Friday, January 23, 2015

THE GREAT DEBATE

by Randy Reynolds

Gene Reynolds’ nerves could interrupt the rhythm of his breathing when he drank strong coffee, and Sister Effie’s coffee was strong even by South Louisiana standards.  He cleared his throat and took a long, slow sip of the powerful brew, more to hide his smile than anything else.

“E.J., I know you did it, you might as well confess,” said Bobby Jarrell.

“Sister Effie, you’d have been proud of your son,” said Gene, his pale blue eyes twinkling over the rim of the coffee cup.  “Just picture it:  the giant  auditorium packed to the rafters.   Church of God people from all over the world waiting to hear the final tally of the vote for General Overseer.  Charles W. Conn got so many votes—it was in the hundreds.  Ray Hughes—he got even more. And Reverend Robert Jarrell—one.”

“Everybody laughed at me. They thought I voted for myself,” said Bobby.

Sister Effie laughed.  "Makes a mother proud." 

“You’ll have to come out to the debate in Folsom, Sister Effie.  Your son’s going to be the moderator.”

“What debate?”

“E.J. here got challenged by the Jesus Only’s," said Bobby.   “They’re bringing in their top gun, the number one man in the whole United Pentecostal Church, J.L. Welch.

Gene said, “They think they’re gonna kill a gnat with a cannon.  He’s got a wall full of degrees and all I’ve got is a high school equivalency.  But I’ve been memorizing scripture since I was eight years old and I don’t mean to brag but I can handle myself on doctrines of the church with anybody.  I’m going to pour the scripture on them.”

Gene's nerves were humming. “They see me being just a young guy out here pastoring a church in the country and they think their top debater is going to come in here like Babe Ruth and hit a home run.”


 Fast Forward 50 years to Jan. 2015:  













From: Bobby Joe Jarrell

Randy, 

I'll be more than happy to share what I remember.  I'm honored that you asked. 

There was a Oneness Preacher in Covington by the Name of Lamb. Bro. Lamb had a radio program on Sunday afternoon. He challenged anyone under the sound of his voice who believed in The Trinity to a debate. Lamb said he had a place secured that was big enough to hold the crowd, the Debate Agreement drawn-up, and that he was ready.

 Now, although The Reverend E.J. Reynolds had a Sunday Morning Broadcast, he chose to call Mr. Lamb instead of using the AirWaves to accept the challenge.  


When they met-up Lamb decided that he had rather them hold hands and pray that which ever one was wrong that God would strike dead. 

The Reverend Reynolds told Lamb that the only way he would be willing to do so is if Lamb could show him where that was ever done in the New Testament. Lamb not being able to produce the Scripture, went around town telling that Reynolds refused to debate him.

Several days later Lamb had the misfortune of running into The Little Pot-Stirring Reverend Robert Jarrell. After a brief handshake The Reverend asked, "how does it feel for a Church of God Preacher to tell you what you can & can't preach on your own radio program"?

Lamb said,  "I didn't want to preach about that anymore."

 E.J. kept plugging The Trinity Doctrine on his Radio Program, but not to the point of being overbearing. He was always a man of class.

Well, the Oneness had a HotShot debater named J.L. Welch from Georgia. They called him the "GeorgiaBullDog." So they got in touch with J.L. He & E.J. came to terms and set a date. 

Probably one of the things I'm most proud of about The Reverend Robert was that The Reverend Reynolds chose him as his Moderator for The Debate.

All of The Oneness said, "after J.L.'s first 30 minute segment of the Debate that Reynolds was going to jump in his car and go home." 

The first night of the Debate, E.J. passed out a pamphlet listing 2000 Undeniable Scriptures proving The Trinity. 

Through-out the Debate the Oneness done everything physically possible to shut Reverend Reynolds down. They would clap their hands as fast & loud as they could in order to drown-out the Voice of Brother Reynolds. They also removed his BlackBoard from the stage.

It's my understanding that E.J. & J.L. gained a mutual respect for each other during the debate, became friends and stayed in touch with each other.

And Brother Lamb learned the art of SelfControl. 

