Charles Goodnight | Destiny | #randywillis

March 11, 1904
Cowtown, Texas

The train chugged into Ft. Worth. “I think that’s Miss Tilly’s Steakhouse in the distance,” I said.

“It has a reputation as the best eatery in Cowtown, and this brochure says it’s a short ride on a mule-drawn streetcar.”

The sign on the front door read, “No Dancing On Tables With Spurs.” Beef steaks were not the only thing on the menu. The second sign confirmed that. “You Must Be 18 or Older to Enter.” The hostess seated us at a table in a courtyard out back.

We discovered that the cost of a 28 ounce T-bone was 35 cents.

“Who can afford that?” I asked the brothers. They both shook their heads in agreement and shared their opinions.

“We’ve traveled to Cowtown’s Union Stockyards to buy Longhorn cows and maybe a Hereford bull or two later from Goodnight to build your herd, Daniel,” Jacob said, justifying the extravagance as the high cost of doing business.

Jeremiah agreed. “This is research, if you will, of your future purchase’s quality.”

That’s how the brothers saw it; that is, after I offered to pay for the meals.

As we waited for our meal, Jacob noticed a beautiful stuffed bird on a counter next to a portrait of Robert E. Lee mounted on his horse Traveler. Pointing to the stuffed bird, he inquired of Jeremiah. “What kind of bird is that?”

Jeremiah crossed his arms. “I don’t know, but Miss Tilley needs to get a better taxidermist. That’s the worst job of stuffing a bird I’ve ever seen.”

“Have you ever known anyone with the gift of criticism? Well, you have it,” Jacob said.

Jeremiah smirked. “No, I don’t!”

Suddenly, off his perch, the bird flew out a window.

Jacob and I busted out laughing.

“Case settled.” Jacob started whistling Dixie. I couldn’t help but smile in agreement.

As we devoured our research, I asked a feller sitting at the table next to us, “Mister, where’s a good place to bed down for the night?”

“The Westbrook Hotel, in the ‘hotel block.’ It’s the most noted boarding house in all of this cow country. Expensive though, at a dollar a day, but I wouldn’t go there just yet.”

“Why’s that?”

“No rooms available, but I heard Frank Fore will be checking out soon. His room should be available within two hours.”

“Bless you, Mister. May I be so bold as to ask your name?”

“Jim Miller, but most folks call me Deacon Jim Miller since I’m at the Methodist Church every time the doors are open. I rarely come in here since I don’t smoke or drink ardent spirits. I agree with Billy Sunday, they defile the Lord’s temple.”

“Here we go again,” Jeremiah whispered. “Did Julia Ann hire this guy to follow us or was it Billy Sunday?”

Jeremiah, with an inquisitive look, observed Deacon Miller’s gun lying under his black frock coat and Stetson. “That’s a mighty fancy shotgun you have there.”

“Thank you. I plan on squirrel hunting a little later.” He glanced at his gold pocket watch.

As we walked out the door of Miss Tilly’s, Jeremiah seemed enamored. “I feel fortunate that the first person we met is such a Christian gentleman.”

“What a pious and kindhearted soul. He reminds me of your Grandpa,” Jacob said.

“Not hardly. There’s one big difference. My grandpa never talked about how he lived the Christian life, he just did it. I was taught by him to keep a keen eye on a feller who starts every other sentence with I.”

“Ah, Daniel, now you’re being a pessimist,” Jeremiah said pulling at his ear.

“Do you know what a pessimist is Jeremiah? An optimist with experience.”

“Funny, really funny.” Jeremiah chuckled.

Two hours later, the room did become available just as Deacon Miller predicted. Miller had killed Mr. Fore in the washroom of the Westbrook Hotel. Rumor was Miller and Fore did some real estate business in Fort Worth that had gone south. Frank Fore was said to be an honest businessman who threatened to tell a grand jury that Miller was selling lots submerged in the Gulf of Mexico.

Deacon Miller failed to tell us he was also a great actor, in the tradition of John Wilkes Booth. According to the newspaper, people rushed to see what happened. Miller fell over Fore’s body, with tears in his eyes, “I did everything I could to keep him from reaching for his gun.”

Jeremiah shared Deacon Miller’s prediction with Sheriff John T. Honea.

March 12, 1904
Cowtown, Texas

“I know all about Deacon Jim Miller. He’s a hired assassin. Killed twelve men, some say. That’s not the half of it. Unsubstantiated, but persistent, rumors claim he was only eight when he did away with a troublesome uncle and his grandparents. The first I heard of him was when he killed two men in Midland. Two of my lawman claim Miller shot Mr. Fore in self-defense. Witnesses always seem to pass away in these cases.

“He usually ambushes his victims. Miller killed a lawyer named James Jarrott two years ago. Miller shot ‘im four times in the back while Jarrot watered his horses near his farm.

