The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Christmas Play

By Bob Heafner © 1983-2012

Issue: December, 1983

The time was the early 1950's and Dad was pastor of the Nebo Baptist Church in Hiddenite, N.C. I was a six year old "Joseph" in the church play that year, complete with an old oversized brown bath robe and sandals. It was the Wednesday night before Christmas and rehearsal was under way at the church.

The ladies of the church had transformed the pulpit area into a stable in Jerusalem, complete with straw and cutouts of various stable animals. I'm sure Hollywood set designers could not have done better under similar circumstances. What with ten or fifteen squealing, excited youngsters under foot and no semblance of organization and Christmas just days away, the ladies were up against heavy odds for making a recognizable story emerge from our play, but they were giving it their best. Just as they managed to convince us little ones that Santa wouldn't like it if we didn't calm down and do a good job, the front door of the church burst open and Raeford's (last names will be omitted) 13 year old sister ran up the isle screaming, "Moma, Moma, Red's beating the hell out of Raeford!" Naturally the slight semblance of order which had so nerve wrackingly been established was instantly shattered.

Everyone in the church made a beeline for the door to see what was happening or put a stop to it. I'll always regret not being one of the ones in front but my legs kept getting tangled up in the oversize robe and by the time I got to where the action was, there was nothing left to see. But the explanations and excuses coming from the two 14 year old combatants made the run worth while. Looking back, I remember that some of their reasons for fighting were so original the Pentagon would be envious.

Raeford said Ken started it. Ken said he wasn't doing anything and around and around it went with "did" and "did not’s.” From what could be pieced together from both of them, it was determined that provoked or not, Raeford had taken a swing at Ken. Ken ducked and Raeford's hand smashed into the concrete block pump house, that stood in the church yard, that Ken had been leaning against. Raeford then clutched his injured hand and fell to the ground where he lay withering in agony.

Ken then proceeded to sit down on Raeford's chest. Raeford admitted that Ken never "hit" him but maintained that he'd a got hurt less getting hit than he did when Ken sat down on him. He was probably right since at 14 years old, my brother weighed over 200 pounds. Raeford said his eyes were about to pop out when Ken was sitting on him. I don't know if they were or not but his eyes looked awfully red to me. I can't speak for happened to Raeford but I know Ken had more than a "talk" with Dad when he got home.

Later I overheard one of the Deacons tell Dad that he guessed Dad was, "doing a pretty good job at being preacher here cause according to what Raeford's sister screamed when she burst into the church, it seems like what you miss in here, preacher, your boy's taking care of outside."