-Bobby Joe Jarrell

Sent from my iPhone



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Thursday, January 22, 2015

BURNING DOWN THE PARSONAGE

by Randy Reynolds

For a few glorious weeks in the summer of 1960 Ronda Jean Reynolds had her own bedroom.   Her three sisters shared a room together.  Her two brothers shared a room.  But she, for the first time ever, had a room of her own, a little tiny afterthought at the back of the Shepherd’s Fold parsonage, flimsier than the rest of the structure, but it was hers. True, the TV set was in there, but she knew as well as anyone that a preacher couldn’t be caught with a TV in his front room so it had to be hidden. In Bainbridge, this same little Philco with a coat hangar for rabbit ears and tin foil on the coat hangar to boost reception, was in the boys’ bedroom, so it was only fair that it be in her room this time. She could share her space for an hour each night because when her dad unplugged the TV at 8 o’clock and told everybody to hit the sack, they all scattered to other parts of the house and it became her room and hers alone once more.

It was the first room to burn when Ranger started the fire.  Flames shot through the back window above the tiny bed, and the room filled with smoke but Ronda didn’t know because she was out cold.

Her daddy had smothering spells sometimes, usually when he was keyed up about something such as watching Mr. Kennedy make his acceptance speech in Los Angeles on July the 15th.  She knew Kennedy was a Catholic and she was afraid of Catholics because she had heard preachers at the district meeting—though not her daddy—say that people shouldn’t vote for a Catholic because he would let the pope run the country.  She didn’t know what a pope was but he sounded scarier than Morgus the Magnificent on Channel 4, so she was hoping Kennedy wouldn’t win. 

Her daddy got up in the middle of the night and sat at the kitchen table.  Sometimes he just prayed his four-word prayer “I plead the blood.”  He’d say it over and over real loud.  She didn’t know what it meant, but she knew he could say it forty-six times in a row before thinking of something else to say because one time she counted and he would have probably kept going but he stopped when she came into the kitchen.

“Hello, girl, you’re supposed to be in bed.”

“You woke me up,” she said, going to him for a hug.

“Well, since you’re up, we may as well make some cocoa.”

The cocoa always calmed him down and he’d quit smothering till the next time. 


Ricky said that Ranger was a mean horse, but Ronda felt sorry for him.  (For Ranger, not Ricky.)  The poor horse had only one good eye and when things moved or made a noise on his blind side it spooked him.  He was old and not very good looking, even for a horse. He was so skinny she could count his ribs so it was no wonder that he was always trying to break into the shed to get at the bale of hay that was stored there.  The shed wasn’t big enough for the horse and the washing machine both, but he could push open the door with his nose and get his head and neck and front feet in there.  Her daddy shut the shed door tight and sometimes Ranger pushed at it with his head and woke her up.  She yelled at him through her back window before, but when Ranger wanted to do something a little yelling didn’t have much effect on him. 

Her daddy said it was dangerous for Ranger to stick his head in the shed because there was a hot water heater in there and if the horse pushed any hay against that flame the shed could catch fire.  Whether that’s what happened the night the shed caught fire and that fire caught the house on fire, she didn’t know.   But she didn’t know much of anything that night.

One moment she was asleep in her very own room for the very last time ever.  The next thing she knew her daddy was screaming her name and grabbing her hard and jerking her out of her bed which was almost but not quite twin-sized. Gripping her in one arm and his shotgun in the other, he whirled around and took a giant step toward the kitchen as the back wall caved in behind them. Her daddy told her this later because she didn’t remember it detail for detail.

The shed was fully engulfed in flames and the back of the house was burning when Mr. Willie Taylor turned from Bush-Folsom Road onto Lee Road on his way to work.  He drove into the yard and ran up on the porch yelling at the top of his lungs.  He didn’t say anything about a fire—just banged on the door and yelled “Wake up! Wake up!  Wake up!”

Gene was the first one that heard him and he thought a crazy man was trying to break in so he loaded his .410 shotgun and was going to shoot through the door but then he smelled the smoke.  