“Mr. Stark, I know of your reputation with a gun. A Texas Ranger told me of you. If I know your fast, you can bet Miller does too. Now, what I’m about to say, uh, I never said, if you get my drift?”

“Yes, sir, but why doesn’t someone arrest him?”

“They have. Miller has a big-time lawyer and, like I said, the witnesses either lose their memory or mysteriously die.

“Now, what I was about to say is, if I were you, I would call him out before you get it in the back. Your reputation precedes you, Mr. Stark. He’s no match for you, at least in a fair fight.”

“Thank you, Sheriff.”

“For what? We never had this conversation.”

To our surprise, Miller agreed to meet Jeremiah in the street in front of Fort Worth’s White Elephant. The saloon was an establishment located in the south end of town in the notorious vice district known as “Hell’s Half Acre.”

There were women everywhere hanging out their windows, dressed as I’d never seen, with porch lights mostly in red.

Miller strolled out the swinging doors of the White Elephant as if he’d just won a considerable poker hand. Jeremiah stood to wait for him in the middle of the street.

“Lord, protect us all. I will never speak ill of your servant Billy Sunday again,” I prayed fervently.

They squared off with about 40 feet between them. Miller had no notches on his pistol.

Jeremiah held his hands loosely beside his hips. “You first.”

Miller smiled, pulling his gun. Jeremiah followed suit. Miller had not cleared leather when two .45 caliber bullets hit him dead center in his chest. He did not fall. Miller aimed and ripped a shot through Jeremiah’s right shoulder. He walked forward pointing his gun at Jeremiah’s head.

As he approached Jeremiah to finish the deed someone fired a shotgun in the air while yelling, “Dueling is illegal, boys. You’re under arrest, Miller. Get this boy a doctor.” Sheriff Honea witnessed it all, from where I do not know.

“He started this,” Miller said.

“Check under his coat, I know I hit him—twice.” Jeremiah was bleeding and shaking. “Did you hear my bullets ricochet?” Sheriff Honea handcuffed Miller but not until he removed his long black frock coat. Underneath was a thick iron plate.

“That’s not illegal, Sheriff.”

“Maybe not in a Texas court of law, but I’m sure you being a man of God and all, you know it’s a sin to deceive anyone in God’s court.”

“Since when did you become God’s Sheriff?”

“The same day you became a Christian.”

After throwing Miller in jail, the Sheriff walked over to the doctor’s clinic. “Jeremiah, as soon as you’re able, you need to leave town. His lawyer will not be long getting here, with the new railroad.”

“I’m not afraid of him.”

“I know you’re not, but you’re a wounded duck. At least go home until you’re on the mend. Miller is sure to take advantage of you if you don’t.”

“This is not over, Sheriff. Will you be all right?”

“Yeah, I didn’t make it this far by being stupid. I’ll tell the judge, who’s my friend, I didn’t clearly understand the law in this matter. Miller will no doubt be set free, at least in this court. I doubt he will stay free for long in God’s court, although I have no jurisdiction there.”

Three days passed. Miller’s attorney arrived in Cowtown. We packed our bags and headed to the railroad depot.

“Can’t wait to get home.” I bounced from foot to foot missing Julia Ann.

“Home?” Jeremiah cracked his knuckles? “You promised to introduce us to Charles Goodnight, and I’m going to meet him with or without you!”

“Are you sure? You’re frail, not out of the woods yet!”

“I’m well enough. Wasn’t Goodnight the scout who tracked down the Comanche war chief Peta Nocona so Texas Ranger Sul Ross could kill him? I read all about the Battle of Pease River in a book.”

“Yes, that’s what Sul Ross claimed, although others swore Peta Nocona wasn’t even there. Goodnight told me once it should be called the Pease River Massacre, not a battle, cause it was mostly Indian woman and children killed.”

“I don’t care what anyone calls it,” Jeremiah retorted with a scathing tone.

“He’s still the man I want to meet.”

“Why?”

“He’s the only man I know, or should I say, you know, who can tell me how to track down Jim Miller and hang him from a tree without getting shot again.”

I agreed, but only if Jacob would return to Forest Hill and tell Julia Ann why our return trip home had been delayed.

The Stark brothers both agreed that was the best plan since I was the only one who was a friend of Charlie Goodnight.

“Now Jacob, don’t burden Julia Ann with the details of the gunfight. I’ll tell her later,” I pleaded. He nodded his understanding.

I added, “Perhaps we should not burden Charlie Goodnight with the gunfight details either. We could make our way over to the XIT Ranch instead. They sell Longhorn bulls and even Durhams. After all, the railway now makes its way all the way to Channing, Texas, the major shipping point for the XIT. I am sure we can find a few top-grade Longhorn bulls on their three million acres, with more than 150,000 head of cattle.”

