فصل 04

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فصل 04

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Four

The war had been on for quite a while now when Poppa got his notice from the draft. He didn’t have to go, but he more or less enlisted. Mother and I and Aunt Mae went down to the train to see him off, and when he left he kissed Mother and he cried, and I’d never seen a man cry before. The train pulled away, and we stood there and watched it go, and Mother kept looking long after it passed around the hill. Most of the young men in town went away too. Some of them returned when the war was over, and some didn’t. Down on the street behind Main Street most of the mechanics’ shops were empty. A lot of drugstores and groceries were boarded up, with “Closed for the Duration” written on the windows. We put up a service flag on the front door just like almost everyone did. You could see them on any street, even the one north of town where all the rich people lived, but not too many there.

The town got to be a real quiet place. Then they built a war plant down by the river, not a big one, just a little propeller factory. A lot of the women in town got jobs there because the men were mostly gone. Aunt Mae was one of them, and she was made supervisor of a section. Every morning when I went down to school she walked into town with me, wearing slacks and a bandanna and carrying a metal lunch box. She was about the oldest woman working in the plant, but she had a better job than a lot of ones who were younger.

Mother stayed at home and took care of the little acre of things Poppa planted up in the hills. She said he mentioned it in every letter, for her to take care of it and write him about it. He had two rows of cabbage no bigger than baseballs, and the rest of the things I could never make out because they rotted underground when Mother forgot to dig them up.

By now I was out of fourth grade and had been in Miss Moore’s class for almost a year and a half. Mrs. Watkins was back teaching first to third after she was out for six months. We passed each other in the hall every day, but we always looked in a different direction. I could tell when she was coming by the funny way her steps sounded from her limp. When she first returned, one of her legs was in a cast for a month. That was the one that looked so stiff and that she stepped on so lightly.

Miss Moore was a nice lady that you can’t describe too well. There was nothing different about her from anyone else. We got along, though, and my grades were better than they ever were for Mrs. Watkins.

With nothing much for anyone to do with their fathers and husbands and boyfriends gone, the movies were where everyone went. Even on Sunday nights it was crowded, and that was when the preacher had his evening meeting. Mr. Watkins tried to get the moviehouse closed on Sundays at six, but the sheriff’s brother owned it, and something happened to his petition. They had a lot of Technicolor movies playing that Mother and I and Aunt Mae liked. In town we got the movies about a month after they played in the capital, and the bill was changed three times a week. We saw a lot of black-and-white movies too, but Bette Davis seemed to be in every one of them. Mother and Aunt Mae liked her, and I heard them crying next to me when she played a twin who was drowning while the other twin pulled a ring from her finger so she could pretend she was the one who really drowned and marry the drowned one’s boyfriend. They had Rita Hayworth too, but she was always in Technicolor, and her hair was the reddest I ever saw. We saw Betty Grable in this movie about Coney Island. It looked like a wonderful place, and Aunt Mae told me she had been there and that it was down on the Gulf.

After a while signs began to show up all over town about a revival that was coming. It wasn’t sponsored by the preacher like he usually did, because he was mad about the attendance at his church. This seemed like a mistake to me, because the people in the town liked revivals and never missed one. They came from out of the hills too, and from the county seat, when the preacher had some evangelist every year.

Across Main Street they had a rope hung from a building on one side to a building on the other. From the rope hung a long canvas poster that read:

SALVATION! SALVATION!

Come hear a stirring message each and every

night.

BOBBIE LEE TAYLOR

of Memphis, Tennessee

TWO WEEKS! TWO WEEKS!

2000 seat tent Empty lot foot Main Street

STARTING MARCH 23 7:30 P.M.

The stores had signs in their windows too, so it was hard not to know anything about it if you knew how to read. The preacher was mad, and the town knew it. He didn’t notice the sign hanging over Main Street. He never looked at the window displays where they had a sign. In the paper a few days later there was a notice that starting March 23 and continuing for two weeks the preacher was holding Bible conferences at the church every night at seven-thirty and all were invited to attend.

