Tadpole's Outdoor Blog

May 6, 2012

“THE COWBOY PREACHER”

Filed under: Neal Murphy — Freddie Keel @ 6:01 am

“THE  COWBOY  PREACHER”

BY: NEAL MURPHY

(sugarbear@netdot.com)

Years ago the Reader’s Digest magazine had a section titled “The Most Unforgettable Character I Ever Met” in which readers sent in stories about people who had touched their lives.  Were it still in existence I would have to write about the Cowboy Preacher, Rev. B. B. Crimm.  I was quite young when I met him, and for only a short time, but his preaching made me see the error of my ways.  I was all of 13 when Rev. Crimm preached a revival at First Baptist Church in San Augustine in 1949 on the topic of “hell”.  He scared me into accepting Christ as my Savior, and being baptized.

Rev. Crimm was an imposing figure, six-feet – three inches tall, rawboned, wearing cowboy boots and a ten gallon hat most of the time.  He preached about hell as though he was born and reared there.  His unusual antics in the pulpit created much interest and his large tent would always be full of people wanting to see and hear more.

Crimm was born in Van Zandt County, Texas, in 1886, which is also famous for its annual Fire Ant Festival.  That event features the hottest chili this side of Perdition.  His parents named him Bertie Bridges Crimm, which he understandably shortened to B.B. Crimm.  Later he accepted the sobriquet “Cowboy Crimm”, probably because of his career as a rodeo performer and a cattle rustler before he lit out down the Sawdust trail of preaching.

A third grade dropout, Crimm nevertheless graduated in 1912 from Howard Payne College in Brownwood, Texas, after lettering in four sports.  He did post-graduate work at Baylor University in Waco.

Crimm came out of his rodeo and rustling careers with a fine sense of crowd-pleasing theatrics.  It is said that he once mounted a pulpit in Paducah, Ky., the way a cowboy mounts a horse from behind.

During his first three years as a preacher, he was pastor of 23 different churches.  This was not a reflection of extraordinary demand.  It was a consequence of frequently being hired on Sunday morning and fired on Sunday evening.I can recall him jumping on top of a piano one night during his sermon.  He tended to perspire (sweat, in East Texas) a lot and kept wiping his face and forehead with his handkerchief.  After a few uses he would drape the wet hanky over the rail to dry while he pulled a fresh one out of his pocket.  At the end of his sermon there might be three or four wet hankies drying on the rail.

Evangelist Crimm first came to San Augustine in August of 1918.  He roared into town in a Ford truck, with a trailer loaded with fox hounds trailing along behind.  He pitched his tent near the railroad tracks in what was known as the community cotton yards.  He wanted to be where the people were.  He preached his message each night in a four-week revival that shook San Augustine as never before.  His tent was filled to capacity each night .

An incident occurred in Nacogdoches in which someone walked up to the pulpit in mid-sermon and handed Crimm a note.  The intrepid preacher read it aloud.  The author expressed his desire to kill the evangelist.  Without breaking rhythm, Cowboy opined that the next morning at 10 o’clock would be a good time to try it since he intended to be walking down Main street in Nacogdoches with his pistols strapped to his hips.  Crimm was good as his word.  The would-be-assassin failed to show up but the tent that night was packed with sinners eager to hear the cowboy’s message.  Most people think that Crimm wrote the note himself.

Crimm has his own way of dealing with hecklers.  To one of them, he said, “Inside this tent I am Brother Crimm, but outside it I’m just plain old B.B.  Would you like to settle this in here or out there?”  On another occasion somebody put a drunk up to heckling the preacher.  The 6-foot-three Crimm walked away from the pulpit, gave the lush a Sunday punch, and walked back to announce, “The next one who comes in like that is going out on a stretcher.”

Crimm did not believe in conversion by the sword. His tool of choice was the six-gun.  He often laid a pistol on the pulpit prior to his preaching.  After the introductory formalities and song service, he was known to grab the gun, fire a few shots into the air right through the top of the tent, and by this act let the folks know that what was to follow was serious business.  It kept his tent man, Charlie Rogers, busy repairing the holes.  Rogers got so good at patching these holes that after Crimm died he segued into the manufacture of tents, the Aquila and Priscilla Tent Company in Waco, Texas.  All of this from just a few comparatively harmless bullet holes out of one B. B. gun – probably a Colt .45.

In Tyler, Texas in the mid 1940s in the wake of Mordecai Ham, who had converted Billy Graham, Crimm preached a sermon entitled, “Why Drunkards Who Beat Their Wives and Drive Fords Go To Hell”.  He was gunning for a particular sinner in town, one who eventually was converted.

One night in a meeting attended by more than one thousand people, a woman came forward saying, “Oh, Brother Grimm, I have come to lay my tongue on the altar.”  The woman was a noted gossip in the community.  Bro. Crimm replied, “I’m sorry Ma’am, our altar is only eight feet long, but you go and put whatever part of it you are able to get on it!”

Bro. Crimm loved to fox hunt.  Every time he came to San Augustine he would bring several fox hounds with him.  After night services he and a group of local fox hunters, including my dad, Cecil, Dave Sibley, and Cecil Jones among them, would spend the rest of the night chasing the elusive fox.

The end of the trail came for Cowboy Crimm during the middle of a revival he was holding in Cuero, Texas.  He had made a trip back home for his wife’s birthday and had a car accident near Marshall which broke his neck. He died on a rainy December 1st, 1950.  The man who took over the revival in Cuero and then took over Crimm’s tent ministry was Lester Roloff.  Roloff had been the pastor of the Second Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Thus ended the life of an evangelist who is credited with leading more that 140,000 souls to belief in Christ.  Bro. Crimm’s epitaph in the Algona cemetery near Marshall reads, “I have fought a good fight”.  If there had been enough room for the full story of his life on the granite slab, it might also have read, “I have fought a colorful fight”, or “I have fought a long fight”.  He was, indeed, the most unforgettable character I ever met.

++++

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