We sure know what it sounds like

Uncle Jim had bought a new pony. His name was Rattler. I would make mom read the letter over and over from Uncle Jim telling all the fun tricks Rattler could perform.

This Sunday morning was special for lots of reasons. Grandpa had to go to Wadley on business to see Uncle Jim and he promised I could go. A long trip in the Model T with just me and grandpa. No sister to interrupt me when I sought answers to all my profound questions. There would be no other adults to quiet me and tell me to count the cows. I would imagine the thought crossed grandpa’s mind. The most important thing – I would get to see Rattler.

A funny thing happened on our way to Wadley that made Rattler the second most important event to become etched in my mind all these years.

The country road was desolate and hilly. As we topped one of the hills, grandpa tapped his brakes. A school bus leaning precariously off the side of the road had caught his eye. We were in the middle of nowhere. As we got closer you could see a tire missing off the front but no one was to be seen.

Grandpa pulled off the road to see if we could help or if anyone was hurt. He got out and told me to stay put. A sign on the side of the bus in faded letters read “First Baptist”.

Strains of “swing low, sweet chariot, comin’ for to carry me home,” echoed through the piney woods.

Grandpa stopped in his tracks. Jumping from the Model T, I grabbed his hand.

He put his finger to his lips. “Quiet, son. Kinda puts goose bumps on your neck, don’t it?”

“I reckon, but where is it coming from?” I held his hand tighter.

We came upon a clearing inside a clump of small pines and palmettos. A Negro choir was singing. Dressed in their white gowns, they were on their way to Savannah when the bus broke down.

Reverend came over to grandpa and apologized if they were trespassing. He explained he had sent a couple of fellows into the next town to try and get some help.

Grandpa said it wasn’t his property but he was sure the owners wouldn’t mind. He told the preacher our journey wasn’t so important that we couldn’t help and we did.

The reverend was insistent on repaying grandpa but to no avail. I should have known him and all his wisdom. He turned to the preacher and said, “There is one way you could repay the favor. Before y’all get back on that bus could you sing “Amazing Grace”? That’s mine and Miss Ellie’s favorite.”

They gathered in the small clearing nestled in pine straw. The morning sun sent silver beams through the oaks and pines. Grandpa sitting on a fallen log, me on his knee. “Amazing Grace” in true stereo. I’ve heard it a lot of times since, but never like that.

We parted ways. We headed off in one direction, they went on their way to services in Savannah.

“Grandpa, where is heaven? What does it look like?” I searched as we chugged along the old country road.

“Don’t know. Don’t reckon anybody knows. I think we all have some kinda idea in our mind but no one really knows.”

Then he looked away from the road and over at me. He winked “But we sure know what it sounds like.”