Friday, October 2, 2020

The Good, The Bad, and The Forgiven, by Tim the Idahoan : It takes a big man to do a big job…

 ...and a big gun often is quite useful. 

I am SORELY tempted to wax eloquent about The Pistol carried by The Preacher, but will restrain myself, EXCEPT to say: utterly plausible. More later. Maybe.

In his Dedication, the author tells us of being challenged to write something as good as that incomparable chronicler of Western life, Louis L’Amour. Sadly, I cannot say whether he accomplished that goal, not being a student of L’Amour’s work. Regardless, it IS a smashing great read.

The Preacher. Eli Helmsman was raised on a (mid-western?) farm by a devoutly Christian mother and a hard-working father with poor communications skills. He heard the call to preach at an early age, and unlike the majority of jack-legged country preachers, went East to go to school for training. 
Thus, he was in New York State when the Civil War broke out. He felt strongly that he could not postpone his calling to free men in the spirit in order to engage in violence to free them in the flesh. When his parents can no longer support his education, he gets a job with the Remington arms plant near his seminary, and reduces his course load. Ever the dutiful son, he sends part of his pay home to help his family. 
In 1866, before he graduates, his mentor invites him to join in circuit-riding out West, where there are not enough ordained ministers to serve a single congregation. His co-workers have a farewell party for him, and gift him with a prototype revolver, chambered in the SIGNIFICANT rifle cartridge of .50-70. 
His journey leads him, in 1884, to the little boom-town of McLaurin City.

The author has an astounding ear for the voice of his characters. Nowhere is this more evident than with Eli! During on lamentable phase of my life, I was required to read much theological writing, dating from this time (1862 – mid 1880s), and his conversation PERFECTLY reflects both the formal and informal communications of a theologically trained person of this time. It is strange upon our ear, but it is part of the writer's craft of drawing you back to that particular point in time, way out there in the West. 

The Bad Guy. There are LOTS of bad guys in the story, and Eli does his very best, every single time he has an opportunity, to win them from their wicked ways. With some, this works! With others, they walk away, shaking their heads, but thinking about what he said. 
And, unfortunately for the remainder, they attempt violence upon the person of Eli or those under his care. This NEVER works out well for them. Whether it’s a divine intervention, fast-twitch muscles, or some other factor, Eli is finished using his Remington before the other person has an opportunity to do A Bad Thing.
That said, Eli always regrets having been placed in that position, and earnestly appeals to his opponents, without threatening, to accept God’s forgiveness and turn from their sinful ways. His philosophy, which he repeats to both friend, and to those attempting to be his foe, is:
“There are only two kinds of people in this world, my brother—sinners who’ve accepted God’s plan of salvation, and sinners who need to.”


For the main story, though, there is a single Bad Guy. 

His name is Court McIver, and he has an economic stranglehold on the town. He owns the mines that generate most of the income, and he owns saloons and gambling joints that serve to take the paltry salaries he pays the miners, and return them to his coffers. He offers the appearance of a gentleman, living in a big house, smoking fine cigars, all the trappings, but he also employs a group of thugs to intimidate anyone who stands against him. When intimidation doesn’t work, fists, knives, and guns are called into play.

The setting: McLaurin City, Territory of Montana. Eli shows up at the request of Rev. Thomas Thatcher, who has struggled to provide a place of worship for those of the area who are spiritually minded. However, when he arrives, he finds that Rev. Thatcher has just been killed, and the church meeting house burned. Although everyone knows it was some of McIver’s men who did it, they have not been arrested. 

Eli sets out to rectify that matter, and the story begins.

We get much more of Eli’s history through stories told by some incidental characters, explaining how he grew from an inexperienced, naïve seminary student (but one with a great work ethic) to a Preacher With A Gun type. However, Eli never becomes hardened to the times when he has to pull his Remington in a life-or-death situation, and that’s essential to understanding his character. He never forgets: there are just two kinds of people.

I am a life-long voracious reader. In 1973,  I had a radical conversion experience while serving in the Army in Germany.  I found it IMPOSSIBLE to find good fiction to read! I think I still have the copy of “Augustine’s Confessions” I bought at the time; it’s in a plastic bag, because all the pages came unglued from the binding. The plots of the “Christian” novels I could find were awful, and the characters never rose to the level of a Mary Sue. (A Mary Sue would have been GREAT!) 

I did, eventually, discover C. S. Lewis, and later, found others, but I read a lot of works like “The Power of Prayer on Plants” while wandering through bookstores and libraries. Oh, how lovely it would have been to find a book like “The Good, The Bad, and the Forgiven!” 
It’s a great adventure story; the characters are REAL, even the Good Guy and the Bad Guy, AND, it’s got some great theology worked into the story. It didn’t feel a bit preachy to me, either;  perhaps you might get a copy and give it to a pagan friend, and get their impression.

Alas, this has gone on far enough, and I’m not going to give the reasons I validate the possibility of a prototype Remington .50-70 revolver existing. 
Except to say: yeah, it could have been.

Peace be on your household.

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