An abridged story from my book, Hardscrabble Times...
The brothers and sisters called her Churney. Her real name was Myrtis. It was her job to churn the butter every day after the cow had been milked thus her nickname. It was the only chore she could handle and do successfully.
"Can't have my biscuits without fresh, sweet cream butter on them for supper," Poppa would say, encouraging her.
Churney would smile and vigorously plunge the butter churn knowing it pleased Poppa. She loved him dearly.
Churney had always been different. She didn't have a normal interest in boys for a girl her age. She was also extremely socially aloof. The brothers and sisters all looked out for her knowing something was not quite right.
"Do you think she is retarded?" Maxie, a brother, asked Annie Mae, Churney's sister, one day as they were picking pole beans in the garden.
"Don't say that," Annie Mae said, putting a handful of picked beans in a wicker basket.
"Well, something's not quite right," Maxie quipped.
"She just needs our help," Annie Mae said.
Around the age of thirteen, Churney discovered church for the first time. It was a long ride into town by mule and wagon for Sunday school every week, but Churney made the journey anyway. Mrs. Carlyle, the Sunday school teacher, would ride all the way out to the Mayberry homestead to pick her up doing God's work.
"You are going to make a fine young Christian girl," Mrs. Carlyle would tell Churney as they rode the hour wagon ride into town.
One day Poppa was in town buying seed at the Feed and Seed for next year's crop.
"That girl of yours is getting baptized in the creek this Sunday," Mr. Slocomb, the proprietor, said. He was also a Deacon in the church.
Poppa had never been one much for church and religion. He called them highfaluting things. He was too busy being a single parent and feeding and supporting a big growing family of eight girls and boys to be bothered with such stuff.
"Are we going to see you there?" Mr. Slocomb asked.
Poppa rubbed his bristly chin as he thought for a moment.
"Which creek?" Poppa finally asked.
"Old Simms creek," Mr. Slocomb replied. "9AM this Sunday morning."
The big day had finally arrived. Poppa got all the children scurrying to polish their shoes and put on their best clothes. The children moaned and groaned not accustomed to wearing shoes. Churney was dressed in her finest white dress that her sister, Sally Lou, had made. Poppa then got one of the boys to hitch up the mules to the wagon and soon they were headed for Old Simms creek on a beautiful late summer Sunday morning.
"What do they do in a baptism?" Walt asked sitting next to Poppa in the front of the wagon as it rocked and swayed from the undulations in the old dirt road.
"The last one I saw they about drowned the poor fella," Poppa said, popping the reigns to urge the mules on.
"You wash away your sins and take the Lord Jesus into your life," Sally Lou said, piping up from the back of the wagon. "You become born again."
"All that from dunking you in a creek?" Walt asked Poppa.
Poppa smiled but said, "Hush boy. This means a lot to your sister. Don't you make light of it."
A great gathering of people had gathered on the banks of Simms creek all dressed in their Sunday best. Brother Jim preached a long winded sermon wearing thin the patience of the parishioners as the children stirred restlessly. The time for the baptism had come. Brother Jim walked down into the cool waters of the creek dressed in a white baptismal robe.
"Come here child," he said, holding out his hand for Churney.
Churney walked out into the waters grabbing Brother Jim's hand.
"Do you believe there is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three coeternal Persons?" Brother Jim asked.
"Yes," Churney said sheepishly.
The time had arrived and Brother Jim thrust Churney under those cool creek waters washing away her sins. She was born anew in Christ. Many an Amen was said on the creek bank from the church members. Churney felt as if she had been touched by the very hand of God. Thus began Churney's lifelong love affair with the Church and doing God's work.