Concerning retirement: “All I do is play music and golf – which one do you want me to give up?” – Willie Nelson
That’s how I feel about writing novels….
Vaya con Dios, Randy Willis
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“Jimbo ignored them all, except to say, ‘She’s not crazy, just afraid.’
“Didn’t take long for him to get a saddle on her. He climbed on her real slow like and rode with a new found confidence. She seemed to trust him.
“Suddenly someone cracked a bullwhip and yelled, ‘Ride ‘em, cowboy.’
“She must have jumped ten feet. And, as everyone hooped and hollered she reared up falling over backward on top of Jimbo. The horse got up but not the boy. He just lay there in the dry dusty dirt. I was the first one that got to him and he sure didn’t look good. He tried to talk, so I bent down close to his mouth to hear his words.
“’Please get my Book, the one that boss Jake gave me.’
“First I thought I hadn’t heard him right, but he said it real clear again.
“’Please get me my Bible.’
“I sent one of the others to fetch it from his saddlebags. I tried to make him comfortable, but there wasn’t much I could do. Wondered how we’d explain all this to boss man Jake. When the Book arrived I show it to him. ‘Here, Jimbo, here’s your Bible.’”
“’Lay it on my chest and open it to John 3:16, please. Put my finger on those words.
“He spoke all raspy like.
“’Please, do it, please!’
“I found that verse and lifted his hand. He cried in pain cause his arm was broken. I placed his finger on the verse.”
“’Tell boss Jake I made that decision just like he told me I should.’
“With that he closed his eyes and was gone.” The barber had tears in his eyes as he ended the story.
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I paused a minute, then said, “Boys, I made three decisions after I heard the barber’s story. The first was to name the creek we now live on Barber Creek. The second was to have you boys bury me one day with my Bible opened on my chest with my finger placed on John 3:16. And the third was to give every cowboy that works with us a copy of the good Lord’s Word. Your copies are in the chuck wagon. Rooster will show you where.”
Jeremiah and Jacob seemed to be moved the most.
Jeremiah spoke first, “Mr. Willis, our sister Mary told us about that Carpenter. Is He for real?”
“Boys, He’s as real as the skin on my bones.”
“What does that verse say Mr. Willis?”
“It says that whosoever puts his trust in Jesus will have everlasting life.”
“What does whosoever mean? Who’s that?”
“I reckon, Jeremiah, that’s you and me and every cowboy and cowgirl. Even the mavericks, the culls, and the undesirables. God swings a mighty big loop. But, there’s many a cowboy that doesn’t want His brand.”
There was a peace in the camp as an unseasonable cool breeze blew in.
Then Jeremiah said, “I want His brand.”
Jacob added, “Me, too.”
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✯ His family took him to court to deprive him of his inheritance (which would have made him the wealthiest plantation owner in all of Bladen County, North Carolina in 1776).
✯ He fought as a Patriot in the Revolutionary War under the most colorful of all the American generals, Francis Marion,… The Swamp Fox.
✯ His first wife died in childbirth, and his second wife died only six years later, leaving him with five small children.
✯ He crossed the mighty Mississippi River at Natchez at the peril of his own life, riding a mule!
✯ He entered hostile Spanish-controlled Louisiana Territory, when the dreaded Code Noir (Black Code) was in effect. It forbade any Protestant ministers who came into the territory from preaching.
✯ His life was threatened because of the message he brought to Spanish-controlled Louisiana!
✯ His own denomination refused to ordain him because of his race.
✯ Joseph Willis preached (1798) the first Gospel sermon by an Evangelical west of the Mississippi River.
✯ On November 13, 1812, Joseph Willis constituted Calvary Baptist Church at Bayou Chicot, Louisiana. He went on to plant over twenty churches in Louisiana.
✯ October 31, 1818, Joseph Willis (and others that had followed him from the Carolinas) founded the Louisiana Baptist Association, at Beulah Baptist in Cheneyville. Joseph had founded all five charter member churches.
