|Rev Zeb Rawlins
(creator: William V Reynolds)
|Rev Zeb(edee) Rawlins is a country preacher, who had been pastoring a little church in Stockville, "a small one horse town on the Savannah-Thomasville Railroad" in South Georgia, for over a year. "One of the private enterprises (in the area) was the sale of moonshine whiskey", so it was still prohibition time.
Zeb seems to be around 30 or so, and lives with his widowed younger sister ("whom he has lectured .... on the subject of gossip more than once") and her 10-year-old son Peter (whom he enjoys taking fishing). He had taken over responsibility for them following her husband's death.
His teaching is far removed from that of "the majority of the itinerant preachers who found their way to these woods (and) breathed hellfire and brimstone." He was not very impressed by revival meetings either. "To Zeb's way of thinking, the whole thing was an exercise in mindlessness. Would anybody remember one single solitary truth at the end of the service? Zeb doubted it. That's why he considered the so-called revivals more show than substance. People would go away saying they had had a good time, and they had. But, at the same time, they would take little knowledge with them."
He is always referred to as "the Preacher" and addressed as "Preacher". It was "a matter of some concern to the ladies in the church that Zeb wasn't married. They had tried their best to marry him to someone .... but he was of the opinion that he should choose his wife, if he ever decided to choose one." And then he meets the "right attractive" Ada Sterling.
William V Reynolds (? - ) is a native of South Georgia and an ordained minister who explains that this book is based on his personal experience - and that is all he directly tells us about himself. He has also written several other autobiographical books and is featured in some DVDs. These are all published by his own firm, Double Eagle Enterprises Inc. I would welcome more information abiut him (via my guestbook).
Circuit Rider (2005)
Then there was old Gordon Benson. He "was a very religious man. He was so accustomed to worship services where the congregation was drawn into the action that he sometimes shouted out in the midst of Zeb's sermons. In the beginning, this bothered him somewhat, but he had learned to live with the interruption." When Zeb visits him he asks him, "Haven't seen you in church lately. You'll been sick?"
His busy life is realistically described: "The duties of a circuit riding preacher were many and varied. He was expected to conduct services on a somewhat regular basis at each of his churches. Weddings and funerals were, of course, forever his obligation. Church members expected to be visited on a regular basis. Then there were special events that the preacher was expected to attend such as family reunions. This was enough to keep Zeb busy most of the time."
The author again seems to be speaking from first-hand experience when he explains, "Zeb greeted each of them (his congregation) with a warm welcome which was returned in kind for the most part. There was an occasional cold fish among the handshakes and greetings. But Zeb didn't let that get him down. He had learned long ago that you couldn't please everybody so he accepted the coolness with a philosophical attitude." Similarly, the account of how an overweight woman is almost swept away in a river baptism, sounds as if too could really almost have happened. "I'm glad that's over, Zeb thought. Maybe the Methodists have a better idea. As least an overweight woman can't drown you in a bowl of water."
When conducting a funeral of a young man who had been murdered, Zeb "stood at the lectern with his open Bible. For a moment he looked out over the crowd, fully aware that everyone there was waiting to hear some great words of wisdom from him. The problem, he thought, is I don't have any." But even so he manages to come up with something appropriate. On another occasion, he had to conduct "a funeral for a man who, as near as he could tell, had little or no hope for eternity." There is a chill about this comment that perhaps the author could not stop himself making.
There Is not much plot, just a series of episodes, until one of Zeb's parishioners shoots another and so kills the enraged husband of the woman to whom he has been making love (there is a warning on the back cover: "Rated PG: Adult situations and language"). There's no doubt about who shot whom, so no real detective work is required from Zeb or from anyone else. But Zeb gets very involved when he preaches a sermon about the woman caught in adultery, leading him to declare that "The next time you decide to judge someone else, examine your own life. If there is sin there, and I'm certain there will be, you have no basis to cast stones." This leads to much hostility from the murdered man's father, who warns Zeb, "From now on, stay out of my way. You got that?"
After an unrelated episode in which Zeb goes off fire fighting (and saves a woman and child from a burning house, going on to be reminded how difficult it can be to persuade people to accept charity), it culminates in a melodramatic climax in which Zeb rather unconvincingly persuades the aggrieved father to point his gun at him rather than at the murderer. Not, one suspects, one of the author's own real life experiences!
Zeb's romance with Ada continues to bloom. He looked forward to visiting her "not just to see Ada, but to talk to someone who would listen. There are times in life when one needs a listener. Zeb had found the pastorate a lonely job simply on that basis. Everyone in the church has someone to talk to except the pastor. He stands all alone bearing other people's burdens with no one to share his own." It sounds like a cry from the heart, and it is autobiographical moments like this, and the portrayal of the South Georgia town, that give the book some real appeal.
|The book looks a little home-made. It is published by the author's own firm, Double Eagle Enterprises Inc.|