Buckskin Brady, The Cowboy Evangelist Pt. 1
When Brady was eight years old, he packed his war-bag and started out to establish his reputation as a professional cowboy. It was because of his father’s death at New York where he was born; together with other misfortunes, that placed him at the head of the family. There was no work that a boy could get, so the same circumstances that led so many boys of the city to sweat their bread out in the factory, threw this little frontier boy on his own resources and he became a cowboy through force of circumstances rather than from choice of profession.
His mother started him out with a prayer, a Bible, an arithmetic book and the loan of a pony from a friend – his entire outfit. Brady’s first job as a cowboy was herding a bunch of cattle on the Sioux Indian Reservation where, almost wholly removed from the influences of home and school, he spent his boyhood. Surrounded by the wild, rough range life with little Indian boys for playmates, he was allowed to grow up almost as free from restraint as an elk of the Badlands.
It was a pretty wild sea for a light-rigged vessel. Several times the storms nearly swamped his little hull, but he purposed navigating his own boat. He took points for the right port before he set sail by making his Bible and arithmetic, chart and compass for the voyage. He studied them so well that he sailed right through everything and kept his bearings. Every day he studied his Bible to keep square with the world, and every day he studied his arithmetic to keep the world square with him.
His pony, undertaking the scientific part of his training, gave Brady regular lessons in “side drills,” and was so expert at the business that, in a short time, he learned to walk long distances at a brisk pace. These exercises put brawn in his muscle and fire in his bones. Brady was so regular in his lessons that the ambitious little horse lived to see him take out a diploma and receive a degree as an authority on “side drills.”
The Bible gave Brady a character which distinguished him amongst the profession as “the prayin’ kid,” a title which he always strived to maintain through more than twenty years of frontier life. With few diversions, Brady clung to the saddle. The camp became the place where he ate, slept and received his schooling; and for years, he sang his songs and whistled his tunes to the beat of hoofs and the jingling of spurs.
Brady crossed the wild Sioux’s trail when the Sioux was in their war paint and their smoke smelled of blood. He helped to trail the herd from the Rockies to the Big Missouri when the drive would fill in three months of hard double drilling and regular night guards; under every exposure imaginable and excruciating hardships; where sleep was taken in his boots and Sunday never came. Sometimes ugly rivers were crossed under circumstances which threatened their lives, or the roaring stampede tore the midnight with wild rides where washouts and rocks threatened to swamp them under clashing hoofs. It was a wild, free life, every day filled up with daring rides and thrilling adventures.
Brady felt that the chart and compass that guided his craft through all those years was the Hand and Word of God. The solitude of mountains, plains, and badlands with all their herds of range cattle and horses and bands of wild game, was an index to the life and liberty of God’s omnipotent love by which God taught him to read the mysteries of His wonderful creation. Many times He would go down into some deep canyon and preach a sermon to the rocks and trees. One time, after an effort of this kind, God so manifested Himself to Brady that the old canyon seemed to blaze with light and glory. Brady had enjoyed many blessed seasons with God; had known His power to save and keep; had helped some of his comrades into the light and liberty of God’s saving grace; yet, Brady let the responsibility around him keep him from sounding the message abroad; but, at last, the call became imperative. It was like a mighty thunderbolt, tearing him loose from the world and all around him, snapping all other responsibilities like a thread. It was as though his very hands were fixed in that of God. There seemed no recourse and he sought none.
By this time, Brady had accumulated enough property to establish a ranch and maintain a comfortable home, but property lost its power to satisfy; the wild, free life lost its charms, and solitude became a reproach. The once friendly old canyons, with their wild, fascinating scenery – the haunts of a life – now seemed yawning pits; their rocks, trees and shrubs seemed like so many processions of lost souls winding their way down to hell hand-in-hand, bringing to mind the expressions of despondency he had seen on so many hopeless faces.
Suddenly the burden of unsaved souls seemed to be crushing the very life out of him; and, feeling as helpless as a bruised reed broken with the wind, he prayed for relief. Like a flash, a sense of divine power came pouring into his heart, pervading his whole being , and thrilling every fiber of his nature with the white light of God’s glory. For days, the sense of divine power in his heart was so strong that he left off eating and sleeping to feast on God, while the country where he rode seemed hallowed ground and the atmosphere sweet and mellow with the breath of Heaven.
Brady wrote: “There is a place in my thoughts where God and nature meet – the natural and Divine – to blend in perfect harmony. All the romantic influence of solitude still in my nature is constantly exerting itself in thought, word and prayer as I endeavor, by the power of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, to express His wonderful love to mankind.” (Stores And Sermons, 1905. p.13)
Brady felt that God has ‘blessed this poor, unworthy cowboy till the same preaching that once made the trees and canyons ring, now moves the hearts of men to seek their God.’ His old outfit is now gone; saddle, spurs, bronc, and all – but, “like Peter’s net and fishing boat, we don’t need them in this business. Led by the Spirit; saved by His grace; sanctified through His blood; filled with all the fullness of God; desirous to know the fellowship of His sufferings; qualified to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ – this is my education, my qualification, my ordination.”
To be continued . . .