Barry Hollifield, Bar, to his friends, was a big man. And by big I mean he stood six feet, one inch tall, and was thick and strong. But right now, more than anything else, he was just sore. His planned eight second ride on a particularly ornery bull named Menace had come to an abrupt end at just 4.5 seconds, when he was vaulted off his back, and stomped on as Menace continued to vent his anger. Fortunately the always present rodeo clown had distracted the fifteen hundred pounds of beef on a tirade and gotten Bar to safety.
“Why, why in the world do I do this?” he asked himself for the umpteenth time as he reached for the Tylenol.
He knew the answer. He had been born to and for this life. His daddy was a cowboy before him, as was his grandfather before that. Still, that did not put an end to the aches, pains, bruises, and cuts that were currently making him wish he had been something safer, maybe like a doctor.
The Tylenol slid down his throat, chased by a glass of cold ice water. He knew that by now, the rodeo ended, most of his fellow bull riders would be going out for a different kind of drink, one that he himself would never touch. And sure enough…
“Hey, Bar!” a drawling voice shouted from outside as a fist pounded on his trailer door, “Me and the boys are heading down to the local tavern to down a few beers. Why don’t you come along with us?”
Bar could hear a couple of others voices outside laughing at that, and one said in a lower voice, “You know Mr. Goody Pants ain’t comin, why do you even ask?”
Bar took another swig of his ice water and slowly walked to the door, limping a bit from the huge bruise on his thigh. Ol’ Menace stomped it hard, doggone that stubborn bull. He opened it to see three smaller cowboys, Sam, Tom, and Mack, men he had known for three years now as he had ridden the circuit.
“Howdy, men, and thanks for the offer. But I’m just gonna shower off and bed down for the night. There’s a good church a few miles up the road from here, and I intend to be up early and head over there for worship tomorrow. Why don’t you fellas plan on joinin’ me?”
Mack laughed a deep belly laugh. “Sure, Bar! Me and the boys will just get all gussied up and go along with you to hear a boring sermon delivered to four little white haired ladies! Maybe it will be good for us; we’ll probably need a nap after partyin all night!”
Sam and Tom laughed along with him, and sauntered away from Bar’s trailer, heading for Mack’s F350. They slung dirt as he punched the gas, fishtailed it out of the parking lot, and headed toward town. Bar knew they would be coming back drunk, if they came back. With a sinner’s lifestyle, making it back safe was never a sure thing, Bar knew that.
Under his breath he whispered, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” It was the words of a Bible verse that he had memorized long years ago, Proverbs 14:12. Then he shook his head sadly and began to pray for his wayward friends.
“Lord, I have tried to be a witness to those three, but it just doesn’t seem to be helping so far. I am worried about them, Lord. They do not know you as their Lord and Savior, and if they die, they will go to hell. Lord Jesus, please keep them safe one more night, and please do whatever is necessary to bring them to you.”
And then Bar closed the door, went inside, showered off, and got ready for bed. Before he slipped under the covers, though, he did as he had done since the day he got saved. He knelt down by his bed, opened his Bible, and read a few chapters of God’s precious book. Then he bowed his head and prayed for his mom and dad way back home in Texas, for his pastor, for himself, and last of all he prayed one more time for Sam, Tom and Mack.
Then he crawled under the covers, and was soon sound asleep.
Three hours later, at the Sandlot Tavern, others were very much awake. Tom, Mack and Sam were three of them. Their drinks were sitting in front of them, and had barely been touched. The music was warbling out of the juke box, but they did not seem to even hear it. Honestly, anyone who looked at them could have told very quickly that they were just not having much of a good time at all.
It was Mack who finally broke the silence.
“Boys, I gotta tell ya, somethin just don’t feel right, and I don’t get it.”
“I hear ya, Mack,” Sam said immediately, “I feel the same way, I just don’t quite know why.”
It was quiet for a few more seconds, then Tom spoke up. “You both know what’s wrong, and I do too. Ol’ Bar has gotten to us. We been tryin to loosen him up for three years now, tryin to show him what it’s like to have a good time. But who is the only one out of all of us that seems to actually enjoy life?”
They didn’t have to speak the answer, all of them knew. They partied and drank and caroused, they did whatever they wanted to do whenever they wanted to do it, but they were miserable. But rain or shine, good days or bad, Bar Hollifield always had a joy about him. He had something none of them had, and they all knew it.
It wasn’t just a matter of behavior, Bar had always told them that. He said, “anybody can be good for a while, but that doesn’t really change anything. Just being good is like painting a car without an engine. That just makes it pretty on the outside, but dead on the inside. No, fellas, what really changes everything is coming to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.”
He had given his testimony to them at least a dozen times, and all of them could rehearse it back by heart. He had once been a sinner like them; a drunk, a carouser, a man with a filthy mouth. But on his twenty-third birthday his parents had finally talked him into going to church with them. That night, a man stood up and preached on Calvary. And for the first time in his life, Bar Hollifield understood that he was a sinner and needed to be saved. For the first time in his life he understood that Jesus had died to pay for everything he had ever done wrong.
Bar Hollifield had gotten up out of his seat, walked down that aisle in front of everybody, knelt down at the altar, and asked Jesus to forgive him and save him. He got up from that altar a brand new man, and never touched another drop of alcohol, never went to another party, and stopped cursing.
