by Nancy Brown
While preparing breakfast one brisk morning in early spring, Nellie revisited Pastor Utley's message of the previous Communion Sunday. She pondered his words as she stirred milky white pancake batter that filled her mother's antique mixing bowl. Pondering what the Pastor meant when he said "We are all called to the table and should come committed" she flipped the golden brown cakes from the griddle to the platter that matched her bowl.
Nellie called her husband to the kitchen as she poured their morning coffee. "Mr. Will," Nellie had referred to her husband as 'Mr. Will' since their first meeting over 35 years earlier. "Pastor Utley's message last Sunday got me to thinking." Willie stirred the piping hot brew in his cup until it spilled out into the saucer that cradled it. "I am of a mind to invite our friends and neighbors to the Farm; I want to have "The First Annual, Cotton Farm, Easter, Son Rise Service and Believer's Breakfast"" come Easter Morning. Nellie went on to instruct Mr. Will in his part of the preparations.
To Willie's reckoning there had never been such a celebration in their small rural community. Nellie's notion of a Believer's Breakfast suited him. The truth be known, breakfast for any reason agreed with him, as long as his Nellie was the cook. He smiled to himself as he set out toward the hog pen to fatten up the stock. "The First Annual, Cotton Farm, Easter, Son Rise Service and Believer's Breakfast" he said to himself as he opened the barn door. "It has a nice ring to it."
Nellie scurried out to the chicken house to gather the eggs, basket in hand. "And a Blessed morning to you all" she chimed, entering the coupe. "What a fine day it is too!" She carefully inspected each hens nesting box for the day's offerings. When she had retrieved the last egg and was headed toward the door to go back to the farmhouse, she abruptly stopped, spun around on her heals and addressed her hens aloud, "Ladies, the good Lord has called, and we are going to answer in fine fashion!" Quite satisfied that her announcement had 'officially' set her plans into motion, she grinned, a huge grin, and hurried on her way.
Later that afternoon, Hissy, the Cotton's prize setting hen strutted about the barnyard. Her breast feathers more puffed up than usual. She had hung onto every word Nellie said while gathering the eggs that morning. It was Nellie's habit to discuss her plans aloud while she worked. Hissy, as a rule, paid little attention to Ms. Nellie's yammering, as it generally did not affect her. But today, today was different! There was going to be big goings on at the farm and Hissy surmised herself the star of the show.
"Hello, Lewis," Hissy greeted the large, black and white spotted hog, from her side of the ash colored split rail fence. Lewis had just devoured the last juicy corn cob from the bottom of his trough. He was settling down in a cool muddy spot at the shaded corner of the pig pen to begin his mid morning nap. "Shew!" he snorted, as he wallowed into just the right position for snoozing.
"Lewis, I have exciting news" Hissy clucked in somewhat of a whispered cluck. "I am not the lease bit interested in your gossip, Hissy." "Whatever you are spreading around the barnyard does not concern me. I will not take part, so go cackle to someone who cares." At this, Hissy turned her tail feathers toward Lewis and strutted back to her nest. "Well, you will take part you old grouch, if it concerns the farm, it concerns you." Lewis did not give Hissy so much as a parting snort as he wiggled on more good wiggle and drifted off to sleep.
Hissy still had her feathers in a ruffle when Harold, a gruff old goat lifted his bearded chin from the tender young clump of grass he was enjoying, just in time to see Hissy plop down into her nest. "What's got you in such a tizzy, Hissy?" he inquired, a long blade of grass dangling from his goatee. "Oh, that hard headed old son of a sow" she replied. "Lewis?" "What could Lewis possibly have done to get you so riled? Lewis never does anything that doesn't involve eating or napping." "I was simply trying to inform him of the 'First Annual, Cotton Farm, Easter, Son Rise Service and Believers Breakfast', Ms. Nellie is planning. And do you know what he did?' He brushed me off like Puddles the pony does to the horseflies that land on her rump!" Harold chuckled under his breath. "What, pray tell, is a "First Annual, Cotton Farm, Easter, Son Rise Service and Believers Breakfast?"
Pastor Utley listened intently to Nellie's idea after church the following Sunday. The Reverend ran his fingers over his bald head as if it was still home to a crop of thick brown locks. Adjusting the spectacles which slid down the bridge of his slender nose he nodded toward Mr. Will and Nellie. Pastor Utley had led his flock for nearly twenty two years and knew his congregation well. "The First Annual, Cotton Farm, Easter, Son Rise Service and Believer's Breakfast" he mused. "I think it is a grand idea!" Mr. Will and Nellie asked the Reverend to invite the whole church family. Nellie spread the word at the local beauty shop and to the Wednesday morning garden club members, while Mr. Will posted fliers in the General Store and at the County Feed and Seed Supply. They saw to it no one was left out.
