Buckskin Brady, The Cowboy Evangelist Pt. 5
A number of years ago when two of the boys were riding for strays in the Belle Fourche country, they ran across the Killpatrick crew, who were pushing the B. & M. Railroad west through the wilds of Wyoming.
They dismounted to watch the graders while they tore up the earth with their great ploughs and scrapers, moving rocks, trees and stumps out of the way, pulling down the high places and filling in the low places to make the grade smooth and level. After watching them for awhile, one said: “This is a great illustration of the way we are to get to heaven.” When asked why, he replied: “John the Baptist says, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.’ If you wanted to fix up a straight trail for the Lord, and you were like the ‘Kills’, the first thing you would do would be to secure a railroad grant from the Government, the next you’d engage a reliable corps of civil engineers to find the most practical route and stake off the right-of-way. You’d ship in a carload of big Missouri mules, lots of ploughs, scrapers, log chains, picks, shovels, crowbars, grub hoes, etc. and you’d import enough big three-cornered Swedes to operate the machinery and handle the mules in good shape. Then, the Swedes and mules would work to remove all the obstructions along the right-of-way – houses, barns, chicken-coops, fences, rocks, trees, and everything that would hinder the work. You would throw out all the rocks and stumps and roots, pull down all the high places and fill in all the low places, and bridge all the worst canyons, rivers and badland washouts. As soon as the trail’d be finished, you’d have an expert engineer to inspect it, and when he’d pronounce it O.K., you’d have a beautiful piece of trail for the Lord when He’d visit you on His white horse.
“This is what the John the Baptist meant, only the way of the Lord is not an overland route but right through the human heart. There is where all the work’s got to be done; there’s where the surveying’s got to be done, the right-of-way staked off and all the obstructions removed. All the digging up, the throwing out, the pulling down and filling in has got to be done. The human heart is often so rough and stony and full of rubbish that one couldn’t faze it even with a plough or crowbar. John the Baptist said “Repent ye”. You have to do all the work by yourself. The Lord’s work is to run the survey, stake off the right-of-way and inspect the work. Each man is ordered to prepare his heart for the way of the Lord’s coming and fix Him up a straight trail.”
Brady began to chase cows for a living as soon as his legs were long enough to hang down the two sides of a horse. It didn’t take him long to learn what a great advantage there was in a straight trail; for it didn’t matter how hard it stormed, how low the clouds, or where the wind was coming from, you could follow a straight trail on and on to the end of time and not be lost. If you should start for heaven this moment it doesn’t matter how many clouds there are in sight, or how hard the tempest blows, you can follow it on and on, and when you come to the end of time, you will not be lost, but will be right at Father’s door.
A man may have good morals and be in good standing with the church, but if he has never experienced a change of heart, if he had never had the survey made and right-of-way staked off, if he had never removed the obstacles and never prepared the way of the Lord, he hasn’t yet entered the straight trail that leads to heaven. No other trail will stand the Master’s inspection. If you are on the broad road that leads to destruction, come to God and get a religion that will take all the kinks out of your trail, and hit a bee-line for the kingdom on a fresh horse. He’ll give you an outfit that’ll overcome every obstacle between here and the pearly gates.
In the open range of the great West, where sheep are raised in bands of three-thousand and millions of cattle and horses roam the range with almost as little restraint as wild animals, all stock are identified by some mark outside of the close herd, rope or kraal. The only legitimate hold a man can have on his cow, horse, or sheep is his brand. Every brand to become legalized must be placed on file by the county clerk.
Many of the Western states hold out such splendid inducements for stock-raising on the open range that men soon go in for raising stock wholesale. The work is systematized by round-up crews, organized for branding colts and calves and gathering stock for market. Each round-up crew consists of a foreman, cook, twelve riders and a horse-wrangler.
The crew starts at four o’clock in the morning and rounds up a circle from eight to ten miles across in a day. Each man drives all the cattle that he finds into his spot in the circle. After five or six get in with their drive, some of the boys hold up the herd while others gather wood at a handy distance for heating the irons. When all is ready the fire is started and the branding operation begins.
After the branding is finished and there are any steers to be held up for market, two or three of the boys mount their best horses and cut the steers out of the herd. They are held in a separate herd until enough steers are gathered for shipment. The old-fashioned round-up will soon be a thing of the past, because the aggressive Yankee farmer is continually pushing West for free homesteads.
