Early the next morning, before the sun was up Brother Bill stood in front of the barn and welcomed his sleepy congregation in to the barn. Bales of straw had been lined up in neat rows for everyone to sit on.
Pearl looked around outside before going in a saw a bunch of the young men, Zeb included had slept in the back of wagons last night. Many rubbed the sleep out of their eyes and stretched trying to shake off there grogginess as they climbed out.
Brother Bill smiled as the people streamed in. He hadn’t preach to this large a crowd in a long time. There must be more than thirty people. The Muller’s alone made almost a dozen. He hoped he could do them all justice with his sermon. He was going to preach enough Hell Fire and Brimstone so they would think twice about doing any sinning before he made it back there way again.
Once everyone was in and settled Brother Bill went to the front and started the service with a prayer and a hymn. When the hymn was done Brother Bill threw open his bible and began the sermon in his loudest, most commanding voice. Preaching on the weakness of the flesh and the pitfalls of that are set before mankind. The sermon had been going on for almost an hour and was beginning to show on the sleepy congregation. Sleepy children lay in their tired mama’s laps and husbands began to nod off only to get a hard elbow to the ribs from their wives.
The Mullers all sat toward the back with Clovis and Berta, Big John, Alonzo and Eckhard sitting in one row and the rest of the boys Finn, Henry, Hugh, Otto and Wilbur sat behind them. Pearl and her parents along with Maggie and her mamma sat to the right of the Mullers and Zeb sat to the far left in the back. The rest sat in front on the first two rows of bales.
Liam Muller could see Big John start to nod and poked his other brothers and a low sticker began. Berta turned sharply and gave them all her worst scowl with her eyebrows drawn together. The boys sat up at once and became quiet. Big John once again began to nod forward and Alonzo poked him in the ribs till he sat up once again.
Brother Bill was building his sermon to a big finish and was going on about the down fall of drinkin, gamblin’ and cussin’. He had no idea how appropriate it was considering Big Johns outburst yesterday. Big John was about to nod and fall right off his hay bale. Liam had been waiting for just the right moment in the sermon. When Brother Bill was really getting into it and pointing to the heavens he kicked Big John in the backside with his boot that had a sharp tack in the toe.
Big John jumped straight up startling Berta and Clovis. In his groggy state he yelped several indiscernible words, thank goodness. Many in the congregation thought he had gotten the Holy Spirit and jumped up shouting Hallelujah! Some swore he was so full of the Spirit he was speaking in tongues. And another round of Hallelujah and Amen rang out. Zeb and some of the other boys knew better and tried to keep a straight face.
Brother Bill thinking he had saved a soul from the devil with his sermon ran down the aisle and grabbed Big John who was still trying to figure out what was going on, and began to hug him and bless him. Then headed to the barn door followed by Big John being held by Otto and Wilbur Muller. Each one took an arm and drug Big John out the door as the rest of the folks broke out “Shall we gather at the River” as Big John was still confused but it seemed he was the center of attention.
Brother Bill had no intentions of letting the opportunity for a good dunking to pass. So since there was not a creek or a river nearby he led them to the horse trough. Both brothers pushed John’s head under before he could even get a breath. Brother Bill put his hand on his head and held him under till he was done with baptizing him in the name of the Father, Son and Holy spirit. Big John was almost drowned when he was finally let loose and came up ready to fight till he saw all around him smiling and rushing toward him to welcome him into the fold. Berta came up and grabbed her baby boy and hugged what was left of the breath out of him.
Brother Bill figured nothing he could say could top what had just happened and figured it was time for some good food. The woman sat food out on the tables and he blessed it and the hands that prepared it then dug into a big piece of fried chicken. It was odd he thought how saving souls could make him so hungry
Berta was so proud of her baby boy she filled him a plate full of food and waited on him hand and foot. The rest of the boys seeing how proud there mama was kept quiet about what had really happened to Big John that morning. They also knew what would be in store for them if there mama did find out and they all cringed at the same time. Big John looked down the table at all his brothers and smiled big with his mouth full. He would hold this over their heads for a long time.
After lunch everyone said their goodbyes. Pearl gave Maggie a big hug and told her to come up the mountain and visit her sometimes. Then she turned to get into the wagon. Zeb came up behind her and helped her up then turned to her mama and papa and ask if he might come around and call next Sunday. Papa looked at mamma who nodded yes and papa with a frown said it would be ok he guessed.
Zeb said good bye to Pearl and she smiled and blushed once again. He turned then and jumped on a wagon full of young men headed in the other direction.
Pearl lay back in the wagon and went over everything in her head that had happened over the last couple of days. Little did she know that everything would change now.