Well most of the churches in this little area was typical ones you mite see anywhere in a small town. We didn’t have no Catholics or Jews but we sure had the rest of em. There was a simmerin rivalry amongst the local preachers and it kinda boiled down to whose flock could make the most noise on Sundays and drop the most money in the hat afterwards. It’s a fact that there weren’t no ten dollar bills offered up after the sermons cause they weren’t no rich folks to do it. It was a close scrape just to keep the doors open, the pe-anna tuned, and the lights turned on. As a result of the slim pickins, most of the preachers had to take real jobs so them and their kin could eat three squares a day and not show up at church nekid. Now the bad side to all this was that most preachers couldn’t do nuthin that would earn them a livin. If they could they probly wouldn’t a been preachin. There sure wasn’t no farmers or ranchers amongst em and most didn’t know which end of the hawg the ham come off of. No sir, it was a sad state of affairs for most of em see-in that this was a dirt-poor, hard scrabble farm community and that was where the few jobs lay. Why on earth them preachers wanted this misery I could never figure but I guess they was kinda fond of standin up in front of folks and listenin to themselves talk, then eatin somebody else’s fried chicken and sweet tater pie afterwards. Well sometimes things got purty tight and preachers wsa pushed into takin a job kinda crosswise with the teachins of the Lord, like sellin TV’s and other works of the Devil. Usually, if they liked the preacher, the deacons would just put on their blinders for a spell knowin somethin else would come about before too long. The preachers was usually encouraged to try and land something far enough away it was out of site of God and the congregation. This is kinda where this story begins. For nearly ten years Malcolm T. Willbarger had been the preacher at “The Last Chance Church of Redemption” and he had been a good-un. During the era when Malcolm T was preaching it was so packed on Sunday that folks who showed up late better had brung their own milk stools if they wanted a seat. Some said the secret to Malcom T’s success had been his ability to paint a colorful and shockingly frank picture of the worldly carryin-on of folks in the big cities. He was known to spend a goodly portion of his sermon describin the sins of the flesh. His flock came away both entertained and relieved that their own sinful imaginations was so limited alongside the Sodomites and Go-morites of the world. Some left inspired in other ways. Well nuthin is gonna last for good and Ol Malcolm T’s reputation fur preaching and filling the hat on Sunday landed him a church in none other than the big city itself. When the word got out that Malcolm T was history the other preachers in the area thanked the Lord and set about roping in as many of “Last Chance’s” flock as they could get. Malcolm T. had been kinda anxious to get started savin more “prosperous” souls and had left the day after the letter come in the mail, leavin his old flock without a shepherd. The other preachers knowed that the good folks at “Last Chance” was in fur a string of fill-in preachers, or even worse, the deacons themselves, and mite be easy pickins. Probably out of panic the deacons of “Last Chance” hired the first fella that come down the road, Henry Wishum. Some had argued that Henry was short on time at the pulpit but the others said he seemed to have fire like Ol Malcolm T when he preached. So when it come to a vote the deacons were split but Henry was offered the job anyway, at about a dime on the dollar of what most other preachers ws gettin and that on a trial basis. Henry had been told by the deacons that if he could hold the flock together for six months they would re-think his wages. A fella could lose a lot of weight not eatin for six months and Henry knowd that he better get him a plan together quick. When Malcolm T was preaching for “Last Chance” they had built him a purty nice parsonage so Henry, being a single fella, knowd that he just had to bring in enough extry to keep him in beans and fatback til times got better. Well one of the advantages of preaching is you git to meet a lot of sinners. Henry knowd that “where there is sinners there is opportunity”. He had a kinda natural knack for the preaching bidness. It weren’t long before Henry was hooked up with a fella across the river in Oklahoma, Ollie Poteet, who was running the cock fights on Saturdays. The fights started purty early and lasted deep into the night if the crowd held. Now, in that Henry was a man of the Lord, Ollie Poteet had the preacher watch the poke and Ollie had his half-brother, Russell, watch Henry. Russell was as crooked as a snake’s peejamas but he sure weren’t gonna let noone else steal a dime that mite land in his pocket later. All that Henry had to do was make sure that Ollie got the house rake from each fight at the end of the night. He kept Ollie’s poke in a ceegar box tucked under his arm. Henry came out with a little piece of the poke and the added benefit of purty much all the dead chickens he could take home to eat. Ol’ Russell liked to show off some and he carried a sawed-off shotgun around all the time at the cock fights. Now this made the preacher a bit skittish as he started thinking Russell mite try to fill him full of buckshot some night and hijack the ceegar box. After giving it some thought Henry bought hisself a little two dollar pistol from another sinner he knowd. It was small enough to fit real handy in his pocket and it gave him some relief from his frettin over Russell’s thieving nature. Some months went by and the preacher got so comfortable with that little pistol in his pocket that he forgot it was even there. He even got somewhat relaxed around Russell, like you might a snake under a coffee can. Surrounded once a week by the most notorious sinners on either side of the Red River, Henry was able to craft and deliver sermons every bit