Journal Entry: Saturday, November 30, 2019
On Friday the 29th of November, the head of the new 10-kingdom conglomerate, Euro-Phoenicia, met for three days of talks with the Israeli prime minister. They spent that time hashing out the details of Draken’s ‘covenant for peace.’ It was announced that an agreement had been reached and that the formal signing of the covenant would be televised Sunday, January 5, 2020. The signing would take place on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel. The intervening 42 days between now and January 5 would give Israel time to tag and clear the bodies from the Temple Mount. Just as the scripture states, the Israeli government announced that it would take seven months to clear the land of all the dead from Ezekiel Day and bury them on the far side of the Dead Sea.
Draken said that the choice to sign the covenant there on the Temple Mount was symbolic and significant. Of course, we already knew what the real significance was – we now had a date for the beginning of the last seven years.
In the North Carolina mountains, cold weather had finally arrived. Trail, Brent, Sarah and Lilly stayed busy at the clinic treating the usual colds and allergies that come with the change of seasons. The girls’ Monday classes were a huge hit with everyone. Izzy introduced the nurses to an old mountain woman who lived in some little holler named Bootstrap Holler out past Amos’ farm. It was some little wide spot in the road that had once had about 5 homes. It had been a family community about 40 years ago. I never even knew it was there. In the only occupied home left in Bootstrap was this old woman named Christine Morris. Mrs. Christine, the girls said, was a goldmine of old mountain lore. She was also nearly 84; whipcord thin and as spry as someone half her age. She was added to the Monday classes and was, the girls said, the real teacher when it came to what she called ‘mountain medicine.’
Lilly and Sarah fell in love with Mrs. Christine the moment they met her and made it their business to see that she got anything she needed. Byllie, Karen, and Cindy made sure she had plenty to eat and got her firewood cut. I was more than happy to be the one to do that for her – not that she needed my help. She’d been cutting her own wood, growing her own garden, and keeping hens with no help from anyone else except for Izzy who looked in on her and carried Mrs. Christine to run any errands she needed done.
The first trouble the town had come from outsiders a couple of days after Thanksgiving. A group of 4 men drove into downtown around midnight, drunk, radio blasting, blaring their car horn, and yelling. Rod Weaver and Paul Digger were on patrol that night. Rod lit them up and spotlighted the car with the intent to pull them over and escort them out of town. Paul called Clyde on the walkie talkie and told him he and Rod were about to pull the car over on Main Street in front of the Mellow Mushroom. According to Rod, he reached behind him and took the shotgun. He told me later that he had an overwhelming feeling that he should take the shotgun. He reminded Paul to unsnap his holster and keep his hand on his gun. Warily, both officers approached the vehicle. Rod was approaching the driver’s open window, calling for the passengers to roll down the windows and place their hands outside the car where they could see them. Paul was approaching the passenger side when, without warning, the front passenger door was flung open and the man inside lurched out and fired a handgun, hitting Paul in the chest at almost point-blank range.
Rod’s response was immediate. He took out the gunman with the shotgun and held the others at bay until Clyde and Dewey could get there. Clyde was at the scene within a couple of minutes. He’d been at the PD working late when the call came in. As soon as Paul radioed in the stop, Clyde suspected that there might be trouble, so he left immediately to provide backup. Dewey, coming from home, arrived in under 6 minutes. Clyde frisked, cuffed, and put the three prisoners in the back of his squad car. Then he called Trail. Trail, along with Lilly and Sarah, arrived at the scene a minute or two before Dewey did. They ran over to Paul lying on the ground, both opening the medical bags they kept packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice just as Trail did.
