Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Growing Up In Himni, Utah - Episode 11

You’ll Get Yours

Henry Steinmetz was our Sunday School teacher for a while. His kids, Hank, Ernest and Riley were our age. Henry looked old enough to be their grandfather. Brother Steinmetz was a kindly old man, a little rough around the edges, with more hair growing out his ears than on his head. Henry was a pray-er. It seemed like every time Sacrament Meeting went long, the Bishop called on Henry to offer the Benediction. (“Another Sunday night without watching Maverick,” I’d complain to myself.) Often there were audible groans. Henry never prayed shorter than 20 minutes in his life. He prayed about everything! Sometimes it was even embarrasing, like the time he prayed my acne would clear up – right in Sacrament Meeting! Or the time he prayed that Brother Warner’s cow would stay in the pasture and out of Sister Banks’ corn patch. He was Ward Teacher to both of them, which was awkward; as though that prayer wasn’t.

Sunday School class was like that too. Nobody applied the gospel to our particular lives like Henry did. Some days it seemed like he knew exactly what shenanigans we’d been up to during the past week.
We loved to go to his class. It started with Henry at the door to welcome us individually to Sunday School. He only had three fingers on his right hand and yet his were the most comfortable, warm handshakes I ever felt. Ironically, a handshake from Hank (Henry Jr.)was a different story all together. Hank’s grip was like a vise. In fact for fun, he’d often pretend he was cranking on a vise as he drove you to your knees begging for mercy. My dad had a monster grip, but Hank could even bring him to his prayer bones in agony. Mercy was not in Hank’s vocabulary. We tried not to ever shake hands with Hank. Even if you were agressive and charged in for a good grip it was hopeless.

Anyway, back to Sunday School class. There were about a dozen of us who regularly attended Henry’s class. Of all the teachers we harrassed during our youth Henry was the most memorable, or at least his class was. We were pretty unruly but somehow he got through to us.

Frannie Hermann and Aaron Black were among us. They were dating at the time. Frannie never took her eyes off Aaron for the whole 45 minutes. She’d tickle and touch his face and whisper stuff to him. He on the other hand was always concientionsly trying to pay attention. This little distraction always amused us. Like the time, out of nowhere, Frannie grabbed Aaron’s lower lip (Aaron had predominant lips) and stretched it half way across the room. Henry just said, “Put that back!” and carried on with the lesson. Aaron gave Frannie a fatherly smile, half impatience, half adoration, smacked his lips in his characteristic manner and turned his attention back to Henry’s lesson. I couldn’t take my eyes off Aaron’s lower lip! I still can’t believe it could stretch that far.

The classroom had coarsely textured plaster walls, smoothed by several heavy layers of cream colored paint. I never could ignore the bucktoothed mermaid that seemed deliberately sculpted in the texture of the west wall. The paint was rubbed off her breast so apparently I wasn’t the only one who’d noticed her over the years. Once, I sat with my back to her and rocking back in my chair, bumped my head hard on that same worn protrusion. I don’t know how many pounds per square inch the impact produced, but it hurt like the Dickens.

Rob Hanke was also in that class. He usually slept. Rob spent all his energies on misadventure and used church to catch up on lost sleep. The night before one particular class, had been spent shooting frogs he’d inflated with a straw, then floated on the pond behind his house. Instead of a scope on his pellet gun he’d duct taped a flash light. The poor frogs couldn’t sink, being blown full of air. That is, until he popped them. Which is why Rob bolted out of his chair from a dead sleep when in Henry’s lesson, he told us that it was his opinion that God would punish us in kind. Or in other words, that we’d get precisely what we gave, as punishment for cruelties we had committed in this life.
Rob had what we called “Coke Bottle Bottom” glasses. The thick kind that magnify the wearer’s eyes. He was turning a tinge of green and his eyes looked so big and froggy that some of us thought the punishment had already commenced.

Lily Tomlin once lamented, “I always wanted to be somebody…I should have been more specific.” Thank you, Brother Steinmetz, for teaching me to be specific.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...