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Tuesday, August 23, 2011



If you’ve ever seen the movie “Elmer Gantry” starring Burt Lancaster, you know that he was an evangelist but also a womanizer man as well. Kind of the type you read about in today’s news—the ones who pretend to be holier than others but aren’t.

Elmer Gantry really didn’t live next door to my grandmother but a man just like him did. I must have been seven or eight and would see him dressed up and leaving with a bible in his hands. Thought nothing of it until one day I saw a woman moving in with him. Not that it was wrong but the next day she was standing out in the yard wearing a blue satin bathing suit, pearls and high heels. I thought she was a movie star and couldn’t help but stare. My grandmother quickly jerked me inside and told me not to look at her or at that house. Not sure what my staid grandfather thought—if he did, he certainly never said. But I do remember a policeman stopping to talk to her as well as other men and clueless me, thought nothing of it.

Think she lived there with him for a couple of months and then just disappeared only to be replaced by some other woman. And all the while he would leave with his bible going somewhere. Where I never knew. About this time, his daughter showed up on the scene: She was older than me but not much. Invited me in for breakfast one morning and I was just in shock for all of the floors were linoleum [everyone I knew had carpet or rugs] and when I sat down to eat bacon and eggs cooked by the minister, I couldn’t believe that he didn’t toast the bread. It was just served out of the package. And I wouldn’t eat it.

Not saying that there was anything wrong with linoleum floors or untoasted bread; it was just unnerving to me for I had never seen it. But what was about to happen later that week, left me unnerved for the rest of my life.

I was out on that minister’s front porch with his daughter and we were playing some game when he showed up with a huge live turkey. Wasn’t Thanksgiving but more like September and warm. The porch had walls around it—sort of one third of the way up and an opening for the front steps. Had never seen a live turkey before in my life and trust me, it was huge. Had no idea why he was holding it until he started wringing it’s neck—that turkey went round and round until its head came off!

Blood was everywhere and worse was that I was trapped on that porch with his daughter but the worst was that the headless turkey started running around the entire porch and got near me! I was hysterical. Had no idea that turkeys did that [or chickens] for guess the body didn’t know its head was gone. Didn’t last long but long enough to scare the wits out of me. The turkey body fell down in a heap and I ran off those steps like lightning and over to my grandparents’ house.

Trust me I never went near that house again for a long time. The minister moved away packing his bible and another girlfriend. Have no idea whatever happened to his daughter nor did I really want to find out. Come Thanksgiving that year, when my grandmother served a huge turkey and my parents and family were there, I wouldn’t eat one bite of it.

That was so long ago and yet every time the movie “Elmer Gantry” comes on television, I can’t watch it.  And oddly enough, that house is still there right beside where my grandparent’s house used to be. When I drive by it, you know darned well what I am thinking about and I can’t look at it for not only did an Elmer Gantry man live there but also that headless turkey!

Sherry Hill

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