THE CALABAZAS PREACHER.
He came into Calabazas Saturday morning, riding a small clay-bank mule. It was not past seven o'clock, still, at this early hour the fervid rays of Arizona's sun was beating down with an intensity that would have caused an epidemic of sunstroke in the Eastern cities; but the dry air of Arizona enabled one to withstand the baking heat, and to go about one's daily affairs without danger, simply discomfort.
The mule ambled along at a slouchy gait, half walk, half trot, his tail nervously twitching at each step. His ears were extraordinarily long, and would have been so for the very largest of his kind. One of the ears was pointed forward, and the other flapped lazily against his head with the movements of his body; his eyes half closed and sleepy, would lead one to believe him a harmless, well-disposed animal, until closer scrutiny developed that very much subdued deviltry lurked under the sleepy looking, deceptive eyelids. The rider's legs were as much too long for the ordinary man, as his mule's ears were too long
The traveler was dressed in brown linen trousers, had no vest on, and wore a long linen duster, which being permitted to fly open, displayed a checked calico shirt. His whole apparel showed the effects of constant and careless usage, or that it and the washtub had but small acquaintance. At the back of his old McClellan saddle was tied a small, black valise, much the worse for wear, and of the cheapest kind. He appeared to be about forty-five years of age, his face thin, pale and freckled, wore a look on the greatest solemnity. A mass of fiery red hair topped the face, and a faded black cavalry hat, with limp, flapping brim, topped the hair. A scraggly red beard, grown in the style popularly known as "Galway chokers," protected his throat. There was a singular resemblance between the man and the clay-bank mule, and this extremely hot morning was evidently a source of discomfort to both.
As the men entered the town, quite an amount of interest was excited. He did not have the look or dress of a trader, prospector, rancher, gambler, saloon-keeper, cattle-man, rustler, or detective. The
The traveler, upon reaching the store, dismounted, fastened his mule by throwing the reins to the ground—the usual method in cattle countries—and entered the building. After casting a rapid look around, he turned to the store-keeper and asked concerning accommodations for himself and animal in the town. He was given proper directions, thanked his informant, and led his mule to the Custom House corral. After seeing that faithful animal attended to, he hied himself to the Palace Hotel, and at that Epicurian retreat almost created a panic, by reason of the ferocity, magnitude, and indiscriminateness of his appetite. After the morning meal was over, Cum Sing gave vent to most doleful forebodings, saying to Hi Sing and Lo Sing, ‘‘Je Cli! him man eat one mo' breakfast allee same dis morning him bleak me all up.’’
Having attended to the wants of his inner man, to the imminent danger of bankrupting Cum Sing, our traveler returned to the store, where several of the more prominent citizens had gathered under various excuses, but principally to discuss this enigma of a
The Rev. Jones asked concerning the religious bent of the tribe of Calabazas, and incidentally mentioned the fact that he was an itinerant preacher, bound to no particular creed, but was constantly on the move, holding services and erecting church edifices by subscription in God-forsaken towns. His hearers hastened to relieve the Reverend gentleman's anxiety by assuring him that plenty of tents were to be had, of sufficient capacity to contain any congregation that he was likely to bring together in Calabazas, and that he might "bet his life" that, in coming to Calabazas, he had struck the most God-forsaken town in all Arizona, not excepting Tubac. The Rev. Jones piously thanked all, with many quotations from Scripture, to the effect that God blessed well directed and well meant efforts, and said that he had no fears about being able to gather a fair congregation, "for the devil was not always as black as he was painted," and very much more to the same effect. There was something about the man, as ordinary as he looked, that impressed a hearer that he was no fool, and in all likelihood he would be quite successful in anything he undertook.
Having obtained the permission, the preacher, excusing himself by a quotation from scripture in reference to sluggards, peeled off his duster, and went to work with a will, and without assistance; he moved the gambling tables to the front of the bar; emptied the shelves behind the counter of all their ornamental glassware and bottles, which he put under the counter and out of sight; he then swept the floor, the used up cards being hardly the proper carpet for a gospel tent.
