The Old Rugged Cross
When I look back at my childhood I am often ashamed
of what a complete butthead I was sometimes. I am lucky my family didn't
kill me. “The Old Rugged Cross” is a story that I am not proud of but
anyway here goes.
Music was always present in my childhood home, whether on the radio, record player, or around our family piano. The piano was an old upright that sat in the living room. The living room was usually off limits for kids except for special occasions. It wasn’t even heated most of the time. But there were different rules for the piano. The piano was always open and even encouraged for play by any of us. It continued to be open even after Perry, my older brother took a hammer to it and broke the edges off of half dozen keys. The ragged edged keys became part of the personality of the piano.
Often times our family gathered around the piano while either mother or Martha Gene played a song and we would sing. They both loved music and I thank them to this day that they gave me a wonderful pleasure of listening to piano music that never ceases. At one point they attempted to convince me that I had a good voice and Martha Gene and I even did a song on the local radio station, WHAL. The song was "Sioux City Sioux". I still remember the words. I was so scared even though all I could see was a microphone. We did it without a hitch, and all ten people listening to the performance praised it (I think they were all relatives). Nevertheless, I still concluded that I was not really cut out for singing.
On one of our family gatherings we assembled at the piano and one of the songs selected was "Old Rugged Cross", a song about Christ dying for our sins. Strangely enough, even my father joined in, since it was one of his favorite songs. Somehow his apparent pleasure in singing religious songs seemed quite out of kilter with the rest of his lifestyle. About five of us prepared to sing.
Unfortunately, my clowning cousin had taught me an alternate set of words (correct words in parenthesis) to this very song that go something like this:
On a hill far away,
stood an old (rugged cross) Chevrolet,
and the tires were flat as a board.
And the tank had no gas,
and the........so on.
I suppose since Martha Gene was getting all the attention being at the center on the piano, I decided to sing the alternate words. The first time around, my antics actually got a few polite laughs. So then we started over. I sang the same alternate words again. At that point, my mother and father began to get upset and demanded that I either use the right words or be totally quiet while everyone else sang.
I assured them with my most convincing whine and plea that I would use the right words. Upon fooling them a third time, they ordered me to leave the singing group. I pleaded and pleaded and promised to behave. I may have even shed tears to get another chance. And so they gave in and let me sing yet a fourth time. To this day, I don't know what I was doing, but even on the fourth time, after all the pleading and promising,
"On a hill far away,
Stood and ole Chevrolet.........."
I blanked out what happened after that. My mother was a patient woman, but she also was never one to spare the rod when pushed to the edge. Whatever happened, I deserved it and more. I hope mother in heaven will see this and forgive me for being such a butt head sometimes.