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Fabric of Life - Baptists Have Better Food

As I wrote in my previous post, My Grandmother died last week. She was a month short of her 95th birthday. She was married to the same man for 52 years and she was a member of the same Baptist Church for 70 years. While those figures may seem extraordinary, I think they are quite common in what is left of Rural Agri–America.

My Grandmother (lower left) with her sisters and Mother ca. 1941

So the logistic issue facing my Bro and myself was to travel from Central Texas to West Tennessee in the space of a weekend. Not a problem when you own an airplane, right? Uh Oh! The Cessna 182 was out of commission at College Station for its’ annual inspection. My bro called Friday morning just to make sure and was told the ‘plane was in parts all over the hangar.’ The second choice for mode of travel is the Elite Road Hog — the 2005 Ford Crown Victoria. Now to most folks the Crown Victoria and its’ sister, the Mercury Marquis are senior citizen type vehicles. I turned my bro on to the Crown Vic when I was buying and selling old cop cars several years back. They say you have to have the right tool for every job and the Crown Vic is the ultimate road cruiser. It will swallow the contents of the back of a Suburban or a Pickup Truck cargo bed in the cavernous trunk. It has comfy leather  electric seats and it is rear wheel drive and it is an American V8. We averaged over 70mph for the entire trip and got 26 mpg. What is not to like?

We approached the West Coast of Tennessee late on Saturday afternoon. We made a quick stop by an Aunt’s house to check in and get a quick bite of home cooking. Well, no home cooking as they were all in funeral mode and covered dishes from the neighbors covered the counters.

My Mom on the hood of a GMC pickup ca. 1937

We were given specific instructions to be at the visitation at 730pm sharp and my Mom raised her eyebrow and her voice when she gave us our marching orders. Obviously, she was concerned about us behaving properly. We left to go check in to the hotel. Old people keep the house way too hot to sleep and the mattresses went to hell sometime back in the 80’s so we opt for hotel housing.

Well, at 735pm we were still a few minutes away from the visitation and my cell rang with a call from 731 area code, I didn’t recognize it and gave my brother the WTF??? look. 10 seconds later, his cell rang from the same number and he gave me the WTF??? look. I called the number back and found myself talking to the Brother Charlie who was the pastor at the Baptist Church. He wanted to know where we were at… we were late. Well OK. Crap! Dammit! Hadn’t even got started yet and we were already in trouble. Add to this the fact that both of us were still wearing the our Wranglers (albeit with clean shirts) and (good) boots and I figured we were going to get the stink eye when we got to the Church. It was pretty much inevitable. Yeah, Pretty Much.

Now I have to set the stage a little bit. Rural West Tennessee has always been a pretty closed society. People are apt to live and die in the same house — or one right around the block from where they grew up. I find no fault with this at all but it does make for some interesting social dynamics. What you get is pretty much the same kids you were friends with in the First Grade are the same friends that you attend their funeral or vice versa decades later. Pretty much. The next thing is my Bro and I are viewed with some skepticism and more than our share of sidelong glances as the whispers go around the room that the ‘ brothers from Texas’ are here. We left West Tennessee pretty early on and plus I have been married multiple times so we are a topic for sure. Pretty Much. And then we were late and we were wearing Wranglers AND boots. Lotsa that behind the hands talking going on when we finally got there. And what was that car they were driving??  Was it an Old Folks car or a Cop Car??  It had an antenna on the trunk and bars in the rear window?   I felt like a salmon swimming upstream.  My bro looked like he was on the last leg of the Boston Marathon.  It had already been a long day.

Some more scene setting is in order.  My Grandmother had planned every facet of her funeral and it was all going to be at her Baptist Church.  The visitation took the place of Saturday Evening services and her Funeral Service would take the place of the 11am service on Sunday.  Pretty cool and very non-traditional.  I was digging it.   Brother Charlie, however, was  a bit of a loose cannon in my book.  My Sis had filled me in about a trip her clan made to West Tennessee last year  soon after a tornado pretty much tore hell out of the country side.

With Ancestors like this, How can I be held accountable for correct social behavior? My maternal Great Grandfather and HIS Brother around the turn of the century. I think I take after the guy on the right.

