Monday, May 23, 2016


I've made mention, I think, of
Wallace McKnight before. He was
the area 'preacher' for the Baptist
Church along the roadway up by
my house and road. There wasn't
any sort of tight 'community' there,
and therefore no flock, or parish,
an any of that. It was just that the
large bunch of local women, all
from 10 or 15 miles around, when
it came time for some form of
Sunday-Go-To-Meeting stuff,
ended up there. It was convenient.
It was simple. And it was egregiously
pious and without any religious
profundity at all. I have no idea
what sort of sinning these fine
ladies may have been up to in their
off-time or even in their undercover
operations, perhaps, with 'Paw' in
the farmhouse, but just by the way
they drove they needed some prayin'
done on 'em for sure. Old Wally
McKnight was the man. He was
a small guy, coal-miner type, about
maybe 5'5", pleasant as all get-out,
had a wife, equally pleasant, but
he also was most probably the
dumbest, most simple guy in those
hills. How he got to the pinnacle of
religious practice thereabouts is past
me. Mostly 'infantile' would be the
word. 'Suffer the little children to
come unto me', well, multiply that
by a hundred times and then pin it
all on him, and that's the preaching
you got back. The ladies loved it,
while, for me, the emphasis was on
that word 'suffer'. All these weekly
confabs anyway ended up in food,
trays and Tupperware galore  -
beans, peas, salads, meats, all
regular country spreads. The ladies
ate and talked, and then talked
and ate. Rev. McKnight would go
around to each table, every person,
and anoint : goodness, blessedness,
forgiveness, you name it, but skip
goofiness. That was never made
mention of. He and I talked here
and there, but it was always apparent
we had a huge gulf between us  -
and though I really just didn't like
the guy, just because he was a
thunder-headed simpleton, I never
let on about it. If he was any sort of
sensible thinker, he'd have known
anyway. I don't think anyone could
offend him short of (perhaps) a
stick or two of dynamite in the
face. Some people are like that,
and often their lack of sensitivity
to things tells you all you need to
know about them anyway. You'd
have needed a brick to break through
Rev. Wally's happy facade.
Sometimes I'd gently chide him, get
in his face about things, religious
stuff. Creed and doctrine. Just to
buzz him up some. Deep doctrine
to him was, like, handing out the
'Youngest Mother of the Year'
bouquet prize each Mother's Day.
(You had to be careful, actually,
because there were a few trailer-kids
up there in the way-back hollers
dropping kids at age 14; but they
never came out to church,
fortunately for Rev. McKnight). I
always tried to keep it gently-light,
so as not to provoke or offend him,
or even maybe be the one to cause
him a crisis-of-faith and screw the
whole thing up for everyone. ("Hey,
where's Rev. Wally?' 'Oh, he ran off
to Vegas, with some showgirl.').
I'd a' been sunk for sure.
A typical Rev. McKnight thing, say
'Mother's Day' would be a sermon of
this sort, more a Hallmark Happy
Homily, really. It asked nothing,
and it said nothing, and you had to
DO nothing because of it as well.
All the opposite of what a 'sermon'
should goad you towards. (I was
always aware of the famous poem
by Rainer Marie Rilke, entitled
'Archaic Torso of Apollo', I think
it is, where the poet clearly states,
'You must change your life.' Now,
that's a punch. But Rev. Wally would
not have had a clue nor gotten the
reference in any which-way. So,
once-again country, folk, I bit my
lip in service to you all). Here's
Wally : "The goodness of mother
Mary's love for her baby Jesus,
whom she loved with all her
being, was a divine love, one
coming straight from God.
He was divine, and his mother
knew it. In like manner all our
mothers love us, as children.
Because each of us, within,
are divine too, with the spark
of God's being inside us. That
is a mother's love and that is
what she recognizes in her
offspring, and that is why we
so honor all the mothers here
with us today. We recognize,
and we celebrate, all mothers
today, on Mother's Day.' That
was it! It sounded more, to me,
like a pep-talk at an orgy. In
addition to which it was rot,
and it was balderdash, a fodder
for simpletons. It made light
of every concept it touched
upon, leaving behind but a
stupid-man's shambles - all
elementary as get-out, and
