Well, on that lynching day Emma finished her work and left real quickly to go home. That night Moriah found out the person hanged was Emma's half brother, and there wasn't anything anyone could do about it now--nor did any try to prevent it earlier. The guy wasn't very bright--not naturally smart and attuned to the broader world around him--in fact, he couldn't tell daylight from darkness without it being pointed out to his dimmed eyes. Yes, he did have some severe problems, not the least of which were a bunch of red necks who needed someone to blame for their own sins and crimes. Years down the line, all that came out, and fortunately for the people of north Florida and south Georgia, in that one case justice did get done--eventually. It may have taken 20 or 30 years, but some white folks did get picked up and did some hard time in some real prison camps.
It was about a week before Emma came back--there was a lot to be done in the black community. They had a burial as best as could be done. They didn't have a black funeral home, so the people got laid out and dressed at home and then buried. It was big doings in the black community--almost no blacks showed up anywhere for work for about a week--a purposeful original slowdown strike. I don't remember being told the exact day, but I've got relatives who were there and they could tell you to the hour. But, I do know it was either planting or harvest time because the absence of the black community made a very indelible impression on the larger white community; those black people had always performed very valuable work--necessary work. Poorly paid, but nevertheless very valuable hard workers. There were a lot of white people that had to break a sweat for the first time in years.
Well the rest of that year, and those that followed, moved on like a great slow heartbreak. It did not take long before word got out that the poor boy wasn't guilty of anything other than his hair was kinky, his skin was black, and some hate-ridden white ignoramus thought to use his name. There was no real crime anybody could lay at his feet, umh, grave. I found one paragraph about him in a local history book; he was crippled and also blind, I might add. Not only this, but he split stove wood for a living. That's pretty remarkable. He could set up a log on end, feel it, and split the wood clean as you please. The poor fellow ended all hung up and dead; it was a pretty sad time.
There were a lot of people in the community, especially wives and sisters and the younger kids, who used to buy firewood from this lynched man and fetch it home. Sometimes, they would just send their kids to fetch this fellow right to their own houses where he would cut a winter's worth of firewood in about three days. Little by little, it occurred to them that a great injustice had occurred; nobody could undo anything about it because death kinda has a finality to it, you know. Of course, their miseries from inadequate firewood and cool weather helped them reach that conclusion--too bad warm weather isn't conducive to clear thinking. As Moriah put it--any weather that breeds and promotes mosquitoes can't be all that good.
Emma had always appreciated Moriah and was constantly performing little extra kindnesses for her. Emma occasionally worked for another lady across the county line. That lady got herself some new china and gave Emma her older stuff, which happened to be the same kind that Grandma had. Since the pie roller incident, Moriah had had an odd number of cups; even though Emma really liked having her own fine six cup set, Emma took one cup and saucer and brought it to Moriah, who had always felt an odd number must surely be the work of the devil. I guess she was pure superstitious about such. Well, Emma brought it down there and Moriah thanked her profusely and insisted that she stay for supper--one that Emma hadn't had to cook herself. Anytime that Emma had a meal with the family, Emma had a seat at the table with everyone else. None of this business of standing and eating in the kitchen or the back door. And when Moriah and Emma talked, they both sat on the front porch in front of God and everybody else who could gawk. Moriah said the only thing that they had to hide stayed under their skirts! Why if her ankles showed, she turned red.
During the next few years, nobody discussed the lynching at all. Emma and Moriah still got along right well and Moriah's feelings against organized religion continued to blossom and to be well known thereabouts.
To describe Moriah--in her youth, she was a taller than usual woman who grew right short and bent in old age; like many members of her family, she had turned gray in her teens but was always very graceful with her hair wrapped in a bun. Moriah was her English name--in Creek, she was named Coweta, after the Indian capital where her great grandfather was once known as emperor Brim of the Creek Nation. Her mother and grandmother use to tell her all about it.
At any rate, her views on organized religion were extremely well known as was her strong but not necessarily Christian spirituality. When sicknesses arrived and her wonderful healing herbs were needed, even the most devoted church woman conveniently forgot Moriah's outright paganism--life's like that you know. And people were always believing that if you were Indian you just automatically had a parcel of secret herbs and cures--Moriah, though, usually did.
Now back to religion: Moriah had some pretty powerful words about the Methodists, saying that anyone who thinks that Jesus would trouble himself with bringing fourth grape juice when the finest wines would serve more to the purpose was inane or addled. She had something to say about just about anyone. About Pentecostals, that new religion in the county, she said she didn't even want to walk on the same road as a church that she could hear half a mile away--if God wasn't born deaf, she was surely deaf by now! Her own people's natural religion, as she called it, was banned by the government. Still, she felt even a church had something enriching to offer if you didn't take their silly doctrines too seriously--she strongly believed in worship as a communal act of collective thanksgiving, but thought preaching was an invention of the devil. Fewer sermons, she said, spreading fewer ignorant misconceptions would surely lead to a spiritually healthier people!