None of this mattered to Jeremiah. All he could talk about was Jim Miller and Charles Goodnight. He couldn’t care less about the XIT or the south end of a northbound cow.

“What kind of person is he?” Jeremiah tightened his fist.

“Is who?”

“Goodnight. I want to know what to expect?”

“He’s a cowman. The kind you’d share blanket and bread with. His word is his bond, a handshake his contract. I trust Goodnight. He’s a Christian gentleman with an affable nature. But like all men, he has feet of clay.”

“How do you mean?”

“The flow of his tobacco juice doesn’t bother me, but his profanity can be troublesome. His salty language knows no boundaries: women, preachers, animals—it doesn’t matter.

“The rumors of him smoking fifty cigars a day are embellished—I’ve never seen him smoke more than twenty—in a row. He’s not a drunkard, although he will have a toddy occasionally. He has an abiding reverence for the Good Lord, but a healthy disdain for organized religion—yet he’s paid for two Baptist churches and keeps a room in his home for traveling preachers. He’s an enigma.”

“I don’t know what an enigma is. All I want to know is how to kill Miller without him killing me.”

As we pulled into the railhead and departed the train in Goodnight, Texas, we both noticed stacks of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Goodnight News with bold headlines, “Gunfighter Kills Deacon Jim Miller.”

“Well, Jeremiah, my friend, someone beat you to it. Miller’s dead.”

“Read, on down the page. They’re saying that someone was me. How can that be? You can always believe what you read in newspapers, can’t you?”

To that, I rolled my eyes.

March 17, 1904
Armstrong County
Goodnight, Texas

Charlie met us at his front door. “Great to see you again, Daniel! I reckon your friend is Jeremiah Stark, the man who shot Jim Miller? The paper said he left Ft. Worth with you to visit me.”

“It’s me, sir, but he shot me, not me him.”

“I can see that. Newspapers never get it right except when they write about how handsome I am.” He smiled at his own humor.

“Well, come on and see my home. Molly has supper almost ready. She’s been over at Goodnight College much of the day. We just chartered the Goodnight Baptist Church to help run the school. Daniel, your great-grandpa would have liked that.”

“Yes, he would have. Glad to hear that, and it’s good to know your concern for education.”

“Truth is, it was Molly’s idea. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in education, although I only had six months of formal schooling. If I’d had more, maybe I would not have invested in Mexican gold and silver mining.

“Come, both of you. I want to show you my buffalo, elk, and antelope. Buffalo hunters have almost wiped the bison out! I shipped some to Yellowstone National Park. They have free-ranging there.”

Jeremiah kept a steady eye on the herd. “I’m impressed that you’ve preserved the bison.”

“I got the idea from Molly. Years ago she heard two bison calves bawling. No doubt the buffalo hunters had slaughtered their mamas. She convinced me we needed to raise them. Now, look at them. More than 250 to remind me of what greed can do. Molly saved the buffalo.

“We best head back to the house. Molly should have supper ready.

“After supper, I suspect you’ll be wanting to know if all those stories about the Comanche are true?”

“How did you know that, Sir? Was that in the paper too?” Jeremiah looked like he’d just heard one of the Buffalo speak.

“No, son, if you didn’t, you’d be the first visitor in forty years who failed to. For decades people have come to hear my stories and experiences. All my life I’ve been private, but if these stories can be of any good for future generations, I’ll be like a jackass in a hail storm—stand here and take it. Don’t get me wrong, I like telling the stories and showing off the buffalo, but I’d prefer not to be a tourist attraction.

“I almost forgot. A few old friends are joining us for supper.

As they gathered around Molly’s table the aroma of her son-of-gun-stew and the most robust coffee this side of the Sabine filled the room. One old black man with a wind-carved face and a grey-headed Mexican even older joined them.

“Daniel Willis and Jeremiah Stark meet Bose Ikard, as good a cowboy as any Comanche. I trust him farther than any living man. This here feller is Nicholas Martinez, a Comanchero who I once used as a guide when I first came to the Palo Duro. He’s since made a fortune in sheep and is here today to attempt to do the same by trading for a few of my cow ponies.”

“Mr. Goodnight,” the old Comanchero leaned forward. “I saw your remuda today. I bought a few horses like them before.”

“Bought them while I slept, you mean!” Goodnight smiled from ear to ear.

Everyone laughed.

Bose Ikard stood with a dignity that made all of us anticipate his words as he nodded to Goodnight.

“Gentlemen, learn from this man—from his stories of triumph over tragedy—victory over adversity, for the wisdom of others blows where it wishes—like a West Texas wind.”

Admiring Goodnight’s long white hair, Bose Ikard lifted his glass. “You remind me of Samson. We can see the wisdom in your hair.”

