First impressions can be misleading

I was in the field pulling corn when the new preacher came to call. We’d had torrential rain, and it was the first dry day that week. The rows were so muddy I couldn’t wear shoes in the field, because they would have been sucked down into the gumbo.

olivia6-25 Page 4A.inddThe wheelbarrow was parked at the end of a row, and as I pulled ears I’d throw them overhead toward the wheelbarrow. At the end of the row when I was too far away, I’d put them in my T-shirt and pull the hem up to form a pouch to carry them out in.

I’d gather up all the corn pulled and load it into the wheelbarrow to roll back to the house, where I’d dump it on the grass in the shade of a tree. Then I’d go back to get another load.

We were planning to get it all into the freezer that afternoon, so this was the beginning of a long day.

The children were playing in the gully, which is in the woods behind the garden. They loved going down there and sliding down the clay banks to the bottom. Of course, on a muddy day it was even better than usual, as the wet clay would become slick as glass.

It was hard on their clothes and usually gave them both a nice coating of mud from head to toe.

I’d just rolled my wheelbarrow of corn into the yard when an unfamiliar car drove up. I dropped the muddy handles of the wheelbarrow and watched as the new preacher stepped out into the driveway.

As he walked toward me, I went out to greet him. From his expression, as he surveyed me, it was obvious he wasn’t accustomed to being welcomed by women with mud up to their knees and elbows dressed in filthy cutoff jeans and ragged T-shirts. He was a city slicker.

Before I thought, I held out my hand to shake his then watched him cringe and draw his own hand back.

So then I said it was good to see him and offered him a seat in the yard while I hosed off.

He kept looking at my feet in horror as I squished over to the spigot and turned on the water, blasting my feet and legs and then arms until most of the mud washed off. I then dried my hands on my pants and shook hands, although he still seemed somewhat reluctant.

I’d just offered him a glass of tea when the children came running up from the gully. They did not look their best. It was hard to tell they were human, as about the only recognizable features were eyes and teeth.

The preacher declined my offer of tea. I guess he wasn’t thirsty. Or something. It was pretty clear he thought he’d come into a land of barbaric heathens who lived in squalor.

He made polite but somewhat stilted conversation, stayed about five minutes and then departed. Although he said before leaving that he looked forward to seeing us at church, he didn’t seem too sincere.

Then I stood the children out by the hose and squirted them off until the water ran clear before stripping them down to their underwear and taking them into the house to shower.

Their clothes went into a bucket of cold water outside to soak before going through the wash cycle.

The new preacher didn’t stay in the area too long. The last I heard, he relocated to a large city and is selling insurance. I’ve sometimes wondered if his visit to our home drove him out of the ministry. But perhaps not. Anyway, we put up enough corn to easily last through the winter. Every cloud has a silver lining.