifting their leaves upward toward heaven. Hungrily longing with anticipation for the taste of cool rain water.
The farm areas for months had been experiencing drought. A small breeze was stirring. Rain clouds were forming. Relief seemed to be on the way.
At the previous Wednesday night prayer meeting, my Uncle called on one of the brethern to lead us in prayer. Slowly, from the front pew arose a white haired gentleman. "Many years have passed. As I remember, it went something like this, "Dear Lord, We need rain real bad. The crops are drying up. Some of us are facing ruin. Have mercy Lord, and praise your holy name." It was a short prayer of seeking and praise.
Uncle and I had been invited for supper at the McCurry farm home. My Uncle was the pastor of their small Baptist chuch. We turned off the county highway onto a dry, dusty dirt road. At the end stood a two story weathered farm house. The porch with bannisters wrapped itself around the front and side. As with most farms in the Hemingway area, crops surrounded the home and buildings. Farm soil was precious. Their main yearly income depended on what was grown. "Butch, These folks have a son around about your age." I don't remember, but I'm sure I smiled with anticipation.
Our host, a rugged farmer with dusty overalls, approached us with a big friendly smile. "Welcome, I've been expecting ya'll." These farm folks were polite and sincere. They were hard workers from daylight to sunset. I can't remember one who didn't have a friendly personality. He apologized for his wife not being there to greet us. An illness had overtaken him. His wife had replaced him in the fields. It was late in the afternoon when mom and son slowly walked toward the house. She carried two hoes on her shoulder. A large brimmed straw hat adorned and protected her head and face. The hot sun had been unmerciful. She wore a faded print dress and high laced shoes. With a lovely smile, she welcomed us warmly. She patted her husband on the shoulder, and asked how he was feeling. I remember her looking upward. A smile formed on her sweet face. The breeze had picked up. The rain clouds that I had noticed in the afternoon were becoming darker. This lovely woman's face held my attention. But, It was there. The tired eyes and weary voice.
"Ya'll sit down. I'll bring ya'll something to drink." She arrived with big glasses of sweet iced tea. That was the best tea I had ever tasted. Their son was unhitching the mules. Checking them over, rubbing them down, watering, and feeding them. These farmers took care of their animals. He arrived and joined us. He finished the tea off in one or two gulps. Like a flash, he was gone and returning with another large glass of tea. He was a quiet red headed farm boy. He had more freckles than I. He wore the customary overalls, no shirt, and wore high laced brogan shoes. He was fifteen years old. A year older than myself.
Their son gave me a tour of the immediate farm. Corn was in long rows which stretched onward and onward. I was introduced to the farm animals. For a "city slicker" like myself, this was fun and exciting. Soon, we were all seated around the large rustic kitchen table. This dear farm lady prepared her food carefully. Fresh from the field to the table. She kept bringing bowl after bowl of vegetables and a big platter of golden brown fried chicken. The biscuits were steaming hot with fresh churned butter and honey on the side. I had never seen so much food! Excuse me, I am getting ahead of myself. The blessing hasn't been said. I was starving! Uncle Ernest was asked to say the blessing. It went something like this - "Dear Lord, Thank you for this wonderful bounty. (I had to agree with him.) Bless this home, this wonderful family." He prayed for a steady rain, he prayed for the crops. He prayed for the farm animals. "I believe he missed the chickens." He was covering it all! I was sitting there squirming. I was so hungry! "My stomach was doing battle with my backbone." "Oh, Dear Reader, during this lengthy prayer, one could not believe the delicious aromas bursting forth in all directions from this wonderful fresh food! Ham, chicken gravy, mashed potatoes, carrots smothered in churned butter, hot and steaming butter milk biscuits. There was okra, squash, cabbage, sliced juicy tomatoes, cucumber salad. For dessert, apple pie." Uncle was still praying. He did not rush his prayers. Sincerity belonged to Uncle Ernest. Finally, the amen was given. Bowl after bowl was passed around the table. I had a smile on my face. This awesome farm family made us feel so welcome... Feeding their pastor and his nephew was their way of showing their love and appreciation.
The red headed farm boy was really shoveling the food down. "How could one person eat so much?" He worked from sun-up to sun-down. He needed all the fuel he could get. Suddenly, he stood up and wiped the milk ring from around his mouth. "Well, It sure was nice meeting ya'll. I am going to bed now. Have to get up before daylight and milk the cows." Then, He was gone.
I was so full. I thanked the dear farm lady for the best meal I had ever tasted. She nodded her head, said thank you, and smiled sweetly. I detected some weakness in her voice. This wonderful lady had worked in the fields under a blazing hot sun. She had taken the time to prepare this wonderful meal. She must have been exhausted. She still had work to do. Her husband, by his actions toward her left any doubt that he loved her very much.
Uncle and I fixed the same breakfast each morning. Cream of wheat, scrambled eggs, sausage, milk and coffee. We had a sandwich for lunch. A drive into Hemingway, S.C. had us eating supper at the local diner. You can imagine how thankful we were for a delicious home cooked farm meal.
As we stepped out onto the porch, a cool steady rain was falling. I thought of the elderly white haired gentleman at church Wednesday night and his humble short prayer of seeking and praise. God was bountiful. The following day, it rained all day and several days thereafter.
** This adventure with my Uncle Ernest happened during my June summer vacation when I was fourteen years old. This story is part of my other short story, "Keep singing Uncle"