Behind the Grindstone: Deacon


By Bill Bunting

December 7, 2022

The old man settin’ there on the porch
His hair and mustache white
The young man with a pencil and pad
Lookin’ for a story to write

He said he’d come from way back east
In that brand new automobile
The old man said mankind’s gone downhill
Ever since they invented the wheel

But if you’re lookin’ for a story
I’ve got one to tell
I’ll tell you one of ole Deacons
I can remember that story right well

You see, I met Ol’ Deacon on the Flyin’ M ranch in the Cimarron River country of the panhandle of Oklahoma. I reckon he’d spent most of his life ridin’, tellin’ stories and quotin’ scripture from that tattered old bible he carried. Most of the hands shied away from Ole Deacon because I believe his stories pricked their conscience. But every time they’d hire a new young rider we’d have to ride with Deacon.

He told of David and a giant
A sling with a few little rocks
Now some of the boys got right edgy
But I never got tired of his talks

He talked of Noah and a big ole boat
And the animals came two by two
He talked of Daniel and a den full of lions
And Samson and the men that he slew

He talked a lot about Jesus
Who in fact was God’s only Son
Who came to the earth in the form of a man
And he told of the things He’d done

Well, I rode quite a while with Ole Deacon
It must have been a year or two
Then my feet shore got to itchin’
For somethin’ excitin’ to do

So I drifted away from the Flyin’ M
Like most youngsters I was lookin’ for fun
I got real good at brandin’ another man’s cattle
And sharpened my skills with a gun

Soon I was ridin that downhill slope
Why, I’d ride a horse right into the ground
Then I’d just steal another and ride on
I thought I was the best horse thief around

Well, the jury found me guilty
Of some cattle I had stole
The judge sentenced me to fifteen years
Without the chance of parole

Now prison life didn’t suit me well
I just kept on goin’ bad
Soon I was locked in solitaire
The worst of the worst that they had

I’d stand in my cell alone at night
Rattlin’ my cup on the cage
There was nights my heart was filled with remorse
Other nights it was filled with a rage

And I cursed the guards who fed me
And the judge who sent me there
I cursed the God who made me
A God who just didn’t care

Well Ol’ Deacon he came to visit
I’d been about a year in that place
He wanted to talk about Jesus
But I just spat in that old man’s face

So he handed me that tattered old bible
Said if I’d read it it might change my life
With a sneer I tossed it in the corner
Said a true friend would have slipped me a knife

But there were nights I dreamed about heaven
And nights I dreamed about hell
And nights I stayed up all night long
Rememberin’ those stories he’d tell

And I got to readin’ that old bible
Shoot a man needed somethin’ to do
I’d read all day and curse all night
For what seemed to be a year or two

Then one night all that hatred and anger
Was more than I could stand
That night I knelt before that Jesus
And I was touched by the master’s hand

Well, I did my full time in that prison
The full fifteen to the day
Then they closed those old gates behind me
And I just turned and walked away

And I just went back to cowboyin’
Though now I had a name to live down
I just rode and told Deacon’s stories
Got old and moved here to town

Well listen to me ramblin’ on
You’re wantin’ a story you say
I’ll tell you one of Ole Deacons
I can remember it yet to this day

He’d say, “A baby was born
Who was God here on earth
And I’m a tellin’ you boys
It wasn’t your normal kinda birth”

“Cause His momma was a virgin
And like these newfangled cattle they breed
She had to come from the right bloodline
Be of the right seed”

“And an angel had told her
That she was the one
She had been chosen
To carry God’s son”

“Now I’m tellin’ you boys
This is mighty strange
Ain’t nothin’ like this
Ever happened on our range”

“But an old king said
A tally’s bein’ took
You gotta go where you was born
To put your name in my book”

“This is why Joseph
And his new bride to be
Were in Bethlehem
On that night don’t you see”

“Now I wouldn’t say
Ole Joe had any fear
But how would you feel
If your brides time was right near”

“They went to the hotel
But they turned them away
We ain’t got any room
Was all they would say”

“So they found them a barn
Where they thought they could stay
And that night a baby was born
Right there on the hay”

“And there were sheepherders wanderin’
Around in the night
When the sky was split wide open
With a bright shining light”

“And boys, they saw angels
Singin’ about a new king
And the peace and the joy
His comin’ would bring”

“Why they say an old boy named Isiah
Who was dead long before
Had told the same story
And told of much more”

“And there’s more to the story
A star in the night
And the wise men who found Him
By followin’ it’s light”

“And they worshiped the boy
When they found Him that day
Cause our Savior was born
Right there on the hay”

“And his folks named Him Jesus
Like they had been told
A gift to the world
More precious than gold”

“You see folks were expectin’ Him
But, naw he’s not the one
They wanted a king
Not a carpenter’s son”

“Why He came as a servant
He was almost a slave
Then He was lynched by the folks
He’d came here to save”

“But this was according
To God’s holy plan
To come to the earth
In the form of a man”

“And die on a cross
Then be risen again
So all who believed
Could be free of their sin”

“And this was a gift
Without any cost
He hung on the cross
And died for the lost”

Well Ol’ Deacons crossed over that river
The Flyin’ M’s just a subdivide
Look at me I’m getting old
It hurts too much to ride

So I bought this little house
Here at the edge of town
Mornin’s I watch the sun come up
Evenin’s I watch it go down

But I think a lot about Deacon
Son he was shore quite a hand
And I wonder how many of us young strays
He lead to the promised land

At least, that’s the view here from behind the grindstone.

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