As Sarah moved to check the shooter, Clyde stopped her. “Don’t bother. He ain’t never gon’ be dancin’ th’ Charleston again. Leave the shooter right whar he is. Dewey an’me’r gon’ put th’ dead guy back in th’ front seat o’ his car. Rod, throw some blankets from the trunk o’ yore squad car onta th’ back seat an’ git Paul ta th’ clinic. I’ll meet y’all at th’ clinic as soon as I hep Dewey finish here an’ git these three walkin’ blood blisters locked up. Trail, you an’ the girls foller Rod ta the clinic an’ hep ’em git Paul inside an’ onta th’ exam table. Th’ girls cain’t lift him, and Trail cain’t do it by hisself; so Rod, you stay thar till ya git him inside an’ set up fer Trail ta work on him. As soon as ya git him on the table, come straight ta th’ PD with Dewey’n me. We’ll put each o’ them in separate cells. Dewey, you leave ’em cuffed till I git thar no matter how much they holler that they ain’t comforbal. Oh, an’ Dewey, iff’n they give you any trouble a’tall ‘tween here an’ their cells – shoot ’em.” Clyde said this to Dewey matter of factly, making direct eye contact with the three prisoners.
The next day as Rod was telling me all this, he also told me what Clyde had said to him right before they went into the jail to talk to the prisoners. Putting a hand on Rod Weaver’s shoulders, Clyde looked him square in the eye. Rod, his voice shaking, said, “I shot that guy, Clyde. I killed him.”
“Yes, you did and thank you fer doin’ it.” Clyde said. “It’s a soberin’ thang to take a man’s life in th’ call o’ duty. Not everone will step up an’ do the hard thang in that split secon’ when th’ well bein’ o’ others hangs in th’ balance, and yore th’ one whose decision tips th’ scales. You done good t’night, Rod. Ya didn’t freeze up an’ ya stood yer groun’ till th’ rest o’ us could git here. Ya also showed restraint by holdin’ yer anger an’ not splatterin’ their innards all over Main Street. Th’ officers an’ town are much obliged ta ya fer makin’ th’ right decision. That’s why I thanked ya,” added Clyde.
“Have you ever killed a man, Clyde?” asked Rod.
“I have. I wern’t wearin’ a badge then though. I’us wearin’ jungle fatigues an’ carryin’ a M16. I kilt mor’n one back then but th’ feelin’s th’ same. I know how ya feel. But afore ya go inta that jail cell t’nite, you take a second an gather yer wits about ya. Afore ya walk, in Lt. Weaver, lift up yer head, squar’ yer shoulders, an’ walk in with yer head held high. When ya walk inta those jail cells, go in lookin’ everone o’em straight in th’ eye. Don’t never let ’em see nothin’ else in yer eyes ‘ceptin’ the honest truth that you’d do th’ same thang agin in a heartbeat iff’n ya had to.”
“Bobby,” said Rod, “I became a man last night, not because I shot that guy but because of how and why I shot him. I also prayed for Jesus to save me”
As Trail and Rod helped load Paul into the back of Rod’s car, Sarah called Brent Tolbert and told him to meet them at the clinic. They weren’t sure what to do or what they could do for Paul, but if they were going to need to operate, they’d have to do it with what they had on hand at the clinic; and Brent would be the one who would have to open him up with Trail and them assisting. Brent said later that that was the scaredest he’s ever been in his life. He told us all that he knew Trail was just as scared as he was, but that Trail’s voice and his actions were as steady as a rock. This didn’t surprise me one bit. Trail is a professional. Even though he’s not a doctor, Norrisville is very blessed to have him; Brent too. In the end, there was nothing to be done. Paul didn’t make it to the clinic alive. At the next Wednesday’s meeting, Clyde and the town memorialized and paid tribute to Officer Paul Digger, and honored Lt. Rodney Weaver.
The next morning after the shooting, Clyde ordered that the body of the dead shooter, still inside the car, be driven out to just beyond the town limits on Route 25 coming into Norrisville from Iverson. He shot out all four tires, broke out the front windshield, and ordered that the body be left inside the car in plain view. He had Mike paint a sign on quarter-inch plywood and stake it into the ground next to the car. On the plywood, Mike painted the word MURDERER. They also made another couple of signs and nailed them onto a couple of trees so that they could not miss being seen by anyone entering the town limits. This sign read: CURFEW ENFORCED: VIOLATORS WILL BE SHOT.
