Why My Great-Uncle Gave Up the Ministry

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A Story from the Old Farmer's Almanac Archives

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When this true story by Marcia Barnard Chandler was published in The 1984 Old Farmer’s Almanac, many readers wrote to say that it was the funniest Almanac story they had ever read. It certainly contains our “pleasant degree of humor,” but was it “useful”? Well, there may be a lesson here somewhere… 

Why My Great-Uncle Gave Up the Ministry

My great-uncle was a wonderful, jolly, beloved man who was over 6 feet 4 inches tall and probably weighed close to 300 pounds. He was also 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 Chihauhua, 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 repapered 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 that 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’d overturned during the night—it had been the ink bottle.

In a shaken state of mind and knowing that he had to 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 a 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 front 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.

About The Author

Judson D. Hale Sr.

Jud Hale is the Editor Emeritus of The Old Farmer’s Almanac; Jud was the 12th editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac (since 1792!) and joined the parent company Yankee Publishing in 1958 as an Assistant Editor. Read More from Judson D. Hale Sr.

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