I knew no one in the valley was going to go to one of the preacher’s Bible conferences when they could go and hear good music and have a better time at a revival. March 23 was about two weeks off, and every day the preacher ran his ad saying that he was going to have Bible experts from all over talk on the Bible and explain the full meaning of the Scriptures. And every day more big posters showed up all over town telling about Bobbie Lee Taylor’s great revival.

One day some colored men turned up in the empty lot at the foot of Main and began clearing the stumps. It was right next to the schoolhouse, so Miss Moore, who always liked to take field trips, let us go outside to see what she called the stumps’ “root formation.” We were watching the colored men for about an hour when the preacher came by and told them to get off the public lands or he’d get the sheriff after them. They got scared and dropped their tools and went off. The preacher looked at our class sitting under the trees for a minute and went off too.

The next day the colored men showed up again, but this time there was a white man with them. The preacher didn’t show up, so by the time school was out all the stumps were out and the lot, which was more like a big field, was all cleared and level. Big trucks began to come the days after, all with “Bobbie Lee Taylor, Boy Who Has Seen the Light, Wonder Evangelist!” written on them in yellow letters with a black shadow on one side. The colored men brought poles and big sheets of canvas out of the trucks and began to set up the tent. It went up pretty high and covered almost the whole field when they were finished. The ropes they had tied to pegs in the ground came all the way into the schoolyard it was so big. When it was up a smaller truck came with sawdust to throw on the ground on the inside.

They left it like that for about a week before the chairs came, and every day at lunchtime and when school was out, the boys went into the tent and had fights throwing the sawdust at each other. Some girls came in too, but they were the big ones in Mr. Farney’s room who liked to have the big boys throw them down in the sawdust, though they pretended it made them mad.

When school was out I’d go home with the sawdust sticking in my collar and itching me down my back where I couldn’t get at it. You could see everyone coming out of the tent – a few at a time, because most didn’t like to leave – with sawdust in their hair and trying to reach down their backs to scratch. The big girls came out brushing it out of their long hair with their ringers and smoothing the wrinkles out of their skirts. All the way home they got pushed by the big boys, usually one girl between two boys. They would scream and laugh and try to run away, but not too hard.

The twenty-third was almost here. A truck came to the tent with the chairs, the wooden folding kind, and they made so much noise putting them up that Miss Moore couldn’t teach the class. From the window we watched them take the chairs off the truck thin as a plank, then flip them open into full chairs.

Bobbie Lee Taylor came in on the twenty-second and talked over the radio and got his picture in the paper. I couldn’t see what he looked like from the picture in the paper, because you couldn’t make anyone out from those pictures unless it was President Roosevelt or someone else you knew well. They were so dark a person’s eyes were big black spots and his hair looked like it met his eyebrows. Everyone looked the same except Roosevelt because his head was wide and Hitler because his hair hung down so you couldn’t miss him.

The day of the revival almost everybody left school right after it let out. They were all going and had to get home to get ready. Mother and Aunt Mae hadn’t talked about it, so I didn’t think we were going. All the way home down Main Street the shops were closing up early. Bobbie Lee Taylor was staying at the hotel, and people were crowded on the street outside trying to get in and out the front door. A big Bobbie Lee Taylor sign was up on the hotel. I heard he was in the fifteen-dollar-a-day room, which was up on the third floor, the top floor of the hotel. They could only rent it when a rich person came through town, like the state senator and the manager of the war plant.

After we finished dinner, we went and sat on the porch. It was nice weather for March, and it seemed like an almost summer night had set in. Down in the valley you didn’t get the winds, but up in the hills you knew when March came. That was when the pines whistled in the nice sunny weather and the clay got dry and blew up in tan clouds across the cinders until you’d never know they were there. But when April came and the clay washed down you knew the cinders were there and you were glad to have them so you could walk without sinking over your shoes.

