My Religion Is a Lot Like the Game of Baseball
|Chapter 1||Early Years||Chapter 2||Patty||Chapter 3||1-room School|
|Chapter 4||Friends||Chapter 5||High School||Chapter 6||Grandpa|
|Chapter 7||Marianne||Chapter 8||Rookie||Chapter 9||At the Plate|
Chapter 2 - Patty
One of the neighboring farmers hired a man to work for him and live on the farm. Many of the farms had a small house for the hired man. The farm was about half a mile from where we lived, so my mother decided she could send me on my bicycle to borrow sugar or what-have-you from the hired hand’s wife. She would never have sent me to borrow from a farmer’s wife because they were always busy. Mrs. Huffman wasn’t busy. I’d knock on the door and she’d call, “Come in.” She was always sitting in the same chair with an open Bible on her lap, reading between strands of knitting yarn or crochet thread or embroidery floss. The yarn seemed to be falling into bags on either side of her, but as I watched, I could see it was leaving the bags and being caught in the tiny metal sticks she held in her small round hands with short, round fingers. Her total roundness was topped with silvery white hair pulled into a knot in the back of her head. Occasionally she’d pull one of the metal sticks from her hair and use it to tie fancy knots in the yarn. She’d always tell me to sit, which I did while I listened to her stories, all backed and verified with scripture. She said she had a granddaughter about my age in Galesburg. Patty was a good girl who didn’t tell lies, said her prayers, and was kind to her brother. Patty’s behavior had parallels in scripture.
Patty and her mom, dad and brother could not visit the farm on Sundays because they went to church. The family would be coming for some Saturday visits and I could meet Patty. The day came. In contrast to my jeans and plaid shirt, Patty was wearing a pleated skirt and a light blue sweater. She had long red hair; flawless, creamy skin; a perfectly formed nose that seemed to be pointed skyward; and a mouth that spouted more answers than ever I’d have questions. She went to a city school where kids knew a lot. I hung around with her because I wanted to observe a person who lived the way the Bible said. Also, I didn’t want to spoil Mrs. Hoffman’s appraisal that I needed to spend time with Patty. After a few Saturdays with Patty on the farm, it was decided I would go home with her and her family and stay overnight. That meant I’d go to church on Sunday.
Sunday morning, after a breakfast of toast, we got in the car and drove “up town.” I couldn’t see a church. We walked down the sidewalk and entered a building with a door that matched the fence-like front of the building. Inside bare light bulbs hung on cords from the ceiling and the windows were too cloudy to let in much light. The Huffman family walked purposely to the front row and took their seats and I followed, feeling uncomfortable in the starched dress my mother had packed for the occasion. Three or four unshaven men stood on the platform. Patty’s mother, Isabelle, played a few chords on the chipped and scratched piano, then each man took his turn talking while Patty’s mom and dad said words of encouragement. Patty’s mother led the singing. I didn’t know the songs.
When we got back to Patty’s house, dinner was ready to be served. Grandma Huffman and her husband had come to Galesburg while we were at church. She had cooked the dinner. When Patty and her brother said grace, the adults beamed with approval. I didn’t know any prayers to say at the table. I was glad when dinner was over and someone said we could ride bikes. Patty’s mother said I could ride Patty’s new bike and Patty would ride her dad’s bike. We went to the garage. Patty’s dad had just tightened some bolts and put air in the tires. He and a friend were working on a car just outside the garage. They watched as Patty rode the mended bicycle down the driveway. I followed on Patty’s bike, but at the end of the block Patty said she wanted to ride her own bike. I loved bike riding. I was happy on an old bicycle. I followed her around several blocks. We didn’t ride close enough for conversation.
After a long ride, Patty said we needed a rest. We rode back to the house and pulled into the garage. We didn’t see the men, but tools and other equipment were scattered about on the floor. Patty didn’t stop in time to miss riding into a pan of oil that tipped when she hit it. Oil spilled on the garage floor and her front tire was coated in oil. “I’m not tired,” she said. “Let’s trade bikes and ride some more.” Just as I got on her bicycle, her dad and the other man came into the garage. They looked at the spilled oil and the oily bike tire and then, at me.
Soon after that Patty’s mother called us to come in. Grandma and grandpa were going to leave for home. Riding along in the backseat, I listened to Mrs. Huffman talk to her husband about the accomplishments of their grandchildren. Sometimes she’d turn to me with one of her approving portrayals of Patty’s Christian character.