When I was growing up, our family would attend two different churches that were close to our farm. One was a Baptist Church and the other a Methodist. I say our family, but it was mostly me, moving back and forth between the two. Ya’ see, the Methodist had a great young peoples group, and the Baptist Church was mostly older folks…so, I preferred the Methodist in those early years.
Every year, the big deal at the Methodist Church was the Christmas Pageant, this year, 1948, the kids and the young people’s leader decided to do it up right…yessir, we were gonna do a live Nativity Scene, in costume and bringing in live animals. It was gonna be the best one that’s ever been. A farmer that lived close by had a couple of sheep that were tame, an old milk cow….and a miniature burro. Shoot man, this was gonna be great.
I was twelve years old that year, and I was chosen to be one of the Shepherds…my Mom helping me make an outfit that I considered was exactly what a Shepherd would look like…a sheet wrapped around me, and swirled around my head with a colorful bit of cloth holding it in place. I cut a long branch off a persimmon tree for my staff, and I was ready. Man, I could have passed for a genuine Bethlehammer.
The farmer hauled the animals to the church….we got ropes around them and got them all cleaned up and ready to go. Getting them inside the church was not too much trouble, other than the Burro, who locked all four legs stiff, and had to be carried inside the church. He did not seem very happy about it all. I was in charge of the Burro, who was about the size of a Shetland Pony. This was a chore that I grew to be very sorry about.
That evening all the neighbors came to the church…we had special music planned and the center piece was the manger with the baby and Mary and Joseph…and the animals and shepherds circled around them, while the Preacher read the Bible Story of the Birth of Jesus. It was going great.
I had a pretty long rope on the Burro, and had him pushed up close to the manger…as I was standing there holding the rope, looking very seriously Shepherdy…the dang Burro started crapping in the church…I was mortified as people started snickering…I thought maybe I could just goose him a little with the persimmon staff and get him to cut it off…so I did. Uh huh, bad mistake…when I gently goosed him with the stick…the Burro went crazy…he leaped straight up in the air, whirled around, jerking the rope out of my hands…and started galloping around the church…hee hawing at the top of his lungs…breaking wind loudly and kicking every other leap…the old ladies in the church started screaming…the kids, meanwhile, fell down laughing, thinking it was the funniest thing they had ever seen….the Preacher was hollering for order…and using some pretty strong sign language waving his arms like a traffic cop every time the Burro came back around…he made about three rounds and then someone thought to open the doors and he ran outside. Well, the Church Christmas Pageant was topsy-turvy…the excitement made the milk cow get upset and caused her to go into extreme fits of loose bowels…which also made the two sheep empty out their insides….the church now being transformed into a real stable full of real animal crap. You never saw a bunch of Methodists head for the exits so fast…one old lady glaring at me like I had caused it all….Shoot I was just trying to church-break the Burro. You gotta be tough as an animal trainer.
I reckon they never did have another live Nativity Scene at the Methodist Church..and after I went to all that trouble to make my Shepherds outfit. Thinking back on it all, now, I realize we should have used my sheet to make king size diapers for the Burro, Cow and Sheep…but, ya’ live and learn. How was I to know the dang Burro was Goosey?
I went back to the Baptists till things cooled off, and since that has been over 66 years ago…the Methodist’s have a mighty long memory.