Aunt Irene watched after her boys on Harvest Day

Published 8:20 am Wednesday, November 24, 2021

By Ricky Swindle

Muffler Shop Musings

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I figure all y’all are getting prepared for your big turkey day. All that great food with the pleasant odors coming from your kitchen and making your belly growl while waiting for your in-laws and outlaws to show up at your usually peaceful place of abode.

He’s coming, and you know it because he never misses a get-together. That worrisome, loudmouth, know-it-all brother-in-law. 

He never brings anything to the function, only his big belly and big mouth.

He rarely takes a drink of alcohol during the year because he doesn’t believe in all the taxes the government charges for bonded whiskey, and he takes a firm stand by not purchasing it himself.

But, he has no problem taste testing yours until there is no more, so you prepare before he comes, and hide your good stuff.

I’m a lucky man in that regard because my wife has no brothers for me to contend with, so I don’t have a National Lampoon Cousin Eddie to torment me. 

That’s one more reason why I like my vertically challenged little woman, no brothers.

Thanksgiving is a big family tradition for most folks, but for me not so much. I could take it or leave it. Just a good day to be off work and sit in a deer stand suits me.

When I was a boy, we didn’t go house to house on Thanksgiving. We went to one place every year and were there all day, the First United Pentecostal Church on Pettit Street.

Our Thanksgiving was re-named Harvest Day at the church. My Momma and all the sisters of the church would cook all night on Wednesday to prepare for Harvest Day.

Beginning around 9 am, each Sunday school class would go onstage and tell the church how much money their class raised that year, one after the other. 

There was fierce competition between certain classes and it was very entertaining all morning to watch all the goings on.

Around 11 a.m. our visitors would start rolling in. Preachers, singers, musicians, gals with those Pentecostal Holy Roller hair-doos so high they had to stand on a ladder to primp up.

With all those bobby pins inserted to hold that hair in place, there would have been no way for them to walk through airport security these days.

About 10 minutes before noon, Preacher Newsom would firmly say, “We will pray for our food at 12 and then we ask our guests to adjourn to the Fellowship Hall. I ask our members to wait until all the guests have a plate and are seated before you.” That being the polite way to do things.

But, I was fortunate enough to have an Aunt Irene Howe, and she was the ringleader of all the ladies cooking up the food. Although she loved Preacher Newsom, she had different ideas about who was fed first.

First thing that Thursday morning, 7:30-8 a.m., when all the ladies were coming in bringing their delectable dishes, she would gather “her” four boys, me, my brother Mike, her son Burney and his brother Little Mike as we called him then. 

She would say “Boys, when the preacher says the prayer is coming, you boys slip out and ease out here and get your plate first. We didn’t stay up all night cooking for these fat preachers and our kids taking what’s left.”

I can still visualize my Momma and Mamaw Quebel’s faces laughing so hard with tears in their eyes at this stern, blue eyed lady they loved so much. 

In every group there has to be one that just tells it like it is, and Aunt Irene was the one. She was serious as an Army general and did not play when it came to her boys, and we were all her boys.

After lunch the singing would commence and I’ll tell you if folks who didn’t know about that church came by, they would think a rock-n-roll show was going on in there. 

Back in the day, they’d tear all over that place. It was something! I was a kid and I loved it. I’ve seen some of the best gospel musicians who ever played come through that church.

There wasn’t any praise music going on, or whatever they call the stuff they play in churches these days. This music had fire and you could feel it in your soul.

I didn’t know at the time, but one of the jumpiest songs they ever played was written by blues musician Mississippi Fred McDowell entitled “You Gotta Move.”

They’d start out slow, like Fred played it and it would steadily increase in speed until they just hammered it wide open and faster and faster and faster. I’ve always been a music fan and sitting on that hard church pew is most likely where I developed my love for music.

After Harvest Day, we would go stay with our Papaw Ed and Mamaw Quebel. Papaw would take us hunting that Friday and Saturday down to Skuna Bottom with all the church men, then back to church that Saturday night and Sunday.

As I got older, I found more places to hunt and that required me missing Harvest Day. I could sit in a stand all day back then snacking on apples and oranges my Momma put in my pockets and enjoying nature.

So that’s usually how I spend my Thanksgivings. Leaned back with my 30-06 rifle close by and giving thanks that I don’t have a function I’m required to attend. It’s nice. I enjoy it, it brings me peace.

Civitan Radio Day is this Saturday and we invite you to tune in. We will be live from our Civitan building downtown 8 a.m. to  2 p.m. on Q105.5 FM and Undefined Radio. We have a lot of good sponsor ads for you to hear and we have some wonderful unique auction items for you to bid on and help the Civitans.

Folks, take care of yourself. Take a little stress off yourself on Thanksgiving. We all have a lot to be thankful for.