I’ll never forget “Brother Roach.” Yes, that was the name mentioned in the BOE letter sent to the Manchester, Tennessee, congregation in 1981 about the arrival of the new circuit overseer who would soon spend a week visiting with us. (I think we were the first congregation in the first circuit he visited after his appointment.)
The elder who read the letter to the congregation pronounced the name “Roach,” but not like the name of the bug. Instead, he put a bit of a “French twist” on it, making it sound somewhat exotic. He and the rest of the elders thought that was the way it had to be pronounced – certainly not pronounced like the name of a nasty bug.
In his opening comments to us CO Roach was quick to point out that yes indeed his name was pronounced like the name of the bug. He proudly emphasized to the congregation not to pronounce his name any other way.
By the time he finished his talk, it was obvious to the congregation that CO Roach was quite an opinionated know-it-all sort of fellow. A retired businessman, he drove a very, very expensive car in the circuit work. He even explained to the congregation how he was able to afford the car – presumably to head off any criticism he perceived might come his way.
In 1981, our son Lance was in his first year at Bethel. He called home during dinner time while we were entertaining CO Roach and his wife, Mrs. CO Roach. Joe left the dining room and went to another room to answer the phone. A few seconds later he called out to say that it was our son calling and then talked to Lance for about ten minutes. CO Roach, his wife, and I continued to eat our dinner while Joe was on the phone.
Let me explain the table seating arrangements:
CO Roach sat at one end of the rectangular table to my left. Joe sat at the other end. We women were seated at the sides. CO Roach began asking me questions about our son.
Quite abruptly, CO Roach leaned over in my direction with a shocked expression on his face. His eyes were big as saucers as he said softly to me, “Sister Anderson, stop playing ‘footsie’ with me!”
Confused, I stared back at him and replied, “I beg your pardon?” I couldn’t comprehend what he just said to me. I looked across at his wife and saw the quizzical look she had on her face.
CO Roach then leaned even closer to me and emphatically repeated himself, “Sister Anderson, stop playing ‘footsie” with me!”
It seemed like an eternity as the seconds ticked by until it finally dawned on me what was happening.
We had a very small Yorkshire terrier who I knew was lying under the table. If anybody sat at the table with shoes on and crossed their legs at the knees, she had a habit of getting under the raised foot and would move back and forth scratching her back under the rigid-soled shoe.
When I realized without a doubt that it was actually our dog playing “footsie” with our new CO, I leaned towards my accuser. As I tried to compose myself, I quietly said, “Look under the table.”
He said, “What?”
I said again, “Look under the table” – trying very hard not to show my indignation for being accused of committing such an awful “sin” with this arrogant know-at-all CO.
When he slowly bent down to look under the table that was covered with a tablecloth, he saw the culprit and said, “Oh!”
CO Roach never said another word – without any apology or even a joke about the situation. I was fuming that he would even think such a thing about me.
Mrs. CO Roach asked, “What’s going on?” It was obvious that she hadn’t heard what her husband said to me.
Her husband replied to her question, “There’s a dog under the table.” And that’s all he said. Soon, Joe returned to the oddly quiet dining room and began to tell us all about his conversation with Lance. That helped remove some of the tension.
Later, when I told Joe about what happened while he was away from the table, he was stunned. He said, “I would think that the man would have had the good sense to look under the table before he said anything like that to you.” We tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. Of course, we concluded, he must have been in mortal shock thinking the wife of the presiding overseer was rubbing her foot against his and blurted out his indignation without thinking it through. Nevertheless, we thought it was odd he didn’t first assume that it was his wife who was “playing footsie” with him.
However, as pious as I was then, I took it as an insult that he would even think I was “that sort” of woman. I never quite liked CO Roach after that.
One time when he visited Bethel while we were serving there, CO Roach fawned over us like we were celebrities and made sure to introduce us to the people in his group. He bragged about how long he knew us and what wonderful people we were, etc., etc., etc. While he was going on and on, I couldn’t help but think how CO Roach once accused me of “playing footsie” with him. It was hard to keep a straight face because it seemed so funny so many years later. But when it happened I didn’t find it funny at all.