Just A Few Things That I Remember

Jack Exum, columnist for Lake City Reporter.

   Folks often ask me, “Where do you get those ideas that you write. After living 80 years, it is a simple thing of ticking my memory bank.  True, I have to write down the ‘punch’ line, or the point of reference will fade back into the bank like a ghost. This past week I thought, “Why not write a column on some of these memory things”. You have the same type bank, you just have to go and check them out at times.
   Visiting Ann the other day, I took my earphones out and put them in my shirt pocket. She said, “don’t do that, you may lose them.” I did anyway. Arriving home I emptied my shirt pocket and one ear phone was missing. Ann often predicts things that come to pass. I looked everywhere –  Nothing. I check the car – nothing. Later I found it. IT WAS IN MY OTHER EAR.
   President Roosevelt established a work program called the WPA. We called them the WE POLK ALONG gang. The were always leaning on their shovels, lighting a cigarette or building a smoke in a pipe. The letters stood for “WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION“. One day they were assigned to move a pile of gravel. They called in and reported, “Boss, we forgot our shovels”. He replied, “Well, just lean on each other till I bring them”.
   Visiting London, we were taking a tour through one of the zillion old cathedrals with their beautiful stain glass windows. The place had the smell of its age and dry bones. As we moved along, one old lady in our group, evidently hard of hearing, sang out with a shrill voice, “ANYBODY SAVED IN HERE LATELY?  Nobody laughed but I thought, what a great question.
   My beginning preaching was with a small black congregation on Lock Laurel Road. I was 16 and a strong desire to learn. Being black, they have the single motto that anyone who wants to learn “come here”. One time I really got confused and I said, “Lem’me back up here” and old brother Anderson sang out, “Back up here brother, back up here” The “men’s”, the “keep going”, “you’re doing good”, the hand clapping led me on. When the sermon (?) really got bad, one old sister in the back of the one room church house would always sing out, “Help him Lord, Help him Lord!” She did and so did HE.
   We were awakened in the middle of the night and the voice at the other end of the phone was crying, “He’s committed a mighty, mighty, mighty, mighty, mighty, mighty, mighty sin”.  I calmed her some with the reply, “Sister, so you know that is a seven mighty sin?” Ann and I got dressed and met her at the house the seven mighty sinner. She had said that she thought her husband should speak louder when he is leading in prayer where we all could hear the prayer”. That was the seven mighty sin, but I had already discovered that she was the one who committed them. God had tried to help her but He had failed. So did I.
   Picking up kids on the church bus each Sunday was a real joy. I found them out in the “boonies” and most of them were extremely poor. None had ever been in a church house much less been exposed to a congregation made op of the elderly. I stopped and made my way through a palmetto patch to a small one room house, with kids everywhere. Kids were so expensive back then that only the poor could afford them. I was astounded when I saw one of the brood, couldn’t have been over three years old, dipping snuff. I cried, “Lady, that kid is dipping snuff!” She looked up and replied, “Yea, I knows, the least one of them does it but the baby and he too small!”
   Samuel Johnson, of literary fame, seldom took a bath.  He was good at the English Language but failed to use any under arm deodorant. At a sit-down black tie dinner, a hefty oversized English Lady turned to him and exclaimed, “My Johnson, you smell”. Correcting her English he replied,  “LADY, YOU,  I STINK”.
   After one sermon, a lady met me at the door and said, “That was a warm lesson, preacher”. I looked up the word and it mean, “Not so hot”. On another occasion, one commented, “That was a mellow lesson”. The third meaning of mellow is “Almost rotten”.   One parishioner said while leaving, “That sermon was just superficialness, just superficialness”. I replied, “Thank you mam, I’m going to publish it posthumously.” She replied, “Well the sooner the better!”
   The elevator was crowded, we were just bunched together. The door opened and the plump lady turned and before leaving slapped me across my face. The door closed and I turned to a little boy standing by me  said, “Why did she do that”. He smiled and said, “I PINCHED HER!!
   Two kids were talking and said to the other, “Are you a member of my church? He replied, “No I’m a member of a different abomination. A family was riding through the wheat field of the Midwest and one of the little ones cried out, “Look mamma, those men are ridding on their concubines.” The mother simply smiled and corrected her by saying, “Honey, those are combines”.


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