Singing Soprano in the Cowgirl Church of God
October 1, 2008 / by robertflynn
Billy “Tex” Bob Thornwall had only two ambitions in life: being a cowboy and singing Gospel songs. He had accomplished his first ambition winning top honors in bareback and saddle bronc riding when sixteen. Gospel singing was tougher because Billy “Tex” Bob’s voice was stuck in Vienna Boys Choir. Billy “Tex” prayed earnestly that God would give him a voice with cockleburs in it.
One day working on his roping skills he chased after a wild steer on a greenbroke horse. Billy “Tex” Bob stood in the stirrups his lasso swinging over his head and when he threw his loop his untrained horse spied the rope passing over its head and came to an abrupt conclusion. Billy “Tex” did not. The saddle horn took the seat of Billy “Tex” Bob’s jeans and his parts with it.
Billy “Tex’s” life changed. And not for the better. No one wanted him on their bulldogging team or in their chawing circle. He was shunned in pool halls and domino parlors. “Go play hopscotch with the girls,” cowboys laughed. “Join a sewing circle,” they hooted. No one wanted to hear him sing “Empty Saddles in the Old Corral.” “Sing Bringing in the Sheep,” they chortled. “Shearing on the Old Camp Ground.”
Billy “Tex” Bob prayed for the reconstruction of his pride of Solomon. God had other plans, including the Cowboy Church with clapboard walls, plank floor, a cross made of fence posts and barbed wire, with hardwood benches and funeral parlor pasteboard fans. The communion cup was tin and the bread was sourdough bullets. The preacher wore spurs; his Bible wore a brand. Cowboys used their Stetsons to round up the offering, sometimes passing them again if the stray bills and dogie coins didn’t add up to a full herd. In his hour of despair the Lord led Billy “Tex” Bob to the Cowboy Church. Where he was denied entrance for lacking cowboy characteristics.
When the cowboys came out of church Billy “Tex” showed them roping tricks and lassoed car antenna, rearview mirrors and roguish boys. “Hmmm,” Arizona said, scratching a saddle burn and spitting at a red ant. “He’s got sand.”
“He’s got spirit, too,” Dumas said, switching his wad to the other side and smiting the ant that Arizona had missed.
The other hands allowed he wasn’t no cowboy but he could be a Christian roper.
The following Sunday Billy “Tex” entered the church with special dispensation but there was disputation when he tried to join the Ranchhand’s Sunday School Class. He was pushed into the Gingham for God Class and was not allowed to sing in the choir. But when they sang “When they ring those golden bells” Billy “Tex” Bob’s voice rang clear and true and high. Way high. Those around him stopped singing. The choir stopped singing. The piano stopped playing and the fiddle, the washboard, the washtub bass, the musical saw, the guitar, the mouth organ, the squeeze box until all that was heard was dogs howling and the church-glass-shattering voice of Billy “Tex” Bob nearly high as heaven is above the earth.
And when he finished, the whole congregation shouted with one voice, “There ain’t no saddlehorn sopranos in the Cowboy Church.”
Billy “Tex” Bob prayed the Cowboy Church would have a change of heart; instead, God turned Billy “Tex’s” heart. Billy “Tex” met Broomhilda Factorymacker who was raised by her father with no companions but jackasses. When Broomhilda brayed bass and Billy “Tex” trilled soprano on “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” it led to a camp meeting, tent revival, rededications, baptisms, marriage and the Cowgirl Church of God. Where the pastor wore leather saddle skirts and carried a pink Bible with a lace trim. Billy “Tex” Bob roped dollar bills out of the cowgirls’ hands.
“A cowgirl church is like an Islamic honky-tonk,” the cowboys said. Few stepped inside but they took a chaw break so that they could stand outside and listen to the special music at the Cowgirl Church of God. And it is rumored that when Broomhilda rode bass and Billy “Tex” rode soprano and they rounded up “When they ring those golden bells,” some of the cowboys held hands. Most often with cowgirls By Robert Flynn