“Little Boys and Tadpoles” contemporary figurative painting
I was the only Mormon in my school because all the other recently-converted families were scattered throughout the Delta, but on Sundays and Wednesdays, I would get to see my friends at church. There were two boys roughly my age from over in Indianola, and the three of us grew up together doing Boy Scouts, campouts, church, etc. Their families made the drive each week to the church in Greenville. Actually, the church was located out of town, out in the country south of Greenville, near an intersection known as Wayside, out on a blacktop road. Between Sunday School and Sacrament Meeting (the main service), the three of us would run out to the edge of the fields around the church. Invariably, I would get muddy and get into all sorts of trouble because I had ruined my Sunday shoes. I couldn’t seem to resist any mud puddle or ditch. I always had to see if there were any minnows or crawfish living there and if I could scoop any out.
I had intended to paint my first memory of my two friends from Indianola, one of these two friends in particular, but this picture isn’t it. My first memory of him was when all three of us ran out after church and had a dirt-clod war. On my third shot, I nailed him in the eye at an unbelievable distance. I was so incredibly proud at first. The shot had been a high arc, and the dirt clod had gone further than I thought I could throw. It was exhilarating. Then he started to cry, and the adults came over, and we all got in trouble. My mother was especially angry, and I’m sure I had dirt all over my clothes. She quickly herded me and my sister into the car, and we went home without even getting to say goodbye, and I didn’t get to see my friends until next week.
We were about six or seven then. That was the age that we started learning that the Lord had a special mission for us to spread the gospel. At Sunday School we learned that the Lord wanted us to live cleanly and not tell lies or steal or say bad words so that we could be ordained into the priesthood. Then when we were old after high school, we would go on missions far away, maybe even to a foreign country. At Primary (Wednesday evening church for children), we sang songs about it and started learning all the Bible and Book of Mormon stories so that we would be ready. Each week, our Primary teacher would tell us stories about the Lord calling the prophets. We learned all the stories: Moses, David, Samuel, the Twelve Apostles, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Then she would point to the three of us and say that she knew without any doubt that the Lord was looking over us and had plans for us. She even said that for all we knew, the Lord might even call us on a mission together. For six-year-old friends that only got to see each other once or twice a week, it sounded like a fantastic adventure, like some never-ending campout with no grown ups.
Then we grew older. As teens, we slowly grew apart as each of us dealt with the pressures of growing up LDS differently. As was expected without question, all three of us attended the LDS Church Seminary program in high school, but things were changing for me. My mind began to be preoccupied more and more by women and other subjects, and I began to think critically about The Church and it’s obsession with growth. Even so, I was ordained like clockwork on my 18th birthday with great expectation. Then my friend was killed in a car accident, and suddenly everything was over. I didn’t go on a mission. Instead, I took a scholarship and went away to college. Life led me elsewhere, away from The Church, away from the Delta, away from all the people I had known there.