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John Henry and McDougal the Bad

 Chapter 1

The turn of the summer of 1912 brought a new feeling to Lovelock, Alabama.  There was a feeling of buoyancy in the air.  People seemed a little friendlier, just that much more happy to serve one another.  It was a little easier to forgive your crusty old neighbor who made problems for you, and the offering plate was a little fuller.  The atmosphere was ripe for change. But some things are hard to change.  Now mind you, all this goodness came from the godly people of the community, not the local government.

Old Mack still sat in his rocker on the porch of his daughter’s home on Magnolia Street out on the west end of town where the roads weren't paved.  Mack’s daughter, Geraldine Longley, was a widow already in her late thirties.  Mack was in his eighties now, peaceful, wise and fatherly.  He didn’t move so well anymore but his lips never stopped moving as he sat quietly and prayed all day long, gazing out to the edge of town, out where boys liked to go so they could pass on by and get out into the woods and play to their hearts' content.

Billy and Abraham were two such boys. Brilliant bright-eyed, fun loving, rascally boys who loved to find new ways to live their youthful imaginations and try not to get into trouble doing it. Not that they loved mischief but, well, sometimes grown folks get kind of crotchety and don’t seem to appreciate the exuberance and creativeness of growing boys. Abraham and Billy had the same beautiful heart, identical: loyal and honest but fierce and determined too, loving, but admittedly a little proud at times too.  Both believed in Jesus. But on the outside they were as different as you could imagine.

Billy O’Brian was white as ghost with a double helping of freckles, pale blue eyes and hair as red as an iron pot that had sat too long on the fire.   Abraham Williams, named for the man who had emancipated his grandparents, was the blackest child of the darkest-skinned family in the county, with eyes as black as coal.  They were a match made in heaven, they were 'as thick as thieves.'  David and Jonathan and had nothing on them. Both loyal and true-hearted boys of fine God-fearing parents, they were the cream of the crop of Lovelock. It’s just too bad that too many of the white folks of Lovelock could not see past Abraham’s black skin.

Abraham and Billy had not always been friends though, in fact it started out pretty rough.  Since both of them were fearless, they were not the kind to back down from another boy. And do you remember how I said they were capable of being a little proud at times?  Well, they were both a little proud the moment they met.

Old Mack’s daughter’s house was the third to the last on Magnolia on the north side of the west bound street.  So the literal edge of town was easily visible from Mack’s spot on the porch. Mack was as loving and gentle an old man as you could imagine and his big heart burned hot with love for children.  He loved to watch the boys play on the edge of town where they could throw all the rocks they wanted and not hurt anything.  It was just such a scene that brought Mack and Billy and Abraham all together in the first place.

Chapter 2

The previous summer, when Billy’s family had moved to Lovelock, his Dad Martin “Marty” O’Brian had taken a job with the railroad.  Billy was quick to learn from the new neighbors that if he headed up 7th Ave. to Magnolia Street and then west on it several blocks he could be at the edge of town in 15 minutes and there was fun to be had with the other boys there.  Billy wasted no time.

Abraham, having grown up in Lovelock, was already well-established among the boys whose parents let their children cross the racial lines that much of Lovelock drew between black and white.  Abraham was left-handed and a dead-eye when it came to throwing rocks, baseballs, apples, or anything else you could throw.  But Billy was left handed too.  Now many do not know that left handed folks have superior eye-hand coordination but you would not have had any trouble convincing Billy or Abraham of it.  Both were supremely confident in their ability to throw a rock with great accuracy.  Which can be quite a feat when you consider that rocks have odd shapes and are thus not especially aerodynamic and predictable in how they fly through the air.

And so it began.  When Billy arrived that first day, Abraham was holding court and putting on a clinic with setting up old bottles and cans and picking them off with rocks.  So Billy figured he could do better.  And that is were the pride came in.  In a moment these two fine boys who were destined to be fast friends were pitted against one another in a duel of fierce boyish competition.

When Abraham finished his round of bottle smashing, Billy challenged him.  All the the boys watching cheered and Abraham accepted.  Another round of bottles and cans went up.  And it was on.  The duel went on for a half an hour but they stayed neck and neck.  Finally Abraham couldn't take it anymore, being challenged by this new squirt, and he challenged Billy to arm wrestling.  Billy insisted he had won the rock-throwing and said he was happy to beat Abraham at arm-wrestling too.  The excited crowd of boys cheered for arm-wrestling.

So they found a stump and locked left hands and see-sawed back and forth for five minutes until they both collapsed of exhaustion at the same time and nobody won.  It was true, they were truly equals. So then Billy said it.

“I can lick you at boxing too!”

Well, Abraham was already upset at being challenged so well and was ready to fight so he did not have to be asked twice.  So after a few minutes rest now the boxing match was on too.

Abraham put up his dukes and wasted no time taking the first swing.  Both fine athletes who had been taught to fight by their dads, the two gladiators pummeled and grappled each other in the dust for another five minutes. But now they were tired and frustrated and both still wanting to win.  Now it turned into a real fight.  Two angry boys really wanting to hurt each other.

Well, none of this had escaped Old Mack’s watchful gaze.  Mack knew boys like a drunk knows the mouth of a bottle and wasn’t going to intervene too soon. But now it was time.  He got up and went to the edge of the porch and began to call to the boys.

 “Boys!!!  Boys!!  That’s enough!! Come here, now!!,” Mack shouted as he stood at the the rail.

Old Mack was lean and fairly bony now that he was old and somewhat stooped by age now but still well over six feet tall.  Despite the lack of muscle now his very broad-shouldered frame spoke of a once extremely powerfully-built man.

The boys watching the fight heard Old Mack and pulled Abraham and Billy apart.  One told Abraham, “Old Mack is calling.”

Mack was loved and respected by the boys who came to the west end of town to play and they were not about to ignore the kindly old man who was never anything but good to them.  They all made their way along Magnolia to the steps of the porch and Abraham said, “Yessir, Mr. Mack, we are here.”

“Now now, boys, you don't want to go too far with your good fun.  We don’t want anyone to get hurt.  You understand?”

“Yessir,” they all chimed.

“That’s right, I am proud of you, you are all good boys.  Thanks for coming when I called.  Old Mack would have had a rough time chasing you all down!!”

And he lifted his head and his deep voice sang out with powerful but gentle, loving laughter.  All the boys laughed delightedly and were glad they were not in trouble. Mack dismissed all the other boys and told Billy and Abraham to sit a spell with him and and have some lemonade.

Mack schooled the boys on growing up and choosing your battles wisely and learning to tell the difference between who is a true enemy and who is a worthy opponent in honorable competition.  By the end of their time with with Old Mac that day, Billy and Abraham were laughing, enjoying each other, and praising each other for their relative prowess in all the manly arts they had competed in.

After that day Abraham Williams and Billy O’Brian were inseparable. That was the holy 'magic' of the touch of Old Mack on the life of boys in Lovelock: a quiet loving art of forgiveness, reconciliation and mutual respect. “God’s hand" Old Mack called it, and refused to take any credit from those who had watched it at work in Helena for decades now.

Chapter 3

But all that had happened at the beginning of last summer and Billy and Abraham had had 9 months to galvanize what would turn out to be a lifelong friendship. And now it was time to go through some testing.

The original Abraham had been tested for 25 years before Isaac was born.  Joseph was 20 years under Pharoah’s heel before becoming his right hand man. Moses counted sheep for 40 years on the backside of the desert before he was ready to lead the Israelites. David spent nearly two a decades waiting to become king….well, you get the idea: if our Abraham and Billy were to be come great men of God, then they would have to be tested too.

Well, Billy couldn't be the only new kid in town forever and this spring also brought the MacInerny family to Helena.  There had been 6 kids in the family and all of them meaner and more bitter than bulldog in bathtub of lemon juice, just like their old man, ‘Tub.’  Tub was 6’3”, nearly 300 pounds of gristle, with hands the size of frying pans and teeth ground half-way down to the gum.  Tub was as much a die hard racial bigot as you could imagine and hated that he didn’t have the right to shoot any black person he saw on sight.  He was a high ranking member in the Freemasons and the Ku Klux Klan and very vocal and proud of it as one who knows about Satanic cults would expect. And yes, maybe you guessed it, Robert ‘Tub’ MacInerny was also the new Sheriff of Helena.  Tub and his passel of bully deputies arrived amidst what were very well-founded rumors that he had murdered many black men he accused of being criminals but were not.

Tommy MacInerny was Tub’s middle son.  The oldest, Glenn, had been killed in a fight not two years back in their previous home of Mississippi and the youngest boy was not mentally sound.  So the role of carrying the family hatred to the next generation fell to Tommy, and he relished the role. At 13 he had been shaving for a year and was fully 6 ft tall and over 200 lbs.

When Tommy had been in town a few days he got wind of the friendly gathering of boys of both races that enjoyed each other’s company on the west end of town.  And when he did he gnashed his teeth and vowed to put and end to it.  So the next day he swaggered himself on out Magnolia to the edge of town where Billy, Abraham and the other good boys played.

When Tommy arrived he wasted no time working at cutting a racial divide.  He began to try to get the white boys to turn on the black boys.  He strutted right up and looked at all of the white boys without laying eyes on the black boys at all.

“My name is Tommy MacInerny, my dad is the new sheriff in town so you better listen to what I have got to say!!  I won’t have nigger boys playing with white boys like they are equal to us. What are you thinking you little rats!!! How can you let these dirty niggers play around good white boys like us?!! This makes me sick!  It’s a good thing MY dad is the new sheriff in town and he will see to it that all the white people know how to keep away from these dirty niggers!!  Anybody got anything to say??!!”

Old Mack had seen Tommy strut by and could smell the foulness of the spirit that traveled with him.  He watched prayerfully as Tommy began to preach his hate but could not hear what was being said.

Billy was 2 years younger than Tommy and barely half his weight on the outside, but on the inside he had a heart as big as all outdoors.  Ya, he had something to say.

“Yeah! I got something to say.  You calling my negro friends dirty doesn’t make ‘em dirty but it sure makes you dirty.  You are not welcome here.  You need to just leave and never come back!!”

“What did you say, squirt?!! Tommy bellowed.  Now that Mack heard plainly.

“You heard him,” Abraham responded with dignity and poise.

“Don’t you talk to me, boy!! Ain’t no cottonpickin’ nigger boy gonna talk to me!!”  Mack also heard this and with that Tommy lunged in the rage his old man had so well taught him.
But the boys were too quick.  Like a cat Abraham spun out of Tommy’s path and took off for the woods and Billy hot on this heals.  The other boys lit out for home.  Old Mack whispered a prayer of thanks for the answer to the previous prayer of protection for the boys who were being attacked.

Chapter 4

Needless to say the MacInerny men were not exactly the fit and trim-waisted type and so Tommy did not do too well chasing the quicker boys into the woods.  It did not take him long to weary of searching and he headed back along Magnolia toward his part of town thinking he had done something great.  Mack watched him with compassion in his heart for this boy who was already so twisted at such a young age.  He was truly the son of a sheriff.

When Tommy had been out of sight for a few minutes, Old Mack began to ring out his loud piercing whistle to the boys.

”Sweeooweet,” his whistle rang, “Come on in boys!! He’s gone!! Come on over here!!”

After a minute Abraham and Billy emerged from the woods and jogged over to Mack’s porch steps.

“Yessir, Mr. Mack?”

“Come on up boys, sit down…Geraldine, can you bring us three lemonades, honey?  Me and the boys worked up a thirst!!”   Mack beamed at the boys with love that enveloped them and made their young hearts stir with loyalty and love for the old man.  Even in the homes of their own good families they had never felt so safe.

“Who was that boy?” Old Mack asked.

“He said his name is Tommy MacInerny,” Billy replied.

“Yeah, he said he is the son of the new sheriff in town,” Abraham added. And the boys proceeded tell Mack all that had been said that he did not hear.

“Ohhhhhh,” Old Mack mused, “Okay, that explains everything,” and he gazed off over the horizon to the west and nodded a few times thoughtfully.  Mack contemplated what all this meant about Sheriff Tub, and foresaw a confrontation with him down the road.

“Boys, it is time I told you a story I know, a story I know is true.  Billy, it is a story your dad may actually know a little about since he is railroad man, the story of a great man, a man I had the great honor of meeting one time.  He was a great hero of the railroad in the old days when the railroad was being built for the first time, way back when I was a much younger man.  It’s the story of the greatest driver in the history of the railroads, Mr. John Henry himself, a black man, and the wicked man who hated him and was jealous of him and tried to break him, a very bad man named McDougal, a white man.”

“Wow, Mr. Mack,” said Billy excitedly, “that sounds great!! I will tell it to Dad when you have told us!!”

“Okay, buddy, that sounds good.   Now, when you boys get up tomorrow, get a good breakfast, do your chores and get over here by 10 o'clock and we will spend the day talking any about Mr. John Henry, the greatest man in the history of the railroad!”

