Tennessee Mountain Stories

The Scalded Preacher


Everybody loves a story on the preacher – and knowing we’ve got 2 or 3 preachers who read these stories, I’m hoping for your comments at the end. 

This is from Callie Melton’s “Pon my Honor” and is presented verbatim.

James Watt Raine from The Land of Saddlebags book

James Watt Raine from The Land of Saddlebags book

One time I had the Shiloh Methodist Church Record looking it over.  The membership roll was fairly familiar, but her and there would be a name that I could not place.  The list of pastors, however, was a horse of a different color, and I had to call upon my father to acquaint me with them.

Dad was almost ninety then, but he still had an alert mind and that wonderful sense of humor that we’ve all found so delightful.   As I went down the list, he’d tell me what he remembered about each man.  I came to one name, and Dad started laughing.

“Oh, that’s the one I scalded,” he said.

“How come?” I asked him, knowing full well that there was a good story here.

“Well,” he began, “You know that pa started the Church at Shiloh when he moved to Overton County from Old Fort Blount in Jackson County way before the Civil War.  Him and the Eldridges and the Dillens were the first members.

Now you know that we lived the closest to the meetin’ house, so ever preacher that come to Shiloh in them days always stayed at Pa’s.  The Second Sunday in ever month was Meetin’ Day, and the Preacher would allers come on Saturday and stay all night with us.  He was allers a Circuit Rider, and he usually lived a fur piece away.  Then there was always the protracted meetin’ helt during the latter part of July ever year.

Now, I’ll tell you right off that them Methodist preachers was a breed apaprt.  Besides being the eatenist set, they was allers having somebody to fetch and carry fer ‘em.  I was jest a tad of a boy in them days, so I was the one to do all the fetching and carrying.

But Brother John here capped the stack. The protracted meetin’ was going on in July as usual, but it was unusually hot.  Since Brother John was staying at our house, we all had to go to meetin’ ever day… both morning and evening.  The morning preaching was helt starting at 10 o’clock so as to give the women folks time to get dinner ready before meetin’ time, and the men time to do any work that they had that was pressing.  The evening meetin’ was helt at early candlelight, and both times Brother John never did seem to know when to quit.

Brush Arbor that Concord Baptist Church in Chase City, VA started out with.  http://www.concordbaptistchurchcc.org/Our-History.html

Brush Arbor that Concord Baptist Church in Chase City, VA started out with. 

When we’d get back to the house at dinnertime, and even before we could eat, Brother John would have to have a cold drink right from the spring, and a pan of warm water to bathe his feet in.  I can still recollect how hungry I’d be, but I’d have to wait for Brother John to bathe his feet.  It was the same old story at night, too, and I’d have to run to the spring in the dark for cold water no matter how lond he’d helt or how sleepy I was.

Now all this meant that ever time before we went to meetin’ I’d have to set a pan of water on the hearth to have it warm to bathe his feet, and as soon as we’d get home, I’d have to run all the way to the spring and back to be sure his drink would be cold.

After a few days of this I got mighty tired of it.  But knowing my Mother, I knowed that as long as that protracted meetin’ went on I was stuck.  So one day I took matters in my own hands.          

That day when we got back to the house from meetin’ I dashed through the house, grabbed the water bucket without being told, and took off to the spring.  When I got back the Preacher was setting on the doorstep that led from the big room down to the lower room.  He had his shoes and socks off, just setting there waiting for his cold drink and his pan of warm water.

I rushed him his tumbler of cold water only minutes from the spring.  And while he was drinking it, I set the pan of water down right by his feet.

Without even looking down, he let out a deep breath of contentment jest like a sick kitten to a hot rock, and slid both feet into that pan of water.

And that’s when the roof purt night caved in.  He dropped the tumbler, fell back flat on his back in the floor, with both his feet in the air and yelling his head off.

“Lord o’mercy! Lord o’mercy,” he yelled, “I’m scalded!  I’m scalded.”

I’d got clean out to the barn, but I could still hear the uproar.  It took Pa and Mother both to convince him that the water was icy cold jest fresh from the spring and not hot a-tall.

Well, I got my hide tanned properly, but it was worth it I tell you, fer that was the last time that Brother John bathed his feet at our house.”