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.”