Three days after the incident, in a hastily called meeting of the Town Council, the other three young men were given a trial in front of Clyde, Mike, Mitch, and Will – the town selectmen. They added another town member, an older man named Bleeze Martin, to the town council so they could have a tiebreaker if needed in all future town decisions. Mayor Potts was becoming more and more withdrawn and reclusive. All three were found guilty of curfew violation. But because they had not shot anyone, and because Clyde said that the town had failed to post a sign coming into the town limits stating the curfew and announcing the consequences of violating it, they would not be shot.
After taking their pictures, Clyde and Mike drove the three out to the entrance to the town. There, Clyde made each one look at the body of their dead friend. He told them that if any of them ever again came as close to Norrisville as this car, that the officers who would from now on always be patrolling the entrance to the town limits and who would always carry their pictures in each patrol car, would shoot them on sight – no questions asked, no warning given. They believed him. We all believed him. Other troublemakers may come and likely will. But I can guarantee those three will never be back.
Journal Entry: Wednesday, December 11, 2019
After the situation involving Paul Digger, the overall mood of the town changed in some subtle, indefinable way. Maybe it was the shattering of the illusion of safety, or maybe it was the combination of that and the cold weather, but attendance at the Wednesday meetings did begin to drop off – not by much at first, maybe only by 50-75. On this Wednesday, Clyde and Mitch were doing a delicate balancing act between trying to keep everyone from giving up completely and being honest with them about the truth that things were going to deteriorate, especially once the false peace covenant is signed. For those of us who are believers, we know full well what this means. For those who remain unbelievers, they really have no clue, even though Will and Mitch both remind them every week. To try to lift the town’s mood, Will came up with a great idea.
This close to Christmas, Will thought it might be good to celebrate Christmas with a huge dinner for everyone in town to be held at the church. We knew there was enough room to seat everyone in the sanctuary.
The church had enough of those round and long rectangular tables that seat 6-8 people, so we could accommodate the entire town even if everyone chose to come. We knew some of the more frail of the elderly likely wouldn’t, but Vera Tolbert along with Amanda Perkins, Byllie, Cindy, Karen, Teresa Ferguson, and Debbie Crawford drew up a list of those who might not be able to attend and told them that the Church would attend to those shut in and unable to attend a meal – that they themselves would deliver them a Christmas dinner along with a small gift for each of them. The ladies ended up with a list of about two dozen people for whom the town would make Christmas baskets to deliver the day after the Christmas program.
Will set the date for the Christmas Celebration for Sunday, December 22, from 7-10 pm. He asked for volunteers to cut pine boughs and gather holly berries, pine cones, pecans and such to decorate the church. Mrs. Christine, Izzy, Byllie, and other ladies met together to make ribbons to decorate the tables and sanctuary for the dinner. Carol King, one of the town’s newcomers and a fellow Tribulation believer, had been a high school music teacher before the rapture. Her husband and children were raptured, but she and her sister Pam Nalley, both from Iverson, had been left behind. Carol offered to play the keyboard and arrange a list of Christmas hymns for the program. She asked if any of us guys would mind going to the old Calvary Baptist Church to bring back some hymnals from there. Since New Hope had never had any hymn books, Will thought this was an excellent idea; and since New Hope did have a top of the line keyboard, he was thrilled to now have someone who could actually play it. He volunteered himself, Vin Sawyer, Mitch, Clyde, Big Mike and me to go to Calvary to get the hymnals and bring them all back here.
It would be the first time I’d set foot back in Calvary since that first Sunday after the rapture. Clyde gave me the honor of letting me be the one to break into the church again. We found and brought back 283 Baptist Hymnals, and another 132 really old Broadman hymnals. Carol was thrilled. The Broadmans were so old they had those weird triangle-shaped musical notes, or whatever you call them.
