Randy Willis | Beckoning Candle

I arose before sunrise, sitting by the fireplace, drinking coffee, as alone as the morning star.” ~ Randy “Ran” Willis
Beckoning Candle, a novel by Randy Willis

Christmas Day, December 25, 1941, Forest Hill, Louisiana

I arose before sunrise, sitting by the fireplace, drinking coffee, as alone as the morning star.

Today is the first time ever I’ve seen a white Christmas, and my entire family is here. I’d seen it snow in Forest Hill, but not on Christmas Day. As everyone awoke we watched the storm bringing heavier snow, which seems to be driven by a blue norther. Icicles hang from the trees behind our home that line the banks of Barber Creek. The creek has the coldest water in the summer there is—anywhere—at least anywhere I’ve been. I wasn’t about to find out just how cold it was today.

My eldest son Howard cut the top out of a cedar for our Christmas tree. His wife Zora baked her famous buttermilk pie and brought canned vegetables from her garden she had preserved in mason jars. I swear she is best cook I’ve ever known, well that is, next to my wife.

Each family member has brought a decoration for our tree—it’s our family tradition. There are strings of popcorn, wooden figures, sugared fruit, gingerbread, and my grandson, Donnie, even brought a bird’s nest. Today’s Donnie’s fourth birthday, too boot. I bought him a new game, Shoot the Moon and a wooden jigsaw carton puzzle. I also bought his little brother Ray a stick horse—I told him to keep him at a trot.

At the top of the tree is the star of Bethlehem that our son Herman carved from a piece of hickory that came from an old tree. The Christmas stocking’s are stuffed with nuts, candy, and fruit hung on every available nail. There are books, tablets, pencils, wooden soldiers, and even a rockin’ horse. My grandchildren’s faces seem to glow in the light of the fireplace.

Christmas Day started with a few flurries. Everyone ran outside as the sunrise colors glisten in the snow. Who can paint like the Lord of creation? Donnie grabbed a shovel from the barn to use as a sled. My youngest son Julian made sure the horses and mules were all doing fine in the barn. I swear he loves horses more than people. He’s gentle with horses but as tough as rawhide with some people. My beautiful bride, of twenty seven years, Lillie, made ice cream in a pewter pot with the snow, milk, cream, butter, and eggs. She also made my favorite, dewberry pie, and Community dark roast coffee, and enough food to feed our entire clan. Lillie is a woman of virtue—always giving a cup of kindness. She requested I play her favorite Christmas carol, O Holy Night, on my fiddle. My Daddy bought the fiddle for me, on a cattle drive from East Texas when I was just twelve.

Our home is filled with a sweet joy. But this joy and our family traditions are now threatened. Don’t get wrong, Christmas could not get any better than this, but would it be the last for our sons? No two snowflakes are said to be alike, nor are our three sons. The cares of life have drifted into my mind. Will today be the last time we all gather at our home—our beloved Ole Willis Home Place?

The snow has now drifted against the windows, begging entrance into our lives much like the events of the last three weeks. There’s nothing quite as peaceful as seeing Louisiana longleaf pines covered in a fresh sheet of snow. If only our world was that way, but it is not to be since the attack on Pearl Harbor.

We got word yesterday that my brother’s son and namesake, Robert Kenneth, we call him Bobby, was a confirmed causality of this dastardly deed. We had held out hope, but our hopes have now vanished, like a shadow when the light disappears. Rapides Parish Sheriff, U. T. Downs, along with Bobby’s pastor from First Baptist Church in Pineville, delivered the dreaded Western Union telegram from the Navy Department, to my brother. They told him that it had finally been confirmed that Bobby was entombed in the USS Arizona at the bottom of Pearl Harbor. Sheriff Downs also confirmed that he was the first causality from Rapides Parish.

I had no words for my brother—at least none that could ease his pain. We are all heart-broken, disillusioned, and angry. It feels like a dark cloud has loomed over our family and our nation.

But in the midst of all of this a light has begun to dispel the darkness today like the Star of Bethlehem did so long ago. It has drawn our family closer like the beckoning candle on my wife’s supper table.

Julian enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps and Herman in the Regular Army after hearing President Roosevelt’s words on the radio. I wrote part of his speech down, “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.” Howard tried to enlist, but a head injury caused by a split rim truck wheel when it exploded while he was airing up a tire in Glenmora, prevented that. The cap he wore could hide the scar in his forehead from the recruitment officer.

As we gathered around the fireplace I decided to share my hopes—my dreams—my journey. What has shocked me most about life is the brevity of it. Pearl Harbor and the loss of three siblings much too young has etched that into my mind. Will my boys fate be like Bobby’s?

It is now more important than ever that our family’s history be written down for future generations. I’ve handed a stack of Big Chief writing tablets to my sons with strict instructions that they don’t miss a single detail.

