The Lord God and Jim Bell
This western short story by Aimee L. DuPré ties in with
The Sheriff of Yellow Dog
but is a "stand-alone" story.
Please check back for more works in progress.
Lord God and Jim Bell
July 22, 2005
Jim Bell pulled himself upward against the nearest boulder, as the sun
relentlessly blazed. He pressed his good leg behind him and inched forward perhaps
half a foot. As soon as he relaxed,
he slid back at least half the distance.
Loose rocks skittered down the hillside, the only sound in the deathly
quiet of the early afternoon. It
promised to be a scorcher.
He looked past this foothill to the snow-capped mountains of Colorado
just beyond. They appeared cold and
timeless, but the slow movement of the sun overhead was a constant reminder that
his time was running out.
His whole body ached with the effort, but he could feel nothing in his
broken leg. That worried him some.
He reminded himself that he had to think on good things, things like the Good
Book said in Philippians 4:8 -- “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are
true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever
things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good
report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these
It had been a while since he had been honest with himself.
Meditating upon it now, he found little in his life that was true,
honest, just or pure. And what
could he find in this situation to praise, as he struggled for a steady foothold
on the steep hillside? What?
The fact that he hadn’t broken both legs when falling rocks from the
hill above spooked his horse? That
he wasn’t killed by the fall when he was thrown off his horse and over the
He was lucky it was just a leg and not his fool neck.
He listened for the sound of horses or men in wagons
coming to his rescue, but he heard only the slipping scatter of gravel below
him. Would they even miss him back
in Yellow Dog?
That reminded him of Proverbs 18:24 "A man
that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that
sticketh closer than a brother."
Had he been a friend?
No, not to everyone in town.
He was often preoccupied and gruff, even downright rude.
There were times when he could have said a kind, encouraging word, but he
Certainly he needed to treat the widow Quinn better,
he thought, as he recalled his conversation the past week with Bennett Edwards.
“Brother Jim!” the old man had called out as Jim
was leaving the Mercantile. “Wait
Edwards had hurried across the dirt street to the
wood plank sidewalk, nearly out of breath with the exertion.
“Been meanin’ to talk to you, son, ‘bout my
Jim rolled his eyes and then hoped the man hadn’t
He had the distinct impression that Mrs. Nora Quinn
would do anything in the world for him, and yet he treated her as if she were
“Wanted you to know,” Edwards continued, “that
you got my permission for courtin’ her, should you care to.”
It wasn’t that he didn’t care.
He just didn’t want her to know he cared.
Then she’d be expecting him to court her and eventually marry her.
Then he’d have to take care of her; and he hadn’t
taken very good care of his first wife, the way he had made her traipse all over
the prairie, to the badlands and finally to the mountains of Colorado as he
traveled from town to town. She had
lived a hard life without a home to call her own, and he had not always been
able to keep the wolves from the door. She
died young, and he had walked the hard road of heartache far too long, alone and
But to old man Edwards, he cordially tipped his hat
and replied, “Thank you kindly, Brother Bennett. I will remember what you said, should I ever get the courting
An apple-sized rock suddenly slid off the
roadway above, bringing him back to the here and now. Crazily, his thoughts turned to how good the Widow Quinn’s
apple pies tasted. Then when he
realized he couldn’t dodge that rock, it was too late.
It struck him hard against his right shoulder, adding yet another bruise
to his already battered body.
He thought of the stonings he had read about in the
Good Book. How they must have hurt.
How much could a man – or woman – take before they died?
Perspiration poured down his face, tickling and
infuriating him. He was not going
to die here.
James, my boy, you’re right down stupid.
He hadn’t even brought a gun with him, let alone a
canteen of water.
He already had lost all sense of time.
It seemed like his horse had spooked days ago instead of hours.
After he had regained his senses from the fall, he
had found himself near the bottom of a steep grade of rocky hillside.
He had slid down most of the way, but must have tumbled some.
He was bruised and dirty from head to foot.
He tried to get up and discovered his hurt leg.
He tore his pant leg to get a better look.
It was broken, all right, but the bone was not through the skin.
He had hobbled at first and then resorted to crawling
and scraping his way back to the roadway. He had to reach the ledge above him before nightfall.
He had to, or he would surely die. He
couldn’t live long with no protection, no food, no water.
His injury had already sapped most of his strength.
Soon he would be unable to pull himself any farther.
He raised his eyes to heaven and nearly cursed
God, but then his pent-up emotions broke through his anger.
With sudden, unexpected tears, he cried out, “Jesus, I beg You.
