Jackson’s family had 7 young-uns, him bein’ the eldest.

Jackson’s family had 7 young-uns, him bein’ the eldest. They were a very strict Baptist tobacca farmin’ family from down east of Little Washington, North Carolina.

Thar was lots of pickin’ an’ chores an’ church growin’ up, more than any of the young-uns really wanted, but it weren’t thar choice. An’ thar was no dancin’, gamblin’, cussin’, or courtin’ before daddy said so, an’ no backtalkin’ or idleness allowed. Daddy spoke little, mostly with the back of his hand an’ switches whether deserved or not. He didn’t spare the rod an’ spoil any of his children, no suh. The woodshed was valued for switchin’ as much as for wood storin’.

But Jackson, who cut his fair share of green stick switches for his daddy to use on him an’ his brothers an’ sisters growin’ up, somehow made it to courtin’ an’ then marryin’ age with his backside in one piece.

Jackson was to be wedded to Opal — cold in her traits an’ plain in her looks — in the whitewashed, one room Baptist church in June, a day that was pitiful hot an’ humid, unfairly so. Standin’ next to his bride to be, all gussied up in his church coat, sweatin’ up a storm, an’ before recitin’ his vows, Jackson felt woozy an’ then went an’ passed out cold right thar at the church alter in front o’ God an’ all his kin.

Crumpled to the ground lookin’ like a pile of picked tobacca leaves, his bride showed her true nature an’ what was to come of that union. She just stood thar like a pillar of salt from Sodom an’ Gomorra rollin’ her eyes an’ shakin’ her head over Jackson’s poor condition.

After sittin’ him up an’ fannin’ him with the stale church air for a spell, his daddy decided to move the weddin’ outside under the oak tree where the party might, with the shade an’ a wisp of breeze, have some relief from the cruel heat an’ offer Jackson a chance to finish his “Ah do’s” an’ git on with it.

His left arm steadied by his daddy, an’ urged on by the preacher, Jackson had just started his vows agin under the oak tree when he went an’ fainted a second time. Opal threw her bouquet to the ground an’ stomped off in a hissy fit while his daddy propped Jackson up against the oak tree to compose himself.

The wedding party moseyed off to whisper about Jackson an’ Opal, samplin’ the weddin’ suppah of frahed chicken, biscuits an’ sweet tea put up yonder in the church yard.

“Boy,” his daddy said when Jackson was clear headed enough to hear, with a fervor that reminded Jackson of the fire an’ brimstone sermons he heard growin’ up, “God struck you down twice as a warnin’. If you got a nicket’s-worth of sense you won’t marry that girl. Y’alls life’ll be pure-t-mommicked if you do.”

Jackson, though, had his mind made up. Through all the switchin’ he’d grown to be just as pig-headed as his daddy anyways. Opal made her way back to the oak tree still fumin’ but aware her chances otherwise of gittin’ hitched were slim an’ still rollin’ those eyes, she an’ Jackson who finally mustered up a nicket’s-worth of strength (if not sense), finished thar “I do’s” an’ were at last gladly pronounced by the preacher as man an’ wife.

Jackson almost before finishin’ his frahed chicken, biscuits, an’ sweet tea was, as his daddy warned, sorry he went on with that weddin’. Afterwards, not much for church no more, he wore his coat mostly for buryin’s. Over the hellish years wedded to that calculatin’ an’ heartless Opal, Jackson wished he had passed out a third time under the oak tree, making it the last straw for Opal who might have, if he’d been lucky, stomped off an’ out of his life foreva.

But some things are meant to be whether we choose them for ah own selves or not. An thar’s a big world out thar keepin’ on goin’ no matter what happens to us durin’ ah own short lives.

An’ though Jackson tried to pass along to his own brood of five the wisdom he gained from his daddy an’ his experience under that oak tree, his young-uns had to go off, learn from thar own choices an’ those events chosen for them, an’ figure things out for thar own selves.

That’s the way of the world, ain’t it?

Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at fetzerab@ec.rr.com.