The tent cleansed, the Rev. Jones rustled around town gathering spare benches, cracker and canned goods boxes, spare chairs, or anything else he could utilize as a seat. He was so constantly on the move
Most of those who saw him working, ridiculed him, and cast obloquy upon his parents for having begotten such a congenital idiot, but when the evening had come, the Rev. Jones' untiring activity had gained him a measure of respect and sympathy from these scorners, and many of those who had laughed loudest in the morning, now, with binding oaths, declared their intention of going to hear him the next day, for they "would be —— if he should have all this work for nothing."
By supper time, the tent being fully prepared for the next day's congregation, the Reverend gentleman rested from his labors, and ate such an abundant supper that Cum Sing was filled with consternation and unutterable woe. Supper eaten, our Reverend again began his labors for the morrow. He called at the store and Custom House, giving those whom he found there a hearty invitation to hear him the next day. He then visited the prominent saloons and gambling tents, and, watching for an opportune
Having drawn attention to himself, to the suspension of other business, the Reverend invited them to church on the morrow, so that when death came they could call ‘‘Keno! and rake in the heavenly pot.’’ He brought up suggestions of their childhood, and implored them to save their souls, or if they didn't care for their own, to come and see the souls of others saved, for he declared he would have many of them on the mourners' bench before the next night. He then jumped from the table and quickly disappeared, to visit another tent and enact a similar role. As he retired, many audible remarks could be heard, such as, ‘‘When the h—-l did he get loose?’’ ‘‘Who is that — jay?’’ ‘‘Great ——! but he has gall!’’ Or a parting invitation to him, to "go and take a sand bath in the river bottom," would be extended with much asperity. Nevertheless, after the shock of their first surprise wore off, and the incident had been talked threadbare, most of those present declared their intention of going to hear him preach, "Just for a lark," or because "he was a bird for gall."
The preacher next called at the hurdy-houses; entering one, he looked on with solemn visage until the dance was ended, the bar visited, and the girls were seated. Then, before he was suspected of such a move, he mounted a chair or bench and yelled, ‘‘Fire! Fire!’’ With these words for a text, he warned them of the hereafter, and invited them to
By the time the Rev. Jones had in this unwarrantable manner invaded the last hurdy-tent, quite a crowd followed him, all of whom had derived so much amusement from the manner in which Tom, Dick, or Harry had accepted the intrusions, that they shook hands with the Preacher, and declared him to be a "dandy," and "just their size," and "that they be ——— if they weren't coming to his show." The places visited were rather benefited than otherwise; for the Reverend's talk of death and hell-fire created a thirst amongst his hearers that could only be quenched by numerous visits to the bar, much to the profit and conciliation of the hurdy-men, and the restored equanimity of their patrons.
By midnight the Rev. Jones had canvassed the town, and retired to rest on the hay stack in the corral, remarking that he valued the mule highly, and had a partiality for a hay bed. This was not considered as peculiar; for most strangers after meeting the people, and learning of the proximity of Calabazas to the Mexican boundary, preferred the clean hay—and the certainty of finding their animal in the morning—to the cat infested Palace Hotel floor, or an uneasy night on a saloon bench or table.
Now, most men in the Preacher's place would have considered that they had exerted themselves enough. Very few of the Lord's Shepherds would have accomplished in a week a tithe of his one day's work; no! not to have saved every precious or worthless soul in Arizona, much less Calabazas; but the Rev. Jones never wearied in the good work. Sunday morning he was up with the sun, giving the finishing touches to his tent. At breakfast he drove Cum Sing to grief and distraction by the celerity with which vast quantities of bacon, beans, mush, canned stuff of various kinds, slapjacks, molasses, coffee, tea, etc., disappeared down his slender throat into his bottomless stomach.
At the Golden Fleece, Pantheon, Coliseum, and other prominent places of liquid and chance entertainment, the owners were told appealingly that ‘‘I have no objection to your keeping open on Sunday, but want you to close between the stated hours to-day.’’ These men who would have cared for the wants or objections of no one else, agreed to close and come to church; and to make sure that none would remain open to harvest shekels from the thirsty customers of the closed places, the proprietors of the said places accompanied the Preacher around to the other saloons, and by cajolery, ridicule, or threat, induced them to close also. As one after another signed the agreement, it became less troublesome to get others; for these people disliked to have the name of being stingy, contrary or unaccommodating, among their associates.