“Yessir, Mr. Mack, thank you, sir, we will be here, right Billy?!,” said Abraham with a wide grin, his pearly teeth contrasting handsomely against his very dark skin.

“Yessir!!” shouted Billy and they both dove on Old Mack and the three of them dissolved into an amorphous pile of love and hugs and laughter.  For there are hardly words to describe the holy 'magic' that Old Mack had in his great heart of love, a 'magic' to melt the hearts of boys of all ages.

“Thank you Mr. Mack, thank you Mr. Mack!!”, their young hearts nearly burst with excitement, for truly, young boys love to sit with grown men and hear stories of manhood and greatness. For in his heart, every little boy knows he is born to be a warrior to grow up and fight a great fight and save the people he loves.  So of they went home more anticipatory than you can imagine.

Chapter 5

The boys were pretty early to the meeting but of course Old Mack was long since at his post on the porch praying and reading his bible as he did all day anyway.  Abraham and Billy were eager to get started but Old Mack was content to wait until 10:00 am rolled around.

“It’s good to stick to your word with appointments, boys, we’ll just wait a few minutes.”

The boys could barely sit still and needed something to do so Mack said,

“Boys, I need your help praying for someone, how about it?”

“Okay,” the boys had never been invited to pray outside of their homes before.

They pulled their chairs in close to one another and joined hands.  The boys followed Old Mack’s lead as he bowed his head.

“Heavenly Father, we thank you for another day of life. We thank you for this fine day in which to worship you and breathe your air and look at your beautiful world.  But, Lord, we understand that not everybody knows you as we do and that you want them to come to know you too.  Lord, your word says, “Bless those who curse you and pray for those who despitefully use you” so we pray for that boy who came here yesterday and tried to pick on your fine young ones here.  Father, we pray you save him from his life of sin and give him a new life in you and heal his broken heart from the pain and rejection he has suffered that has made him the way he is. In Jesus name we pray, thanking you, Lord. Amen.”

“Amen” the boys chimed in and Old Mack smiled warmly at them.

So Mack pulled his old watch out of his pocket and gave it a wind and shake and said, “Okay, it’s time.”

“Oh Boy!” exclaimed Billy, and Abraham rubbed his hands together.

Mack drew in a deep breath and held it for a moment as he gazed off into the distance for a moment and teared up a little as he gathered his thoughts about John Henry.  Anyone with sense could see that this story meant a lot to him but the boys had no idea why exactly. Then Old Mack began his story:

“Mr. John Henry was born a slave in Mississippi in the year 1843.  Some have said that he was born with a hammer in his hand but of course that is not true.  Any fool knows that hammers do not grow in the womb of a momma and John Henry was a real slave boy like very other slave boy that that time. So although he was like every other slave boy in that he needed to be fed and cleaned and sung to sleep after nursing at his momma’s breast, he was different in that he had a peace about him like hardly any other baby ever had.  He cried less than any baby the women around him had ever seen and his momma and daddy got more sleep and then any other parents of a newborn baby ever did… well, except maybe for Joseph and Mary.

Little John Henry was bright eyed and smart as all get-out and he learned to walk and talk very early.  But the greatest gift the and was not his mind, although it was sharp.  John Henry was strong, unnaturally strong for a boy his age.  By the time he was ten he could keep up with his daddy for a whole day’s work and sometimes even best him.  And that was remarkable because his daddy was a strong, hardworking man.  Young John was humble, though, he never prided himself in what he could do, he just thanked the Lord every day for his food and clothes and roof over his head the way his momma and daddy taught him to.

You know boys, I bet you, Billy, have never thought about this but, for you, Abraham, this thing is in your bones as the descendant of salves: many of the slaves were great people of faith in our Lord because they had to have the courage and humility to get up every day and bust their hump for a man who called them property and they had to do all the work and get none of the pay the way it ought to be.  Being a slave is the most thankless job one can ever imagine.  And if you complain all you get is whipped or starved or worse, so there is no sense in doing anything but just take the hardship.  Now just imagine how humble and God-fearing you have to be be to keep good attitude of thankfulness to God for your life when that is all you have.  Well, it takes great inner strength and many of the slaves had this great faith and my hat is off to them for it.

Now, like I told you, John Henry was strong as just a boy but when he began to mature toward manhood, well, he became strong as a bull and could do the work of three men.  All he needed was enough food and water to fuel him and he could go from sunup to sundown. And he loved it. He worked with a smile on his face and sang loud and lifted the spirits of all the slaves around him on the job.  When they had their meal and prayed to the good Lord to bless their food and strengthen their bodies, John Henry thanked the Lord with all his heart for he was truly grateful for life and for every day when he did not feel the whip on his back as he had seen happen to others who were not so humble.  You see, boys, John Henry was becoming a truly great man, a man of deep faith in 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I met John Henry one time and he told me his life story, that is how I know to tell it to you.  He did not tell it the way I tell it to you.  He told it utterly without any praise of himself but only with thanks and praise to God first and the people who had helped him in life.  But now I, as a much older more mature man, understand things about his life and history that he did not tell to me, so I tell it to you that way.

There is a story about John Henry that may or may not be true (and he would never have told if it was true.)  But it has something to it.  The story is that when John was a young man he was on a riverboat that lost its steam one night in a storm.  It was said that John took ahold of the the great paddle wheel that drove the boat and turned it himself and drove to boat to safety.  Well, now, I do believe that Samson could have done this by the power that God gave him to do feats of strength and I don’t know that John Henry really did this.  But I will say this, that if John Henry had been on a boat in that situation I bet he would have tried, his heart was that big.   And who is to say that God could not have given him the Spirit of Might like he did for Samson so that he could have driven that boat?  After all God can do anything, no matter how impossible it seems, and John Henry was his man, let there be no doubt.

Now mind you that John Henry was not really an especially huge strong looking man the way you might expect.  He was tall and strongly built but there are some of men who are bigger than he was.  His strength seemed to come from a heart so big it must have filled his whole chest as if there were no lungs at all behind his ribs.  Yes, there were men bigger than John Henry on the outside, but not on the inside.  And James McDougal was one of them.

Chapter 6

After the emancipation of the slaves John got a little place of his own and married Polly Ann, a girl he had known all his life.  They were the best of friends always and were a match made in heaven.  John Henry made friends with Mrs. Hathaway, a kindly old white women, a parson’s widow, who offered to teach John to read and he gladly accepted.  Once he had an adequate grip on it she gave him an old bible and he poured over it every spare moment he had, often even at meals, to Polly Ann’s occasional consternation.  John Henry loved the Lord his God like no one you have ever seen and relished being able to read the Word of God and mine its unfathomable treasures.

Polly Ann had a son, Charles, and then a daughter, Mary, a year later.  Charles had his daddy's colossal heart and strength to work so he leaned to keep the place at an early age.  When Charles was 16 he started asking John Henry questions about love and marriage and talking about a girl named Sarah he had met.  A year later, John, with a love for his children that was beyond words, decided to leave the place to Charles despite the fact he was still alive and well so that Charles and Sarah would have a better start on life than he and Poly Ann had had.  He got Mary a live-in job on a big farm where she was loved and delighted in and began to think about what to do next. To him and Polly Ann, just being free was all they needed, they were not looking to get rich.  So he thought it over and he took a job on the railroad.  That is where he met McDougal the Bad.

John’s great strength and durability soon took him to being a driver on the railroad. He could set a railroad spike in one stroke and was tireless hammering the drill in digging the tunnels through the mountains.  His warm heart made friends for him wherever he went and the bosses loved him and asked for his advice on many a matter they could not handle.  But although the war between the states was over, John was still a black man in a white man’s world so he was not in line for any great promotions as he should have been.  He just served as an unofficial second foreman and helped lead the team with precision.  And McDougal the Bad hated him for it.  John Henry was ready to serve wherever he was wanted and needed and never complained or tried to parlay his usefulness into better pay.  He still lived the life his daddy taught him: thankfulness for every breath and for work that put bread on the table.  And McDougal the Bad hated him for it.

James McDougal was the grandson of Scottish immigrants who did not reflect all of the Scottish people, not by a long shot.  The McDougals were mean and hard and hateful.  James McDougal instantly saw integrity and love in John Henry when they had met and resented it with a passion.  He would never have admitted it but McDougal was jealous of John Henry, jealous to the bone. He had not known John Henry long when he purposed in his heart to break him and make him look life a fool to the other men, many of whom generally loved John for this warmth and graciousness.  To John, strength and manhood were tools with which to serve others who had less and help them know the love that God had for them His great eternal heart.  To James McDougal, manly strength was a tool to call glory to himself and to crush the spirit of anyone who did not give him the respect he believed he deserved.

James McDougal must have had giants in his forbears as he was a huge a man as you could want to find in those days.  You know the bible tells in Genesis 6:1-4 of how the fallen sons of God married earth women and produced giants in ancient times.  I know you boys remember the story of King David killing the giant Goliath before he became king.  Well, most people do not know that those creatures, Nephilim they are properly called, lived here on our continent right up until recent centuries until the Indians killed them off.  Anyway, John Henry told me he wondered if James McDougal had some of the giant blood in him. He was not a cannibal like those giants were, and did not have 12 fingers and 12 toes like them and two rows of teeth, but he was huge and strong and mean as the day is long.   But John Henry loved him.

Yes he loved him. Not in the way we usually think of it: he was not fond of him nor did he want to be around him and be his friend.  The love John Henry had was the tireless of love of Jesus that never gave up hope that McDougal the Bad would come to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and escape the fire of hell that he was so obviously headed for.  James McDougal was fully 6’6” tall with shoulders that barely fit through a doorway.  He was so big and strong that he was almost a match for John Henry’s great joy-filled loving, heart-driven strength even though his all came from meanness.  And McDougal loved to fight and drink and carouse with whores.   After a night in town he could not sleep if he had not gotten drunk, beat up at least one man and slept with a prostitute.  And he loved his self-assigned nickname: McDougal the Bad. But John Henry loved him with the love of the Lord.

Chapter 7

McDougal the Bad had hated John Henry from the moment he saw him.  John Henry’s peaceful, smiling, not-to-mention black, face and pearly grin and gracious manner offended and terrified the demons in James McDougal beyond description. Soon after John Henry’s arrival McDougal purposed in his heart to crush John and make an example of him: there would be no love around while McDougal the Bad was there to be reckoned with, or at least so The Bad told himself.  But McDougal and his demons were no match for John Henry and most of all the aroma of Christ that followed with him.  John Henry was a man in love with his Savior and made sure everyone knew about it in the very best way.

The first day on the job withe the new crew John Henry immediately showed what he could do with a day’s work.  He did it with grace and love and humility and led the men in singing the old work songs he and his fellow slaves worked to when he was young.  Some of the men loved it.  But not James McDougal, who gnashed his teeth and swore and tried repeatedly to get them to stop.  The foreman saw how the work improved from John Henry’s influence and remained silent but The Bad definitely had something to say.

“Look what you have done, you goddam nigger!” he bellowed at John Henry.   “In one day you have turned this team of men into a bunch for squealing women.  They sound like a bunch of goddam stuck pigs!”

“Sir,” said John Henry, with respect that The Bad clearly did not deserve, “The bible says to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.  I am just sorry that we do not have your song with us to join the chorus. Thank you for your patience with us as we glorify our Maker.  God bless you!”

“Did you hear that?” remarked one man, Clem Johnson, to his partner, “ Well I never!”

John Henry’s gracious and loving response was like nothing men like this had ever seen.  And as The Bad simmered down and grumbled more quietly the men saw the truth of what Proverbs 25:15 says: “… a gentle tongue breaks a bone.”

It didn’t take but a few days of John Henry on the job before there were men wanting to ask him questions about the Almighty.  They would sneak by his tent after dark when the camp started to settle down and ask him what was in their heart.  So thus John Henry began to quietly make disciples as our Lord calls us all to do and teach them in things of God.

Chapter 8

As the weeks after John's arrival on the job went by McDougal the Bad continued to try to challenge John Henry on any number of different matters of faith.  But the Holy Spirit always gave John the right answer to silence him and turn him away graciously.  The Bad was a proud a man, as proud as you could imagine.  He was especially proud of his tremendous size and strength and hated the thought of ever being made to look bad and he had quickly seen how great was John Henry’s unnatural strength for his smaller size so he was slow to challenge John Henry to a duel of a great physical prowess despite his great jealousy toward him.  The men all wondered which of them was the stronger but they all feared The Bad so no one ever really brought it up to either them.

The foreman Jimmy Tuck had fought for the state of Ohio in the Union’s victorious effort to preserve the Union and free the slaves in the war between the states.  He was from a God-fearing family and and no trouble treating John Henry with respect.  He valued the added morale that came from having a fine godly man with leadership qualities on the team so he did not object at all when John Henry approached him and asked if he could hold nightly bible study and prayer at his tent.  Jimmy Tuck even dropped by from time to time.

