By: Jerry Barksdale
There are many reasons why I don’t want to go to hell. Not being able to see my loving mother, family, and friends are major ones, not to mention bumping into a couple of judges and a bunch of lawyers who disrupted my bio-rhythm for 43 years. Of course, I would get to see some old girlfriends, perhaps my ex- mother-in-law, and meet big shot Washington politicians who, no doubt, will compose the largest delegation there. Moreover, it never rains in hell, and that’s a deal breaker for me. I love rain.
I hope there are seasons in Heaven, just like on earth, and plenty of rain and little houses with tin roofs. For me, Heaven on earth is snuggling in a warm bed on a cold winter night with plenty of Mama’s quilts spread over me, and listening to the roar of rain on a tin roof.
In 1947, we lived on Bean Road in an old farm house with a tin roof. I remember waking early on a Saturday morning in a cold room and hearing rain pecking on the window and dancing on the tin roof. Hallelujah! No school and no picking cotton. I snuggled deep under the quilts and was soon asleep. That same year I found several pieces of tin and constructed a secret hide-out. A cotton sack stuffed with hay was my only furnishing. When it rained, I crawled into my hide-out and listened to rain on tin. Sometimes when it rained, I climbed in the barn loft and snuggled in the hay where I was soon warm and asleep once again. Rain and tin go together like cornbread and milk. Sadly, times changed. People grew ashamed of living in tin roof houses and wanted asphalt shingles like their neighbors. In 1976, Carol and I remodeled an old two-story farm house at Leggtown. Tin was out and metal roofs hadn’t yet made the scene. Our bedroom was in a single story wing with asphalt shingles, and I couldn’t hear the wind howl through the ancient cedar trees outside, much less rain. A window air conditioner was located in the wall near our bed. I wired a sheet of tin on top of the outside portion of the unit, and when it rained, I heard that wonderful music—raindrops on tin.
According to psychologists, the sound of rain triggers a primitive part of our brain. When our Stone Age ancestors were supper for saber tooth tigers and wooly mammoths, they hid in caves. When it rained, predators weren’t hunting, which meant that our ancient ancestors could relax and sleep.
I don’t have a tin roof where I currently reside, but I once devised an alternative that rain lovers may want to copy. I placed upturned tin buckets under the eaves of my roof. When it rained, I opened the bedroom window and listened to the patter of drops on tin. I realized that some subdivisions have restrictions regarding what can be placed in the yard. A friend once lived at Canebrake and was told it violated restrictions to place a small plastic bunny in her yard on Easter. But fertile minds can always find a solution. I suggest purchasing several tin buckets, paint them to resemble low growing shrubs, and turn them upside down near your window. If that doesn’t work, complain loudly, hire a lawyer, and sue someone—anyone.
I’ll admit that in January, 1968, I was praying it would stop raining. My young brother-in-law, Jack O’Conner and I were paddling a boat up a creek in Jackson County near twilight, when we were caught in a torrential downpour. We had no tent and no camping equipment. We turned the boat upside down and spent a cold and wet night sleeping on soggy ground. Afterwards, I was sick in bed for three days.
When I was a child, preachers scared the devil out of me talking about dying and burning in hell for eternity. Nowadays, preachers no longer scare folks; they might not return and help pay off the fat mortgage on the new building addition.
Recently a preacher told me, “I don’t ever mention that four-letter word, hell.” Folks don’t want to hear about hell. Some don’t believe in it. Young folks figure by the time they die, an air conditioner app will be available on I-Phones. I think the best way to get rid of hell is to call in the ACLU and ask the U.S. Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional on the grounds that it discriminates against sinners. And, why not? The Supreme Court makes up law as they go, anyway. If I were a preacher, I’d speak plainly to folks. To men, I’d say, “If you want to spend eternity with your mother-in-law, in a place where it never rains, with no water to brew coffee and beer; where there are no rivers, no fish, and no bass boats, no Iron Bowl, no deer hunting, and you’ll never hear rain on a tin roof, then keep purchasing big pick-ups and deer rifles while neglecting your wife, and refusing to budget for her hairdos, pedicures, and new tattoos. One day she’ll throw a fit so bad you’ll wish you were in hell.”
Preaching to women would be simple: “There ain’t no shoe stores in hell. Period!”
There would be pushing and shoving at the altar call.
By: Jerry Barksdale