The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

In The Click Of A Nikon

By Laverne Lester © 1991

Issue: November, 1991

River Hill Church. Photograph by Ward Lester.River Hill Church. Photograph by Ward Lester.The warm sunshine of early spring glistened on his golden brown hair, now flecked with silver, as the photographer stood, camera raised to his eye. His target was a little old weathered gray church house. With its roof rusted red, its windows without glass or shutter and its stuffing of baled hay showing through, it stood in a green field in the edge of the woods. So quiet and tranquil, this scene!

As the shutter of the camera clicked - quick as a wink - the photographer's mind rolled backwards some fifty-odd years ago when he was a small, sandy-haired, freckled face boy - to a day long forgotten, never to be recalled except for the click that unlocked this little memory tucked away in his mind.

Suddenly the old church house came alive! It was again that hot August day his Granny Lester had taken him to River Hill Church. It was a day the Primitive Baptist, or as Granny called them when she would say, "I'm an Iron-Side Baptist and proud of it," looked forward to all year - the Association!

It was a long, long Sunday morning for the freckled-faced boy. His newest pair of bibbed overalls were still stiff and scratchy and the collar of his new white shirt rubbed his neck and the preaching went on and on.

Several elders sat under the brush arbor built for them in the edge of the woods. In spite of the heat, they were clad in black suits, white shirts and broad brimmed black felt hats. Talk of predestination, warnings of fearful things to come, of evil and of hell-fire left one filled with gloom and desperation except for the thoughts of what lay ahead for the afternoon. The freckled faced boy squirmed and wiggled, kicking at the dirt with his bare feet until Granny's big finger shook at him and he knew to sit still and look straight ahead. He put his mind on the long tables laden with fried chicken, biscuits, ham, and home canned pickles and peaches, pies and cakes - and best of all - the lemonade in big stone crocks waiting in the spring house, so cool and sweet yet tart enough to make the water rush up into your mouth!

The droning went on. The elders chewed tobacco and spit over the rail of the brush arbor. Some smoked big cigars and all took swigs of "refreshments" from the jug.

At last it was time to eat! The freckled faced boy loaded his plate only after the elders and all the other men had gone first in line. He missed getting a slab of Granny's apple pie for it was all gone because everybody knew hers was the very best. He took his place with the other boys in the shade of a big oak.

After stuffing themselves, they got to their playing. They told tales, showed off their pocket knives and made plans on how to scare the girls and make them squeal. The bigger boys played tricks on the smaller boys and bragged about the "grownup secrets" they knew. They raced one another to the creek to wade in the cool water. The women and girls cleared up the aftermath of dinner and covered what food was left. Now they got to their most important part of the day - visiting!

They caught up on all the gossip, shared news of family and neighbors, recipes and maybe a secret or two with a close friend. The freckled faced boy could hear Granny Lester's hearty laughter above it all for she was a jolly soul and he loved her so!

The men gathered in the shade to swap tales, talk of politics, the summer's dry spell, of crops and coon dogs and such. They chewed and spit and smoked and passed the jug.

As the heat of afternoon gave way to the cooling of evening, the singing began. The freckled faced boy, having taken to heart the part about God having already sealed his fate, drifted off to sleep feeling safe and secure, his head in Granny's ample lap, for he knew God as loving and kind - a lot like Granny Lester!

One familiar tune after the other was sung. It was an awesome sound! Long drawn out intonements without a note of music being made, "Jes - ous - uh - come and - uh - wipe - uh - my - uh - weep - ing - uh - eyes!" The hauntingly sweet sound once heard, is never really forgotten - but some day may be called up as was that day so long ago in the photographer's childhood - by the click of a Nikon!