Seeing one man after another begin to meet with John Henry after supper and take part in the bible study that and developed irked The Bad beyond words and finally he knew he had to try to take John Henry down in front of everyone.  So one day, as the men broke for lunch McDougal the Bad called out John Henry,

”Hey, Preacher, I bet the men would like to see you arm wrestle me.  Can you face the champion?”

John Henry loved James McDougal with the love of the Lord and had compassion on him as a very lost soul so he had no desire to strip The Bad of his title as champion although he was confident that he could do it:

“No, sir, I don’t reckon we need to do that, my friend.  I’d sooner shake your hand than wrestle with you. God made us to be brothers, not opponents. God bless you though!”
But the men loved the idea.  The good ones, because they wanted to see The Bad get bested for once and the not-so-good ones because they wanted to see any kind of a match and make a bet.  So the crowd cheered for a match and John Henry, being a good sport and happy to give the men a harmless good time finally accepted.

So John Henry and McDougal the Bad each knelt on either side of a big box and locked wrists.   Jimmy Tuck, the natural referee released their hands and called out “GO!!” and it was on.  John Henry with his superior and supernatural God-given strength and James McDougal with his unbelievable natural strength from his sheer overwhelming size and bulk, and demonic meanness.

The Bad growled and grimaced and John Henry smiled and chuckled as they see-sawed back and forth, neither really gaining the edge for awhile.  But then John Henry began to pour on the coals and he brought Brutal MacDougal’s wrist well over and held him there.  McDougal, fearing defeat dug down deep and tried to fight back but John Henry held him down and The Bad could not regain the ground he had lost.  But John Henry was a tender-hearted man and not proud and in need of a title in the camp, his eyes were set on eternal rewards and the approval of God rather  than  men.  He was much more concerned with the question of where  James McDougal would spend his eternity  than with something as trivial as a wrist-wrestling match.

So John Henry held the Bad half-way down for about a minute  and gave him several little pulls that communicated clearly that he could take him down at any moment.  And then…he did something incredible.  Just as McDougal was really getting it that he was bested, John Henry looked him in the eye and winked lovingly and let go.  Weakened as he was under John Henry’s superior might James McDougal had more than enough strength left once John Henry relaxed his pull. McDougal the Bad whipped John Henry’s wrist over and slammed it down on the box with a resounding thud.  The crowd, thinking that John Henry had it won, let out a gasp that became a cheer by those who were pulling for James McDougal.

The Bad let out a war cry and lept up from the box triumphantly exclaiming his prowess. “Still undefeated, champion forever!! Brutal McDougal the Bad!!”

John Henry threw his head back in a peal of good-natured laughter and saluted McDougal and said, “Well done sir, you are surely the champion!”

But James McDougal knew what and happened. He knew he was beaten and that John Henry had given it to him for free. But why? He bellowed and boasted for days but down deep inside it irked him and filled him with questions.  He mulled it over all through the day and contemplated going to John Henry privately and thanking him for letting him save face.  He mulled it and mulled it, but in the end his pride won out and he hardened his heart and recommitted himself to bringing John Henry down.

Chapter 9

Now, McDougal the Bad had a weapon to work with, in his mind at least: he had defeated John Henry in a feat of manly strength and he was therefore the better man.  So now he began to try to waylay John Henry with abusive words reminding him of his ’inferiority.’  He began to coolly and calmly launch berating comments John’s way consistently and throughout the day.  He had it in is his heart to wear him down and make him look bad in the eyes of the men.

But although the huge McDougal on the outside was a mountain of a man, John Henry was one on the inside, full of the love of God and secure in his identity as a son of God who looked only to heaven for his sense of self-worth.  This made him as easy to shame as a greased rope is to climb with one hand.  Brutal McDougal found his words consistently falling to the ground as John Henry responded in love.

”Ha ha ha, Preacher man, where was your God when I whipped you at arm-wrestling?  Eh boy?!! "  "Mr. McDougal,” John would respond in characteristic humility and grace, “My God is one of such great honor and glory that he made you to be a man of such formidable and indomitable masculine strength.  How can I not be in awe of him that he can create so powerful a man as you?  I praise him for it!”

These comments, so full of love and honor for not only God but for McDougal himself, consistently left The Bad with much to chew on as he tried to bend his sin-locked mind around these responses that he could not relate to.  This was especially the case considering that they honored his physical prowess when he well knew that John Henry knew he could have beaten him if he wanted. This way of John Henry’s to consistently respond in love and honor to his attempts to berate him landed in a deep and previously unreachable place in the heart of The Bad and gave him new thoughts which he had never contemplated before in his entire life:

Could it be that he could really be loved in life and not always have to fight to be on top of others so that he would not get eaten up himself?  Was not the way of life to ‘kill of be killed?'  What does John Henry have that he can respond this way without being ashamed?

So it didn’t take but a couple of weeks of John Henry’s generous responses to McDougal’s abuse before the huge Bad came to see that his plan to bring him down with the victory at wrist-wrestling was clearly ill-fated.

Chapter 10

John Henry was so full of love for the men he worked with.  He was not an old man but he had the wisdom and gentleness of an old loving grandfather in him.  The life of Christ was so real in him and it drew anyone who really was ready to be loved.  This maddened MacDougal the Bad no end. It is so sad and awful to see how sin can twist a man and tempt him to hate the very thing that he really does want down deep on the inside, at least a little.  Even a brute like James McDougal had a place in him where he wanted to be loved.  And one time it poked its head out.

McDougal The Bad came down sick one time, real sick.  He was feverish and delirious and incontinent.  He needed a nurse maid like nobody’s business.  But unfortunately his sickness fell at time when the crew was too far out to just send him to the nearest town and get him tended to. So, John Henry stepped in and saw to his needs.  He fed him broth and water by the spoon and mopped his brow and cleaned him up, slept by him by night, and laid hands on him and prayed for his healing many times every day. The big brute never knew he was there because he was too delirious to know what was going on.

But John Henry saw what was in the deepest part of the inside of The Bad in a way that couldn’t have happened any other way.  Often when Brutal McDougal was having his fits he would talk, and sometimes cry:

“Don’t hurt me, Daddy,” he would whimper, “please don’t be mad.  Please don’t beat Momma no more, Daddy, she didn’t do nothin’.  It was my fault and I’m sorry, but please don’t whip me no more.  Oh, Daddy, can’t you just love us, what did we do that you hate us so?”

John Henry listened with the heart of the Savior and wept for the big man at his bedside.  This brute of a man was nothing but a hurt scared little boy inside that didn’t know where to run for help.  John Henry had asked the Lord for the chance to know what was deep down in the heart of James McDougal and now he purposed to be used of God to bring healing to this broken heart.

“Oh, Father, you have been so good to me,” John prayed, “You gave me parents who loved me.   We was poor but we knew you and we had peace because of it. This poor soul didn’t ever have any love when he was a boy.  Just beatings from his Daddy.  Now his soul is captive to the pain and he don’t know how to get out.  Why he is more of a slave than I was.  Have mercy on him Lord, heal his broken heart, show him the way of righteousness and give him hope and the love he has been so starved for all his life.”

John Henry had loved McDougal as a lost soul up until then.  But after this his desire to see The Bad come to know the Savior grew into a mountain.  He began to pray for James McDougal all through the day and ask the others who were learning God’s ways to pray for him too.

“He needs our love, brothers, he is a lost soul in such pain inside.  He needs the hand of the Master to touch his aching heart and bring him life love and peace,”  John said to the men in the prayer group.

And so in heaven the prayer bowls over the life of James McDougal, ‘The Bad’, began to be filled more rapidly.

You know, boys I do not know for sure if there were others who prayed for The Bad in this world but it would not surprise me.  I have learned in my life with God that he can speak to someone on the other side of the world and tell them to pray for someone they will never know in this life.  Now isn’t that beautiful!!?  That’s our Lord boys, that’s our King!!  If I was as betting man I would wager that God had his praying saints pray for McDougal the Bad from the four corners of the earth.   At least I know John Henry prayed and asked God to have them do it, so I reckon it probably happened.”

Chapter 11

Old Mack knew and loved young boys as deeply as you can imagine and he well knew it was time for lunch.  He put down his bible and leaned forward on his cane and arose from his rocker and said heartily:

“Come on boys, let’s eat!”

Well, it was a welcome break in the action for the boys and Billy and Abraham leapt up from their chairs and followed Mack into the house.

“Geraldine, sweetheart, could I trouble you for some sandwiches for me and the boys?” asked Mack kindly.

“Sure, Daddy,“ replied Geraldine and quickly set about the tasking of serving the men.  Geraldine was a widow and very much appreciated having masculine energy around and was a happily feminine, wifely and motherly type character.  It wasn't five minutes before she had a whole platter stacked high with ham and cheese sandwich halves, sliced from corner to corner.

“Here you go, boys,“ she said fondly as she smiled at the boys and put the big platter down in the middle of the table where everyone could reach it.

“Thank you, sweetheart, “ Mack beamed at his only daughter and folded his hands to pray.

“Abba, Father, we thank you for this wonderful food and we pray blessing on our Geraldine who prepared it.   Thank you that we have this time together today and we invite your presence with us as we eat and continue on with our stories when we are done, we pray you take great pleasure in it.  We pray you come to his little town of Helena and do a mighty work of your Spirit to soften and heal the hearts of those who do not know you and bring your Kingdom to rule here forever.  Amen…okay boys, dig in!!”

Abraham and Billy did not need to be asked twice and they happily reached for ham and cheeses sandwich halves and relished them like just about all growing boys do, especially when it came in concert with such a fine time of story telling about heroes of the faith.

After twenty minutes of mastications and lip-smacking and compliments to the chef, the men were all satisfied and ready for lemonade and more stories.  Before they even got up from the table Geraldine had the little coffee table on the porch laid with three full glasses of lemonade, a full pitcher of lemonade for refills, sliced apples and cheese and a big bowl of fresh strawberries from her own garden in the back yard.

“There you go boys, that should keep you going while Daddy wears you out with his stories!!” she laughed as the men came out the door.

“Don’t make me start paddling you again after all these years, young lady!! “ Mack fired back with delight in his eyes.  Everybody laughed heartily and Geraldine gave her beloved Daddy a big hug and a kiss on the cheek and said, “ I love you Daddy.”

“Still the apple of my eye, darlin’,” resounded the old man with love in his voice so thick you could have paved a road with it.

And with that Old Mack resumed his place in his rocker and slapped his hands together and rubbed them quickly and said, “Now, let me tell you some more about the greatest man I ever met, Mr. John Henry, the greatest hero of the building of the railroad, and more than that a man who lived the life of Christ.”

Chapter 12

“Now where was I?…ah yes,

So when McDougal the Bad finally broke out of his fever and came back to himself, John Henry had been tending him for four days.   The big brute did not remember any of his deliriums of course so he had no idea that the deepest wounds in his hard heart had been laid bare before John Henry. And it was a good thing for him that John Henry was the only one who had heard it because the unkind among the men would have used it to rip James McDougal apart inside, well, if it weren't for their abject fear of his brute strength and meanness, that is.   But John Henry could see that that was the last thing he needed.  No, this poor soul really needed the love of the Lord.

“Get away from me, nigger,” the mean man said when he opened his eyes and beheld the black man standing over him.  To which John Henry laughed with great joy.

“Oh praise God Mr. McDougal, I can see you have come back to yourself, and what a joy it is for me to see it.  Yes, surely the Father has answered our prayers for you and brought you through this illness. You are going to be fine.”

So John left the tent and allowed the other men to see to James McDougal from then on out.

McDougal had been none too pleased at first to hear how sick he and been and how it was John Henry who had tended to him:

“I don’t like the thought of that nigger’s goddam cotton-pickin’ hands all over me,“ he cursed.

But deep inside something stirred within him and he knew he really owed John Henry a debt of gratitude for taking such good care of him as he had when he was so helpless, especially when he and been nothing but mean to the black man. Believe it or not, the more he thought about out it, the big brute actually allowed himself to feel a little gratitude.

It wasn’t long before McDougal was strong again and back to work and cutting a mean wake on the job that could only be matched by the peaceful black man from Mississippi.   The Bad could not seem to shake the image of John Henry’s warm, smiling face that had greeted him when he first came to himself after being so sick.  And something kept telling him that he needed to thank him for his help, seeing it just would not leave him.

So one day, when John Henry was around a corner of the nose of the steam engine where no one could see him, James McDougal stole around to his side and said, “ Ya, Preacher, I hear you took good care of me when I was sick…well, I, I thank you for it, it was mighty white of you, I reckon.”

Well now that did it. John Henry doubled over in laughter like a man who had been kicked in the gut. He clutched his belly and slapped his knee and howled with delight.  I wonder if anything and ever struck him so funny as this big, mean, bigoted white man thinking it was a compliment to say he did something like what a white man would.  He laughed so hard he almost fell over and had to take ahold of the engine just to keep on his feet.  It was mirth that was in him, that heavenly hysteria of laughter.

