It smells of wood floor planks cut from the catalpa trees
nearby a hundred years ago.
That, and the aging paper
of hymnals, Bibles,
and the old theatre seats
which were added when the show hall in town
went out of business
right after the town got electricity in the 50s
and everybody started staying
at home to watch Milton Berle.
Sister Carol’s Gibson guitar is lying
up on top of the piano.
She knows three chords:
A, B, and G7
and forces all the hymns into various combinations of them
while she sings along in unknown chords of her own.
She is past 70 now,
but no one would think of asking her to retire
anymore than they would suggest
setting the pulpit on fire.
Bro. Carter drives in two Sundays each month from Dardanelle
to bring the message, but it is almost always the same:
a reading from John 3 ("Ye must be born again!"),
a story or two about persons who met with an untimely death
without having paid attention to John 3,
and a reading of the poem "Footprints",
whether it fits with the message or not,
which it rarely does.
Bro. Carter had presented the church with a
framed copy of the poem, in fact,
and it hangs right beside the wooden sign
in which white numbers on black squares
announce the attendance last week- 17-
and the amount of the collection- $58.97.
Years ago there was a coal stove
about halfway down the east side of the building
which someone would volunteer for a month at a time
to come early and get lit.
Since the early 60s there are
five strategically placed electric resistance heaters
around the room which hum metallically
through the service on winter days.
On the west side of the building there is a cemetery,
begun there back when the church was a log cabin.
Some of the Arkansas Volunteers were buried there
after their bodies were hauled down from Pennsylvania
wrapped in muslin and salt
after the War.
Down at the bottom of the cemetery are some magnolia trees
and azalea bushes (red) and a mimosa tree
that was planted there by a missionary from Japan
who had come through sometime in the 30s.
In a little while the familiar sounds of the wooden floorboards
will be heard as people make their way to
the seats their grandparents sat in.
It rained last night so there probably won’t be many here this morning
and someone will have to come up later in the week
and sweep the dried mud out.
Good Morning, Sister Brown, Bill with you this morning?
Oh, sure, he’s parking the car. He’ll be in shortly, I expect.
The rain was a real blessing, wasn’t it?
I swear, my garden was about to burn up!
Well, God is good.
Oh, He is, that’s a fact, it surely is.
by David B.Weber 2006