You can hear them every Sunday morning. They just flavor the air with their
gentle tone. Welcome. Welcome. Welcome. The Bells of Tinsley Church in the valley
far down the mountainside, oh yes, you can hear them plain.
Now do you hear that? Those are the bells! I have heard them, oh, land sakes,
since I was just a little bittie thing and we lived over to Arnold’s Glen on the other side
of the river. It’s a sweet sound, I’ve always thought. It keeps saying, welcome,
welcome, welcome, over and over on Sunday mornings and other times too. It’s best in
the spring when the air is first starting to warm and the spring lambs are first running
and springing all over like little tom fools. We would walk past the Burns’ and the
Feebers’ and the Tiptons’ picking up folks and talking as we walked all the way down to
the churchyard. One of the nicest things about Sundays is the visiting and the finding
out about things. That’s when we would find out who is feeling poorly, maybe needing
help, and who might . . . ah, be pregnant, you know. By the springtime we would
already be clear on who was marrying who. People, my father used to say, are
supposed to be married in the springtime. That way there was hard work to be done to
keep the newlyweds centered on God and his work. People in those days would start
counting back on their fingers if a first child wasn’t born in February, April or May.
Men don’t seem to understand why it’s important to get to the church before
services and to stay a while afterwards. It’s so hard to get it into their heads that you
could be needed somewhere bad and you would never even know it!
Caleb kissed me at a barn dance! I was only fifteen and him being sixteen. And
we were seen by Lettie Mae Michaels! Oh my, but my father pitched a fit! Said that
there was no way on God’s green earth would he ever let that boy have me for
marrying. If he would transgress in the little things what would he do when a big thing
came along and besides it wasn’t even a little thing? Caleb was always bad about
kissing and he hasn’t changed none.
I remember the day when Caleb and me were married so plain. We were already
to the church when the bells started ringing. They rang, all come, all come, all come.
For me! For me! I could feel the tones in the center of my chest and my whole body
rang right along with the bells. I was shaking so bad daddy had to hold me to keep me
from ringing plum away with the Tinsley bells. Oh my!
Thursday, or was it Wednesday? Anyway, the bells sounded another call. This
time it was It’s born! It’s born, It’s born! I was carrying a tinned milk pail in each hand
down the milking aisle and I just had to stop and laugh out loud. Mehitabel Wyllis must
have finally had hers and she must be safe! It was just so joyous that there must have
been a grin from ear to ear on my face. Caleb, came in then all sweaty and dirty from
fixing the flail mower and when he saw me laughing like a fool, he pushed back my
bonnet and kissed me! Right hard on the lips! Right there in the barn! When he let me
go I couldn’t hardly find any words to say. I looked all around. Thank the Lord none of
the children were there to see; he would have really gotten what for –taking advantage
like that! That man is bad about kissing! He knew I couldn’t set the buckets down on
that dirty old floor.
Of course, some times the bells ring a sadder tone, real slow. Gone. Gone.
Oh, oh, what’s that sound out on the porch? Sounds like Michael, young Aggie
Mitchell’s son. “Great Grandmaw! Great Grandmaw! The van’s coming up the drive. It’s my turn
to push you down the ramp. It’s my turn!”
“Well all right, Michael, but NO letting go this time. You hear me! Michael, wait,
wait, where’s your mother?”