The Reverend Mr. Cole was my father, here's his story.
|(This piece was written for a long ago challenge based on a song...mine was, The Reverend Mr. Black by Johnny Cash)
You Gotta Walk It By Yourself
I’ve been sitting here a-waiting for my hangin’ day for about six days now. Things haven’t turned out the way I’d hoped since my father’s death fifteen years back. You may have heard about him. I wrote a song about him once, called The Reverend Mr. Cole.
He was a strong and brave man. I miss him and his heavenly sermons. I always wanted to be a credit to him, but I guess that wasn’t meant to be.
Reverend Mr. James Robert Cole was a legend. He sat his horse like a noble king, though he was poor as a church mouse. He always said, “The Lord giveth boy, don’t worry, He will provide.” Usually, Daddy was right, we never did without for long. People would feed us happily, for a blessing and a small sermon from the Reverend Mr. Cole.
He was tall, lean and stronger than he looked. My song told the tale of a lumberjack who tried to take Daddy down but the Reverend Mr. Cole stood up to him and put that lumberjack in his place without lifting a finger. Daddy could cut you down with words as sharp as any sword.
James Robert Cole had always wanted to be a preacher. During his time at divinity school he met my Mother, Mary Margaret Sterling. They got married and she travelled with Daddy while he preached fire and brimstone to pilgrims and pioneers across the state of Missouri.
He decided after I’d been born and was about five years old, that he wanted to move us out West. They wanted to claim a piece of the prairie and build a church out there; settle us down in one place. He and Momma were still so in love. She wanted a house and stability; they wanted to have a whole passel of children.
Momma found out halfway out that she was gonna have my brother or sister. It was a rough trip and Momma was sick for most of each day. I remember Daddy feeding her soup, only to have her retch it back up. I’d sit inside the steaming covered wagon putting cool cloths on my dear Momma’s forehead. Fear galloped through my veins when I looked into her feverish eyes. Deep inside my little boy’s heart I knew my Momma wouldn’t be with us much longer. Each night I’d pray with Daddy, but I knew God was gonna take her. The Lord taketh away.
She passed on after two days of screaming agony and a bloody miscarriage. Daddy changed right after he threw the last shovel of earth over her and said God’s words and his. He kissed the marker he’d carved for her and we left her there on the open plain. I never saw him cry.
Preaching became his way to purge the grief and guilt from his soul. He didn’t really want me there, he saw to my needs, but he was with God much before it was his time. We travelled constantly, bringing God’s word to the sinners along the trail, to settlers on the prairie and in the towns.
He often told me how he’d met Momma and about their hopes and dreams as we settled down of an evening. A far away look filled his eyes and he’d say wistfully that he had to walk that lonesome place alone; that he’d walk in the valley until the day God said they could be together again.
Well my time has come to join them now, if God has forgiven me my sins. I pray that my Daddy will too. The rope is ready outside, as I walk with my guards I’m gonna sing what my Daddy did when he was alone, “I gotta walk this lonesome valley alone. Though no one can walk for me, I hope Jesus will be by my side. No man can walk it with me."
I got to walk it by myself.