Tonight there were big lights over by the schoolhouse where the tent was. It was the first night, and that meant that almost everyone was going to be there. After a year without one, the people in the valley were hungry for a revival. Cars were moving down Main Street bumper to bumper all the way to the foot of it. I could see the red taillights turning into the schoolyard and stopping and going out. Groups of town people were walking down the streets that led to the tent, stopping to pick up other groups standing under streetlights, and getting larger and larger at every corner the closer they got to the foot of Main. The people from out of the hills were there. You could tell by all the trucks covered with hardened clay that were trying to park along the streets. I thought of how many of those trucks were being driven by women, with most of the men overseas. They drove them pretty well, too, and it made me think of how people can sometimes do things you never would have thought they could.

After a while no more cars and trucks came, and only a few people were walking on the streets. I had never seen the town look so full before, with cars and trucks parked on almost every street except the one to the north where the rich people lived. When they wanted they just put a chain across the street and kept traffic out. It was so quiet in town and in the hills that we could hear the singing from the tent, loud and fast. If you didn’t know the song, you couldn’t understand what they were saying, but I had heard it before.

“Jesus is my Savior,

Jesus is my guide,

Jesus is my guardian,

Always by my side.

I’ll pray, Jesus, pray, Jesus, pray, Jesus, pray.

Oh, Lord, I’ll pray, Jesus, pray, Jesus, pray, Jesus, pray.”

They repeated this last part over and over, faster every time. When the song was done, everything was quiet again, and I looked over to the preachers. I wondered how he was doing, because it looked like the whole town went to hear Bobbie Lee Taylor. You couldn’t tell anything with all the cars parked all over. The ones near his church might be for him or the revival. But they were mostly trucks, and I knew no one was going to come out of the hills, or maybe even from the county seat, just to go to a Bible conference.

Aunt Mae and Mother were talking quietly behind me about Aunt Mae’s job in the war plant. Mother asked all the questions, and Aunt Mae was answering about what she was doing and how she was a supervisor now and what good pay she was getting. Mother would say, “Really? Isn’t that fine, Mae,” and things like that. She was proud of Aunt Mae, and Aunt Mae was too, I think.

Then they started talking about Poppa. Mother said the last letter came from somewhere in Italy. I heard Aunt Mae’s rocker just creak for a while, and they were both quiet. Then Aunt Mae said, “That’s where the worst fighting is going on, isn’t it?” Mother didn’t answer, and Aunt Mae rocked slower than she did before.

Bobbie Lee Taylor had been in town for about ten days when Mother decided to go hear him. Aunt Mae said she was tired from the plant and wanted to go to sleep, but Mother was afraid to go down off the hills at night with just me. Finally Aunt Mae said yes, she’d go, so after dinner we all left.

It was April now, but there wasn’t any rain yet. The March winds were still in, sweeping out the hills and combing through the pines. The night wasn’t bright, because there’d been clouds off and on in the sky during the day and they were staying around for night too. They didn’t have enough to start a rain, though. It seemed they could never get together to form one large cloud to do anything.

People were still going to hear Bobbie Lee Taylor, and there were plenty walking down Main Street tonight. Mother didn’t know very many people anymore, but Aunt Mae and I did. I saw some of the boys and girls I knew from school and said hello to them, and people said hello to Aunt Mae and nodded at her. They were mostly young and middle-aged, and a few old women from the plant who worked under her.

All along the street trucks were parking in the gutter with women and little children getting out. By the time we got near the foot of Main I was feeling good. I had wanted to come see Bobbie Lee Taylor, but Mother and Aunt Mae waited a long time to make up their minds. Except for the movies, it was one of the few times I got out and went anywhere. Seeing all the people made Mother and Aunt Mae feel good too, and I heard them talking and laughing behind me. We stopped a lot along the way because Mother hadn’t been in town for a long time, so she wanted to see what was in the windows.

