Ain’t no frogs out today.
Snow’s too deep.
Wonder is a road less traveled
only if you have 4 wheel drive
There’s nothing like a nasty day
for increasing the creativity,
and boredom, da, dum, dum.
May the sun always shine on your parade.
WATCH FOR DOUG’S NEWEST BOOK – DEATH BY BASEBALL
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Ain’t no frogs out today.
Snow’s too deep.
Wonder is a road less traveled
only if you have 4 wheel drive
There’s nothing like a nasty day
for increasing the creativity,
and boredom, da, dum, dum.
May the sun always shine on your parade.
“I wanted you to come back anyhow, but not this way. Did ya have to bring your friends?”
“They got a bit pushy. Who’s that you got there with you?”
“Wounded man. Still breathing, but that’s about it.”
Tor leaned into his rifle butt and squeezed off a round that took a horse out from under one of the riders. Daniel’s following shot sent the rider tumbling. The last rider pulled up behind a large fir tree filled with moss. Dan couldn’t see him. He put five rounds through the tree about man high.
Tor did the same thing as Daniel reloaded.
While Daniel was reloading, he could hear the wounded man trying to say something. He leaned down to listen. He whispered desperately, “They took her.”
“They took her, my daughter, they took her.”
“North . . . uuhhh . . . west.”
“What’s her name?”
He tried to sit up. Daniel held him down. “Calm down, we’ll help ya.”
“They took her.”
“What’s her name and why?”
Daniel could see that the man was getting weaker and weaker with every breath.
“What’s her name?”
“Diane. Just like her . . . mother . . . Diane.”
“Where would they take her?”
“The ranch. Get her back. They’ll …. kill …” He tried to sit up.
Daniel eased him back down, “Who are they?”
He breathed a shallow breath. Blood oozed from the hole in his chest. Daniel could see him gather himself for one more answer. “Lazy E brand. My . . .Rafter B. . . save it for her.” He paused with a gasp that Daniel thought was his death rattle. “Kill . . . Bur…”
This time he did die. It was over for him.
Tor stopped firing as a horse ran out from behind the tree they had fired at. “Let’s go see what’s what over there.” He looked at the dead man. “He still alive?”
“No. Just died. We got a problem.”
“I don’t have a problem, yet. All we gotta do is make sure those three over there are dead or gone and then do some buryin’.”
“Tor, this man says they took his daughter and he has a ranch they are trying to take from her.”
Nothing had moved for a while. Tor stood up so he could see the ground just over the creek bank. Nothing. “Let’s ride.”
‘It is over,’ Daniel thought, ‘I killed at least one more man. God forgive me.’ He started shaking.
Tor walked his horse through the stream and up the bank into the campsite before looking back, “You comin’ or you gonna stand there and feel sorry for yourself. We defended ourselves from them killers and now we gotta take care the leavin’s.”
Daniel walked through the stream and started toward the fir tree he had filled full of holes. He was half way there when he remembered Solomon. The horse was off a couple hundred yards to the east grazing on the sparse grass alongside the creek. “Solomon, you’d do me a favor if you came here.” He whistled.
The horse lifted his head, looking straight at Daniel. He bowed his head for another bite and Daniel thought he was in for a long walk to get the horse. Instead, Solomon picked up his head and started trotting toward him with his head off to one side to keep from stepping on the reins. Daniel waited and when the horse got close, Daniel grabbed the saddle horn and climbed aboard wondering what else this horse could do.
At the fir tree, Tor was examining the bleeding man on the ground. “Bout time you got here. Check them other two. This one’s still alive. If them two are dead, check the horses for brands and clean out the saddlebags for letters and stuff that might tell us about these men. Did that other horse run far?”
Daniel looked around. “Nah, he’s over at the tree line munching on the grass.”
“Check him out. We could use a pack horse or two.”
Daniel checked the first man. Dead. The second was still alive, but just barely. He had a round through his middle just above his belt line and another in a lung which was bubbling pink blood.
He hunkered down next to the man, “Fella, you are dying. Are you right with your Creator?”
“You . . some kinda . . . idjot . . or what?”
“I’m a preacher.”
“You . . shot me.”
“You tried to kill me. What did you expect? Would it make a difference if I said I’m sorry.”
The man spit in his face. “Damn you.” He fell back and breathed one last breath as one last bubble popped on his chest.
“I think you are the one that is damned. I just need God’s guidance in a better way to deal with men like you.” Daniel was talking out loud as Tor eased up behind him.
“My man’s dead.” He heard what Dan said and added, “What other way is there to handle men that are coming at you shooting and trying to kill you and send you to heaven?”
“I don’t rightly know. Me and God will have a couple of long discussions about this.”
“Daniel, why do you think God gave you the gift of being able to hit a fly in the eye at fifty paces with a six gun and take out a running rabbit at a hundred?”
“So I can eat.”
“You really mean that don’t you. You’re not just talkin’?”
“Did you ever think that maybe God wants a Christian man to stand up for the weak and take care of the feeble, the orphans, the women, and such?”
“Well, yeah. Been thinking and praying on that, but God ain’t done no answerin’ yet.”
Tor swept his arm around the whole scene before them and said, “You really believe this isn’t God speaking. What’s it gonna take? You waiting for Him to boom out of the clouds with words loud and clear?”
“That would be nice and definite, wouldn’t it?”
“Yeah, but I don’t think He works that way. He’s a bit more subtle. He sends three killers after you while you’re helping an old man die. He tells you there’s a weak woman off someplace in trouble, a woman that can lose her ranch. We don’t even know if there’s kids involved. Matter of fact, we don’t know that the woman is a woman and not a snotty nosed kid still.”
“Let’s bury these four bodies and get on up the trail of the rest of the killers.”
“Sounds like a good idea. We done took care of a bunch of killers and put a dent in the forces of evil what took the gal. Come to think on that, did you think you were fighting evil here just as much as you would be in the tent or the opry hall or wherever? Too bad we don’t have Miss Evelyn here to make for a nice send off for these three hoodlums and specially the old man over there.”
“Shut up,” Daniel smiled. “Let’s get the burying done. You dig and I’ll say the words over their graves.”