“Taking care to keep my hair was my top priority as a young man. It wasn’t any Delilah who wanted it, only a few thousand Comanche. Now, today, my concern is how not to let flattering words cause me to lose a dime in a trade.”

None of them could contain their laughter. After dining, Molly cleared the table of dishes. Everyone helped. As they walked through the Victorian-style parlor, Jeremiah stopped him to inquire about the photo of his late partner Oliver Loving.

“The bravest man I ever knew. He taught me how to be a cowman.” Next to Loving’s photo was another of a massive bull buffalo inscribed Old Sikes.

His rifle was in the curves of two buffalo horns above the fireplace mantle. A hewn log above the gun read: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

He directed us to the second-floor sleeping porch with spectacular views of the countryside and his bison herd. “Sit a spell, gentleman. We should retire early tonight. I have much to tell you tomorrow on our trip.”

“Trip?” I asked.

“In the morning we’ll take the wagon to the canyon rim, and I’ll tell all about what you came here to hear. The array of colors in the Palo Duro always bring back memories—good ones—and not so good ones. The red rock cliffs carved out of steep walls remind me of all the bloodshed in vain. Molly will prepare the leftover stew and some buffalo jerky for the trip.”

We arose before sunrise. On the trip to the rim of the canyon, curiosity got the best of me. “I noticed the Scripture over your fireplace mantle last night. It’s good to see you’re planning on Heaven.”

“I’ve given it a lot of thought. I figure if I could take longhorns and cross-breed them into the best cattle in America in only eleven years, what could I do in eleven million?”

“You built several churches. Which one do you belong to?”

He spread his arms wide. “That one!” We stopped to look in awe at the vast Palo Duro Canyon. It stretched for more than 100 miles and was10 miles wide in some parts and 1000 feet deep.

“There’s my cathedral!”

“I have never seen a landscape with so many colors. The steep sides have layers of orange, red, brown, yellow, grey, and maroon,” I said. “Look at the prickly pear, yucca, mesquite, and juniper.”

“There are thousands of mesquite and juniper trees. Palo Duro is Spanish for hardwood. The canyon’s named after those Junipers,” Goodnight said.

“I noticed you don’t cuss anymore.”

“You damned right I don’t.”

***

Excerpted from Destiny, a novel by Randy Willis #randywillis

Destiny is a powerful epic with love stories, battles, testimonies, drama, politics, history, and even humor.

The sweeping family saga spans four centuries.

Inspired by true stories.

Available now at
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733567402

Destiny a novel by Randy Willis

Randy Willis | Destiny | #randywillis

A letter from Joseph Willis to his grandson Daniel Hubbard Willis

December 28, 1853

“My Dearest Grandson Dan,

I received your letter. Concerning your question, “How can a loving God allow deadly diseases like cholera, smallpox, malaria, and yellow fever in Louisiana?  Yellow fever killed my best friend.”

“Let me begin by apologizing in sackcloth and ashes for asking you a question first.  If you had a cure for yellow fever would you have given it to your friend? Of course, you would have!

“I read in the Alexandria Town Talk, 1 in 15 have died in New Orleans this summer.  Over 12,000 people dead from yellow fever in New Orleans alone since January, with still more deaths in rural areas like ours.

“People are dying faster than graves can be dug. ‘Pretty soon people will have to dig their graves,’ the paper said.

“Would you have given a cure to them? There is no need to answer for I know your heart. You would have given the treatment to every man, woman and child in Louisiana and in fact the entire earth.  You would have given your life for such a great cause.  How glorious it would be to provide forty additional years to a middle aged man, perhaps a hundred years to a child.

What a great cause this would be. More significant than any political cause, for what can be more wonderful than the gift of life?

“Yet, there is a greater cause—an even more excellent gift than a cure for yellow fever. It does not give only an additional hundred years but eternal life. You and I have this good news.  How can we not share the gift of eternal life?

“Over the last eight decades, I have received many prayer requests for physical healing, and I have never refused.  My twin daughters died of honey poisoning after I prayed for days. My beloved wife died in childbirth. Do not misunderstand me; there is nothing wrong with praying for the sick. But, after their deaths, I realized I was spending more time keeping the saints out of heaven than saving the lost from hell.

“God did not answer my prayer in the way I requested, but I will be with Him and my daughters and my bride forever in heaven. The greatest tragedy is being eternally separated from Christ, not to mention my daughters and wife.

“Nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer. I believe that God heals miraculously.  Sometimes God heals naturally. Sometimes He heals instantaneously. Sometimes He heals in time. God uses doctors and beyond the doctor’s skills.

“But the ultimate healing is in Heaven where no disease can touch our new and perfect body.  The greater miracle is not a hundred years of life free from illness, but everlasting life paid for with Christ’s blood—God’s lifeblood—given freely on a tree at Calvary.

