The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

New Preacher In Town - Part 2 of 12

By Ernest Markwood Pritchard © 1986
Edited By Emily P. Cary

Issue: June, 1986

Ernest Markwood Pritchard, age 12, Rich wood, West Virginia, 1905. In the background is his mother, Rosa Bell Nestor Pritchard working in the garden.Ernest Markwood Pritchard, age 12, Rich wood, West Virginia, 1905. In the background is his mother, Rosa Bell Nestor Pritchard working in the garden.A popular saying was, "Roosters are getting mighty scarce around here since the preacher began holding revival meetings in this neighborhood."

When invited out to dinner, my father, Millard Fillmore Pritchard, very seldom sat down to a table that didn't have in the center a yellow-legged rooster (the tastiest were always supposed to be yellow-legged). It was a relief for him to have "ground hog" occasionally, and he confessed that it tasted even better when they called it sausage.

Sometimes I would accompany Father to stay overnight at the home of a member of his "flock," but before going to bed, I had to suffer the usual routine, which went about as follows: "Well, Reverend, we'll show you to your bed. It's only large enough for one person, so I guess we'll have to hang Ernest on a nail tonight. We don't have any other place to put him."

This joke always seemed fresh and new to the jovial hosts, as though they had thought it up themselves, but it was "old and putrid stuff" to me.

Another proof of the low mentality of adults was exhibited to me when I was about six. The lady next door told me that she would give me a nickel if I would run an errand for her. After I had completed the chore, she held her two hands toward me. In one hand, she held three pennies; the other contained the promised nickel. "Take whichever you want," she said.

I now know that she hoped I would think the three cents were of greater value than the nickel, but as I quickly took the nickel, I remember thinking, "What fools these mortals be," or childish words to that effect.

There was one time, however, that an adult made me realize that one of my own "stock" sayings was also inappropriate. At various homes our family visited, my small sister Mildred, and I were often asked if we would like a cookie, bread and jelly, an apple, or some other tidbit. Of course, I always wanted whatever was offered to me, as children usually do, but I didn't want to appear too anxious to obtain the preferred delicacy.

Invariably, I answered, "I don't care" (meaning: 'I don't care if I do take some'). When one lady put the important question to us, my sister (too young to use diplomacy) said, "Yes." I however, gave my usual, "I don't care."

Mildred received the cookie, but to me the lady said, "If you really don't care, maybe you shouldn't eat a cookie now. It will spoil your dinner later, anyhow."

After that unhappy incident, I always really did care.

Close to my fourth birthday, my father suddenly announced to the family that we were moving back to West Virginia, where he was to receive an appointment with the West Virginia Methodist Episcopal Conference. The fundamental laws and creed of the Methodist Church were little different from those of the United Brethren Church, and since the Methodists enjoyed a much greater membership, my father envisioned many more opportunities for service with the Methodists.

Mother was overjoyed to return to her home state, and we children welcomed the change, as most children always do enjoy change at any time.

It wasn't long before we were packed and on our way to West Virginia. Father went as far as Chicago with us, but we were to leave him there, as it was necessary for him to return to Compton to see that our "moving" had got started on its way East.

At the Chicago Union Station, we had a long wait. All of us became tired and restless before the train arrived. The whimpering of Mildred, who was then under two, aroused the sympathy of three Catholic nuns, who were sitting nearby. They gave Mildred a glass of milk and amused her as best they could in order to give Mother a few moments of rest. After we boarded the train, they continued to offer us aid in various ways.

My parents appreciated this assistance coming from women of another (then quite different) religion just as much as if it had been offered by the most sincere Protestants. My parents' love for people of all faiths was reflected in their daily behavior.

Although my father was dressed in ordinary street clothes. I believe that the Catholic sisters sensed that he was a Protestant minister, but it did not curb their desire to help us. When I recalled this experience many years later, I remembered the feelings of mutual love and understanding which were quite unique for the 1890's, as there was still in those days considerable prejudice among some members of the Catholic and Protestant faiths.

The long trip from Chicago, Illinois to West Virginia was made entirely by day coach. Still, the expense of this modest mode of travel was great enough to cause a troublesome financial problem for my father.

I remember crossing the Ohio River bridge at Parkersburg and hearing my mother joyously tell us that we were entering West Virginia. My next recollection is arriving at the little station of Moatsville along the rocky banks of the Tygarts Valley River just as dusk was settling over the landscape. My mother's brother and sister were there to meet us, to greet their two nieces and one nephew for the first time, and to haul our family and a load of watermelons over the four miles of rocky road to my mother's childhood home town, Nestorville. The watermelons were dropped off at a country store. My uncle sometimes hauled them both as an accommodation to his grocer friend (probably also a distant relative), and for the small remuneration he received.

Most of our relatives were at Grandmother Nestor's home (my grandfather had died while we were in Illinois) to welcome us royally like returning heroes. Two of the watermelons had been given to my uncle, so - for the next two days - we children were treated with this "fruit of the vine," along with cartons of stick candy which had been purchased for this very occasion.

Apples and nuts, then in season, were just as appetizing to us "western" children as were the store-bought delicacies that had been provided for our treat. We enjoyed the country cooking, too, and I especially like their mashed potatoes.

One of my aunts took advantage of this weakness and daily told me that she would have mashed potatoes for dinner if I would sing a song (after she had already planned to serve them anyhow - I learned years later).

The songs in my repertoire were few, but funny. They were funny because I always got the words wrong - this together with the fact that I still couldn't speak plainly. One of my favorite songs was; "Jesus is a rock and a wheel run around, a wheel run around, a wheel run around; Jesus is a rock and a wheel run around - I shot him in the time of a storm."

Everyone laughed until their sides ached and tears poured down their faces. Years later, I discovered that the real words of the song were: "Jesus is a rock in a weary land, a weary land, a weary land; Jesus is a rock in a weary land - a shelter in the time of a storm."

Another song which I thought was intended for small boys only began, "Bring them in, bring them in, bring the little ones to Jesus." I heard it as: "Bring the men, bring the men, bring the little ones to Jesus."

Since people at that time referred to boys as "little men," I concluded that only little boys were to be brought into the church. I also remember singing about a "lawn shout," a curious object I would not understand, but deduced that it was something like a dish of sauerkraut. After I learned to read, I discovered that the mysterious words were, "launch out."