“You help dig and I’ll listen to the words. How’s that?”
“What we gonna dig with? This dirt’s hard as a rock and filled with rocks.”
“Let me look around.” He rode off toward the trees.
Daniel caught up the only horse standing. He had to finish one that was wounded too bad to save. He found a bit of jerky and some pinon nuts in one set of bags and nothing else but a few rounds of ammo and a clean shirt. Tor claimed the shirt and they split the ammo.
The sun was low on the horizon as they set the last two rocks on the grave. “I really wish we could have given the old man his own grave and not had to bury him with his killers.”
“Get out of it. There was just this one big knocked down tree I could find. They all fit in the root hole and there was a mess of rocks up close. They are dead. You told me yourself as we laid them to rest, these are just casing for their souls. God will pick them up later.”
“I guess you could say it thataway, but I still don’t like it.”
“Daniel, when you get to likin’ killin’ and buryin’, it’s time for you to hang up your gun and spend the rest of your days praying.” Tor pointed toward their horses. “Let’s mount up and git. By the way, I like what that gunsmith did with the grips on your gun. That engraved cross in blood red says a lot about the man carrying the gun.”
“It gives me a good grip, but I think it’s a bit dramatic.”
“Not for the showman for the Lord that you are.”
“I ain’t nothin’ but a servant in the Lord’s house.”
“Well now, let me do some figurin’ here. The Lord’s house is the Church, right?”
“Well, yeah, you could call it that.”
“And the servants of the Church are called Deacons, right.”
“Yeah. They were set up to help the weak widows and orphans.”
“So that makes you a Deacon, don’t it.”
“I guess you could say that. All I want is to be a servant of the Lord.”
“Okay, Deacon, you got yourself a name.”
“What? You’re gonna change my name?”
“Yup. God did that with Abram and Saul when they started working for Him. Why not you? I like the ring to the name, Deacon.”
“I ain’t too sure, Tor. I ain’t really cut out to be helpin’ widows and orphans and such.”
“Which piece is missing?”
The Deacon didn’t have an answer.
After tying two saddles to the saddle on the one standing horse, and making sure the guns were tied on tight, they rode into the trees with rifle butts on their thighs, leading their new packhorse. The tracks led them not more than a hundred yards into the trees before turning left and following the terrain through the trees until they cut to the right and uphill along a cut with a small trickle of water flowing and up over a pass a ways past the spring that fed the trickle.
Once over the pass, Tor called a halt for the night. “Gonna be too dark to see the track right soon and I’m getting’ a mite hungry.”
“I’m beyond hungry.”
NOTE: This is right off the keyboard. typos, misspellings, and other bugaboos free just like the story. BUT, I am looking for your impressions, ideas, plot suggestions, and just plain thinking. THANK YOU for staying with me this long.
“He has killed over twenty that we know of. All have been clouded with lies good enough that we have never been able to hang him. This town is better off without him, you can bet on that.”
“I don’t bet on people’s lives.”
“Yes you do. Every time you preach you are betting that some of the folks listening will take to your message and become Christians just like you. Some you win and some you lose.”
“I win nothing. God wins it all.”
“Fine. I won’t argue the religious stuff with you.”
Daniel walked to the caravan door and went inside, emerging a few minutes later with rough clothes on and tucking a small sack of coins in his pocket. “I am going to the mountains to pray and think this through.”
He ducked under the caravan and returned with his Bible.
“Evelyn, the caravan and all that is left in it are yours. I will find you one day a couple weeks or so from now, and we will discuss the future. Deputy, where can if find a good horse at a fair price?”
Evelyn grabbed his arm, “All this is good for nothing without you.”
“There’s enough in the safe to keep you for as long as I will be gone. I’m sure you are well taken care of. If I were you, I’d find a nice boarding house for ladies and stay there. Join up with that Pastor’s church and sing in the choir. I will be back.”
The deputy said, “Come on, I’ll get you set up.” Something caught in his throat, “You know, the first time I had to kill a man, I was riding shotgun on a gold shipment. It hit me much the same as you for altogether difference reasons. I went fishing for two months to think it through. That robber got what he had coming just as this man on the ground here got what was long overdue. Would you mind if I tagged along with you for a week or so? I need a bit of a vacation myownself/”
Dan walked to Evelyn and threw his arms around her. “Thanks. You’ve been a good mother to me even if you ain’t my ma. I’ll be back. Don’t sell the caravan, yet.”
He turned to the deputy, “Where’s the fishin’ real good around here?”
A couple hours later the two of them were riding toward the mining country around Golden and the big fish along Clear Creek. Daniel was not used to a saddle and demanded a break at midday. “I need to get off this nag and walk on my own two feet for a spell, Tor. Besides all that, I am hungry.”
“If ya wanna get down we can for a spell, but if you’re hungry, you’re gonna have to shoot something.”
“What? You didn’t pack some food?”
“Not a bite. There’s a great spot to rest up about half a mile from here. See what you can shoot with that Winchester under your left leg on the way there. You take the lead.” He pulled his horse off the trail and let Daniel pass.
“Dan, that rifle is yours. Came with the rig. All you are sitting on is the outfit of Bixby. Livery man said Bixby owed him about $14 and he’d take what the man owed for the rig. I figured $14 was a good price for a horse, saddle, rifle, and whatever’s in them saddlebags. Ya might wanna air out that bedroll before it gets dark. Check for bed bugs and lice and such.”
Daniel jumped off the horse. “I can’t take the belongings of a man I killed. It wouldn’t be right, Tor. Not right at all.”
“You didn’t mind the deal when I found it for you. It’s just that it used to belong to Bixby. Is that the drift?”
“Yeah.” Daniel sat on a rock beside the trail. “I can’t do this.”
“Okay. So if you had walked into the livery on your own and the owner offered you this rig without you knowing where it come from, you would of turned it down. Is that right?”
“Then what’s the problem. I didn’t twist the man’s arm. I didn’t ask. He didn’t name Bixby until after the deal was done. All he told me was a man owed him and died. I grabbed it cuz it was a great deal. Danged rifle gun alone is worth the money. Take it or walk. I’ll buy it off ya. Matter of fact you still owe me the $14, you ain’t paid me back yet.”