So vigorously did the preacher work, that when the hour of ten o'clock A. M. had come, a stranger entering Calabazas, and seeing every place closed, would have thought that he had found the most God-fearing,
Services were to begin at 11 o'clock. At 10.30 A. M. the "Rest for the Weary" was rapidly filling up with the strangest and least religious congregation ever seen gathered in a house of worship. Before 11 o'clock the tent was jammed; every hurdy or other girl, gambler, rustler, saloon man, and loafer in Calabazas were there, and all simply from curiosity. A more serious gathering one was never a member of; not a smile of gesture of ridicule was to be seen in all that congregation, composed of about two hundred and fifty of the most hardened characters that had ever been known to meet in one tent. Cum Sing, with a horror of mob violence, stood near the door, where escape was easy, should this "clazy pleacher"—with such a suspicious and destructive appetite—give utterance to anti-Chinese sentiments likely to arouse ill feeling.
Occasionally from the audience could be heard in subdued, serious tones, ‘‘Hello, Bill! What in —— brings you here?’’ ‘‘—— you, Jack! don't push me off the box!’’ ‘‘What in blazes are you crowding for; go buy a whole tent?’’ ‘‘Wonder when his jags will open his game?’’ or from some impatient member, ‘‘Maybe his nibs is playing us for suckers!’’—which last was more dreaded in Calabazas than to be spotted by a detective. Feminine voices would be
At precisely eleven o'clock our preacher entered from the rear, linen duster and all. He placed a chair on a faro table in front of the bar, and mounted the table. With his appearance all talking and whispering ceased. He had neither Bible nor hymn book. Looking solemnly over his audience, he said, ‘‘We will open the service with that beautiful hymn entitled, "Greenland's Icy Mountains," and I would like to have the audience join in singing it.’’
The Rev. Jones had a most lovely tenor voice, and, as he gave the pitch and started the hymn, there was surprise and pleasure visible on every face. The first verse was sung by himself, after which he again looked over the audience slowly and said, ‘‘We will begin that hymn over again, and I wish all to sing.’’ He then recited the first two lines and sang them, a few of the voices of the women joining in. This was not satisfactory, and he insisted that the whole audience should join whether they could sing or not. He again recited the lines. This time the hymn was sung with great vim, as a number had caught the time and joined in, as many of them said afterwards, ‘‘just for
Here were men and women who for years had never used but profane or vulgar words, now singing hymns at the command of this tramp preacher, who was gifted with such wonderful controlling power. Women corrupt in soul and body, with brightened eyes and smiling faces, raised their shrill voices in hymnal praises, the more vigorously as the long-forgotten melody and words rushed to their memories. Who can tell what childish memories were brought to mind by this unwonted scene? For the time being they were honestly sincere, and no doubt thoughts that they were still within the pale floated through their minds, when they saw how well they could ape respectability this memorable Calabazas Sunday. Ah! if the poor things could have but regained that respectability, salvation would have bothered them but very little. It is possible that the title of the hymn made it attractive such a sultry day, and in such a crowded, suffocatingly close tent. The very words were cooling to the mouth.
After the hymn was a prayer, well conceived, short, impersonal except as to the Deity, and well delivered. None of the audience knelt, though no doubt they would have done so had that man of excellent judgment and wonderful power requested it of them. After the prayer and a moment's rest in the chair, the preacher arose and begged their strict attention until he had finished his remarks and sermon. He regretted very much that he had left his small Bible at Tubac, but as he knew the Bible by heart he could
From this text the Rev. Jones preached one of the most extraordinary sermons ever preached or listened to by mortal man. No pen or descriptive power is equal to the task of doing full justice to his gestures, language and intonation. It can be given but feebly from notes taken during the sermon. He said:—
"My dear brethren, I have selected this text as peculiarly applicable to the people of Arizona as a whole and to the people of Calabazas in particular. I will digress so far as to say, I am rejoiced to see so many gentlemen and ladies present; the more especially as I was told in the town of Tubac that a preacher would never live long enough after reaching Calabazas to preach a sermon. I am also rejoiced to see some in my audience who were very doubtful of my having any listeners at all. I am very glad to see you all so nicely dressed for this occasion, and I would wish to apologise for appearing before you in such an unclerical garb, but I was compelled to leave my trunk
Now, my dear brethren, you have all been children and as children in Sunday schools you have been told of Judas and taught that Judas was a vile, bad man, and deserving of everlasting infamy. If you have heard his name mentioned from the pulpit, it has ever been in contumelious and reproachful terms; but, brethren, Judas was a scape-goat for the other eleven apostles; his memory has been unjustly abused and vilified, and he has my sympathy, as he should have that of every right thinking man. Now, what kind of man was this Judas? I will tell you:
Brethren, read the Bible from beginning to end, and I defy you to find one word reflecting in any way upon the character of Judas, until after his death, when four apostles out of the eleven claimed that he betrayed the Saviour. Mind you, he was dead! Had hanged himself!