My name is Randall Lee Willis. My friends call me Ran. This is the story our family.

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“Now sons, it is my hope—your mother’s and my prayer, that this gives you strength and wisdom in the days to come.

A good place to begin is when I first dreamed of being a cowboy…!”

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“Cowards never lasted long enough to become real cowboys” ~ Charlie Goodnight

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An unedited excerpt from Beckoning Candle, a novel by Randy Willis. To learn more about my books and the characters in them go to my website at www.ThreeWindsBlowing.com

A note from the author: Beckoning Candle is my new book that will be released in 2017. It hasn’t been sent to my editors yet. It is based upon my father Julian “Jake” Willis’s life and my namesake, my grandfather, Randall “Ran” Willis’s life. It is a nonfiction novel (i.e.: the story of actual people and actual events told with the dramatic techniques of a novel). Truman Capote claimed to have invented this genre with his book “In Cold Blood” (which I read many years ago). I will keep you updated with the release date.

Vaya con Dios,
Randy Willis| Novels | Family | Friends | Ancestors | Newsletter

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Randy Willis | Love

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Corinthians 13-4-13 (NIV)

Vaya con Dios,

Randy Willis

Website: http://threewindsblowing.com

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Randy Willis | A Chance Encounter

A “chance encounter” with an unknown preacher and a question from Hollywood’s most famous movie star would change his life.  ~ Randy Willis

He was a huge star. And, the composer of many hit songs. The original manuscript of one of those songs is buried in the cornerstone of the Copyright Building of the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C.    He acted in motion pictures with Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and his good friend John Wayne.  And he could sing.  In 1934, he became the first recording artist signed by the American subsidiary of Decca Records.  When television was in its infancy, in the early ’50’s, he was the West Coast’s biggest radio star with a show syndicated nationwide.

But he was not happy and didn’t cope well with the pressures of his high-profile career and sought relief in alcohol. His drinking and gambling problems began to severely affect his life and his family’s life. Many times his drinking landed him in jail.  Born in Kellyville, Texas, The Texas State Historical Association records that he identified himself as the “original juvenile delinquent.”

His name was Stuart Hamblen. His life would change forever with a “chance encounter” with a young and unknown preacher and a question from America’s most famous movie star.

In 1949, Stuart’s wife Suzy, encouraged him to attend a prayer meeting with her.  A young preacher by the name of Billy Graham was to speak to the group.  Not a single newspaper had carried the story of young Billy being in town for a tent revival.   But, among  Billy’s supporters was the influential Presbyterian Bible teacher Henrietta Mears, who had invited him to her home in Beverly Hills to speak to a group of Hollywood notables. The group was called the Hollywood Christian Group.  It’s goal was to reach the entertainment industry with the Gospel. Many were impacted by these meetings such as Ronald Reagan, Dale Evans, and Roy Rogers.

Suzy made sure they were there early, and she and Henrietta disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Stuart and Billy alone. The two men hit it off right away, and Stuart asked Billy if he would like to come on his radio show to promote his tent crusade. Billy show up at the radio station, and after the radio interview, Stuart urged his listeners to go down to the tent to hear more of Billy, and ended by stating, “Make sure you all come, cause I’ll be there too!”

He had no intention of going, but Suzy wasn’t about to let him forget his promise. That evening, as Stuart started to settle in for the night, Suzy appeared, all ready to go out the door. She looked at him and said, “You ready to go? You told everyone that you were going to be there. You don’t want to disappoint your fans!” Reluctantly, Stuart went.  She lead him down to the front row—dead center—right in front of the pulpit. Night after night, she would drag Stuart down there, front row   center, until finally he couldn’t take it no more. He had had enough and decided to escape. He  packed up his hound dogs, and headed out for a hunting trip. It didn’t seem to matter though, as the three-week campaign neared its end, since there was no sign that Stuart was under any conviction—of any kind—except to get out of there.

Sensing that momentum for the meetings was building, the local crusade organisers wanted to extend them, but Billy was hesitant. He put out a “fleece,” and asked God for a sign. The next morning at 4:30, he was awakened in his room, at the Langham Hotel, by a phone call. It was Stuart Hamblen, and he was in tears.  Billy shared the Gospel with him.   The result was that he surrendered his life to Christ.  That night, Stuart was at the crusade again and publicly gave his heart to Christ.

Stuart told the story of his conversion on his radio show. William Randolph Hearst heard it and sent a telegram to all his newspaper editors: “Puff  Graham.”  Soon all of Los Angeles was buzzing about Billy Graham’s meetings.

The Los Angeles Crusade of 1949 was the first great evangelistic campaign of Billy Graham. The campaign was extended to eight weeks. During the campaign Billy spoke to 350,000 people . By the end, 3,000 of them accepted Christ as their Savior. After this crusade Billy became a national figure in the United States.