“So it’s your horse and rig?”
Daniel climbed back in the saddle and said, “I’ll ride your horse and riggin’. Ya wanna sell it?”
“Yes I do. $300 for the lot.”
“Well, you didn’t like the deal I got for you, now it’s my turn to turn a profit.”
“That ain’t a profit, that’s robbery, highway robbery and a swindle to match. Look at this gun. The bluing is rubbed off all along this side. The butt has a crack and it’s held together with wire. This horse is ugly. The saddle is so worn I can feel the horses backbone under the blanket that you can see through. I’ll give ya $20 for the lot.”
“You think I’d see $300 worth of rig and horse for $20? You must be counting on divine intervention or something.”
“Well, I could try asking the Lord to knock you off that horse your one and give you a Saul moment? But, He don’t work that way. $25.”
“Sold. I don’t wanna be know what at Saul moment is.”
Forty yards down the trail a young elk jump from the bushes. The rifle came up. Tor yelled, “No, you danged fool. We can’t eat that much.” He pulled his pistol and took the head off a large cottontail rabbit not twenty feet the other side of the trail. “That will do. Lunch time, Dan, lunch time.”
He walked his horse over and reached down a long way to pick up the rabbit before he took off in a trot to the great spot he was talking about. Dan followed thinking, ‘Don’t much care for rabbit. The Right Reverend, my pa, fed me that every time the count was down.’
As the rabbit roasted, Dan filled Tor’s request for an explanation of a Saul moment.
“Dang, knocked him to the ground. Made him blind. Yelled at him. And, then he used him to start new churches all over the world? Ooooweeeee. That’d be some moment in my life.”
“Sure was for Saul. God even changed his name to Paul and then Paul lost his head to the Romans in the end.”
“God ain’t too much on protecting folks from the government, is He?”
“I don’t think I want to touch that comment, my friend.” Dan dug in his pocket, “Here’s the $30 I owe ya for the rig.”
“About time. I was beginning to figure the interest on the loan of that fine animal and his riggin’.” Tor got up and walked to his bedroll, stuck his hand in the middle, and came out with a shiny Colt .44 in a worn holster. “Here this goes with it. Bixby’s short gun. It’s a good gun. Tried it myownself. Them grips are real mother-of-pearl, comes from some sea critter, and the .44 is an easy gun to find ammo for in these parts.” He tossed it to Dan.
The rig hit the dirt after Dan backed up and refused to catch it. “You lettin’ that gun lay in the dirt ain’t good for it. Get it on. They’s some wild and woolly boys up in these mountains and we may just have an Indian or two try to steal that nag of yours.”
He paused for a moment and saw that Dan was not going to move. He yelled, “Put it on or I won’t ride with you. This country is dangerous. The critters are dangerous, grizzly and lion, and the danged people are dangerous, male and female. Put. It. On.”
Daniel put it on.
“That was the funniest way of putting on a rig I ever did see. Thumb and forefinger of each and was all you used and it took you forever. Some morning when the world falls apart around us, you will need to get that one in a flash and get off all the shots you can in the poof.”
“Look, Tor. I am not used to a pistol. Never handled one and never owned one. This is Bixby’s, or was Bixby’s. I’m still getting used to sitting on his horse, let alone strapping on his gun rig. Look at that holster, it’s got a tie down. Only folks us them are gunslicks.”
“So cut it off.” Tor tossed his knife in front of Dan’s feet.
Daniel cut it off and tossed the leather string on the hot coals. “Show me how to use it if you’re gonna make me wear it.”
“You’ll get your first lesson tonight. Let’s move. I don’t wanna camp here, too public.”
Five hours later Daniel was standing with his legs spread shoulder wide, his arms dangling at his side, and the six gun on his hip loaded again after tearing the thing completely apart and putting all back together under Tor’s guidance. “You stand like you were watching a nice looking horse walk down the main drag.”
Dan shuffled a bit.
“That’s good. Now make a fist and open your right hand a few times.”
“Now grab the gun butt, pull, ease the hammer back – whatever you do don’t let it slip – until it clicks the second time, and then pull the trigger while your pointing the gun at that whitish rock over there. The one on the bank of the hill.”
Daniel did. The whitish rock came apart. “Like that?”
Tor stood in his position with his mouth open. That whitish rock was a good 10 yards away or more. First shot and it was a dead rock.
“Do it again. This time get off two shots. Remember, you have to pull the hammer back for each shot.”
Dan put the gun back in the holster. “What you want me to aim at this time?”
“How’s about that branch stickin’ up on that dead tree?” He pointed.
Daniel brought the gun out with no apparent speed, two shots sounded like two shots from two guns one on top of the other like one was just a mite slower than the other. Two branches on the dead tree lying 15 yards or so away disintegrated in puffs of saw dust and bark.
“Reload,” was all Tor could say.
Daniel ejected three cases and inserted three fresh rounds from his belt. “How come?”
“Always reload as soon as you can after firing. You will never know when you might need all five shots.”
Daniel asked, “Why on five rounds? There’s six holes here. In a battle wouldn’t six be better?”
“How many times have your fired a pistol of any kind?”
“Just the three shots today.”
“Then how can you shoot so well. You hit the target and are moderately fast in gettin’ yourself in the fight. You amaze me.”
Daniel looked at him, “Ain’t that what a man’s supposed to do?” He flipped the loading gate shut and spun the cylinder. “Six shots loaded.”
Tor walked over to him and stuck his hand out, “Let me have your .44.”
Daniel lifted it out of the holster and handed it to Tor. “Here ya are. What’s the problem?”
Tor walked over to the stream bed and grabbed a fist sized rock that was fairly flat on one side. He held the pistol with his hand wrapped around the grip. The hammer was down and his finger was not on the trigger. He smacked the rock into the hammer with the barrel pointed across the stream.
The gun went off sending a slug to ricochet off the water and into the hillside.
The food arrived and disappeared down their throats faster than a chicken will suck up a worm. Daniel stood, yawned, and stretched, “I’m for a nap. Let’s go move Dad out of the caravan. If he ain’t there, all the better.”