I think the town senses that our brief period of grace is about to come to an end. God has been so gracious in giving us a few months of respite before the horrors of the Tribulation begin. As I helped everyone set up tables and distribute hymnals onto each chair around the tables, I wondered how many other little pockets of new believers there might be all over America and in other countries across the world who, like us, may be graced with a last respite before God’s judgment at last begins? I thought there might be many places like ours scattered here and there all over the world. I wondered too how many of us will still be alive at the end of these last seven years.
Journal Entry: early morning, Thursday, December 26, 2019
The Christmas service was beautiful. The ladies had decorated the entire Church with what seemed like tons of sweet-smelling pine boughs. There were arrangements of fresh greenery with red holly berries and white mistletoe, pine cones, and pecans, arranged around red, green, and white candles that people donated or that Mike had in stock. Carol and Pam made a list of Christmas hymns: ‘Away in A Manger,’ ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing,’ ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ ‘The First Noel’ and an old old hymn ‘What Child Is This.’
Will’s message that night traversed the scriptures from the Manger of Bethlehem in Luke to the empty tomb in John, and Jesus’ return in Revelation 19. He explained mankind’s need of a Savior and how Jesus Christ alone is that Savior – the only One who can save. He told us that Bethlehem made Calvary possible, and that Calvary made Bethlehem necessary because the Manger led straight to the cross, and the cross to the empty tomb. He reminded us all that this very same Jesus whose birth we were celebrating tonight would set his foot back upon this earth, not as the sacrificial Lamb, but as the victorious Lion of Judah; that in just seven years’ time, He will set up His earthly rule in Jerusalem, Israel; that we faithful Tribulation Saints will be part of that kingdom either in resurrection bodies for all who will die as martyrs, or in mortal bodies for a thousand years for those who will survive. He reminded us all that at the end of Jesus’ thousand-year reign, all mortal believers will be given resurrection bodies and that God will make a new heaven and earth where we will spend eternity with Him forever – never remembering this world of suffering anymore.
We ended the service with a Christmas carol that Carol King told us everybody assumes is a Christmas song about Jesus’ birth but which is, in truth, a song written about the second coming of Christ; ‘Joy to The World.’ What an appropriate way to end that service! The sanctuary literally rang with our voices raised in praise!
That evening at the end of the service, three more souls were added to God’s family. One was Vinnie Sawyer, another was dear old Mrs. Christine, and the last was John Redfern. John Redfern is a full- blooded Cherokee in his mid-fifties. John lives by himself in a small bungalow back in the woods up towards Yellow Top. John is as steady as they come; always helpful and always ready to lend a hand. He’s been at every town meeting and every church service since the first one. John was one of the first to volunteer to help on Burial Day and one of the last to leave. He is so tall that he’s the only person I know who dwarfs Trail. That’s why everyone in town calls him Little-John, or Chief Little-John. Besides being a near giant at 6’7″, he’s also the quietest man I’ve ever known. My Grandpa was taciturn, but against Little-John Redfern, Grandpa was a blabbermouth. John’s not unfriendly – not at all, he just has little to say and is happy being reclusive. Although it always makes our hearts rejoice to see any new believer added to God’s family, to see Little-John Redfern kneel at the front of the church, lift his hands in the air and say out loud, ‘Jesus I believe in you; take me into Your family’ – well, among us believers, if we hadn’t been weeping in joy before, we surely were then.
As we sang the old Christmas hymns, I was reminded once again about that last Christmas service I attended with David at Calvary Baptist a couple of years back. God certainly had me under conviction then. As we began singing ‘Silent Night,’ my voice choked up as I remembered how close I was to believing back then, but stubbornness and a prideful heart got in my way. Arrogantly, I thought that I was a good enough person who didn’t need a Savior. How wrong I was! Had I believed then, I’d be in Heaven now. As I looked around the sanctuary, which for us all really has become a church home, I saw shining tracks of tears on a multitude of faces. What fools we all had been, but how blessed we all are now regardless of what may come. Sarah took my hand and squeezed it. I knew that we were all thinking the same thing: Lord help us to remain faithful unto death, as Mitch always says.