“Let us tell our neighbors on our beloved Barber Creek. Let us declare this Good News in the piney woods of Rapides Parish.  Let us travel our red-dirt roads to the Calcasieu and Red Rivers.  And from the mighty Mississippi and Sabine Rivers to our enormous deltas and vast swamps. Let the Gospel of Jesus Christ ring forth from Driskill Mountain to the Gulf of Mexico.  And let that only be the beginning!

Always, your loving Grandpa

  •         *         *

Destiny is a powerful epic with love stories, battles, testimonies, drama, politics, history, and even humor.

The sweeping family saga spans four centuries.

Inspired by true stories.

Available now at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733567402

***

Drawing on his family heritage of explorers, settlers, soldiers, cowboys, and pastors, Randy carries on the tradition of loving the outdoors and sharing it in the adventures he creates for readers of his novels.

Randy Willis is the author of Destiny, Twice a Slave, Three Winds Blowing, Louisiana Wind, Beckoning Candle, The Apostle to the Opelousas, The Story of Joseph Willis, and many magazine and newspaper articles.

He is an American novelist, biographer, rancher, and music publisher.

http://threewindsblowing.com

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” —C. S. Lewis

#randywillis

Destiny Randy Willis

Randy Willis | The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken

One of my favorite poems is The Road Not Taken, written a century ago by Robert Frost. The last stanza contains my favorite words in the poem: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

My life began on a Louisiana red dirt road. We didn’t have much money, but I never noticed it because no one else did either—at least those whom my family knew.

As a boy, we lived near Willis Gunter Road, on Barber Creek, near Longleaf, Louisiana. Barber Creek was as cold as ice.

One day, when I was just a pup of barely four, I decided to venture up the narrow red dirt road lined with longleaf pines to my Grandma’s house. Her home was just a mile up Willis Gunter Road and overlooked Barber Creek. I remember stopping to pick some wild dewberries. Perhaps Grandma would be so happy to see me she’d bake me a pie, while I swam in Barber Creek. No sooner had I arrived than Mama drove up in our Oldsmobile.

Now, Mama didn’t seem to be happy with me. Visions of her making a switch by slowly cutting it from a tree—I mean very slowly—and removing the twigs one by one flooded my mind. The drama of her cutting the switch was always worse than her use of it. But that did not occur that day, although I later wished it had. She looked up and pointed to an old man driving a wagon down Willis Gunter Road.

She then explained, “Ran, that old man drives up and down these red dirt roads looking for little boys. He then puts them in a gunnysack and hauls them off.” She did not say where he took them. I did not want to know. To this day, I’ve never run away from home again.

When I first shared this story with my eldest son Aaron, his response was, “He was driving a wagon? Who’d you vote for Dad, Lincoln or Douglas?”

I seldom get to walk those red dirt roads anymore.

Yet, there is another road, perhaps even less traveled than the red dirt road I trod as a boy in Louisiana or even the one Frost wrote about.

Travel this road if you will. It will change your life. It will change your destiny.

* * *

In 1829, a man named George Wilson was found guilty of six charges and was given the death sentence. However, Wilson had influential friends who petitioned President Andrew Jackson for a pardon. Jackson granted the pardon, and it was brought to prison and given to Wilson.

To everyone’s surprise, Wilson said, “I am going to hang.” There had never been a refusal to a pardon, so the courts didn’t know what to do. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and Chief Justice John Marshall gave the ruling, saying, “A pardon is a piece of paper, the value of which depends upon the acceptance by the person implicated. If he does not accept the pardon, then he must be executed.”

God loves you and, yes, He has provided a pardon for you and me, paid for with Christ’s own life-blood, but you have the right to refuse the pardon. Jesus was crucified between two thieves. One thief said yes to Jesus, but the other said no to Him. One accepted the pardon, and the other refused it.

The question to you and me today is the same as it was 2,000 years ago. Which thief on the cross are you? The one who said yes to God’s pardon or the one who said no to His pardon? I have chosen to say yes.

You have the same choice.

Come

The last invitation in the Word of God is found in Revelation 22:17: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”

Are you thirsty? Then come. Let him who hears come. And, whosoever will, come.

That invitation is to you…it is to me…it is to everyone!

Bring your disappointments, bring your failures, bring your fears, bring your heartaches. The Holy Spirit says come to Jesus.

He loves you. He wants to save you. He will save you. Come to Jesus, and drink the water of life freely.

He suffered, He bled, He died, because He loves you. Listen to the still small voice, of the Holy Spirit, bidding you to come to Jesus. Don’t wait—come!

Look

“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” (Isaiah 45:22)

“All you ends of the earth” includes the Aboriginal people of the Central Australian desert. “All you ends of the earth” are those in darkest Africa. “All you ends of the earth” are the isolated tribes in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. “All you ends of the earth” is presidents, world leaders, and kings.