“He’s still you earthly father, Dan.”
“Yup, he is. He can move underneath with me. Plenty of room for two separate bedrooms under there.”
“He isn’t gonna like it.”
“That is really his problem. He passed the baton to me when he got so drunk he couldn’t preach. Now it’s my show and he’s welcome to tag along.
The two of them stood behind Miner’s Hall praying. The air was still and sticky telling Denver it was in store for a storm. “Let’s get inside before we get soaked.”
Evelyn answered, “I really don’t want to go in there. There are many ways for God to provide the answers to those prayers on the hilltop.”
“We’ll never know until the curtain opens.
They entered after knocking on the stage door to get the stage hand to open it.
He smiled, “I’m whipped. I never knew prayer could be such hard work. I joined Jesus last night after my wife explained some of it to me. I still need that conversation we were gonna have.”
“Congratulations. I forgot with all the excitement and the hilltop experience.” He motioned toward the hall, “How’s it look?”
“Don’t know. I’ll find out with you with we draw the curtain. It’s very quiet out there and there’s just five minutes til start up.”
They moved to the rope that controlled the curtain. The piano began quietly. No other noise could be heard. A quiet piano version of Amazing Grace lifted.
Evelyn walked to the middle of the stage still behind the curtain. As the piano got to the closing line of the verse and played the first three sections of the last line, she stepped through the gap onto the stage, down center, to the brightest stage light lifting from the biggest foot light, and began to sing as the piano continued.
Backstage there was still no sound from an audience.
Daniel listened as she sang. At the end of the first verse he stepped through the curtain. Every seat was filled. The side aisles and the back were filled with standing men and women. An occasional child could be seen, but all were quiet.
Daniel stood in awe. His body began to shake from fear. Only organized angry people could stay that quiet as they waited for the key word that would loose the lions on the two of them.
He looked out over that crowd with his Bible in his hand. They had come and by all that was Holy they would hear the word. He opened the Bible and began to read. “For God so loved, HE LOVES YOU, the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever, WHOSOEVER, believed on Him, THE SON, should not parish, DIE, BUT, BUT, hear me, BUT have everlasting life. Perfect life. No sorrow. No tears. No pain. No fear of death. The perfect life for all eternity, THAT MEANS FOREVER. From right now until FOREVER.
He nodded to Miss Evelyn telling her it was time to quit the song. Evelyn shook her head and sang louder. He lifted his arms high in a gathering motion, “Come, come as I did three nights ago. Come to Christ. Come find life anew. Come in faith that all this is true. Come, now is the day of deliverance from your bondage to the devil,” he shouted over the music.
Minutes went by. No one moved. No one made a sound. Then one young woman against the back wall began sobbing and walked toward the stage. A cowboy walked forward with his hat in his hands covering his face. A kid came smiling. A brushy faced old man hobbled to the front, shouting, “Hallelujah.” Some folks laughed, but even those were laughing without mocking. The man yelled even louder, “Hallelujah.” The crowd echoed his cry, “Hallelujah.” The windows rattled and dust fell from the chandeliers.
Daniel cried real big tears of joy. Miss Evelyn moved to the stairs and joined the growing crowd at the foot of the stage. A local pastor joined her in providing counsel to those seeming to be sobbing out of control and answer any questions put to them.
One laughing couple asked, “Can we be baptized now?”
The pastor said the river was a good place and began a march to the river that stopped at the first horse trough. First the pastor slid Daniel under the surface of the water and then Daniel moved across the street to another trough and began baptizing all those who were willing. Cries of, “Thank you, Jesus,” and “Hallelujah” were heard as the seemingly endless lines of people were dipped in the mossy waters of the troughs.
After an hour, Daniel noticed that the lines were down and a crowd was standing around, many of them dry as a bone. He jumped to the stand on the hitching rail and pulled himself up on the roof of the shade over the wooden sidewalk, where he shouted, “Come to the waters in faith all you sinners. Know the true God of this world. Live the life He designed for you.” He kept beckoning as the dry individuals slowly walked away or came crying to the trough.
As it was apparent that the folks were not going home, but were standing around praying, singing, or just plain watching, Daniel began the sermon he had prepared for this night. The street before him squirmed with live bodies trying to hear the Word. More people were caught up in the excitement and some were even directed to the trough where the Pastor continued to baptize all that agreed to the Sacrament.
At 1 AM, a local deputy from the Marshall’s office walked up to a position under Daniel as he stood on the roof, “Sir, I must ask you to stop preaching and allow these folks to go home. We do have a noise ordinance and there have been complaints. There are also laws against blocking the street and holding a parade without a permit.”
“My apologies, I didn’t note the time was so late.”
“I’ll give you fifteen minutes to disperse this crowd,” the deputy added with a smile.
Daniel spoke a few words and said a long prayer of thanksgiving before notifying all present that it was time to get out of the road and go home.
The crowd slowly dispersed with much cheering and singing as they went. Miss Evelyn was found seated on the edge of the sidewalk, sobbing. She answered Daniel’s query with, “I’m so happy.”
Daniel took her arm and led her to the caravan.
His father wasn’t home.
Pushing aside the canvas drapes, he crawled under the caravan and crashed into his blankets thinking he would hunt for him in the morning. He chuckled to himself when he realized it was early morning and shut his eyes.
Evelyn yelled and pounded on the bottom of the caravan, “He didn’t come home. We need to find him.”
Daniel used his boot to thump his acknowledgement to her call and crawled out of bed. Once dressed, he moved out from under the caravan and wondered which saloon or brothel he would find his father in this time.
Evelyn opened the side window of the caravan, “How much longer you going to keep hunting him down every other morning?”
“Until he’s dead or breaks the habit. Or, he could be hit by the truth of all those sermons he preached as a phony and then we could work together.”
“That would surely be miracle.”
Dan smiled, “No more than my change and last night.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” She paused, “Well, go find him. I’ll get dressed and get us some breakfast. Oh, did you bring the bucket home?”
“No. I’ll look for that, too.”
