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.