Destiny | Randy Willis

#destiny #randywillis

Destiny is by far the most comprehensive book about Joseph Willis (1758-1854) ever written.
 
The sweeping family saga spans four centuries and includes his ancestors, beginning in 1575, and his descendants ending in 1941.
 
It also includes his biography as an appendix.
 
Destiny is a powerful epic with love stories, battles, testimonies, drama, politics, history, and even humor.
 
True stories inspire it.
 

Randy Willis |Steamboat Paul Jones | Destiny

June 1853
Steamboat Paul Jones
Two fathoms deep
Mississippi River, near Natchez

Joseph Willis had turned ninety-five in 1853. He decides to see the sights along the Mississippi River one last time. His swimming the mighty river on a mule-days are long since passed. This time he will travel on the Steamboat Paul Jones from Natchez to Baton Rouge. A cool breeze breaks up the unrelenting sun. Joseph places a wet towel around his neck to relieve the heat.

The steamboat passes another one loaded with convicts. Joseph sits on the main deck next to a seventeen-year-old boy whom the leadsman called Samuel. They both are watching the colossal paddle wheel churning the muddy waters when the boy turns to Joseph. “How do they navigate in these shallow waters? It looks unsafe!”

Before Joseph can answer, the leadsman throws a knotted rope overboard and yells, “Half twain! Quarter twain! M-a-r-k twain!”

“What does that mean, Mister?” The boy crosses his arms while pushing his glasses up.

Joseph leans forward. “It means it’s the second mark on the line, two fathoms—twelve feet deep. That’s the safe depth for this steamboat. We’re in safe waters now.”

Samuel waves an offering of thanks to the leadsman. He also opens up to Joseph, explaining how his father died of pneumonia when Samuel was eleven and how he dreamed of being a steamboatman.

“Tell me more, Samuel.”

“I wasn’t expected to live when I was born. My brother and sister had already died of childhood diseases. Mother said God spared me because He had plans for me. She made me remember Bible verses. I washed that down with Shakespeare and read everything I could. Mother insisted I never throw a card or drink a drop of liquor, although I did occasionally slip off and smoke my corncob pipe.

“I figured no one was perfect. That is, until a late night thunderstorm convinced me that God wanted me to mend my ways, so I put my pipe aside. My righteousness did not last long, for I developed an aversion to slavery. Our local pulpit said it was in the Bible that God approved of it. It was a Holy Institution.

“After seeing a dozen men and women chained together to be shipped down the river, I determined that the church and I worshipped a different God. Those slaves had the saddest faces I’d ever seen, and the slave traders were human devils. My Father never laughed, yet he never was as unhappy as those slaves. It all made me want my dream even more.”

“Tell me about that dream?”

Samuel’s eyes sparkle. “When I was a lad living on the banks of the Mississippi, in Hannibal, I could see the steamboats go up and down the river. I wanted to ride one. One day a big steamer moored up at our little town—this was my chance. After all, I’d already fished away the summer.

“The steamboat advertised it was a ‘lifeboat’—I reckoned that meant it was safe and would provide the time of my life. I reckoned wrong—at least about the safe part! It was the kind of lifeboat that wouldn’t save anybody.

“I became overjoyed to be on a real sure-enough steamboat, enjoying the motion of the swift-moving craft until it commenced to rain. When it rains in the Mississippi country, it rains. The rain drove me to cover. I realized it was not a lifeboat when the rain was almost my demise. I thought I would die as the red-hot cinders from the big stacks came drifting down and stung my legs and feet. Would I ever see my home again?

“For some reason, Mama’s supper came to my mind. I expressed my desire to get off that boat. They put me ashore in Louisiana. I finally made it back home.

“Mister, please excuse me if I was a little edgy when the leadsman yelled mark twain. I thought it meant something bad.”

“Just the opposite, son.” With a slow smile, Joseph assures him they are safe.

Samuel raises his thick eyebrows. “Where you headed?”