McDougal the Bad was so caught off guard that he remained in stunned silence for several seconds but then the holy contagion of mirth jumped off onto him and he began to laugh too, he couldn’t help it.  The life and joy and mirth that poured out of John Henry was absolutely irresistible.  When John Henry was finally able to stand up he stepped forward and slapped McDougal the Bad on the shoulder and held out his hand to be shaken. Bad McDougal was so caught up in the mirth that he did not hesitate and he shook the black man’s hand like he was a welcome friend.

Finally, the laughter began to subside and the big brute remembered that he was onry and bigoted and he sobered up and walked away, totally unable to understand how John Henry had just gotten him to shake his hand like a friend.  When McDougal went back around the nose of of the steam engine and out of  sight, John Henry dropped to his knees and gave thanks to the Almighty:
“You are reaching him Lord, you are reaching him. Oh, how great are your ways, mighty King!!”

Chapter 13

Now as I have told you boys, McDougal the Bad loved to drink and fight and carouse with baudy women.  So whenever the crew was near a town and had an evening to go into town and drink and carouse, well he led the charge. No one ever was a match for him in a fight so far so he usually came home to the camp unscathed and just had to sleep it off.  But one time he bit off more than he could chew.

The crew was close to this town and it came Saturday night so Bad McDougal went into town for his indulgence of the flesh. Now he loved to prove he was the best fighter when he fought so he did not pick on the little men, although he was a bully, but he always tried to start fights with the man who was closest to his size that he could find. And Curly Jones was a big man, not as big as McDougal but a very big strong man.

To look at him at the bar Curly Jones looked like any other town citizen to McDougal the Bad, only bigger than the rest.  But Curly was not just any citizen, he was the sheriff’s kid bother. That would be the same kid bother that Momma Jones told Clarence Jones the sheriff to look out for on her death bed, and Clarence had loved his Momma. This time McDougal the Bad had picked the wrong man to fight.

Well, James McDougal was as adept at fighting as he was big and strong so he made quick work of Curly Jones, despite how big Curly was.  After a couple of swings The Bad got in close enough to land a thunderous right square in Curly’s solar plexus and everybody in the room heard Curly’s wind come out.  After that he was naturally doubled over and sucking wind and the next swing, a left uppercut from the huge McDougal caught Curly square under the chin and lifted him right up off his feet.  Then two left jabs and a right cross sent Curly backpedaling across the room. Once Bad McDougal had him against the wall he pummeled him in the body and face until the younger Jones brother fell like a limp noodle.  The Bad was in a relatively good mood so he did not kick him in the guts when he was down as he was known to do many other times before.

The Bad then sauntered over to the bar and ordered another drink to toast himself still undefeated.  But someone had already run to the jailhouse to tell Sheriff Clarence Jones that Curly was getting the tar whipped out of him by the biggest man the town had ever seen.  Clarence and his two deputies took off for the saloon with their shotguns in hand as soon as they had the word.

Well, when the sheriff and his men  stole up behind James McDougal and stuck their cold gun barrels in his back, cheek and neck, he knew he could not fight his way out of it.  So he lifted his hands and turned around, very slowly.  When his eyes rested on the tin star on Clarence Jones’ chest, the cursing that spewed out of his mouth was positively unspeakable and should not be repeated.  They escorted him to the jail and cracked him over the head with the gun barrels once each before showing him to his room for the night.  And Clem headed for camp to tell Jimmy Tuck the foreman and John Henry how it all went down.

Yessir, boys, McDougal the Bad reaped what he and been sowing that night.  Between the buckets water and the vile curses from Clarence Jones and his deputies, a lot more cracks on the head with the shot gun barrels, and a few dozen kicks in the guts and ribs, Bad McDougal was finally bested.  He collapsed on the jail cot and moaned for an hour before finally falling asleep. It was a shallow fitful, fearful sleep, full of bad dreams about the fists of Poppa McDougal.

Chapter 14

Come morning there was another bucket of water for The Bad and no breakfast or coffee, only curses and taunts over the fact that Clarence Jones was on good terms with the judge and figured he would get away with keeping  Brutal McDougal as long as he wanted treating him bad as he wanted short of killing him.  For the first time since he had run away from home as a boy, James McDougal was scared, really scared.

Being on the receiving end of the violence as a grown man was totally new to him and all he knew to do was to assume that these men were as mean and hateful as he was and that could mean nothing but bad for him. Now that he was sober he got real quiet real quick and tried to think what he the need to do to try to smooth it over.  He had picked up from the taunts and jeers that the man he had beaten the night before was the sheriff’s little brother and he was mad at himself for being so careless. And did I mention scared? Oh, yes Brutal McDougal was plenty scared.

Meanwhile back at the camp John Henry arose from a short night's sleep as he had stayed up late to pray and listen to God about what to do about James McDougal.  He was broken hearted that The Bad had done such a foolish thing just when he seemed to be beginning to soften his heart a little.  But John Henry was committed to loving the big white man into God’s Kingdom and he sought the Lord for direction. Come morning he knew what to do.

Now John Henry sent most of his money home to Polly Ann and did not have any expenses really.  He never went into the towns they happened near and of course did not buy liquor or any other such meaningless thing.  But he always kept a bit of cash around for himself in case of an emergency or a good opportunity, and now he figured he had a real emergency.  As far as John Henry was concerned, the men he worked with, especially McDougal the Bad were his to be an unofficial pastor to and he was responsible for their souls.  So John Henry took his fifty dollars and went into town.

Clarence Jones and his deputies were nearly as bigoted as James McDougal had once been and were not inclined to talk with John Henry until he mentioned money.  But after listening to the black man offer them fifty dollars to get The Bad released they relented and handed him over to John. Brutal James McDougal was never so happy to see a black man in all of his days, he had breathed a massive sigh of relief when John Henry came into view.  McDougal was so beat up he could barely stand and John Henry had to help him into the wagon Jimmy Tuck had allowed him to take to town to fetch The Bad.

Although not really far, it was a long ride home for The Bad and he moaned with every bump in the road.  He was surprised that as they rode along he found that John Henry’s singing and whistling actually soothed and pleased him rather than irking him as they used to.   Eventually they reached the camp and once again James McDougal was in need of care.  He was clearly unwanted in town so again he would need to be tended in the camp.  After a good butt chewing from the Jimmy Tuck for making himself unfit to work, McDougal, beaten, somewhat cowed and very humbled, sheepishly asked John Henry if he would tend to him again.

“Mr. McDougal,” John Henry replied warmly,  “Almighty God constrains me to show you the love of Jesus the Savior in every way I can.  I would consider it a privilege to help you mend from your misfortune, sir.”

James McDougal was, after his stressful, frightening night in the jail, so relieved to be back in camp and again under the caring hand of John Henry that he actually began to relax his heavy soul and breathe in gratitude and joy.  When John Henry ducked out to the tent to go fetch him some bandages, he rolled over in his bunk and began to cry some soft and quiet tears of relief.

“God sure loves you Mr. McDougal,” said John Henry as he came back into the the tent.

“Thank you, John,” was the answer.  It was the first time McDougal had ever uttered the black man’s name.

And as John Henry sat with James McDougal and cleaned his cuts on his head and bound up his sore ribs, he told him all about how he had heard the big man cry in the night when he was sick. He told him how he knew that James and had a painful, difficult childhood, that his Daddy was mean to him something awful and how he couldn’t imagine how much it must have hurt to be treated that way by his Daddy when all he wanted with his love.

As John Henry spoke, the big man, James McDougal was again reduced to a little boy in pain, only this time he was safe.  As the pain of his childhood came up into his throat and he cried, John Henry told him of the love of God the Father, the perfect father who had ever always loved him and wanted him as his son.  He told him that he had sent his own son Jesus to die and make it possible for James to know the Father and his very great love. He told him that all he needed to do to know that love was to believe it and accept what Jesus did for him and sincerely tell him he wanted to be his son and that he was welcome to come into his life and take it over and do with it as he liked.

As John tended to the wounds James pondered what he had said.  But the big man just could not bring himself to make that step. Something told him he should and part of him wanted to but then another part of him just didn’t want to give up the reins of his own life. He dropped his head and stared at the ground for a minute and then said:

“You know John, I think I know what you say is true. It’s right and I need to do it but I just can’t do it yet, I don’t know why, I just can’t let go.”

John Henry became very sober and quiet, like James had never seen him before.  He looked deeply into the white man’s eyes and said these words:

“Mr. McDougal, it is your choice to accept the love of God or not to accept it. But there is something you need to know. You are not promised tomorrow. No man knows the day or hour of his death, it can come like a thief in the night. You can be walking along fine and drop dead or there can be an accident on the job or any number of things can happen. But the bible says that “as a tree falls, so it lies.” The moment you breathe your last you have run out of time to receive the  salvation that the Lord Jesus purchased for you on the cross.  And if you die without Jesus you will go into eternal damnation in hell.  Hell is a burning lake of lake with unspeakable torment day and night. If you go to hell you will be burning at 1000 degrees and a million million years from now it will only have just begun because it is never ever going to end. So you need to think long and hard about whether you want to pass up a chance to receive eternal life, Mr. McDougal, because this is not a game, sir, and you don’t know when you time will be up.  You understand me?”

James gulped hard and stared blankly at John Henry’s handsome black face and had no idea what to say.

And with that John Henry stopped from his singing and whistling and remained quiet while he had finished bandaging McDougal and then he got up and walked out of the tent without a word.      It was a long night for McDougal the Bad.


When James McDougal awoke the next day, his life was much changed.  Something had opened within him and he was beginning to become a more humble man. He had not received the fullness of the love of the Lord Jesus and the Heavenly Father yet but he was somewhat broken of his hard heart and brutality and bigotry.  The love he had experienced in the presence of the Lord as vesseled through the man of God John Henry had touched him and helped him begin to drop his armor that he had protected his wounds with all his life. He began to open to life and he had a lot of gratitude for John Henry for once again saving his bacon. Incredibly, he began to see John Henry as a friend.

It took about a week for James McDougal to be up and around and able to move decently and John Henry tended him all he needed and continued to encourage him that God the Father loved him and wanted him as a son.  Those words meant so much to the heart broken little boy in the big white man and they stuck to his ribs better than had Clarence Jones' boots.  John Henry did not keep returning to the part about hellfire but McDougal surely did not forget it.  He knew he needed to make that next step and invite God to take over his life, lock, stock and barrel.  He understood finally that it was just such a commitment that made John Henry such an indescribably strong and respectable man, the kind of man he never thought he could ever be, but now wondered if he could.

Now in the old days when men like McDougal first came to work on the railroad, they did not have big machines to drill through the rocks when they needed to make tunnel through a mountain, like they do now.  They used good old hand held drill rods and sledge hammers.  One man would hold the rod up to the rock and the other man would drive it with the sledge hammer.  Well, you can imagine that the strong men like John Henry and James McDougal were the ones who drove the rod with the sledge.  Both these mighty men were very adept at it and as you can imagine they had and races to see who could drill the fastest and the farthest.  In the past The Bad had always tried to use this as a way to best John Henry but he never did beat him. John Henry was an incomparable driver with the sledge, there never was another like him before for since. He wielded a twelve pound sledge like it was part of his arm and hand.

But times were changing now and there were steam machines being built that could outwork men and horses, or so was the idea, and so the  railroad company had bought a steam drill to speed up the work when the next mountain came long.  And now the next mountain was here.

Chapter 16

Now many tell the story of John Henry but they don’t get it all right.  But like I told you, I heard it straight from the mouth of the great man himself, so I promise you this is the straight skinny on how it went down.  Racing the steam drill was not John Henry’s idea as most tell it, as if he were  a proud man with something to prove.  No, he didn’t think that way. If it had been up to him he would have been happy to let the steam drill make the work easier for the crew.  The pride and competition came from the boss and the men.

It was foggy the day the steam drill arrived so it looked extra strange to the men, kinda like a small train locomotive engine that had half-melted down and then had a huge spike welded to its nose.  They really didn’t know what to think as they peered up at it on the open traincar through the fog.  McDougal was standing next to John Henry as they looked at it and said,

“I wonder what it can do.”

“It can whip you McDougal,” said Jimmy Tuck and chuckled.

“Yeah, well I’m all beat up so it better be able to right now,” McDougal shot back.  “But I bet it can’t whip John Henry!” the big man followed.

Now one could believe their ears.  Brutal McDougal had just  complimented John Henry! Was the sky falling?!! There was an awkward silence as men who had lived in fear of McDougal, some of them for years, did not have the slightest idea how to handle this totally uncharacteristic  behavior.  It was too unbelievable. But reality prevailed.

“Well I never!!”  exclaimed Clem and with that the whole bunch of them burst out laughing a hearty good-natured belly laugh.

John Henry smiled at James McDougal and said, “God is working on you, sir, he has marked you for salvation and to know him throughout eternity in glory.  God bless you, my friend.”

“Thank you,” replied McDougal quietly. His admiration of the black man was genuine but it was was still too awkward for him to see himself changing this way so he walked back to his tent to be alone for minute.

