Johnny Cash sang it. Edd Wheeler and Jed Peters wrote it. My dad lived it: “He rode easy in the saddle. He was tall and lean, and at first you’da thought nothing but a streak of mean could make a man look so down right strong, but one look in his eyes and you knowed you was wrong. He was a mountain of a man, and I want you to know, he could preach hot hell in freezin’ snow. He carried a Bible in a canvas sack and folks just called him The Reverend Mr. Black. He was poor as a beggar, but he rode like a king. Sometimes in the evening, I’d hear him sing: I gotta walk that lonesome valley. I got to walk it by myself. Oh nobody else can walk it for me. I got to walk it by myself.”
Every time I hear this song (on my iPod), I am reminded of my dad. He grew up on a Colorado ranch (“easy in the saddle”); he was 6’ 4” and at most 200# (“tall and lean”); intense—he really could preach “hot hell”; he was “poor as a beggar” (never owned anything except a single-wide used trailer); always had his bible with him (though not in a “canvas sack”). We never put down roots—his “lonesome valley” carried his family through AZ, CO, GA, KS, MO, NM and OK. He wasn’t called the Reverend Mr. Wells; it was either “preacher” or “Brother Wells.”
He has been in heaven for 25 years, succumbing to MS at age 74. They don’t need preachers up there, but I suspect he is on some street-paved-with-gold corner preaching anyway. There are a lot of people there because of him. I’m sure they are gathered around listening and shouting “amen!”
Today, the only preacher in the family is our sister’s husband, and yes, he can “preach hot hell in freezin’ snow” (which he has occasion to do in northern Ohio).
None of his three sons followed in his preacher footsteps, but we were all successful in large part because of what he taught us:
You are not entitled to anything; you will have to earn your way in life.
The best way to “earn” is by working hard and doing a great job.
Finish what you start. Quitting is not an option.
Marry well (which we all did).
And most importantly, Jesus loves you anyway. He knows you fully—the good, bad, and ugly—yet still loves you. Amazing, isn’t it?
So on this Father’s Day weekend, I am remembering and honoring my dad—the Reverend Mr. Wells. Thanks, dad, for teaching me what is really important in life. I’m looking forward to joining your street-corner crowd someday.
I would love to hear about your dad. Take a minute to send a comment. What was the #1 thing you learned from him?
© Copyright 2013 by Dick Wells, The Hard Lessons Company
"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."
Kouzes & Posner