My Sis always went to Church with my Grandmother. She was the good sister. My Grandmother had given up on me a my Brother as godless heathens years hence. She didn’t quite think we were the spawn of the devil or anything and she still loved us bunches but she had long since given up on us attending church with her. We had all that thing going on with the Wranglers and Cop Cars and unacceptable social behavior so she pretty much didn’t even bother to ask any more. We just went to Perkins for breakfast on Sunday Morning. More our type of crowd. Pretty Much.

I started to tell you about the Tornado and Brother Charlie.   Brother Charlie told his rapt congregation on the Sunday following THE Tornado that God had visited the tornado on them because they were all godless sinners.  Obviously the God of Southern Baptists can be a wrathful deity and my Sis, who is more accustomed to refined Big City Pastors was shocked and awed.  She said her and her husband kept their head down most of the service.   Pretty much interesting stuff.  I was looking forward to meeting Brother Charlie and sizing him up.   He would bear watching and my plan was to give him the Clint Eastwood squint eyed glare when we met and see who looked away first.   After all I was a godless heathen. Pretty Much.

I gotta say the Visitation went well.  I was hoping this whole funeral was not going to be a maudlin, teary, tissue soaking affair and I was not disappointed.  I heard some great stories about my Grandmother and me and my Bro contributed our quota.  I think I will save the story details for a later post.  They are just too good to gloss over lightly here.

Sunday, for the Funeral, My Bro and I appeared early and we were properly dressed — except for the boots.   I gave up lace up shoes and those loafer things in 2000. I figured a $1000 pair of Lucchese boots was good enough for my Grandmother’s funeral.  We were going to be Pall Bearers along with our Cousin Steve and 2 step cousins.   Cousin Steve was a few years younger than us and had been our partner in crime during many an escapade in years past.  He was a known quantity.  The 2 step cousins were decades younger and had come in to the family late in the game.  We were still sizing them up.  Brother Charlie was the sixth Pall Bearer but he was not going to ride in Cousin Steve’s SUV with the rest of us.  He got owned on that one.  I didn’t want to listen to his proselytizing at any rate.

Loading the casket was uneventful.  We can man up when we need to.   But I gotta tell you the slow, 30 minute procession to the cemetery was ummmm,  interesting.  The Step Cousins were sitting in the back of the SUV as befitted their social rank and my Bro said  ” Cousin Steve,  I do believe you were slacking off on your side of that casket.  You were carrying so light I thought I was going to go to my knees with all that weight. ”  Grandmother obviously bought a premium, American made heavy ass casket.   A quick sideways glance showed the Step Cousins had pretty much given each other the WTF??? look.  I counted 10 and added my 2 cents “Cousin Steve, I gotta agree that you were slacking off.  I expect you to MAN UP when we get to the Cemetery.  That shit don’t fly in Texas.”   Cousin Steve smirked ever so slightly and I could tell he was on the same channel, the Step Cousins were drop jawed and speechless.  Obviously, the stories they had heard about the godless heathen brothers from Texas were painfully true.

Two intersections later, my brother let the other shoe drop.  “Cousin Steve,  I gotta tell you that the funeral business in West Tennessee is hot, dry work.   Any real man worth his salt would have planned ahead and had a cooler of cold beeeeers in this pall bearer vehicle.   A cold beer sure would taste good right about now.  I expect you to attend to that the next time we have to plant somebody.”  The Step Cousins would not utter another word for the next hour.

The Cemetery service went off according to my Grandmother’s plan.  Even with our irreverence, I am sure she was approving from on high.  Everyone returned to the Baptist Church where the good ladies of the Church had prepared a feast of biblical proportions.    I was finally going to get my fix of Southern Cooking at its’ zenith.  40 yards (no exaggeration) of tables groanig under the weight of pan fried chicken, smothered pork chops, pulled pork, 3 coconut cakes and five different plates of  brownies.  Sitting by my Mother, she leaned over and uttered this blasphemy.  ” Methodists eat more often but the Baptists definitely have better food.”   We crawled into the Old People/Cop Car  Crown Victoria 30 minutes later and headed back to Texas where we belong.   Pretty much, I think we did my Grandmother right and I enjoyed the fellowship.  Pretty much is alright with me.

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2 comments to Fabric of Life – Baptists Have Better Food

  • Joel

    Clever, and cleverly written. Thanks.

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  • don

    Sorry to hear about your Grandmother. She sounds like quite the old gal. The story about the funeral was a hoot. Gotta keep those younger cousins in line. LOL Good work.

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