Still holding his shotgun he yelled, “Wake up, Violet!  The house is on fire!”

He ran to Ronda’s room and Violet ran to the boys’ room and grabbed each of them by an arm. “Get out of here!  Now! Fast!  The house is on fire!”

Randy picked up the new jeans she'd bought for him the day before at Bill’s Dollar Store in Bogalusa, but she jerked them out of his hands and said, “We don’t have time for that.  Run!  Run!  Get out!”

So Randy and Ricky, wearing only their jockey shorts scrambled for the front door as Violet rescued the three youngest girls.

Once outside, all they could do was stand and cry and watch it burn.  

Gene held on to Ronda.

“You need to move your car before it catches on fire,” said Mr. Taylor.

Gene felt in his pants pockets but couldn’t find his keys.

“Maybe we can push it away from the house,” said Mr. Taylor.

But Gene wouldn’t let go of Ronda.

Men materialized out of the dark—some of them headed to work, others who had gotten phone calls from Uncle Barney who lived up the road.  Sister Jessie, Uncle Barney’s wife, showed up with their teenaged daughter Cheryl. Randy and Ricky stood before them in nothing but underwear, trembling with embarrassment.

The Reynolds family would never know who all the heroes were because it was dark and there was a lot of confusion, but one they knew for sure was Floyd Jenkins.  He was the first man into the burning house, followed by several others.   They couldn’t put out the fire but they would save what they could.  They grabbed dresser drawers and boxes and clothes, anything they could get their hands on, and threw it into the yard. 

Violet was forever grateful that Floyd saved the family photos.

Randy and Ricky were forever grateful that Cheryl and Sister Jessie rushed home and got some bed clothes to wrap the children in. Randy and Ricky wrapped themselves in a single sheet and stood out of the way.  Eventually the volunteer fire department got there but it was too late for them to do anything.

As the sun rose, Ranger went running by.


  _____________________________
  • Desiree Waguespack Maestri  Wonderful story. I have tears in my eyes on this one. You need to write a book.
        1 hr · · 2

  •    Cheryl Clem     A night I will never forget.............Good writing, Randy...Good writing.
  •        40 mins · 3

    Jeff Salter  I see other comments posted at the site, but I still can't find a box or a button.
      Anyhow, fantastic story. Got my heart rate up as I read. Wow. I can smell the smoke!
      10 mins · Like

    Brittany Richard  All I can say is wow. And you really should write a book Mr. Randy.
      13 mins · Like


  Sharon Crow Brown Wonderful story and very well written!
     12 hrs · Unlike · 1



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THE HORSE FROM HELL

by Randy Reynolds

Brother Alex Jenkins brought Mac over to the parsonage on the Reynolds’ second day there.   Spot got his first whiff of horse odor, looked up to see what was blocking out the sunlight and not recognizing the beast, rushed forward barking for all he was worth.  Randy and Ricky bounded off the porch and not knowing any better, ran to the sorrel gelding and started stroking his nose and lips and hugging his front legs.

“Great day in the morning!”  said Gene.

“Your boy said he wanted a horse,” said Brother Alex.

“He’s too big,” said Violet from the living room, locking the screen door as if that would keep her and her daughters safe.

Brother Alex said, “He’s big, but he’s real gentle.  They could walk under his belly and he wouldn’t do anything.  Go ahead, walk under him, boys.”

Randy walked under the horse’s belly. Ricky followed. 

“See, he don’t kick!” said Randy.

“Can we keep him, can we keep him, please?” said Ricky.

“We can’t afford a horse right now,” said Gene.

“Oh, Mac’s not for sale. But y’all can keep him as long as you want, huh?”  said Brother Alex.

“No, Gene. The boys will break their necks,” said Violet.

Brother Alex said, “Take the roosts out of that chicken coop in the back yard and it’ll be a good stall, but he don’t much need one.  Just graze him in the backyard after you get some kind of gate on it.  For now you can just tie a rope to his halter and stake him out.”

Gene said, “I’ve been around mules all my life, but I’ve never saddled a horse.”

“Here, let me show you,” said Brother Alex.


