Sunday, May 10, 2009

Swamp Stories - The Church Bell

You hear a few tales out here in the Spanish Moss. Too many to remember and one more fanciful than the other. Some ring true, though. This one really rings true.

Out past Honey Island on a sandy plot of real earth there was built a church, so they say. It was a small church. Maybe room for ten souls. Maybe less. Building something on a small island in the Okefenokee is a fool's business. Nothing here is permanent, not even the every-flowing St. Lawrence.

The church was built by the hands of Brother Michael. He was a simple man from the upper east, a man with calloused hands and rugged determination. Brother Michael knew of the unwashed and unsaved in this desolate place and came to give them their chance at the Lord's grace.

He built the church with the help of a few Swampers and traded them goods and shootin' irons for their trouble. Coffee went a long way here. So did ammunition. The church was drafty and drippy but served its purpose. When it wasn't housing a local 'possum it was used for hymn singin' along with hell-fire and brimstone.

It had no chairs, just logs with legs bored into the wood. There was no pulpit. The only window was from an old shed and it was chopped into the back where a slight draft could come through from the door, should there ever be a draft. But Brother Michael knew it wouldn't be a church if no one knew it was there.

So Brother Michael brung a bell. Yes sir, a real brass bell. The bell, they say was from an old steamship or locomotive. He bought the bell with his own savings. Two men and three pole boats carried it out and with great trepidation they hung it in the make-shift steeple. It was a proud day when they rang the bell.

The Lord saw fit for Michael to come home by the aid of skeeter that just happened to light on him one evening after supper. He took the fever and was gone home in only a few days. With no preacher the swamp took back what was rightfully hers in short order and the bell lays silently in the march grass under water.

You can still see it if you like. Just make sure the old gators don't mind you lookin'

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