Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Amen Bench

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My mother lived a few years of her youth at a little wide spot in the road on US Route 21 called Speed, West Virginia. The “Speed Church” sat across the run on the left side headed south. My great grandfather lived two doors down on the right and my great aunt lived two doors up the holler across the road. Mom’s folks lived in the little house up the holler before my great aunt bought it and in another house across from my great grandfather’s for a while, too.

The little church had been the southern church during the War of Northern Aggression, while the northern church sat above the road on the right a mile or more back up 21. Mom’s family usually attended the Speed Church, though they often visited the northern church. That tradition was begun by my great grandfather’s father, a union veteran of that horrible war. Though he’d attended the northern church for years, he finally reached the point where he could no longer pass by the friends and neighbors holding services in the Speed Church to go to the church farther away, Though everyone in both churches were friends by that time, it just didn’t seem right to him to always pass one group in favor of the other. Both were Methodist churches, by the way.

The Speed Church was fairly small, plain and with plain pews and furnishings inside. One of those pews sat in “the amen corner” in the right front corner of the single room next to the old pot-bellied stove. Especially in the winter, some old men sat their aching bones in the extra-short front pew to be near that stove. Being mostly deaf, they had a tendency to shout “Amen” at inopportune times when they thought mistakenly that the preacher was through making his point. Thus the name for the corner and the bench. A charred spot on the edge of the bench testifies that one of them got it too close the stove once.

Years later, after I parted with the first wife and was low on furniture, my mother asked me if I’d like the old amen bench. The church had bought new benches and my great aunt had accepted the offer of one in case anyone in the family wanted it. I would have said yes even if I’d had a house full of furniture. For years, it sat in front of the picture window in my dining room and saw a lot of use. At six feet long with a 14-inch wide seat, I used to nap on it occasionally. Then, the missus had me buy a big harvest table and ladder-back chairs that we rarely use. The bench was delegated to the little hallway behind the chimney and soon became a storage device, with heavy stuff thrust beneath it and lighter things piled on top. There it remains.

I shouldn’t think about such things, but I’ve sometimes thought that if the missus should pass before me, I’d get rid of that cussed table and put the bench back where it used to be. I wish I had a picture of the bench, but it’s too much trouble to move my wife’s junk to take one. Use your imagination. - lol Copyright 5/15/2021

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