“Say, what about it, John?" Said Clem after a minute. “How about a race with the machine?”

“No, no,” replied John calmly, “there is not need for that.”

“Now wait a minute John,” said Jimmy Tuck, ”That is a damn fine idea!  Let’s have us a race and show the company that their fancy new machine ain't a match for the old time-tested ways of how we do it!”

“Well okay, sir, if you say so,“ John relented, for he was a humble man and did not argue with his superiors on the job, “I reckon I can give the new machine a good race, I will do my best, sir.   Come to think of it I think it should be fun.  The boys will get a good time out of it and there ain't no harm done, I’m in.”  You see, John Henry only ever thought of the needs of others, never of himself.

Well, the men were filled with excitement and began taking bets on the big ugly iron contraption versus the fine handsome, well-built and peaceful man of God, Mr. John Henry.  It all seemed be so fun and innocent, how could they have known the tragedy it would bring."

Old Mack, stopped suddenly and stared again out over the horizon as the sun was still half way up in the sky and slowly heading for its bed.  He again got a little choked up and teared up a little.  The boys looked at each other but didn’t say a word. It wasn’t what you would call unsettling but it was just kind of puzzling how this man who was so full of love and life and joy could suddenly stop and get distant and cry a little for no apparent reason.

Finally after a few moments Mack turned back to the boys and said,

“Oh God has been to me boys, he’s so good, he loves us more than you can possibly imagine.”

And with that the old man’s eyes lit back up and he returned to the story he obviously so loved to tell.

Chapter 17

“It took about a week for the crew to learn who to use the steam drill.  The fellow the company sent along with it to show them how to run it was only able to stay one day and that was not enough.  So he wrote up some instructions and left them with the machine.  Jimmy Tuck cussed at the instructions many times before they able to really figure it out.  If it hadn’t been for John Henry’s voice of patience and humor about the whole debacle they might have loaded the dern thing’s belly with dynamite and blown it to Kingdom come.  But in the end they were able to get the hang of it.  Charlie Baker, one of the men from the prayer and bible study seemed to take best to the function of the confounded machine and so Jimmy Tuck assigned him the job of running it.

It seemed like a powerful machine and the men who were betting on John Henry seemed a little nervous.  But their love of him was so great that they did not waver in their choice of him to win the contest.  Jimmy Tuck allowed John Henry to rest the day before the race  and he took him up on it.  There was a lot of anticipation in the camp over the whole thing.  This was the biggest kind of competition they had ever had in their midst.  It was better than the day John Henry purposely let McDougal the Bad beat him in wrist-wrestling or any of the other things they had found to bet on.

And the men continued to be amazed and pleasantly surprised by James McDougal’s support of John Henry, saying that no dumb machine could whip a fine man like him, not in a thousand years.

“Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if this damn thing doesn’t go and piss on itself when John Henry steps up and picks up that sledge!” hollered McDougal at the top of his mighty lungs and he bellowed a laugh with joy in it like the men had never heard him laugh over something that was not cruel or lewd.

As he hollered and laughed he clutched his side as his ribs were not ready for that kind of exercise yet.  But it felt good on the inside and he made note of how good it felt to make a joke that praised a man instead of putting him down.  The race was looking to be quite a show.

As John Henry, bedded to sleep the night before the race, he got down on his knees next to the cot as he did every night to pray.  He told the Father what he thought about the whole thing.

“Abba, Father, you know me.  If it had been up to me, I wouldn’t have cared about the race with the steam drill.  But these men really want it so I am happy to give it to them.  I just ask that you make it into something beautiful that shows your glory and how great you are.   You said in Genesis that we are “made in your image,” and you said in Psalm 139 that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  You are the one who gave me this great strength to work with my hands so I give it back to you.  I figure Mr. McDougal is right, that no machine should be able to be beat  man who is fueled by your awesome supernatural power.  So I surrender my body to you as a living sacrifice to be a vessel of your glory in this contest. I pray you give me supernatural strength an endurance to beat the machine and give you the glory for it.  Father, you have given me your love for these men around me on this job. I would give my life for them.  So whatever happens tomorrow, let it be for your glory and to reach the hearts of the men who do not yet know you, especially Mr. McDougal who has been carrying such pain inside all his life and starving for love, needing to feel your matchless beautiful touch and be set free. I am your servant, Lord, use me as you will.”  And with the great man with a heart like a mountain got up off his knees and crawled into bed and slept as peacefully as you can imagine.

Chapter 18

It was foggy again the morning of the race, a cool day in November.  But of course the race was happening in the tunnel under the mountain where the fog was not really a factor.  John Henry was grateful that they were doing this at this time of year rather than in the heat of summer.  He could of course work well in the heat but when it came to a all out performance like this, the cool weather was much preferable.

John Henry started the day with prayer as always and then had breakfast around the fire with the men.  They were excited and mostly full of encouragement for him.  Even the not-so-good men of the crew who used to snicker at Bad McDougal’s jibes were now more respectful of John Henry now that the big white man honored him so much lately.  The ones who had bet on the steam drill were not disrespectful towards John Henry despite hoping that he would lose.

John Henry was in a strange mood from what the men could see. He was very sober, almost somber, and very quiet.  Not that he was ever so loud but usually he was very open to engaging the others in conversation and showing them the Lord’s love and interested in their thoughts and dreams of the night and other such things.  But today he stared at the fire a lot and was a lot more distant.  And he kept muttering something under his breath that the others could not understand. Finally James McDougal came over and asked. “John, what is it you keep saying to yourself, this morning?”

John Henry looked up with a gentle smile and surveyed the inquisitive faces all around him.

“Oh nothing Mr. McDougal,“Just meditating on some scripture the Father gave me this morning: “John 15:13: No greater love has any man than this, that a man should lay down his life for this friend.”

He got up and threw the rest of his coffee on the fire and went back to his tent for a few more minutes’ rest and reflection before the big event.

The men did not know what to think. They had never seen him like this. They had heard him quote lots of scriptures but never that one.  And there was something in the way he said it that they did not understand.  They had sensed a kind of a resolute spirit in the great man today and it was almost a little frightening.

“I ain’t never seen ‘im like that,” observed Clem Johnson.

“Yeah, he seems to be taking all this very seriously,” agreed Jimmy Tuck.

“I don’t know what to think,” added McDougal, and they all stared after John Henry for a minute before they broke the circle.

After a little while Jimmy Tuck had the cook ring the triangle and he called out, ”Okay! Let’s get his thing started!”

A shout went up from the camp as the men expressed their anticipation of a great show.  John Henry emerged from the tent drinking from the big jug of water the had been sucking on all morning to water up for the big challenge.  Charlie Baker climbed into the stoked up steam drill and headed it down the track towards the tunnel under the mountain.  The other men gathered up whatever was needed and followed along.  John Henry came up last and remained quiet.

When everything was in place and Clem Johnson had been chosen to hold John Henry’s drilling rods for the driving, having worked with John Henry many times before, there was excitement in the air.  John Henry turned to Jimmy Tuck and said:

“Mr. Tuck, I‘d like your permission to pray over this contest and ask God’s blessing on us today as we enjoy his race.”

“Of course, John,” was the reply.

In the cool of the tunnel, in the lamplight, John Henry got down on this knees on the rocky ground and bowed his head.

“Heavenly Father, we thank you for this day and the joy of having this race.  We pray you protect all of us and bless this time that we dedicate to you.  And most of all, Father, from the bottom of my heart, I pray you show your glory in this event and make it something by which we all will remember how we saw how great you are and how incomparable is your great supernatural power.  And let your love, peace and joy abide with us as we leave from here and go on our way.  No matter what happens.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.”

Chapter 19

The rules were these:  there was a pile of coal and some big drums of water and buckets for hauling it for the steam drill. Charlie Baker was to keep the stream drill going with only the help of one man when he needed it. John Henry and Clem Johnson were the two man team on the human side of the contest.  Charlie chose his friend Jeremiah Perkins to help him. On the man side John Henry had a bundle of hammers to use up if the handles should break and there was a good stack of drilling rods for Clem to use as they bent or dulled too bad and so on. Each side could take as much time as they wanted to rest, eat or drink or relieve themselves and the rest of the crew would take turns hauling away the loose rock and dirt. The only thing that mattered was who and drilled the farthest a the end of eight hours of work.

Jimmy made Charlie Baker and John Henry stand back to back like it was a duel.  When he gave the signal they were to to go to their respective equipment and begin to drill. John Henry was still a little sober and not his usual happy self but he looked serious and ready and Charlie was his usual relatively expressionless self.

“GO!” hollered Jimmy Tuck and they both moved to begin.  Clem picked up the first drilling rod and John Henry pointed to the spot to place it.  Then John Henry did the most incredible thing.  He looked Clem dead in the eye and with great intensity said,

“Brother, we are going to need to keep water on the rods, the are going to get hot.”

Clem looked at him quizzically for a moment until John Henry reached to do the impossible. He picked up two hammers, one in each hand and looked at Clem and nodded. Clem’s eyes bulged as he got the message.

The men looked on in stunned silence as the great man found the right spot on the handle to held the hammer, about ten inches up for the base of the handle. It was unthinkable: First of all it was surely impossible for any man to have the coordination and land the hammer heads swung from two single hands on the head of the rod.  Second, if it could be done the surely it couldn’t be done with any real prolonged consistency.  And third, even if that could be done there was absolutely no way a man could do it for a whole day.  But all could see by the look on this face hat John Henry was going to try.

It took a good ten seconds for reality to settle in but when Clem placed the first rod and chunk, chunk, chunk went the hammers on the rod heads the men were able to believe their eyes and they let out a shout that could have brought down the mountain.  The thrill in their hearts to see John Henry begin delivering double precision blows on the drilling rod head with steady thunderous power was far and the most unimaginable be feat of strength any of them could ever possibly dream of.

James McDougal grabbed his side to protect himself from the pain of movement but he could not stop himself from jumping up and down and dancing a little jig of delight.

“I told you John Henry could do it!! He is gonna whoop that steal on down and beat that steam drill right off the job!! Didn’t I tell ya! Whoooee!”

And as the other men cheered and threw their hats in the air James Not So Bad McDougal lowered his great bulk onto one knee to watch and grinned from ear to ear.  He could only think to himself how obvious it was that John Henry had only ever gone ever so easy on him in every contest he had tried to make against this mighty dark man of supernatural strength.   He had never had a snow ball’s chance in hell for even giving John Henry a run for this money and the man of God had only ever worked to keep him from looking bad in front of the men whose respect he had so desired.

As he thought this way, he felt a wave of love come over him that made him weak inside. He was overwhelmed with an indescribably deep sense of safety and acceptance.  All of a sudden he knew he was feeling “the love of the Father” that John Henry and told him about.  All this time John Henry had been his best friend and had looked out for him and allowed himself to look bad just to show that great love to the big white man.  As James McDougal looked on this contest that was thrilling them all beyond their wildest dreams he could not stop himself from relaxing into the Father’s arms and letting the sweet tears stream down his face.  The scales fell off his eyes and he saw how much he was loved by the black man he had wanted to destroy and, by extension, the God that this man preached with such tireless devotion.  McDougal, Once the Bad, was being saved.

Chapter 20

As the day wore on John Henry and Clem Johnson fell into a rhythm of working a drilling rod until it got too hot and then dropping it in the big drum of water to cool and replacing it with a cool one.  John Henry was relaxed and steady in his absolutely unbelievable and consistent delivery of strokes from both arms.  He never missed and Clem felt safe despite the impossibility of what was happening.  As always John Henry sang his old work songs from the old days on the plantation and often hollered. “Thank you, Jesus! Praise you, Lord!” as he drilled away.  He stopped every fifteen minutes for a breather and a drink and every half-hour for a longer breather with a snack and a big drink. His stamina was positively unearthly and the men were awed at it.  But they knew it wasn’t just the man.  John Henry had given way to much glory to God for them to deny that this awesome feat was of supernatural origin.  So they watched the day-long miracle in wonder and never stopped being excited and a little fearful.

The steam drill was powerful. It definitely could outwork a normal two man drilling team.  But John  Henry was no ordinary man but one like the Old Testament judge, Samson, filled with the spirit of might: supernatural strength.  This was the same supernatural power that had enabled Samson to rip the massive city gates out of an ancient city and carry them on his shoulders and plant them on the top of a hill twenty miles way. Totally inconceivable.  No, it wasn’t as great as that feat that God enabled Samson to do, but it was beyond the imagination of all who were seeing it.

John Henry took a real sit-down-and-rest with a big lunch at midday and was profuse with praises to God for the strength and endurance he was experiencing.  Early in the afternoon, as John Henry was steadily leaving the steam drill behind and getting so much more drilling done than anyone had anticipated, Jimmy Tuck suddenly lit up with an idea. He called for the engineering papers and they pored over them for several minutes and made some calculations until Tuck finally lifted his head with glee on this face:

“John Henry is going to finish the the tunnel today!” he exclaimed with amazement.  They had calculated that John Henry might be able to cover the final distance to the other side of the mountain and break through by the end of the day.