Outside the tent people were talking in groups, and there was a man selling pop from a stand in the schoolyard. The children who had been in school all day were looking in the schoolhouse windows. I thought that was silly, but then I began to wonder what my room looked like at night, so I went over and looked in and could see the desks from the light of the tent and the rest of the room looking so quiet like you never would imagine a schoolroom could look. Even some of the big boys and girls from Mr. Farney’s class looked through the windows to see what his room looked like, and they were telling each other it looked haunted.

We three went into the tent and got a seat up front. The chairs and sawdust made it smell like the lumber company in the county seat. On top of every pole holding up the tent they had strong lights that made it look bright as day in there. About six rows in front of us was the platform. They had big white flowers along the side and on top of the piano.

To the front of it was the kind of stand speechmakers use to put their papers on, except this one had a big black book on it that must have been a Bible.

It got close to seven-thirty, and the people began to come inside. They were still talking in groups when they sat down. The seats began to fill up around us. I saw one or two men, but they were old and held grandchildren on their knees. When I turned around to look, the whole tent was filled, and then Aunt Mae hit me with her elbow. A man was coming onto the platform with a nice suit on. A woman followed him and sat down at the piano. He must have been the man who led the singing. I knew this when he said for us to open tonight with “a good rousing chorus” of some song I never heard of.

“Sinners can be saints if they’ll just bear the cross,

Sinners can be saints if they’ll just bear the cross,

Sinners can be saints if they’ll just bear the cross,

Bear it and reserve your place in heaven.

Bear, bear that cross, bear, bear that cross,

Bear, bear that cross, bear, bear that cross for Jesus.”

The man led it loud and the people sang it loud too. He saw they wanted to sing it again, so the woman played the first few bars and everybody sang again. It was an easy song to learn, and I sang it with them the second time. It had a good beat that you could put almost any words to. The woman played it faster the second time, and when it was finished everybody was out of breath and holding on to people they knew and smiling.

Up on the platform the man smiled and held up his hands for everybody to sit down and get quiet. It took a while for people to stop squeaking their chairs, so he waited. When he began to talk again, his face changed and got sad.

“It has been wonderful to be in this town with Bobbie Lee, my friends. So many of you have invited us into your homes to share your humble repasts. God bless all of you, my friends. May the heavens shine down upon you, Christians and sinners alike, for I find it hard to make any distinction. You are all my brothers.

“By now there is no need for me to introduce Bobbie Lee to you all. He has become your friend, your idol, through his own acts. It took no talking on my part to make you love him. Everyone loves a dedicated Christian. Sinners respect one. I hope that by now there is more a feeling of love than respect for this chosen boy. My friends, I may honestly say that I wholeheartedly believe this has come about. But enough from me. Here is your Bobbie Lee.”

The middle-aged man went over to the side of the platform and coughed and sat down by the piano. We had to wait a few seconds for Bobbie Lee to come on. Everybody was silent, waiting. They looked straight ahead to the platform.

When he came out you could hear people saying to each other, “Oh, here he is,” “Bobbie Lee,” “Yes, from Memphis,” “Shh, listen.” I thought Bobbie Lee would be a boy like they said, but he looked about twenty-five to me. I wondered why he wasn’t in the war, being of age. His clothes hung on him because he was pretty skinny. But they were good clothes, a good sport coat and different-colored pants with a wide tie that I could count almost six colors on.

The first thing I noticed about him, even before his clothes and how skinny he was, were his eyes. They were blue, but a kind of blue I never saw before. It was a clear kind of eye that always looked like it was staring into a bright light without having to squint. His cheeks weren’t full like a boy’s would be, but hung in toward his teeth. You could hardly see his upper lip, not because it was thin, but because he had a long, narrow nose that sort of hung down at the end. He was blond-headed, with his hair combed straight back and hanging on his neck.

