Toes will tell
Even the little kids could tell.
Parents probably hushed them.
Amid narrowed eyes and tight lips of the congregation, the procession happened once a year.
In a farming community, Sunday was a day of rest.
But no one stayed in bed. Ever.
It was the one day of community gathering in little frame churches.
“Hot as Hades” gained concrete meaning.
“If you think it’s hot in here …” the preacher would admonish.
(Without modern TV, imaginations worked much more vividly. Kids quieted and sat straighter.)
Dressed in best clothing – complete with shoes. It couldn’t have been very comfortable during the Piney Woods summer.
Those cardboard fans on a stick waved with religion.
The ones the bank always donated with a religious picture on one side and an advertisement on the other
Could only do so much good in over-heated air.
No matter how fast you waved them. (Children were warned.)
An occassional “all day singin’ with dinner on the ground” was an anticipated event.
Songs as powerful as the ocean waves would roll through the building.
And because of the length of the services, quilt pallets were placed on the ground for the young-uns. Happy to be allowed to sprawl out and even doze as the melodies wrapped around them.
And once a year, a costumed parade down the aisle.
No matter how dignified and solemn the men attempted to appear, it was a source of amusement.
Kids, of course, are quick to point out when an emperor had no clothes.
But in that era, they were pulled into the pews and quieted.
Children were to be seen not heard.
And people in the community generally tried to be polite -
Even if the woman’s church hat was rather ugly.
So the odd promenade was tolerated, but not welcomed.
Why the men in the white sheets thought themselves so clever was a mystery.
Their little march to the altar to present an offering - very small offering.
(Pitiful small – but what else by such as these?)
My dad used to chuckle about it. He was one of the little ones sitting among the ankles.
“If they were trying to hide their identity, they were really dumb.
(Well, those men, obviously not too bright anyway, wearing sheets and pretending to be important. And those sheets had to be washed – just makin’ more work.)
Anyone could tell who they were,” Dad said.
“For one reason, you could look around and see who was missing in the congregation.
And you could tell by their shoes.
We all knew each other. People generally only had one or maybe two pairs of shoes.”
So much for remaining anonymous.
Outed by toes.
Afterwards, after the potluck shared dinner, children were shooed off to play for a bit while grown-ups talked.
Words like “fools”, “ne’er-do-wells”, “no-a-counts”, “bootleggers”, “drunkards”, and “cowards”.
Here and there a man would quietly appear and slip in.
Glares by some.
Some finding an excuse to move away.
Inevitably, a well tanned farmer would rear back and say loudly – with an innocent grin, “Why is it if a man is so proud of somthin’ he’ll hide his face? Why is that do you think?”
Women would probably duck their heads. Or decide to check on the children. Or decide they feel faint in the heat with “please, let’s just go on home.”
Things did get heated in those old farm communities.
And preachers of that Old Time Religion made no bones about the Scriptures.
And the eternal consequences from poor choices in life.
A few squirmed under those hard stares and words directed at them.
Guilt and shame no stranger to those sermons.
Could be why some missed church that morning – too bad.
Missed the message, too.
If the shoe fits,
Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.
Shoe in and such:
Here’s something interesting: “Want to know somebody? Look at their shoes” (VIDEO and news article about how shoes reveal personality.)
What ‘s with this? “Adidas under fire for unveiling new trainer with orange shackles”. A controversial shoe design for sure – for multiple reasons. Insult or smart marketing? (Might be a good time to reconsider being chained to material items or being a slave to fashion?)
And there’s the recent controversy over who should be allowed to pick up litter by the road in Union County, Georgia. It’s the organization’s dress code and history. You can google it if you’re interested. I’m not going there.