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Why My Great-Uncle Gave Up the Ministry

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When the following was published in The 1984 Old Farmer's Almanac, many readers wrote to say that it was the funniest Almanac story they'd ever read.

The following sad but true tale concerns my great-uncle, a wonderful, jolly, beloved man who was over six feet four and very well educated (Colgate University, Doctor of Divinity) and in the early 1900s became a full-time Baptist minister.

A kindly, gentle man despite his size, Uncle Alden Bentley's only real fault seemed to be that he was terribly clumsy. As a young minister, he was paying a pastoral call one day on a woman in Dillon, South Carolina, when he inadvertently sat on her Chihuahua, Twinkie, and killed it. As the lady searched and called for her dog throughout the house, Uncle Alden felt underneath his hip and, realizing what he had done, panicked and slipped the dead dog into his coat pocket. Although he was devastated, he could not bring himself to tell the woman what had happened.

Five years later, he returned to the same home for an overnight visit and resolved to unburden himself by finally telling the woman exactly what had happened to Twinkie. She had just had the guest room redone and had hung brand-new curtains. To make Uncle feel welcome, she had placed on the bedside table a large pitcher of ice water and a glass, as well as a pen and bottle of ink so he could work on his sermon before retiring.

Uncle liked to sleep with the window open and got up in the night to open it. As he did, he knocked over what he assumed to be a full glass of water. Then, groping along the walls in an unsuccessful search for the light switch, he retraced his steps several times before raising the window and settling back on the bed for the night. When he opened his eyes the next morning, he was horrified. The fresh wallpaper on two walls was covered with great black blobs. The crisp white curtains were thoroughly smudged with the prints of Uncle's huge paws. It had not been the water glass he's overturned in the night—it had been the ink bottle.

In a shaken state of mind and knowing he must face his hostess, Uncle dressed hurriedly and started down the stairs outside the guest room. As he approached the landing, his foot slipped. Reaching wildly for support, he grabbed the nearest object, which happened to be the beautiful electric brass candelabra mounted on the stairwell wall. The fixture was hissing and smoking as he ripped it from the wall and toppled down to the landing below, still clutching it in his hand.

"Are you hurt?" his hostess cried as she rushed to Uncle's side.

"No," said Uncle as he rose to his feet, "but I have demolished your home." With that he quickly walked out the door and, at the end of the walk, turned and said to his hostess with deep reverence, "Twinkie had a Christian burial."

He then retired from the ministry and became a teacher of philosophy for many years at a private preparatory school in Massachusetts.

Actress Norma Shearer with her dog, Pedro—a Chihuahua exactly like poor Twinkie.

Credit:Culver Pictures

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