After the Christmas program had finished, Will brought up the lights in the sanctuary, and the ladies served the food that had been tormenting our salivary glands all evening. They had set up several long tables along the right side of the sanctuary. There was a table for meats that held roast turkeys, pheasant, roast goose, and a huge 3-year-old cured ham from Amos’ farm. There were also several Crock pots of venison stew and 2 platters of fried rabbit. The vegetable table held dish after dish of collard and turnip greens, creamed corn, roasted corn, candied yams, purple hull peas, speckled butter beans, chow chow, pickled peaches, mashed potatoes, and several casseroles: squash, pineapple, cranberry and green bean. There were pans and pans of homemade biscuits, yeast biscuits, homemade raisin bread and cornbread.
The dessert table was laden with apple pies, deep-dish apple cobblers, sweet potato cobbler, pumpkin, pecan and blackberry pies. There were 2 chocolate cakes, one of them being Byllie’s famous double fudge. There were 2 pound cakes, molasses cookies, oatmeal raisin cookies, and a home-baked fruit cake; a Christmas tradition that I happen to love. It really was a feast. I think the whole town sensed that we would never have another Christmas together. Everyone seemed to go out of their way to make this one special.
The only thing we didn’t have were children. There were no sounds of children’s laughter, no yelling, no running feet, no children’s eyes shining at all of these Christmas festivities. Although it was a wonderful celebration, all of us felt the absence of the little ones who were now safe in the presence of Jesus – thank God. But, oh, how everyone missed their presence!
On Christmas Day, Will canceled the weekly town meeting so everyone could spend time with family and friends. The six of us plus Eva, Izzy, Mrs. Christine, Will, Carter, Clyde, and Mike all gathered at the girls’ house. We didn’t have to cook anything since all of us had plenty of leftovers from the Church Christmas dinner. The Saturday before the Sunday Christmas service, Trail, Mitch and I had gone out in the woods behind David’s house and cut down a 6′ Frasier Fir as a surprise for the girls. They were delighted. They decided to do an old-fashioned tree with homemade decorations. They cut strips of colored paper and made paper garlands. They popped popcorn and strung it. They made ribbons and bows and tied them on the tree. We all wrapped gifts that we either made or found around town that we thought everyone might like, and put them under the tree.
Christmas evening, we built a fire in the fireplace and lit candles and oil lamps. After Will read the Christmas story from Luke chapter two and led us in prayer, we opened our gifts.
From the six of us, we gave to Will a set of books by Dave Hunt that had been David’s. He was overjoyed and thanked us profusely. For Clyde, Mike, and Carter, the girls had crocheted scarves and hats. Each girl had made a set for each man, so they all got 3 pair of scarves and hats. For Eva and Izzy, Byllie had found and saved 2 huge stock pots and 2 big roasting pans from the RR Store: one each for Eva to take back to the farm since none of the pots there were big enough, and one each for Izzy to use wherever she needed them.
For the girls, early in November, Mitch and I had made a secret trip back up to Yellow Top. Loading up my work van, we brought back that dresser and those 2 Windsor chairs that I had been working on way back in October before the rapture happened. We had Mike store them in his storage room for us so we wouldn’t have to try to carry them up and back down those narrow steps in Doc Barnett’s house, and so the girls wouldn’t see them. We three guys gave the girls that dresser and 2 Windsors from us. The three girls gave Mitch a nice leather briefcase that was in the RR Store. In it they had placed a daily planner, a pack of pens, a notebook, and David’s Bible. Mitch had a Bible app that he used on his phone or tablet, but he was always borrowing David’s Bible from me because it had David’s notes in it. I have both Grandpa and Grandma’s Bibles, and Trail has Mama B’s Bible, but Mitch only has his Bible app. He was touched and pleased.