“All you ends of the earth” is the polished lawyer, the gifted doctor, and the brilliant college professor. “All you ends of the earth” is the prostitute, and the drug dealer, and the rapist, and the thief, and the murderer. “All you ends of the earth” is you…and me.

God’s Word, the Bible, states, “So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” Those who looked lived. Those who looked were healed. Those who looked were made whole. Those who looked were saved. They didn’t wait until they were better people. They just looked.

Jesus tells us that this is a picture of Him being lifted up on the cross. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)

That serpent represented the sin of the people. Christ was made sin for us. Will you look to Jesus—will you put your trust in Him—the One who died for your sins. Will you put your faith in Jesus—the One who shed His life-blood for you…and for me?

* * *

Some years ago my eldest son, Aaron, was in an automobile accident. His back was broken so severely that the doctors said he might not ever walk again. After fusing several vertebrae in his lower back he was able to begin the long task of healing from the spinal fusion surgery. He was encased in a rigid plastic back brace from his neck to his waist. Later, his doctor finally agreed to let him briefly remove the brace to take a shower, as long as someone was with him.

As I was driving to pick him and his brothers up for the weekend, unbeknownst to me, his brother, Josh, and he removed the brace so he could take a hot shower, in his shorts. Josh was with him but was much smaller than him at that time.

I decided to stop at the post office in Austin, when a still small voice spoke to me saying, “You need to go now.” I passed the post office and drove as fast as I could to Wimberley, an hour away, wondering what that warning was about. There were no cell phones then.

As I entered the house, I asked his mother where he was. She said in the shower. I ran to it and as soon as I entered the bathroom, he said, “Dad, I’m dizzy.” I stepped into the shower and placed my arms under his arms from his back. He immediately passed out. I told his younger brother to help me move him to a bed while their mother called 911. His dead weight was more than I could have ever imagined. We got him onto the bed without reinjuring his back. I knew if he had fallen he probably would have been paralyzed.

As I prayed, following the ambulance to the hospital’s emergency room, I noticed the symbol on the back of the ambulance. It was the American Medical Association’s (AMA) logo of a serpent wrapped around a staff. The sign of healing medicine reminded me of the bronze serpent on the staff lifted up by Moses.

Many Christians believe that’s where it originated from. But, more importantly, it reminded me of Jesus being lifted up on a cross for my son. God’s son suffered in place of my son. I can’t fathom love that great. To this day I cannot see that symbol without giving thanks to the Lord for that warning, and the shed blood of Christ lifted high upon a cross for my sins, for your sins, for the sins of the entire world. Surely, there can be no greater love than God giving His Son’s life-blood for us.

When we arrived at the hospital, the doctors gave him intravenous (IV) fluids and two bottles of Gatorade for dehydration. The hot shower, along with pain medication and dehydration, had caused his blood to rush to his feet and thereby causing him to faint.

Will you look to the One who was lifted up on a cross for you? Will you look to the Great Physician—Jesus—to heal you of all your pain? Will you look to Jesus, who took your place on a cross and died for your sins?

Choose

As I said before, Jesus hung between two thieves on a cross. One of them rejected Him, but the other one put his faith in Him. “Will You remember me when You enter Your kingdom?” Jesus replied, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Both of those men were guilty. One put his trust in Jesus, and the other chose not to. Again, the question is, which thief on the cross are you?

Now, there was a third cross that day. It was for another criminal named Barabbas, and he represents us. Jesus was crucified on a cross meant for Barabbas—it was your cross, too—it was my cross, also. Jesus bore your cross and my cross. He took our place on that cross. The just for the unjust. The Righteous for the unrighteous. The sinless Lamb of God for the sinner.

Self-improvement will not qualify you for salvation, for God’s Word says, “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10) Comparing yourself to others will not work either, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Doing your best cannot save you, for the Scriptures record, “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)

Ask yourself, if you could be good enough to pay for your sins, then why did Jesus have to die for you? The answer is you can’t be good enough.

Come—come just as you are. Will you say yes to Jesus—today?

There’s a Scripture that I love, and it explains things very simply.

It says, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)

You can settle this question right now in heaven and on earth by saying yes to Jesus—accepting His pardon, just as that one thief did on the cross.
There are no prescriptive or mandated words. Praying is just talking to the Lord.

If these words are how you feel in your heart, then pray:

“Heavenly Father,

I come to You in prayer, asking for the forgiveness of my sins.

I confess with my mouth and believe with my heart that Jesus is Your Son, and that He died on the cross at Calvary that I might be forgiven.

Father, I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and I ask You right now to come into my life and be my personal Lord and Savior.

I repent of my sins and will surrender to You all the days of my life.

Because Your word is truth, I confess with my mouth that I am born again and cleansed by the blood of Jesus!

In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen!”