The next morning, Randy and Ricky got up at dawn and went out back where Mac was staked out with Brother Alex's rope and a length of chain Gene had found in the little shed immediately behind the parsonage. Mac opened his mouth for the bit and Randy put the bridle on him.  No sense trying the saddle since the horse was taller than Randy, so the boys took a five-gallon paint can out of the shed and climbed, with some effort, from there onto Mac's broad back. 

Randy kicked the horse lightly in the ribs to get him going.

“Don’t kick him!”  said Ricky.

Mac accelerated into a fast but smooth gait.

“Don’t make him run,” said Ricky.

“This ain’t running.  This is single-footing,” said Randy.

“Well, don’t make him single-foot too fast."

They crossed Bush-Folsom Road into a forest that used to be a tree farm. The trees had been planted in rows and thinned out many times and now there were wide avenues of flat ground with a carpet of pine straw. Despite clusters of undergrowth and a rotting stump here and there it was an ideal place to ride.

It was also an ideal place for the Church of God to build their Campground, a meeting place for their annual statewide convention and revival. It was centrally located across the road from Shepherd’s Fold and not far from the Churches of God known as Sharp’s Chapel, Wardline, Savannah Branch, Covington, Bogalusa, Sun, Bedico and Robert; Baton Rouge and New Orleans were both less than an hour away. 

When the State Overseer in faraway Monroe made it known that he was looking at the site, an astute businessman at Shepherd’s Fold, Earl Core would buy the property at a bargain and flip it to the church at many multiples of his purchase price. The deal would be approved by the Overseer after seven members of Shepherd’s Fold, including Earl himself, pledged a thousand dollars each.  But that was a year in the future.  On this idyllic morning it was just a forest of forty-year-old pine trees, two little cowboys and a horse.


The Reynolds boys believed in prayer. They prayed at church. They prayed at meals.  They prayed at bedtime.  But they had never prayed before like they prayed for Mac when he got his foot caught in the chain.  The flesh of his right rear fetlock was a bloody mess, scraped down to the bone.

Brother Alex came over with a horse trailer.   “He must have got tangled up early and kicked all night.”

“Listen, I’ll pay the vet bill,” said Gene.

“No need for that.  I’ll take him home and put some ointment on it to keep the flies away.  It’ll probably heal in a few weeks."

“We’ve been praying for him,” said Randy. 

Brother Alex patted Randy’s crew-cut scalp with his three-fingered hand.  “The Lord answers prayers.”

“Amen,” said Gene.


A few days later, Brother Alex took Gene to the Thursday livestock auction in Bogalusa to buy the boys a horse. 

“I really can’t afford it,” Gene said.

Brother Alex said, “It’s on me. These boys trusted the Lord for a horse, and the Good Lord told me to buy them one.”

Brother Alex paid $37.50 for a blind-in-one-eye bay gelding with a personality that was the opposite of Mac’s.  No child would ever run under this horse’s belly.  The brothers would never ride double on him, and  Randy would seldom ride him in the woods without getting thrown one or more times.     

Gene, who liked R’s, named him Ranger.  

Ricky lost interest in being a cowboy after Ranger swept him out of the saddle by running under the clothesline. So Ranger became Randy’s horse.


Ranger was shorter than Mac, so Randy had no problem putting the saddle on him.  Or so he thought.   Ranger took a deep breath and held it.   Randy tightened the cinch then mounted up.  Ranger let out his breath.

Not yet feeling the looseness of the saddle, Randy urged Ranger into a run.  The horse got the bit in his teeth and ran straight toward a fence.

Randy yelled, “Whoa!  Whoa!  Stop, horse!”

But it was not until Ranger, at full speed, happened to jerk his head in such a way that, for a fraction of a second, his one good eye noticed and transmitted to his pea-brain the fact that a fence was coming up that he stiffened his front legs and slid to a stop, causing the saddle to slide to his side, then completely beneath his belly. Randy hit the ground hard and rolled over to see the crazed horse kicking at the dangling saddle with his rear hooves as he bucked across the yard, onto the pavement of Bush-Folsom Highway and disappeared toward Bogalusa.

