"Now, what are you going to do?" Annie asked. She would not have said,
"What are we going to do?" that was not like her, for William was the one who
made all the decisions.
"I do not know," he said. "I will have to see what God says about
She knew he meant to search the Bible for the answer; it was his way. So she brought
the big Book to Him. He opened it and started to read while still lying down. It was the
first time he had ever done that. Usually, he read sitting up and alert, his body
attentive as he discovered some great truth, his head nodding with enthusiasm as he was
filled with each new understanding. He was usually very much alive when he searched for
He turned naturally to the story of Jesus' evangelism, reading the Sermon on the Mount
in Matthew. What a great street preacher Christ was," he thought, "and an open
air preacher, too," he noted proudly. "The answer must be here."
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be in
danger of the judgment
"What is cause?" he asked himself. Then read on.
And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is
profitable for thee that one of thy members shoould perich, and not that thy whole body
should be cast into hell.
What had he done wrong? Had he really offended the church people, breaking the wild
horse in front of the building. Was that it? The revival didn't have paid singers or an
organist as some churches did to attract people. They didn't even have song books.
Breaking horses was used in the same way, as a drawing card, wasn't it? Had not Moody had
He read on.
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy
right cheek, turn to him the other also.
"Oh, you are a hard man, God," he said. He always spoke to God as a friend
standing by his side. His prayers were not the usual on-the-knees, head-bowed-down formal
prayers. They were made while on horseback or while driving or walking, wherever and
whenever he found the need to talk to this very personal Friend. "But show me your
will." In comparison to eternity, nothing else mattered.
He continued reading . . . .
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that
hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;That ye may be
the children of your Father which is in heaven
"The children of your Father
" So that was it? He had to fail in order
to succeed in becoming a child of God. Could it be God was trying to teach him the spirit
His pride was his greatest sin. He always found himself reaching out for praise, for
acclaim, and because he was colorful and "good copy," the newspapers were always
liberal in the publicity they gave him.
He rose from the bed. Once again he wore the characteristic cheerful smile.
"Annie, what do you think I did that I shouldn't have done? You are used to these
church people. I am not. Tell me where I failed."
"I don't think the 'elect' liked sitting next to people with whisky on their
"So that was it! You think that was it?"
"And the breaking of the wildhorse?"
"I don't think they liked that either."
"But they seemed to like it."
"The townspeople, yes, but not the church people. They like to think of their
preacher as being a 'tony' fellow. It makes them feel more genteel themselves."
"I'm beginning to think, Annie, some atheists are closer to God's love than many
of these so-called Christians who, having been brought up within the church all their
lives, have never felt they have to experience God's grace the way outsiders do. Belonging
to the church is to them something to puff up their egos, and not enjoying God's saving
grace. Do you think I should give up using the wild horses as a drawing card?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Well, I was reading that part, 'If thy right hand offends thee, cut it off.'
Surely the horse is my right hand, and I thought maybe if I want to get the cooperation of
the church people, I'll have to make this sacrifice. But I do not know if I can talk to
the people without the horse demonstration. When I am horseback I feel like a different
man. I can even talk to God better. The horse seems to be my mediator. But I shall try.
When we go to Quincey I shall try."
The meetings had been going on at Quincey for six weeks when Bill and Annie arrived.
People were beginning to show sings of losing interest and the minister was discouraged.
Bill knew in his heart how he could thrust a hypodermic of energy into the arm of the
lagging meetings. It was a sore temptation to pass a coral of wild horses and not engage
one for an exhibition that was always bound to draw an interested public.
He preached from an indoor pulpit each evening, appearing in well-dressed tailored
clothes that bespoke the care Annie gave them. He studied far into the night, organizing
his sermons. With inexhaustible preparation. He called on the church members by day to
enlist their support. But when he got opnto the pulpit to preach, the old verve was gone
and he felt a weakness in his legs. His voice didn't seem to have the same rich fiber that
came form an inner well of happiness and satisfaction. He often felt dizzy. It was hard to
draw upon the exciting stories that had thrilled the Coldwater saloon crowd. He didn't get
many converts, preaching mostly to church members.
Heartsick, he wrote to Dr. Torrey, asking for the school to pray for him. He told him
of his discharge at Coldwater and his coming to Quincey in Branch county. He told him he
had no one to lead in the singing, no one to play the organ.
