Bowen: Southern Preacher ‘wet his pants’ nightly

Published 7:40 pm Thursday, February 2, 2017



Growing up in the South, we’ve encountered a number of fellas in our time who are just a little bigger than life. But there’s one who, in my mind, stands taller than any. Many of you who knew him will agree.
This particular legendary Southern man brushed my path almost every day for the first seventeen years of my life. To come to think about it, he still brushes my path every day, even now, although he’s been gone now for many years. That’s how big of a lamplighter he was.
Our gentleman was a pioneer, old-timey, backwoods, tell-it-like-it-is, Bible-quoting church of Christ preacher. Obviously, he was not your run-of-the-mill, ordinary preacher, not by a long shot. When you’d look at him standing up in that pulpit, he looked seven feet tall, especially if you hadn’t hit double digits in years yet. And even if you were quite a bit more than that, you still had to admit he preached that tall, if nothing else.
He didn’t know much about today’s modern psychology and philosophy. He just preached an old-fashioned gospel that would do one of two things: It’d save you or it’d convict you, one. There wasn’t any middle ground.
After he raised the roof and shook the rafters for an hour, you wouldn’t be walking out of there riding the fence. He’d have you on the right hand or on the left hand – preferably on the right, but you’d have the right to choose the other if you wanted.
During his preaching days that covered over half a century – all of it stationed right here in our Georgia hometown, although he spent an amazing amount of time traveling the country preaching—more than a thousand folks, I guess, would come in on the left hand; and before the singing and praying and preaching was over, they’d go out on the right hand. He preached during a “golden era” of the gospel, back when people would flock out to hear the gospel preached; and they knew their Bibles, too, inside and out.
Generally speaking, I think people were more concerned with hearing truth than having their ears tickled, so at the offering of the invitation, the stirring in the crowd would be more than just a few people getting up to go to the bathroom. Some would come up to baptized, there that very night. You didn’t dare put something that important off until you had a group together.
The preacher would take them out to an old creek or a running river or a cow tank and baptize them while the crowd coming to rejoice would sing “O Happy Day” with enough vigor that it wouldn’t have surprised me if the animals in the woods would gather around to see what was going on.
More than once he had to break the ice on the river before immersing a convert, but, because I think he had ice water in his veins when it came time to preach or baptize, I don’t think he knew the water was cold.
Sometimes at the end of a sermon during a gospel meeting, he’d notify the congregation in his loud, raspy voice that always caught their attention: “Awright, brother, sisters, and friends, tomorrow night I plan on wettin’ my pants!”
And, sure enough, Preacher Miller would usually have them wringing wet by the next night, and two or three other people’s too — down at the river!

Steve Bowen, a former Granger, lives and works in Red Oak, Texas.