Dear Dad (and others) 5.16.21 tabernacle

Hope the homecoming was a good time for everyone. I have the date on my calendar for next year. I have been thinking about all the homecomings and other events at the Paluxy Tabernacle over the years. Some of my random memories…

· In the 1950s, I remember going along for the ride to Granbury for blocks of ice that went into the 100-gallon water container that would sit in the back of a pickup truck with the spigots off the edge for everyone to drink from. I never knew for sure but suspect the big water can was from the days of many field hands working together in the summer.

· I remember the piece of driftwood that Mr. Sanderson (JB’s father) brought to show all. The wood from the Paluxy River looked remarkably like a duck. This was quite impressive if you were under 10 years old.

· There were the two older women, sisters I think, who were always asked to sing a hymn. I remember them simply standing where they were sitting and singing with no music. As a child I thought they were not particularly good singers, but as an adult I realize what an incredible treat it must have been to be asked to sing. They probably looked forward to this for weeks. And the complements afterwards must have made their day.

· I remember all the years Uncle James was the master of ceremonies for the event. He would tell stories about some of the attendees, tell some jokes and encourage others to share stories of Paluxy. We should think about getting someone to do this again.

· I remember when all the food was homemade and how good I thought it was. Mom usually provided mashed potato, a cake and I am sure many other things I do not recall. Much of the food was grown, harvested/picked or raised by the local attendees through the 1950s.

· Every year at the homecoming, Ramon Locke used to tell me the same story of why he called me Popping Johnny. One morning soon after the acquisition of a new John Deere tractor, I was with mom at the Paluxy Post Office one morning to pick up the mail. The operator manual for the new tractor happened to be in the car and was my prize possession on this occasion. Although I do not remember the actual event, Floyd Harkins and Ramon Locke saw me with my book and asked about it. With the imagination and expertise, only a five-year-old seems to possess, I showed them the pictures and elaborated to great extent for 15 minutes on John Deere tractors. Floyd and Ramon were so impressed I became Popping Johnny instead of Terry for the rest of their lives.

· In the early 1960s, Dwayne and I acquired an old soft drink container of the sort you might have seen in the 1950s. We filled the box with ice and soft drinks and made a few dollars each selling them at the homecoming. Many years later it was at the homecoming where I talked with Dwayne for one of the last times. He was extremely sick at the time but in surprisingly good spirits. He and I discussed whether you could truly be a redneck if you only owned an electric chainsaw. Dwayne’s last word on this was “At least it always starts.” A few months afterward, I along with many of his friends and relatives attended Dwayne’s memorial service at the tabernacle.

· I stood under the tabernacle once as Uncle Cave told me about the construction techniques used to make the tabernacle. Those builders of so many years ago must have been rather good. It has certainly stood the test of time.

· What a great place for a wedding. Sister Sharon got married here about 30 years ago. Quiet hilltop, fresh air, nice view of the valley all around. Thousands of dollars could be spent for a venue that would produce a far less memorable event than here.

· In the 1980s during the years we were fighting to save the river, two friends got married under the tabernacle. They were river lovers I had met a few years earlier. The whole wedding party joined them camping on the Paluxy River on their wedding night.

· The tabernacle with a fish fry was the perfect place for Mom’s memorial service. After the service I visualized Mom walking rapidly with a big smile on her face taking a platter of catfish to one of the tables. She would have really enjoyed the day if she could have been there.

There must be at least dozens of other stories we remember of the tabernacle and the people we encountered, socialized with, told, or listened to stories from, etc., etc. Maybe I remember another few dozen myself. Perhaps I or someone should do another letter or a site where all could add more stories. Next time we all get together, we should share these stories of homecomings, weddings, revivals, funerals, community meetings, etc. I look forward to seeing everyone soon.

When is the last time you did something for the first time?