Even living a rodeo life, he lived like a child of God. And after watching him for these past three years, after seeing how well he had things together, Mack and Sam and Tom were starting to realize how much they needed what he had.
The silence hung thick in the air as they thought their own thoughts. And then, without a word, they got up to leave. They paid their tabs, and headed for the door, and each of them knew that they would be going to church the next morning. But the devil had other plans…
As they walked through the parking lot heading for the truck, a voice called out angrily behind them.
“Hey, punks! You ain’t gettin gone that easy.”
Mack and Tom and Sam whirled around to see three men striding after them, and one of them was huge, so big that he would make Bar seem small by comparison. They were wearing Hell’s Angels biker jackets, and were clearly looking for trouble.
“Which one of you hit on my girl?” The huge biker asked through a breath that reeked of booze.
The cowboys looked at each other, knowing that none of them had done anything of the sort. They had all been preoccupied with how they needed what Bar Hollifield had, and had not even paid attention to anyone else.
“Hoss,” Mack said, “We ain’t lookin for no trouble, and ain’t none of us hit on your girl. So we’re just gonna mosey on back to where we came from, okay?”
“No, hillbilly, it isn’t okay,” the big biker said as his two buddies laughed an evil laugh. “And by the time I’m done with you, you aren’t going to be okay either, any of you.”
The cowboys knew they were in trouble. None of them stood over five foot nine, and none of them weighed more that 170 pounds. This huge biker and his buddies would kill them for sure if this erupted into a fight, which he clearly intended.
Mack had seen people killed in brawls like this. So had Sam and Tom. All three of them were thinking about that. And all three of them were also horrified at the thought that, if they died in this fight, they were going to wind up in hell.
The biker cracked his knuckles, and moved in.
“I think I’ll kill you first,” he said to Tom.
Tom balled up his fists and got ready to fight. No cowboy, no matter how small, would ever go down without a fight. He knew he was going to lose, but he intended on making sure the big biker knew he had been in a scrap.
But then something happened that no one was expecting. All six men whirled to the side as a deep voice spoke from a man limping out of the shadows.
“No, actually, you won’t kill him, or anyone else.”
It was Bar Hollifield!
Mack and Sam and Tom were stunned; they could not imagine what he was doing there at that moment. Bar could read that question written on their faces.
“God woke me up from a sound sleep, fellas, and let me know I needed to be here. Now I see why.”
The huge biker spat on the ground. “God!?! You better have a bigger God than most if you intend to stand in my way, cowboy.”
“I do, mister, I do,” Bar said with a smile. “And my big God has a big cowboy that he has prepared for moments just like this one. Now, I’m going to say this exactly one time. Turn around, and walk away, before your buddies have to carry you away like a sack of taters.”
The eyes of the other two bikers and the other three cowboys got as wide as saucers. Bar Hollifield was a big man, but this biker was massive, and clearly as mad as a hornet.
The biker cracked his knuckles one more time, and hissed, “Everybody stand clear. This is now between me and him, and one of us is leaving here on a stretcher.”
Bar just smiled, put his hands up like a boxer, and stood there waiting.
Mack was nervous for his friend. This biker was at least four inches taller and fifty pounds heavier. “He’s taking my place in front of this monster,” he said to himself, amazed that anyone would do something like that.
The biker raised his hands and moved in. He rared back to throw a knockout punch, and immediately realized what a bad idea that was. Quick as a cat, Bar Hollifield threw a straight jab that caught the biker right in his mouth. Stunned, the biker took a couple of steps back, tasted his own blood, and realized his lip was split.
“There’s more where that came from,” Bar said simply.
The biker went ballistic. No one, no one EVER had stood up and popped him like that! In a rage, he charged at Bar Hollifield, arms outstretched, intending to grab him around the throat and strangle him like a rag doll.
But Bar was an observant sort. He had seen things like this a thousand times through the years; furious bulls charging at people. And smart men always handled it the exact same way…
Bar waited, stock still, till the last split second, then quickly stepped to the side, and left his foot stuck out. The charging biker tripped and sprawled face first in the dirt.
Hoo, boy, now he really was mad!!!
He jumped back up, whirled around the meet his foe, but Bar was already there. He brought a big fist crashing down onto the biker’s jaw, then pivoted and caught him with a hard left hand to the gut, bending him over double, then dropped a hard elbow square onto the back of his head.
Lights out, biker, lights out.
Everyone stood there stunned, just looking at the unconscious biker laying in the dirt.
Then Bar Hollifield spoke.
“You two, get back on your bikes and ride away. Don’t come back here again. And do yourselves a favor; get to know Jesus as your Savior before you die and go to hell, cause that’s where this life you are living is eventually going to take you, probably sooner instead of later.”
The bikers didn’t have to be told twice. In under ten seconds they were flying out of the parking lot, leaving their big unconscious buddy to fend for himself.
And the next morning, there was not one, but four cowboys sitting in a packed local church, as a young pastor stood and preached the gospel with power and passion. And if you had been there that day at the end of the service, you would have seen the bottoms of four pairs of boots at the altar, as one big cowboy knelt and showed three friends how to come to know the God who gave Himself for them.
(© Dr. Bo Wagner 2018)
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