Please help me, God! Send
somebody to help me!”
Jim almost laughed at himself.
He had ridden up here to Blue Rock to get away from the townspeople.
A long ride on horseback was the only way he could get a moment’s
The name of this hillside, Blue Rock, had lured him
from town. From Yellow Dog, the
rocks up here took on a bluish tinge, but up close they were the same color as
any rocky outcropping. He
discovered, much to his disappointment, that it was the way the some of the
rocks hung over the hillside, with little caves underneath the overhangs. The shadows made them look blue from the distance of the
He had needed a place to mull over some things,
figure out what to do. He had to
decide whether to make his home in Yellow Dog or move on to another mining town.
Funny thing was, until now, he had not thought of calling on God.
He knew Acts 2:21 by heart, as he did many scripture
passages, yet this day it had special meaning for him:
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of
the Lord shall be saved.
“I am calling on you now, Lord,” he screamed.
He took a deep, ragged breath of hot air and got a
lungful of dust. He hacked, and
with every cough, his body ached all the more.
“You must help me, God,” he pleaded.
Quite a bit of time must have passed, and he must
have blacked out, because the sun was lower in the sky than the last time he had
“Look, Lord,” he bargained.
“If you get me out of this, I’ll . . . I’ll be a better man for
you. I’ll . . . “
He racked his brain. He would what? He
already attended church every time the doors were open. He had daily prayer, and he read his Bible every day.
What more could he do?
“What do you want of me, Lord,” he angrily
called, now hoarse from coughing up yellow dust.
His mouth was so dry and his lips were already split and bleeding.
How could he expect to help others when he couldn’t
even help himself?
With an improbable burst of desperate energy, he
began his slow ascent, as he clamored and clawed his way up the steep, craggy
hillside. He had made it up to some
of the small rocky outcroppings, where shadows lurked underneath the rocky
overhangs. He used these to his
advantage, pulling and pressing against them, resting his head for a while in
This time, his efforts met with more success than
failure. He was making headway,
getting closer all the time to the roadway above.
An unexpected calm overtook him. With
renewed strength, he again began his upward journey as hope replaced
Then he saw something move out of the corner of his left eye.
He heard a sound like water rushing over the rocks in a creek. He knew it couldn’t be water, not here. He licked his parched lips as his thirst nearly overwhelmed
him. Slowly, he turned he head
towards the sound.
The rattler was small but coiled to strike; its telltale rattles moved
too fast for his eye to see.
He did not believe he could handle this new obstacle.
He fell backwards, exhausted and helpless.
His sudden movement startled the snake, and its head drew back.
The strike narrowly missed his left hand.
That was when he realized he had no right to ask God for anything.
He was nothing but a sinner, filthy rags in the sight of God.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, said
The snake drew upright, poised for yet another strike, as Jim Bell lay
motionless, barely daring to breathe.
“Do as You will, Lord,” he said aloud, finally humbled before God’s
creation. “Whatever You want.
I can’t take any more. I
can’t make it alone.” He had
finally surrendered himself to God, totally, unequivocally.
As he resigned himself to his fate, he remembered the funerals where he had
heard First Corinthians 15:55 quoted to comfort family members.
There had been far too many times to recollect the exact number, but now
the words resounded in his heart and soul with renewed meaning:
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy
Even though death would claim his mortal body, he was
certain that he would live again and be with his Father forever.
He did not take his eyes off the rattler as he
blinked back tears born of a joy and peace that he had never before felt.
When he focused his eyes, the snake had slithered back into the recesses
of the rocky overhang, into its shady abode.
He watched the rattles disappear with a twitch into the dark shadows.
Incredibly, he thought he heard horses and a wagon.
He gazed upward at the ledge, so near yet too far out of his reach.
He watched, mesmerized, as a man pulled up a team of horses and jumped
from the bench seat of the wagon.
“Brother Jim, you alive down there?” Bennett Edwards called down.
“Yes!” he answered, his voice so dry he wondered if he could be
“You need help?” the old man called, quite unnecessarily.
“I’d be beholden,” Jim answered, as relief bathed over him like a
cooling shower of rain. “Broke my leg in the fall,” he called.
The rescue went quickly. Edwards
unhitched a horse, threw a looped rope down for Jim’s arms to go through, and
Jim was easily pulled back to the roadway.
Edwards handed him a canteen.
“Drink slow, now, brother,” he advised.
“God sent you,” Jim told him, as he tried not to gulp the water.
