Chapter Fourteen

Arriving at Bakersfield, the first thing they did was to ride down the red and white oleander-bordered lane of the Stockdale Ranch, with tall palm trees giving the place a tropical atmosphere, different from anything Annie had ever seen. She sighed happily and agreed: "One would almost think it were another world."

As they approached the cook house, Annie caught sight of a mule, hitched to a locust post, going round and round pumping water. She noted the bunk house on stilts where William had slept, the big bell that had called him to meals.

It was her first true glimpse of that life he had had before she met him. She was happy to know more of these open-hearted horsemen to whom her husband was so closely bound.

The orchard was an Eden of peach trees, orange trees--every kind of fruit tree one could imagine. A garden also grew enough fresh vegetables for all. "Oh, this is California," she said.

Mr. Tevis was there and lost little time hiring William to start training their blooded horses in the morning, freeing his time in the afternoon and evening for his ministry. "Praise God," William sang out. "One-hundred-twenty dollars a month for the ranch work! And you shall live in a cottage and raise geraniums to your heart's content and roses, too." Annie did so love flowers!

"And what is your church salary to be?" she asked.

"Twenty dollars a month! But what does that matter? I'd be just as happy if it were nothing."

She knew he spoke the truth. Well, William was right," . . .all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose."

Church work was slow in Bakersfield for the first few months. The congregation did not want special meetings, but William was busy getting acquainted with each family in the church and then with each member of the roaring oil community.

He would preach at the race track, at the corrals, even on the street during week days and inside the church on Sundays--mornings and evenings and Wednesday evening. The attendance grew from sixteen to eighty. It was the best attendance they had had in years. Yet it was not enough.

"I know what to do, Annie, my darling," he said. "We have no singers to draw the people inside the way Moody did with Sankey."

"Now you tried that, William, once before!" she broke in, knowing what he had in mind.

"But this is California and haven't I been training horses over this entire United States to draw my street crowds?"

"And no one has objected. I will train a horse every Sunday night and pack them in side the church afterwards!"

The horse taming exhibition in front of the church that Sunday evening was a success, according to the Bakersfield MORNING ECHO which described it as follows:

There is no denying the fact that brawny, broad-shouldered Evangelist Mullen is an expert at breaking and training horses. If he could only squelch the old nick in sinners as readily and effectually as he does the "wild" broncos, he would be a world-beater at saving souls.

Yesterday an ECHO reporter accepted an invitation from the evangelist to witness him "try his hand" on a great, tall, high-headed, high-kicking and wild-eyed iron grey steed, fresh from the freedom of the herd. Within one hour from the time the untamed charger was led from the Land Company's stables into the street, the evangelist was seated in a cart behind him, driving along the streets as if a gentle plow horse were pulling the vehicle.

The evangelist has an original way of handling wild horses just as he has in preaching to sinners. A girth was buckled on the untamed horse and one forefoot secured to it. In this way, it could be made to lie down and get up at will. Following this, the horse was harnessed and hitched to a cart and driven off as above stated.

Is not the preacher a horse breaker?

But on Monday a committee of church members called on William. Their faces gave warning of grave offense. "It is beneath our dignity to put on a bronco-busting stunt in front of our church."

There was no use to plead it was only used as a drawing card.

"And you will have to give up your job with the Land Company," they demanded.

That matter of supporting his family had to be introduced again.

"But we will raise your salary gladly," they offered. "And give you a place to stay." William knew, much to his sorrow, he had given his word to stay six months, and what the Bible said: "He that sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not . . ."

He packed his belongings again in the big brown valise and sadly drove his little family down the palm-lined avenue away from the snug cottage of the Stockdale Ranch.

They set up housekeeping in the back of the old church on Twenty-Second and Eye Street--two gloomy rooms in the back of a frontier town church that looked more like a country store than a chapel. In fact, it was later to house the Bakersfield Creamery.

There were times God's will seemed stern, indeed, Annie thought, but did not say so.

