would no guns or fishing on sundays make us better people?

Well, it’s been a long time since I posted anything from the Looking Back series my uncles wrote in the mid-1980’s. There aren’t many left and I’ve been reluctant to get to the bottom of the pile. As it has a way of doing from time to time, that file turned up while I was looking for something else, and as I poked around through the unposted pieces, I found this little gem. It begins like most if not all his stories began:

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Back in the early thirties when I was a boy on the farm with my father and mother and eight brothers, things were much different than they are today. In the country that I grew up in, it was against the law to shoot a gun or to fish on Sunday. Even if it hadn’t been illegal, I wasn’t supposed to go because Papa said it was wrong and I was more afraid of him than any game warden or sheriff.

One Sunday afternoon I was riding my horse in the woods back near the river. There was a lake that we called the Black Lake. The river had overflowed and left lots of big fish when it was down. I always carried a cork stopper from a syrup bottle in my pocket with a hook and line wrapped around it.

I rode the horse to the lake and cut a pole from a tree limb. For bait I put a small frog on the hook, and I was ready to catch a big one! I threw my hook into the water and as soon as it hit, a large one grabbed it and as fast as I could throw it in and pull it out, I would have a big brim!

Soon I had a large string of fish, but what was I going to do with them since it was Sunday and Papa wouldn’t let us fish on Sunday? Well, after a short conversation with myself, I decided I’d take them to a black man’s house that was on my way home. This would be better than throwing them back. No one would ever believe that I had caught them if I threw them back.

I took the fish to the black man’s house then and gave them to him, but he insisted that I stay and help eat them. There were several other black men there, most of whom worked for Papa, and soon we had the fish cleaned. Rebecca, the black man’s wife, cooked them. I had to sit at the table with them and being the only white person there, I looked like a pale ghost on a dark night.

The black man that owned the house was named Jessie and was very hard of hearing. Before we ate, Goat, another black man, was going to ask the blessing, but Jessie didn’t hear and began talking. Well, Goat just stopped asking the blessing and said “excuse me Lord while I talk to Jessie.”  Afterwards he continued asking the blessing as if nothing ever happened.

The fish was soon eaten, and I was on my way back home. I know this isn’t an exciting story today, but it would have been in the early thirties because the country was segregated and white and black people did not eat together and you did not go fishing on Sunday.

Children today never think anything of eating with black friends or going hunting or fishing on Sunday. It isn’t against the law and Daddy will carry them fishing or hunting before he will carry them to church.


Postscript: I’m not sure if fishing or shooting a gun on Sunday was against real law or if everyone in our neck of the woods just thought so. Even I didn’t realize the difference between “family” or “Baptist” or “real” law until after I grew up and decided that whatever was fun was against some law or the other at the time, enough to make you want to get away as soon as you grew up. In spite of all these laws, his humor remained intact and probably helped him overcome whatever shortcomings that we can legitimately blame on our humble beginnings.

Since he was a practicing minister during the writing of Looking Back, naturally he included moral-shaded elements of his newfound religious convictions. He never considered that anything other than having fathers (or mothers sometimes) who didn’t take their children to church on Sundays was the reason they sometimes didn’t turn out so swell in life. If only bringing up children was as simple as taking them to church. Life should be so easy.

His success–as a minister and as a story teller–was no doubt much more the result of the family stories he skillfully wove into his sermons rather than his limited Bible school education.

6 thoughts on “would no guns or fishing on sundays make us better people?

  1. Alice,
    I love reading this kind of story. What a perfect glimpse into one boy’s answer to a higher spiritual calling. His spirit told hime to obey his Father but He found a way around the “Do nothing on Sunday the Lord’s Day”. I am sure those fish tasted good. In his own way your Uncle certainly honored the Sabbath!

    Peace and Love,

    Joyce Badgley

  2. Fascinating. Thant would have been a great adventure. Yes, I would think it would depend on the blue laws fo the area. Some would have banned everything. 🙂

    • Blue laws! Yes, of course that would explain it! I remember when we lived in Connecticut in the 1970’s shops and businesses (even banks) were closed on Sundays because of them. How soon we forget?!

    • I think my uncle (deceased many years now) would be pleased to know his stories are still being enjoyed by people. He was a born storyteller.

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