“Only as far as Baton Rouge,” Joseph mutters, fanning himself from the heat with one hand. “Seven thousand people have died this year in N’Orleans from the yellow fever epidemic. I want to go to Heaven—but not today. Baton Rouge is far enough.”

“Your story of the lifeboat wrongly advertised reminds me of Louisiana’s Governor Johnson.”

“How’s that, Sir?” Samuel asks, scratching his head.

“The good Governor got the great state of Louisiana to build the state prison in Baton Rouge. I’m considering visiting those inmates we passed earlier and tell ‘em about a real lifeboat.”

“What kind of boat is that, Mister?” Samuel gazes at Joseph.

“One built many years ago by a feller named Noah. His boat was mark twain, too—safe from the dangers that lurked in the murky waters below. That boat had no helm, for it was not guided by human hands.”

“I love a good story, Sir. I fancy myself as a storyteller. Would tell me the rest of it?”

“Be glad to. God told Noah He was going to destroy the Earth because of its wickedness. But, God was also going to provide a way of protection from His judgment. The Lord told Noah to build a boat—a boat of safety, if you will. The Good Book says Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. That was the first time that word appeared in the Bible. Noah received the unmerited favor of God. Grace provided deliverance from the Lord’s judgment.

“Now there was a lot to be done. The Lord told Noah to build the boat out of gopher wood. We call it cypress in Louisiana. It will not rot in our lifetime.

“’Put pitch on the inside and outside too,’ the Lord insisted. The word pitch in the Hebrew means atonement. We need to be in Jesus just as Noah needed to be in that boat. As the storms of God’s wrath beat upon the ship, the winds of God’s wrath would later beat upon the Lord Jesus. If we are on the inside, not one drop of judgment can come through. We are sealed with that atoning pitch—Christ’s atoning blood.

“It took Noah more than 100 years to build it. It takes a lot of faith in the Lord’s promise to do that. The boat was built like an ancient coffin. There was no steamboat pilot to guide it—only God.

“The Lord gave precise instructions. ‘Set the door of the boat in its side.’ There was only one door to pass through to escape God’s judgment. Jesus is that one door.

“By faith, Noah and his family entered the boat. Once they were all inside, the Lord shut the door. God sealed the door—not Noah. ‘Put a window in the top of the boat, Noah, so you can look to Heaven for all your needs.’

“God had Noah build rooms in the boat. There is a room for me. There is room for you—for the asking.

“Noah’s boat floated many days. It finally landed on Mount Ararat on the seventeenth day of the seventh month. That’s our April 17th—the same day Jesus rose from the grave. Noah went into the boat with little, but when he came out, the entire world was his.”

“What is your name, Mister?”

“Joseph Willis.”

“You should be a preacher.”

Joseph smiles at the irony of that statement. “Grace provides our Salvation. Grace provides our Savior. Grace provides our security—grace keeps us. But, we all must choose to put our trust or not to put our trust in God’s ark of salvation—Jesus. There’s still room in that ark of safety.”

“I reckon Heaven goes by favor.” Samuel exhales. “If it went by merit, we would stay out, and our dogs would go in.”

“That’s a clever way to put it. You should be a writer.”

Joseph Willis died in 1854, at age ninety-six in his beloved Louisiana. Forever in the ark of salvation—Christ.

*****

#destiny by #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 3D upload

Randy Willis #randy willis

Destiny | In Appreciation | Randy Willis

In Appreciation #Destiny #randywillis
 
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.”
 
I’m blessed by and thankful for my three sons: Aaron Willis, Joshua Willis, and Adam Willis. Their strength of character has been demonstrated many times in how they treat those who can do nothing for them. The character Jimbo, in three of my novels, was inspired by them.
 
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.
 
“Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”
—Samuel Smiles
 

Randy Willis | Destiny | #randywillis

#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.

He 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

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.