“Nah. Nora sent me this
way. Said she seen a dust cloud,
like from fallin’ rocks up thisaway. We
all told her you wouldn’t have come up to Blue Rock, ‘specially not alone,
but she kept insistin’.
“Sheriff Moore and every able-bodied man in town is
out lookin’ for ye, brother. All
different directions. Most more
sensible than here,” he mumbled. “But
that fool daughter of mine would’ve come up here all by herself ‘cept I
finally told her I’d come look, mostly just to get her to hush up.”
Jim looked surprised. “I reckon I’ve caused a lot of commotion.”
“Not near what it’ll be when I get you back!”
The wagon entered town, and as they drove along, Bennett Edwards told
everyone he met how he’d found Jim.
By the time they reached Doctor Ramsey’s office, a crowd had gathered
around the wagon. Some boy had
already run to get Doc, and he met them outside.
“Brother Jim!” Patrick Ramsey said, visibly relieved. “To think I
stayed here in town just in case someone found you injured.”
“It’s just my leg busted up,” Jim answered.
Ramsey looked at the makeshift splint he and Edwards had fashioned.
Doc nodded in approval as he turned to one of the young boys milling
“Ring those church bells, son,” he told the boy.
“Ring ‘em loud and long so the others will hear.
Brother Jim is back home, safe.”
As the boy ran off, Jim saw the widow Quinn pressing her way through the
crowd. People let her through as
soon as they realized who she was. She
reached his side and took his hand in hers.
He could see the genuine concern on her face.
“James, are you all right?” she asked.
“Yes,” he answered, realizing that was the first time she’d ever
called him by his first name. It
had always been Brother Bell before.
“At least I will be all right, once Doc sets my
“I been prayin’ for you,” she began, but her
words were drowned out as many voices echoed her words.
“We all been prayin’ for you, Brother Jim.”
“We don’t know what we’d do without you.”
“We was so worried!”
Jim looked at Nora as if he was seeing her for the first time.
Then he looked around at the other faces crowding around the wagon.
Never before had he felt any real attachment for any
of these people. Some he even
thought to be dullards. Now, quite
suddenly he saw qualities that he had never noticed before. Concern, kindness, compassion, goodness, faith.
Unexpectedly, he felt as though God’s love had united him with these
“Mrs. Quinn,” he hesitated, then corrected
What made you think I might be in that rock slide up on Blue Rock?”
“I can’t say why, right off,” she answered.
“Once your mare came back to the stables without you ridin’ her,
Sheriff Moore organized a search party. I
prayed to the Lord to protect you, to help you come back to us.
It was as if I just knew you were at Blue Rock. It was as if I could feel you up there.”
But Jim knew why she had insisted on sending her father up there on that
mountain to find him. He’d be all
right now. God was really the one
who had found him.
No. He had spent plenty of
time thinking about that. None of
it had anything to do with luck. It
was all God’s watchcare. God had
always known about Jim, had always known right where to find him.
“Your prayers mean a lot to me, Nora,” he told her as the crowd made
way for a stretcher to haul him inside. “Many
prayers have been answered this day.”
Nora Quinn shyly looked down at the ground.
“We love you, Brother Bell,” she softly told him.
But he knew exactly what she really meant.
“Perhaps,” he told her, “we shall have opportunity to pray together
soon. I fear my activities will be
limited for a while. And I have much to be thankful for – my life, my friends,
my newfound home here in Yellow Dog.”
Jim Bell had spent the last fifteen years riding the circuit, bringing
God to others. It had taken a fearsome day in the Colorado wilderness to
force him to humble himself before the sovereign Lord.
Jim thought of Romans 10:14:
How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and
how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they
hear without a preacher?
This was the day he made his decision to remain in Yellow Dog.
This was the day he found his home.
This was the day Preacher Jim Bell found the Lord God.
This page updated Tuesday, April 11, 2006 ,
This story idea (well, at least the title) came from a conversation with my late mother many years ago on a long trip to visit relatives. I asked her something (I don't even remember what it was now), and she replied, "The only ones who know are the Lord God and Jim Bell."
When I asked her who Jim Bell was, she broke out in laughter and explained that it was just an expression. There was no such person. (My mom and I always had a good time together, and made each other laugh. Guess we had the same sense of humor.)
Anyway, I tried to do a brief internet search but found no reference in slang to "the Lord God and Jim Bell," so I thought I'd document the expression here.
Expressions like this have always intrigued me, for example, using "my aunt Fanny" as a mild expletive (and referring to the human posterior). So who was Aunt Fanny?
Maybe I'll write that story soon.