He trotted down the hill to the opera house. The bucket was there by the back door, but there was only one silver dollar in it. The silver dollar went in a pocket and the bucket was left at the back door. The nearest saloon was two doors down. No one was there.
He started walking.
Seven saloons and two brothels later, he met the deputy from the night before. “What you doin’ out here at this hour? The preaching don’t start till dark, does it?”
“You’re right. Dark. I’m looking for my father. Heavy man, white hair, clean shaved, about your height. Wear’s black broadcloth suits most of the time.”
The deputy stepped back. “I know where he is. I was just coming to see ya about your daddy.”
“Not for me anymore.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I think your father is at the funeral parlor.”
“Is he trying to do the services or something?”
“No,” he paused and took his hat off, “He’s dead.”
“Got in a gun fight with a bad man gambler over a floozy.”
The next night the crowd began to form on the hilltop more than an hour early. There was even some jostling for the prime seats down front. Two cowboys got in a fight over a chair that was the last one on the back row. Miss Evelyn was dressed and mingling with the crowd a half hour before the show was to start.
“Oh, yes, you will be amazed at what God can do with your life once you surrender to Him through Jesus, the Christ. It is such a powerful moment and it lasts for the rest of eternity,” Miss Evelyn told one painted young gal on the front row.
“I hope he’s done before my boss misses me at the Cowboy Corral. I’m one of his biggest attractions and he won’t treat me nice if I ain’t there when the boys hit town, it being Friday and all.”
“I know whereof you speak, gal. I was in your shoes not 24 hours ago. Now I belong to Jesus and no man is gonna make me do anything I don’t wanna do no more.”
“Oh, that sounds so sweet. Tell me more at the end. You can walk me back, can’t you?”
“Maybe. It depends on the response.”
“Response to what.”
“The Word of God. That boy delivers it like no one I ever heard before.”
In the caravan, the boy is being shoved into his clean, second best shirt. “You just go out there and tell them another Bible story like you did last night. How about the ten lepers? Remember? Jesus healed ten lepers and only one came back to say, ‘thanks.’ The rest went on their merry way without ever givin’ a hoot who it was that healed them.”
“But Dad, I ain’t never been to no Bible school like you. I ain’t a preacher.”
“That crowd last night said differently, Daniel. They ate it up. The offering was one of the biggest we’ve ever had. It’s all about the money, boy, all about the money. You get out there and wow them with another story. You can do it. Bout time I retired anyhow. Too many towns know me.”
“I’ll do’er one more time. Then that’s it,” Daniel looked him in the eye, “I hope.”
“Give them heaven and they’ll fill the bucket.”
“I’m a phony, Dad. I don’t believe any of this stuff. It’s all hooey or so you been telling me.”
“They believe it and they’ll fill the bucket.”
“One more time,” Daniel said as he left the caravan for the rock platform.
The crowd saw him coming just as he saw the crowd. Every seat was filled with a person whose eyes were on him. The crowd went totally silent.
Miss Evelyn looked up to see why and then moved to her position on the rock. She looked at him and smiled. After all, he had shown her the way to a new life. She began to sing a new song she had never sung for anyone before. She had heard it as a child in New Hampshire when her folks would drag her, practically kicking and screaming, to the Congregational Church just outside of town. She sang, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” She didn’t plan it, it just came. The words flowed through her mind and out her mouth, verse after verse, until she was finished.
Daniel stood on the platform in awe of the beauty he had just heard. The crowd sat or stood in silence, most with their mouths wide open as if to catch all the music. One cowboy sitting on his horse way off to one side, took off his hat and hung it on the horn of his saddle and started clapping. The crowd slowly and reverently join in as they stood.
Miss Evelyn yelled, “It’s all true. You can have a friend in Jesus.”
The clapping got louder.
The cowboy ground reined his horse and walked slowly to the front of the rock platform and sat down in the dirt. Daniel raised his hands as he had seen his Dad do to get the crowd’s attention. They just kept clapping for Miss Evelyn.
She bowed and raised her hands. The crowd went silent. “Thank you. That was a song I learned a long time ago against my will, but today I sang it from my heart in His will. Please listen to what Daniel has to say to you.” The crowd shifted their eyes to look at the twelve year old boy in a boiled shirt and scuffed shoes.
He stepped closer to the edge of the stone platform.
An hour later he finished with, “Most of you want to be able to see, but few of you will come to Jesus for healing. He, and He alone can open your eyes to the sin in your lives that requires you to repent in order to truly know Jesus as a Savior. Then there will be even fewer that will come to the front and truly repent in faith before the throne of God that this rock symbolizes. Come won’t you?” He looked down, “Cowboy, you’re gonna have to move.”
The cowboy moved. He crawled to the rock, put one hand on his face and the other on the rock, before he yelled, “Jesus, heal me.”
Miss Evelyn scurried to the back of the rock, down the ladder, and around to the cowboy. She kneeled beside him, “Cry out to God and tell him how sorry you are that your sins required Jesus to go to the cross and be the blood sacrifice for your sins.”
The cowboy cried. He cried so loud his friend came up to see what was going on. By the time they arrived, the area between the chairs and the rock was filled with people in tears and on their knees before this God that Daniel had presented to them. Miss Evelyn went from person to person talking, comforting, and testifying of the Grace of God in her life. She even yelled at one point, “Yesterday I was in darkness, but since I met Jesus last night, I can in the light. I am free. I am free.”
The young saloon girl she had talked to before the service caught her, “Tell me how I can hide from my boss and live with Jesus.”
Daniel carried the bucket to the back of the area where most of the folks had entered. As he walked folks tossed bills and change into the bucket. The bucket got heavier as he approached the spot he had decided it belonged. Arriving, he sat the bucket on a rock that stood about two feet tall and placed a small sign on a stick in it that read, “Donations accepted,” and walked toward the caravan.
Person after person grabbed him and asked him to pray. He prayed. He didn’t believe it would do an ounce of good, but he prayed. He must have prayed a dozen times before he broke through the crowd and was able to reach the caravan. The clutching hands of the crowd fell away as he shrugged his way through the last ones and into the clear behind the rock platform.
