Buckskin Brady, The Cowboy Evangelist Pt.3
Brady loved to read his Bible, especially the writings of David as a shepherd boy. It seemed the shepherd boy of the Judean wilderness and the cowboy of the Western wilds weathered the storms together, or sang of God’s goodness and love to the rhyme of rippling waters or sobbing winds. Brady felt they both shared the joys and sorrows of that lifestyle.
After David had led his flock all day long in the green pastures and beside the still waters of the Jordan, he would corral them for the night, roll his bed out under the stars, and say, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” After Brady had ridden hard all day along the lonely trails of the Rockies, looking after his herds of cattle and horses, he’d camp for the night, and, opening the Book, would read, “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.” Then, Brady would roll out his bed under the stars and say, “The Lord is my Shepherd, too; I shall not want.” Brady, like David, after looking up into the clear azure midnight skies with the twinkling stars, declared the glory of God.
Brady, a cowboy alone with God and nature, would ride the trails, checking his herd. He loved listening to the songs of birds, the nickering of horses, the lowing of cattle and the myriad of voices from the wilds. It seemed to him that all nature was overflowing with joy, and that every bird, from the sparrow to the eagle, and every creature, from the chipmunk to the four-year-old steer, was saying, “Glory to God in the highest; peace upon earth; goodwill toward men.”
After making himself an early supper one particular evening, he climbed a hill back of his camp to view one of the grandest sights in the world – the sunset on the mountains. Standing on the summit of the Big Horns, fifteen thousand feet above the sea level, and looking across a great expanse of picturesque badlands, he watched the old sun hiding himself behind the rugged peaks of the Rockies, one hundred and fifty miles away. The sun, slowly sinking from sight, threw off great crimson, purple and golden sprays that blended the mountains with the sky above until all seemed one molten mass of living, changing color. In the dusk-deepening, shadow-turning twilight, one-by-one the stars seemed to chase each other into sight, and the evening blossomed forth into the jewel-spangled dome of night, leaving Brady alone with God and nature.
Brady strolled back to camp, rekindled his fire, read his Bible and prayed his evening devotion by its flickering light. Then, he stretched out in his blankets to rest. As he lay gazing up at the stars, trying to measure God’s infinite love by the fullness of the multitudes, he seemed like a mere speck, a stray creature, less than a grain of sand compared with these. Yet, in value, he knew he was the price of His notice, His love, His providence; for the hand that formed him, fed him, led him, claimed him for a son – an heir brought back to the fold as gently as love draws love. Brady could not understand how much God loved him, but this much he knew – God is true.
Weeks before, Brady had finished the job of line riding on the mountain. It was a cold morning late in October when their string of saddle horses made little trails in the white frosty grass while lined up in front of the ranch cabins to receive their bed, grub and tin kitchen for the trip. Foreman Mike enlisted Brady for this trip of rounding up stray cattle that had drifted across the line to the Crow Indian Reservation, which was reckoned the hardest trip of all. Brady’s job was to scour the red man’s camp and route his hunting ground in a fearless attempt to reclaim the stray cattle.
Mike always called Brady ‘Deacon’ and told ‘Deacon’ if his religion was any good at all, it ought to be an advantage to a cow outfit. All the other men were afraid of the Indians so Mike said, “Now, this trip ere, fer instance, the other boys wouldn’t tackle it at all, ‘cause they ain’t ready to die yet. They don’t want them Injuns to git their scalp on a hoop, and I don’t know how I’d manage if I hadn’t a good Christian feller to send that’s ready to die any minute. If a man’s religion ain’t worth more than his scalp it will never take him to heaven, anyhow.” Brady agreed with him that if a man’s religion wasn’t worth more than his scalp, it would never take him to heaven, and allowed that a Christian’s scalp was safer than a sinner’s anywhere, for God’s promises to him are that every hair of his head is numbered.
So Mike sent Pat along with Brady. They headed down the trail for the Big Horn ford, leaving old Mike chuckling to himself over the fun he was having with the “Dakota Kid.” They rode through the gaily-colored badlands that line the river ford, up the Crooked Creek Pass that leads around the Prior Mountains to the Gap, eighty miles away. At the north end of the Gap, near Medicine Rock, they found a nice little flat, sheltered by the perpendicular walls of a canyon which they selected as a suitable place for their campground and hold-up. They built a corral and opened their circle.
After a few days, one evening just before sundown, Jack, from the home ranch, hit camp on a high horse announcing, with cowboy emphasis as he leaped to the ground, that old Mike had been kicked by a horse and was about to die. He wanted to see “Deacon” just as soon as the Lord could get him there. Tossing his rope on to Blaze – the best horse in the string – Brady headed down the trail for the home ranch, eighty miles away. Just before daylight the next morning, he brought me to the old ranch cabin on the Big Horn.