possessing the most baby-like
end-point imaginable. He got
away with this stuff, every time,
and every Sunday too.
I always figured that when you
hoarded things it was because
they were valuable or special
or of some import. How anyone
was able to 'hoard' the collected
ersatz wisdom of Reverend
Wallace McKnight always
baffled me. To make all
matters worse, in these parts,
there had somehow grown a
tradition that this guy made
house-calls. I think it was a
way to get the 'menfolk' while
at their toils, since they sure
never came out surely to these
Sunday get-togethers  -  unless
that 14-year-old girl from the
trailer had maybe just borne
one of their offspring. OK,
kidding on that one. Rev.
McKnight always just showing
up with the most cursory of
'appointment times' just made
that morning  -  he'd show at
barns, at milking time, hay-fields,
whatever. It was his way of a 
generated captive audience. I
can't say it went down real well,
but no one ever revolted. He'd 
have lunch or just stand around  -  
all those most general and yet
most curious and ministerial
questions about home and family,
well-being and happiness, and the
rest. Nothing ever substantial,
just blather. Eventually a prayer and
then a blessing, about something  - 
the crop, the new calf, the new tractor.
Craziest stuff imaginable.  I guess it
was rural ministering at its finest and
humblest. I guess. He'd eventually
get down to sitting, lunch or tea or
pie. Whatever. The rock-gut sacrificial
stuff never came out when he was
around  -  nor when the ladies were
around either. Mostly what these 
farmer guys were always drinking
was fermented apple juice. It was a
real wallop, packed a punch. There'd
be some big vat, always, somewhere
filled with crushed apples and juice,
and it would just set there, forever,
and, whether cold or not  -  to keep
it cold, a smaller vat was sometimes
'submerged' for the day (illegally) in
the cold, cold of the bulk-milk vats  -
it was cupped out or ladled with a big
ladle kept nearby and dipped in. The
closest edge of drunkenness by which
you could still 'function' was soon
attained. But you had to be careful  -  
like Warren always said, 'farming is 
the #1 or #2 most hazardous profession,
year after year'. Plenty of danger when
sober, all those spinning blades and
spreaders and cutters and things, but
made ten times worse when walking
the apple-cider razor's edge of wobble. 
Maybe all those trivial, afternoon,
reverend blessings all did add up to
some safety caption in the long run.
No one around us ever got hurt, 'cept
one of the kids broke an arm once. 
I guess Wally McKnight, and his 
missus, are long dead by now, and 
I meant him no harm, no serious 
damage. He was a grand, wonderful 
man, a real piece of celebration. He 
was about maybe 68 back in 1973, 
so you do the math and see. I know 
he gave me strength once or twice in 
spite of my heckling and all else. 
Hands-on, prayer over the head,
prodigal son stuff, no matter. I didn't 
want this to turn into any anti-religious 
or 'down on Rev. McKnight' polemic, 
so it won't. It's not my place  -  nor 
style  -  and he was too good for all 
that. I did used to tell him, and confuse
him too, approximating now as best 
I can, all these years later, as a 
question rolling into a statement 
and then a small two-man discussion 
between us: 'Reverend, the physical 
world implies the existence of a God,
and God's existence implies the 
presence of a physical world. To deny
the importance of the individual, is that
not then denying the validity or the 
validity of God? The two, existing
one within the other, cannot be separated.
My trouble is, sir, I cannot yet accept
the validity, or any validity, of the
physical world. That has not yet been
decisively shown to me as true, grounded,
and real. I see it as illusion, as a passing
glimmer of imaginings set before all our
eyes  -  alike and different as it is for each.
From one end of reality I shout 'Where is
God?', and from the other end the answer
comes, 'I am Me.' From the other end of
reality, God goes shouting, 'Who am I?'
and finds himself in me, you, us. You are,
therefore, and as I see it, a part of the
source, and so is everything else manifest.
Because God is, we are, and because we 
are, God is.' He would take my head,
and bless me again, this Wallace McKnight

would; he'd bless my head again.


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