“Master!” Creek sang. His cool, strong, clear tenor arched out of the choir stand; filling the entire church with its richness; mesmerizing those upon whose ears the unique, vibrato-less voice fell, at times, gently; at others, sharply. Derrell’s masterful manipulation of the keys of the time worn, upright piano, harmoniously echoed Creeks prayerful delivery of the word, “Master!” “Theeeeeee tempest!” he continued, his voice rising from the depths of that place that all great soloist must harbor within their bodies and souls, then rising towards higher and higher, nigh heavenly heights; a crescendo followed faithfully by the entrancing sounds of the piano accompaniment which now rumbled forth like the roll of the distant thunder of a violent storm, as it made its approach over the horizon. “Is raging!” Creek softly concluded the first line of the song. During the brief, dramatic pause, I heard somebody whisper, “Creek can sang.” “Yes,” I thought to myself, “but he sho can’t fish!”
How did I know that Creek couldn’t fish? Creek had gone fishing with me, my brother and dad several times. But we weren’t at the “Backup Water” this day, we were in church and Creek was singing, not fishing. His wide shoulders rose, as he filled his powerful lungs with air. His narrow face, with its strong chin and cheekbones, snatched to the right, as if glancing back over his shoulder. The storm was approaching! “Theeeeeee billow-o-ooooooows!” again his voice rising to a crescendo then falling softly, “are tossing, hi-iiiigh”. Then again, booming, “The sky is o’er shadooooooowed with blackneeesss!” then gently “No shelter…no shelter…or help is… ni-iiigh!” Shouts of “Sing it boy! Sing it!” and “Alright nigh!” arose from the congregation! Derrell, brought the storm closer; thunder booming. Somebody elbowed me, “He can sang can’t he?” I gave them a perfunctory smile, “Why yes, he’s my cousin you know” I answered proudly, even as another, quieter thought lingered; “but he sho can’t fish!”
How did I know that Creek couldn’t fish? Because, whenever he’d go fishing with us and someone got a nibble or a bite, he’d withdraw his line from its current locale and, “swoosh, plop!” deposit it directly into the spot where the person had just caught a fish or got a bite; a la a “boy called Man.” But we weren’t at “The Pasture” this day. We were in church and Creek wasn’t fishing, he was singing. “Carest…Thou… not… that… weeeeeee pe-rish?” he intoned boldly, angrily, then pleadingly he queried, “How canst Thou lie therrrrrre…asleep?” “You talking to Jesus like that boy?” said the devil, at least the voice sounded like how I thought the devil should sound. I looked around, but saw only the “faithful few.” Creek’s shoulder rose, his head snatched to the left. He continued, “When each moment… sooooooo madlyyyyyyy is threatening, aaaaaaa grave, a grave, a grave… in the angryyy deep? The storm was upon us. Creek’s fabulous voice told us so. We were doomed! These were the feelings we felt as we rode the waves of the ominous melody and heeded the warnings described so vividly by Creek’s dexterous delivery of the song’s verses. “Man he can sing,” I said, to no one in particular. “If he could fish, he’d be awesome,” but alas, I thought between the musical waves rocking us, “Creek can’t fish.”
How did I know that Creek couldn’t fish? He would frequently get his fishing line entangled with the fishing line of his fellow fishermen. From somewhere, I felt a cool breeze as the rhythm and pace of the song changed. The other men in the choir; Congo, Tat, Fletch, Buster, Reatha, Willie J., Derrell, and Dump joined in the chorus singing in perfect harmony;
“The winds and the waves shall obey my will, peace be still
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be
No water can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies
They shall sweetly obey my will
Peace be still, peace be still
They all shall sweetly obey my will, peace, peace be still”
As their voices trailed off, the church grew quiet, the breeze I’d felt earlier, suddenly stopped. The church was still; peaceful. Suddenly! The congregation burst into cheers, handclaps and foot stomps. Creek and the boys brought the house down. Maybe Creek couldn’t fish, but boy that man could sing!
P.S. Years later, after many days of fishing with my father, Creek did eventually become one hell of a fisherman.
NEXT WEEK: CONGO’S CARGO