The Land Company begged him to remain with them and offered him a hundred acres of river bottom land as an inducement. They liked the influence he had on the wild, brawling town. They had known how many times he had been awakened in the night to settle a saloon fight, how many wives and mothers had summoned him to bring a drunken husband or son home in the early morning. The strange thing about this trainer-preacher, he was welcomed by saloon keepers as well as by community leaders. But he had little influence on stern church members.

No doubt you'll strike oil," one of the Land Company officials argued with him. "You better accept."

"I couldn't take the land," the preacher told him. "I have to keep myself on call for God."

So he gave all his time to the church. They raised his salary to thirty dollars a month.

Once again he wrote to Dr Torrey but still not with bitterness. In fact, he didn't even mention having to give up his job at the Stockdale Ranch. The letter, instead, was teaming with enthusiasm for the work he was doing. He began:

It is with pleasure I can write you. This is one of the hardest fields, if not the most sinful in California. Work has been slow here, but after laboring for five months, sinners are now listening to God's work and men are turning to God. The Lord has drawn unto Himself twelve this month and many more are under conviction.

His religion was growing away from a narrow, confining one into a mature, strong conviction.

My engagement as pastor of the church will close on the last Sunday in February. We expect to follow with a big independent revival in this wicked city.

This has been a hard struggle but we are more than conquerors after fighting within and without. The Baptist Home Mission Society representative has been fighting me very hard because the church called me as their pastor in preference to Seminary men. As yet I am unordained but I have received a call from five churches where I held special meetings and two of these have a membership of offer two hundred and fifty. I told them to get a better man.

Pray that God will give us a great revival here next month for the wickedness here is awful. Murderers and all kinds of wicked men and women walk the streets and children are guilty of the sins of aged sinners.

May the Lord bless you in your work and prosper the school

Yours in the Lord,

William Mullen (signed)

When the revival was over, William packed the big, brown, bulging valise again. This time he mapped out an itinerary that was to take him from one coast to the other, culminating at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo.

He was from this time on to become a pastor of the unchurched.

Annie didn't mind leaving the dingy little rooms in the back of the old church as much as she minded leaving the spanking clean cottage with the rose garden in front, and the tall, tall, red geraniums in back.

Son Calvin was three now, old enough to sit on a horse's back and convince the skeptics of man's power of gentleness. She shuddered as she thought about this. William had once said he could "hardly wait for little Beulah to be old enough to ride the wild horses hoot." What a thrill it would be to see her golden curls in the sunlight bobbing as she galloped around the ring before the applauding onlookers.

Each day, Annie cut out the many newspaper articles that were always being written about the fiery evangelist who was her husband. She pasted them in a scrap book she carefully kept. It seemed there were few people in America about whom so much was being written as her husband who was preaching his way across the continent, a leather saddle for his pulpit, and her three-year-old son to prove the control of fiery spirits was best done with kindness.

Her heart trembled many times with fear, but she would tell herself, "I'm sure William knows best."

They took a northerly route this time, stopping first at Fresno where, according to the scrap book, his sermon proved "too warm a test for a gang of toughs who attempted to disturb Evangelist Mullen's meeting Tuesday evening, and they have not shown their faces since."

In Oregon, he preached in a Chapel Car and the account said, "He is not afraid to declare the whole word of God . . . He is one of the finest Bible students we have met . . . "

From Oregon, they went to Colorado where he held meetings for two weeks. He was also well received in Denver where one newspaper commented:

Evangelist Mullen conquered a seven-year-old horse in less than a half-hour--a horse which had never been broken nor ridden. He breaks fractious or untamed horses as an important part of his crusade against the flesh and the devil.

From Denver, he followed his familiar midwestern trail, preaching in Nebraska first. During that time William Jennings Bryan was visiting Lincoln. Somehow the two men became life-long friends. I remember Papa telling me once that the "silver-tongued orator" had invited our family to his "his home our home" at a time when he was holding a revival meeting in Bryan's hometown.

"And why didn't we stay there?" I asked.

"I had already told a widow who ran a good boarding house there that we would be staying with her." papa answered.