✯ After overcoming insurmountable obstacles, he blazed a trail for others for another half-century that changed American history.
✯ His accomplishments are still felt today.
Randy Willis is a fourth great-grandson of Joseph Willis, and his foremost historian.
Vaya con Dios, 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.
Amazon author’s page:
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
Novels | Family | Friends | Ancestors | Newsletter at www.threewindsblowing.com
This horse reminds me of Robert E. Lee’s horse Traveler.
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
I’m in the mood for a fast horse or a slow train and they’re no trains in sight! ~ 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.
Amazon author’s page:
Vaya con Dios ~ Randy Willis
Christmas Day ✯ December 25, 1852 ✯ Forest Hill, Louisiana
Great-Grandpa Joseph Willis relived much of his life in Louisiana on the wagon trip in October of 1852 from Evergreen to Babb’s Bridge. He poured out his heart to us, and I discovered a joy in writin’ and keepin’ an account of all his stories.
Just when it seemed that no day in our family would ever top the 1845 Willis Feast of Thanksgiv…ing…it did. It all begin the first time ever I saw a white Christmas, December 25, 1852, in Babb’s Bridge, and the entire family was there. Each family member brought a decoration for our tree. The cedar was so big that we had to cut it down three times just to get it inside the door. There were strings of popcorn, wooden figures, sugared fruit, paper dolls cut out by the girls, gingerbread, and somebody even brought a bird’s nest. We had ornaments that had meanings, too, like a pine tree, which symbolized eternity, pinecones that meant warmth, and a teapot that signified hospitality, which has always been taught by our family. There were candy canes with the Good Shepherd’s crook, with white stripes for the purity of Jesus and his virgin birth and the bold red stripes for Christ’s shed blood. At the top of the tree was the star of Bethlehem made from a quilt. And, the Christmas stockin’s stuffed with nuts, candy, and fruit hung on every available nail.
I’ll never forget the looks on my cousins’, brothers’, and sisters’ faces. Dolls, books, tablets, pencils, wooden soldiers, and even a rockin’ horse were unwrapped that happy morn. I got a new writin’ tablet that I started using to write this.
Christmas Day started with a few flurries, and everyone ran out to see the snow. Mother taught us to make something I’d never eaten before—ice cream. She showed us how to add milk, cream, butter, and eggs with the snow in a pewter pot. She had read where President Thomas Jefferson had even made ice cream with split vanilla beans. Imagine that! Our traditional hot spiced cider warmed us from the cold. The smell of roasting chestnuts in Mama’s cast-iron skillet in the fireplace brought back precious memories of Christmas past.
As the flakes began to fall steadily, more guests arrived, including Mr. Cormier and Miss Adelaide. She was with child, due in a few months. Mr. Cormier told Great-Grandpa, “If the baby is a boy, we are gonna name him Joseph.” Great-Grandpa’s face shone with an all-knowin’ peace. You could hear the excitement in their voices as Mr. and Mrs. Cormier brushed the snow off.
Mr. Malachi Perkins, Miss Eliza, Randall, and Emily came in together. Mr. Perkins went right up to Great-Grandpa and gave him a hug, sayin’, “Pastor, we consider ourselves engaged, but as you know by Louisiana law, we can’t get married. We’ve fallen in love, and if it was legal, we’d be hitched already.” He hesitated, then went on, “We so want to do what’s right in the eyes of the Lord. I remember ya tellin’ me how your mama and daddy had a clandestine weddin’. I don’t want to bother ya on this special day, but would ya mind thinkin’ ‘bout it in a few days and lettin’ us know if ya’d perform our weddin’ ceremony?”
Great-Grandpa took all of two seconds, grinned, and said, “Ain’t gotta think about it, Malachi. I’d be honored…if ya don’t mind if I do the ceremony sittin’ down. I’m a half-step slower than I used to be.” Everybody laughed.
“Ya know, Pastor, ya could get in trouble for doin’ it!”