So on John Henry’s next snack break, Jimmy Tuck came over to tell him.

“John, I think you have a shot at breaking through by the end of the day. Do you think you can do it?

John Henry threw back his head and laughed with great triumph, raised his hands to heaven and shouted, “Yes, Lord!! You surely know how to set up a miracle and show your mighty hand! Hallelujah!!”

And he turned to Jimmy Tuck and said, ”All things are possible with God, Mr. Tuck, all things are possible with God.”

And when he went back to the work this time he was even more resolute than ever and was swinging faster than he had all day. He kept up this hotter pace until mid-afternoon and then began to show his first signs of begin winded. He slowed it back down to a managable pace and kept going and started eating more at his snack time.  It was now a race against the clock to get to the other side of the mountain and the steam drill was no longer a factor.

As the margin between John Henry ad the steam drill grew and grew the crew began to affirm that the race was won and the John Henry had won hands down even if they did not finish the time.  There was no doubt that John Henry could keep the lead because although his pace and slower no he was still steady and the steam drill was wearing out Charlie Baker with all its shaking and shuddering and noise.   So Jimmy Tuck came to John Henry on a break and offered for him to quit early and claim the victory.

‘You have won it John, you can hang it up and claim the victory, finishing the tunnel can wait” offered Jimmy Tuck.

John Henry leaned on his hammer for a minute and thought about it. He looked at the men who all gazed at him in admiration, even the ones who had lost money.  He looked over at James McDougal who knelt and watched and was wiping some more tears off his cheek.  He could see the victory was won.  But the huge heart inside the man had a bigger goal than that. He was man in love with his King and would give anything to bring him glory…anything. So he turned to Jimmy Tuck and said:

“No sir, Jesus went all the way for me on the cross and I am going all the way for him.  We are going to break through today no matter what it takes and we are going to give God the glory!! Hallelujaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!”

His hallelujah was a song and he held that last note and it rang out with crystal clear joy and served as a battle cry like the blowing of the shofar, the ram’s horn that the Israelites used as trumpets in the old battles of the Old Testament.

The men let out another whoop as they heard the shofar and he picked up his hammer and went back to his fast pace again. The men could not believe their eyes.

Now it was really on.  Charlie Baker shut down the steam drill and joined the crew of awestruck onlookers who began to cheer John Henry on all the more. He hammered and hammered away with both hands and Clem took to swapping drilling rods all the more often.  John Henry took huge slugs of water now and ate hungrily at his snacks. It was race against the clock, a battle with the mountain, and John Henry was not going to let Jesus look like a the loser.

One by one Clem dunked the hot rods into the water barrel and pulled out cool ones.  John Henry had gone through so many over and over that they were all getting dull. The crew took to getting the cool ones sharpened to help John Henry along. They refilled the water barrel with fresh water since the old water was all hot now, and they all cheered him on eagerly. Everyone was behind him now and everyone felt like he was part of the team as they were all in one heart and mind to see it happen.  All petty differences between them fell away as they were galvanized in the heat of the battle.

“Thank you Jesus…thank you Jesus…thank you Jesus,” John Henry kept up his pace as he drilled with consistent speed.  He was breathing hard now, his thick manly chest swelling into his throat and compressing as he exhaled, but he did not lose a step.

Jimmy Tuck and the engineer took another look at the calculations with the latest measurement and figured he had just a few feet to go.  It was already past time for when the contest was supposed to end and John Henry had been doing the impossible all day.

“Are you sure you want to go for it, John?” asked Jimmy Tuck, “There are still a few feet to go I reckon.”

John Henry did not stop to answer but kept on swinging and let out another shofar call, "Hallelujaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!”

McDougal came up out of his one knee stance and leapt up in the air in agreement.  “Hallelujah!” he shouted, “Hallelujah, hallelujah!! He is going to do it!! John Henry and God are not just going to beat the steam drill they are going to beat the mountain!! Hallelujah!!”

And all the men shouted the hallelujah too!! The tunnel rang with it and the steady fast-paced chunk chunk chunk of John Henry’s hammers on Clem’s drilling rods. And the sun was sinking outside.

Chapter 21

After another hour Jimmy Tuck called out, “Daylight anytime now, John!” as the calculations said that the other side of the mountain was right there at the end of John Henry's drilling rod.

“Praise the Lord!! Praise the Lord!! Hallelujah!” said out John Henry and as he stepped up the pace even more.

He had stopped singing and was breathing really heavy and grunting with every pair of hammer strokes. “Augh, augh, augh…” but still keeping up his furious pace.  As he took his next water break he leaned on the hammer and said, “God can do anything brothers! and he quoted Psalm 144:1:

“Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle”

He slugged down a half jug of water and poured the rest over this head and neck and said it again,

“God can do it, Hallelujah!!”

And he went right back to punishing the mountain.

After another half hour all of a sudden on one swing John Henry sent the drilling rod sailing right through Clem’s hands and out through a hole on the other slide.  Clem winced and gabbed his hand as the head of the rod clipped him on its way out into the outside world.

“Hallelujah!! Hallelujah!!” John Henry shouted and the men all went through the roof with a deafening cheer.

John Henry reached for another rod and Jimmy Tuck looked at him with concern,

“John you have broken through, it’s done, you don’t need to do any more.”

“We’ll be done… when we can…walk through…to the other side, …and not before..Mr. Tuck, sir,” replied John Henry between extremely heavy breaths.  And the sun was sinking very low.

John picked up his hammers and flew at the rods. “Augh, augh, augh, augh,” he labored now but somehow kept up the pace. In just a few short minutes the hole had widened significanty and it was time for the finishing touches. But John Henry did not let up on the pace. He just keep tearing away at the mountain with increased fury until the hole was bigger than a man and he dropped one hammer and staggered through and fell to his knees on the other side breathing like a bull in the ring with a toreador, all stuck full of lances and ready to give up.

John Henry collapsed on to his belly and slowly rolled over on his back and labored to say "Hallelujah” a few times before closing his eyes to relax, his thick chest heaving mightily.

The men were besides themselves, gripped with awe and wonder.  It was sundown, the fog had lifted, and the fading light poured through the hole into the tunnel in a dreamy melancholy kind of way. The men gathered around John Henry as he lay on his back with his big chest swelling heavily. Every now and then he would mutter:

“Thank you Jesus…thank you Jesus”

“Thank you Jesus is right,” said Big McDougal, “that is the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my life and I will never forget it. There is a God, there is a God. And John Henry is his friend!”

Clem kept stammerign "I never...I never," and all the men stared at their hero in amazement.

After about another twenty minutes it was beginning to get too dark to get back to camp well without light so Jimmy Tuck decided to take the men back through the tunnel to get supper. He stooped over John Henry and asked,

“Can you get up and walk, John, or should I have some of the boys carry you?”

“No, I can walk Mr Tuck, just let me lean on somebody.”

Without hesitation Big McDougal stepped forward and lifted the black man to his feet and slung John Henry’s arm over this massive shoulder and said, “Come with me, sir.”

Big McDougal led the way with the weary hero on his hip and Jimmy Tuck followed close behind.  The rest of the me kept back a ways.  And as the whole gang of them made their way through the tunnel back to camp on the other side the men commented not only on the John Henry’s amazing defeat of the mountain but on Big McDougal’s transformation into a God-fearing, respectful man who could call the black man he once hated passionately, “sir.”

Chapter 22

What a day it had been on all accounts.  As Big James McDougal carried John Henry into the camp, Jimmy Tuck put the cook to work to get supper together for the men immediately and something for John Henry right this instant.  But John Henry was too tired to lift a spoon.

“No, sir Mr. Tuck,” he labored to speak, “thank you but just let me go to bed, I will eat in the morning.”

“Okay, John, whatever you say.” replied Jimmy Tuck with honor in his manner and voice, and he nodded to Big McDougal to carry him to his tent.

The big white man carried the weary hero the last leg of the journey and sat him down on his cot.  John Henry collapsed half twisted with his feet still on the ground and McDougal lifted his legs onto the bed and straightened him out and began to take off his boots.

A couple of the men who had followed stood outside the tent looking on remarked to one another quietly that the wonders never ceased: now Big Brutal McDougal was taking of John Henry’s boots!  They made off to tell the rest of the men.

James McDougal threw a couple of blankets over John Henry and knelt down next to him.

“How’s that, Mr. Henry?” the big white man asked softly.  But the hero was already out, breathing heavy still, exhausted beyond imagination.

James McDougal went back to join the rest of the men for supper quietly. They were all quiet. How to think about what they had watched all day…it was too much for words. No one said a word through most of supper time, only the crackle of the fire and the song of spoons on plates kept them company.  They mostly all stared into the fire and shook their heads in wonder as they contemplated what they had seen with their own eyes but could barely believe.

But then finally, as he mopped up the last of his bacon and beans with a biscuit, the big man found the courage to speak. He cleared his throat and the others looked at him with gratitude that he was going to break the silence.  But they never could have anticipated what he would say.

“I…I want to tell you all…well…I sure am mighty sorry for what a bull-headed ass of a brute I have always been to all of you good men…” he began, and you could have heard a feather drop.  “Thanks to John Henry, God has opened my eyes to see what an awful wretch of a man I have been for all my life and I ask your forgiveness for all my pride and unkindness towards you…but I know now that everything John Henry says is true: God loves me and forgives me and wants me to be his son… So I just want you all to know that I will be joining the prayer time from know on …if that is alright……and I gotta say something else: John Henry is the greatest man I ever met, in more ways than one…he has a heart the size of a whale’s and I believe every word he says that it was the supernatural strength of  God that gave him the power to do what we all saw today..ain’t no other way to explain it.. ain’t no way…no, I’m a believer now, sure enough..I am believer….thank you Jesus…thank you Jesus.”

And as the men looked on in wonder-rapt silence the big man hung his head and softly cried tears of gratitude to the Savior whose love and peace filled his heart, with his huge hulking shoulders quivering gently and the tears fell on his plate.  It was all over and all begun all at the same time. Big Brutal McDougal ‘The Bad’ was dead and James McDougal, a son of God, destined to be a brother of Jesus, was born into new life.

As if the day had not had enough miracles in it already now the men had to assimilate the fact that Brutal McDougal had just apologized to them and given glory to God and thanked Jesus, right out in front of them all.  Now a new sense of freedom came to all of them.  All of the abuse they had suffered at the hands of McDougal the Bad was now really over.  They did not need to fear him any more or walk on eggshells around him or pay him respect that they did not feel in their hearts.  They were free of it all.  And like a soft spring breeze on a balmy night in April in the South, Peace blew into the camp at a depth that they and never experienced before.

“Yeah, you can bet I believe too,” Clem Johnson spoke up, “I’m the one who held the rods…you bet I believe it too. John Henry’s prayer came true: God did the impossible today right in front of our very eyes. I’ll always believe now.  You are right Mr. McDougal: thank you Jesus, is right.”

And one by one all but a couple of the men in the camp nodded and assented to the truth that they had all seen an unbelievable miracle of the Living God with their own eyes and they could not deny it, how could they?

And as they all stood and and gazed into to the fire or up at the the stars they were all filled with the wonder of that simplest of gifts: to thank and praise the Creator for his undeniability and his indescribable greatness without which we are all lost and without a home.

Finally, James McDougal turned to Jimmy Tuck and asked,”Do you mind if I sleep in John’s tent tonight, I want to look after him like he did for me.”

“Of course, McDougal, of course, and God bless you for it, thank you.” was the loving reply, full of respect and camaraderie.

So McDougal grabbed his blankets and bedded down on the ground next John Henry’s cot and was soon drifted in the most peaceful sleep he had known since he was a very little boy.

Chapter 23

While James McDougal was sleeping peacefully and assuming that John Henry was too, it was not so well with the hero of the day.  Apparently the extreme exhaustion coupled with inadequate nutrition after all the heavy work had weakened John Henry’s heart in a dangerous way. Somewhere around one or two in the morning McDougal awakened by the very loud rasping sounds of extremely labored breathing.  John Henry was in serious trouble.

The big white man leapt up from his place on the ground and reached out and shook John Henry’s shoulder,

“John, John, wake up, John, wake up!”

But it was now use, John Henry was deep in the throes of a very serious heart attack.   His massive heart, as great as it was, was just too heavily taxed by the feat of the day.  McDougal tried again to stir him and when he could not, he threw on some clothes and his boots, lit a lamp, and ran for Jimmy Tuck’s tent.

“Mr; Tuck, Mr. Tuck!! Mr. Tuck!!”

Jimmy Tuck was bleary-eyed in the lamp light:

“McDougal, what is it?”

“Something is wrong with John Henry, something bad, I can’t wake him and he can barely breathe!”

Jimmy Tuck shimmied into his breeches and coat and ran with McDougal to the hero’s tent.  Tuck was likewise unsuccessful in trying to roust John Henry from his precarious state, but he could see what the problem was,

“It’s his heart, McDougal!”

