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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Adventures of Dennis in Wamsley

Dennis Hawkins is an incredible writer with many stories to tell. I believe Dennis should compile his recollections in a volume to publish. He has been kind enough to share some of his defining moments with my blog. This remembrance is from his younger days in the small town of Wamsley, Ohio. I think you will find this story both reflective and humorous. Now, please enjoy the glorious descriptive writing of Dennis Hawkins in its entirety.
Life's Defining Moments, Revisited By Dennis W. Hawkins
~Although names have not been changed, parts of the story related here within are true.~
Wamsley, Ohio is located at the far-eastern edge of Adams County. The town is defined by a ninety degree curve in State Route 348. Just one curve, but, it can be viewed from either end of town. It's a rather small town.
The town was originally platted by William Wamsley. It was laid out in streets and alleyways as to accommodate all the traffic which would follow as soon as the expected railroad line was constructed through the bottoms from Otway in the adjacent Scioto County.
The town had the usual amenities of the nineteenth century. The large timbered steam grist mill was located just catty cornered from the huge brick general store. Just up the street was the post office, the two story frame Wamsley family residence, and closer to the edge of town, the brick hotel.
Just inside the ninety degree curve in the highway stood the Christian Union Church. That church came into being when the founders found themselves at odds with the Methodists over the issue of slavery during the War Between The States.
William Wamsley's dream never came to fruition. The railroad never came to Wamsley. Instead, the railroad connected to Peebles to Portsmouth through Rarden, which was once known as Galena. The town of Wamsley was never really born before it began to die. As time passed, the town was lost to fire on two or three occasions.
It is unclear whether all the buildings in the town were completely destroyed or if some were at least, partially, saved. Some very old buildings survive to this day. Some are but burned-out shells from more recent fires. Among those skeletons are the Wamsley family residence and the old brick hotel, next door.
Brother Phil and I spent several of our summers of childhood in Wamsley, Ohio with our Grandparents Neary. Their home and grocery story were located directly across the street from the Wamsley residence. Some of the incidents which occurred during those days of summer have left indelible memories.
Not only did Phil and I attend church on Sunday, with our entire family, we went to prayer meeting, with our grandmother, every Tuesday evening. The church was usually pretty hot on those summer evenings, because there was no room for trees to shade the church.
Warnie Lykins, then, after Warnie's death, Margaret Stevenson, would usually open the church windows in the early afternoon to cool the building. Ellis Funeral Home, which was located in West Union, Ohio, provided the air conditioning in the form of advertising fans, with a picture of Jesus, or a virtuous-faced young girl, and a wooden, tongue-depressor type handle. It served us well. Sometimes we would benefit from the fanning action of others, like our grandmother, if we sat close, but not too close.
Everyone always sat in the same seats, as though the seats were assigned like they were in school. Bina Trickler, and his wife, Ethel, always sat in front of us, on the far left of the pews in the middle of the church. Everyone knew them as 'Biney' and Ethel. Biney and Ethel had no children. Biney had the mumps when as a child and they 'fell on him', leaving him sterile.
Biney was the more outgoing of the two. He was a typical farming gentleman. Ethel had been a school teacher, and, I suspect, a rather strict one, at that. They were very good, devout Christian, people, who were always were of help to our entire family. Biney had let Dad and Mom rent an old farmhouse from them before we moved to West Union. The arrangement was to provide home improvements in lieu of rent.
On one particularly humid Tuesday night, Ethel chose a flowing yellow gingham dress to wear to prayer meeting. We stood to sing 'In The Sweet By And By", the closing song. I was about the right height to notice that some of Ethel's dress had stuck up in a part of her anatomy. The resulting glitch left a significant vertical crease that seemed to me to be dramatically out of place.
Because Biney and Ethel had been so good to us, I felt I should try to help to remove the offending crease. So, without saying anything to anyone, I secretly reached up across the pew, and gave the tail of Ethel's dress a sharp snap. The crease fell out and all seemed properly aligned once again..., for one brief moment.
I heard Ethel's voice raise to that of a high soprano as she sang "sweeeeeeeeeet..." She spun in place in a manner that I had not seen before and never saw again until the release of the movie "The Exorcist". She shot me a look that made me know I had done wrong. I had to think of something..., and quick.
When she turned back to the front, I saw my chance. I formed my right hand into the form of the Cub Scout salute, and quickly undid what I had just done...; I placed what I had previously thought to be the offending material back where Ethel had it before.
I had no more than completed my making-everything-right-in-the-universe when I saw Ethel turn, again. This time more wildly than before. The last thing I remember, was her raising her copy of her Heavenly Highways Hymns hymnal well over her head and coming over the pew at me.
As I came to, the church was empty except for Phil, Grandmother Neary, and Margaret. Margaret had gone out to the well for some water and was sponging me about the face. My grandmother was bandaging a wound on the side of my head. Margaret said she thought I would be alright.
Margaret called on my grandmother several times to check on me. Biney and Ethel never came back to church in Wamsley. Up to her death, Margaret said she could never figure what got into Ethel that night.
I can only hope that if Ethel and I do 'meet on that beautiful shore, in the sweet by and by' that she has forgotten, or at least, forgiven my attempt to make everything right on that sweltering August evening, so many years ago.
~"What we see depends on where we stand." Author unknown.~  
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