The excitement about the big raffle being held this year shouldn’t have taken me by surprise. Yet it did. There was some buzz about these tickets online. Yes, we live in a small rural community. But many of our locals have long since gotten a profile on this social media platform or that.
I was seeing images circulate on my newsfeed of a ticket one could purchase to support the fundraiser. This was being held by our nearby chapter of the Civicarians Club. For a $25 ticket, the buyer would be entered for a chance to win a week at an exotic beach house.
Someone had pulled a few strings and gotten the week donated for the cause. A handful of the regulars at Bubba-Doo’s are club members. The possibility was exciting to consider.
There must be at least three kinds of Civicarian members, I suppose, if we’re being honest. There are the ones who value the chance to network with community and business leaders. For that sort of thing, there wasn’t any other group here nearly as good. A second type of club member enjoys the many service projects they do. This organization gives those who want to help out locally a structured and meaningful way to make a difference.
Then, there’s the third type. These folks probably have been Civicarians since the days when Enoch walked with God in the Bible’s book of Genesis. Every week on the same day, the club gathers for lunch and a program. There are a decent number of these older members in the group. They pretty much want to be left alone so they can have lunch with their buddies. That’s it.
“They just want the predictability and familiarity of the regular place and time of fellowship.”
If they were forced to be honest, they mostly tolerate the monthly calls to serve. Also they care nothing for an off-site program, let’s say to see the new fire truck over at the station or to tour a new business in the community. They just want the predictability and familiarity of the regular place and time of fellowship.
You guessed it. For decades, the weekly Civicarian lunch has taken over a section of Bubba-Doo’s.
Each club member is being asked to sell a minimum number of the tickets. You’d think for a $25 chance at a $5,000 week in a beach house, these tickets would sell themselves. For some of the better networked and social media savvy members, that was true. Then, there were the other members. They grumbled and mumbled about having to sell even a single one.
“I don’t know why it’s not enough that we just pay our dues,” griped one older member. Apparently he was forgetting that beyond a certain age, even those low-low dues had been cut back to half. He was basically paying for his weekly lunch. There was no charity to speak of built into what he was paying.
Still, Bubba-Doo’s was positively rippling with speculation about who might win the big drawing. “I’m already buying my sun tan lotion,” Fred offered.
“How many of them tickets did you buy, Fred?” Landrum wanted to know.
“How many of them tickets did you buy, Fred?” Landrum wanted to know.
Fred leaned up against the ice cream cooler and drank his Pepsi. He held the bottom third of the glass bottle in one hand. With the other, he used his thumb like a Pez dispenser to flick upward each successive peanut butter cracker. We’d all seen Fred do this on a daily basis for years.
“I bought five of ’em!” Fred answered. “I’m gonna win the dadblamed thing!” he squealed in his high-pitched voice.
“Five?!” Landrum scoffed. “Fred, they’re gonna have all your money.”
About that time, Stephanie walked by. She carries the wisdom and generosity of spirit that draws people to her as a longtime server over in the restaurant.
“Gentlemen, even if you don’t win, it’s a donation to a good cause. Come on, Landrum, can’t you get up off your wallet and at least buy a couple?” she said with a smile.
She was right on two fronts. The proceeds would provide scholarships for local students and a community grant or two.
Also, Landrum can be a little uptight. He’s a pretty serious guy. Only the Stephanies of the world could pull off throwing shade at him and have it land OK.
“Well … I don’t know,” he grunted with a grin.
“I’ve bought four of them myself,” Stephanie volunteered. “Might pick up a couple more before the drawing! Good gosh, $25 for a chance at a whole week right on the beach down at Emerald Isle? It’s worth taking a shot at.”
“That’s sin. I can’t believe our good Civicarians are sanctioning such a thing.”
About that time, Stumpy entered the conversation. “Here we go with the games of chance. This is gamblin’ pure and simple. That’s sin. I can’t believe our good Civicarians are sanctioning such a thing. This world is goin’ to hell in a handbasket,” he bellowed.
Stumpy had that half-crazed look in his eyes that we all saw anytime he passed judgment on something. Which was often, admittedly. Truth is, no one paid much attention to Stumpy when he launched into a diatribe like this. Mostly because there was nothing he was really for. Just a never-ending list of things he’s against.
“Stumpy, you need some place to wear that Speedo of yours,” Marleen grinned. “Shoot, I’ve done bought myself two new bikinis just thinking about my tickets!” she said in her characteristic melodic voice. This sunny young woman hasn’t sweated Stumpy in more than a decade. She’s impervious to his attitude and his pronouncements.
Just then, I’m pretty sure I saw Fred lose a mouthful of Pepsi back out through his nose. He made a little snorting sound that gave him away, along with a furious dab by the back of his hand to clean up the mess.
Now, Stumpy’s vile moment had been spoiled and everyone was laughing. Stumpy, red-faced, just shook his head and walked away. All in all, this was a beautiful moment as the community’s meanest-spirited religious fundamentalist had been temporarily defused.
“Well, I think Marleen might’ve just increased the value of these tickets!” Ralph laughed. “I don’t know, she may have lowered them with that picture she painted us of Stumpy,” Landrum quipped.
“With four bedrooms, I’m going to take a lot of my family when I win,” Marleen dreamed aloud. “I’ll have room for the whole Hee-Haw gang!” she practically sang as she walked away to replenish a tea pitcher.
Angel also was working the lunch shift. She’s got a teenager and a younger daughter. Shirley asked Angel if she had gotten in on the drawing yet.
“I sure did. But if I win, I think it’s just going to be my immediate family. We seem tired all the time. It’d be nice to get to do something like that once.”