For Trail, the girls found Doc Barnett’s old black medical bag in the attic of his home. Upon examining it closer, they realized that it had belonged not to Dr. Dexter Barnett, but to his father – it was old Dr. Barnett’s medical bag. They cleaned and oiled the leather till it shone. Byllie tore out the old lining, and with Mrs. Christine’s help, relined it with a scrap of black velvet cloth Mrs. Christine had in her scraps trunk, as she called it. Sarah and Lilly filled it with his medical supplies, and Mrs. Christine added 4 small jars of her Balm of Gilead salve to go in it. On the front of the bag, they had carefully stenciled in gold leaf: ‘Dr Tyler.’ Trail’s smile of joy went from ear to ear. His hugs for each girl nearly crushed their rib cages. For Mrs. Christine, the girls had made a new red seat cushion and back rest for the rocking chair I gave her. I brought back one of the ones I built that had been sitting on my front porch. I brought it back on the day we shot the turkeys on Yellow Top. Mike and Clyde gave Sarah a gift just for her.
“Lassie, me ‘n Mikey here know you cain’t shoot a gun worth a hoot. ‘Parrently ya don’t know ya got ta load one first; and good fer Bobby here ya didn’t,” Clyde said and winked at her. “So we both worked on this here gift t’gether. We cut an’ shaped th’ wood, strung th’ bow, an’ made th’ arrows strong as we could make ’em. Chief Little-John Redfern, th’ Cherokee man that got saved at th’ Christmas meetin’, hepped us make this strong so’s it’ll last ya fer years. Now you git Bobby here ta teach ya how ta hunt with it. Y’all might need this in the comin’ years.’
And here, he and Mike presented Sarah with an absolutely beautiful ash wood bow with a dozen and a half arrows in a leather quiver. They had taken the time to script ‘Sarah’s Quiver’ on the leather. Sarah cried and hugged each man, calling them her ‘mountain grandpas.’ Clyde and Mike both beamed.
The girls handed me two huge boxes that had once held reams of typing paper. They all three looked a bit sheepish as they gave me the box.
“Bobby,” said Lilly, “we had no idea what to get you. All three of us racked our brains thinking, and it’s the strangest thing, but each one of us had the exact same idea come to us. Each one of us independently found the same things for you. I opened the box and burst out laughing. Inside each box was at least 12 large spiral-bound notebooks and 12 packs of those black gel ink pens; the ones that come 4 to a pack. The girls looked puzzled as to why I was laughing.
Getting up and kissing each girl on the cheek, I said with a grin, “I know who put this idea into your heads! Trust me when I say that this is exactly the best gift y’all could ever have ever come up with.”
Only Mitch, Trail, and probably Clyde knew that I’d been keeping a journal. “Girls,” I said, “a scribe needs paper and pens.” Then I proceeded to tell everyone about the journal I have been keeping since Thursday October 3rd – the day of the rapture. Everyone sat there gaping.
“Well don’t that beat all,” said Mrs. Christine.
After everyone said their goodbyes, Lilly left to drive Mrs. Christine back home, followed by Mike with her new rocker in his truck bed. Byllie said goodnight and went to bed. I walked Sarah onto the porch at Eva’s old house.
“Sarah,” I said, “I have something for you too.” From the pocket of my jacket, I produced a tiny box wrapped in silver paper with a silver bow on top. Lilly and Byllie had helped me find just the right one and just the right size. I knelt on one knee and placed on Sarah’s hand the diamond ring Byllie had scoured all over town to find for me.
I said, “I don’t know how or when or even if we are going to survive these next seven years, but I do know this: however long we have, I want to spend the time we have left with you by my side. I know we’ve talked about marrying; about how, for now, we need to keep things as they are. We both understand our plight and the predicament of the world we are facing. I’m glad we’ve both agreed to wait for a bit and see what happens in town; so maybe not yet, my sweet Sarah, but when I finally go home to Yellow Top, I want you to go with me and be my wife for however long we might have this side of the Kingdom. When I go home to Yellow Top, will you marry me then, Sarah, my Sarah?” I asked.
With tears streaming down her face, she said, “You know I will.” I kissed her goodnight under the mistletoe that was hanging above their front door. She went inside, and I went home to my house on Walnut Street.