Sundays on Walker’s Bend

How Did You Spend Sunday Afternoons?

By Bruce Walker copyright 2024

In this hectic, Tik-tok connected, 24/7 news collected, and Wi-Fi selected world; you see more advertisement for Xanax and Zoloft than you do for milk and bread. With heads down, fingers tapping and staring into a screen, the more we “connect” the more disconnected we are. Our digital culture is driving us all crazy. Some are already there. Look in your rear-view mirror, the rest of us are not far behind; made me think about my raising.

My main goal on those cold North Alabama winters was to make it to the only source of heat in our old farmhouse, a potbellied stove roaring with a hickory wood fire out in the kitchen. Pulling up my Levi’s I had to be careful not to sit down after backing up to the fire, those metal rivets were red hot! The smell of red-eye gravy and frying country ham straight from our smoke house out back finished waking me. As I sat at the table, mother would tousle my hair,  Granddaddy sitting in his cane bottom chair at the head of the table, with his sweat stained Stetson work hat hung on the back, poured hot coffee from his cup into a saucer and blew on it before he slurped it down.  A large brown box radio with exposed tubes glowing out the back, tuned to our local radio station, WVOK. With an auctioneer’s  cadence Joe Rumore would announce, “ Cut and Canners are up one and three quarters, freshened heifers were trading at lower to market ratio, green beans continue to falter in indeterminate market conditions, will be right back after the sick and shut-in report with Ima Gabney, brought to you by the Dead and Deader funeral home.” All the farmers in the valley tuned in, listening to every fast-paced word. This cryptic report determined their financial future just as surely as the Wall Street Report shaped the business world. When I heard that announcer’s voice on the radio, I knew it was a school day. If I awoke and there was no radio playing or bacon sizzling, it was a Saturday, momma did not cook breakfast. You were on your own, I pulled back the white sheet covering the dining room table and helped myself to left over cornbread, strawberry preserves from Uncle Lester’s strawberry patch and fresh churned butter from our milk cow, Big T…. errr, “Old Bossy.”   After Saturday morning chores, Granddaddy would whistle us up and we would all go to town for the afternoon. My cousins and I would race to see who would sit on the pick-up truck’s tailgate, dangling our legs over the edge, going down the gravel road into town. Brumley, Uncle Charnel’s coondog rode up front with his nose and ears jammed through the side window vent, tongue and cheeks flapping in the wind.

On the courthouse square, there was a cacophony of guitars, fiddles and banjos weaving intricate melodies with local singers adding to the audio tapestry, giving words to our shared Irish and Scottish histories in ballads, ditties, and hymns. “The Wind Blows Cross the Wild Moor” was a crowd favorite as it reminded us of a faraway place our grand and great grandparents had come from. Skillfully stitched, handmade quilts with red, yellow, and green squares competed for your attention among woven baskets, wooden bowls, and ladles. Our family and neighbors made these items considered household necessities; we   bartered and traded among ourselves. “City” folk from Birmingham paid cash and called it folk art, displaying or hanging them on their walls. Every Saturday was a county wide family reunion, reconnecting with distant kin and neighbors. Across the square, preachers took turns dangling your feet over the eternal fire and in the same breath convincing you how wonderful heaven must be. Hanging over this whole affair, like a big gospel tent, was a delicious haze of hickory smoked BBQ mixed with the aromas of parching peanuts, popcorn, pig skins and frying onions.

What interested my cousins and me, just off the square, was the Paramount Picture Show. We would quickly turn the dollar bill Grandpa had given us for chores into watching Sky King, Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, or the Avenger and with the rest of it buy a Payday candy bar or a Moon Pie and a RC Cola. Walking through the chrome rimmed glass door on a sweltering summer day, a blast of freezing air would hit you and the sign painted on the plate glass window proclaiming “Air Conditioned” with ice cycles dripping was no exaggeration. The aroma of buttered popcorn filled the lobby and Mrs. Peabody, the ticket taker, would greet you with a monotone spiel of the movies playing and end it by looking over the top of her cat-eye classes and down her nose, admonishing us to be “quiet in the movies or I will tell your mother.”

Saturday night, back on the farm, we would take a bath and lay out our best clothes for church the next day. Sundays were a totally different pace on Walker’s Bend, even the early morning crowing of a rooster sounded righteous. There would be no radio playing, ball games or swimming in the Coosa River, just a hundred yards from our front door, this day was set aside strictly for the worship of the Lord. After church, we would gather at   Grandma and Grandpa’s house; in-laws, outlaws, preachers, sinners and strays, there were never less than thirty or forty for the afternoon of food, music and visiting. No radios, iPads, iPhone, internet, or TV, just humans being humans, talking, listening, and enjoying just being together. Uncle Lester and his boys would play their guitars, mandolins, fiddles, and banjos; we would tap our foot in time with the music, and others would join in and sing along to old hymns, ballads, and tunes. Grandma, who played the piano at the church, would have her piano rolled out on the front porch, take off her well-worn white apron, drape it on the corner, and sit down to play and sing. Her favorite music was the St. Louis Stomping Blues. For us kids she would sing, “Old Mr. Duntherbeck, me thinks you’re very mean, me knows you’ll be sorry for the invention of dat machine, of course the cats and the long tail rats will never more be seen, ground into sausanger meat in Duntherbecks machine.”  Then she would pound the keys, look up at my granddaddy, wink, and sing, “I’m a wild, wild woman and you’re a lucky, lucky man.”  I was nearly grown before I understood what the adults were laughing about.

Some might have thought of us as parochial, restrictive, or just plain backwards; in fact, it was just the opposite. This place was a Spiritual, meditative, and peaceful oasis. You could travel to Tibet, India, or Santa Fe and would not find more refreshing and spiritual connections than the Sundays we spent with each other on Walker’s Bend. SELAH-(definition)-Think about these things.


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