“Dad,” he said as he entered the caravan, “You just aren’t gonna believe what I saw tonight.”
His father wasn’t there. He was in a local saloon, fondling a dancehall gal and drinking all the unguarded booze left behind the bar.
The gal didn’t mind. He had money and was free with it.
Miss Evelyn reached the last person face down on the dirt to find the cowboy. He was crying and shouting his sins as he begged for forgiveness. Miss Evelyn said, “Cowboy, that Bible says that if we repent and ask God for forgiveness, He will forgive. That’s a promise He keeps on a daily basis in your life.”
“Miss Evelyn, I needed tonight. I knew I was living wrong and now I’m dealing with it thanks to you and that boy, that preacher. Jesus is my friend just like you sang at the beginning. Where’s the boy?”
“He left.” She knew the kid didn’t believe what he told these folks, but she knew that God would forgive him one day when he did repent and follow the Word he was teaching.
Three years later Daniel stood on the platform in the largest venue in Denver and looked out over several thousand people of all ages, creeds, and colors. The message was one of a thief that was dying from the nails in his hands and feet that held him. The thief was hanging on a cross next to the dying Jesus. The thief admitted he was guilty of his deeds and deserved to die, and told the world from his cross that Jesus had done nothing wrong. He was hanging there for no reason other than the jealousy of the priesthood of the church of his day. He was hanging there in reality because that’s where His Father wanted him. He was hanging there to pay the penalty before God for all the sins of a lost world.
As he taught that last sentence something happened in the heart of a 15 year old young sinner standing on a platform in front of thousands of people. Somehow he was convinced that all he had been teaching for three years was really true and that this same Jesus died for him. He knew that the bucket was sitting at the back of the room with its small sign. He knew it was overflowing with the donations of all these people. He knew that it wasn’t all about the money.
IT WAS ALL ABOUT JESUS.
HE BELIEVED IT ALL!
He fell to his knees and cried, “Father, forgive me, a sinner,” and fainted in tears.
The next morning just before noon the Denver Tribune put out a special edition with black headlines reading, “BOY PREACHER FALLS FOR OWN MESSAGE” in three lines above the fold. The article read:
Last night at the Miner’s Hall, 15 year old Daniel Fount came to the fount of Jesus in the middle of his own sermon. The young preacher, son of the infamous Right Reverend Lawrence P. Fount, was approximately half way through his usual sermon time when he swooned on stage.
Miss Evelyn, the singer with the preacher, says he has been working excessive hours with new believers in Jesus and was totally exhausted. His father, the Right Reverend, stated that he didn’t know what happened until this morning. Rumor had it that the father was in the notorious Bucket of Blood Saloon with one, Big Bottom Kate, on his lap for most of the evening throwing money around like it was confetti thrown at a political parade.
Dr. Elmont Goode, a physician, is reported to have said that he could find no reason for the young preacher’s nose dive to the stage. The good Doctor Goode repaired the man’s broken nose and received a $10 bill for his services.
Young Preacher Daniel Fount stated to this reporter that the Revival will continue tonight a 7 PM at the Minor’s Hall where he will explain everything. A hearty crowd is expected.
Miss Evelyn will sing.
At 5 minutes to 7 PM that evening, back stage in the Minor’s Hall Daniel looked at Evelyn, “Evelyn, I need you to sing like you have only sung once before and that was the night in Las Vegas when you sang ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’ I want you to sing it just like you did that night.” He turned, “Dad, I want you well out of here. It could get dangerous. There were three notes delivered this afternoon concerning the phoniness of our ministry and the use of the funds donated by the audience. I may get hurt, but there is no sense anyone else getting hurt. Evelyn, you leave by the back door as soon as I begin to speak.”
“I won’t do that, Dan. I will be in the wings praying.”
“There is no reason for God to protect us tonight. I have sinned greatly and you have allowed it to happen even after you became a believer. So, go.”
He gave up, “Thank you. I’ll need all the prayer I can get. But, if it starts getting violent, you run.”
“Lady don’t run too well dressed like this. I’ll be there praying.” She pointed to the left wing.
The stage hand that was still working with them came by and said, “Ten minutes, Preacher Fount. Miss Evelyn, the piano player asked if you would begin with a couple of songs starting now. The crowd is sounding rowdy and angry.”
“On my way. Pray for me, Dan.”
The stagehand said, “She’s gonna need it. I saw lots of rotten vegetables and fruit out there as I watched the front door. There was also a basket of eggs. Not a single person has dropped a penny in the bucket.” He paused as if he were looking for the right words to say. “I know how you feel, but remember – the Truth shall set you free, and Jesus is the Truth. I’ll be praying with Miss Evelyn.”
“Thank you. Stay away from me if it gets bad.”
“Don’t worry. I got a wife and three kids to think of. I’ll drop the curtain if you say so.”
The sweet sounds of Miss Evelyn’s singing drifted through the curtains and reached Daniel’s ears bringing him peace as he prayed which brought him total comfort in the midst of this turmoil. He checked the backstage clock. Six minutes until he would walk out there and put everything on the line for the cause of Jesus, this time, the first time in truth.
He walked to the edge of the down left curtain and peeked into the footlights illuminating Miss Evelyn at the down right stage corner as she sang, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’ with her clear, carrying voice. The audience stirred like an ant bed a horse had just stomped on.
He walked on stage to center front, three feet behind the center footlight.
By Doug Ball Copyright 2015
“Boy, it’s all about the money. Never forget that. It’s all about the money. Now get out there on the road and bang that drum. We need the money they’ll bring to the show.”
The boy shuffled out of the huge blue and white tent carrying the bass drum that was almost as big around as he was tall. At twelve years old, he knew the routine well. He’d bang the drum while standing next to the sign that said, “Revival. Come for a fresh anointing of the power of God.” He’d look cute and smile as wagons and horses went past on their way to the businesses of the community his father had set them up in this time.
The routine was always the same. He’d bang the drum and his father would preach. His father’s current entertainment was a woman he’d picked up from a saloon about three months past who sang sweet enough, but dealt with life with a foul mouth and even worse heart. But, she was pretty, could sing, and dress like the pious lady she wasn’t for the meetings. After she and his father would retired to the caravan wagon to drink themselves to sleep.
