Having some fun under the sun
On the last day of the last weekend before school starts in Marshall County, a group of children got a special reward for winning a three-week-long contest in Sunday school.
Fifteen children, from preschoolers to teenagers, rode the Lighthouse Independent Baptist Church bus and van to Rising Glory Farm, just north of Berlin, for a few hours of fun in the country.
Chris and Ida Marie Carlough run the farm as a boarding and training establishment for horses, but they're also in the agri-tourism business, and they're well accustomed to entertaining groups at their farm.
The adventure started with a hayride as Chris drove the tractor that pulled a low wagon with hay bales for seats.
"I've never seen a horse," one child exclaimed as they rode slowly past the fields of contented horses.
Chris made the ride educational as well as fun, showing his passengers a hay field, and explaining how hay is cut, turned, baled and stored - ready to feed to hungry horses.
The temperature was over 90 degrees. Everyone was ready for popsicles and cold drinks when they got back to the barn. "Mr. Scotty" had been busy cooking hotdogs, and there were plenty of willing hands helping the children fix their plates.
While they ate, Chris told the children about the dogs on the porch.
"All these dogs are rescue dogs, like me," he said. "Ida Marie found me and took me in."
The two biggest dogs are both connected to Chris's other jobs, as a volunteer fireman and emergency medical technician. Bella was dropped off at the Berlin Fire Hall on one of the first days he was there, and he met Esther as a puppy the first day he worked as an EMT at the Chapel Hill ambulance station.
After lunch, everyone moved in to the indoor arena for a demonstration of natural horsemanship.
"Do it again!" cried the children, as Chris got his paint horse, Patch, to make lightning fast changes of direction on the circle.
"Make him run," they shouted when he got on Patch bareback.
"I'll fall off," said Chris. "I'm an old man."
"Hang on to the mane, hon," advised Ida Marie from the sidelines.
Chris got his assistant Rachel to saddle up 14-year-old Star, another Tennessee Walking Horse, and demonstrated the walking horse gaits. Then it was the moment everyone had been waiting for: a chance to ride a real horse.
"Giddy up," and "Yee-hah," they said, as Chris led them around, while some of the children just giggled with pleasure.
"Don't make him run," said the littlest cowboy, four-year-old Danny.
Danny might have been the youngest Sunday school member there, but his teacher, Linda Salway said he'd had no trouble with the contest, including memorizing and reciting John 3:16, which was one of the requirements.
Linda and her husband Dennis have a "bus ministry," she explained. Every Sunday they pick up children in the bus, bring them to church and give them Sunday school.
"Every week we do a different thing," Linda said.
The Salways also did a bus ministry when they were in New York, and the assistant pastor, Josh Leathers, did it while he was at Hyles-Anderson College. Josh not only completed his pastoral studies at the College, he met his future wife, Melodie. Josh's father is Senior Pastor Steven Leathers.
Ten children didn't get to come on the trip to Rising Glory Farm because they didn't complete all the requirements of the contest, which included bringing a friend to Sunday school each week, and remembering to bring their Bible each week. Maybe they'll try harder when they hear what fun the other children had.