Antithetical Living in Benzonia, Michigan – B. Catton

…To meet the nagging problems of this world while you are thinking about the requirements of the next does not always come easily; nor does constant preoccupation with such matters make you popular with your neighbors [Catton is referring especially to the effort of his town’s fathers to establish a Christian community through Christian education.]. Benzonia was not well liked by the rest of the county. We were suspected of thinking ourselves better than the other folk, and of having standards that were too high for any earthly use, and probably there was something in the charge.

I remember one time a baseball team from a nearby town came over to play our team. Our team was badly beaten, and afterward I watched a wagonload of out-of-town fans start off on the homeward trip. These people were jubilant, and a woman sitting beside the driver called out gaily: ‘We came here to see Benzony get trimmed, and by Jolly they did get trimmed.’

This was bad to hear. There was malice in it; furthermore, the woman had said ‘by Jolly,’ which was simply a thin disguise for ‘by Golly.’ No one knew just what ‘Golly’ was a euphemism for, but it clearly was some sort of profanity, and no woman in Benzonia would have used the word. It appeared that the children of darkness had triumphed over the sons of light. [p.24]

waiting-train-catton-1987Taken from Bruce Catton’s second essay “Our Town” in the book Waiting for the Morning Train: An American Boyhood (Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1987). This is the author who is a noted Civil War scholar, author of A Stillness at Appomattox and This Hallowed Ground, and who at age 70 wrote this book (Waiting for the Morning Train) on his childhood life in Benzie County, Michigan, specifically the little town of Benzonia. I recently came on this book in a local thrift store and am finding it a good read on life in the northern part of our great state!

As you can tell from this quote, Catton is reflecting on the Christian environment in which he grew up in Benzonia, “our town.” We might even say he had a sense of the antithesis.