Good morning, y’all. It’s warming up with highs in the eighties. We haven’t broken the ninety degree mark yet, but it can’t be far away. Fortunately, we had a couple of little popup showers push through. I could tell the bedding plants appreciated the rainfall by the way they perked right up. They were getting a little droopy and I was worried that I’d have supplement Mother Nature with a little Nunsuch Water and Sewer.
Speaking of Nunsuch Water and Sewer allows me to slide back into the history of the Little Church in the Valley. The hallmarks of civilization are running water and indoor bathrooms. Now, I would add air conditioning to that, but, I’m spoiled. For a community to gain credibility with folks as a place where you could settle down and not have to give up all of the modern conveniences, the basic infrastructure has to be put in place.
Nunsuch, Georgia was incorporated in 1971 on land donated by the Hoakum family. City sewer and water did not reach every homestead, but did provide services parallel to all paved roads in the jurisdiction. The Nunsuch Police Department and jail were located on the edge of the Hoakum’s General Store parking lot. The Nunsuch Post Office had been built adjoining the store, in the same spot that the tent for Sunday meetings had stood. Thanks to the thriving artist community and postcard perfect views, Nunsuch became a popular spot for second homes. Basically a two hour drive from Atlanta, folks could slip out a little early from work on Friday and have the whole weekend to relax in the countryside.
In spite of an aging congregation, the Little Church in the Valley held its own through the 70’s and into the new millennium. Whether to satisfy curiosity, or a deep need to attend a religious service on Sunday, tourists could be counted on to comprise a quarter of the congregation each Sunday. Reverend Daniel kept them entertained right up to his retirement in 2010. There was no question that he was winding down as he got into his seventies, but he was as tough as a pine knot and did not give in easily.
Reverend Daniel shared an addiction for tobacco with his granddaddy, but his vice of choice was cigarettes. It was also widely rumored that Reverend Daniel had an addiction for corn squeezings, of the untaxed variety. There were still plenty of places within easy driving distance to find liquid refreshment in Mason jars, if you knew where to look. Reverend Daniel knew all of the nooks and crannies in the surrounding mountains from ministering to his flock.
Reverend Daniel did not share the fecundity of his predecessors. Daniel had one son, Evan. Evan, or “Bubba” as he is called, showed great promise until his accident. Actually, it was the Reverend Daniel’s accident, but Evan bore the scars and the loss of brain function. Coming back from one of Reverend Daniel’s “mission trips”, on the border of Georgia and North Carolina, Reverend Daniel lost control of his car and plunged down an embankment. Bubba was tossed through the windshield, and would have been lost forever had he not hit a tree head first on his way over the cliff. The Reverend Daniel was unscathed, but Bubba’s brains were scrambled. The promise of a fourth generation of Hoakums in the pulpit was dashed that day. Bubba was twenty-five.
Bubba’s recovery was long and arduous. While he remembered every sermon and hymn he’d ever heard, he was hard pressed to name the President or day of the week. Fortunately, since he was grounded in the church, Bubba was always where he was supposed to be. The only question was if it was Sunday service, Monday Men’s Bible Study, or Wednesday Prayer meeting. Bubba sang on Sunday and recited Scripture on Monday and Wednesday. Bubba had a beautiful bass voice, and it was felt that his voice would carry him to the heights of other singing evangelists like Jimmy Swaggart. The car crash ended those dreams.
The car crash also ended the marriage of Reverend Daniel and his wife Sara. It took a while, and it didn’t involve lawyers. Sara just gave up after recognizing the damage that had been done to her only child. Rumors were that the Reverend Daniel had always been a tough task master, particularly with Bubba. Sara had hung in there, the loyal dutiful wife, until her husband broke forever her most prized possession. After a few of years of trying to “bring Bubba back”, Sara realized that her baby was not coming back. She just gave up life. Sara quit eating, quit coming to church and eventually took to her bed and wasted away. No amount of entreaties from the pulpit to pray for his wife could stay the path Sara chose. Sara died in spite of the entreaties, or maybe to spite the entreater. The year was 1985 and Bubba was 28 and Sara was 45.
Various women of the church took turns caring for Reverend Daniel and Bubba. All of the household chores were assigned and a schedule developed to ensure that the Reverend and Bubba got at least one hot meal a day. In truth, Reverend Daniel could have hired all of the help he would ever need. He was a man of considerable means. He was also a believer in the old adage, “you can’t keep it, if you spend it”. If the women of the community were willing to provide services for the blessings they received, it was a fair swap as far as Reverend Daniel was concerned. Bubba didn’t seem to notice. Bubba tagged along with his daddy the same as he had as a boy. Until Reverend Daniel announced his retirement.
The announcement came the Sunday before the beginning of Revival Week. In a voice that made the sound of a rasp against oak, Reverend Daniel announced his retirement, and charged the congregation with attending each revival session. The congregation was going to be auditioning their new pastor, and what better way than to watch them in practice? In what must have a been a brief moment of clarity, Bubba cried “no!” from his spot in the choir. Whether or not Reverend Daniel had discussed his plans with Bubba before the announcement is not known. What is known is that Bubba left his spot in the choir and was found later crying under the crawl space of the church.
The following night, auditions began for what was possibly the most important position in Nunsuch, Georgia. Certainly one of the most powerful.