The man who caught him two miles away happened to know whose horse it was.  He'd noticed just such a horse several times lately at the church he passed on his route to work.  He walked Ranger back to Shepherd's Fold and warned Gene that it was a dangerous animal and he ought to get rid of it.

Randy took all the blame for the incident and was allowed to keep the horse.  The saddle was destroyed but Uncle Barney King—the “Uncle” being a mark of respect, not an indicator of relationship—got one from somebody who owed him a favor and loaned it to the preacher's son. 

Uncle Barney’s estate, that he would later name Pine Knoll and turn into a private golf course, was just south of the church on Lee Road.  His house was where the survivors would go the night the horse from hell burned the parsonage down. 











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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SHEPHERD'S FOLD

by Randy Reynolds


One of the men in conference beneath the Tung tree at the corner of the yard must have yelled, “They’re here!” because several ladies dressed for house cleaning filed out the front door of the parsonage and shielded their eyes to get a good look at the new pastor. The tall dark-haired 29-year-old got out of the yellow-over-green Chevy Biscayne smiling broadly, his hand fully extended well before he reached Frank, Bill, Avy, Alex and Uncle Barney, the men who would become his lifelong friends.  They introduced themselves and welcomed him to Shepherd’s Fold Church of God, in rural St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, about eight miles from Covington.  Already hoarse with the growth that would require surgery on his vocal cords later that year, Gene chatted up the church leaders as if he already knew them, which in a way he did.  He had contacted several of their former pastors and learned all he could about the personalities he’d be dealing with, so he already had a profile of each man’s tendencies in the art of handling their pastors and running their church.   


Child after child exited the car, causing a stir among the ladies on the porch.  

“My law.”

“Would you look at that?”

“This will surely help attendance.”

“How many are there?”

Six children and a spotted dog jumped to freedom, but it was short-lived for the four girls. Their mother—snatching a sleeve here, a hand there, a tuft of hair as a little blonde head went by—caught them all and marched them toward the ladies on the gray porch. Randy and Ricky escaped. 

The parking lot between the old wooden church and the new brick church with the sagging roof was covered with sea shells instead of gravel. Ricky fell to his knees and began picking them up, as if they were a rarity

Randy walked on, angling for the graveyard behind the old church. 

A chubby boy was suddenly in his way. “You the preacher’s boy?”

“Yep. I’m Randy. That’s my brother Ricky over there.”

A smaller boy with big ears said, “You don’t look so tough.”

“That’s for me to know and you to find out,” said Randy.

These two boys—members’ kids named Dennis and Dale—would become great friends with Randy and Ricky.  But that wouldn’t happen this day.  First there was protocol to observe: when a new preacher-boy moved to town there had to be established, as in the animal kingdom, a pecking order.

“Our cousin could whip you,” said Dale, the scrawny one.

“Well, he knows where to find me,” said Randy.

“You stay here. We’ll be right back,” said Dennis.

The two boys were back in ten minutes with their cousin in tow.   His name was Andy King and he, too, would later be a friend.  When he killed an alligator in the pond on his grandfather’s personal golf course, Randy and Ricky would be the first ones he would call to come have a look.  He would become such a good friend that he and Ricky would double date; would go hunting together; and Andy would have the honor of being the first person Ricky ever shot with a .20 guage.  (An accident; he would survive.)  But, on this day, Andy wasn’t there to make friends. He was Dennis and Dale’s gladiator. 

Neither Andy nor Randy wanted to fight but the law of the universe as enforced by Dennis and Dale required it, so they put forth an effort. After a little pushing and shoving that drew no blood Andy quit and went home.   Dennis and Dale, slightly chastened and very bored, went over to watch the men unload the preacher’s U-haul.   Randy got his plastic horses and men from the car, sat in the dirt near the Tung tree and created a ranch, with lines in the dirt for fences.

A very big man with a baby-face came over and said,  “You must be about nine or ten years old, huh?”

“Eleven,“ said Randy.

“Well, great. You’ll be in my Sunday School class. I teach the junior boys.  My name is Alex Jenkins.”