The beautiful West was beginning to change – that great storehouse of natural treasure – stretching its magnificent plains, mountains and valleys away to the setting sun; and became interspersed with busy railroads that facilitated commerce to thrifty cities, lumber mills, cow camps and great gold mines. In some places, men blast and work whole mountains to feed those mighty ore-crushers, which grind the rock into powder at the rate of thousands of tons per day. The rivers wash sluices till they are clotted with powdered rock for miles below the mills. Although Brady never made prospecting his business, he could testify that there is something very exciting about washing for the bright yellow metal, even where the colors are small and few. When prospects are founded on solid resources, substantial cities are often built under very exciting circumstances. However, there is a mania of forgetting God that becomes contagious under certain conditions.
Brady began holding meetings. He could see that in their eagerness to make money, men sometimes get so far astray from God that business places of all kinds are open, wholesale and retail trade are carried on, freight unloaded and stock of all kinds shipped seven days in the week; some men even cleaning their barnyards and hauling the litter unmolested through the streets in open disregard of the Lord’s day.
At one place where Brady held meetings, the Sunday School superintendent left his class to play in his brass band at a Sunday baseball game. God help poor depraved man! Sin is an awful thing! A drop of ink gathers on Brady’s pen and threatens to blot out the words that come sliding down its point, and just as the word S-I-N is stretching itself out, the drop breaks away making a big ugly blotch on the paper.
It makes Brady think of blotched brands on dogy calves in the days when it was a part of his business to tie them down and apply the hot iron. And as he looked at the blotched word and thought of the long ropes and hot irons, the idea strikes him that dogy calves are not the only victims of the hot mark, nor ropes the only fetters, for some things burn deeper and make more lasting impressions than hot iron on a calf’s rib.
There is a spot in every man’s make-up more susceptible to impressions than rawhide on a dogy calf. Many times Brady thought that both are identified by the hot mark, that there is a branding iron vs. the man in the hot letters that spell the devil’s brand.
When a man brands a calf he starts a fire at a safe distance from the calf, throws him down and burns the brand on the outside where everyone can see it the first thing; then, taking the iron away, he lets the calf go and soon the fire dies out and the iron cools.
But the devil’s calves, having only two legs, are branded in a different way. When the devil brands a man he starts the fire in his heart to heat the iron. Then, standing him on his feet, he brands him on the inside where no one can see the brand but Jesus, and throws him down afterward. The devil never allows his calves to run off nor his iron to cool down. He keeps it sizzling and frying till it has burned clear through to the outside, where it can plainly be seen in great large letters – S-I-N – and the fire keeps on burning hotter and hotter till it becomes an all-consuming, unquenchable fire that will burn on and on into eternity. An evil thought, word or desire may have kindled the fire.
The first willful step that you take in the wrong direction the devil puts his brand on you. He made the tiniest little mark, so small at first that no one could see it. He just touched you lightly, softly, gently, found the place on your soul where he could make the easiest impressions, and then applied the hot iron so easily, so gently, that it almost had been a caress. But the step had been taken, the fire kindled, the hot mark made before you were aware of it.
Now the time came when the devil began to trip you up and throw you down. Your will is disabled, your conscience seared, your character destroyed with the hellish fire. Everyone who sees you knows that you are the devil’s calf. A man with a cigar between his teeth, another with a lie on his tongue, another with an oath on his lips, another dragged down by some beastly desire. All started from a tiny fire – just some little temptation with which the devil snared them.
What will you do then with the devil’s brand? You can’t cover it up, ink won’t blot it out, talk won’t rub it off, and water won’t wash it away. There is only one thing left for you to do, and only one – that is, to have the blood of Jesus Christ our Saviour applied, which will remove the old sin brand inside and out, and will do it at once and forever if you ask Him in true repentance and faith.
The Lord brands His man, too, after He has washed the last trace of sin off his soul. He writes – L-O-V-E – in immortal letters that shine with light and glory and grow better every day. He brands him not only on the inside but on the outside as well, where everyone can see it and read it and know it at once. God only gives His man one mark, but it distinguishes him from a world of sinners.
Bye and bye there’s going to be a general round-up and we all will be there. Not one will escape or be overlooked, for the Lord of heaven and earth will make the round-up Himself, with all the holy angels. Every angel will work his circle. It won’t be a round-up for branding, either. It’ll be a round-up for dividing the herd – the fat from the lean, the just from the unjust, those who serve God from those who serve the devil. Brady will be there with his brand and we will be there with ours. Brady goes on to say that if there is anything in this world that will carry a man along smoothly and nicely it is true religion and a good horse.