Turning old Blaze into the corral, Brady ran into the bunk-room where Mike lay stretched out on his tarpy. I could see the end was near by the cold sweat on his temples and the death hand shadowing his face and brow. I asked Mike how he was doing and with intense pain that hung on every word as he replied, “Wal, Deacon, I’m gittin’ no better mighty fast. The Lord has called me this time, for sure. I’ve got to pass in my checks pretty quick, but ain’t ready to die yet. Don’t care ‘bout doing business in the next world on the old plan, so I thought, maybe, things might be fixed up a little better if I could see you. I’ve abused you, Deacon. But it wasn’t out of dislike to you or meanness, because I’ve allus liked you. I wanted to make sure that yer religion was the solid thing, and intended to square things up in the end if you stood the test. I jest wanted to make sire sure you had the right kind o’ religion, so that if ever I got in a pinch, I’d know where to go to stock up. Wal, the pinch has come, but I reckon it’s too late to take stock now. So I guess I’ll still have to camp with the devil. I want to square up with you, anyhow, ‘cause it’s right, and I can die easier. I’m mighty sorry for the way I’ve been treatin’ you, Deacon, and I want all the boys to hear me say it. You’ve the genuine religion, and we are wrong.”
The confession, which was very effective, began to tell on the boys, who were digging up their handkerchiefs to hide their twitching faces and streaming eyes. Some, leaving the room, were soon followed by the rest, their breasts heaving with emotion that could not be suppressed. There is nothing more touching than to see a crowd of great brawny men moved to tears. Here was a proof of religion that the roughest cowboy was moved to see. It was a wonderful time! This was God’s special time for dealing with these careless, wild, rough, reckless men. His hand was upon them for good. He knew every thought, emotion and desire. Every prank that they had played on Deacon had been a step by which He was leading them unconsciously to Himself. God was using the circumstance of Mike’s confession as a center of reaction in the minds of the boys, about which their whole conduct was suddenly revolving itself. One incident after another was recalling their failure to suppress the Word which He had sent amongst them. This, in contrast with His great love and power in saving Deacon and maintaining His Word, was weaving an influence in their hearts that would never be ignored or forgotten.
Mike and Brady were left alone for a time. Brady opened his little Bible and read to him a few verses of Scripture containing God’s offers of mercy to the lost and erring. He, seeing at once that God was able, willing, and loved to save him, responded while Brady prayed, and laying his burden of sin down at the foot of the cross, he breathed a prayer for help and forgiveness. By faith, he laid hold of God, trusting and believing with all the simplicity of a little child.
On the boys return into the room, Mike called them all around him and told them it was all right with him now. God had forgiven all his sins and he was going to Heaven – also, he told them they better follow. Faintly, he told Deacon to give him a Christian burial. A calm, sweet peace hung upon his last words.
The inconvenience of transportation hindered them getting a casket. There was no lumber to be had. The nearest trading-post was one-hundred and fifty miles distant. So, they made a coffin out of an old wagon box. Wrapping him carefully in his blankets and laying him in the coffin, they carried him slowly and tenderly out to the little grave that the boys had dug in the badland bluff back of the ranch. The boys stood back with hats off as they lowered him into the grave. The rough weather-beaten, danger-hardened men of the range, with the hard, rough lines of their tear-stained faces broken with strong feeling, with fearless breasts heaving with emotion, stood around with bare heads while Deacon, with tear-dimmed eyes and trembling lips, opened his old weather-beaten Bible and began to read a few verses from its thumb-worn pages, ending with the fourth verse of Revelation 21: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.” Then, closing the Book, he began
THE FUNERAL SERMON.
“Boys, this is a solemn hour! Poor old Mike is dead. He has struck his last camp, made his last ride and said his last farewell. We meet to commit him to the care of One who has taken the spirit from this clay, with the promise of better things. . . . Mike still leads our circle, and the trail is open. He will expect us to make it through. We don’t know who will be the next to strike camp. Boys! Get right with God, and then the next time the ‘black horse’ hits the camp we shall be ready in a minute.”
Then Deacon prayed for God to seal the ceremony with His Holy Spirit, and keep Mike’s grave open in the hearts of his comrades, that the conversion of him, who led the old circle so long and faithfully, might be a landmark along the trail pointing the heavenly way, helping us all to bring up a good circle when we strike our last camp and make our last ride.
That night the boys allowed that it would be all right if Deacon would read his Bible and pray with them to which Brady gladly complied. This was the beginning of a revival in the cow camp.
To be continued . . .