The Old Man has a few "preacher genes" in his bloodline. Not to say they are particularly dominant, but when I look back through the haziness of memory and recall some of the stories I heard, coupled with a few experiences, some degree of order develops.
I understand my great-grandfather on my father's side of the tribe was a Baptist preacher. At some point in his life, according to family legend, he bailed out of rural Virginia, grabbed himself a new wife, and high-tailed it to the state of Washington. Since Miss Martha still has to contend with me, I assume that gene skipped a few generations.
My dad, on the other hand, got a full dose of preacher DNA. He was never formerly trained, ordained, or any of the other accouterments associated with the profession, but rather had a heart for service, a love for people, and a deep spirituality that radiated out of him like Christmas day dinner smells from grandma's kitchen. One day, he crashed headlong into Mickey Mouse, and Mickey lost.
This was back around 1950. Some of the small churches scattered around the county banded together and hired one preacher, splitting the cost between them. He literally "rode the circuit", preaching at one of the churches this week, another next week, and so on. In addition to his preaching duties, this preacher was also a member of a volunteer fire department. While on a fire call, part of the burning building fell on him and he was horribly burned. His recovery time went on for months and months, leaving all four of the churches with no minister. Enter my dad.
Dad "rode the circuit" for many, many months. I remember the names of the churches; Mentow, Palestine, Radford, and Staunton River. I also remember that after each service, we were usually invited to dinner (nobody called it lunch back then). I ate so much fried chicken, I began to do a daily check to see if I had sprouted feathers.
One Sunday, in the hot summer, we were sweltering away in one of the churches. The funeral home fans were moving at warp speed, and the pungency of Evening in Paris, and 10 other perfumes mixed with Old Spice and pure people-smell was up to near toxic level. Dad was in his element. He wasn't a screamer, but was just a good, solid, no ers or ums, preacher. I was all cool in my white bucks and sport coat, sitting on the front row with Mom, sweating like I was spreading asphalt in August, and sneaking glances at my brand new Mickey Mouse watch I'd gotten for passing to the next grade. According to Mickey, it was a couple of minutes before noon, and Dad didn't seem near wrapping things up. At five after twelve, I was sure Mickey had a flaw and turned the hands back to twelve. Preacher Dad continued on. The second five after twelve came, and once again I fumed at Mickey and turned him back again. Dad was really rolling now. I gave it until ten after this time and finally decided that maybe Mickey had spent too much time around Goofy, so I just pulled the stem out to stop his suffering.
Dad finally wrapped up his sermon and we retired to yet another plate of fried chicken. Dad apologized for "running over" his time and said his watch had run down allowing the time to get away from him. If only he had had my buddy Mickey.
Mickey didn't survive my childish curiosity at his inner mechanisms. When an eight year old takes a watch apart, there is very little chance of it going back together, and Mickey was no exception.
Both Mickey and the Preacher Man are a long time gone. Sure would be nice if I could have them both back.
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