Appalachia

The Reverend

Today’s guest post was written by J. Wayne Fears.

leaves under trees

He wasn’t a large man; in fact he was only 5’4” and weighed about 135 pounds. But he was a giant to Chipmunk, Punky, Jenny and me. When he first came into our life he had seen 71 summers but the years hadn’t dampened his enthusiasm for life or the spring in his step. He wore little round wire glasses that usually sat out on his nose and, if outdoors, he always wore a well-worn fedora hat. His deep voice had an unusual quality, it was soft spoken and always caring yet it had a ring of authority about it. It was a voice that you never grew tired of. He could make subjects you weren’t necessarily interested in, interesting, a master storyteller.

The happy little man was a master with a shotgun. His well-worn J.C Higgins pump-action 16 gauge shotgun was thought to contain magic. He never missed in a dove field. When quail hunting, he usually put three birds on the ground at every covey rise and a running rabbit didn’t stand a chance. He outshot the best hunters around Tater Knob but never one time did I hear him boast. 

The perky little giant was a man of God, our parents called him Reverend Alexander, we kids knew him as Brother Alexander. Our little country church was poor by most standards and I am sure that being the Shepherd of our flock kept he and his wife near the poverty line but they never complained and were always the first to step up when there was any kind of family crisis at the remote farmsteads. His pay was mostly from the fruit of the land, depending upon what season of the year it was. Vegetables during the summer, chicken and eggs in the fall, a smoke house cured ham or a slab of bacon during the winter and a bird dog pup or a fine tanned coon hide in the spring were just a few of his paychecks. One of his favorite dishes was groundhog and the housewife that could invite him to a Sunday dinner of fried or roasted groundhog was the envy of the community. Having the preacher eat Sunday dinner at your house was the goal of every household in our little church.

His sermons were famous for using just the right scripture to help the struggling farmers, moonshiners, trappers and homemakers around Tater Knob face many difficult days. His Vacation Bible School was the star attraction each summer for us kids as he would use hunting and fishing stories to teach us about the Bible.  He especially liked to tell us that Jesus selected fishermen as some of his disciples. That gave being a fisherman a new meaning. 

He loved dogs and knew how to take an English setter pup and convert it into a top notch quail dog in just a few months or a redbone hound that was the runt of the litter and convert it into a fine tree dog. He often used dog stories as examples for his Sunday night message. Because of this several hound men brought their pups to him to be blessed.

One summer night during a revival meeting Chipmunk brought a little redbone pup to church to have Brother Alexander bless the hopeful coon dog. Chipmunk also wanted the minister to help him select a name for the pup. Before service all us kids gathered around the pastor sitting on the front pew as he gently placed the pup in his lap and said a short prayer for the dog and its future. As he said “amen” a large wet spot suddenly appeared on his lap. He smiled and gently handed the pup back to Chipmunk. At the beginning of the service, Brother Alexander, with a large wet spot on the front of his pants and a twinkle in his eye, announced to the congregation in the hot little church that Chipmunk had a new puppy, named Puddles. Chipmunk grinned and, red faced, his mother slid down in her pew. The dog now had a name.

Brother Alexander really enjoyed hunting with us kids and we always welcomed his company. It was a great time for him to counsel us on our problems, and life’s questions, without talking down to us. He would listen when we talked and we trusted his every word. He was one of us and we loved him dearly.

 Many cold winter mornings he would show us how to spot a sitting rabbit, or how to be ready to pick out one quail to focus on when a covey flushed. His hunting coat had once, many years ago, been a stiff Filson Tin Cloth coat but now the stiffness was gone. His hunting pants were made of canvas cloth but so old and worn that the cuffs were just strings hanging around his worn out Chippewa boots. On his head was his signature fedora hat. To us he looked like the gentleman hunters we saw in Field & Stream magazine. 

One cold January day we were hunting across a wind- swept, frost spewed creek bottom when the old pastor suggested we get down in a deep ditch out of the wind and build a little fire to warm up. We were all so cold that no one objected. Soon Jenny and Punky had a fire going and Brother Alexander was talking to us about trusting in the Lord and how important trust was. Then he told us about how much he trusted us. In fact, he said, he was going to share one of his best kept secrets with us and that we should never tell anyone. We all agreed, shook hands to seal it. We sat big-eyed around the fire not knowing what to expect. With that, the old minister reached into his hunting coat pocket and brought out a can of Prince Albert smoking tobacco and some cigarette papers. With the skill of an expert, his weathered fingers rolled a cigarette in an instant and he lit it. We were shocked, preachers didn’t smoke, but we could tell he enjoyed his one vice. 

“My wife and many of my flock at church would disown me if they knew I enjoyed this,” he stated as he drew in a puff of smoke. 

The next few years we enjoyed many “smoke breaks” with Brother Alexander on our hunts. Each was a lesson in life, and none of us were tempted to smoke.

To my knowledge not one of us kids ever told Brother Alexander’s secret to anyone. We were just proud to be in his inner circle.  The occasional secret hand rolled cigarette apparently never hurt him as he lived to be a very old man, saving souls and shooting darting quail right up to the end. I have always been thankful to God for having had him in my life.


I hope you enjoyed J. Wayne’s post as much as I did! Be sure to jump over to his website and check out his other writings.

Tipper

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Dona DiBernardo Silver
    February 16, 2021 at 4:17 pm

    Such a comforting story. Terrific read!
    Thanks

  • Reply
    Sue simmons Ritchie
    February 16, 2021 at 3:22 pm

    Wonderful story , I enjoyed it very much All the stories on Blind Pig are very interesting. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply
    Fred
    February 16, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    What a nice story. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Betty Brantley
    February 16, 2021 at 12:48 pm

    The writing of this post is so well done, I felt I was right there with them! I could see everything happening and that is a sign of a good writer! I love it!

