A Memoir from Childhood About a Trip to Mt

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A Memoir from Childhood About a Trip to Mt. Olive

    It is a summer Sunday in 1945. I am six years old, and I am going with my Grandparents, Minnie Jane Henderson Griffin and Joseph Daniel Griffin, and my Great Grandmother, Nancy Ann Bennett Henderson, to church. My Grandfather hitches Tony, his horse, to the wagon and places a small chair in it for my Granny Nan. I help Grandmother with the lunch, which is placed in a basket, and the thermos and other utensils into the wagon. Also a bottle of homemade wine that my Grandparents have made which will be used for the communion. Plus each member has his own song book. Granddaddy helps Granny Nan into the wagon, and she sits behind the wagon seat where my Grandparents are perched.

    Jeff, their mutt of a dog who is the color of gallberry honey and my best friend, trots along in the hot Georgia early morning sunshine. We go down the lane away from the farm. There are fenced-in fields on either side of the lane. I hop down and open the large gate which leads into the woods. Jeff doesn't follow us but stays on the property. The wagon goes through and I close the gate and jump onto the wagon as it moves through woods filled with pine trees, cypress trees, gallberry bushes, and palmettos.  The ruts on the road are sand, which is as white as sugar, and a grassy area runs down the center. Various birds call as we go on our three to four mile trip through the woods. I am seated in the back of the wagon with my bare feet dangling. A bobwhite calls in the quiet morning air. Granddaddy really doesn't have to guide Tony for he knows the way.

    We emerge from the woods and cross a dirt road called the Swamp Road. The little church sits beside it emerging out of giant, old pine trees. Beside the church is a sandy white grave yard with twelve old palm trees representing the twelve apostles. Many of my ancestors are buried here. The church, Mount Olive Primitive Baptist, in Manor, Georgia, is not painted, but weathered the color of moleskin. There are no glass windows, just heavy wooden shutters which are flung open.

    Tony is tied up in the shade of an oak tree and here and there are automobiles. Grandmother brings her basket inside as Granddaddy helps Little Granny from the wagon bed. The church can be entered from three doors. One is on the Swamp Road and leads directly through an area of unpainted wooden benches which is for the visitors. One door is on the cemetery side and it leads to the same type benches where the female members sit. The remaining door is on the opposite side and this opens on the identical area where the male members sit. In front of each of these benches is a diamond shaped hole cut into the floor so that the men can spit their tobacco juice during the meeting. Each of these areas looks in the direction of the pulpit which is elevated and closed in with a bench for the preacher.

    In front of this structure is a small deacons bench which probably would only seat two grown men. And in front of this bench is a small, unpainted, and bleached white, homemade communion table made of pine. Next to this, a few feet away is a little homemade chair made especially for Granny Nan. She is a tiny woman, only about four feet and nine inches tall and weighs about eighty-eight pounds. Her ankle length dress and petticoats touch the pine floor boards.

    My Grandmother has a loud, clear, lovely voice as she leads the singing. I sit next to Granddaddy who attempts to sing, but he can't "carry a note". There is no musical instrument except the human voice permitted. Neither is there electricity nor any kind of decoration.  I notice all the men's hats are hanging from a special made board next to the men's door, and directly overhead. Looking up I see that there is no ceiling.  I am looking directly at the inside of the roof. I can see several dirt dauber nests up there and actually hear them drone at times during the meeting's silences. I don't sit during the long service but wander outside. I have been warned to "watch out" for snakes.  I go to the men's "out door toilet" and notice that there are several toilet seats so more than one man can " go to the bath room". And there are the Sears and Roebuck catalogs.


    I go to the grave yard and read my Granny Nan's husband's grave stone. Not too many feet away from Granddaddy Jim's grave is his mother's, Martha Ann Miller, but instead of just having Henderson on the head stone, it has her last husband's name, Thornton, as well. I have been told who all these people are and how most of them are kin to me. The graves that fascinate me the most are the ones near the woods which have very old wooden head markers and no identity. Some have very old sea shells on them. But it is the little unmarked graves which cause me to stop and stare.

    I hear the preacher stop preaching and begin praying. Then the church members all come outside. Many go to the pump which has a shed built over it. (Granddaddy primes the pump with water he has brought in a can.) They have their own cups for catching the cold, clear water. (Grandmother's is made of metal and folds up which makes me think that she is special.) The men have all put back on their hats and the women are fanning themselves with cardboard fans that are stapled to little unpainted wooden handles. Not just because it is hot, but to keep away the flies as well. The food is eaten and the thermoses are emptied. The adults return to the church for the afternoon meeting. I play around the wagon and read from a book I have brought along.


    The meeting ends with a hymn and we say our goodbyes. Climbing into the wagon we head back to their thirteen acre farm, "The Joe Griffin Place". I am asleep as Tony takes us home, switching his tail to keep away the horse flies. Old Granny nods off and Grandmother fans and sings hymns which she knows my Grandfather best loves. It will be many years into the future when these three relatives will have their final resting places next to Granddaddy Jim in that quiet and peaceful and little cemetery. That thought never enters my young brain as I head back through the woods towards my security and my future.

 

Copyright 2002 Christopher Henderson Griffin Boyd,
All Rights Reserved

 

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