The day is coming when every man’s religion will be tested by fire, and if you are not right with God the only way that you will be able to escape the burning pasture is to get right with Him now. Let God have His way with you and He’ll burn your worthless old religion at the stake, and give you another that will carry you through the flames where you won’t have a hair singed, or even the smell of smoke on you, like the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace.
Now if you want to get to headquarters and you’ve got a worthless old religion with three legs and a blind eye, and you have to leave it at home every time you go to town for fear it will fall down or stick in the mud, and your neighbors haven’t got anything better, the best thing for you to do is to leave your worthless old religion behind with them and start off by yourself on foot. You might order a suit of sack-cloth and ashes and strike off down the Valley of Humiliation for a few hundred miles.
They say that there’s a nice up-to-date railroad down in the valley now, and you can get a Pullman sleeper at excursion rates. But if you should meet the devil and he should offer you a car-fare and try to get you to make it easy on yourself, just tell him to ride his own excursions, that you are going to hang to the good old foot-path till you come to the place where David met the Lord the time he was seeking religion, and said: “Have mercy upon me, O Lord, according to Thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Purge me with Hyssop and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”
Then the Lord will examine you, and prove you, and try your reins and your heart. You will then get a genuine religion right from heaven, for God Himself will hand it down to you.
“I’m saved from the crown of my hat to my horses heels – head, heart, pocket-book, testimony and all. I’ve left the devil’s badlands with their blowouts and corkscrew trails, and I’m away out across the old Jordan ford in good old Canaan Land, where there is nothing but sunshine between me and glory. God’s love is burning in my heart day and night, and He leads me all the way. I’ve got a religion that takes all the kinks out of the trail at a jump, and hits a bee-line for heaven on a fresh horse. I’m on a high lope. Glory to God!”
ACROSS THE BIG DIVIDE
by Buckskin Brady
I’m ridin’ with royal permission,
And out on the round-up to stay;
I’m after the maverick and dogy,
And spreadin’ my rope for the stray.
Although you have busted your hobbles,
Or pulled up the old picket pin,
And quit the Plain Trail to glory
To graze in the Blowouts of sin,
Back to the Plain Trail I’ll haze you,
Where the Master will deal out a ride
That hits a bee-line for the Home Ranch
Across the Big Divide.
No, you need not carry a grub-stake;
Provision for you He has made
By waters still and through pastures green,
Where the trail is sheltered with shade.
For the round-up boss is our Saviour,
And He close guards the trail for all,
And pampers the poor stray and dogy,
Or maverick, that lists to my call.
And a range replete with plenty,
Cheered by love that no ills can betide,
Waits to greet you up at the Home Ranch
Across the Big Divide.
The Master is calling for riders
To help gather the scattered herd;
For sinners are numbered by legions
Who stray from the light of His word.
You had better strike for the outfit
And turn in with the Master’s brand,
For no one else can follow the trail
That leads up to the Holy Land.
Apply at once to Headquarters,
Send your name on ahead for the ride,
And He’ll lead the trail to the Home Ranch
Across the Big Divide.
The Master still calls for us, comrades;
Tis time to prepare for the ride;
He’s leading a round-up for Glory,
To cut out the sin and the pride.
He’s promised each cowboy a circle
Who’ll split up the badlands of sin,
And route the whole country for Jesus,
To bring every wanderer in.
A bright golden range in Glory,
And a Home Ranch and mansion beside
Wait all who will ride for King Jesus
Across the Big Divide.
The safe-looking trails are so many
In this wild, degenerate day,
If you should go looking for landmarks
You’d stray in the badlands to stay.
So just split the breeze for the Plain one,
As the Master has told you to do;
It heads all the canyons and washouts,
And splits the old blowouts in two.
Take orders from none but King Jesus;
He has promised to keep at our side,
And lead all the way to the Home Ranch
Across the Big Divide.
Don’t fall in the Gulf of Temptation,
But leap every one, wide and clear,
As often you’ve jumped the old washouts
Behind some wild badland steer,
And when the fierce tempest would drift you,
If you feel that your strength is frail,
Take shelter behind some good wind-brake
The Master provides without fail.
He will stay with all His vouchers,
On which you have surely relied,
And redeem them all at the Home Ranch
Across the Big Divide.
For God has not made His promises
Just to favor a pampered few;
While He’s after the big fat range steer,
He wants poor little dogy, too.
When both are held on the golden range
Till their shining coats roll with fat,
What if they grazed on the Yellowstone
Or were reared on the salt-sage flat!
So, come boys, tie down these precepts,
And no doubting or letting them slide
And you’ll wind up at the Home Ranch
Across the Big Divide.
Stories And Sermons (1905)
By Buckskin Brady