"The Old Church Steps"
You can hear them every Sunday morning sure. They flavor the air with their gentle tone. Welcome, welcome, welcome, they keep saying. The bells of Tinsley Church far down the mountainside is what they are. Oh yes! You can hear them plain.
Do you hear it -- way far off now with the wind blowing? You know what it is, don't you? Those are the bells! I have heard them, oh land sakes, since I was just a little bittie thing, and we lived over to Arnold's Glen on the river's other side. It's a bonny sound I've always thought. The tone is even sweeter in the springtime when the air first starts to warm, and spring lambs are first running and leaping all over like tom fools. We would walk past the Burns' and Feebers' and the Tiptons', picking up folks and talking as we walked all the way down to the churchyard. One of the nicest things about Sundays is the visiting and the finding out about things. That's when we would find out who is feeling poorly, maybe needing help, and who might ... ah, be with child, you know. By the springtime, we would already be clear on who was marrying who. People, my father used to say, are supposed to be married in the springtime. That way, there was hard work to be done to keep the newlyweds centered on God and his work. People in those days would start counting back on their fingers if a first child wasn't born in February, April or May.
Men don't seem to understand why it's important to get to the church before services and to stay a little while afterwards. It's so hard to get it into their thick heads that you could be needed somewhere bad and you would never even know it!
Caleb kissed me at a barn dance! I was only 15 and him being 16, and we were seen by Mae Michaels! Oh, my, but my father pitched a fit! Said that there was no way on God's green earth would he ever let that boy have me for marrying. If he would transgress in the little things, father said, what would he do when a big thing came along, and besides it wasn't even a little thing? Caleb was always bad about kissing and he hasn't changed none.
I remember the day when Caleb and me was married so plain. We were already to the church when the bells started ringing. They rang, all come, all come, all come, so deep and solemn. For me! For me they were! I could feel the tones in the center of my chest and my whole body rang right along with the bells. I shook so bad, my daddy had to hold me, to keep me from ringing away with the
Thursday, or was it Wednesday past? I forget so much anymore. Anyway, the bells sounded another call; this time it was, it's born, it's born, it's born! I was carrying a tinned milk pail in each hand down the milking aisle, and I just had to laugh out loud. Mehitabel Wyllis must have finally had hers, and she must be safe! It was just so joyous that there must have been a grin from ear-to-ear on my face. Caleb, hearing me no doubt, came in then, all sweaty and dirty from fixing the flail mower, and when he saw me laughing like a fool, he pushed back my bonnet and kissed me! Right hard on the lips! There in the barn! When he let me go, I couldn't hardly find words to say. I looked all around; thank the Lord, none of the children were there to see; he would have really gotten what for taking advantage! That man is bad about kissing! He knew I couldn't set the buckets down on that dirty old floor.
Of course, some times the bells ring a sadder song, real slow -- gone, gone, gone.
Oh, oh, what's that sound out on the porch? Sounds like Michael, young Aggie Mitchell's son.
"Who is it?"
"Great Grandma! Great Grandma! The van's coming up the drive. It's my turn to push you down the ramp. It's my turn!"
"Well all right, Michael, but NO letting go this time. You hear me! Michael, where's your mother?"
Lee Smith has been a part-time writer for many years, with four nonfiction
titles. He has worked at building ships, home construction, computer programming
and teaching high-schoolers. Retired now, he revises his textbooks periodically
and writes fiction for pleasure.
Jane Tomlinson was born in Stratford on Avon, England. After traversing the world she settled in Oxford where she earned her degree in art history and where she still resides. Recently she has expanded her love of art into dabbling in watercolor painting. She has great admiration for Vincent van Gigh's work. Her other creative endeavors include writing and directing plays.
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