The most famous words ever spoken:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

“Whoever” is you…it’s me…it’s everyone. Come to Jesus. Look to Jesus. Choose Jesus.

Today!

* * *

Yes

We moved to Clute, Texas, from Longleaf, Louisiana, when I was four-years-old.

All I remember of the trip was stopping at the Stateline in Deweyville, Texas. The pouring rain awoke my sister Marjorie, and she awoke me crying because her paper dolls had gotten wet.

Daddy had gotten a job at Dow Chemical in Freeport, Texas. A.J. Jeffers was the first from the Longleaf area to leave for a job at Dow. He returned and encouraged Daddy and others to do the same. A. J.’s brother Jimmy Jeffers and Daddy’s brother Herman Willis soon followed. We all were close friends in Texas.

We also kept our home in Longleaf and often visited to work cows with my Uncle Howard Willis and his sons. I was always happy to return. I still am to this day.

Every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night we were at Temple Baptist Church in Clute. It seemed to me that everyone attended church in those days.

One Wednesday night mother was unable to attend, so I walked to church with my twelve-year-old sister Marjorie. I was only eight-years-old. I had no intention of that night being any different from any other.

I cannot recall a single word Pastor Bill Campbell said in his sermon. But I do remember vividly another voice that spoke to my mind—to my heart. It was not an audible voice. It was a still gentle voice, tender but ever so clear telling me to go forward and accept Christ as my Savior.

I recall my response to the Holy Spirit as if it was five minutes ago. “Lord, I’m too shy. I would if my mother was here to go with me.”

I felt someone touch my arm. It was my sister Marjorie who was sitting on the back row with her friends. She could not have seen my face for I was seated near the front.

She said, “I’ll go with you if you want me to.” I immediately walked with her to the front of the church and made my decision public.

I know you do not have to have an experience like that to be saved. Nevertheless, I’m so grateful for that experience for it has never left my mind or my heart.

Oh, that I would today be more still and listen for that still soft voice. Oh, that I would speak less and listen more.

Listen, He is speaking. Look, He has manifested Himself. Choose—say yes to Jesus—today. You will never regret that decision.

—Randy Willis #randywillis

“Preach Christ at all times. When necessary, use words.”

http://threewindsblowing.com

* * *

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep
to gain what he cannot lose.” – Jim Elliot

#randywillis

Destiny | #randywillis | Randy Willis

Randy Willis #randywillis

Randy Willis is as much at home in the saddle as he is in front of the computer where he composes his western family sagas.

Randy Willis is an American novelist, biographer, rancher, and music publisher.

Drawing on his family heritage of explorers, settlers, soldiers, cowboys, and pastors, Randy carries on the tradition of loving the outdoors and sharing it in the adventures he creates for readers of his novels.

Randy Willis is the author of Destiny, Twice a Slave, Three Winds Blowing, Louisiana Wind, Beckoning Candle, The Apostle to the Opelousas, The Story of Joseph Willis, and many magazine and newspaper articles.

512-565-0161

randywillis@twc.com

Website: http://threewindsblowing.com

Amazon author’s page: http://amazon.com/author/randywillis

Blog: https://randywillisbooks.wordpress.com

Three Winds Blowing trailer: http://youtu.be/qbQXzF35aWE
Twice a Slave trailer: https://vimeo.com/93896657
Twice a Slave, the play trailer: https://vimeo.com/99360694

Destiny: https://youtu.be/jkzpyTJfvR0

Randy Willis books

Destiny a novel by Randy Willis

Randy Willis #randywillis

Randy Willis is as much at home in the saddle as he is in front of the computer where he composes his western family sagas.

Drawing on his family heritage of explorers, settlers, soldiers, cowboys, and pastors, Randy carries on the tradition of loving the outdoors and sharing it in the adventures he creates for readers of his novels.

Randy Willis is the author of Destiny, Twice a Slave, Three Winds Blowing, Louisiana Wind, Beckoning Candle, The Apostle to the Opelousas, The Story of Joseph Willis, and many magazine and newspaper articles.

Randy Willis is an American novelist, biographer, rancher, and music publisher.

http://threewindsblowing.com

Randy Willis #randywillis

About Destiny and In Appreciation

About Destiny and In Appreciation

Destiny is a sweeping family saga that spans four centuries. It begins and ends on Christmas Day, in 1941, at the Ole Willis Place, located on Barber Creek near Longleaf, Louisiana.

The Ole Willis Place was located on present-day Willis Gunter Road, off Boy Scout Road. There are a huge gravel pit and sand dunes next to where the house once stood.

Destiny is the story of two great nations and my ancestor’s struggle from tyranny—religious and political.

Destiny is more than a novel. It is a nonfiction novel inspired by true stories handed down by my ancestors. They depict real historical figures and actual events woven together with imaginary conversations with the use of the storytelling techniques of fiction. Truman Capote claimed to have invented this genre with his book In Cold Blood in 1965.