Brethren, Judas was unsuspicious, and, like all unsuspicious people, probably did many impulsive things that made the others—from their own evil minds—suspect him of evil. He had an abounding faith in his Master, far more than did any of the others. Had he not seen him raise the dead, give sight to the
As to his honesty: He was the one the twelve selected for Treasurer. Would this have been the case if they had suspected his honesty? He was treasurer without bonds; think of that! How many of those that slur his memory to-day from the pulpit could get such a position without bonds? Why, brethren, they could not be cashiers in beer cellars without giving bonds.
Nowhere in the Bible can you find a word reflecting on the honesty of Judas, not even from the eleven surviving disciples; yet you cannot read a paper of to-day without reading of some modern disciple defaulting either with the church money or one of the church flock! They cannot safely throw stones at Judas, not at all!
Brethren, was Judas a coward, or was St. Matthew one? After the arrest of their Master and his condemnation, when the eleven were in hiding because they lacked faith and courage, poor Judas went openly to the temple, threw the money down, and then went off and hanged himself, at the very time that these saints were in hiding! And St. Peter, who was the "Rock," and to whom the Keys of Heaven were given, was at
Now, brethren, we will suppose Judas did betray his Master, what was his motive? I claim that his faith was so great that he would not believe his Master could be injured, or that his Father would not protect him to the confusion of his persecutors. Judas' whole course as laid out by St. Matthew, indicates this; probably Judas thought, as we of to-day think, that to live on the enemy is the proper plan when campaigning! no harm could be done. and he had the enemy's money in the company's purse. Avarice was not the inducement; for it is not claimed that Judas reserved the thirty pieces for himself.
When Judas saw that the Son could not help himself, and the Father did not help him, what did he do? Did he skip to another country and live on the fruits of his treachery as is done nowadays? No; he gave the money back, and gave his life to atone for his mistaken faith. But brethren, St. Matthew was in hiding as were the others all this time, and had to make up some tale to cover their cowardice. Of course he said that one of the company chopped the ear off the High Priest's servant, but he does not say it was a disciple that did so. There were many believers in the crowd, and it may have been one of them. The apostles wrangled just as much in their day as Christians do in our day; and if it was an apostle that defended the Saviour, jealousy has buried his name in oblivion. But I do not believe St. Matthew; I do not believe Judas betrayed the Saviour? but I do believe that his
Now, brethren, when we cast stones at Judas, we should remember that we are all more or less Judases—to take the name in its biblical significance—so far as betrayals go. Have we as many undoubted virtues to offset our faults as he had? Take the thousands of preachers living in luxury and idleness, neither spinning nor weaving, would not they have hard times if there had been no Judas? Judas was their benefactor, and they scorn him. Even you men would not do that.
These preachers sell their Master yearly for far more than thirty pieces of silver; but who ever heard of their returning any money? They have deluged the world with blood, by the angry passions that they have stirred up against those that do not believe with them; but who ever knew one so repentant as to go and hang himself for his deeds? Their charity is a charity that consists in blackguarding each other, and begging dollars from the generous for the poor, of which dollars they spend ten cents on a soup ticket to give to a beggar, and ninety cents on a porterhouse steak for themselves. Brethren, Judas had far, far more charity than any of them.
