It was mid-October 2021, and the evening air had a chill to it, a warning that it would get colder as the night grew darker. The train no longer came this far out from Shreveport, so I followed the rusty tracks. The old dirt road was overgrown and made for some hard walking, deep thinking, and a mind full of memories. I had about an hour walk and already the owls were tracking my journey and a bat swept down to see who this stranger was. The Red River was just a few miles north of here and I could hear the barges pushing their load upriver, a sad lonesome sound.
I first walked this road in late Autumn of 1970. The crops were in, but I was not ready to go back to South Carolina. My mother was already upset with my journey through the southern farm belt. For me, it was an awakening, and I grew a lot that summer in my knowledge of life. That night so long ago was also cold and the road even darker. I remember church bells ringing in the distance calling me to come nearer, to find comfort and warmth.
As I walked around a bend, I could see the church all lit up and the choir singing like angels. I could hear a piano, the player danced over the keys with a mix of gospel and blues. He sang How Great Thou Are in a voice deep, filled with both joy and pain. I felt a hurting that begged to be healed and I walked up those stairs, smiled at the Deacon and took a seat in the back. I never heard the pastor’s sermon, only the sound coming from those keys, a sound both haunting and healing.
I knew I wanted to be here, this safe haven down a long dirt road. It was a place that the lost went to, a warm fire from the potbellied stove and music that reaches in and touches your soul. The piano player walked up to me after the service and asked me if I was lost or maybe a runaway. I told him I was on a journey to find a way of being that would be my life. The old man spoke quietly, “son come and stay here a while and hear the church bells calling you.” He took me to a back room saying this is where the wayfarers stay and prepare you for the next journey,
Just as it was fifty-one years ago I could hear the church bells ringing just down the road, and I knew that if you can write you can go back again.
Coming soon chapter two of Church Bells Ringing titled The Carpenter