as colorful as Ol Malcolm T ever had. With just one more Sunday preaching to go before his trial time was up, Henry was feeling purty good about his odds at gettin a nice-sized raise from the deacons and finally having Saturdays all to hisself. Beings he was sorta indisposed on Saturdays the preacher had always made sure his sermon was writ up and set to memry by Friday supper. Well that was the way it had been up until that fateful last weekend. It had come a big tornady across the river in the middle of the week. Bright and early Friday morning Ollie sent his haf-wit brother to fetch the preacher to help out with some last minute fixin-up of the cockfight area. Trees was down and pens tore up and by the time Henry got back to the parsonage that night he was so tuckered out he went straight to bed with no sermon writ up at all. As anybody knows, when luck starts running downhill it just picks up speed. When the preacher showed up the next morning Ollie was sittin in his pickup truck all stove up with a throwed-out back. He told the preachur that Russell was gonna have to run the fights but that, no way in Hell, was the poke to be turned over at the end of the night to nobody but hisself.. Henry saw that Ollie was already hittin the jug purty hard in order to deal with his back misery and he knowd that things would go south real quick if Ollie took hisself out too early with that shine. The preacher figured if Russell got it into his head that he was mano-a mano with him, he would be on Henry like a duck on a June bug. and him and the poke would be good as history. Henry reached into his pocket and made sure he had that little pistol with him. He figured if he was purty watchful that day he could keep a few steps ahead of Ol Russell, the haf-wit’s brain being smaller than a day-old biskit. Failin that, he might at least surprise Russell and maybe get a shot off before he could bring the scattergun into play. The plan was thin for sure and the extra watchin it took all day kept Henry’s nerves on edge. Whenever he got a chance between fights Henry would stop by Ollie’s truck and check on him but each trip found Ollie a sittin a little lower in the seat and the jug a little emptier. By dark Ollie’s head had all but disappeared below the winder glass and to make matters worse, the preacher knowd that Russell had been making his rounds by the truck too. Well just after midnight the last cockfight was finally done and, as quick as he could, Ol Henry scooped the house share into that ceegar box and hot-footed it up to Ollie’s truck. There was still plenty of folks millin around so he knowd he was safe til everybody cleared out and he was sure prayin Ollie was in good enough shape to take the poke. When he first walked up he thought Ollie had got out to take a pee or something cuz he couldn’t even see the top of his head. But when the preacher shined his flashlight through the winder he almost fell backwards cuz there was Ollie layed plum down in the floorboard with his eyes bugged out and glazed over and his false teeth about half hangin out of his mouth. To make matters even worst Ollie appeared to have given up on the prospect of breathin. Henry jerked open the truck door and commenced to shaking Ollie for all he was worth. But no matter how hard he shook him the onliest thing that come of it was Ollie’s teeth poppin the rest of the way out of his head and a sliding down onto his belly. Somewhere in the midst of his corpse-shakin Henry become aware that the sounds of rooster loading and truck starting was thinning out. Just as he looked up through the windshield he saw Ol Russell, lit up by a full moon, working his way up the hill towards Ollie’s truck. It weren’t gonna do no good to stay where he was and he shore couldn’t leave the poke with a dead man so the preacher took off towards his Ol Chevy sedan as fast as his skinny legs would carry him. The preacher knowd for shore that Ollie’d fallen prey to his brother’s greed and he figured to be next on the list. Well, when Russell saw the preacher bolt with the poke under his arm he lowered that old scattergun and let off a blast. Now them sawed off barrels ain’t knowd for shootin strait but that buckshot will fan out purty good and a more than a few pellets found their mark in the preachers’s hind end. The scattergun spun Henry around like a dime store top and he landed in the dirt about twenty yards from his Chevy. Still clutchin the ceegar box under one arm the preacher was digging in his pocket hard for that two dollar pistol. He finally got that little pop gun out just as Russell come out of the shadows, shotgun first. Russell never knowd that the preacher even had a gun so he walked up purty cocky. As soon as Russell was within spittin distance Henry closed both eyes and let off a shot that hit his adversary square in the kneecap. Russell dropped the scattergun, howlin in pain, and hit the ground rollin around like a hawg in a waller. Not knowing where his shot had hit nor needing no more encouragement the preacher got back up on his feet, ceegar box in one hand and pistol is the other, and hobbled towards his car as fast as a man can when half his ass ain’t workin. Russell was too sidetracked to even take another shot as Henry raced by in his car. Woke up by the noise and a mite befuddled Ol Ollie sat up jest in time to see the preacher speed by, eyes as big as cow pattys, leanin way over to one side. It was a good ten minutes before Ollie located his teeth and his half brother and realized the preacher had flew the coop with his money. Henry knowd his preaching days in that area was over. He never saw Ollie sit up as he sped by so he figured him dead and maybe Russell too and with the poke in his possession he was destined to be a local fugitive from whatever passed as the law in Bryan County. Well, as it turned out no one around these parts ever seen hide nor hair of Ol Henry Wishum again but a few months later I heared a rumor that they was two radio preachers battling it out in Dallas, Texas.