The boy, on the other hand, would lie awake half the night listening to their foul conversation and plans for the money that had filled the offering plate. His only hope was that this was one of those rare occasions when his father would toss him a silver dollar and say, “Run into town, son, and buy yourself a treat.” That hadn’t happened in quite awhile.
The offerings were down.
A kid about the boy’s own age stopped and asked, “Can I hit that thing a couple of times?”
“Sure.” Daniel moved back from the drum on its stand and handed the new kid the stick with the round ball of soft felt wrapped around the end. “Don’t hit it too hard, you might break the skin and I’d get a whooping, a bad whooping.”
“Okay.” The new kid took the stick and gave the drum three healthy whacks causing the drum to tip.
Daniel grabbed the drum, “Not quite that hard and hold the edge of the drum like this when you hit it.” He showed the kid how to hold it by the tightening rod across the top side.
The kid grabbed the rod and hit the drum a couple more times. “This is fun. Do they pay you for this job?”
“Nah. My dad’s the preacher.”
“The one that was preaching in the saloon last night?”
“That would be him.”
“Never heard of a preacher that got drunk and preached for free.”
“He weren’t preaching for free. He was preaching so’s them bums would hear the Word and repent from their sinful ways and buy him a drink.”
The kid shook his head as he continued to beat the drum, “Sounds fishy to me. My Ma said that a preacher should never allow foul alcohol to touch his lips.”
“I doubt if the booze ever touches his lips he slugs them down so fast. His tongue maybe, but not his lips.”
“I’ll have to check with Ma on that.” He smiled at the thought of being able to counter his mother’s words.
“Come on by tonight and I’ll get you a seat up front. Sometimes Pa gets to preaching so loud and frantic, he spits on the folks in the front couple of rows. Specially if he’s got a snoot full.”
“I don’t want no one spittin’ on me.”
“Okay, you can sit on the side of the stage near the piano with me.”
“I could do that. Gee, thanks.”
“My name’s Daniel, what’s yours?”
“Michael. Just like the Archangel.”
“I’m named after some buckaroo that herded lions.”
“He must have been one tough hand.”
“He was. The King made him his right hand Segundo.”
Two cowboys rode by laughing at the boys beating the drum. “Ben, we gonna come back and hurrah this tent tonight?”
“Sounds like a great idea. I ain’t heard a hell fire and damnation preacher in at least five years. Might be a good time. If he ain’t lively enough, we can help him by kickin’ up the action.”
Daniel heard the conversation and told himself to remember to tell his father.
That evening Michael showed up just as the ‘singer’ was belting out “Bringing in the Sheaves.” The crowd grew to fill about half the tent and its 70 folding chairs. There were about a dozen cowboys standing in the back with bottles of various varieties of booze from beer to rotgut flaunted. All of them were commenting and gesturing with volume and vigor.
Daniel remembered the two cowboys riding by and ran to his father. “Dad, the cowboys are planning to hurrah you and the service tonight.”
“Don’t you worry, son, the Good Lord is in charge here tonight as He is every night,” he said as he laughed at his own words.
“Dad, I don’t really think it’s right laughing at something like that.”
“You’re right, son, but few there are that realize that, and I am one of them.” He walked to the podium, laid out his Bible and notes, and then hit the bass drum standing in its stand there beside him with a couple of good licks just as the demure dancehall girl finished her song.
“Thank you, Evelyn, for that enlightening Word of God in song. Let’s all give Evelyn a rousing hand of appreciation.”
The audience gave a half-hearted response. The cowboys in the back were cheering like mad. One of them even called out, “That ain’t no Evelyn, that’s Miss Daisy from Wichita. I saw here there last year when I hauled beef into that burg.”
The audience laughed louder at that than the response was to the song.
“Let us pray,” said the preacher.
Two hours later after the bucket had been passed around three times, the Preacher gave an impassioned altar call for, “All you sinners that need to repent and come to the feet of Jesus. Now is the day of repentance, not tomorrow. Come, come one and come all. Now is the light of Jesus shining brightest in the eyes of your heart. Come and live forevermore with Him in Paradise just as the thief on the cross. Come and enjoy the benefits of His Salvation. No more problems. No worries. He heals, come and be healed. Come now. We will sing that great hymn of the faith, “The Old Rugged Cross. Miss Evelyn will lead us.”
Miss Evelyn stood and sang with a dozen tears in her voice.
The crowd split. One group just remained seated. The other 15 or so got up and walked the aisle to the front and was greeted by the Right Reverend Doctor Lawrence P. Fount, Larry Fount on his arrest records. The head Deacon of the local Presbyterian Church asked Dr. Fount, “May I assist you, Sir?”
“Why certainly, young man.”
Some folks hit their knees and begged for forgiveness of their sins, other cried out for healing, the rest of those up front just stood awaiting whatever was supposed to happen. All except one old cowboy. That one old cowboy began the journey to the front and passed out cold to end up flat on his face in the middle of the crowd.
The Reverend Fount screamed at the top of his lungs, “This man is so overwhelmed with the power of God that he has passed out at the relieving of the burden of all his sins. Let’s shout hallelujah in praise.”
“He passed out drunk,” yelled a cowboy from the rear of the tent.
The seated crowd laughed and catcalled concerning the issue.
“He’s a boozer and a loozer.”
“That old reprobate.”
“Somebody dowse him with a bucket of water.”
Just as the fun was really ripping through the tent, the old cowboy got up, drew his six shooter, and proceeded to put five holes in the roof of the big top. The crowd hit the floor as if they were all struck by the power of God. The old cowboy staggered to the back and exited through the door of the tent.
The Reverend Fount said, “Damn, more holes to patch before they run.”
He left the tent as Evelyn sang the first verse, the only one she knew, again for the fifth time.
By the time she finished the first verse again, the crowd was well thinned and Daniel was left to put out the lamps and lanterns hanging here and there, along with buttoning up the tent door. He noticed the Reverend Father, his Father, had not forgotten the offering which had resided in a tin bucket.