Destiny is available now at
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733567402

randy willis #randy willis #randywillis

Randy Willis #randy willis

#randywillis | Destiny

#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

#randywillisRandy Willis #randy willis

Blank vintage paper framed branch of Christmas tree on wood

Costa Rica | Randy Willis| #randywillis

Writing in bed in Costa Rica, overlooking Pan Dulce Beach, with the sounds of the Pacific Ocean and Scarlet Macaws feeding in the trees.

Squirrel Monkeys jump and play, and I marvel at the ingenuity of clever White-faced Capuchin Monkeys. Spider Monkeys swing gracefully through the trees with their long arms, legs, and tails. And the haunting call of Howler Monkeys.

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God, but only he who sees takes off his shoes.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning (pun intended)

~ Pura Vida and Vaya con Dios, Randy Willis #randywillis

http://amazon.com/author/randywillis

Destiny is available now at
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1733567402
Edit or delete this

 

 

Costa Rica Randy Willis

Destiny a novel by Randy Willis

1

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

Huey P. Long | Destiny |#randywillis

This is the true story of my family’s two encounters with Huey P. Long.

The first clash with Long was when he was a young lawyer, in Leesville, Louisiana during a rape and murder trial.

The second encounter with him was at the Boy Scout Camp, a mile from my family’s home, near Longleaf, Louisiana. The charismatic and controversial Louisiana politician had just launched his bid for governor, in 1924.

Huey Long was poised to run for president in the 1936 election against Franklin Delano Roosevelt. To Roosevelt, however, Huey was “one of the two most dangerous men in America.” The other was Gen. Douglas MacArthur. Long was a member of the United States Senate from 1932 until his assassination in 1935.

1916
Hotel Leesville
Leesville, Louisiana

My dear wife, Julia Ann Willis, and I grew more in love on the banks of Barber Creek. We decided to visit our son, Dr. Daniel Oscar “D.O” Willis, in Leesville for a checkup. Julia Ann sensed something was not right with me.

Our son’s medical clinic and office adjoined the Hotel Leesville that he built in 1907. He bought the first automobile in the parish in 1909 for $825.00. Although most of his patients did not make that much money in two years, it allowed him to make house calls faster than his horse-drawn doctor’s buggy. The Model T could go 40 miles per hour.

Unfortunately, my condition worsened no matter what our son did.

FROM THE JOURNAL OF JULIA ANN WILLIS:

Here, I take up the record my late husband could not finish, for he died of Bright’s disease at the home of our son. The kidney disease was named after English physician Richard Bright in 1827 after he described 25 cases. They had the same symptoms as Daniel.

Still mourning the death of his father, our son was asked to attend to a 16-year-old girl named Anna Mae Granstaff, who was brought to his office next to the Leesville Hotel. She had lost a lot of blood but could still speak to our son and the sheriff.

“He violated me in every way!” she said hoarsely.

“What do you mean in every way?” the sheriff asked.

Dr. Willis looked him in the eyes. “I’ll explain later.”

“At least tell me his name.”

“Billy Blanchard. Billy Ray Blanchard.”

“From over Tenmile Creek way?”

“Yes.” She passed out and never regained consciousness.

“Now, Doc, I understand that he had his way with her. But that doesn’t normally kill someone, does it?”

“Gangrene does though.”

“I’ll get a deputy and head to Tenmile Creek. I know of him. He’s a fifty-year-old man with a family.”

Billy Blanchard denied it all. His attorney from Shreveport arrived at the jail. The brash young lawyer had already made a name for himself as a defender of the friendless.

“I’m Huey P. Long. I represent the falsely accused Mr. Billy Blanchard. May I see him, sir?” A deputy led him back to the jail cells.

“Mr. Blanchard. I’m your attorney. We will speak of these fraudulent charges later. What is the best hotel in Leesville?”

“The Hotel Leesville is the only hotel in town,” a deputy informed him.