In spite of her opinions, at least the first Sunday of every month, Moriah was churched somewhere--much to the horror of some 'quote' Christians. She felt a moral obligation to make an appearance, even if she disdained the sermons. Praying just seems to be stronger with other people, even if they erred in their fast-held views. So, with no fore-warning, she did walk into a Baptist church on occasion, step into a Methodist church, and she even set foot in a Presbyterian church once or twice; but she still much preferred an Anglican or Episcopal church. But at least every first Sunday she was somewhere, as she thought she had an example to set. She must have liked giving preachers a false hope of her eventual salvation, then tying them all up with their very own words--she was good at that, you know. If she ever heard a sermon, she could quote it for weeks after--WORD FOR WORD. You can bet bible scholarship in that county took a decided turn for the better over time. The midnight study oil burned bright if any preacher suspected she'd be in his church Sunday. Come to think of it, no one could ever remember a "first Sunday sermon" that wasn't well researched and well delivered.
Well, one particular 1st Sunday, it was really not convenient for her to go into town--there was no transportation as they did not own a car, had a busted wagon axle, and it was too far for her to walk on a gray misty day. She wasn't gonna spend a half a day walking to town and back. She figured that God, unlike some of her vegetables, would keep a whole week without her.
So, she hit upon the idea of going to Emma's church because it was just a short mile down the road. Moriah had never heard a word from, or about, them--never "endured" one of their sermons. Well, why not--church is church she thought. There had always been a sign on the Black church's door that said "St. Mary." that bothered her for as long as the sign had been there--that it didn't have an "apostrophe S." Later in life she concluded rightly so that white churches used the " 's " and black churches didn't--one more unnecessary subtle way of marking differences Moriah would say. Anyway, She got dressed up and started down towards the Church, then turned right around and came home.
She had remembered that Emma said they never got their service started till around 12:30 or 1:00. Moriah had asked why so late, and Emma answered that almost all the members of the church worked in service. Rich white folks go to church on Sunday, pray and then wanna come home to a hot meal, and who do you think "fixes them meals" Emma added. Moriah thought about it, and from that point on, there was never another Sunday dinner fixed in that house by an outsider until nightfall. To this day, we don't have Sunday dinners at home if it means someone else not being at their own home or with their own families. [Moriah's aside: Preacher, you take note of that!]
Well, Moriah came back home, did some work, and then started down the road to Emma's church later. She opened the door to a service under way and sat in the back, just inside the door on a little rustic homemade pew.
A few heads turned to look, and there was a gasp or two. It was the first time a non-black had ever been in that church except for an occasional funeral for a really "good domestic." They were startled, but the preacher, brother "something another" never lost his place, never missed the beat. Moriah may have disdained religion, but she was truly a bible scholar who knew a little Greek, and must have had the self taught equivalent of a college education. She often said preachers were frothed (or frocked?) with great ignorance which they shamelessly displayed with emotions of the heart, when facts in the head would suffice just fine, thank you.
She sat there and listened most attentively. The preacher must have been an honest man about scripture because Moriah said he was learn'ED in his heart and clear in his head just like spiritual knowledge ought to be. Primitive Baptist churches, especially black ones, sang differently than most other churches; lining out its called. Starting with a slow low key, they build up to a good fevered pitch, with long repetitions. The preacher warmed to his work, and did a good job. He preached what Moriah called double barreled blast. He preached about being a light in a dark world and being like the lamp in a window for neighbors or weary travelers on life's dark nights. He also preached hard on the parable of the vineyards and the workers, which he interwove making the players in that parable not only workers, but each and everyone a lighted lamp, too. By Moriah's understanding--he knew the truth in that parable and got it right on the button. Creator planted the vineyards and was the vineyard master who treated all that came in to work equally and rewarded them equally without partiality--"being one of God's children" gives you instant equality and heavenly justice even if you don't get it here. That black preacher gave the clearest rendering she ever heard: with God, all things are equal and that's that--she said! This church had a fine flock of broad hatted women folk intently holding down the front pews on the woman's side, young and old alike. During each preaching episode they hummed out by "lining" the appropriate music. Mostly, it was the old slow original lined out version of "Let this light of mine shine for all to see all the time."
Moriah sat there and listened transfixed. A sermon she could follow, a sermon she could believe, a sermon of truth. Because it must have come from Creator directly to this man's heart--for his every word had a ring of truth firmly stuck to it which didn't fall off with all his animated shaking and prancing around the upright plank that served as a pulpit. Or as Moriah used to call it, a bullpit.
(End of Part II)
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