“Yes, I know, but I’m ninety-four, and my race here is almost run. What are they gonna do, shoot me? They already tried that, when I was only knee-high to a grasshopper.”
The entire room seemed to be filled with a sweet joy. We all cheered and clapped. Randall and Emily looked the happiest. Great-Grandpa motioned for me to come over and whispered in a voice real low, “Quite a few folks are named after me now. If you ever have a son, Dan, you should name him Randall, after Eliza’s son. You can even nickname ‘im Randy, if you so like. That way, our descendants will remember that miracle and share it with their children.”
We watched the storm bringin’ heavier snow, which seemed to be driven by a blue norther as our neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Robert Graham arrived. And yes, Julia Ann was with ‘em. Great-Grandfather asked to be carried to the barn to talk to his aged four-legged friend, Ole Sally. He told her he had a gift for her—a mule blanket that all the Willis women had made. They had made a matchin’ blanket for him, too.
I listened to ‘im sweet-talk ‘er in ‘er ear. He thanked ‘er for being a good friend and told ‘er that he could never have done it without ‘er. As Ole Sally leaned over the stall gate, Great-Grandpa kissed ‘er on the nose. She backed ‘er ears, and he laughed, sayin’, “Aww, you know you like it.”
We carried him back to the house, and then I asked him to share his annual Christmas story once again. Everyone gathered ‘round the fireplace. He looked like he was doin’ what he loved best.
The wind was blowing the snow so hard we didn’t hear Mr. Ford arrive with Mr. and Mrs. Peter Tanner, the brother and sister-in-law of his late wife. Mr. Ford rushed through the door with a great big smile, sayin’, “Looks like Solomon Northup will be freed on January 3rd. He’s gonna be a free man!” Again, everyone clapped and cheered.
Great-Grandpa’s heart was full of joy. Mine, too! He beamed as he said, “I don’t see how a Christmas could get any better than this.”
He’d started to tell the Christmas story when there was a knock at the door. I jumped up to answer the door. There stood a snow-covered, half-frozen woman in a green hooded cape. Her hair was all wet and matted. All of a sudden, I recognized her—and so did everyone else. There were a few gasps and then lots of hugs. Great-Grandpa couldn’t see very well, as his eyes were dimmed by age. He asked, “Who’s that? Who’s here?”
She put her finger up to her lips to keep everyone silent. No one said a word as she went over to Great-Grandpa, hugged him, and said, “Merry Christmas, Pastor Joseph Willis. I love you with all my heart.”
His eyes glistened as he pulled her to him and said, “I love you even more, Miss Elvy Willis. Welcome home! I’ve saved a place beside me for ya. You’re just in time to hear my favorite Christmas story again.
“He was born in a little-known village. He was brought up in another community that people said nothing good would ever come out of. He worked with his hands in a carpenter shop until he was thirty, and then for three years, he traveled as a country preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never commanded an army. He never owned a home. He never went to college. He never traveled more than a couple hundred miles from the place where he was born.
He was rejected by the religious folk of that day. While he was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. One friend denied him. Another betrayed him. Many even hated him. He was turned over to his enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial and was then nailed to a notorious prisoner named Barabbas’ cross between two thieves. His executors gambled for his only possession—his coat.
“Most of his friends had abandoned him by then. When he died, he was laid in a borrowed grave. Then, on the next Sunday mornin’, he rose from the dead. As we look back across eighteen hundred years and examine the evidence and sum up his influence, we must conclude that all the armies that ever marched, all the ships that ever sailed, all the governments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, and all the presidents that ever led combined have not had the influence on mankind that this one Country Preacher has had!”
Not a sound was heard ‘til Great-Grandpa said, “Merry Christmas, everyone!
I got a stirrin’ in my heart and started singin’, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”
Great-Grandpa and Miss Elvy joined in: “Let earth receive her King; let every heart prepare Him room….” Finally, everyone was singin’. “And Heaven and nature sing, and Heaven and nature sing, and Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing. Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!”
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