As he walked to the hotel, he spied a man getting out of an automobile. “Mister, you have an automobile I see. My name is Long. Huey P. Long. I’ll be your Governor someday. You will be famous if you drive me.”

“No, thank you.”

“Aren’t you interested in being a friend of the next governor of the great state of Louisiana?”

“Not hardly.”

The trial lasted only two weeks. Long made his final argument. “It’s this loose woman’s word against one of the most outstanding citizens of Vernon Parish. My client has a good job. Works hard. He belongs to the Baptist Church, although he has stated he’s unable to attend because of his work with less fortunate girls at a home for unwed mothers. Do you think a man with three daughters and a Christian wife would ever do such a thing? Anna Mae Granstaff was white trash—God rest her soul—and forgive her.”

Several in the jury nodded yes.

The jury came to its decision. The court convened at 10:00 a.m. the next day. Huey assured his client that he would be home soon.

Dr. Willis opened his office at 7:00 a.m. A patient had been waiting outside for two hours.

“Come on in, Sir. What’s ailing you?”

“Justice!”

“I beg your pardon.”

“Doc, how did my sister die?”

“Who are you?”

“Charles Granstaff. I got the news while working cows in East Texas. Rode as hard as my saddle horse could go. How did she die?”

“Loss of blood and gangrene.”

“What caused that?”

“Sexual assault.”

“Thank you for being honest. I rode once with your father and the Stark brothers on a cattle drive from East Texas to Lecompte. Like them, you do not mince words.”

Charles Granstaff led his horse to the jail.

“Howdy. I’m here to congratulate my old friend Billy Blanchard.”

“He will be out in a couple of hours,” the jailer said.

“Cannot wait. I have business elsewhere.”

“I’m sure the sheriff will not mind, you being a friend and all. Come with me.

“Mr. Blanchard, I have an old friend of yours who wants to congratulate you.”

“Do I know you? What’s your name, mister?”

“Justice.” Charles Granstaff emptied both of his repeating pistols into Blanchard’s groin area.

The Leesville newspaper interviewed Long before Blanchard’s funeral. “Dr. Willis acted as judge and jury when he incited Granstaff with his erroneous conjecture. He should be convicted of manslaughter. I gave the doctor guidance once by offering him an opportunity of a lifetime. When he rejected my kindness, I should have known he was a man prone to bad choices.”

“Will you assist in the prosecution of Willis?”

“I wish I had the time. I must pack in the morning. I’m off to represent a small group that’s suing the giant Standard Oil.”

The newspaper was on Dr. Willis’s desk early the next morning. He tossed the paper aside and made his way to the hotel.

“I need the keys to Huey Long’s room,” Dr. Willis said to the desk clerk.

“He’s not checked out yet, Sir.”

“I figured as much. Give me the keys. I want to give him a special send-off.”

Dr. Willis turned the keys and opened his door. “You’re past my check out time.”

“It’s not but 7 a.m.”

Dr. Willis grabbed Long by his collar and dragged him down the stairs.

“I’ll sue you,” Long screamed as he fell into horse manure in the street.

“What is your check out time?”

“6:59.”

{22}

Dr. Willis knew the importance of available medical care to Louisiana. He was not the only descendant of Joseph Willis to understand the need for education. Poverty gripped Louisiana.

1924
Louisiana College
Pineville, Louisiana

Huey P. Long began his campaign for governor in 1924. On a sunny day he came to preach his gospel of prosperity at the Boy Scout Camp on the banks of Spring Creek near Longleaf, Louisiana.

Dr. Willis had no desire to hear him, but his brother Ran Willis did. Ran and his wife Lillie’s home, the Ole Willis Place, on Barber Creek was walking distance to the Boy Scout Camp. As Ran approached with his three sons, Howard, Herman, and Julian, they could hear Long’s reassuring voice.

“I’m for the poor man—all poor men, black and white, they all gotta have a chance. They gotta have a home, a job, and a decent education for their children. ‘Every man a king’—that’s my slogan.”

