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Robert Hitt Neill column

Easter came in with a sunrise and a moonset all at the same time

I had an awful lot of things to be thankful for when I woke up Easter morning before dawn, not the least of which was still slumbering beside me, and who expected me to have hot coffee ready for her when she did get ready to arise at a later hour, there not being any young’uns about the house requiring an Easter Bunny visit early this morning.

Another thing that sprang readily to mind to thank the Lord for was Slung Coffee, which Big Robert taught me to make well over half a century ago. That was before I even learned to drink coffee, and I protested as such to my sire in our cabin on Woodstock Island: “But, Daddy, I don’t even drink coffee yet!”

“I’m gonna drink it; you’re gonna make it, and bring me a cup in the mornings over here, while I’m still in bed!” Big Robert declared. Excusing my time at Ole Miss and in the Navy, I’ve been doing that ever since, making Slung Coffee and bringing Betsy a cup in bed, when she signals she wants me to do that.

It’s called “Slung Coffee” because if one is making it outside over a campfire, using a coffeepot with a bail handle, one grabs the bail and swings it around one’s head about three times once it has boiled properly, in order to settle the grounds by centrifugal force.  

Same motion one uses to pop the head off a cottonmouth, being careful not to get it too close to one’s leg. Doesn’t work well inside, by the way.

I started the water boiling in the teakettle, and took the coffeepot to fling yesterday’s ground out the back door, while letting the dogs out. As I stepped into the yard at sunrise on Easter Sunday, the sun had barely cleared the horizon in the east, a huge red ball glowing almost atop the Mammy Grudge Mud Pottery Caboose. I couldn’t help but think of Rudyard Kipling’s “Mandalay” last line: “Where the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the bay!” I changed it to, “Where the dawn comes up like thunder outa th’ Little Canal down the way!”

After drinking in that sight, I turned with the empty coffeepot, and there in the west hung a perfect light golden full moon just over our guesthouse, The Store, framed against a blueing sky barely turned from gray as the blackness fled.

Wow! Whosoever has a doubt that there is a God who loved mankind enough to sacrifice His only Son, Who rose again on this Easter Day 2000-odd years ago to guarantee myownself’s place in Heaven whensoever I leave this vale of tears – that person should have been standing beside me at Brownspur Easter morning 2008, looking first east toward the rising sun like thunder, then west toward the glowing smiling full moon determined to make the most of a rare moment when both are totally, awesomely, visible to bless us early risers.

My son Adam moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, a few years ago, and on a visit home we were standing viewing a spectacular sunset, when he volunteered, “That’s what I miss the most about being away from the Mississippi Delta.”

“They don’t have sunsets in Nawth Caihlinuh?” I asked.

“Not like we do here,” he declared forcefully.

“Wait a minute,” I remembered, “You’re totally colorblind! How can you tell the difference between sunsets here and there?”

“Well,” he growled, “I can see well enough to know what we got there ain’t near’bout as pretty as what we got here!”  

End of discussion. He doesn’t see it in the same colors we do maybe, but there’s no place on earth that has as spectacular sunsets and sunrises as we do here in the Mississippi Delta.

I agree on that, and I’ve seen sunrises or sunsets from the far north Atlantic where the Aurora Borealis was plainly – no, scratch that word – beautifully visible abaft the starboard beam at night, to the tropics a long, long way from home, and from our western deserts or mountains to a sunrise over Gibraltar, though that one was close to being as pretty.

A Savior to celebrate, a Sunrise and a Full Moonset at the same time, a fresh cup of Slung Coffee, a Beautiful Bride gently asleep in the bed – it was sure starting out to be a wonderful Easter, wasn’t it?  Selah.