TRADES DAY AT NIGHT
By Norris Chambers
By Norris Chambers
Churches, preachers and others conducted what were called “protracted
meetings” during the summer months. They were called protracted because they
continued for several days. These meetings were held at night to take advantage
of the cooler temperature. Sometimes they were in a cemetery church but most
often under a brush arbor or just out in the open with a pulpit and benches.
At these gatherings preaching, singing and praying continued for several
hours. Ordinarily a large crowd was present because there was not much else to
do and the farm folks liked the music and singing. Most of those in attendance
also hoped to improve their spiritual standings.
Those who attended arrived by wagon, buggy, old automobile, horseback and
just plain by walking. In the brush
surrounding the gathering the vehicles were parked and the horses were tethered
to trees. Also in the surrounding area were the mischievous boys who came only
to find some mischief to involve themselves in.
There were some in the seated audience who held babies and small
children. These little ones were not overly impressed with the program and soon
drifted into a deep sleep. One by one the mothers or fathers carried the
youngsters out and made them comfortable in the wagon, buggy or old auto that
belonged to the family. Most of them were prepared for the occasion and had a
nice supply of quilts and blankets ready for a comfortable pallet. As the time
passed and the number of sleeping infants increased the mischievous boys got
busy and moved the sleepers around from one vehicle to another. The transfers
were completed and the sleepers continued their comfortable naps.
When the meeting finally closed the vehicles departed without a thorough
examination of the sleeping passengers and several of the young ones headed for
the wrong household.
Pete Brown was one of the first to discover the mix-up, probably because
his family was closer to the arbor meeting. He picked up the sleeping three-year
old in the back of the buggy and followed his wife into the house. She lit a
lamp and closed the door then glanced at the child that her husband was still
“Pete!” She shouted. “That’s not our Estelle! I don’t know
whose little boy you’ve got.” Pete
unfolded the covering and became about as excited as his wife. It was
immediately obvious that there was a problem. How would they get this boy back
where he belonged and how would find who had their daughter.
“I know I put her in the right buggy. Somehow she got changed.” Her
response was just an anxious question. “What can we do?”
They decided almost immediately to hurry back to the meeting place. Maybe
their daughter was still there. They put the little boy back in the buggy and
hurried back to the arbor.
When they arrived a wagon was still there and a man and wife eagerly
approached their buggy.
“Thank goodness!” The lady exclaimed. “I hope you have little
Tommy. There has been some kind of terrible mix-up. We have a baby girl in our
wagon that isn’t ours.” The two women examined the children and sadly
announced that neither child belonged to them.
The two families decided to wait and see if someone else came back in
search of their own child.
Other victims wandered back to the scene of the crime and eventually all
of the children were returned to their rightful parents. Some of the parents
didn’t notice that they had the wrong babes until morning and it was the
middle of the afternoon before the last trade was made. Several of the parents
made vows to deal harshly with the perpetrators of the switch. But, sadly, the
baby swappers were never identified.
As mischievous as