I love an old story that circulates in my family about my great-great grandfather, a fiery circuit-riding preacher named John Martin McBrayer. “The Reverend,” or just “Preacher,” as he was known, traversed the Southern Appalachians on horseback, going church to church, camp meeting to camp meeting, and revival to revival preaching anywhere he was given an opportunity.
Ultimately he settled down (I think his wife got tired of him leaving her with the 12 children each week) and started a Baptist church in North Georgia. He would fill that pulpit for the much of the remainder of his life, and when he died, he was laid to rest in the red dirt of that church’s cemetery.
It was the early 1900s and drought was smothering the Georgia countryside. Farmers were desperate. Their crops were burning up in the fields, their cattle was dying of thirst, and everyone thought the river would run dry. So a Saturday prayer meeting was called, a meeting to pray for rain.
A good portion of the community gathered, and in time, old John Martin came riding up on his pony. It took The Preacher a little while to come inside the church building, but when he did, he had his battered Bible in one hand and his heavy Western saddle and saddle blanket thrown over his shoulder.
“Well Preacher,” one man asked, “Why’d you bring your saddle in? You stayin’ all night till service in the morning?” Everyone laughed. I’m told that John Martin gave a mischievous chuckle himself. Then he answered, “No, I thought we’d be prayin’ for rain? I do believe the rest of you will be ridin’ home wet.”
Sure enough, before they all left the church that afternoon, the rains had come and the drought had been broken. And just as sure, most folks left on wet saddles and in drenched wagons while The Preacher trotted toward home as dry as dust (all while wearing that mischievous grin, I am certain).