"But then why didn't you just pay her the money instead?  It would have been fun to tell my friends about it," I said.

Papa laughed. "And hurt the poor woman's feelings?"

After Nebraska, he preached in Iowa and then traveled on to Chicago where he got a permit from Mayer Harrison to preach on the Lake Front at the foot of Randolph Street. Of him the Chicago CHRONICLE wrote:

Mr. Mullen is an eloquent speaker and the novel method of drawing large crowds invariably creates a favorable impression among his hearers. By the time the horsemanship of Mullen has won the admiration of the onlookers and when the horse is subdued, the evangelist dismounts and proceeds with the second part of his program. This is opened with prayer and a text selected for the gospel of the day.

On October 14, 1900, the Chicago INTER OCEAN reported a near mishap. He had made his appearance on the Lake Front near the Art Institute and had proceeded as he usually did, braiding the horse's tail and twirling the animal by his head and tail as well as using the formidable rope rigging that he had used when the horse was especially vicious. After ten minutes of this, he vaulted on the bronco's back.

The crowd was enthusiastic. Everyone was talking to everyone else. It was as jolly an occasion as Chicago had seen in many a day, according to the INTER OCEAN. Then:

. . . the bronco reared and plunged, took a breath, jumped three feet in the air, came down stiff-legged, before starting into a bucking experiment that outdid anything Chicago had ever seen.

The sinners were cheering loudly, the small boys yelled with joy and shinnied up the nearest telegraph poles. The evangelist came out of the bucking unscathed.

The bronco tried new tactics. Staring suddenly, the animal runs five blocks and the revival meeting begins to feel deserted and lonely. Then the horse returns back down Michigan Avenue with the expert rider. It is plain that the bronco has given up the fight. He is steaming and covered with foam. The animal hangs its head and the revival meeting cheers itself hoarse.

But he was not so fortunate when he handled a vicious horse at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo.

He had been preaching on the fringe of the beautiful fairgrounds. The New York SUN said he was the most talked of preacher of his day when he began the first of his series with: "Instead of leading in the singing of 'Heaven is My Home,' I will now tame Flying Devil, a vicious bronco."

Buffalo Bill had his famous show going on at the same time and tried to persuade William to join him but money was never a temptation.

Soon after this offer, William handled a vicious horse who proved too swift a kicker and he left the imprint of his hoof on William's gold watch, smashing it completely and almost doing the same to its owner.

"Nevertheless, God spared my life," he said later, showing the watch to his audience. "the watch is devoid of crystal and hands but after two weeks I am able to thank God for His healing power."

The physicians had given up all hope for his life but William never thought for one moment his working for God had come to an end. When he read the worry lines on Annie's face he comforted her with, 'never fear, Annie. God still has too much for me to do."

The average life of most horse tamers was then said to be seven years. Many of them became incapacitated with hernia or collapsed lungs in much less time, but William had been taming horses for eighteen years and this was his only accident. Annie told him it was a warning God wanted him to give up this dangerous work. He had two children to think of.

He promised her he would give his final sermon on a bronco's back in Detroit in September. Then he would afterwards head west for San Francisco.

The front pages of the Detroit papers carried in full what was supposed to be his farewell exhibition.

Mr. Mullen conducts his exhibitions on the theory that animals can be subdued more easily by kindness, assisted by the proper mechanical devices, than by any amount of brutality. He employs a simple rope rigging of his own conception, which is attached to the animal's halter and runs around its body lengthwise. When this rigging has been secured in place, he begins operations by beating a brass drum on the horse's back, then opening an umbrella over its head, next leaping upon the horse's back and subjecting it to other treatment so the horse will see the man has no desire to hurt him. The rope rigging prevents the horse from kicking backwards, and usually at the end of 25 minutes is subdued to such extent that Prof. Mullen can stand on its back or lift it by its hind legs. At this juncture, Prof. Mullen turns to the spectators and begins to preach. He does not proceed far before he startles his hearers with the assertion that religion is the worst thing in the world and nothing that they need.

