It weren't so bad; I was nervous at first. Not least about my condition. I am, as has been stated, looking shaggy these days. More like Christ than His followers. Of course Back in the Day, long hair was good. Long hair made you distinguished. But now it as likely makes you a thug. An object of healthy suspicion.
But the Arthur Evangelical Free Church ain't so horribly formal. I'm not sure I saw one necktie. The girls were pretty but they'd probably dress up no matter where they were going. I don't guess I was the scruffiest one there, but not by a country mile.
I did have some small trepidation. I was worried they would pray for me. I will not specifically object to that. I need all the Help I can get. But I did have vague visions of mad Iowans crowding around me in a tight circle and shouting "Sinner! Sinner!", casting out my demons and such. Instead everyone was just kind of nice. Not such an awful thing.
Miss Elsie, youngest daughter of the proud Smith clan, was up there singing on stage. I couldn't help but feel a brotherly pride at being in so tight with the choir. Overall though, the music on offer was about as soulful and stirring as one might expect from a gaggle of Iowans. Hymns were all but whispered. No booming baritones here. I guess to get that full-on Spirit-of-the-Lord blast of purely Joyful Noise you really have to go to a black church. I imagine I would feel the tiniest bit out of place there, as well.
The sermon, such as it was, was not too much brimstone and fire. The point was that we should not quarrel and that we should be nice to each other. Cool. I can dig it. I like it when people are nice to me.
Which the Good Smiths have been, above and beyond. I was less welcome in my own home growing up. Mrs. Smith is a marvelous cook. Mr. Smith can do some grilling. The Smith Girls are wonderful bakers. Boy Wyatt is a pill.
Which does not put him anywhere beyond redemption. I can be a pill myself. And it goes a long way to humanise a family that at first glance seems too good for words. And they have a pet mouse named Turd. They are human, after all. And Mrs. Smith cheats when she plays games with the kids in the Christian Youth Group.
"Not really," she would tell you. "Not very much, at least." And her overall ambitions are good. Still, it does make me laugh. And I tend to believe Jesus would laugh, as well, when He told the story at parties.
After church I excused myself long enough to walk the three and a half miles I owed my journey. They had come and got me the night before. I was feeling guilty about it. I covered that distance without my pack. I didn't feel guilty about that at all. It was a lovely fall day and the sky was blue. There were corn combines to watch. And it is a blessing to at last be off Highway 20. I had the road to myself.
I arrivedat the house to a fabulous lunch of "steak or hamburgers or both." Mr. Smith and I went with both. I thought it was a nice compromise. And there was spinach and cookies and such. I got myself very well fed. And watched the Vikings blow a twenty-point lead. Mr. Smith is a fan. Apparently they do this all the time. That is what keeps him humble.
Because he could brag if he wanted to. He has a nice family and home. They live in a lovely old farm house, now separate from the farm. It has all the advantages of country living with none of the plowing to do. And they have an old barn--properly, a corn crib--that I am very fond of indeed. It is barn-shaped with a cupola. I wish I could make it my studio.
Over lunch I was pleased to make the acquaintance of Brian and Jenny, the Smiths good neighbors and friends. I must say I was thrilled to meet them. They are to me celebrities. For no good reason, I am afraid. They have the dubious distinction of having had their house and outbuildings destroyed by a tornado.
I pestered them with all manner of questions. I guess I should have been more sensitive. Brian had built it with his own two hands as a gift for his loving bride. At the time she was in Florida. He was hiding under the porch. "Did you think you were going to die?" I asked him. "I didn't know," he said.
It all strikes me as horribly romantic. Better it should happen to newlyweds. Life's tragedies are easier when you have someone to hug.
That's in the abstract, of course. The photos are less romantic. Barns destroyed, trees ripped out, a tractor-trailer on its side.. We were all thrilled to look at the pictures. Brian looked just a bit pale. And he's a big guy, no sissy at all. But I guess that he's been scared once.
In the evening we visited Grandpa's house. Grandpa maitains a farm. With all kinds of neat tractors and combines and such. But, I swear, that's just the beginning. There is in his basement a trampoline, concealed in a deep round pit. It can be covered with carpeting. It's like something out of James Bond. Press a button and you fall from sight. But in this case you bounce right back.
I had a go for a minute or so. I am not sure I have ever felt so old. Or heavy, at least. And ungraceful. Trampolining is hard. But good fun, I swear to golly. Perhaps easier with nobody watching. It is hard to maintain your dignity when you are being flung this way and that.
In a perfect world, everyone would have a secret trampoline in their basement.
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