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    February 16, 2021 at 11:20 am

    This was a good story! He was such a down to earth man.

  • Reply
    Nancy Patterson
    February 16, 2021 at 11:05 am

    I was waiting for your post to show up in my mailbox, hoping that meant you were no where close to the tornado damage. Today’s post has so many deep messages in it. Love to you all!

  • Reply
    Glenn
    February 16, 2021 at 10:43 am

    Great story. As a physician I have always been against smoking but remember when I was living in Wyoming as a youngster, our little church used to have a short time between Sunday School and worship when all the men including the preacher would step outside for a smoke. Times have changed but only a few for the better.

  • Reply
    Larry Proffitt
    February 16, 2021 at 10:34 am

    Thanks J.Wayne for sharing a great man of God in Preacher Alexander. He gave his time . All have but 24 hours in each day. When we give our time we give a precious commodity. Preacher Alexander set a Godly example. Larry Proffitt

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    February 16, 2021 at 9:57 am

    That was a great story, I enjoyed reading it.

  • Reply
    Mary Anne Johnson
    February 16, 2021 at 9:42 am

    Made my heart sing

  • Reply
    dee
    February 16, 2021 at 9:42 am

    What a great story and treasure for some young children to have experienced! When he said “Fedora Hat” I immediately saw a picture I have of my Daddy out in the forest hunting with his two bird dogs. They were frozen in time with their tails lifted and one paw up, head extended, pointed right at the covey of quail. Daddy in his fedora hat was leaning in toward them teaching lessons. The picture looked like it should have been on the cover of Field and Stream. Daddy loved to hunt but he loved to train bird dogs better than anything. Thanks J. Waynes, that was a wonderful story.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    February 16, 2021 at 9:22 am

    Dad used to roll his cigarettes using Prince Albert tobacco. Nothing was thrown away in those days, especially those little red tin containers that were cut in strips and used as hair curlers. I wonder if Brother Alexander would have told a little fib if his wife or flock had asked him about the strong tobacco smell that Prince Albert left on the smoker and his clothing.

    • Reply
      Wanda Devers
      February 16, 2021 at 12:28 pm

      Mama & Daddy smoked Prince Albert for years and as you said, the cans were cut into strips for hair curlers. The strips were wrapped in paper–I guess to cover the sharp edges. They called bought cigarettes “ready rolls”.

  • Reply
    Darrell Cook
    February 16, 2021 at 9:08 am

    Great story!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 16, 2021 at 8:57 am

    I think Brother Alexander would be well pleased with that word portrait. Describes to me a man like the Apostle Paul described himself as acting “in simplicity and sincerity”. I’ve known, and know, quite a few like that. It says a lot that kids wanted to be with a man in his seventies, about them and him. Brother Alexander was never, I expect, rich in money but he was evidently richly loved and thereby rich.

  • Reply
    pinnaclecreek
    February 16, 2021 at 8:52 am

    Great story. It has not been so long ago it seems when many smoked. Nobody really thought much of it. Indeed, some of the finest people I ever knew would roll their own. I wish there were more like that ole preacher today.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    February 16, 2021 at 8:51 am

    Great story. Loved the video yesterday also. The world really does need a little bit of the wonderful past. We are so lucky to have experienced the wisdom of our elders.

  • Reply
    jimk
    February 16, 2021 at 8:46 am

    A lovely and entertaining story. I think Miss Cindy’s statement “growing boys should be so lucky as to spend some time with a man like him! ” is never truer than the time we,live in now. Such influences made previous generations so much better off .

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    February 16, 2021 at 8:17 am

    I always like these stories and Jenny is my little heroine! The preacher Alexander was certainly a wonderful soul. I’ve never eaten groundhog, but that is enough to gain my respect! Any groundhog I’ve ever met just wanted left alone. Lol. I had a beautiful aunt Wilma with olive skin and a beautiful soul who was a fantastic cook, baker, domestic goddess, mother, wife, aunt, daughter, sister, friend and was a favorite of all of us. She would smoke and say “oh please never tell daddy for he’d be broken hearted!” She ended up with stomach cancer and died around 47. I’d swing and swing not knowing what to do, but instinctively knew to be quiet and behaved so my grandma could take care of her baby as she laid dying in misery. We never know what this life will bring so it’s good to have Jesus. He’s never failed me. I often wonder how as a sinner I ever made it a dreadful day…. I would never go back to the unsaved hopeless creature I used to be.

  • Reply
    Randy
    February 16, 2021 at 8:07 am

    In my life, we have had three preachers at our church that were outdoorsmen. Two loved to bird hunt which means bobwhite quail in the south and fishing, the other coon hunting and fishing. I have all three tell stories of how through hunting or fishing they had been able to witness to some that they wouldn’t have been able to in any other way. All three were loved by the church because they fit right in with their church members.

    To go with along today’s blog, I heard one say the hardest thing for him as a minister was people expecting him to be perfect. He said preachers should set an example for the church, but that he was just a human being that has the job of preaching, I’m not perfect and will make mistakes and do things just like every other human being.

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney Jr
    February 16, 2021 at 7:28 am

    A wonderful “down home” story of faith, love and trust. The fedora hat instantly made me think of Frank Sinatra.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 16, 2021 at 7:13 am

    What a beautiful story! Thank you J Wayne. There sure are not many men around like Brother Alexander. A true teacher of the old ways and old values. All growing boys should be so lucky as to spend some time with a man like him!

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