The genesis of a pump boy

Not everyone can open his Bible and find he is mentioned therein. I can, but I have not advertised this extensively because of my innate modesty and extremely couth tendencies, and also for want of seemly opportunity. Now I have just cause, and in the earlier words of Genesis you will find the generations of Adam, and the several sons of Adah, in particular one Jubal, who is the father of such as handle the harp and the organ. That - and you may bow in respect - means me.

I do not know too much about handling harps, but on the organ I am confident and able, talented and willing, and may well be among the last of the Fellow Pumpers of the Guild of Former Pipe Organ Pumpers, diploma displayed, dues paid, and always ready to extend the grip of membership and sing the official Guild anthem:

Gedoppel, Gedecht, Gerost, Gedoo!

The handle on an old-time "tracker" church organ was very like the handle on a barnyard Columbiana pump, worked to draw water for the stock in the same manner as air was pumped for the doxology and the taking up of the morning collection. My reason for breaking silence about being in the Bible with Jubal is the news that the Gorham Congregational Church, here in Maine, is about to spend $40,000 to restore its very old pipe organ, and during the preparation for this not one word has been heard from anybody in the parish about swapping for an electric jukebox-type just-as-good, which, like margarine, you can't tell the difference between and is cheaper. The good people want their real organ, which was installed back in 1865. All praise, paeans, and hosannas to them!

As a possible last remnant of the Tribe of Jubal, I have asked a few questions, and the organ in Gorham was equipped with an electric compressor many years ago, so a pumper has not been employed since. This saves the parish 25 cents a week, which was my princely stipend. This included the Thursday-night choir rehearsal, and in pious generosity my mother made me put the quarter in the Sunday school collection, thus making my salaried situation self-perpetuating. The parish paid me so I could put my coin in the basket so the parish could pay me again. This isn't mentioned in Genesis.

At the time, the organ pumper was not considered a talented musician. The organist was permitted to nod at the congregation, which he did sedately and in all modesty, and folks did commend him for his skill. But nobody ever patted my head and said "you done well," even though the organist could never have played without me. He played soft and loud without a care, but when he pulled out "Vox Humana" and the "Grand Diapason," I had to pump for the windy recessional so my tongue hung down like a red necktie. And nobody made him put his weekly earnings in the Sunday school basket.

Also, while the organist was exposed at the keyboard, always just athwart the pulpit and in front of the choir, the boy-to-pump (as I was carried in the parish bookkeeping) was forever concealed behind a polite curtain, so the grotesque convolutions of his profession as he worked the Jubalian handle would not send the worshipers into indecorous hilarity. I could keep the wind-box full of sweet music and lost chords, but I did it in obscurity, and everybody thought the organist was a genius.

Chat Schaffer of Three Rivers, Mich., who organized us pumpers into a solid front almost 100 years ago, pointed out that in addition to 25 cents a week, the boy-to-pump became informed beyond all others. From his obscurity behind his curtain, behind the minister and with his panorama of the congregation, he came to see many things alone and unassisted. He was the only person in the parish who knew how the minister, during the sermon, managed to get his handkerchief out of the tail-pocket of his pulpit coat.

TO folks unfamiliar with New England traditions, I must explain about parishes. The early Puritans set up the parish as a civil division, surveyed and established even before a town was settled and organized. Every township included school and church "lots," to be ready when needed, and in this forward-looking provision the parish, and not the church society, became the basic landlord of the church. The church owned nothing, and in order to repair its organ, the Gorham church now in focus had to work through the parish. I can report that this pseudo-clerical politicking has been done and all is well.

Years ago, a minister new to New England arose in the annual parish meeting and asked to be recognized that he might speak. The moderator refused to recognize him, on the grounds that he was not a member of the parish. The minister sputtered, "But this is ridiculous, I'm the minister of your church!" To be sure, he was told, this is even so, but to the parish that owns the church and handles all finances, you're just a hired hand, and you haven't been a resident of the parish the required three months for residency. "You got 17 days to go!"

We can take assurance, even at $40,000 a throw, that since maybe 1630 this has prevailed, and God does work in mysterious ways. If the church, or the parish, wishes to consult me, an experienced impresario at the handle of the organ, I stand quite ready to help. My credentials are in Genesis. It's a nice place to be.

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