Long looked straight at us. “I don’t care about what the big shots say. All I care is what the boys at the forks of creeks like Barber and Spring creek think of me.”

“Is he speaking to us?” Ran asked.

“I don’t know, Daddy, but don’t you like what he said about free textbooks for all of us?” Howard asked.

“Free! There is nothing free. We will pay for them with increased taxes. Well, I take that back. Your Uncle Doc gave Huey Long a free education four years ago at the Hotel Leesville.

“That’s the same year I met a young man at Louisiana College who started his education, but with fewer advantages than we have and lot less than Huey claims.

“We became friends. He was the son of a poor sharecropper from Beech Springs in north Louisiana. He wanted to get an education like your Uncle Doc and me. He told me his family was so poor that he did not have a bed in which to sleep until he was nine.

“Upon graduation from high school, he began the task of choosing a college. One of his neighbors had a college catalog.

“He told me all about it.”

“I was amazed and believed you could order a college just as you ordered something from Sears and Roebuck. I’d never seen a college, had never been on a college campus, but I read it, and it told all about Louisiana College at Pineville. I decided that’s where I would try to go.”

“But how could he pay for tuition, books, housing, and food? He didn’t have any money or know anyone who did. He decided to try to get a job at the college. On his second day on campus, he went to the college employment office and found employment in the dining hall.

“How did you meet him, Daddy?” Howard asked.

“Through our cousin, Willie Strother.

“Willie’s a history professor at Louisiana College. The young sharecropper’s son attended his classes. He wished to get his degree in history.

“After acquiring the job in the cafeteria, he joined the glee club. Professor Dunwoody assigned him to the college quartet. He sang lead and received a gift, a used guitar. As winter approached, the young man became desperate for money. With his guitar, he began to sing on the street corners in Alexandria. When an officer told him to move on, he moved to another street corner.”

“What was his name, Father?” Herman asked.

“Jimmie Davis. He graduated this year from Louisiana College without free textbooks.

“None of this would have happened had it not been for two encounters on the campus of Louisiana College. The last year Jimmie did not have the money to continue his education. He tried banks for a loan. They all turned him down.”

“Everyone ought to be hungry and try to borrow money at least once in their life. To be broke and turned down, well, it’s something,” Jimmie said.

“With his dreams put on hold, Jimmie found himself in back of a mule again, plowing and picking cotton from sunup to sundown. He supplemented that by slipping back into Alexandria and singing on street corners. After one year in the cotton fields, he was able to return to Louisiana College and obtain his degree in history after Willie Strother loaned him $120.

“But, there was another encounter on the campus of Louisiana College. It had an even greater impact on Jimmie’s life. While walking across campus, a man introduced himself to Jimmie.”

“The stranger was striking looking, well dressed, and friendly,” Jimmie said. “At first we talked about football and baseball. The man was the son of a sharecropper, too.”

He began to ask Jimmie questions and explained who he was. “I’m Robert G. Lee, and I’m holding a revival in Pineville at First Baptist tonight. Please be my guest. Jimmie, may I ask you something? If the Lord would call you today, would you be ready to go?”

“Dr. Lee, I hope He doesn’t call me today because I don’t think I could make it,” Jimmie said.

“The Lord’s been good to you, and it’s something you ought to think about. I hope you’ll come to church tonight.”

“I realized that everything I had, everything I had ever had, and everything I would ever hope to have on this earth had come and would come through the grace of God,” Jimmie said.

That night Jimmie went to church. Dr. Lee gave his most famous and beloved sermon, “Pay Day, Some Day.”

“There’s no doubt of it, the man had the finest command of the English language I’ve ever heard. Before he had finished, I was ready to go down the aisle. And when he gave the invitation, I was the first one down and made public my profession of faith and united with that church,” Jimmie said.

Willie Strother was there. He was a deacon in the church.

***

Excerpted from Destiny, a novel by Randy Willis

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

#randywillis

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