Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Big Meeting at Dockery's Baptist Church, Rockingham County

Big Meeting Time
Mrs. Nona Maske Ingram, Rockingham County
During the first quarter of the twentieth century the family farm was in full blossom. The term share-cropper or tenant were unknown. Cotton was king in the south and a farmer was proud of his profession. His family respected his authority and ability. Such a man was my father, Preston Maske, and ours was such a family.
Old Sol stood proud, flaxon mane challenged the sheen of a fine lady’s tresses. This huge bay mare had intelligence and gentleness that belied her grand stature. Harnessed to the pantent-leather-shined hack, she was ready to carry the family of seven in high-stepping style. The Maske family loved Old Sol.
Ours was a busy household. Everyone down to me, Nona, the youngest worked early and late until planting and cultivating was done. Then came the time for waiting and hoping with faith, knowing that the harvest was in the hands of a Higher Power. This was laying-by time. Now came revival at Dockery’s Church (as Cartledge Creek Baptist Church was referred to at that time). Yes, Sir! It was Big Meeting Time.
Dockery’s Baptist Church was the community center, as it was earlier when Wake Forest College was founded there. All social and religious activities were held there. Saturday before the fourth Sunday in July, the young boys and most of the ladies in the church, swarmed over the grounds with hoes, rakes, and grass blades to clear the paths and eating area. Mops, brooms, and polishes were lavishly used to make that old building gleam. The pump organ was checked and tested to be ready for a week of full-time service. The ladies prided themselves on the finish a kerosene mixture gave the pulpit and deacon’s corner.
“It’ll repulse those wasps, too,” they reasoned. Children crying from wasp stings had heretofore been a disturbing factor, but since the pest inhabited the building six days a week unmolested, it was not easy to eliminate them on Sundays.
However, on Sunday morning no amount of rubbing would erase the frosty streaks left on the furniture, nor could the frantic use of the cardboard fans donated by the funeral home dispel the pungent odor which engulfed the congregation.
Young ladies and their mothers planned for weeks the new clothes for this the greatest event of the year. Former members and friends came from miles away, and, of course, all the local folks turned out. Excitement ran wild with reunited friends and neighbors and all the new ideas and styles in the fashion parade.
My father and mother loved each of us in a particular way, I am sure, although I was accused of being a lump of dynamite with a temper that flared as a flash of lightning and the tongue of an asp. Mother talked and spanked as I too often spoke out of turn, and my adventurous acts would embarrass her critically.
“Can’t understand why I had to be a girl,” I argued, “and have to wear dresses. They get in my way.” Although my dresses were often snagged from climbing fences and riding horses, mother would never let me wear overalls.
“I have boys to wear the pants,” she explained. “If God had meant you to wear pants and be a boy, you would have been born so.”
Neither would she concede to my hair being cut. It was black and very long, braided into pigtails except on Sundays, when it hung in curls around my neck. I hated Saturday nights most of all because of the paper-rolling of my hair to obtain the Sunday-go-to-meeting curls.
“This dress and this messy hair brings the devil out in me,” I screamed, as Mother brushed and twisted to get me ready for church.
“Well, dear, maybe it’s best that way,” she calmly answered.
As time passed my age demanded a more mature wardrobe.
“Nona, you are developing into a young lady. Your figure needs molding,” Mother said.
To my disgust I was hooked into a foundation garment which extended all the way from my neck to anchor long silk stockings. My childhood fat was squeezed into a shapely silhouette. This was my outfit for the occasion. I remember this big meeting Sunday!
Members of Dockery’s were good God-fearing citizens, living humble lives and providing the needs of their families. Money for church improvements was scarce. There were no stained-glass windows nor fancy pews, only wood benches and huge windows that required two strong men to heist so the breeze could circulate through the perspiring congregation. An elevated pulpit boasted two chairs and a Bible stand which also held a pitcher of water for the preacher. At noon time the young couples strolled to the spring. It was an accepted fact that the ladies went to the left of the path and the men to the right. Discretion was the order of the day, no one could muster the courage to bring the subject of convenience or sanitation before the church board, so year by year the paths were wore slicker and wider.
The evangelist came with his religious fever burning high, however, it was the middle of the week before the congregation got its mind off the finery and carrying-ons of Big Meeting Sunday. Services were held twice daily from Sunday through Friday. Dinner was spread at noon, and sliced watermelon often served after dismissal in the afternoon.
Eleanor Williams, a teenager pumped and played that old organ with all her strength and heart. When Uncle Tom’s top line and Cousin Ruth’s alto led out with “When the roll is called up yonder” and “there shall be showers of blessings,” we could feel the love of Christ in our midst. Even the tiny tots sang, although their hymnals were most often upside down and they didn’t know the words.
Friday afternoon came, the last day of the revival. No one had responded. The evangelist was a bull roaring tornado as he pounded the pulpit, stripped off his tie and coat, and proclaimed God’s wrath and damnation.
“Amen, Amen” roared the deacon’s corner and boys and girls including James and myself found ourselves at the front to process our belief and love for Christ and to join the church.
There was much to be done in preparation for the baptizing services on the following Sunday. Mothers of the girls tied bed sheets between stalks of growing corn to form a dressing room and the boys dressed in the low growing brush.
Sometimes heavy rains would cause the water to rise and overflow the banks of Cartledge Creek, but this had been a dry year. Deacons shoveled out the creek bed to allow sufficient water for the services, but water was scarce. I was the smallest and waded in first. The pastor whispered “bend your knee,” which I immediately did. Then he added, “when I dip you under.” I straightened up quickly, thinking no one noticed my blunder, but I hadn’t reckoned with James. No sooner had we started home when he snickered, “I saw you bend your knee before you were supposed to.” I was irritated but to my unbelievable surprise, I laughed. Mother and Dad joined in the enjoyment of this important episode of our lives.
I remember the happiness and joy of fellowship with neighbors, as well as the inspirational messages received, and how we felt quiet and contented instead of sad and regretful that the big meeting was over. There was a sense of beginning that would last on and on. In the not-too-distant future, plans would start again for big meeting time!
Yes, this “big meeting” I remember.
Mrs. Ingram shared "Big Meeting Time" I Remember When, a collection written by "Extension Homemakers across North Carolina who were 65 years or older in 1978, about things that happened 50 ore more years ago. The book was published in 1978 by the North Carolina Extension Homemakers Association; all rights reserved.

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