It was the Henderson's turn to host the preacher for Sunday dinner after church and Mama, somewhat reluctantly, had sacrificed several of the young chickens she'd been planning to trade for sugar, coffee and calico at the nearby Mercantile. Every last one of the young uns needed new shoes too, what with winter coming on.
But the pride of the family rested on how well the preacher was fed at their house so Mama fried up four young cockerels in the big black frying pan atop the Modern Maid cook stove. Snowy biscuits, green beans simmered with sidemeat, creamed corn, smothered potatoes, turnip greens with vinegar and chopped onions, home-churned butter, an assortment of jams and jellies and pickles crowded the table, along with pitchers of sweet milk and buttermilk. Mama looked at her work and saw that it was good.
The family waited, heads bowed and hands folded while the preacher asked a blessing. No sooner was the 'Amen' out of the preacher's mouth than he reached for the platter of fried chicken and scooped up two large pieces of white meat.
"That ol' preacher can sure hide him some fried chicken!" Little Clete whispered to his brother as the platter made a circuit of the table and the preacher reached for more. He talked and he munched and he reached for more till a pile of chicken bones grew on the table beside his plate.
As the meal continued and the platter of chicken was reduced to a wing, a back, and a gizzard, Papa whispered to Mama and she rose, with a look of thunder on her face, and made her way to the kitchen.
If the preacher heard the back door slam or the clucking of chickens scurrying for cover, he gave no sign but just reached for that last wing.
If he heard the thunk of the axe on the stump or the sizzle and crackle of more chicken parts hitting the frying pan, it didn't stop him from accepting the back and gizzard when the platter came round again.
And when Mama returned, her mouth set in a tight line and her eyes steely, the preacher didn't notice her lowering expression but smiled happily and helped himself to another piece of white meat as the second platter of hot fried chicken was set before him.
But even preachers finally get their fill and as Mama was clearing the table, the preacher leaned back with a deep sigh of satisfaction.
Just outside, the rooster began to crow long and loud. The preacher smiled indulgently. "Just listen to that feller, won't you? Don't he sound proud?"
"Humph!" snorted Mama as she collected the pile of chicken bones from beside the preacher's plate and piled them on the second empty platter. "You'd crow too if you had six sons in the ministry."