He reached out a hand with a missing little finger and Randy shook with him.  “Pleased to meet you, Brother Alex.”

Alex saw the ranch in the dirt and smiled. “You like horses, huh?”

“Yes, sir.  I been praying for one all my life.”

“Praying for one, huh?”

“Yes, sir. My daddy promised he would get me one when we moved out here.”

That brief conversation set in motion the series of events that would lead to the purchase of the horse that would burn the parsonage down.












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Friday, December 26, 2014

HOMECOMING

by Randy Reynolds

In his youth, Allen Jackson Reynolds wanted to be a preacher. He never had a fulltime ministry but he spoke sometimes at Timber Will Baptist Church in Northern Hall County, Georgia, a church founded by his Great-Great-Grandfather Bartemous Reynolds.  There he met and married the youngest of the Reverend Zachariah Collins' eight daughters, a beautiful woman with the unusual first name of Chesty. 

Soon after their marriage, Allen adopted a different faith—Mormonism.  Chesty, the Baptist preacher’s daughter, loyally followed his example, and they raised their 10 surviving children (out of 12) as Mormons.  Decades after their conversion Gene Reynolds, their young grandson, overheard a couple of Baptist deacons discussing the matter.  Gene was in a graveyard reading the tombstones and imagining what the people beneath them had been like, when he heard the two Baptists in the other part of the cemetery mention his grandfather’s name.

“If Allen Reynolds says it, you can take it to the bank,” said one.

“I sure hate that he ain’t one of ours any more,” said the other. “He was a right good preacher till those Mormons stole him away.”

Gene was proud to hear them saying good things about his grandpa, though it was surprising to hear that Allen had not always been a Mormon. 

The prosperity of Allen and Chesty’s great-grandparents had not worked its way down to them in the wake of the Civil War, Reconstruction and that most impoverishing practice of all, Primogeniture.   Older siblings got most or all of each generation’s inheritance, and Allen and Chesty were the offspring of children who were not the oldest in birth order.  (In Allen’s case, through a quirk of fate, it was a younger, rather than older brother that got the family land.)

The landless Allen paid his cousin $50 per year for the use of 80 acres of Reynolds’ property called The Home Place. It was in a hilly but verdant part of Hall County known as The Glade,  crisscrossed by the Oconee, Chestatee and Chattahoochee Rivers.   There, Allen and Chesty would spend their 43 years together raising (first and foremost) children.  They also raised pigs, cows and chickens and the corn and hay to feed them. For cash crops, they planted mostly cotton and sweet potatoes.  And, for a large part of their sustenance, Chesty maintained a sizable vegetable garden near the house.

Chesty always had a child at her skirt or in her arms or both.  Up at daybreak, she fixed breakfast for the family—fatback, gravy, sorghum and biscuits; sometimes eggs and grits; never coffee—the Mormons didn’t believe in it, so they drank a store-bought concoction called Postum—a coffee substitute.

“I gotta go out there today and do the work of 200 men. I might as well get to it,” Allen would say, draining the last drops of Postum from his cup.

He’d take his boys and the older girls outside and give them their instructions for the day—plowing, planting, hoeing, picking, there was always plenty to keep them busy from sunup to sundown.

At cotton-picking time, Chesty would suspend the newest baby in a papoose-wrap from a tree limb at the edge of the field. Leaving a five or ten year old daughter there to keep an eye on the baby, Chesty would join the others in the back-breaking, mind-numbing work of picking the cotton. 

However, for the rest of the year, her work was in the house, garden and yard. With a baby or two in tow, she fed the chickens, pigs and cows and tended the garden. She swept her yard with a straw broom till there was not a blade of grass left on it and the dirt was so smooth it seemed clean.  She built long walkways through the yard by half-burying rocks until only their smooth sides protruded above the dirt. And she constructed with larger rocks little circular flower beds and planted all manner and color of flowers in them.  Her grandson Gene thought this yard was a thing of wonder.  