For a minute he didn’t say anything, but opened his Bible and tried to find a page. When he found it he coughed and then looked at the people for another minute. It made everyone uneasy around me. You could hear the wooden chairs squeaking where people were moving. After he ran his eyes over the crowd again, he cleared his throat and spoke in a voice that sounded far away but was still loud.

“Here we are gathered together again for another glorious night of conversion and salvation. I was praying right before I came up here that the testimonies would be many. I was praying that more lost souls would give themselves up to the glory of Jee-sus Christ. I feel in my soul that these prayers will be answered, that sinners will surrender to Him by the hundredfold. He don’t care who you are. He don’t care if you’re rich or poor. He don’t care if you’re babe or grandfather. He just cares if you’ve got a soul to give Him. That’s all Jee-sus cares about. Take it from me, my friends, that is all. What more could He want? He don’t want worldly riches. They lead to lust. He wants for nothing. He owns a universe. How much do you all own? A car that you use to kill with when you drive under the influence of wine? A house that may easily be turned into a house of sin? A business from which you get worldly riches that lead to sin?

“Today our nation is having a mortal struggle with the devil. In camps young girls are dancing with sailors and soldiers, and who knows what-all. At U.S.O. centers in our cities girls are giving themselves up to the oldest profession before our very eyes. The president’s own wife takes a part in these activities. When they’re dancing, do you think they’re thinking of Jee-sus? You can bet your life they aren’t. I tried that once. I was dancing with a girl once, and I said to her, Are you thinking of Jee-sus?’ and she pushed me away. She don’t realize the importance when she pushed me away. She made me realize that I was representing Jee-sus and that Jee-sus has no place on the dance floor. No, sir, that is the playground of the devil.

“We have another great menace on our doorsteps. Our men and boys have flown to the other side of the ocean. Are they living with Jee-sus over there? Is He in the trenches with them? Are they leading clean Christian lives? They are lost in lands where evil rulers are our enemies. They live in a world of carnage and bloodshed that makes Jee-sus Christ weep tears of remorse that He ever peopled this earth. I do not say it is not necessary. It is very necessary, but what type of men will come back to their homes? What type of men will be sitting by the fire, supporting your family, marrying you? They may not even remember the name of Jee-sus. Are you prepared for this, or are you fighting it with letters right now that carry the name of Jee-sus, that fill your fathers and husbands with new dedication to Him? Ah, the women of America are failing. Every day more soldiers and sailors and marines and colonels and privates and lieutenants are taking up with foreign women and even marrying them! Do you want your son to return home with a foreign wife, maybe even a heathen? That is the cross you women must bear because you have been asleep to the words of Jee-sus. Do you want a Chinese in your house taking care of your grandchildren, nursing them from her breast? The sins of your men may be your burdens in the future. Think of this before you write him your next letter. Include the glorious words of the Bible, of Matthew, of Genesis.

“Now I may ask you a question. What about you? Are you being faithful to the men while they are away? It is a great chance to be free and do as you please, isn’t it? Nowadays you can see women all over in the factories, driving buses in the cities. They may go where they want, dance and honky-tonk at the army bases, ride the trains and highways without a restraining hand. The devil is tempting these women, drawing them into his web. Are you fighting the devil, or are you falling under his influence?”

Somewhere in the back a woman began to cry, and people started turning around to see who it was, but remembered they shouldn’t. When the chairs stopped squeaking, he went on.

“Ah, we have heard a voice, a voice in the wilderness. She don’t fear Jee-sus, she wants His compassion. How many of you other women are stifling tears of repentance? Don’t be afraid. Let Jee-sus know you’re sorry. Cry to Him for mercy.”

The woman next to me began crying, and so did a lot of other women too. She was about sixty-five years old, and I knew she couldn’t have done anything wrong.

“Jee-sus hears those tears of remorse. He is rejoicing in His kingdom. True repentance is the only thing, friends, the only thing. Let us pour forth our hearts to Him. Then we will see the light, then we will get the true feeling.”