Fourteen years later, during his 1963 crusade, in Los Angeles, Billy called Stuart‘s conversion “the turning point” in the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s ministry Billy added, before Stuart accepted Christ the crowds were rather small.

Before his conversion, Stuart’s radio sponsors regularly bailed him out of jail and smoothed things over because of his popularity on the radio.  After his conversion, he started a new radio program titled The Cowboy Church of the Air which became nationally syndicated.  A confrontation developed with his sponsors, however, when he refused to advertise alcohol.  His much publicized departure from the program resulted in his being asked to run for President of the United States in 1952.

Now, about that song that Stuart wrote. The one that is buried in the cornerstone of one of the Copyright Buildings of the Library of Congress.  It has been translated into over 50 languages around the world and was the first song to ‘cross-over’ becoming #1 in Gospel, Country, and Pop categories and starting the trend for ballad style gospel songs.  It’s been recorded by many artist, arguably most famously by Elvis Presley.

Shortly after his conversion, Stuart ran into his friend John Wayne on a street in Los Angeles. “What’s this I hear about you, Stuart?” asked Wayne.  “Well, Duke, it’s no secret what God has done for me and he could do it for you too,”  Stuart replied .  “Sounds like a song,” said Wayne.   Stuart went home, sat down at his piano and wrote It Is No Secret What God Can Do, in ten minutes.

It’s No Secret (What God Can Do) by Stuart Hamblen

“The chimes of time ring out the news
Another day is through
Someone slipped and fell
Was that someone you?
You may have longed for added strength
Your courage to renew
Do not be disheartened
For I have news for you

[Refrain]  It is no secret what God can do
What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you
With arms wide open, He’ll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do

There is no night for in His light
You never walk alone
Always feel at home
Wherever you may go

There is no power can conquer you
While God is on your side
Take Him at His promise
Don’t run away and hide”

Stuart went on to write 225 other songs including, This Ole House, Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In) and Remember Me, I’m The One Who Loves You.

Vaya con Dios,

Randy Willis
Novels | Family | Friends | Ancestors | Newsletter   

Randy Willis | Bill Gates, Jack Daniels, Billy Graham

The story about choices from Louisiana Wind, a novel of Louisiana

March 27, 1898, The Texas Road. Calcasieu River, Rapides Parish, Louisiana

Just as I began trailing cattle, politics raised its ugly head. I’ll give you an example of what I mean. I was once told a story of a woman who wanted to know what her son would become. She put what little money she had on her kitchen table along with a bottle of liquor and a Bible. As her son approached their home she hid in a closet. She figured if he took the money he’d chase the almighty dollar; if he drank the whiskey he’d be a drunkard, and if he picked up the Bible he’d might just be a preacher.

When the boy saw all this he picked up the money quickly and stuffed it into his pockets; he then drank the entire bottle of the Devil’s poison, and finally he put the Word of God under his right arm and staggered out the door. The mother exclaimed, “Oh, no, he’s going to be a politician.”


Vaya con Dios, Randy Willis

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Randy Willis | A Few of My Favorite Quotes

A Few of My Favorite Quotes:
“Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness.”
– Isaiah 30:8 (NIV)

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

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes. ” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” – Vance Havner

“Aim at Heaven and you will get Earth ‘thrown in’: aim at Earth and you will get neither.’ — C.S. Lewis

“Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

“A woman’s heart should be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him just to find her.” — Joseph Willis, 1785 (Louisiana Wind)

“Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels.”

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” ― C.S. Lewis

“I wish I could find words to express the trueness, the bravery, the hardihood, the sense of honor, the loyalty to their trust and to each other of the old trail hands.” — Charles Goodnight

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” Darrell Royal
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photo: I’m riding my all-time favorite AQHA quarter horse mare “Spring.” Born on the first day of Spring, she was out of the King Ranch’s famous cutting horse Mr San Peppy. She could run like a deer and turn on a dime. My son Josh is riding “Big Boy”—a quarter of a horse.

Please visit my website www.ThreeWindsBlowing.com to view my: Novels | Family | Friends | Ancestors | Newsletter.

Vaya con Dios, Randy Willis



Randy Willis | The Ole Willis Home Place

randy-willis-ole-willis-homeBaptist love this story!

It was inspired by the true story of my Great-Grandmother Julia Ann Graham Willis After the death of her eight-year-old son Eugene from appendicitisshe almost lost her mind. She would lay on his grave, in the Graham Cemetery, weeping for hours at a time. One day she was overwhelmed with peace. Later she learned that a church that she did not belong to had been praying and fasting for her for days.  

