Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Whut He Was Called To Do

True story about my dad's mom, as told to me by her sister:

"One day when we were little girls we were riding the horses out into the back field, taking some water to our dad who was working out there. As we got close her horse jumped and your grandma fell off and got hurt. Dad caught the horse and told her to get back on, but she didn't want to. She was scared! But Dad scolded her and told her that if she didn't get back on right away then she would always be scared and would never ride again. Well, she was a stubborn one, so she got back on and rode that horse all the way back home. And then she never rode again!"

The zinger she threw in at the end and the way she had prepared earlier in her story for that final line kind of reminds me of some of the stories collected by the anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston early last century.


Ellis: These was two bothers and 'one of 'em was a big Preacher and had good collections every Sunday. He didn't pastor nothin' but big charges. De other brother decided he wanted to preach so he went way down in de swamp behind a big plantation to de place they call de prayin' ground, and got down on his knees.

"O Lawd, Ah wants to preach. Ah feel lak Ah got a message.If you don called me to preach, gimme a sign."

Just 'bout dat time he heard a voice, "Wanh, uh wanh! Go preach, go preach, go preach!

He went and tol' everybody, but look lak he never could git no big charge. All he ever got called was on some saw mill, half-pint church or some turpentine still. He knocked around lak dat for ten years and then he seen his brother. De big preacher says, "Brother, you don't look like you gittin' holt of much."

"You tellin' dat right, brother. Groceries is ain't dirtied a plate today."

"Whut's de matter? Don't you git no support from your church?"

"Yeah, Ah gits it such as it is, but Ah ain't never pastored no big church. Ah don get called to nothin' but sawmill camps and turpentine stills."

De big preacher reared back and thought a while, then he ast de other one, "is you sure you was called to preach? Maybe you ain't cut out for no preacher."

"Oh, yeah," he told him. "Ah know Ah been called to de ministry. A voice spoke and tol'me so."

"Well, seem lak if God called you He is mighty slow in puttin' yo' foot on de ladder. If Ah was you Ah'd go back and ast 'im again.

So de po' man went on back to de prayin' ground agin and got down on his knees. But there wasn't no big woods like it used to be. It has been all cleared off. He prayed and said, "Oh, Lawd, right here on dis spot ten years ago Ah ast you if Ah was called to preach and a voice tole me to go preach. Since dat time Ah been strugglin' in Yo' moral vineyard, but Ah ain't gathered no grapes. Now, if you really called me to preach Christ and Him crucified, please gimme another sign."

Sho nuff, jus' as soon as he said dat, de voice said "Wanh-uh! Go preach! Go preach! Go preach!"

De man jumped up and says, "Ah knowed Ah been called. Dat's de same voice. Dis time Ah'm goin ter ast Him where must Ah go preach."

By dat time de voice come agin and he looked 'way off and seen a mule in de plantation lot wid his head all stuck out to bray agin, and he said, "Unh hunh, youse de very son of a gun dat called me to preach befo'. "

So he went on off and got a job plowin'. Dat's whut he was called to do in de first place.

Armetta said, "A many one been called to de plough and they run off and got up in de pulpit. Ah wish dese mules knowed how to take a pair of plow-lines and go to de church and ketch some of 'em like they go to de lot with a bridle and ketch mules."

Oral story telling is an art that has largely died out in America. If we don't pay attention to our oldest generation, it will fade into history and be gone. Because natural story telling is an art passed on from one person to another (not learned from books or study) once lost completely it will be very hard to revive it.

Read more of the stories Hurston collected at the same place I borrowed this one. Or listen to Hurston sing some other stories in the manner that she heard them from the old timers by going here and typing "Hurston" into the "search" box.


grace said...


John Paul Todd said...

Thanx for posting this Doug. There's a whole lot of truth in this story, considering the "source".

Are you set to review John's book, "Your church is too small" with the rest of us?

We ought to try to get together again one of these days. I'd love to see you again.

Doug P. Baker said...

Yep, John, I'm reviewing it. I thought of writing to you to make sure you were because I know it is right up your alley! I'm on the fourth chapter and I'm loving it!

I'd love to get together; I've often wondered how you are doing. You are still in the Berea area? That's not far. Why don't you arrange for me to speak in your church some weekend on the subject of God's image? That is what I wrote the book Covenant and Community on. That would make for a good excuse to hang out. I can squish it down for a Sunday morning, but it would work better as a weekend seminar.

I don't recall if you have my email. It is dougpbaker (at) hotmail (dot) com.