I passed a large white tent in a field near Narrows recently and, of course, they were holding an old-fashioned tent revival like many of us who grew up around here attended at one time or another.
That tent reminded me of an experience I had at one of those revivals many years ago and I found the column I wrote about it and here it is again because, as I said, so many of us can relate to it.
This tent was set up in a field in Princeton, exactly where it was I don’t remember, probably in Stumpy Bottom.
My mother and others from the Brethren church we attended decided to go so, still being a child, I had to go as well. We parked in the field on that hot summer evening, a time of year for traveling tent revivals and carnivals.
Walking inside, there were rows and rows of folding metal chairs, and most were already filled. Up front was a platform with some musical instruments on one side.
After the musicians went on stage a tall, slender man in a baggy suit with thick black hair came out, raised his hand high in the air and commenced praying. He didn’t say anything else, just took off right into praying.
And the people quickly responded, standing up and bowing their heads. Well, I didn’t. I was looking around as usual, then felt the side of my mother’s foot hitting my leg. I was sure she had her eyes closed tight. But mothers see right through their eyelids.
Musicians started playing some rousing old-time Gospel tunes and the preacher sang, again with that booming voice. Everybody chimed in, loud, and I figured the sound could probably be heard all over Princeton, maybe even down the mountain to Oakvale, where we had traveled from.
This fellow then let the devil have it, up one side and down the other, and said that monster could be lurking around any corner, ready to grab you and take you straight to Hades if you didn’t walk a straight and narrow path. In my young mind, I wasn’t sure where that path was, but I knew I was determined to find it.
There was no way I was going to let the devil grab me. No sirree.
Many people yelled countless amens and some jumped to their feet and swayed their arms back and forth, even doing a jig. “They are in the spirit,” my mother leaned down and whispered in my ear, and I nodded like I understood. But I didn’t.
Then the preacher asked if there were any prayer requests and one lady’s request sure got my attention, because I knew who she was. “Pray for my husband George,” she said loud and firm. “He’s lost.”
Good gosh, I thought to myself. I just saw him the other day. Wonder where he was when he got lost?
That worried me the rest of the service, which had now boiled down to a lot of music and singing, and finally the passing of collection plates, which sure seemed to make the preacher happy.
He was bouncing all over that platform, thanking people for their offering and telling them how God was thanking them as well.
My mother reached into her pocketbook and grabbed a $5 bill, which was a lot in those days. But before the collection plate got to us, I guess God told her it was too much because she put in back in her pocketbook and pulled out two quarters.
I was hoping God wouldn’t be mad at us if she happened to have heard him wrong. A lot of people in the family seemed to be hard of hearing.
After the service I was still worried about the disappearance of poor George.
So I asked my mother about it.
She smiled and patted my head and said, “No, son, his body’s not lost, his soul is.”
I couldn’t understand this, but she seemed to understand fine and I thought, well, she’s a grown-up and I’ll know all about it some day.
But I still spent several days wondering how in the world George’s soul managed to get out of his body to run off with the devil.
I knew I had better keep a close eye on my own. For the life of me, though, I couldn’t figure out where it was.
Then I thought, oh no, the devil may already have it.
These things sure can confuse a kid.
As I learned later, they can confuse adults as well.
Charles Boothe is a reporter for the Daily Telegraph and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org