Back when I was a kid, trying to grow up during what they called “The Depression,” there were two subjects often brought up at our house. One was “The Lord” and the other was the lard. The lard came from rendering hog fat and we used it to fry stuff. As far as I knew, The Lord furnished us the stuff we fried.

Folks were always saying, “I thank The Lord for that.” Folks who gave thanks for the food at the table always thanked The Lord. I guess that included the lard it was cooked in.

I never did hear anybody actually thank The Lord for the lard but they should have.

I learned all about the lard in the winter at hog killing time. This was usually a community thing, or at least involving several neighbors. It involved a lot of work and took several people to do it.

Nothing was wasted. Even the fat was placed in large pots with fires underneath and “rendered” which was when it turned into liquid. Then, when it cooled, it became lard.

Everybody usually got enough to last until the next winter. If they didn’t, they would be forced to buy a gallon bucket of Mrs. Tucker’s Lard which might not have been as healthy as ours. Her buckets, however, were good to carry our lunch in to the cotton patch.

On the other hand, I learned about “The Lord” in the summer when Mama took me to the “Big Meetings” held under a tabernacle at Blanket. There were enough of them to last all summer. The preachers who held these meetings were called “hell-fire and brimstone” preachers for good reason. They scared people into religion. At least, they did a good job of scaring me. But they scared me away from it. I remember one preacher who somehow managed to get four syllables into the word God and called Jesus “Jaysus.”

In July and August, it was hot under that old tabernacle with no cooling except cardboard fans furnished by a local funeral home. Some of us would break out in a sweat from the heat while others sweated from what the preacher was saying “If you think it’s hot here, you ain’t seen nothing to compare with where you’re going” the preacher would remind us all.

He also had a lot to say about Satan, who I was sure must be sitting somewhere on the back row.

Somehow, in my childhood innocence, I just didn’t believe that God was as mean and unforgiving as the preachers portrayed Him back then. Surely we were left a loophole somewhere to get out of drastic punishment for the meanness we might get into.

During World War II there was more than one occasion that when the German 88 millimeter shells were bursting around my ball turret on that B-17 bomber and with planes going down and the world seemed to be on fire and about to go upside down that I asked God for a little assistance and He gave me a loophole.

Maybe it all started back in Blanket under that tabernacle with a funeral home fan to keep me cool and the devil sitting in the back row with the hell and brimstone preachers telling me I was doomed and I was far too young to be doomed.

Maybe it all started back during the Great Depression during hog killing time and Mama taught us the difference between The Lord and the lard and that we needed both to survive.

I don’t think Mama knew about the loophole

Harry Marlin’s column is featured every Tuesday on the Brownwood Bulletin’s Viewpoint page. E-mail him at