And the women! The women are all Judases for betrayal. They cannot afford to contemn his memory! Just gather a few women together, then have another come in, and hear them exclaim, ‘‘Oh! its you! how glad I am you came!’’ here they kiss, and all set down to tear some other and absent woman to tatters. One woman goes out, and we hear, ‘‘Oh! wasn't you surprised that she came, for she knows we hate her! for she paints,’’ from one; ‘‘she steals,’’ from another; ‘‘she lies;’’ ‘‘she's dirty;’’ ‘‘she is unfaithful;’’ ‘‘she is everything mean.’’ Another one goes, and the same rending process follows, until only one is left, and this one talks to herself of the last one in her company. As each woman leaves the crowd, she visits another crowd, and tears to pieces those she has just left, and so it goes on until a woman's friendship—for a woman—is a byword and reproach; but who ever heard of one of them hanging herself, as a partial atonement for the misery and
Brethren, I like Calabazas, and all towns of its kind. I like the people. I could raise more money for charity in this town in thirty minutes, than I could in a large city in thirty days. You folks don't sneak around in doing things; yet you women go to a city, and you would meet with contemptuous looks and slurs from fashionable ladies who are hugged by dancers because they like it; but you women dance to earn a living.
Let you men visit a city, and a sorry life you would have waiting for an invitation to a social dance; but if you are willing to pay for the same, you are called low and vicious. They are not as sincere or honest as was this Judas of old. Visit their fine churches, and you will see, snugly resting in their cushioned seats, men who spent the preceding night in saloons or gambling rooms. They will pass you by, because you gamble with cards, yet those same men will gamble with stocks and in exchanges, and will lay awake all night devising some safe scheme to rob their fellow man. If you boys do play a "sure thing" game, you at least risk your lives in doing so.
Gambling is all right if you don't play a "sure thing" game on your fellow man. In olden time every doubtful question or bargain was settled by lot. (Here more applicable verses were quoted.) Why right to-day, you enter any church fair and you will see the most bare-faced gambling by wholesale, and appeals by beautiful women and girls to the gambling instinct of those who hesitate; yet these selfsame people are ever trying to jail gamblers and stop gambling, and by their laws drive them to swindling devices that could not be practiced openly. Friends, your secret games are always the worst and most dangerous ones.
Every gambler packs his Bible with him if he reads his cards correctly. Many of you have heard of the gambler that was converted and went to church. The priest, in going around, saw him kneeling with a card
Swearing, my friends, with such as you, is no sin. You do not intend it as a sacrilege, nor do you meaningly curse each other. In the Bible somebody is cursing somebody else from the beginning of it to the end. You have sworn so much that the words have come to be your natural mode of expression. In more thickly settled communities they do their cursing, lying, stealing, gambling, and drinking, in private, because they are hypocrites, or moral and physical cowards. You will find as many church members in Hell as you will people from Calabazas. My friends, Calabazas people suit me, as do the people of all such towns—save and excepting Tubac.
The hymn was sung, a prayer was said, and the preacher then went around with his hat. Between cash and faro chips—that were as good—his collection amounted to fully one hundred dollars. He then again mounted his table, thanked the audience, and dismissed them with a blessing.
In less than half an hour every saloon, gambling and hurdy tent was again in full blast, with all accessories. As the Preacher walked to the Palace Hotel, he received many hand shakes; his eloquence and knowledge of the Bible were admiringly spoken of, and he was placed on par with Beecher or Spurgeon. He was declared to be "square," "a dandy," "a bird," "a lulu," and was given every other choice title that could express their high estimate of his character and appreciation of his sermon. He was assured in most profanely positive language that, upon his return from Tombstone, if he desired to camp in Calabazas, that they would "dig up" enough to support him, and to buy him a church tent; because his religious views exactly suited them. They called him "Old Man," and were as proud to be in his company as if he had been the original Judas himself. It was noticed that the ladies danced with greater religious fervor after the sermon, and with unusual agility, as it were.
If the Rev. Jones had now eaten his supper and gone about his business, he would have been remembered as a gifted but eccentric man. He had certainly performed wonders in Calabazas. But the Rev. Jones did not go. He first ate a meal with a consuming appetite that caused Cum Sing to have spasms of horror, then he visited the various games to cash the chips that had been contributed by the different gamblers.
At midnight a most unearthly row awoke us, and we went out to see what was the matter. It was a disagreement between the Rev. Jones and a rustler over some faro chips, the Preacher claiming that the rustler tried to rob him of them. The Reverend proved to be as ardent a fighter as he was preacher, and gave his opponent a most unmerciful thrashing. I regret to say that our Preacher had an overload of Mescal and whisky aboard.
