History Leaves of the Methodist Tree – November 2017


By Johnny Cordell

This month in honor of our Chapel Hill Methodist Veterans, I am submitting an excerpt from an article written by Glenn Smith, one of my fellow VVA lifetime members.  This is not your typical Veteran’s Day Tribute, but instead offers an insight into a Vietnam Veteran who was changed forever by the realities of an assassination and war. 

Warning:  This article may not be suitable for very young readers.

“Moon of the Falling Leaves”

   The Sioux call the November moon the “Moon of the Falling Leaves”.  Trees are bare and unadorned, like a human skeleton devoid of its flesh and organs.  Yet a tree, or even the entire woodland, still hints of life, still embodies hope for a new beginning.  A naked skeleton does not.

   In my youth, I watched war movies, cops-and-robbers movies, and movies with cowboys shooting Indians.  The killings were sanitized on the silver screen.  The good guys and bad guys went home at night to their families, then returned the following morning to make a new film.  It wasn’t real but it appeared so.  We played out those movies in our back yards, woods, and streets, good guys whooping in valor, bad guys falling and screaming in fabricated agony; then rising from the battlefield to do it again, just like John Wayne and Audie Murphy.  Death meant nothing to us in those days, but it meant much more to our fathers, who knew death yet rarely spoke of it.  We kept shooting and dying, clutching our bloodless wounds, feigning mortal injuries, and exhaling the obligatory last breath.  We were young and many moons to live.

   I was just seventeen when the world witnessed an assassin’s bullet strike down President John Fitzgerald Kennedy late in the “Moon of the Falling Leaves” in 1963.  This man seemed to have the world in his hands, answers to humanities problems, power to stop ogres, a smile to warm a chilly room, and visions of peace balanced with the carriage of a proven warrior.  Time seemed to stand still, maybe even reverse itself, without us realizing it, and moons whirled around us like a tornado.  Life as we had known it was different, less fun, more uncertain.  And in just a few more moons, the movies would come to life in a stifling, humid jungle eight thousand miles from home.  There, where suns became moons in a steamy mist and moons seemed rare, the agony and mortal injuries become real. The stillness of our fathers screamed in our ears and we wept.  In the jungles and rice patties of Vietnam, many were felled by senseless, impartial bullets; not on the ground of Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, or Shiloh, but on the distant shores of Da Lat, Hue, and Pleiku.

   For reasons that may never be understood, the youth of America; African American, Caucasian, Asian, Spanish, Native American, really just Americans in the end, fought and died in Vietnam for over ten years.  To what end?  My own sons did not have to go to war, and for that I am thankful.  But it is regrettably inevitable that the silence of falling leaves on hillside monuments or visions of full moons rising will not stifle war.

Compiler’s note:  After reading this article, I am again reminded of Matt 24:6

Source: “The VVA Veteran” September/October 2016 Vol. 36 No. 5

Last month’s question: What are the two oldest Methodist Churches in the Sequatchie Valley?  According to my research, the oldest documented churches are Welch’s Chapel (Thomas Chapel 1826, Nichol’s Chapel 1850, Welch’s Chapel 1883) and Chapel Hill (Henninger’s Chapel 1852, Chapel Hill 1884).  In the Sequatchie Valley, in the early 1800’s there were, at one time, 23 churches on one circuit.  What they were, and where, we do not know.  Undoubtedly some are lost in oblivion.  Churches have come and gone without a traceable record.  Some trails were long but have been closed forever.  “Methodist were so busy making history they were too busy to record the history they were making.”

Next month’s question:  The house of Allen Kirklan, who donated the land for the original church and early cemetery, is still standing.  Where is it located?

Source:  The Circuit Rider and Those Who Followed by Mary Thomas Peacock