Prof. Mullen maintains that religion, as it is popularly known, is nothing more than fanaticism. The true religion is the love of God. Says he: "The creeds have always been fighting among themselves. The Romans have burned the Protestants and the Protestants the Romans. No man who has ever received the love of God in his heart has ever hurt anybody, nor even an animal." Prof. Mullen is widely known as the cowboy evangelist. He worked on a ranch in Texas when he first came to America, and his knowledge of horses is perfect. He is soon to give up his exhibitions and return with his family to the West Coast and continue with his calling. The professor is a man of fine physique, and a most pleasing conversationalist.

When he returned to his hotel room and to Annie and the two children, she was reading the Bible. She was filled with fear every time he preached--a fear the Buffalo incident would be repeated. She had marked the passages of the eleventh and twelfth verses in the fourth chapter of First Thessalonians:

And that ye study to be quiet.

And to do your own business,

And to work with your own hands,

As we command you;

That ye may walk honestly toward

then that are without.

And that ye may have lack of nothing.

He glanced at the open pages still wet with her tears. He knew the verse filled her mind with wishful thoughts. He took her in his arms, held her close to him as though she were a frightened little filly being approached with a halter for the first time. "My poor darling. Dry your tears. We will buy a house in Oakland for you and the children. I will work in San Francisco. You shall not live in one room anymore."

Annie thought it was a beautiful house they bought, with its two stories, its room for everything, the wide verandah, the white picket fence, the rose garden, the orchard, the big mortgage . . . the charming garden for little children to play in. There were three, now, including the newest baby named after William--William Everett. We called the little brother "Everett," again to avoid confusion.

The spring before I entered school Papa organized a class at Hayward for Bay Area society women who wanted to learn how to master his horse taming art. Up to that time he had held classes for men, but now he found no end of fun teaching women how to overcome the many difficulties that arose in handling the skittish animals on the street, and especially more and more as that "new contraption of the devil" was threatening to push the beautiful animals into the background.

His book on "How to Educate a Horse" was used as the basis for some of the lessons. Now that I was old enough to serve as the child rider, I traveled with him once a week to Hayward. Annie never went along. She hadn't overcome her fear of horses, and besides, her hands were full of family work now with five to care for. How enthralled I was sitting by Papa's side, and him telling me all about California. It was always "his" because he had come here almost a quarter of a century before, and I guessed that gave him right of ownership.

We loved to trot over that land of brooks of water, of fountains and spring flowing forth out of valleys and hills, over the land of wheat and barley, grape vines, fig and olive trees. We were part of all the silver and green, the gold and purple hills, all the great, colorful, wonderful earth.

It was all ours--not just the white house where we lived on the corner of Twenty-fifth Avenue and Twenty-sixth Street, then in Fruitvale (now Oakland).

When we would turn the bend and a new vista would come into view, Father would repeat to the beat of the trotting horses:

The heavens declare the glory of God;

And the firmament sheweth His handiwork.

Then soon we would arrive at Hayward where expensively dressed women would greet us and fuss over me because I rode the wild horses that Father was teaching them how to handle. These women learned to drive the timid animals over bursting firecrackers and guide them up to face grim automobiles that were gradually appearing on the roadways.

Inside the corral, he would explain how to teach a horse to park, to dance, or to stand on a box, while I sat on the horse's back holding a tiny whip which I was not to use. Papa would stand in front of both of us, rider and ridden, signaling us what to do.

When the lessons were over, we trotted homeward, happy the lesson had pleased the women students of horsemanship. I learned early success in one's chosen work gave a wonderful sense of accomplishment and made a person feel good inside.

And in the same way that Papa belonged to the earth and all the fullness therein, he belonged to the people also, as I learned during the many trips we took together during the ministry of those years. The power, the grandeur, the glory of this land were his . . . and the misery and the sorrow and the sadness of the people, too.

"Poor fellow" he would say when meeting up with a little urchin in a crowded city street, or when passing a hobo carrying a roll of blankets on his back . . . trudging down a railroad track. He could not behold pain in others without feeling pain in himself.

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