In the front row a woman screamed, “Oh, Lord,” and fell on her knees on the sawdust. Bobbie Lee Taylor was beginning to sweat. It was getting hot in the tent, and though I knew nobody was smoking, the air looked like they were. From the back somewhere somebody else screamed, but I couldn’t make out what they said. It started up high and loud and ended in a sort of a moan. All down my row the people’s eyes were shining. There was just one old woman who held her head in her hands. She was crying.

“Oh, isn’t this glorious, friends. Tears for the Lord. He don’t care what you were. He just wants a new soul for his flock. I prayed that tonight we’d see glorious conversions. How my prayers are coming true, friends, how they are coming true! Jee-sus is with us tonight. He feels that a band of dedicated people are asking for a new birth. He is ready to accept His new sheep into the fold.

“Now, while we sing ‘Rock of Ages,’ I want every one of you who has felt a new birth in their soul to come up here on the platform. Jee-sus don’t give a hoot what your past life was. He is willing to forgive and forget. He will welcome you with open arms. He wants you. Try living with Jee-sus and see how glorious your life can be. What a band of crusaders you will be, my friends, those of you who are willing to testify to Him that you will fight the Christian battle. We don’t want cowards to testify tonight, we want only dedicated Christians. Come up and be born again, my friends. Let us bow our heads and sing.”

The piano player struck up the tune, and everybody started singing. I looked at Bobbie Lee. His mouth was tight, and he was breathing hard.

“‘Rock of ages, cleft for me

I heard some footsteps in the sawdust. I heard Bobbie Lee.

“They’re coming, they’re coming out of the rows and up the aisle. Why don’t you join them, my friends. Why don’t you unburden your strayed hearts.”

I felt the woman next to me get up. Chairs were squeaking all over the tent.

“‘Let me hide myself in thee. . .’”

“Oh, isn’t this a glorious night for Him! What a defeat for the devil, friends. I can see them coming, young and old. I can see the look of dedication in their eyes. Oh, why don’t you join them. Won’t it be wonderful if we have a great crowd up here as a grand testimony to Him?”

There were more chairs squeaking and footsteps in the aisle. Some of them were crying as they went by.

“Let’s take another chorus, friends. Some of you have not made your decisions yet. Don’t pass up this opportunity. Make up your minds while we sing it again.”

The piano player struck up again, and everybody sang quieter and slower. There were some more footsteps, but not as many as before.

When we finished the chorus Bobbie Lee said, “Here they are. They want to dedicate themselves to Jee-sus. We’ll let a few of them speak. Oh, what a glorious turn their lives have taken tonight.”

There were quite a few people on the platform. Most of them were women, but they had some of the big boys from Mr. Farney’s room up there changing from one foot to the other. All in all I’d say there must have been about fifty of them.

Bobbie Lee took a woman by the arm and brought her up to the microphone. She was biting her lip she was so scared. He asked her for her testimony.

“I’m Mrs. Ollie Ray Wingate, and I live here in town.” She stopped to clear her throat and think of what to say. “For a long time now. . . for a long time now I’ve been feeling that I needed the help of Jesus. So many of my friends came here and told me about it. I’m glad that I had the courage to testify and. . . and I hope you all who have not come up yet will come up before Bobbie Lee leaves town.”

She started to cry, and Bobbie Lee helped her away from the microphone.

“Weren’t those words of inspiration? Let’s hear from this lady.”

The old woman who had been sitting next to me came up and spoke. “Most of you know me. I own the grocery on Main. But friends and neighbors, let me tell you I never felt this way before. I am resigned to the Lord to judge me and forget my past sins. I want to repent and be converted to His way.” Tears started to roll down her cheeks again. “I want to walk in the Garden of Eden with Him. Our Bobbie Lee has put a new meaning in my life. My soul feels like it never felt before. It took Bobbie Lee to get the name of Rachel Carter on the rolls of converts. For fifty years I wanted to come up and testify, but no one gave me the strength until now when this dedicated young man showed up.”

