Troth

Jake Johnson sat in the circuit rider’s parlor. He’d come to arrange his wedding.

The circuit rider, an ordained minister, always dressed in black. He favored a black shirt, black boots, black bandana, black trail jacket, and a black hat.

One day in the meeting house, when questioned about his garb, he told the congregation that the reason for his color choice is that after the first day of riding the circuit, his clothing changed colors, from the dust of the region, and could go from black to pink, to gray, and back to pink, in a matter of days.

Jake explained that he intended to pledge his troth to Miss Sue Ellen Carpenter Smith. “She’s the daughter of Postmaster Smith.”

The minister nailed Jake to his settee with his soul-searching steel-blue eyes. When he spoke, his baritone voice made Jake think he was listening to Jesus in person.

“You know what troth is son? Do you really understand the meaning of troth? Troth is faith or loyalty when pledged in a solemn agreement or undertaking: a token of troth—and  you plight your troth. Plight is a solemn pledge of fidelity.”

The circuit rider removed a black bandana from a pocket in his trousers. He held it in his hands, and slowly began to unwrap something. He unfolded the corners of the material carefully, and eventually revealed a thick slab of chewing tobacco.

Jake didn’t think men of the cloth were allowed to chew, let alone spit. He watched as The Reverend put a corner of the chaw in his mouth, bit down hard and lopped off a hunk, nice and clean, then rewrapped the tobacco slab in his bandana, and returned it to his pocket.

“The term ‘troth’ boy is most commonly used in a traditional wedding ceremony. You’ll hear folks repeat words like ‘…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.’

“Now son, we must determine how much troth is worth.

“In some instances the value of troth is immeasurable. In other cases, a pledge of troth is worth little more than the effort used to speak of it.

“The opinion of many is: If you’re the trothor you should mean it, and if you’re the trothee you should expect it.

“Yes, I shall marry you and pray for both of you too. Don’t show up drunk on your wedding day, and on the day of the ceremony, make sure your bride’s Pa puts some money in the box, boy.”

— Ted Atoka