They propped up John Henry in the bed and tried to get a good look at him.  His pallor was rather ashen sand his eyes were rolled back in this head.

“Lord Jesus, death is reaching for him, McDougal!” exclaimed Tuck, very shaken. “What have we done, we put him up to this, dear God, forgive me! You stay with him, keep him breathing!” Tuck instructed the big man and ran for the cook’s tent.  The big man stood there looking somewhat helpless. When Tuck arrived at the cook’s tent he instructed him to whip up anything he could that was quick, easy to swallow and that helps calm the nerves.  Then he headed back to John Henry’s tent.

“What would John Henry do if he was in our shoes?” puzzled McDougal.

“Pray, I think,” Tuck answered soberly.

“Yeah, I reckon you are right,“ McDougal nodded.

The big man had never used his fearless dominating assertiveness and powerful leadership authority for good ever before but now he sprang into action. He took off running through the camp thundering at the top of his lungs:

“Wake up!! Wake up!! Wake up!! John Henry is in trouble we need to pray!! Start praying for John Henry, pray for John Henry!!”

Clem was quickly up out of his cot and pulling up his suspenders:

“What do we pray, McDougal?”

“I don’t know just pray, pray that God helps him!! Pray, everyone pray!!”

The men could see the light of the cooks fire and as they got dressed they piled over to the fire area.

Clem had the thought and took the initiative to try to get John Henry’s bible.  So he made over to the fallen hero’s tent and asked Jimmy Tuck if he could have it.

“Good idea, Clem,” Tuck said as he soberly handed him the bible.

Clem looked on with a heavy heart as Tuck and McDougal propped up John Henry in the bed. They were all scared.  Everybody loved and admired John Henry now, they only wanted the best for him.

Finally, Clem went back to the fire and fumbled with the bible for awhile until he found the Psalms.  He had learned enough from John Henry to know that many of the Psalms were prayers so he offered to read some and the men were very grateful. It was shaping up to be a long night.

After a little while the cook called to Clem to get Jimmy Tuck and Clem ran to fetch him. He stuck his head into the tent.

“Cook wants you, Mr. Tuck.”

Jimmy Tuck was out of the tent in a flash and ran over to the fire.  The cook handed him two big cups of broth and nodded seriously.  Tuck carried the broth carefully but briskly back to the tent.
When he had arrived, he tested it:

“Dammit, its is too hot!” he was uncharacteristically tense and frustrated.

He handed a cup to McDougal and the both began blowing on them eagerly.

It took a few minutes but finally the broth was cool enough to administer.  Jimmy Tuck sat behind John Henry and laid his head back on this chest and held up the cup.

“Okay McDougal, you plug his nose and I will see if I can get him to swallow this.”

So they went for it. It was noisy and somewhat messy but they managed to get most of it down John Henry’s gullet.

“Okay Good!! Go get more!!,” Tuck waved the big man out of the tent.  The kept it coming.

After awhile all the liquid in John Henry’s system made him urinate.  As McDougal went about cleaning him up he realized what John Henry must have had to do to keep him clean when he was out for days.  He began to cry:

“Oh, Jesus,” he sobbed, “Help me the care of John Henry like he did for me, Lord!!”

“Yes, Lord, “ Jimmy Tuck agreed as he returned with more broth. It was a long night.

And so went the night on through to morning with McDougal and Jimmy Tuck forcing cups of broth down John Henry’s throat and Clem and the men awkwardly trying to pray and read the scriptures, pleading with God for mercy for their hero.

Chapter 24

Not long after dawn John Henry seemed to relax some and his breathing smoothed out a little.  It became fairly shallow and weak but at least it was not so labored and raspy.  Jimmy Tuck took it as a sign that he would be able to rest now so he and McDougal left the fallen hero and went to the fire for some breakfast.

“I think he will be alright now,” Tuck told the men.

There was much relief among the ranks of the crew and they heartily ate breakfast with renewed hope.  The last two day had been so full of both wonder and trial that they did not really know how to handle themselves.

They only worked a half day that day and Jimmy Tuck had James McDougal, who really wasn't in good shape to work yet anyway, to stay in camp and tend to John Henry.  The big man hardly knew what to do so he did the only thing he could think John Henry might like: he read him the scripture.  McDougal had never cared much for things of the studious life so he wasn't so good of a reader but he did the best he could.  Jimmy Tuck came back a couple of times during the day and helped McDougal force some more broth down John Henry's throat.  The fallen hero remained totally unconscious with very shallow breathing but at least he was calm.  They were far form any town and it was six days until the next train would come for them to send him back to civilization so all they could do was tend to him the best they could.

John Henry slept and slept....he slept for three days.  James McDougal cried many broken tears during those days as he further contemplated the awful life he had lived and cried out to God to help John Henry and bring him back to life.  It was a very long three days and McDougal did not eat or sleep much because of his distress.  His own physically large heart was beginning to have real love in it and he welcomed it and allowed the softening tears to come whenever they arose in his throat.  He did awful lot of repenting for the things he had done and an awful lot of pleading with God to change his heart and make him a man like John Henry, a man full of love and faith. It was a good three days.

Chapter 25

When John Henry finally awoke McDougal was beside himself with joy. He stepped the mouth of the tent and hollered:

"He's awake, he's awake!!" he boomed from the tent flap and turned back immediately to talk to him.  John Henry was very slow to rouse but eventually he was able to talk. By then Jimmy Tuck and Clem were in the tent too and everyone else huddled close outside.  They were all thrilled and expectant of life going on as normal with the hero back on the job.  But it did not take long to see that John Henry was not going to be on the job any time soon...if ever.

John Henry's face was very ashen and his eyes were sunken.  His countenance was still gentle and calm but he looked as tired as a 200 year old man.  As he tried to sit up in bed he clutched his chest and sighed heavily over and over.  Eventually they got him propped up and relatively comfortable and he asked for food.

He seemed to barely have the strength to lift his spoon but he ate a lot and drank several cups of coffee.  When he had finished he flopped back down on the cot and went back to sleep.

"I do not like what I see," said Jimmy Tuck gravely to McDougal after the others had left, "Not good...not good at all.”

And John Henry slept another day after that.

Chapter 26

On the morning of the fourth day John Henry awoke and seemed a little better, although far from rested and sound.   McDougal brought him a very big breakfast again and he ate it all and more.  Then he asked to be alone to spend some time in prayer and reading his bible.  When McDougal came back to check on him after awhile he found him dressed and waiting for him.

“Brother McDougal, could you get me a hammer to lean on? I want to take a walk.”

“Sure thing, Mr Henry,“ the big man answered soberly.  He was not sure that John Henry should be out walking yet, but what could he say?  So he fetched the hero a hammer.

Tucking his bible up under his left arm, John Henry gripped the head of the hammer in his right and leaned on it like a cane with the handled in the dirt.  He slowly made his way through camp and started down along the tracks away from camp. Not knowing what to do McDougal had not followed but was concerned so he shouted to John Henry,

“Do you want me to come with you, John?”

John Henry was not far away yet so McDougal could see him shake his head ‘no.’  So McDougal resolved to just stay there and watch after him from a distance as best he could.

John Henry stopped and rested every twenty yards or so and when he started to get farther away McDougal followed a little, just close enough to be near in case he was needed.  After about a hundred yards John Henry stopped and hung this head and went no further. McDougal just waited, feeling worried but wanting to give the great man his space.

But then all of a sudden John Henry dropped like sack of potatoes into a heap next to the track.

James McDougal took off at a sprint to get to him.  With the new found love in his heart he forgot all about his sores ribs and skull.  When he got there John Henry was once again breathing those heavy rasping labored breaths that indicated his heart was in distress.  McDougal did not hesitate but put his mighty back to work in the best thing he and used it for yet.  He put the bible between his teeth and scooped up John Henry in his arms and began to carry him back to camp.

When he got to with a forty yards or so he opened his mouth and dropped the bible onto John Henry’s midriff and began shouting:

“John Henry is down again!!  Cookie, make some more broth!!  John Henry is down!!  Start praying!!”  Big McDougal still did not feel his ribs but his tears were falling on the man in his arms.

Jimmy Tuck and the men heard the big man’s shouts and hustled back to the camp in distress. Tuck and McDougal got John Henry into the cot again and the men huddled outside the tent nervously.

“Pray men, Pray!!” McDougal boomed and they began to mumble their best efforts.

After awhile the cook brought some broth but Jimmy Tuck objected:

“You already fed him breakfast right?”

“Yes, I did, “ answered McDougal.

“Well then food is not what he needs.”

Clem asked for the bible again and he read loudly enough so that all both inside and outside the tent could hear.  He took a break every now and then but endured quite well for the whole two hours until John Henry calmed down and woke up.

“Oh Glory to God,“ John Henry smiled softly as he came around, “It is so beautiful on the other side of Jordan.”

“The other side?” asked Jimmy Tuck with a long face, he did not life the sound of that.

“I have run my race, Mr Tuck, it is time for me to rest…it’s a good thing, I promise you.”

“You mean you are dying?” asks McDougal shakily with a broken heart.

John Henry’s words were very soft and slow now, but there was a smile in his weary voice and he could answer:

“Only this flesh is dying, Brother McDougal, my spirit and soul are getting ready to live like never before.”

“Please, sir, please don't leave us!!”  The huge McDougal cried like a boy begging his daddy not to abandon the family.

“Don’t be afraid, brother, God is with you, he will take care of you…get me my bible.”  And McDougal retrieved the bible from Clem in stunned silence and handed it to the dying hero, laying it gently on his chest.  The breaths were shallow and soft now.

“You take it James…you are the leader now, I give you my blessing, God is choosing you…and I am asking you to take my place. “

“But I..I, I can’t…I…” The big man fumbled for words.

“He is with you, just let him do it through you..it’s okay.. you don’t have to worry and think…he will lead you…thank you Jesus, thank you Jesus…yes Lord I am coming…”

And more gently and peacefully than you can imagine John Henry just relaxed and let out all his breath and went home to be with his King and best friend the Lord Jesus Christ.

James McDougal cried and Jimmy Tuck hung his head in his hands and moaned.  The others mourned each in his own way.

“Jesus…Jesus…why!!” McDougal cried out, unashamed of his emotion for the first time in his life, and picked up the bible and opened it. It fell open to the Book of John, chapter 15.   James’ eyes fell on verse 13:

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

And as James McDougal , No Longer the Bad, read the passage out loud over and over to all the men, each time with more gratitude and emotion, a wave of the Heavenly Father’s love washed over all of them and they all began to weep sweet tears of surrender and to receive the love of a perfect Father that none of them ever had and that they all had searched for all their lives and didn't know how to say what they were looking for.

John Henry was dead to this world but alive in Christ and gone to heaven the seed of his life was bearing much fruit even as John 12:24 says:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.””

And with hat Old Mack paused again and gazed off into the distance and teared up again,

“Thank you Jesus…Thank you Jesus..”, he just kept saying it over and over.

Chapter 27

“Wait a minute, Mr. Mack,” Abraham piped up after a little while.  “I got a question.  You said that John Henry told you all this story but now you say that he died. That can’t be right, how could John Henry tell you the story of his own death?!”

“Yeah!” chimed in Billy excitedly.

“Uh oh, now that is a problem, isn’t it!” laughed Old Mack and kept on laughing heartily for quite awhile.

The boys laughed too because the song of Mack’s laughter was contagious but the question still remained: where did the story really come from?

Old Mack finally stopped laughing and beamed at the boys and asked:

“You can’t figure it out?”

And just then, as if on cue, the creak of the screen door hinge and the soft padding of her bare feet announced Geraldine’s arrival on the porch and in her sing-song mother’s voice she said:

“Okay, Big Bad Brutal MacDougal, don’t you think these boys’ mothers are going to the wanting them to come home by now?  I think that is enough for today, don’t you Daddy?,” and she winked at the boys knowingly.

Billy came out his chair like a lighting bolt and shot up into the air like grasshopper.  Abraham let out whoop you could hear all the way down the block.

“Mr. Mack you are McDougal the Bad!?!” Abraham said it first.

“Yeah, YOU’RE The Bad, Mr. Mack, that is why you are so tall!!”

Old Mack threw back his head and laughed like John Henry did the day he’d said “that is mighty white of you” and clutched his belly and the boys danced all around the porch like they had just found pot of gold or something.

“You’re McDougal the Bad!!” Billy said it again.

“In the flesh,“ chuckled Mack as they began to simmer down and regain composure. Yes, I was McDougal the Bad and but for the Lord Jesus Christ I would doubtless be dead and in hell today burning at a thousand degrees with no hope of escape just like John Henry told me. But due to our Mighty King and his servant John Henry, the best friend I ever had, I am alive and well today and heaven bound. Hallelujah!!,” and Mack stood up and danced a little jig on the bones of his old life, thanking the Lord for his goodness.

“Oh man, oh man!!” exclaimed Abraham and they all had one more good belly laugh.