Bobbie Lee helped her away.

“Thank you, Mrs. Carter, for opening your heart to us and showing us what it feels like to have the light beaming in. You see, friends, she don’t have to fear that she can stand up to any Christian now.”

The next one up was a boy from Mr. Farney’s class. He looked at the microphone and swallowed hard. Bobbie Lee said, “Don’t be afraid of Jee-sus, boy.”

“My name is Billy Sunday Thompson, and I go to school here in the eighth grade. Er, I just want to say that I am glad to dedicate myself to Jesus and I’m glad I finally came up because I felt I needed Jesus for a long time.”

He put his head down and stepped back.

“Friends, those were the words of a babe, while many of you grandfathers here are afraid to come up. That testimony should inspire you grandfathers and grandmothers who will not come up. Wouldn’t you all feel good if you would have testified at this age. The Lord may take you any time, yet you are not preparing for that great day.”

Some of the others testified, and a few just looked like they didn’t know what to do up on the platform. The little children whose mothers went up were beginning to cry for them, so Bobbie Lee knew the testimonies would have to stop. He gave the piano player a signal and said for us not to forget the donation box in the back of the tent, which was the only support for this revival, and that he would be back tomorrow night with another message that nobody would want to miss, and if they couldn’t catch him tomorrow night, and he hoped they could, he would still be in town through Monday.

The piano player started to play some fast song, and Bobbie Lee and the people on the platform went out through a little opening at the back of the tent. As they were disappearing, the people in the audience started to leave too. They stopped and talked with each other at the ends of rows and in the aisles, so it took a while for Aunt Mae and I and Mother to get out. By the time we got to the outside, the piano player had stopped, and the man who led the songs, the middle-aged one, was taking the white flowers off the platform.

Outside it was a lot cooler. I took a deep breath. All over in the schoolyard and in the street people were talking and drinking pop they bought from the man with the stand. We began walking home, but some woman who knew Aunt Mae from the plant stopped and talked to us. She was going our way down Main, so she walked with us.

Along the curb children and women were getting into the cars and trucks, and they were starting up, and their lights were going on. People walked in the street and jumped out of the way to let trucks pass them. Sometimes children just stood in front of the trucks with their arms out and pretended they wouldn’t let them pass, but just when the trucks got near them, they laughed and ran away. I wished I was one of those children who could ride in the back of the trucks and hang my feet over the tailgate and feel the wind rushing all around me. The only bad time to ride there was when it rained.

The woman talking to Aunt Mae was the kind that talked a lot. For a while she talked about the plant and how she never thought she would ever be working at her age, and in a plant, too, which was a man’s work. She said her son was on an island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, and he wrote her and told her how proud he was she worked in a war plant. With her son’s money and what she was making, she never saw so much money before in her life, but she worried about what Bobbie Lee said. She said her next letter to her son would have something in it about Bobbie Lee, he was such a wonderful man, one of God’s chosen, and her son should know what he said about the boys overseas so he wouldn’t make any mistakes, because she told Aunt Mae she didn’t want any Chinee grandbabies on her knee with their dangerous-looking mother hanging around the house. She asked me if I liked Bobbie Lee, and I said yes, I thought he was pretty good being able to speak like that for so long without ever stopping or forgetting something like we did at school. She had gone up the second night he was in town. She went up every time the evangelists came to town because she said you can never get too much of that. She wanted to know why none of us went up, so Aunt Mae told her that we hadn’t made our minds up yet. We’d better do it quick, she said, because Bobbie Lee was going to be here only a few more nights, and you might as well be in God’s favor with all they said about Hitler sending a bomb over.

We left her at some street near the beginning of the hills. When she was gone Aunt Mae said something to Mother about her that I didn’t hear. By the time we were halfway up the hill to the house, all the lights were off over at the tent and the last trucks were starting and lighting up and going off. I saw Bobbie Lee next when he was leaving town and Miss Moore took us on a field trip to see him off.

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