He refreshed himself quite often while despoiling the Philistines to the replenishment of the church's exchequer, therefore his inner man contained much Calabazas nectar, the only apparent effect of which was to increase the solemnity of his face, and his memory of the scriptures, of which he volubly quoted verses apposite to the various drinks and winnings. He was cashing his last contributed chip at a river-bed resort by staking it on the game, and much to the disgust of the dealer, from that small capital amassing a number of piles of white, red, and blue chips; the assorted colors representing quite a tidy sum for the church. Presently his sleepy eye detected a rustler in the not uncommon practice of stealing a few chips. If the Reverend had possessed a bowie-knife, no doubt the rustler would have paid the common penalty for such offence by losing a finger, but not having the bowie-knife, the Reverend took up his chips, and gave the rogue a straight out blow on the nose, followed by one on the ear, another on the chin, and several others that appeared to hit him all over at once. A blow on the chin knocked the rustler down; being permitted to stand up again, he invited the Reverend outside to fight it out, which invitation he regretted having extended a few minutes later. It was this row that awakened us.
The Rev. Jones left the defeated rustler, and made a tour of the hurdy-houses to bid farewell to the ladies of his Calabazas flock, which he did with parting waltzes, polkas, and schottisches, to show that he practiced what he preached. At 4 A. M. he called at the Custom House and bade us good-bye. The good man entered the corral, saddled his mule, and departed, humming the hymn known as "Jordan." His Reverence's mule had not been idle meantime; while his master was practically illustrating the lessons of the morning, the clay-bank mule had become so fascinated by the hay stack, that he had broken his halter and appeased an appetite only equalled by his owner's. After feeding to his heart's content, he had put in the remainder of the night in scraping acquaintance with the other animals in the corral. Whether they objected, or the clay-bank mule was proud, is not known; but as a fact, daylight developed that such animals as had not had some ribs staved in by the clay-bank's active heels, were limping around the corral with bruised hips, legs and shoulders.
The Rev. Jones did not go to Tombstone, but instead to Nogales, on the boundary line. As a wealthy cattle buyer, he halted at Pete's ranche for a breakfast of tortillas, frijoles, and coffee, with that hospitable pioneer, and remained long enough afterwards to have a civil game of poker with Pete—during which he taught that gentleman several tricks with cards—and continued on his way with a twenty-five dollar contribution from the old gentleman, that amount having been staked by him on sure hands.
The last heard of the Rev. Jones he was at the Mexican Custom House at Nogales, explaining in perfect Spanish that he was on the way to Hermosilla to visit the Governor of Sonora, from whom he intended getting a concession to establish a tadpole cannery at the mouth of the Colorado River, there being quite a demand for that delicacy—from the Chinese.
A few days after the Rev. Jones' departure, Calabazas was visited by a supernaturally cunning fellow, very secretive, and wearing a disguise—the infallible sign of a detective when they do not wish to be known. Simultaneously with the advent of this "ever open eye" of a detective, it was known to all that he was trailing the Preacher, who was no minister at all, nor was his name Jones; in fact, he was a murderer and robber from Texas or Kansas, and for whose apprehension a large reward was offered.
For a long time it was quite imprudent to refer to the Gospel as she was preached in Calabazas. The mention of Judas, or of the sacred character of a pack of cards, insured a serious personal difficulty with one or more of the leading citizens, many of whom, in strangely compounded sentences, volunteered their opinion that there was a "hoodoo" on Calabazas, when such men as the "Kid" or "Preacher" could come in and work them for jays and suckers. Either the altitude or the water, or the close proximity to the Greaser country had dulled their perceptions, when such "bald fakirs could fool them."
At the village of Tubac, twenty miles north, the Rev. Jones, as a wealthy mining speculator, had been caught by a sharper than he to the tune of fifty dollars and an empty purse, in a quiet monte game, which accounted for the Reverend personage's disparagement of said Tubac, its houses and its thirty of mixed population.
To Cum Sing, the Preacher's visit and appetite was an epoch. Cum Sing had predicted him a fraud when he ate five dollars' worth on a fifty cent basis. All subsequent incidents he dated as such a time after "him clazy pleacher."
No one ever saw a faro or poker chip subscribed for charity at Calabazas after this experience with the Preacher. It was considered as being a hoodoo on their games. No church was ever erected in Calabazas, nor was any other religious service for living or dead ever afterward performed in that city up to the time that its citizens moved to Nogales, where they could step over the Line into Mexico in case of urgent necessity.