Lewis was getting ornery. He was not used to being kept waiting on his evening meal. Hissy found the slightest bit of amusement watching Lewis grunt and groan as he paced back and forth between the pig pen gate and his trough, his gaze never leaving his trough. "Lewis" Hissy clucked, "Did the thought ever cross your mind that Mr. Will might have something more important than you, to tend to this evening?" "Nothing is more important than my dinner" Lewis snorted. He was in no mood to hear Hissy clucking on about anything that did not have to do with him or his growling stomach. "Shew, Shew Shew, I tell you!" Hissy perched atop a crooked fence post just above Lewis's feeding stall. She was determined not to be ignored yet again. She was going to tell Lewis all about 'The First Annual, Cotton Farm, Easter, Son Rise Service and Believer's Breakfast" if she had to cackle until the cows came home. "You listen to me Lewis and you listen good. Mr. Will and Ms. Nellie have invited the whole county to our farm on Easter morning. Are you listening to me Lewis?"
Lewis was straining to hear the sound of his dinner buckets being filled. Hissy's chatter was to be tuned out. "Lewis, do you know what this means?" Just then Lewis's prayers were answered. The creaky, wooden plank, barn door swung slowly upon its hinges. There standing in a magnificent pool of the day's last rays of sunlight was Mr. Will. He held in each hand a huge metal pail filled with the most delectable assortment of table scraps mixed with the sweetest corn cobs ever to be slopped in any pig pen anywhere in the world. Hissy, still yammering away, concluded "Pastor Utley's message about us..." There, Hissy had laid the whole plan out to Lewis's deaf ears. Unaware of his apathy and inattention to her announcement Hissy flapped her wings and landed outside the fence with a lady like thud. Her mission accomplished, she strutted off toward the chicken yard to partake of the sweet corn she knew awaited her. Ms. Nellie never kept her waiting.
The big day finally arrived. Easter Morning! Thought it was still dark and not yet time for the Rooster to call on the sun to come up, the farm was bustling. An outdoor kitchen had been set up between the farmhouse and the pond, just beyond the barn and chicken house. The lawn was appointed with dozens of big round tables cover in brightly checked red and white table cloths. Buffet style tables placed end to end formed a line and were crowded with big silver serving dishes. Harried volunteers were hard at work preparing a feast fit for Our King.
Hissy perched herself in a small window above the milking stalls in the barn. She gazed down at the throngs of people gathered below. Reverend Utley was provided with grand oak pulpit strategically placed just a few feet from the baptismal pond. Nellie's azaleas surrounded the banks and were bursting with blooms. Beds of brightly colored daffodils stood tall mixed with buttery yellow tulips. The pansies provided a carpet of royal purple, blue and white bordered in gold by Nellie's marigolds As the sun began to peek out over the horizon the rooster announced the commencement of 'The First Annual, Cotton Farm, Easter, Son Rise Service and Believers Breakfast.'
An excited hush fell over the gathering as everyone took a seat before the podium. "Happy Easter, to one and all! On behalf of Willie and Nellie Cotton, I wish to welcome each of you to "The First Annual, Cotton Farm, Easter, Son Rise Service and Believers Breakfast." Hissy cocked her head to one side so as not miss on word of Pastor Utley's sermon. Although she was quite tired from laying all the eggs she had produced over the last few days as her self appointed duty demanded. She knew a proper 'Believers Breakfast' would be impossible without her.
Hissy glanced around the barnyard and noticed Harold standing by the hog trough, just outside the fence. She thought it strange not to see Lewis with his snout shoved in it, but it was early, and he did need his beauty sleep. Harold was swinging his head back and forth, in a most unnatural motion, for a goat, trying his best to grab Hissy's attention. She was too involved just now to pay him any mind. What ever his troubles were, she would tend to them later.
Pastor Utley continued addressing the crowd, "We come together on this Easter Morning to celebrate the Death and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. His Father, Our Father, God, sent his only Son to earth, as a man, that He would walk as we walk. Christ participated in life, just as we participate. God gave Him freewill, just as He has given us freewill."
The crowd was riveted. "Jesus Christ was allowed a choice; exactly as each of us is free to choose. This Easter Morning, here at the 'First Annual, Cotton Farm, Easter, Son Rise Service and Believers Breakfast' I want to invite you to make a choice." Today, brothers and sisters, I ask you to decide, Are you the chicken or the pig?" The Reverend was answered by a sea of blank stares, mingled with wrinkled nosed and disbursed with nearly visible question marks hovering over some foreheads. "Let me be more precise" Pastor Utley went on. "In our Christian lives we are much like this fine 'Believers Breakfast' which awaits us. Scrambled eggs," at his remark, Hissy beamed, "buttered grits, redeye gravy for sopping, home fried potatoes, warm baked biscuits with black strap molasses and freshly ground sausage, crispy bacon, and country ham." Hearing this, Hissy nearly fell from her perch in the barn window. "The chicken merely participated in the "The First Annual, Cotton Farm, Easter, Son Rise Service and Believers Breakfast," but, the pig, the pig was wholly committed. So I ask you again, today, are you the chicken or the pig?"
Nancy Brown 6/6/07
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