Destiny—A powerful epic with love stories, battles, testimonies, drama, politics, history, and even humor.

—Randy Randy Willis

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” — C. S. Lewis

✯ ✯ ✯

In Appreciation

I’m thankful to the many people that encouraged me to write our family’s history. My first-cousin, Donnie Willis, planted the first seed in my mind to write about our 4th Great-Grandfather, Joseph Willis. Donnie has been pastor of Fenton Baptist Church in Fenton, Louisiana, for 50 years.

I’m also thankful to my sainted grandmother, Lillie Hanks Willis. She had a treasure chest of stories about Joseph Willis and insisted I write them down.

My Uncle Howard Willis was our family’s master storyteller when I was younger. I sat for many hours mesmerized by him. His granddaughter and my cousin Kimberly Willis Holt was inspired by him too. She is a National Book Award Winner, author of When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, My Louisiana Sky, and the Piper Reed series. When Zachary Beaver Came to Town and My Louisiana Sky were adapted as films of the same names.

I’m thankful to my late cousin, and the maternal great-grandson of Joseph Willis, Dr. Greene Wallace Strother. His uncle Polk Willis and Aunt Olive Willis tended to Joseph Willis in his final years, and they shared all that Joseph told them. Dr. Strother gave his vast research to me in 1980. He served as chaplain to General Claire Chennault’s “Flying Tigers” while in China as a missionary. He was a Southern Baptist missionary emeritus to China and Malaysia.

Karon McCartney, Archivist at the Louisiana Baptist Convention, has provided much help in organizing, cataloging, and protecting my research for decades, at the Louisiana Baptist Building in Alexandria.

My fellow historian and friend, the late Dr. Sue Eakin asks me if I would help her with her research on William Prince Ford. I learned much about William Prince Ford and Solomon Northup and their relationship to Joseph Willis from her. She encouraged me to have my research adapted into a play. The play is entitled Twice a Slave and is based upon my novel of the same name. My novel Three Winds Blowing is partly based on the relationship of Joseph Willis with William Prince Ford and Solomon Northup.

Dr. Eakin is best known for documenting, annotating, and reviving interest in Solomon Northup’s 1853 book Twelve Years a Slave. She, at the age of eighteen, rediscovered a long-forgotten copy of Solomon Northup’s book, on the shelves of a bookstore, near the LSU campus, in Baton Rouge. The bookstore owner sold it to her for only 25 cents. In 2013, 12 Years a Slave won the Academy Award for Best Picture. In his acceptance speech for the honor, director Steve McQueen thanked Dr. Eakin: “I’d like to thank this amazing historian, Sue Eakin, whose life, she gave her life’s work to preserving Solomon’s book.”

And above all, I am thankful to the Good Lord. He has given me wells I did not dig, and vineyards I did not plant.

—Randy Willis

“Preach Christ at all times. When necessary,
use words.” —St Francis of Assisi

✯ ✯ ✯

About the Author

Randy Willis is an American novelist, rancher, and music publisher.

He is the author of Destiny, Beckoning Candle, Twice a Slave, Three Winds Blowing, Louisiana Wind, The Apostle to the Opelousas, The Story of Joseph Willis and many articles.

Twice a Slave has been chosen as a Jerry B. Jenkins Select Book, along with four bestselling authors. Jerry Jenkins is the author of more than 180 books with sales of more than 70 million copies, including the best-selling Left Behind series.

Twice a Slave has been adapted into a dramatic play at Louisiana College, by Dr. D. “Pete” Richardson (Associate Professor of Theater with Louisiana College).

Randy Willis owns Randy Willis Music Publishing (an ASCAP-affiliated music publishing company), and Town Lake Music Publishing, LLC (a BMI-affiliated music publishing company). He is an ASCAP-affiliated songwriter.

Randy Willis is the founder of Operation Warm Heart, which feeds and clothes the homeless, and is a member of the Board of Directors of Our Mission Possible (empowering at-risk teens to discover their greatness) in Austin, Texas. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Joseph Willis Institute for Great Awakening Studies at Louisiana College.

Randy Willis was born in Oakdale, Louisiana, and lived as a boy, near Longleaf, Louisiana, on Barber Creek. He currently resides in the Texas Hill Country.

Randy Willis graduated from Angleton High School in Angleton, Texas, and Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. He was a graduate student at Texas State University for six years. He is the father of three sons and has four grandchildren.

Randy Willis is the fourth great-grandson of Joseph Willis and his foremost historian.

✯ ✯ ✯

To learn more about the author and
the characters in this book visit:
http://www.threewindsblowing.com

512-565-0161
randywillis@twc.com

Destiny is available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/1792724470

And Amazon Kindle at

Blank vintage paper framed branch of Christmas tree on wood