Mr. Peavey was the nicest man that anyone on the street had ever met up to that time. He drove the school bus for all of the Duluth middle school routes that fell south of the city limits and Iroquois Trail was as south as you could go before you had to transfer over to the middle school in Norcross. So Mr. Peavey ran that route too. The kids on the block were proud that their bus driver lived on their street, no one else at school could say that. One of the years his oldest boy got to sixth grade and Mr. Peavey took great pleasure in pulling up to the stop right out in front of his own house and letting on his little boy. His smile was real and it felt good to see it form and whenever he whined and squealed the brakes to a stop in front of his own driveway he smiled especially big. His little boy was nervous and understandably embarrassed at first but when he knew that the rest of the neighborhood kids approved of the unique circumstance of which he was a part, he eased into it pretty good. Mr. Peavey would leave early, before the sun got up, before anyone got up, and would drive to the gravel lot where they kept the buses behind a rusted barbed wire fence that the kudzu and ivy would slowly crawl up and weave itself through and he’d trade out his car and then get set up in the bus. It was a flat nose. Not too many of the drivers had flat nose buses anymore, but Mr. Peavey did and he rather liked it because he didn’t have to stick the nose out into intersections or anything like that to see both ways. He warmed the engine up a bit and got everything situated and put in its right place, his coffee and thermos, his morning paper and his little black bible with the red tipped pages, Then he headed right back to Iroquois to start his route.
When Mr. Peavey wasn’t driving the bus he was a pastor at the First Mt. Carmel Baptist church over where Gravitt road met up with Old Norcross. No one knew this about him for the longest time after the Peaveys moved into the neighborhood. One by one, everyone slowly found out and though it may have been surprising to learn, it wasn’t in the least bit something you couldn’t see him doing and doing well. What is surprising is that no one on the street ever went to see him preach, and no one on the street ever was a member of his congregation. That part of his life always stayed a separate piece of him from the neighborhood. As a whole, Iroquois could have been considered an honest collection of God fearing peoples, but when did fear ever keep anyone from staying home from church on Sunday mornings? He left for the church on Sundays in the same thing he wore when he was driving, or working in the lawn, or reading out on the front deck. Blue jeans and a flannel shirt tucked in always, a pair of dirty worn white tennis shoes with streaks of blurred green from the damp grass after he would cut it, and his little black and red bible.
The church was not exactly on the corner but tucked away behind some lawn and a few pines. It was built almost in a day on account of its materials, no different than a warehouse, steel framework -that red rusty steel- and a thin fiber glass shell for walls and an even thinner burgundy tin roof that lay horizontal, sloping down the width of the walls, adding the only bit of flare that the place could claim. He had a strong, faithful following that came over with him from his former appointment as the head of Sunday School at the First Baptist church downtown, the one across from the land that the Castleberry’s owned and later moved on to. They all gathered early one Saturday when the dew was still enough on the ground to soak your tennis shoes lightly and they raised that church like an Amish barn. Mr. Peavey took from his own savings to buy the refreshments for the dedicatory celebration that afternoon. There were center cut steaks, more than anyone could have eaten. There were scalloped potatoes covered in sauce and white cheese. Canned green beans, almost a whole pallet, opened and served up in cheap crinkled aluminum casserole pans. The corn on the cob though was brought over by Eligh’s family because their crop had yielded well up in Gainesville earlier that year and they brought it down that week and gave freely. Some of the members would say that the corn was donated because Eligh’s father was too stubborn and prideful to submit himself to the law of tithing, a principle that Mr. Peavey put a great deal of emphasis on during his preaching. Miss Dixie Butts spent the whole week baking and cooling and preparing several pies, pies bigger than any you could find at Kroger or Publix or anywhere, and she forced a boy in her neighborhood to working in her kitchen as her aid and then again putting him to work the morning of the festivities carefully carrying the stacks of delicate pastries to and from her big blue Buick to the picnic tables that the clergy broke out of storage. The plastic tables were long rectangles, able to seat seven on either side. They were covered in white sacramental cloths, used ones, faded and stained a shade of dull yellow in places but still beautifully laced around the edges. There were the pies and the steaks and the potatoes, the woven baskets of fresh fruits, some bought and some picked that morning from the orchard by the elementary school, the just ripe peaches that were plucked out of the church’s own peach tree and washed at the water coolers that sat on the table ledges, and there were the tables and the plastic silverware, Dixie napkins and red and blue plastic Solo cups with the white rims, and the pitchers of lemonade and water. Everyone ate passionately that afternoon and gave thanks for the progress of the gospel in Duluth.
The insides of the church were insulated and dry wall was tacked over the insulation for acoustics and comfort and ease, and carpeted with the cheap stuff that you could find up in Dalton in the dead season when the sales were getting real attractive, the kind of carpet that had a sort of confetti speckling to it. The only way anyone actually ever saw the inside though was when they went to vote, the church being the polling place designated to the area surrounding. When you walked in there you could just see Mr. Peavey up there on the stage in front of or behind the cheap little podium discoursing plainly about Daniel or Elijah. You could see how much he cared for his new church as he cared for his new flock -watching over it, fixing the leaks, repairing the damages caused by the weather of the years, keeping it clean and presentable. The truth was there never was a pastor quite as dedicated to his flock as Mr. Peavey tried to be.