How he hated to write of his failure to Dr. Torrey, who had had such faith in him. His
letter in part said, "I have all kinds of people to contend with here, but the worst
are the church members. They will try to break up the meetings. There is a class in the
country that say they cannot sin, yet they will lie. These are the hardest for me to deal
"Things are spiritually dead here. The mayor is an infidel and many church people
are in doubt. I have had no conversions as yet. Pray that the Lord will give us a soul for
Him before the end of the meetings."
On the last night he had one convert!
"If just one soul is brought to Christ," he told Annie, "the meeting has
been worthwhile." But in his heart he knew he was a failure.
Annie hated living in the single rooms. She hated living in the country. She hated the
narrow-minded inquisitiveness of the small towns; she was not used to having people point
her out. She was lonesome for her sisters, too. They went back to Chicago.
They rented a house and William busied himself about the city with his horses, working
again for some of his old clients for whom he had worked while he was going to school. He
trained dressage horses for Chicago millionaires. He taught High School riding to women of
the Gold Coast. He finished his book on "How to Educate a Horse," and got it
published. Sears Roebuck sold more copies than had been anticipated. He continued to write
for the Horse Review. He spent what time was left organizing a Sunday School for newsboys.
But he missed the old days when he went up the trail for God, when he talked to men who,
except for his efforts, had little opportunity to hear of God's love. He was restless,
Then Annie discovered she was going to have a baby. She was glad for William's sake,
perhaps now he would be satisfied. Perhaps he would be content to stay in Chicago.
They bought a house in Austin, which is now Oak Park, and set about with young
excitement getting a first home ready for a little one. William painted the house, planted
a garden, and built a fence. He did all the many things a husband will do gladly for his
young bride. He even braided a hammock for her and hung it under the shade of a tree. The
first child came, and William proudly called him Calvin Hepp Mullen. Two months later the
Bible Institute asked him to go to a little mission in Saute St. Marie where a worker was
Annie was alone now for the first time. And so was William.
William often thought when he was a student, he would have liked to become a home
missionary. "The rougher and tougher the better: was the way he put it on his school
The mission building in Saute St. Marie was owned by a woman called Miss Mason, who had
gone heavily in debt for a big building in her own name. Here, as in his first two
evangelistic engagements, there seemed to be much contention among the groups of religious
It had been simple, preaching in the shade of a big tree on a western ranch before
hospitable cowboys as broadminded as the limitless sections they rode. Neither was he
prepared for the tremendous tact and subtleties demanded to work in highly organized
groups within the narrow confines of church walls. Or perhaps it was his high zeal to work
for God that made him overlook the necessity that a preacher, too, must also be worthy of
He suggested he work mornings with his horses and serve the mission afternoons, but no,
that did not meet with their approval. Then he offered to accept as little a salary as six
dollars a week. That, too, was voted down.
How about the congregation spending the night in prayer? Oh, no. the day in prayer? No
--there seemed to be no way to settle this matter harmoniously. There was another
difficulty of a more personal matter. The mission superintendent, in asking for a home
missionary worker, had failed to say she wanted a single man. She had planned rather
"to give him his room, board and a little money, if any was left after the bills were
paid.? Much of his concern now was for taking care of Annie and his new son. The fifty
dollars' payment on the purchase price of seven hundred dollars, plus the considerable
work he had invested in the place.
Again, he wrote Dr. Torrey:
There is so much contention here among the mission society over who would be master;
but I have nothing to do with it. I am preaching the word as the Lord leads me, and He is
blessing us with new souls for Christ.
I would like to continue living in Oak Park, but do not know if I can. I'll never owe
another dollar, if I can help it! I would like your advice on this.
I am striving just as hard as I can against sin but need help. This is a hard town
(Saute St. Marie) to cope with.
Your brother in Christ,
Dr. Torrey answered that his duty was to his family. It would be better for the mission
to get a single man who could accept the room and board payment.
So he returned to Austin and Annie. He was soon called for a protracted meeting at the
Dutch Reform Church in Roseland. It proved to be a pleasant one for both the members and
William seemed pleased with the outcome. Annie was ecstatic to be reunited with William.
