The trail crossed a low, fern-covered, boggy area, and then the dense foliage opened up at the creeks edge. Along the creek to the east was a long, narrow gravel bar, filled to capacity with about seventy-five shivering pilgrims, beaming ear to ear, with hymnals in hand. At our approach the preacher and two deacons slipped off their shoes, stepped ever so gingerly across the gravel bar, and then clothes and all, they waded cautiously into that icy brook till they were about waist deep. The preacher took a deep but tentative breath and read an appropriate scripture until his lips turned blue and his teeth began to chatter, and then he handed the Good Book to one of the deacons and motioned for Mariah and me. Mariah sucked in a big breath of cold morning air, took a tight, trembling grip on my hand, and the cold and nervousness sent us each into a shudder and a synchronized pee chill. I forced a smile and we waded slowly out.
By the time we’d waded out to the preacher, the water was chest deep on me and almost up to Mariah’s quivering chin. I stood beside the deacons as the preacher took Mariah’s hand and quoted several lines of scripture. I could hear Mariah’s teeth chattering, and her eyes were wide as fruit jar lids! It took every bit of her determination, and she never took her eyes off mine, but she repeated that scripture line for line, held a hanky against her face, and the preacher plunged her head and all, into that swirling torrent!
Mariah was still fighting desperately to catch her breath and part her drenched hair from her eyes when the preacher turned to me. By now we were all near the point of hypothermia, and the preacher abbreviated the process considerably. He was still a tad long winded for my taste, but he was a preacher after all, and you had to admire his sagacity. My teeth were chattering till I couldn’t hear a thing he said, but when it came to my part, he nodded, I nodded, and he plunged me backwards into that arctic bath.
I hadn’t had very high expectations for this experience. I’m not really certain what I expected. There were neither doves nor angels, but somehow a load was lifted, and something deep inside was changed for good. It wasn’t that my path seemed clear, but I knew which steps felt right and which steps didn’t, and I was brimming with the boundless exuberance, which comes of a youthful faith. Mr. Mac Gregor played his bagpipes as we headed for the shore; the sun came out and the whole crowd joined in song. We didn’t loiter long on the banks; everyone was frozen half to death! I can’t really explain it, but as we trudged up that hill, hugging, slipping and shivering, with those Baptists praising God, I experienced a peace down deep in my heart that would temper the rest of my life. Obie's Quest