Wintertime baptizing, mountain-style
J.A. Bolton Storyteller
Last week, Pap told us how cold it could get in them hills, but we wanted to hear more about them winter baptizings.
So Ol’ Pap said he remembered one winter baptizing down on the Elk River between Banner Elk and Elk Park where about 30 people had gathered to witness such an event. There’d been an old time revival meeting that winter and about 10 souls had been saved. Hallelujah! Well, all 10 wanted to be dipped right then and there.
The Elk River, where the baptizing was being held, was plum froze over, but that didn’t seem to stop ‘em. Why, they went right ahead with it. Some of the fellows got a couple of fence rails and broke holes in the ice. That old preacher waded right out in there and commenced dipping them folks. Of course, they had a fire built up there on the bank. The preacher was the one that almost froze to death, but he never gave no complaint. He just stayed on out there and put them folks under one after the other.
Pap said it was so cold the poor souls couldn’t make a sound when they came up. Somebody would grab ‘em and lead them over to the fire. Why, some of the congregation had made some sort of cover out of wood planks and quilts where they could get out of them wet clothes and into some dry ones. Pap said, “it’s a wonder some of them folks didn’t die, but he never heard of it hurting any of them much, least wise none of them died from it.”
Ol’ Pap said, “one time they were having another winter baptizing over at Boone and yes, they had to chop holes in the ice to get them folks under also.” Pap said, “there were two brothers that had been saved and wanted to be dipped. One of them was sort of off in the head and he wanted to be dipped first.
When he came out of the water, his brother asked him if it was cold and he said, “Naw man, it felt good.” The one awaiting to be dipped said, “it didn’t do no good to be baptized if a fellow was gonna tell a lie that quick.” He said, “I ain’t even been in yet, and I’m freezing to death.”
Ol’ Pap just snickered and took a long draw offa his pipe and then said, “reckon folks’ blood was thicker back in his day than it is today. Anyways, don’t make no matter. He’d always been a Methodist anyhow.”
So live, love and stay warm you hear.
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