Father Peter Gall

To Old Country Catholics
south of the tracks,
St. James' first resident priest was
"like you would like your own father to be."
Rough and ready, brainy, with a sense of humor.
A security blanket against cold newness.
A thick buttress between us and them.
"One of the boys" at the blacksmith's,
snorting his snuff,
sharing stories and fine points of lifting.
At the new church, he hammered
alongside the men.
A "blood and thunder preacher,"
he hammered his sermons home, too.
When three-year-old Johnnie Rajer
called out during sermon,
"Oh, please, Father Gall, that's enough,"
the nervous congregation
laughed at the threat to order.
Mrs. Rajer prayed to sink through the floor.
Father Gall doubled over into his missal,
sides rocking.
He threw his spiritual weight around
with born Catholics not showing up on Sunday,
arguments powerful as his muscles.
In time all the lapsed re-attached.
Johnnie's mother summed up
admiringly, and admirably,
"The stone he turned to soft."
Elizabeth Bray Heinrich

Under the bare-armed maples
planted by Dr. Best along Hawthorne,
she ran before the prevailing
West Wind to meet Evelyn Rau,
waiting in the rosy-fingered dawn at Dunton.
Seven blocks to the North Western,
past Uncle Richard's showplace Queen Anne.
Forty minutes into the city.
A spurt across the Loop to the LaSalle Street station.
The Rock Island to 79th Street.
There they terminated their morning
peregrination for education.
After two hours traveling
(which they'd repeat at four),
they bent to their nine o'clock classes.
No complaints. "We had a good time
on the train."
Chicago Normal prepared her
to preside in the one-room school
on Dundee Road with outhouse,
wood-burning stove,
and seventeen cooperative youngsters.
"The older ones helped the younger."
She drove to school on the gravel roads,
"although every time you went out
you had a flat tire.
If you came and went
without a flat tire,
it was a big event."