True enough, for Angel’s shifts at Bubba-Doo’s were a second job. “Besides,” she went on, “we like to spread out some when we get a chance like this.” With even one teenager in the clan, everyone around seemed to understand her particular view.
“Pastor, aren’t you in that Civicarian group, too?” Hector asked. “You got any of those tickets to sell?”
“I sure do, Hector. In fact, I’m not in the office today. So I posted online that I was going to just hang out right here over into supper time. If folks want to drop in and buy tickets from me, I’m here.”
Hector was there a little early today. No doubt, this was just a quick stop by for him. He’d be back for his daily stint at the bar closer to dinner time. “I’m buying for Billy and for me. If either of us wins, we’re both going to bring our buddies” Hector said.
“If you’ve ever been somewhere as a room fell silent after someone spoke, you may understand the awkwardness we had at Bubba-Doo’s about then.”
If you’ve ever been somewhere as a room fell silent after someone spoke, you may understand the awkwardness we had at Bubba-Doo’s about then. I can’t be sure, but my read was that everyone was simultaneously doing the same bit of mental calculus.
What might a beach house look like after Hector and Billy spent a week hosting one of their beer-fests? How much damage could they do? What would the cleaning bill be? If the Civicarians wanted to ever sell these raffle tickets on that property again, they’d probably better hope someone other than these two wins.
My hesitation might have been long enough that Hector noticed. I hope not.
“How many do you want today?” I asked Hector.
“Well, between Billy and me, we’ve agreed to buy 20 of ’em.”
Again, there was a spreading silence. This thing was getting serious. I think I saw Fred reach for his wallet again.
“Shew!” Marleen offered from a couple of rows away. “Give the rest of us a chance!” she added.
“Hey, it only takes one ticket to have the winning one,” Winston said. “Like this one right here,” and with that he produced a single ticket from his shirt pocket. It was being kept in there right next to the little spiral-bound notebook he took everywhere.
Aaron pulled from his mouth the cigar he rarely lit.
“Now, Winston, how do you know you’ve got the winning one? Shoot, the winning one might be one of these two!” With that, Aaron smiled the smile that always makes Bubba-Doo’s a better place to be. Sure enough, he also had a pair of the Civicarian raffle tickets.
“When is this drawing going to be held anyway?” someone called out. Everyone looked at their tickets.
“Says they’re gonna do it next month at their weekly meeting. The second week.” A collective, “Ohhhh” went through the crowd as onlookers were reminded of what most already had heard.
“Get this. They’re gonna televise the whole thing on The Facebook,” Ralph added.
“Now, Ralph. They don’t call it televise’n when it’s on The Facebook,” Landrum poked at him.
“Well, they don’t call it ‘the’ Facebook either. It’s just Facebook.” Shirley corrected.
“What did I call it?” Ralph retorted.
“You and Landrum both called it ‘the’ Facebook. But he’s right. If you want to be exact, it’s called a “livestream” when they do something — you know — ‘live’ on there,” she said.
“Fine, they’re gonna livestream the drawing on Facebook, then,” Ralph ventured. “Point is, you can be here or you might not. You don’t have to be present to win,” he emphasized.
“Pastor, is there anything to what Stumpy said?” Angel wondered quietly. The two of us pulled aside.
“I mean, I know there’s usually not,” she continued. “But is there a chance that a raffle like this isn’t good? Does the Bible really forbid something like this?”
“Not that I’ve ever seen,” I responded. “I’ve known that in older days, pastors used to preach against gambling. But I’ve never seen a verse that would speak directly to it. Besides, I don’t think you can regard a civic organization selling raffle tickets for charity as gambling.”
“I didn’t think so,” she said with relief.
“The things his grandpappy drummed into him became gospel for him way back.”
“Nah. Like so many of Stumpy’s causes, his objection is more cultural than it is biblical. But for him, those lines blurred a long time ago. The things his grandpappy drummed into him became gospel for him way back.” I went on. “Whether they square up with Jesus or not. Usually not, I’ve noticed.
“He has to pluck some obscure verse out of there and take it completely out of context to fit his cause. Even then, you’d have to turn your head to the side and really squint to get that out of it,” I explained.
“OK. Well, I just wanted to be sure,” Angel smiled.
“I think we’re OK on this one,” I said with a wink.
Aaron said about that time, “Hey, didn’t Billy’s niece win one of those Civicarian scholarships last year?”
“Yep, she sure did. A few thousand dollars to use for school,” Diane answered. “And that horse farm that lets developmentally delayed children ride as therapy got a grant from the Civicarians last year, too.”
“Man, that’s nice,” Aaron reacted. “That’d make it worth buying a couple of ’em even if you didn’t win anything. Pastor, give me two more.”
He stuffed his big cigar into his mouth, reached for his wallet and pulled out a few bills.
“Me, too, pastor!” a jubilant Fred yelled out. “I’ll take a couple more for donations.”
Now, a grinning Stephanie was watching from a few steps away. The spirit of what she’d said earlier about the good cause was practically coursing through the place.
There it was. Bubba-Doo’s is always teeming with both sinners and saints. Truthfully, most all of us are a blend of the two.
But eventually, collectively, they seem to get things right around here. They are always generous for a legitimate cause. They love to be happy for each other, most of the time. This crowd cares about its little community with fierce loyalty.
It does make you wonder who’s going to win, though, doesn’t it?
Charles Qualls serves as pastor of Franklin Baptist Church in Franklin, Va. He is the author of eight books.
Articles in the Bubba-Doo’s series: