Last week we left Ol’ Charley Perkins as mad as a setting hen ‘cause he thought someone had poisoned his bear. Charley won’t never much of a religious man anyway, no-sir-re. Why he never would go to Sunday school, church or revival meeting. In fact, if’en you didn’t watch him, he’d cheat you blind. He’d go to weigh out a customer a mess of fish, looking them straight in the eye, and I be dog gone if’en Charley wouldn’t have his thumb on the scales running up the weight. Ain’t no telling how much money that thumb made that old man over the years.
Well Charley was getting on up in age and the good folks in the neighborhood started to worry about Charley and where his soul would go in the hereafter. Well, there just happened to be a traveling, old time Baptist revival coming through Anson County. One of them hell-fire, brimstone, brush arbor type meetings, don’t you know. The little old ladies down at the local Baptist church commenced to praying for Ol’ Charley. They started telling him, “Charley, you need to change your ways and get some of this religion, cause if’en you don’t the Old Devil’s gonna have your soul.” Well they hounded him about coming to the revival and even the local men of the church hounded him so much that finally Ol’ Charley said, “Alright, alright, I’ll try and be there one night.”
Well they held that revival for four nights and no Charley, but on the fifth and last night, Ol’ Charley was as good as his word — he was there. You know the Good Lord works in mysterious ways ‘cause that very night Ol’ Charley Perkins done and found religion, don’t you know. Charley said, “ I’ve turned over a new leaf and now I’m living at the foot of the cross. Hallelujah!” You know when we get saved, people should see a change in our life. Amen. One of the ways Charley changed was that he started reading his bible and every time he made a sale at his store he would look up toward heaven and repeat a verse of scripture.
Well, one Saturday evening in October, the sun was shining down but there was a nip in the air. We were all sitting around the old pot-bellied stove in Charley’s store and in walked two little girls. “Can I help you?” said Charley to the girls. “Yes-sir, Mr. Charley, we want some of that hard candy that you got in that big glass jar up there on the top shelf.” So Charley handed down the jar to the girls and said, “Ya’ll just reach in there and get you a handful, you-hear.” Why them two little girls had the biggest hands I’d ever seen. I’ll bet they got a dollar’s worth of candy and back then a dollar’s worth of candy would feed a whole family, don’t you know. They stuck the candy in their pockets and one of them pulled out a thin dime; gave it to Charley and walked out the door. Charley didn’t say nothing but walked over to the cash register and rung up the sale. Then he looked up toward heaven and said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me. Amen.”
About ten minutes later Snag Watson’s mama walked in the store looking for a birthday present for her Dad. Well, Ol’ Charley showed her the Barlow knives, handkerchiefs and cigars, but she finally settled for a bottle of Aqua Velva shaving lotion. Charlie gift wrapped it for free. She paid him and walked out the door. Well, Charley rung up the sale and looked up toward heaven and said, “Honor thy Father and thy Mother; thus saith the Lord.” Man, by then we were really impressed with all this scripture. Charlie had really been reading his bible, don’t you know.
It wasn’t long before we all heard this big commotion out in front of the store. After the dust had cleared, we all looked out the window and there was this brand new red pickup with a matching horse trailer parked outside. The truck had out of state tags and didn’t nobody know who this fellow might be.
Next week I’ll tell you more about this here stranger and what Charley had to say about him.
J.A. Bolton is a member of N.C. Storytelling Guild, Richmond County Writer’s Club and The Story Spinners in Laurinburg.