William also filled other engagements for churches in and nearby Chicago, but not too
many of them, for it had to be within driving distance of the little home they both
enjoyed. He again formed a Sunday School for newsboys in Chicago, paying all expenses from
his own pocket. Expenses included a hot lunch of frankfurters, buns, hot cocoa and
But it was not enough. "God gave me one talent," he told Annie in despair:
"It was to gentle the wild. Without doing this I am nothing. I cannot endure it when
I think of how God worked miracles in my own life to keep this secret for happiness away
from the great throngs of burdened men in the world."
They sold the little house that had given them such happiness, the little house that
always had been filled with the sweet aroma of freshly-baked bread, of scrubbed floors, of
blooming lilacs by the kitchen door. They put what was left of their belongings into a
big, brown valise that had to be sat upon when strapped shut, and they bought a long
railway ticket, and set out on a trail for God again -- a big, smiling strong man with a
baby boy in one arm and a stuffed valise in the other, and a rather somber-faced little
woman wearing a neat black and white checked Eton suit, trimmed with velvet collar and
cuffs, and a perky little hat on her head. Her veiled face still had the roses in her
cheeks, but her eyes were moist and, if one looked closely, a little sad.
They went from town to town, from city to city, and from village to village. Wherever
they went, William trained horses and preached to the throngs that were eager to hear him.
Mostly they were men. Once again papers were filled with news of the now-famous
"Cowboy Preacher." There were no churches to bother about anymore -- he was done
with that -- no jealousies to steal the preacher's strength, no smugness of an elect few
to weaken his verve.
Yes, William was happy. And the Kingdom of God was being served with streets packed
with crowds. Annie "managed" somehow getting along in little one-room homes she
set up in tiny towns, or in the simple rooms of city hotels along the way. Before long
they had visited and preached in every western state in America.
Wherever her minister husband went, he was well-received by both people and press.
"Horse and Holiness," headlined a Denver paper. "Now my
friends, you have seen how easy it is to bring under control even a vicious and heretofore
unmanageable horse, will you be more obdurate when I try to lead you in the way of light?
"Broad-shouldered and brawny, with a chest as thick and solid as a cake of ice,
and a flashy face lit up by a cheerful smile, Evangelist William Mullen, who came to
Colorado recently from the Bible Institute in Chicago, turns from horse training to
holiness in one minute's time and a twist and a turn of tow powerful arms."
Another Denver newspaper compared his "horse breaking and preaching
exhibition" to a baseball game.
It was staged at the Broadway Baseball Park before a crowd of fans. Like features of a
real ball game, were the events of the horse-breaking and preaching exhibition by
evangelist horse tamer William Mullen. It included several wild pitches, considerable
fanning of the air, wild throws, assists, and errors.
At Lincoln, the newspaper noted:
Evangelist Mullen gave a splendid exhibition of horse-breaking yesterday afternoon on
Haymarket Square. It is not considered hard for experienced horsemen to reduce a native
animal that has never felt halter or saddle, but only horsemen can appreciate the skill on
Mr. Mullen in making docile wild Mexican Mustangs which he had operated upon while in
His daily schedule was to conduct two meetings, one in the afternoon and another in the
evening, breaking two vicious horses at each gathering. It was a rigorous program and
demanded tremendous vitality, but he was glad to do it and whenever wanted more reward
that the privilege of telling people about Christ and how His love could change their
In Omaha, where he went next, a newspaper wrote:
The mustang was led away by a little boy, whereas it required a good stout man to bring
it to the scene of subjugation. The wild mustang which was tamed belonged to a saloon
keeper. After the meeting, Mullen accepted an invitation to go to the saloon and drink a
glass of soda water.
His technique was always to close the demonstration with a child riding the
recently-gentled animal. By the time his son was four years old he would terminate the
meeting by hoisting him on the bronco's back. And later, when I was the right age and my
brother Calvin in school, I would do the same, while the crowd cheered and shouted. I
I remember sometimes there would be catcalls of "Fake. Fake."
"What is fake?" I once asked my father.
"There are some who have eyes but cannot see," he replied. "Horses love
gentle people, but man cannot understand this. When they cry 'fake' they cry out their
"Oh," I said uncertainly.
Go to Chapter 13
Return to Table of Contents