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Excerpted from Louisiana Wind

“I should tell ya, Julia Ann was a Methodist, up to then. After hearing of Amiable Baptist praying and fasting for her, she insisted on joining their church.”

Elwa added, “She reads the Bible daily on the front porch while eating an orange. We joke sometimes that she thinks there will be no one in Heaven, except Baptists.

“When I asked her what religion Jesus would be in Heaven, she smiled with a twinkle in her eye. ’I reckon, son, it will be like the time a Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist were fishing together down on Barber Creek. They got into an argument on what denomination Jesus would be in Heaven. The Catholic declared, “No doubt He would be part of our church, we have the Pope.” The Presbyterian said, “No, oh, no. When you consider all that John Calvin did for the Christian faith, He will be one of us.” The Methodist then spoke, “Nope, no way, look at all the Wesleys did for Christianity.”  The Baptist looked perplexed for a few minutes and spoke, “Gentlemen, I don’t think He’s going to change.”’” 

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photo: The OlWillis Home Place (August 5, 1906)
Located between Longleaf and Forest Hill, Louisiana, on Barber Creek.   

Robert Kenneth Willis Sr. (18771951) has the reins in his hands, Robert’s first wife Eulah Hilburn Willis (18841919 died in the influenza pandemic of 1918/19) is in the back seat Julia Ann Graham Willis (18451936) is holding a fish and standingRobert and Eulah’s baby girl Flossie Litton Willis (b August 5, 1905) is held by an unknown lady.  Flossie told mein 1981, that this photo was taken on her first birthday.

Footnote:  One of Robert‘s sons, Robert Kenneth Willis Jr. was killed on December 7, 1941. His body lies at the bottom of Pearl Harbor aboard the USS Arizona.  

~ Randy Willis 

Randy Willis | Robert E. Lee


This horse reminds me of Robert E. Lee’s horse Traveler.

When Robert E. Lee was two years old, his dad went to debtor’s prison.

After resigning from the U.S. Army, in 1861, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s 200-acre Arlington estate, where he had married his wife Mary, raised seven children, and lived for over 30 years, was occupied by Union troops.

The government seized the property in 1864. Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs recommended it as the location of a new military cemetery to be named Arlington National Cemetery. To ensure the house would forever be uninhabitable for the Lees, Meigs directed graves to be placed as close to the mansion as possible, and in 1866 he ordered the remains of 2,111 unknown Civil War soldiers killed on battlefields near Washington, D.C., to be placed inside a vault in the Lees’ rose garden.

General Lee would never return. Most men would have been bitter, but not General Lee.

Attempts to embroil Robert E. Lee in politics failed, though The New York Herald endorsed him for President in 1868 on the grounds that he was a much better man in every way than U.S. Grant. Lee refused.

After the Civil War, General Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Federal artillery fire. She looked to General Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss.

After a brief silence, General Lee said, “Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it.”

Perhaps we all need to cut down a few trees today and forget them…?

~ Randy Willis



Randy Willis | Quarter Horse Dollar

I’m in the mood for a fast horse or a slow train and they’re no trains in sight! ~ Randy Willis

Randy Willis

Randy Willis

John Wayne, Jake Willis, my Quarter Horse Dollar—and yes, me. This scene, more than any other in the movies, reminds me of my Dad, Jake Willis…!

After watching my favorite John Wayne movie, Big Jake, for the umpteenth time, I’ve decided it’s time for a ride. Dollar and my destination is the Guadalupe River near Sisterdale. There, hopefully, I will write a chapter or two on a novel that I’m working on.

Big Jake has always reminded me of my Dad, Jake Willis. Dollar was named after two different horses, Dollor and Dollar, that John Wayne rode in his final westerns. The horses are often confused. It is Dollor that carries Wayne when he makes his famous charge, reins in his teeth, in his Oscar-winning portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. And it’s Dollar that Wayne rides in the sequel, Rooster Cogburn, as well as in his final film, The Shootist.

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Beckoning Candle is my new book that will be released in 2017. It is based upon my father Julian “Jake” Willis’s life and my namesake, my grandfather, Randall “Ran” Willis’s life. It is a nonfiction novel (i.e.: the story of actual people and actual events told with the dramatic techniques of a novel). Truman Capote claimed to have invented this genre with his book “In Cold Blood” (which I read many years ago). I will keep you updated with the release date.

Website: http://threewindsblowing.com

Amazon author’s page:

Vaya con Dios ~ Randy Willis

Randy Willis and Jake Willis

It’s 16 degrees this mornin’ at my home. When I was fetched up (between Angleton and Danbury) the first thing on my mind on a morning like this was the livestock. Nothing’s changed, the livestock is still the first thing on my mind. If needed I will saddle up, but I hope it’s not needed!

photo: My Dad Jake Willis and me. It was 17 on that morning.


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