Despite the frequency of winter ice and snow in North Georgia, two ancient lemon trees thrived in Chesty’s yard and she never wasted a lemon.  Gene remembers that she made lemonade in a bucket almost every day in the fall.  She also gathered the bounty of numerous peach and apple trees, along with blackberries, blueberries and a variety of nuts. She put up many jars of jellies and jams and canned hundreds of jars of vegetables each fall.

After spending a day in the fields, her large family came trooping into the house at sundown, but whatever dirt they brought with them didn’t last long in Chesty’s house.  Her floors, according to her grandson’s memory, were always immaculate. “She never stopped cleaning and dusting and sweeping till there was not a spec of dirt left. You could eat off her floor.” 

The house, at night, was dark, except for flames in the fireplace.  On a typical night, the most light in the other rooms would be from the single candle that Chesty held in front of her as she went from room to room to make sure everything was in order and everyone was behaving so as not to get Allen on their case.  Her grandson Gene recalls the place being dark, but not gloomy.  “Someone was always telling a story or laughing about one thing or another.  They read the Bible and the Book of Mormon a lot and sung hymns.”

When the Mormon elders came by to conduct a service in the front room, Chesty would bring out her Aladdin lamps which—to save kerosene—weren’t used at any other time. The house would be filled with guests, mostly relatives, with surnames such as Collins, Miller, Broom, Anglin, Barton, Campbell and Martin—a who’s who of Hall County’s founding families of a century earlier. 

The front room was a combination parlor-bedroom.  Chesty and Allen’s bed was in it, along with a chifferobe, a night stand with a mirror, several chairs and—Chesty’s prized possession—an organ.   Chesty’s father, who had held Baptist services in his home, had died in 1928 and Gene thinks the organ might have been inherited from him, though Chesty was last in the birth order among the Reverend Zachariah Collins’ 9 children and would likely have gotten the least of his bequests, if anything.  Whatever its origin, the organ was there in the front room of The Home Place and Chesty Octavia Reynolds played it for family, neighbors and visiting Mormons.

As hard as her lot in life had become, she never complained about anything—at least not in the presence of Gene, who was in and out of her house many hundreds of times in his younger years.  He only saw her discipline a child one time:  her son Gold, who was 12, threw a rock that hit grandson Gene, age 8, smack in the center of the forehead.  It was an accident, but Gene was squawling too much to make that clear, so Chesty came out of the kitchen, cut a twig from a tree, and gave Gold a switching.  This was so out of character for Chesty that it caused Gene to shut his mouth and dry his eyes. 

After Allen died in 1947, Chesty lived her final years not far from The Home Place, sharing a house on Highway 23 at Springway with her bachelor son Kermit—who’d been working in the fields since the age of 8, without interruption, not even for school. His younger brother Gold started school at age 10, but Kermit couldn’t be spared, so he never went to school a day in his life.  He couldn’t read, but he taught himself numbers, became a master carpenter, did a little farming on the side, and took wonderful care of his mother for the last 38 years of her life.  (She died at age 96.)

Chesty’s grown children, grandchildren and eventually great-grandchildren and great-greats, gathered at her house near Springway to celebrate her birthday on the first Sunday of each September from the late 1940’s until her final year.   She was sweet, humble and considerate, like she’d always been, with a smile and a kind word for everyone.  She did very little of the talking, not surprising in a yard full of boisterous descendants who were—like their ancestors on the Reynolds’ side—known for strong opinions and loud voices.


Homecoming
by Randy Reynolds
(Poetry Corner/Gainesville Times/1974)..

The old lady, spare and stark,
White-haired, sad-faced in the park
Sees relatives all gathered round,
Dinner spread out on the ground,
Children graying, grandkids grown,
Great grandkids she's never known.

In her sad eyes linger traces
Of yearning for forgotten faces:
For the husband who passed away
On a dimly distant summer day;
For infants under slate tombstones;
For happy times long-since gone.

We laugh and eat and all the while
Her toothless mouth can barely smile. 
Homecoming. But she cannot forget
That she's not home--not quite home yet.




Cynthia Phillips Hagler · 2 mutual friends
This was awesome. Story I didn't know about my great grandmother.
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