“Must have been skimpy, he left the bucket.” Daniel went to his blanket under the caravan.
A month and ten towns later, the tent sat in the dirt at the end of the main business section of Las Vegas, New Mexico. The wind blew as the six hired men struggled to get the tent erected until the Reverend Fount called an end to the struggle and just had Daniel set up the chairs. The weather being pleasant and the location at the crest of a slight rise said much for the outdoor, no tent set up. No one would be cold and due to the breeze, the mosquitoes would not bother the folks. There was even a convenient rock, flat on top and large enough to be the stage. The piano would not fit, nor could it be lifted up to those heights, but a simple four step ladder sufficed to allow the Reverend and Miss Evelyn an easy and modest assent to the God given platform.
With the easy site set up allowing the Reverend plenty of time before the show, he descended into the community to share the joy he felt with the folks of said community. There being five separate buildings which merchandised the nectars he sought gave him ample opportunity to spread the good word around concerning the Joy that would be available on the hilltop that evening.
Unfortunately, he spent more time imbibing in the merchandise than he did spreading the good news of joy. Come the advertised time of 6 PM, he was only semi-conscious in the caravan. No efforts of Miss Evelyn could arouse him fully. Finally, Daniel went in as Miss Evelyn took the stage to keep the masses occupied until he could wake up the Preacher.
After three verses of “We Shall Gather at the River,” Daniel threw a bucket of water on in the Preacher’s face. Of course that was not a good thing to do, it doused all the man’s clothing from the waist up and left the bed a sodden mess. The Reverend sputtered and cursed like a sailor until he gave out with the best idea he ever had, “You go preach to them, Daniel. Tell them how God delivered your namesake from the Lions.”
“I can’t preach. You’re the preacher, not me. What do I know about preaching?”
“It’s all about the money, son. Put on the show and they will drop their last penny in that tin bucket. It is all about the money.” He fell back, out cold.
Daniel grabbed his good shirt and coat from the bottom drawer, jumped into them, and ran for the stairs to the platform. Arriving at the top he found he could not see over the podium, so he tossed it aside with a crash that brought all attention to him. Evelyn ended her song at the same moment.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, my earthly father is ill.” A long period of laughter from the audience followed. “He has anointed me to speak to you tonight. If you are disappointed, you may leave and with this set up you may leave in any direction you wish.” Again laughter.
“My name is Daniel. It comes from a man of ancient Israel in captivity. He was a slave to the highest man in the world of that day.” He went on to finish the story.
“As Daniel was saved from the lions and promoted to the highest position under the king, you can be promoted to the highest position under God by using the same faith Daniel used in his stand against the evil advisors of the king. This old world will tell you that you are alright, but God says you must have faith in His Son, Jesus, to be all right. You cannot be half right and be in the presence of God, you cannot even be mostly right to be in the presence of God. You must be ALL RIGHT, and that only happens when you totally give in to the desires of God and let Him lead you to your resurrection one day.”
Miss Evelyn fell to her knees as she sang her rendition of “The Old Rugged Cross” again and again. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Between lines she cried out, “Save me, Jesus.” Everyone thought it was part of the show, but Miss Daisy (Evelyn) meant it from the bottom of her heart. As she began the first verse again, she fell to her knees and cried, “I repent. I will be your child. Bring on the lions.”
Daniel knelt beside her, “Don’t you think you are overdoing it a bit?”
“I am not acting. This is real. I have never felt like this. The happiness in my heart is smothering the pain of my life history. Oh, the joy.” She started the first verse again.
Daniel looked at the reactions of the crowd and wondered what was going on. This had never happened when his father preached. Even the cowboys from the back of the room were up front on their knees. Many of the crowd were crying, many were just sitting in their chairs with lips twitching. One man was flat on his face sobbing.
Folks had walked the aisle for his father, but never this proportion of the crowd, and never with such sincerity. There were only three left in their chairs showing no reaction. Daniel walked back to the caravan not knowing what else to do.
He father called out, “Did you do it?”
“Yes, Dad. I don’t understand the reaction.”
“What? Did they boo you or throw things at you?”
“No. They got all emotional and cried a lot.”
The man got out of his bed, stumbling over his shoes, and walked to the platform. The sight was one he had never seen before. Evelyn was on her knees confessing every single sin she could remember, the crowd was still on site in various positions of surrender, and even the cowboys were quiet, not mocking any of it.
“What did that boy do?” he whispered as he walked in sock covered feet through the crowd.
THE DEACON is the title of my NANOWRIMO effort.
I will be posting it on this blog as I write. The first three or four days will be long because I have over 8000 words written already. Once we are caught up you will get my (hopefully) daily writings IN THE ROUGH for your perusal.
I beg you to comment on this effort. Plus or minus comments are welcome. Please try to make them constructive comments. Don’t worry about typos. We are looking at a story, a narrative, so your comments concerning plot, characters, events, actions, etc. are what I would appreciate.
I will post each days writing (on days I write) the next morning.
Tell your friends and enemies about this great FREE opportunity.
Be blessed and keep writing.
Life just isn’t as easy some days as it is others. Now and then the gently falling slope of time remaining turns into a wild slide to the end. The days of reaching new heights disappear and all around you is negative.
Well, that just hasn’t happened in this kid’s life, yet.
This past week I was privileged to take four long walks in the parks of the Kiabab Forest and Grand Canyon National Park, north rim. The beauty of God’s creation still amazes me like the birth of a child or the slashing of the lights in the heavens of a meteor shower. Those trails were much like life. The ups are tough, the steeper the harder. The downs are nice if they are gentle, but when the downs become slides they are terrible. How is it the nice gently falling trails of life can turn into the slide for life and be so uncomfortable?
Got home Saturday and trashed, as in moved to the cut file (a file I use to hold previously written passages that I may use later), 20,000 words of a story. Why? I realized it needed to be a sequel and not a first book. Hence, the beginning of my new series “The Deacon.” The Deacon is a Bible toting Paladin in the west of the 1880-90’s. The conflict of being a fighter and a man of peace makes for a palk in the wark. It’s an uphill climb all the way.
Be blessed and write.