”Boys, God is so good and has been so very generous to me, thank you for letting me tell you my story today.”

The boys both threw themselves on Old Mack’s neck and thanked him profusely as good boys always do when they get the love they need from real, fatherly, loving man who knows how to love boys and help shape them into men.

“Wow, Mr. Mack, until you met Jesus you were just like Sheriff MacInerny and Tommy are now!”  Abraham exclaimed.

“Yes, son, and now it is our turn to be love them into the Kingdom just like John Henry did me, are you in, boys?”

“Oh, ya!” the boys agreed heartily.

“So is that the end of the story?”  asked Billy.

“Well, after that I dedicated my life to knowing and serving our Master with all my heart and God saved many men on the railroads over the years that I worked that job. I became a foreman and then a supervisor and God’s Word was spread everywhere I went. As a supervisor I stayed in town and had a desk job so I was able to have a family. Polly Ann came to live with us when Geraldine’s momma, Hannah was alive and we all had many sweet years together. And John Henry’s seeds continued to bear much fruit.  And boys, I gotta tell ya: I am not in a rush to die but I want to finish my race to and complete my course as Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:7 and I am sure eager to see my friend John Henry again: a man who loved me into God’s kingdom when I was as miserable a wretch as you can imagine.  So don’t be to quick to write off Tommy MacInerny because if Jesus could change old Brutal McDougal the Bad then can save anybody.

“Let’s pray for Tommy and the sheriff right now!” Abraham suggested, and Mack, Geraldine, Billy and Abraham circled up and joined hands and finished the great day of story-telling with prayer for the MacInerny boy and his wicked father the sheriff whose reputation had preceded him to Helena, Alabama.  It was a good day for Helena.

“Okay, daddy, nearly time for dinner,” Geraldine said in her sweet sing-song voice, “and these fine boys need to get home before their momma’s miss them!”

“She is right boys,” Mack added, “now tomorrow I am going to start a fast of eating just one meal a day and I will be praying for God to give me the keys to Sheriff McInerny’s heart so he can meet Jesus and be set free just like I was.  Do you want to fast with me for Tommy?”

“Uh-huh,” “Yeah!” hearkened the boys.

“Okay, now you are growing boys so I don’t want growing boys a like you missing any meals but how about you fast your dessert and your favorite snack and your milk that I know you love but other than that eat your meals, okay?

“Okay!” agreed the boys eagerly in tandem, for the life of God in Old Mack had made them excited to take path in project for the Kingdom of Heaven.

“Okay, of you go, now,” ordered the loving old man with a pat on their heads.  And each of them hugged his midriff one more time and took off down the stairs and away home.  It was a good day.

Chapter 28

Throughout the next week life carried on as usual for Mack and the boys, with the boys playing at the end town and Mack watching and praying as he always did.  Mack went on his fast and many times each day he specifically prayed for Tub MacInerny and his family and asked for the keys secrets of Tub’s heart. The boys checked in with Mack coming and going from their play and usually had lemonade at least once during the day.  Tommy did not come back to try to exercise his delusional self-assigned dominance over the boys any more and Billy and Abraham prayed for him with Mack at the end of every day.  It was a good week.

But at the end of that week Mack woke up one day with the revelation he needed.  He told  Geraldine about it and had her put together his favorite of bacon and eggs and hotcakes and coffee to break his fast.  Then he waited to tell the boys when they stopped by on the way out to the end of town. When they got there he was excited and it was contagious on them.

“Boys, the Lord has heard our prayer!” Mack rubbed his hands together hungrily as he spoke.  “God has revealed to me the secrets of Sheriff MacInerny’s heart where he has been hurt and bound by sin and the devil and I believe God is going to set him free and give him new life! Ohh, Hallelujah!! God is so good!!”

“That’s great Mr.Mack!  What do we do now?” asked Billy because, you know, every boy wants to be partner in the work of a man who looms large in his eyes.

“Yeah, how can we help?” added Abraham.

“Okay, you just ask your folks if you can have dinner over here at seven o’clock on Saturday night and we will take care of the rest.”

“Okay!” they agreed eagerly and vibrated with excitement that maybe they too might get to take part in something as amazing as the story of John Henry leading McDougal the Bad to Jesus so that he turned into the loving gentle old man they knew as Old Mack.  So they ran off to play full of wonder and talked about what might happen all day as they played.  And Mack hitched up the old Moses, his big red gelding, to the buggy and head off to pay the sheriff a visit.

Chapter 29

Mack was confident and anticipatory as he bumped along in the buggy and prayed in tongues.  His testimony as a man once hardened in sin but given a new heart by the love of Jesus shown to him through a strong man who was full of love had melted the heart of many hard men in Mack’s years but Tub MacInerny looked to be a whole new level of challenge.  Tub was very bit as wicked as McDougal the Bad and more so, he was a murderer and rapist.  Living the life of a criminal hearted ‘officer of the peace’ was a hardly recipe for integrity but rather one for Tub to get way with anything he wanted and never be held accountable.  But Song of Solomon 8:6 says that “Love is stronger than death.”  Mack knew very well that there were at least two angels with him for every demon backing up MacInerny and he had God’s backup just like Elisha:

2 Kings 6:16-17
16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

A 32nd Degree Mason and a Ku Klux Klan Dragon was somewhat of a new challenge and one that Mack was eager to face.  Mack’s bible was like all other real bibles and told the story of a vicious political murderer named Saul who came to his knees before Jesus on a road to Damascus, so Mack was full of faith for this wicked man too to be changed into a son of God.   Mack ramped his prayer in tongues and allowed God to pack his spirit with hope and the strength of Caleb as he filled with courage for the battle that would ensue.

“Okay Holy Spirit, lead away” prayed Mack as he tied up Moses and headed into the Sheriff’s office.

“Sheriff MacInerny, my name is James McDougal, my friends call me Mack,” offered Mack beaming with love and held out his hand to the hard-hearted Mason-Klansman.

“Yeah, I heard of ye’, you are the old railroad hero.  Well, that was ages ago, this is the 20th century now.  What do you want, old man?” Tub McInerny grated so much at the grace and generosity of spirit in the tall old man who stood before his desk that he ground his teeth and reached into his desk for his bottle of sour mash.

“Just few moments of your time to give you a message from God who loves you so very very much and is at work to save you for the hell you are so in love with.”

“WHA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!!,” The arrogant fat man bellowed at Mack’s delivery.  “Oh, really!!  So God sent you to tell me something did he!?!?!  That is the stupidest happy horseshit I ever heard, old man!!”  Ha ha ha ha ha!!”  MacInerny threw all his strength into mockery and derision and launched it at Mack to try to break him down.

But Mack stood stalwart and laughed back with the joy of the Lord as his strength, genuinely enjoying himself, and when the younger man began to quiet down Mack calmly said,  “Angels, bind their hands.”

Tub MacInerny instantly felt a weight lift off his chest and the back of his neck and he was  struck with fear to his marrow as the presence of the most terrifying person in the universe, Jesus the Lion of Judah, manifested all around him.  He couldn’t move.

“AAAAAA, AAAAAAAAA, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA,”  the big Sheriff screamed in abject terror.

“Now, Tub, my young fellow, I want you to listen to me and listen good,” said Mack with authority in his voice that would have scared anyone straight. “God loves you and means to save you, but I am here to tell you right now that you are one inch from hell and you are receiving this one last chance to turn to Jesus and be saved from an eternity of unspeakable torment and agony: an eternity of suffering that will never ever end.  God wants me to tell you that he knows everything you were subjected to as a boy, how you were raped, sodomized and dedicated to Lucifer by your own grandfather and father and how mercilessly you were treated all through your childhood by your dad in the Masonic cult where you grew up and how he cheated on your mother and beat her up and you tried to protect her and how he always used you to draw back in for more abuse.  The power of Jesus the Healer is here in this room right now to set you free of all of it and give you eternal life where you will be forever at peace in the arms of God the Father who loves you and created you with an eternal destiny in him.  Jesus lived a perfect life and allowed himself to be tortured to death to show his love for you and to buy this destiny in God for you. Do you want it?”

Tub MacInerny’s chin practically hit the floor and he gaped wide-eyed at Mack’s eyes so full of love and saw Jesus.  As he sat there stunned that his darkest, deepest pain was told to him by a man he had never met.  As he sat there and tried to absorb all that was happening to him he began to feel the most powerful feeling.  All over him he felt like a huge pot of hot oil was running down over this body, supernatural oil, pure golden liquid love, so hot that if it had been natural oil it would have scalded him to death.  The pain of his childhood rose up in his throat and hot tears began to well up in his eyes.  He absolutely could not believe it.

“Tub, Jesus the Healer is here to heal you and set you free if you are willing to admit that you are a sinner in need of a Savior and say that you want what he wants to give you.  It is Jesus’ love that you are feeling touch you so powerfully right now. Are you going to accept it or go to hell? What do you want?”

The sheriff was back in all those moments as a boy when his little boy heart was devastated that there was no love for him from his big powerful father, only coldness and hardness.

“God the Father loves you and wants you as his son and to make up for what your dad didn’t give you, son, “ Mack said with such great compassion.  “Won’t you say yes to his love?”

“Uh, uh,” stammered the huge sheriff, weakly “I, I, I can’t, I ….”   And then he stopped and looked at Mack’s beaming face and love-filled eyes once again and began to smile himself.  “Yes, yes I want it, I want to be loved!” His voice grew stronger with every syllable, “I want to be loved!!  I want Jesus ! I want Jesus!  I want a Father to love me, YES YES!!!  Yes, Jesus I am a sinner please save me!”

And then Jesus began to tear the pain out of him!! “BWHAWH HAWH HAWH HAWH HAWH HAWH…” he bellowed as decades of pent up pain flowed out of his heart into the cross of Christ and became a sweet offering in the nostrils of God.  Then the conviction of the Holy Spirit kicked into high gear.  ”Oh, God forgive me!! Forgive me for making blood oaths to Lucifer in the Masons and the Klan and for murdering black men and raping teenage girls and sleeping with prostitutes and getting drunk and beating my family and being a crooked cop….” the list went on for quite awhile.

The presence and aroma of the Risen Christ filled the room and a son of God, a real bona fide Romans 8:29 brother of Jesus, James ‘Mack “McDougal delighted in seeing another lost boy find that he had a Father in Heaven who loved him.  This had been a hallmark of this prophet’s ministry for decades now as the testimony of how the wound of his own fatherlessness and been healed through the ministry of one John Henry and had led to the salvation and restoration of so many other hurting lost boys in grown men’s bodies.  The bible says in 2 Peter 3:9 that “God is willing that none should perish but that all should come to repentance,” and thus to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and the healing and restoration that Jesus suffered and bought for us on the cross.

And so God rescued the MacInerny family that day in the summer of 1912 when Tub came home full of Life and Joy and told his family of the Love he and been shown by a Gracious and Loving Heavenly Father who loved them all so much that he and sent his Only Begotten Son to suffer and excruciating and ignominious death to save them from hell and give them a blessed life in this life and and even more blessed one in the next.  But mind you a truly blessed life is also one that includes the joy of suffering with Christ and being persecuted for righteousness:

Matthew 5:10-12
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

So, there was joy in the hearts of the young boys Abraham Williams and Billy O’Brian who and gotten to take part in the prayer and preparation for the Kingdom of God rescue of the MacInernys.  And, one new child of God named Tommy MacInerny became a perfect third wheel to the duo that played at the end of the street under the old prophet’s watchful eye.  Geraldine had to make more sandwiches and cookies now that big Tommy was at the lunch table too and it was all love and peace for them all.  How good is our God!!

And so, according to the Word of God in John 12:24, the seed of John Henry’s life that seemed to end too soon, having fallen to the ground and died, had only grown up to bear much fruit.  Thus, Lovelock, Alabama came to have a fine believing Sheriff who began, with much Elisha/2Kings 6 Holy Spirit intelligence on the matters, provided by the prophet Mack McDougal, to go to work to clean up all the corruption in the local government.   Heretofore, said government have been rife with southern Freemasons and Ku Klux Klan and other such ne’er-do-well servants of the kingdom of darkness.  Praise the Lord it is a happy report that some of them came to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ as Sheriff MacInerny shared his testimony with them as they sat in his jail.  And the others who rejected God were kindly escorted to the edge of town and sent packing and we all hope and pray that they left America altogether.  Though sadly there remain many of such like committed servants of Satan in our nation right up to this day and that is one of the main reasons we are in the trouble we are in right now. But that is a different story.

And so to this day, Lovelock, Alabama, if you can find it on the map, is a bastion for the Kingdom of God in the earth and undoubtedly will remain as such until the second coming of our Glorious King, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who is God in the flesh and King over all creation.  May you and your hometown have men of God like Mack McDougal and Tub MacInerny who stand up against corrupt governmental leaders and drive them out of your town too and usher in the Kingdom of God.  All Glory to the Risen King, Jesus, Hallelujah!!

The End

Stephen Pursell 6/15