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Women's Potluck

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

This story is on the sad side—one of the tribal tales we pass on to our children in hopes of sending them into the world with sturdier values.

At a Lutheran church not far from here, it was the custom to hold a harvest festival each September as a way of encouraging the return of those members who had been on vacation from church all summer.  Baiting the trap, if you will.

After so many years, everyone knew what to expect. There would be Mary's string bean and almond casserole, Alice's Swedish meatballs, Margaret’s corn pudding. Folks knew ahead of time exactly what they were going to take. And every husband, of course, had to take at least a small helping of his wife's contribution.

Just after the sermon, the women on the committee slipped out to set the salads, the hot dishes, and the desserts.

On this particular Sunday, everything seemed in order. It was not until after the benediction and the rush to line up at the serving tables, that someone noticed. There, right in between Rhoda's sweet potatoes and Dorothy's ground turkey tetrazzini, there stood a red and white open box of Kentucky Fried chicken. Fifteen pieces. Extra crispy.

Who could have done it? Did someone forget the potluck and stop on the way? Was it a new member?

Fourteen of the pieces went fast to the children at the head of the line. Elmer was about to take the last piece, but he caught a look from his wife as he reached and slid over to the rice and hotdog casserole instead.

No one dared finish the chicken. No one claimed it afterwards when the women took their leftovers home.

The next Sunday the minister might as well not have preached; people were too busy looking at each other for signs that might identify the culprit. By November, attendance had hit a new low. Pledges were off by 30%. In January the pastor let it be known he was looking for another call.

Don't let this story sour you on Lutherans. Most things they will forgive.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.